August 28, 2013

King's Dream Perverted

This is one of the most unintentionally racist things I've read in recent memory, and it made the home page, even:

Why don't whites have black friends?

Right off the bat, you just know this is going to be a doozy.

Editor's note: Tanner Colby is the author of "Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America."

See also: "The Strange Story of Tanner Colby's Logic"

(CNN) -- "So, how many black friends do you have now?"

It's a question I get asked a lot, ever since I set out five years ago to find out why I, your typical middle-class white person, had no black friends at all.

Got it. You set out to find out why you're racist.

I do have black friends now, actually. Several. But I rarely offer that information when asked, because to ask white people how many black friends they have is to pose the wrong question.

After five years of intensive black friend harvesting, Tanner now has several black friends. Nothing racist about setting out on a five year quest to specifically make black friends, nosireebob.

Recently, a Reuters poll came out showing that 40% of white Americans have zero nonwhite friends, and only 20% of white Americans have five or more nonwhite friends. People seemed shocked that the numbers were so bad.

Nothing racist about a Reuters poll asking white people how many nonwhite friends they have, nosireebob. Maybe, just MAYBE, Reuters shouldn't be asking the question at all? And, what PEOPLE seemed shocked the numbers were so bad? Internet commenters, perhaps, who are as easily "shocked" by static cling out of the dryer?

Personally, I was surprised that they were so good.

Because Tanner Colby's racism dictates they should be MUCH WORSE.

America remains a deeply segregated and divided country.

Thanks largely to racist guys like Tanner Colby who inhabit the mainstream media narrative.

Even accounting for institutional and socioeconomic barriers, in the places we have the opportunity to integrate—the high school cafeteria, for instance—we largely don't.

I wouldn't be one bit surprised if Tanner Colby wrote this on a laptop from a high school cafeteria.

The Reuters survey itself is misleading, lumping all minorities together under the vague heading of "nonwhite." Depending on what part of the country you live in (e.g, anywhere but Minnesota or Wyoming), it's not uncommon to have Asian or Hispanic friends.

Yeah, Tanner. It's not like Minnesota has the largest population of Somali immigrants in the nation or anything. We're as white as the driven January snow over here in Minnesota. Pretty sure our Asian and Hispanic populations are thriving as well. There's a word for your assumption about Minnesota's ethnic makeup, by the way. I can't think of it off the top of my head. I think it starts with an "R." I'm sure it will come to me eventually.

But the social divide between whites and those groups is more a function of the slow-rolling, generational process of immigrant assimilation. That is a wholly different phenomenon from the social divide between whites and blacks, which is the product of 400 years of slavery and segregation. That's the social divide we should worry about, and if the poll had focused on that, the numbers would surely have been much worse.

Words, words, words, wordswordswords. More words. I'm Tanner Colby, and I like words.

The reason why "How many black friends do you have?" is such a terrible question is because it shows how we typically talk when we talk about race.

No, it's a terrible question because people who ask it and people who receive it are ignorant racists. I have never, ever, in my life received or proferred such a ridiculously racist question, because I DON'T CARE about the skin tone of anyone. You could be mauve, for all I care, just so long as you're a decent person who doesn't piss me off.

Even when we try to talk about race in a constructive way, we usually make black people the object of the sentence, rarely the subject.

Well, maybe Tanner Colby does, racist that he is. Those of us in the real world generally don't talk about race at all, constructive or otherwise, because to do so would be RACIST.

Black friends are the things to be acquired to prove one is not racist. The way the question is asked accords black people no agency, nor does it reveal anything about the real character of the white person being queried.

Tanner Colby just perfectly described his own racism without realizing he was doing so. That takes a Herculean disconnect.

What you really want to know is not "How many black friends do I have?" but rather, "Have I become the type of individual that a black person might choose to be friends with?"

Or, to paraphrase JFK: Ask not "Am I racist?" Ask "How do I try to appear to be not racist while being condescendingly racist?"

Or, to put it in Tanner Colby logic: let a non-white approach you first, like a deer in the wild. Be gentle with the non-white creature and encourage it; don't scare it away. A black person thinks it's a person, too, so we shouldn't hurt its feelings.

