Haunted House USA

Word of the day: PALIMPSEST
noun: palimpsest; plural noun: palimpsests
• something reused or altered still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.
• a manuscript or piece of writing material on which the original writing has been effaced to make room for later writing but of which traces remain.

“Whites Only” and other racist palimpsests endure throughout America.

Rich Frishman’s photography can be both meditative and empowering. Meditative, because it inspires self-examination, and empowering, because it’s created to show and tell.

Frishman’s Ghosts of Segregation project offers us a contemplative and quiet study of America’s racist past, a practical exhibition of photographic evidence in which images are captioned most poignantly by their place in history. It’s also an incredibly useful, “when they go low, you go high” answer for when you’ve taken the bait of that family bigot or folks activated by the politics of ethno-nationalism (formerly known as “old friends”).

Personally, I want Ghosts of Segregation open on my laptop whenever I’m rejecting “woke” as an insult, explaining equity vs. equality, and discussing the difference between canceled and accountability. Not as some sort of a mic drop though; more like finding a common emotional truth. These powerful palimpsests can’t help but force a needed pause in such an exchange ––and could even offer an escalator up.

See what you think:

Ghosts of Segregation

The enigmatic inscription “change,” floating above Chartres Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, largely goes unnoticed. It is the vestige of the sign over the St. Louis Hotel Slave Exchange. The luxurious hotel included a bank, ballroom, shopping arcade and trading exchange. Six days each week from 1838-1862, under the hotel’s domed rotunda, auctioneers sold off land and goods as well as thousands of enslaved people.
When the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was founded in 1934, the process of “redlining,” the act of denying loans and financial services to black neighborhoods while granting them for white neighborhoods, was codified. The Detroit neighborhood of Wyoming was a redlined black neighborhood for nearly a decade until the early 1940s, when developers wanted to build a white development in the area. They were denied by the FHA because their plan placed the white neighborhood “too close” to the black neighborhood. Thinking quickly, the developers responded by building a half-mile long wall directly between Mendota Street and Birwood Avenue for a full three blocks. This was enough to be given the nod of approval from the U.S. government. The wall, now known as 8 Mile Wall, was the official racial divider for over 20 years, until the Fair Housing Act supposedly abolished such racist policies in 1968.
Built in 1930, Hamtramck Stadium was home to the Negro National League Detroit Stars in 1930-1931 and again in 1933. The field was also home to the Detroit Wolves of the Negro East-West League in 1932, and to the Negro American League Detroit Stars in 1937.


Ghosts of Segregation

The Soft Spot of Exemption

A pathological adherence to: “It’s okay if I do it because I’m a good person” is America’s worst curse.

It’s hard to fathom the conscious human brain hemorrhaging the idiocy required to esentially set off fireworks on a 118° day in one of the few California forests not already engulfed in a sea of flame, but here we are.

And I say “we,” of course, because the assumption that we’re not, at times, idiots, criminals, or racists applies to everyone. It’s a delusion arising from the same soft spot in our psyches that produces the two things we deny the most: stubbornness and cowardice.

A “gender reveal” smoke bomb ignited the 8700+ acre El Dorado fire because some asshole simply assumed safety would accompany their self-congratulatory antics. The fire rages because a “good person” believed this “goodness” was the totality of their identity.

It’s a line of thinking reminiscent of:
Well, I’ve have NEVER been mean to a person of color, so…
…but it’s a pipe bomb in honor of MY baby!
And now, of course,
Bikes are freedom! Nobody’s telling me to wear a mask at SturgiCon!

If you’ll pardon a little excuse theory, what’s hiding behind an excuse is often the most interesting part, because it says something about all of us. We spend our lives buying and selling justifications, training ourselves to accept various levels of self deception, leaning on more shades of gray than there are rain clouds. We cite mitigating circumstances before we can damn near walk. In every conceivable aspect of our behavior we allow ourselves to escape consequences whenever we can. When we take things too far and wind up pulling something illegal or stupid, we even feel betrayed by these  pillars of rationalization, because somehow they don’t save us.

And to think, gender reveal parties were lame as hell before this.

Whatever amount of restitution this family is expected to pay, they’ll never escape the fact that their monsterous entitlement resulted in the death of a career-skilled firefighter, the destruction of 20 homes, and 22,600+ burned acres of forest.

That’s a lot to own for such a frivolous gratification.

Confessions of a Texas Taunter

TEXAS HATE LINEFor years I’ve sworn my epitaph will read, “…and he never set foot in Texas.”

  • Texas is one of the worst states to be either a child or an old person.
  • Its high school dropout rate makes the Alamo look like the Iwo Jima flag raising.
  • It seems fitting that this Lone Star of illiteracy is represented by a belt-buckle.
  • Gun-loving Texas is ranked last in the country in mental health spending and worst in health services, hospital care, and access to health insurance.
  • Its big #1 in carbon emissions and hazardous waste production is justified with claims of “per-resident emissions.”
  • Texans nearly top the list of most careless, worst drivers in America, but Houston scored 2014’s “Least Courteous” award. #guns
  • What’s not big in Texas? Voter turnoutcivic involvement, and political participation.

It’s a bit nitpicky to add that the average credit score in Texas has been the lowest in the country, because quality of life issues and countrified comedy gold are consequential, not illustrative. So instead, I’ll choose the one thing I’ve most openly mocked Texans for over the years – defending their vulgar bravado with “Don’t judge us ’til you hang with us.” Read more