Monday, July 22, 2013

we do not live in a magical post-racist society

We do not live in a magical post-racist society.

White privilege is not having to think about specific strategies for not getting killed when stopped by cops.  When even someone famous and awesome like LeVar Burton has to think about these things, there's something very wrong*.

We do not live in a magical post-racist society.

(Link in case embed fails)

*Not to minimize the fact that NOBODY should have to deal with this shit.  I'm just saying, it's impossible to miss it when even super-cool celebrities are affected.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

chemist cocktail corner: apogee

Husband has been experimenting again.  This apparently is a Franken-cocktail, assembled from the appendages of several recipes in his vintage recipe books.

The first incarnation tasted like a cherry life saver.  Seriously.  However, illustrating the amazing power of garnishes*, the addition of a twist of orange peel completely transformed the taste into a subtle, complex, super tasty drink.  Not at all resembling liquid candy any more.  Freaking magic.

Yes, these pictures were taken on my stove.  It was the only white background I could find.  
Don't judge me.  

1.5--2 oz vodka
3/4 oz (ish) fresh lemon juice (~1 lemon, yes you read that correctly)
3/4 oz Creme Yvette or Parfait Amour**
2 dashes Regan no. 6 orange bitters
~1 Tablespoon simple syrup
splash of Maraschino
twist of orange peel (no pith)

Combine all ingredients except garnish in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice.  Shake well to mix and chill, and strain into a chilled glass.  Twist orange peel over surface of liquid***, rub along lip of glass, and drop into drink (or delicately balance it on the edge, if you can manage it).  Enjoy.


* Seriously, don't skip garnishes.  They are not after-thoughts.  If anything, this adventure in vintage cocktail recipes has taught me that garnishes are totally legit ingredients.  Ignore them at your peril.  

** Parfait Amour is a violet-based liqueur.  Creme Yvette is a proprietary liqueur based on violet and a bunch of other stuff.  I like Yvette better on its own as a digestif, but weirdly tend to like Amour better when mixed into things.  The drink pictured was made with Parfait Amour; when made with Yvette it's more of a fuscia color. 

*** Yes, this really does stuff.  Reportedly there's slow-motion video out on the internet somewhere of the oils spraying out from the twist and infusing into the drink.  Need to look that up someday.  

Previous chemist cocktail corner creations:

Tuscan Strawberry

about that trial

So, the Zimmerman trial.

Everyone's talking about the outcome of the trial, and pretty much nobody agrees.  There are a lot of vindictive words being thrown around, and I'd imagine that numerous friendships are at least on really rocky terrain if not falling apart entirely over this contentious topic.

Facebook is a bit of a battleground, at the moment.

I've been kind of avoiding it, but here are some of my thoughts on the topic.

On the day of the acquittal, I learned about it and voiced my preliminary dismay and heartbroken feeling at the inevitable social outcomes of the decision.  That it speaks loud and clear to the value of black lives in this country.  That it sends a message that minorities are right to be afraid, because they can be pretty much killed without repercussions.  That an unarmed kid can be stalked and killed and his killer is acquitted of all charges.

Okay, so that's what I meant.  What I said was something along the lines of `oh my god, Zimmerman was acquitted.'

The first response I heard to that, from another person in the room?


Good.  Good.

The word rang in my head, and I'm sure I made some pretty spectacular faces in those following seconds.

The speaker was quick to backpedal a bit and point out that zie was happy not because of sympathizing with Zimmerman necessarily, but because the trial wouldn't be dominating the airwaves any more, and so there would be other stuff to watch on TV.  That it was over, regardless of the decision, and so it was good because we could all move on with our lives.  I don't remember the exact words, so I'm paraphrasing here.

The thing is, I'm not sure that's any better.

Sympathizing with a killer because you think he was right, because you're doubtful of the truth, even because you're a racist jerkface is one thing.  But dismissing such a culturally relevant issue because you don't want to think about it?  Because you've forgotten how to care?  Because it's just pesky with the world being terrible and people caring and then bothering you about it all the time.  It would be so easy not to think about this, not to have to look at it, not to have it taking up processor cycles in your brain if only everyone would shut up.  It's not about race!  Go away!

