When I went to the dentist last week, I didn’t plan to bring up racism and entrenched systemic abuse of Black people in the U.S. Dodging conflict was a survival skill I learned in childhood, but I pushed past my aversion and took a risk. It was a tiny risk in a situation that wasn’t dire, but the results illustrate that facing difficult issues instead of skimming over the surface can help us break old patterns.
Conversations during dental work usually are one-sided and superficial—they talk and I hum in reply without moving my open mouth. This time, though, the dental hygienist and I dug into a topic that’s especially important for white people. It was prompted by something mundane: the dentist’s soft rock background music. There we were, listening to The Big Bopper singing “Chantilly Lace.”
These song lyrics prompted the event.
Chantilly lace and a pretty face
And a ponytail hangin’ down
A wiggle in her walk and a giggle in her talk
Make the world go ’round
Ain’t nothing in the world like a big-eyed girl
To make me act so funny, make me spend my money
Make me feel real loose like a long necked goose
Like a girl, oh baby, that’s a-what I like
Just as the song ended, Chloe removed a tool from my mouth and squirted in rinse water. I swirled it, spit out the debris, rolled my eyes, and wryly said, “Wow, simpler times!” She giggled and said she was thinking the same thing: Life was easier in the 1950s, safer. My attention snagged on our words. Really? Was it?
The pivotal moment stretched out as I pondered how to respond. Chloe had all the power here. I was lying in a chair with my head lower than my feet, paying her to stick a metal tool in my mouth and scrape my teeth. Did she not pick up on my sarcasm? Should I take the easier path and play along? The voices of Black women activists I follow on Twitter were whispering in my ear, “White women, you need to talk to each other about your racism.” I decided to go for risky candor. “Yes it was easier … for middle class cis hetero white people … and it still is.”
And just like that, we middle class cis hetero white women began talking about how our understanding of entrenched systemic racism has grown through exposure to the myriad real-life horror stories omnipresent in the media. Chloe was primed for this topic because she’d read our city’s current Book in Common, How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi. As she moved the polishing brush over my teeth, Chloe spoke of the need to acknowledge that our society and our own lives arose from and are sustained by inequity and injustice. I responded with open-mouthed “uh huhs” of agreement. Chloe echoed Kendi’s assertion that there’s only racism and anti-racism and, since most white people were raised racist, being anti-racist requires constant struggle.
Our dental office conversation didn’t solve anything, it only acknowledged reality. But we both chose to speak honestly about the deep-rooted inequities Black people face in the U.S., and always have faced. Because we each took a risk, we confronted, together, our addiction to the mirage of the 1950s as “easier simpler safer times.” We didn’t flinch when The Big Bopper tossed us into an uncomfortable conversation.
In a week when the need for police reform was horrifically spotlighted yet again, two Community writers didn’t flinch, either—from proposing big changes to law enforcement. Other topics covered in the eight stories Rescue Rangers selected this week include revamping the Postal Service, preventing the next pandemic through ecosystem protections, ticket-splitting voters, and what’s missing from Biden’s infrastructure plan. We also rescued an examination of the Germanic element in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and, for lighter reading, a gardening anecdote with a political frame.
eight rescued stories from 4 pm edt friday, april 9 through 4 pm edt friday, april 16, 2021
Community Spotlight’s Rescue Rangers read every story published by Community writers. When we discover awesome work that isn’t receiving the attention it deserves, we rescue it to our group blog and publish a weekly collection—like this one—each Saturday at 7:30 PM Pacific time. Rescue priorities and actions were explained in a previous edition, Community Spotlight: Rescuing your excellent stories for over 14 years.
Gdaigon touches on historical, political, economical, and practical aspects of expanding the U.S. Postal Service in Will the post office make a comeback and will we be able to bank there? The author notes that postal banking “represents a public option to low-income consumers who don’t have access to traditional commercial bank accounts.” Gdaigon also describes options popular with grassroots activists. “Some of the other programs these advocates support include expanding broadband access in rural areas, switching to electric vehicles, training employees in contact tracing, and using post offices as community wellness centers.” Gdaigon, who joined in 2017, has written 13 stories. This is their first rescue.