That's a real question. Poll a couple thousand white people with that and you might start to get some interesting answers, or at least some confused and befuddled looks.

This is the first and only thing that makes sense in this entire column.

White people are products of their own whitewashed, sanitized environment.

Tanner, dude, the environment I've inhabited is far from whitewashed and sanitized. Look up "redneck" and/or "white trash" and you'll see a picture of me in the background, waving proudly. Oh, and both those terms in quotes are racist, just so you know.

Black people have been systematically excluded from white neighborhoods.

Really? My neighbors 80 feet away are, now that I look closely, of a darker skin hue. Why wasn't I dutifully excluding them when I moved in next door?

Black stories rarely surface in popular culture.

Uh huh. Besides "Black History Month," "Black Entertainment Television," Oprah Winfrey, pretty much all of Hip-Hop and Rap music and, oh, our current sitting PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Pointing all that out was racist, by the way. Sorry.

The history of race in high school textbooks has been boiled down to a handful of bedtime stories about Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks.

Ah, yes, fondly I remember my mother telling me about Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks making out at the front of the bus. It was a weird bedtime story, in retrospect.

Try to tap into the average white person's feelings on race and you won't necessarily find feelings of hate and antipathy.

Or their feelings on race, for that matter, because they're too busy trying to find a job, or make a house payment (if they have a house to make a payment on). Oh, hey, you won't "necessarily" find feelings of hate and antipathy about race? How miserably disappointing for Tanner Colby.

You just won't find much of anything, no fully formed or well-considered thoughts about race of any kind. There's nothing really there.

See also: anything written by Tanner Colby.

Even white people who want black friends don't know where to start.

Who sets out looking for black friends? Or Hispanic friends? Or Asian friends? Or Martian friends? Racists, that's who. Ordinary, non-racist people take friends where they appear and are grateful for them.

America's lack of integration wouldn't be such a big deal except for the fact that relationships and social networks are vital to economic advancement.

Yes, many is the day I look at my bank account and think: "I clearly need more Indian friends."

Even when programs like school busing and affirmative action give black people access to white spaces, . . .

OK. STOP. Access to "white spaces?" What is this? Backgammon? Can Tanner Colby be more freakin' racist?

. . . "when those people go to climb the social ladder there's nothing there for them to grab onto, because there's very little reciprocal effort coming from the other direction."

Ladders? Ladders? There are no ladders in backgammon. And, if there's nothing to grab onto, it's not a ladder; it's called stilts. And since when do ladders require reciprocal effort? That's called an escalator or an elevator and, you know what? Fuck it. Tanner Colby sucks at analogies.

It's high effort and low reward.

It's also called "life."

The result is that black people end up with integration fatigue.

It's like jet lag, only racist.

Many black writers responded to the Reuters poll with essays on why they didn't want white friends, and didn't need them. White friends weren't worth the bother.

"Many black writers." Which is to say, Internet commenters, in Tanner Colby-speak. You know, "Internet Commenters:" that long throat goober that's hocked on the end of virtually every news article or piece of online "content" nowadays.

This is their prerogative, but ultimately, it's to society's disadvantage because white people control the access to, well, just about everything.

Our sitting president, and most of the political and business leaders of Asia and the Middle East nothwithstanding. . .

If you don't have white friends, you might have a decent job and a comfortable life, but all the doors of opportunity in this country are not open to you.

I have news for Tanner Colby: ALL the doors of opportunity in this country will NEVER be open to you. If you're not a plumber, you'll NEVER be the best plumber. You're not a politician? You'll NEVER be president. You're not a decent writer and critical thinker? Well, you might make it to the opinion section.

"I may do well in a desegregated society," the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "but I can never know what my total capacity is until I live in an integrated society."

I can't rip on that, because it's the RMLKJ speech anniversary and all that.

Interracial friendships, social bonds across the color line, are a key factor in putting the sins of America's past behind us.

"The sins of America's past." You know, like tallying up your "interracial friendships" and using them to gauge whether America's "sins" are far enough behind. It's like using "racism-lite" to gloss over "racism-heavy."