Well, guess what.  Not everyone can 'move on with their lives' now, and we do not live in a magical post-racial society.  Parents everywhere are terrified that their kid can be profiled due to simply existing, and maybe killed for existing, and maybe that killer will go totally unpunished, and they're not wrong!  They've had it confirmed in a court of law.  The judicial branch of the government has dealt a serious blow to a huge portion of its citizenry.  Living with discrimination is one thing, but having it shoved in your face in such a brutal, heartbreaking, and visceral way is one step further.  I am ashamed of this verdict, not because of details of the trial and specific judicial proceedings and the specific situation that this specific dude was in or whatever, but because of what it means.  And it means that people of color have yet another very real reason to be afraid of the government that is supposed to protect them.  That as a country, we are failing our people.

And that's why my heart is broken.

um... recently in marriage equality

I've been dealing with a lot of real-life stuff lately, and as far as the Internet is concerned that's equivalent to living under a rock.

So I'm a little late to announce a recent awesome in the realm of marriage equality: the UK has jumped on the bandwagon, and is officially allowing same-sex marriage!  Rock bloody on.


I wish to mention a side note to my celebration of the spread same-sex marriage acceptance.  The right to have long-term same-sex romantic partners accepted legally and socially is an important step, but it's really only a baseline of decency.  It seems like gay marriage, as a concept, has been dominating the discourse on LGBTQ rights for a while now, but it's not everything.  There are still so many fights to be won; what about polyamorous, asexual, transsexual, genderfluid, and all sorts of other folks that don't fit into the mandated heterosexual/monogamous/gender-binary-exemplifying paradigm?

It seems silly that these are arguments that people have.  The right to exist is not and absolutely should not be dependent on one's sexuality, gender, or gender expression.  But until people and societies everywhere accept that sexuality, gender, and conformity are really terrible variables on which to base judgement and discrimination (JUST AN IDEA, GUYS), I guess it's what we've got.  So huzzah for small steps, even the microscopically tiny ones.  It all adds up.

Monday, July 08, 2013

quote of the day: Ana on ignorance

'I need you to be aware of your ignorance, because there is nothing shameful about ignorance. It is only by being aware of what you don't know that you can learn how to speak about what you don't know in ways that don't cause harm to others.'
This, from Ana Mardoll, is one of my new favorite quotes.  

In school, I was the kid who sat at the front row, answered all the instructor's questions (yes, I was that annoying kid; sorry about that), and wasn't afraid to ask the stupid-sounding questions of my own.  I relished being wrong, because then I'd get corrected and thus not be wrong about that thing any more.  Learning is neat!

It's bizarre how often pointing out an inaccuracy is seen as an attack.  'No, people of color do not all conform to that stereotype, actually, and it's kind of hurtful to assume they do' == not an attack.  'You're contributing to a subtle culture of misogyny, by the way' == not an attack.  'That statement erases a whole segment of humanity' == not an attack.

These are statements.

There's nothing wrong with ignorance, and getting called on your ignorance is a fantastic opportunity to fix it!  This person is offering to repair a problem, thus allowing you to be more right in the future.

It's particularly interesting to note which subjects have this problem.  I can point out that someone made a sign error and so their calculus is wrong, and they may even thank me.  But when I point out that no, same-sex couples adopting children will not automatically lead to the destruction of the species due to influencing all the children toward Teh Gay (yes, really), I'm way more likely to be met with disdain, disbelief, and even outright hostility.

I feel like this post is kind of rambly, and I need to think more and sort out how I feel about this topic.  But the point is that ignorance is okay.  There's no shame in not knowing.  There's an infinite universe out there of things I don't know.

But there is something shameful about being unwilling to learn anything.  Being unwilling to even try to understand what someone is trying to tell you.  Being unwilling to admit you were wrong.  Being unwilling to care.

Incredible things can happen when one lets go of one's attachment to one's ignorance and misinformation.  I wish more people would give it a try.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

on apologies and learning

You may remember a while back, when George Takei posted an ill-advised picture and quip about a stripper on Facebook and got called on that shaming and sexism-reinforcing behavior.  He stopped, listened, and issued an apology that.... well, while I'm not entirely sure he genuinely gets what was wrong beyond the surfacey 'people getting offended,' he did apologize reasonably eloquently.  More here.

