Rants and race

The terrors of travel, and why race still matters, this week in Table Talk.


Salon Staff
January 13, 2006 3:42PM (UTC)

Private Life

Bizarre Hatred of Random People, Places, and Things

Nicole E - 04:06 pm Pacific Time - Jan 9, 2006 - #2765 of 2842

Air travel these days is utterly inhuman, so it's no wonder it inspires ass-possum behavior. How are we as human beings expected to take gracefully the whole process of going to the airport, parking at the airport, waiting in long-ass lines to check in at the airport, then going to wait in more long-ass security lines, stripping off half our clothes and unpacking half our carry-ons to get through said security checkpoints, reassembling our clothing and carry-ons so that we can walk a mile and a half to the gate (or better yet, share a moving walkway with lazy ass-wits who STAND on it), only to wait around with all the other people to board.

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And of course, said people turn into braying, obnoxious cattle the moment the terminal worker announces the pre-boarding process for the first class passengers, small kids traveling alone, "elite," "one pass" and "priority gold" folks and any other people who need special assistance in boarding b/c they have their thumbs up their asses. And then the general boarding process starts and in spite of repeated calls to stay seated or not block the aisles until your row is called, nobody listens because by then, why should we? We've already all been at the airport for over a fucking hour and paid too much money for fast food b/c the airlines don't feed us anymore, not that we'd want their cuisine anyway.

And then your row is called and you think, "Hallelujah!" except that you find yourself in a bottleneck on the jetway that inches forward bit by bit and the ass-chipmunks in front of you all have overly large "carry-on" roller suitcases and they end up hogging the overhead bins and putting their coats up there even though the flight attendants ask them not to. And you finally find your seat only to learn you're sitting in the middle between two people who don't know the meaning of the word "personal space" and you have to wait another 45 minutes for the whole boarding process.

And of course, the airlines call it an "on-time departure" not because you're up in the air at 5:15, but because you pulled back from the gate and are sitting on the tarmac b/c you're number 12 in line for takeoff. Then you're up in the air and you go to put your seat back but either it's broken or the jerk behind you keeps pushing his knees aggressively into you, or the person in front of you jerks HIS seat back so he's half in your lap and you have nowhere to put your drink. And because the air's so dry and nasty on the plane you realize you need serious hydration, but then, an hour later, you need to piss like a racehorse only you can't, either because there's turbulence and the captain hasn't turned off the seatbelt sign or because all three of the plane's microscopic loos are occupied. And if you are lucky enough to be able to get up to piss you have to wake up the guy next to you b/c you're trapped in the middle.

As if all that weren't enough, you get to pay an extra $5 for the privilege of watching a Freddie Prinze movie.

So, yeah, I can see how air travel might make people a little cranky.

Social Issues

How do you determine race?

Sky Bluesky - 08:12 pm Pacific Time - Jan 11, 2006 - #100 of 102

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Race, whether or not it's an actual genetic characteristic, is real to the people who are redlined out of getting housing loans, real to the people whose mosques are attacked after 9/11 whether or not they're the "right" type of Arab, real to the millions of people in this country who have to deal every day with the way people address them based on the race dynamic. It's real because it still means something to too many people, both disenfranchised people of color and empowered whites who use race as a cudgel (or a scalpel).

I think we're past the era where one-drop rules and bogus theories about the size of African Americans' brains rule the day, but if you consider one example -- the subject of Scott Poulson-Bryant's recent book, "Hung" -- we as a society still make a lot of assumptions based on this pesky race thing.

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I have Mexican blood, so my racial identity includes the race referred to as Latino, Hispanic, mestizo, whatever term you prefer. It's important that my boy with a Spanish last name know this, because it connects him to both his ancestors and the history of this country. It matters to me that he know that once in this country, people hung signs that said no dogs or Mexicans were allowed in businesses and restaurants. It matters to me that he know the brutal history of the Mexican-American war and the occupation of California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, et al., and if he recognizes that he is somehow tied to the people in these stories, it may make the point more vividly for him.

I don't understand how to face the effects of racism without at least acknowledging race in some way. It's like studying economics while denying the significance of money.

At the same time, I think the ability to pinpoint race is becoming harder in our society. Richard Rodriguez offered a theory that, eventually, all of American culture will cross-breed into one intermingled culture that's impossible to identify by racial characteristics. We'll all be just brown.

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