But it's not something that's accomplished by white people knowing lots of black people. It helps if white people know how to be better white people.

Or, perhaps if you don't give a flying fuck what color somebody is, including yourself.

Posted by Ryan at 02:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 27, 2013

Getting Some Twerk Done

There were some huge news developments this week, from Egypt’s continuing chaotic spiral, to impending U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war, to Miley Cyrus performing an outrageous dance number during the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs).

You can probably imagine which of those big news developments I’m dedicating this blog post to.

A lot of people have expressed disgust over Miley’s VMA performance, which is perplexing, because the VMAs generally aren’t known as a venue where subdued performances are the norm. You don’t tune into the VMAs expecting to see Lords and Ladies in Victorian costumes, waltzing to Mozart. At the very least, you expect somebody to lick their own armpit, or somebody else’s armpit, or reciprocal armpit licking.

As for Miley’s. . . er. . . performance. . . parading around in sexually provocative garb as a 20-year-old is a time-honored tradition going back to the ancient Greeks--who used to wrestle nude in public, so keep that in mind.

So, no, I really have no problem with Miley Cyrus rutting around the VMA stage radiating confusing pheromones to all in attendance. Rather, what I found fascinating was that one of her signature “moves” that night is actually referred to as “Twerking.”

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t watch the VMAs, because I have better things to do, collectively known as “anything else.” But, when I came into work on Monday, the Internet was buzzing about Miley Cyrus “Twerking,” so I located the video online and promptly flushed away five minutes of my life. Still, I emerged with a newfound appreciation for this “Twerking” phenomenon, which has apparently been an established dance move in nightclubs for a decade or more now.

For those who don’t yet know, “Twerking” is an incredibly complex dance move that can involve one or two people—Miley opted for the two-person version. Like most traditional dances—for example the fox trot or tango—“Twerking” requires someone to lead, and in “Twerking,” the lead person is typically a female.

The correct “Twerking” form can vary, but it usually involves the “Twerker” placing her hands on her knees (for stability purposes) and jutting her posterior into the air, at which point she executes nearly-imperceptible, rapid-fire knee squats. These rapid knee squats, in turn, have an effect on the “Twerker’s” posterior, in that the buttocks gyrate violently.

And that’s it. That’s “Twerking.” As I said, “Twerking” can involve two people, where the “Twerker” . . . er . . . “Twerks,” against the groin of a male dance partner—as was Miley’s preference during the VMAs, which in my opinion was the more tasteful option.

What I like most about “Twerking” is the term “Twerking.” It’s an awesome term that has countless potential fabulous implications for the English language in general. For example, I personally tried to interject the term “Twerking” into at least a dozen different conversations last week. I even made a point of using the term in every Facebook update I made for an entire day. I also very nearly edited my resume to include a bullet point that read “Twerks well with others.”

Honestly, I think we should all do our part to ensure “Twerking” enters the popular vernacular. “Good morning,” could be replaced with “Good Twerking,” for example. We could replace “tweak” with “Twerk,” because I’ve never really liked the word “tweak.”

So, there’s your assignment, blog readers. Make “Twerking” an English reality!

Go on! Get to Twerk!

Posted by Ryan at 12:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 26, 2013

What Hath Miley Wrought?


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August 24, 2013

Diet Pepsi and Me

I drink a lot of Diet Pepsi. As in, I drink a disturbing amount of Diet Pepsi. I drink so much Diet Pepsi, I’m pretty sure I sweat Diet Pepsi.

I really, REALLY started to appreciate just how much Diet Pepsi I drink when I arrived for work in our store last week, and there was a voicemail waiting on our phone left by the people from the store across the street. The message informed me they had received a new shipment of Diet Pepsi.

I should note here: the store across the street from our store is a flower shop.

To reiterate: I drink so much Diet Pepsi, the FLOWER SHOP across the street left a message at our store informing me they had a new shipment of Diet Pepsi. I apparently represent enough of their business to warrant a courtesy call. Sure, they deal primarily with seeds, flowers, shrubs and topiaries, but I’m the Diet Pepsi guy who REALLY pays the bills.

While I genuinely appreciated the courtesy call, I had to inform the flower shop that I wouldn’t be requiring their Diet Pepsi services for awhile because. . . I had just recently won a year’s supply worth of Diet Pepsi. That’s because, I drink so much Diet Pepsi, I entered a bunch of Diet Pepsi codes over the course of about two months, and one of the prizes I won was a year’s supply worth of Diet Pepsi.

You’ll notice I wrote “ONE of the prizes I won.” I wrote that specifically because I won SEVERAL different prizes over the course of about two months. In fact, a quick tally of the prizes I won includes:

- A year’s supply worth of Diet Pepsi: WHICH, technically, was 48 coupons, each good for a free 12-pack of cans of the Pepsi product of my choice. To most mortals, that may sound like a lot, but for me that’s woefully disappointing and will only actually last me a couple months, at most.

- A huge Pepsi beach towel: I don’t even live anywhere near a beach but, hey, FREE TOWEL!

- A Pepsi tee-shirt: Because you can never have too many tee-shirts.

- A Pepsi baseball cap: Because my son might enjoy wearing it some day.

- A Pepsi tote bag: I don’t even tote things, but whatever.

- ANOTHER Pepsi tote bag: Because if you’re not going to tote anything, you might as well do it twice as much.

- A Pepsi serving tray custom designed by some guy named Vern Yip: This could very well end up being the most useless thing I’ve ever won.

- A Pepsi Frisbee target game: Just in time for winter!

Keeping in mind, the preceding list represents just a single contest. Over the last six years, I’ve also won 46 Major League Baseball caps—I won so many of those caps, I sent one out to practically everyone I know and don’t know—a Flip video camera, $260 worth of $20 checks from Pepsi, and a Microsoft Zune (making me about the only person in the universe who actually owns a Zune).

Come to think of it, about the only thing I haven’t yet won from Pepsi is a car, and that’s probably just because I didn’t drink QUITE enough Diet Pepsi.

But, hey, if you’re a Pepsi executive reading this right now, I’ll totally accept a car from you. I’m not picky.


Posted by Ryan at 02:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2013

God in the Machine

Whilst changing Zoey's diaper this morning, the doorbell rang, sending Aiden into a rendition of "DAD! Door!" that would have made a barking rottweiler seem pleasant. I answered the door with Zoey clutched in the crook of my arm and Aiden peering between my legs, and was confronted by two older ladies, one of whom asked: "Do you have any questions about God you'd like answered?"

Wow. Now THERE'S a list I'd like to tackle, but not with two strange ladies camped on my stoop, thank you very much.

"Nothing comes to mind off the top of my head," I lied, impatiently.

"Could I read you a Bible passage I think you'd find enlightening?"

Keep in mind, I was standing there with a toddler in my arms and another one between my legs. You know, the PERFECT time for an impromptu Bible reading. Perhaps she could also enthrall me with a few chapters from "War and Peace" while she's at it.

"No, I really don't have the time."

"Oh, I understand. Perhaps you'll take this booklet that answers some common questions? There's a chapter about why God allows bad things to happen."

"OK, fine. Look, I have to go."

"BYE BYE!" said Zoey, while waving her hands, which summed up my thinking perfectly.

Now, I'm a relentlessly introverted guy, so interactions like this irritate me more than a naked roll through burning nettles. Typically, I don't even answer the door when strangers darken it, but I stupidly assumed two old ladies wouldn't turn out to be strident God botherers.

More generally, why can't people be allowed to discover and explore religion on their own terms? I mean, I have my own general framework when considering religious mysteries, and it's most certainly not going to be swayed in the least by two senior citizen females standing in my front door orating a Bible passage. Their apparent indifference to my impatient children making my life harried certainly didn't help matters any.

And, finally, why does this kind of thing never happen to my wife when she's watching the kids?

Posted by Ryan at 02:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 14, 2013

Gov. Warrgarble

Heard a MPR interview with Gov. Dayton this morning. The man always sounds like he's either chewing on his tongue or he's twirling a mouthful of marbles.

To put that in visual terms:


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August 13, 2013

It's funny because of the hair


Posted by Ryan at 10:26 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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