JR Auditore chimed in on that post by linking to another stellar apology about stumbling over one's privilege and getting called on it.  

"It is not that we can’t laugh at and with each other. It is not a question of oversensitivity. The problem is that today, as I write this, young men and women whose behaviors, choices or attitudes are not deemed “man enough” or “normal” are being subjected to all kinds of abuse from verbal to physical to societal. They are being demeaned and threatened because they don’t fit the group’s idea of what a “real man” or a “real woman” are supposed to look like, act like and feel like."

Similarly, this is the fantastic testimonial of a comedian who got around to noticing (with help) that a lot of his material had a disturbingly misogynistic perspective.

"The defence so often used is that they're only jokes. They're not to be taken at face value, we obviously don't mean it. But you'll rarely hear a contemporary act try to justify racism that way. We know that in a culture of racism every racist joke contributes to that culture and that none of them are acceptable. This is no different. In our culture of misogyny, of violence against women, every misogynistic joke contributes."

It's a beautiful process to watch someone really get, really grok why this stuff matters.  Those of use who spend significant amounts of energy thinking and working about social justice issues may sometimes have to play the role of Most Humorless Feminist in all of Nofunnington, but that is not about lacking a sense of humor, or wanting to 'censor' anyone.  What's being objected to is 'humor' that is genuinely not funny because it's about topics that are all too serious for many people.  Joking about sex workers being less than human is not funny in a world where sex workers have virtually no rights and can be murdered with essentially no penalties.  Joking about gay men being effeminate and not 'real men' is not funny in a world where people endure very real dangers and persecution and abuse because of a failure to live up to gender performance expectations.  Jokes that feed into gender essentialism and erase people who don't fit into a gender binary is not funny in a world where those people are abused and excluded and have to fight tooth and nail for any rights whatsoever.  This is not in the past, and no, we can't magically 'get over it.'  This shit is going on right now, and you're saying it's okay.  You're saying it's funny.

We don't lack language comprehension.  We get the joke.

The problem is that it's hurtful, serves to remind people that they don't matter, and is not in the least bit funny.


We're all learning.  I still have problems with ableist behaviors in myself, and am working on purging hurtful ableist words from my vocabulary.  I'm not always as actively trans-inclusive as I could be.  I work in an extremely white field, and have never said anything about that or called it into question.  I'm sure there are a million other fronts on which I could be doing better, and I'll get to fight those battles when I get there in my journey to become a better human being.  Allyship takes a lot of work, and there ain't no high horse here.

It's just really cool to see someone, especially someone with a lot of intersecting privileges, see when they messed up, even if it's a small thing.  To see them acknowledge the oops and move on without deflecting or getting defensive.  It's... such a relief, I suppose.  To not feel the need to gear up for yet another fight about what someone said as though it's about blaming someone, when they could just say hey, maybe I don't know everything.

Jim Hines, an author whose novels I have not yet read but a man whom I respect deeply for his insightful blogging on various matters, posted an apology regarding a thoughtless moment of erasure of non-gender-binary folks.  It's a beautiful read, and yes, it's about a pretty subtle topic.

"Defensive Brain immediately jumps in to say, “Okay fine, maybe you’re right, but it’s not like I’m committing hate crimes here or intentionally trying to hurt anyone!” 
Defensive Brain needs to shut the &%^$ up. Because what I am doing is suggesting that a subset of people don’t exist. As they struggle for rights and recognition and legal protection, I’m making them invisible. Sure, it may not seem like a big deal to me … any more than “lady editors” was to a pair of SF authors from a recent sexism flap. But it’s one more unthinking erasure. One of a thousand daily slights, indignities, and assaults."

I personally probably wouldn't have blinked at his joke, and would have thought it was funny in a wry kind of way.  But I'm not having to push back every day against an entire culture that is opposed to my very right to exist due to my gender identity or expression.  I don't have to notice.

I should notice.  It's not always easy, and it's something everybody gets to struggle with.  But there's really no excuse.  I should remember how to care.

So thank you, Jim, for the reminder.