DrMarmot provides a history lesson and a warning in How to prevent the next pandemic: Protect biodiversity. As climate change forces complex systems to simplify, zoonotic viruses like coronaviruses become more likely to jump to humans, causing disruptions such as the current pandemic. “Recent science has shown that the rapid extermination of biodiversity not only blocks new discoveries, but makes us more vulnerable to established and novel diseases. No longer are we just bearing the loss of potential medicines as severe opportunity costs; we now know that the ecological simplification of ecosystems makes humanity more vulnerable to diseases such as COVID-19.” DrMarmot joined in 2017 and has written 13 stories, with six rescued.
Greenandblue delves into President Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan in Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Circle infrastructure economics. After giving an overview of what the plan includes and why these measures are important, the author discusses how the plan is framed, and what’s missing. “In the event of Congress actually passing an infrastructure plan, incorporating established circular economic principles will help to prevent generating excessive waste to be dumped on future generations … It takes effort and investment to recycle and reuse the remains of projects. If you don’t pay to sort through it now, future generations will be forced to pay to clean it. It’s not that hard to think about. Apply ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ on a national scale, and pay for it.” Greenandblue joined in 2011 and has written 87 stories, with 13 rescued.
In Planting time in the backyard garden, Rexxmama discusses what they’re learning about seed propagation. The author mixes clever allusions to current politics—previous administration, infrastructure, nonpartisanism—with a blend of good cheer, humility, and pleasure over spring planting season. “The seed packets (I rescued a packet of green beans from the prior administration) were as evenly divided as Congress—fully 50% were FOR plugging seeds into the dirt as soon as it could be worked, whereas the other 50% were totally AGAINST planting before the Last Frost Date.” Rexxmama joined in 2019 and has written 18 stories, with two rescued.
Using statistical and polling data, hoosieaaron explores the phenomenon of ticket-splitting in Biden Republicans are real and they live in Carmel, Indiana. Enough Republicans in Carmel split their electoral tickets to boost Biden to victory and bring him within three points of carrying the entire district, even though the area has elected a Democrat only once since 1888. “Carmel is a suburb of Indianapolis that is overwhelmingly white (80% non-Hispanic white), highly educated (70% have bachelor’s degrees), wealthy ($320K median home price), and is often named one of the ‘best places to live’ by various magazines and such.” According to Hoosieraaron’s analysis, education and race are the motivating factors that drove white Republicans to vote for President Biden, an implication that reaches far beyond Indiana. Hoosieaaron joined in 2021 and has written two stories. This is their first rescue.
In The Language of the Night – The Germanic: Our world, Tolkien’s world (Part II), Jeffersonian Democrat analyzes Tolkien’s theory of “Northern courage” in Tolkien’s work and legacy. Tolkien studied the heroic epics and brought their ideas into his own fiction. “This is a history of a fictional world, yet the level of detail, the intertextuality, the depth, and verisimilitude lend such an aura of authenticity that it may be examined as one would examine our own history. History and Northern courage are intertwined within the narrative.” JeffersonianDemocrat joined in 2005. We’ve rescued nine of his 76 stories.
Daver71 has a thought regarding the incidence of violent encounters between drivers and law enforcement during traffic stops: What if we had Unarmed traffic police? The author asks and answers, “How would this change the traffic stop dynamic?” Since there’s nothing requiring guns inherent in traffic enforcement, why not create an unarmed unit within the police force with the sole purpose of enforcing traffic laws? If traffic police run a plate check and determine a wanted person may be associated with the vehicle, or that the vehicle is stolen, then they call in the gun-carrying police. Daver71 has been a member since 2014 and written 61 diaries. This is their first rescue.
In A separate set of laws should govern police conduct, dobleremolque lays out a idea for “a national legal structure that applies to all sworn police officers, whether a single-officer police force in Podunk or a large metropolitan force with thousands of officers on the streets.” The author draws on elements of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and proposes that “enforcement and prosecution … can be assigned to the federal district attorney corps. Investigations could be conducted by the FBI. Trials … could be carried out by a panel of federal jurists.” Dobleremolque joined in 2009 and has written 10 stories. This is their first rescue.
COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT is dedicated to finding great writing by community members that isn’t getting the visibility it deserves.
An edition of our rescue roundup publishes every Saturday at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT) to the Recent Community Stories section and to the front page at 9:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT).