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My own experience of race in Charlottesville

August 23rd, 2018

I grew up in Charlottesville. Where all the Neo-nazi shit happened a year ago. I played flag football and capture the flag as a Boy Scout under the Statue that was the trigger for the whole episode. But I’m white so I don’t have much experience of being the target of racism. For me, growing up in Charlottesville, I never thought of people’s race much.

My first understanding of race differences was in retrospect years later.  I think it was sometime during middle school (more on that later).  My first encounter with race, though I didn’t know it, was when I was in kindergarden and first grade. One of my best friends was a boy who lived just a few minutes down the road named R—.  He was black, but I don’t recall ever thinking about that until much later.  I’d visit his house, he’d visit mine, we sat together on the bus, things like that.  I don’t remember much other than his first name and being fascinated by the fact that the living/dining room of his house was all one big room and there was a step in the middle (split level) unlink my house.

I think the first time I realised there was something about different skin colors was about the same time he moved, a couple bought the house just behind my parents, a couple who were mixed.  Someone adult must have said something at some point, I don’t remember, but I do remember wondering why it was an issue.  They had three kids, two girls — M—— and L—— and a boy, J—–.  We played with them regularly and it was never much of an issue. We discovered a bat on the ground of their back yard one summer day and after poking it (thinking it was a wounded mouse or something,) it flew away, bumping into at least one of the girls head or cheek on the way.  One of the worst spankings I ever got as a kid was after my older sister and I got caught playing with matches with those three.  Oops.  My sister and I were doing a “fire safety demo”.  We had a wood stove at home at the time so had been taught the rules before, though we weren’t allowed to use the matches. So we took the matches and the neighbour kids back into the woods behind the houses and showed the them how to light a fire (the fire was in the hollow of a cinder block) and how to put it out and make sure it was covered with soil.  Worse beating I ever got, my dad knew before we even got home.  Don’t know who squealed.  That’s a different story though.

I got a better concept of race and the issues with race in seventh grade, in Ms. B—–‘s social studies class. I don’t recall all the details but we covered the civil rights movement of the `60’s that year.  I went to middle school in Jackson P. Burley and as part of the lesson Ms. B—– explained that before integration Burley had been the black high school.  Maybe I already knew that, it was written above the main entrance; Jackson P. Burley High School, but I remember it from her lesson. We also covered the race issues that took place in Charlottesville in the `60’s, especially around the destruction of the Vinegar Hill district. As part of the same term I remember we also talked about the way that black culture was at the forefront of popular culture, from Jazz to Hip Hop. I have a vivid memory of sitting in that classroom with those school issue blue and white headphones on and listening to 2 Live Crew sing “Banned in the USA” (if you must [youtube.com]) and Bruce Springsteen’s original “Born in the USA” (to be fair [youtube.com]). “Banned in the USA” was probably my first exposure to any form of rap or hip hop.  MC Hammer doesn’t count, but I think I heard Funky Cold Medina that same year. I associate that song with a girl that was being made fun of, oops.

Outside of black or African American friends or schoolmates I think the only other experience I had with minorities through middle school was, as far as I remember, one kid who was Arabic.  I think.  His name, H—– was definitely of Arabic origin but I don’t think it was ever discussed. I was not until high school. Looking back I hung out with a diverse group of kids.  There was my neighbour, M—–. Who was black. As was O—.  F—- was Taiwanese, G—– was half Polynesian and J– was half Arabic.  Being a college town Charlottesville was diverse for its size compared to other nearby parts of Virginia.

The most negative experience I had around race in high school was when M—— was followed around a video store I once worked at and then the manager actually followed us out of the store and around the mall.  Trying to see if M—— had stolen something. Which he had not.

I guess all of that shaped my view of race.  I knew the negative shit, the racism and hate was out there but people’s skin color was never part of any mental process for me when deciding how to deal with a person or situation.

There was one other big factor that shaped my views, not directly on race, but on the wider subject of bigotry while I lived in Charlottesville: Club 216.  216 was the only real club in Charlottesville for dance music and I got big into the Techno and Dance scene my last year in high school.  I spent a lot of time in and around 216 over the next few years, until I moved to Northern Virginia. 216 was run by the Piedmont Triangle Society, of which you had to be a paid member to get in. If you don’t understand what that means… It was a gay and lesbian club operated by a gay an lesbian society. So I spent a lot of time around gay and lesbian people. I was friends with a lot of guy and lesbian people. Some well adjusted “normal” people, some… less so. But this was also never an issue.  They were just good company and their scene was the best dance scene in town.  I have a lot of great memories of Friday and Saturday nights in 216. And road trips with homo- and hetro- friends to seek out better parties at raves across Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region.

So that’s my experience of race in Charlottesville.  I know there was racism, and other bigotries, but there was a lot of acceptance and diversity too.  In my life after Charlottesville I had a lot more formative experiences with regards to race; reading The Invisible Man, living in London and traveling around Europe. Visiting Japan (where J——- famously said “I’m white, I’ve never experienced racism” when the only empty space on the rush hour train was around the four of us – all four of us white gaijin. And, of course, I’ve ended up marrying a ethnic Chinese Singaporean, so most of my family is not Chinese and I live as a minority in Singapore.  Where most of my day-to-day friends are Indians. 

P.S. If anyone wants to understand Charlottesville’s history of race from a wider perspective check out The Charlottesville Syllabus [medium.com] on Medium.

Bali, Indonesia, March 2018

August 16th, 2018

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Late as usual but… the family took a trip to Bali for a few days. Relaxing trip, spending time in the pool and walking the beach. We did take a day tour and see a few of the sights. We stayed in Seminyak, and the beach had sand like icing sugar. Would have been awesome except there was too much trash. This was March right when this video of a diver swimming through a swarm of trash [theguardian.com] came out. I’ve been to Jakarta for work many times and to Bintan a few times, same story there. Indonesia has a problem, a massive problem.

We drove up into the mountains to see Mount Batur [wikipedia.org] and Lake Batur. A long drive for mediocre weather to obscure the top of the mountain. We stopped at a museum, setup as part of the Batur Geopark, part of the Global Geoparks Network [wikipedia.org]. But everything was in Indonesian so we didn’t spend too much time there.

On the way back we stopped at Tirta Empul [wikipedia.org] temple. Lots of statues and people taking their ritual bath. The temple is built around some natural springs which were cool to watch, rolling the sand at the bottom of a couple of crystal clear pools. Did I mention the status? I loved the status.

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As we were finishing our walk around Tirta Empul it started raining. Hard. Even with an umbrella I got soaked from what Forest Gump would call rain that “come straight up from underneath”.

For our last stop we visited Uluwatu Temple [wikipedia.org]. This is one of the spots on Bali you have definitely seen photos of. The temple is perched on sheer cliffs at the southernmost tip of the island. Of course we stayed for the sunset and “fire dance”, or more properly “Kecak Dance”. Given that it’s sold as a fire dance there was not as much fire as I expected.

There are many more places in Bali that I would like to see, so maybe I will push to go back for a holiday again soon.

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Tokyo, April 2018

July 20th, 2018

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I was lucky to be in Japan in April, a few days after the peak of the sakura bloom. I had a Sunday afternoon free and one evening. In all the pictures of sakura I strangely find this photo to be my favourite. Click on the image to see the whole set.

Progress

June 26th, 2018

The world is much better than in the past and it is still awful.

Dr. Max Roser, in Memorizing these three statistics will help you understand the world [gatesnotes.com] on Gatesnotes.com.

the idea of the article is important; knowing a few basic statistics about the world will help everyone to understand and contextualize the news and social media noise we encounter all day. To make an informed judegment on the veracity of online, and offline, claims, too often qualitative and editorial, about the world. Doom and gloom sell, “if it bleeds, it leads” but now is the best time to be alive.

John Hamon

June 6th, 2018

Today in my Facebook feed:

Finally I know who the man in the picture is! [confusion.cc] It’s been 17 years since I saw his face, and mistook it for someone my Ex knew.

Banks are watching…

May 17th, 2018

This article [newyorker.com] in the New Yorker is depressing in third world corruption stench of the whole thing, but there is some silver lining: The fact that banks are submitting such detailed reports about possible fraudulent activities, and beyond just money movement they are paying attention to the context. This is heartening, if a bit Big Brother scary.

Banks are legally mandated to file suspicious-activity reports with the government in order to call attention to activity that resembles money laundering, fraud, and other criminal conduct

In paperwork filed with the bank, [Cohen] said that the company would be devoted to using “his experience in real estate to consult on commercial and residential” deals. Cohen told the bank that his transactions would be modest, and based within the United States. In fact, the compliance officers wrote, “a significant portion of the target account deposits continue to originate from entities that have no apparent connection to real estate or apparent need to engage Cohen as a real estate consultant.” Likewise, “a significant portion of the deposits continues to be derived from foreign entities.”

Ronan Farrow, in Missing Files Motivated the Leak of Michael Cohen’s Financial Records [newyorker.com]

Money-humping

May 10th, 2018

New favorite term: Money-Humping. Ah Gizmodo:

“When the rich and ethically disinclined are busy money-humping each other, all kinds of weird connections are bound to pop up.”

Tom McKay, in It’s Sure Weird That the Russian-Linked Firm That Paid Michael Cohen $500,000 Also Registered Alt-Right Websites [gizmodo.com]

Don’t they breed well enough on their own?

April 23rd, 2018

In the city of Xichang, located in the southwestern Sichuan province, there is a massive, artificial intelligence-powered roach breeding farm that is producing more than six billion cockroaches per year.

AJ Dellinger, in This AI-Controlled Roach Breeding Site Is a Nightmare Factory [gizmodo.com].

Read the article. Really, read it. This is the setup for a horror or armageddon movie plot. Six billion AI raised cockroaches escape and take over Southern China… Armageddon. Or Horror. Actually, horror-armageddon.

Must be a meme for that…

April 16th, 2018

In the mid-`90s, public use of the internet boomed, and it’s been downhill ever since.

Sam Rutherford, in “Samsung’s Smartphone That Can’t Connect to the Internet Is Actually a Great Idea” on Gizmodo.

That computes.

Xi internet never forgets

March 20th, 2018

President’s Xi Jinping’s plan to construct a social credit system based on the principle of “once untrustworthy, always restricted”

Reuters, from China to bar people with bad ‘social credit’ from planes, trains [reuters.com].

This is worse than the The Internet Never Forgets [confusion.cc].