Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why are Clinton supporters more racist and more aggressive than Sanders supporters?

I am always fascinated by the ways belief and reality diverge. This year, Clinton supporters promoted the "Bernie Bro" narrative about Sanders supporters in the same way that in 2008, they promoted the racist "Obama Boys": WOW. Before the "Bernie Bro," Clinton supporters created the "Obama boy." No, seriously.

But the reality is that "Bernie Bros" are, probably like the "Obama Boys" before them, less racist and less aggressive than the Clinton fans:

Hillary Clinton fans are more aggressive online than Bernie Sanders voters, one poll shows

Reuters: Hillary Clinton supporters are pretty racist, too.

That article about racist supporters left out information about Sanders fans, but it was revealed on Twitter:
So, why are Clinton supporters more racist and more aggressive? People like to point to the age gap between Clinton and Sanders fans, which obscures a gap that matters more:

A Key Divide Between Clinton and Sanders Supporters: Income

So, really, do I now have to explain that rich people tend to be more racist and more aggressive? Privilege is always arrogant.

ETA: Here Are America’s Most Pro-Clinton and Pro-Sanders Zip Codes

ETA 2: And now we have a graph:

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why I suspect it's impossible to end Game of Thrones well—and, honest, no spoilers about GoT!

I haven't read the books because I hate reading a series that doesn't have an ending, but I realized something watching the TV show: the series wasn't designed to have an ending.

Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings both start with an evil force threatening the world, Sauron for LotR, the white walkers for GoT. In theory, both stories should end with a huge battle that the good guys win at great cost.

But big battles in stories are boring for anyone who thinks during battle scenes. We care about individuals, not spectacle. In the greatest battles, we care about individuals on both sides.

Tolkien made the war with evil interesting by giving us characters on evil's side. Saruman was Gandalf's friend, and it's always tragic when friends fight. Gollum retains a bit of Smeagol in him that Frodo recognizes, so the ultimate fight against Sauron boils down to a fight between and within two small creatures, Frodo and Gollum. The clash between armies is only a backdrop for the fight Frodo learns he can't win when he's unable to throw the Ring into the volcano—but which he ultimately wins because he had let Gollum live, and Gollum's corruption takes him to his doom and the Ring's destruction.

But Game of Thrones gives us no one to care about on the white walkers' side. No one chooses to join the white walkers. No one can be saved from them.

Game of Thrones' setting is what matters: people struggle for power with a greater threat facing them than they imagine. Endless stories could be set there, and perhaps should be. George loves editing the Wild Cards shared world anthologies; he could do the same thing with Game of Thrones if he wanted to.

The logical ending for Game of Thrones  is the humans learn what will kill white walkers, then kill them. There's no room in that for the ending to be as interesting as what led up to. It's the problem all mysteries face—the mystery is always more interesting than the solution.

The HBO writers have to end their series while the actors are young enough to be plausible in their roles. But George doesn't have to end his—he can explore his world for as long as he wishes. The white walkers stay a threat to his world just as war and the destruction of our environment stay threats to ours. We never expect stories set in New York or Kansas to solve those threats.

But stories aren't our world. We want strong endings to stories. We want to feel we've traveled to something that makes the trip mean more than what we saw and did along the way. So here's hoping George and HBO's Game of Thrones writers find brilliant endings. And here's sympathy if they don't.

ETA, the quick take: There's no room for dramatic conflict in the final conflict as Game of Thrones is currently set up. There's only room for physical conflict.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Black Babies used as Gator Bait? History versus Folklore #2

It has been pretty well documented recently that, during slavery and into the 20th Century, black babies were used as alligator bait in North and Central Florida.
The problem with that claim? We have drawings, staged photographs, and songs about “gator babies”, but no evidence that any child was ever used as live bait for alligators.
The strongest evidence for “gator bait baby” stories is a rumor that was covered by several journalists in 1923. Time mentioned it in Oct. 15, 1923:
From Chipley, Fla., it was reported that colored babies were being used for alligator bait. “ The infants are allowed to play in shallow water while expert riflemen watch from concealment nearby. When a saurian approaches his prey, he is shot by the riflemen.”
The Louisville Herald: “Florida alligator hunters do not ever miss their target”
The price reported as being paid colored mothers for the services of their babies as bait was “$2.00 a hunt.”
Time’s Miscellany column of Nov. 12, 1923 has a follow-up article:
On behalf of the town of Chipley, Fla., the Orange County Chamber of Commerce branded as “ a silly lie, false and absurd,” the story (broadcasted a month ago through the press of the nation) that colored babies were being used at Chipley for alligator bait. In its issue for Oct. 15, TIME printed the fact that the report had been circulated, but in no wise vouched for its authenticity.
To believe that story, you have to believe black mothers would risk their children’s lives for two dollars.
There are three strong reasons to doubt the stories of gator bait babies.
  1. The stories have no supporting evidence.
The horrors of US slavery and the Jim Crow era were thoroughly documented by Ida B. Wells, W.E.B. Du Bois, the Tuskegee Institute, and countless others, yet none of them mention gator babies. Crimes by white people against black people were documented at the time; for example, when researching this article, I saw in the Atlanta Independent on October 11, 1923, right next to an article titled “Babies Used as Alligator Bait In State of Florida” a story titled “White Molests Colored Girls”, which named a white man who was arrested for the offense.
Yet the stories about gator babies are vague. None provide a specific date when a black baby was used as alligator bait. None name a mother whose child was used or a witness who saw a baby being used or a hunter who bragged about using a baby. The stories have no verifiable details because they needed none. They were just sick jokes for racists.
2. The stories make no sense.
Slavery was a business, and slaves were expensive. From Measuring Worth — Measuring the Value of a Slave:
Using these measures, the value in 2011 of $400 in 1850 (the average price of a slave that year) ranges from $12,000 to $176,000.
No alligator was worth a slave. A hunter who wanted to use live alligator bait would trap an animal like a muskrat for free. Using a slave baby makes less sense than using a foal or a calf today. Business people don’t throw away money casually.
And a dead animal is better bait than a live one because the smell attracts alligators. At Alligator bait | Louisiana Trappers & Alligator Hunters Forum, one hunter advised,
If your stomach is tough enough, 3 day old dead chickens from the chicken houses. They are a little rank, but will call in the gators.
3. The stories have an ironic tone.
The 1923 Oakland Tribune article by T. W. Villiers includes details like this:
…black babies, in the estimation of the alligators, are far more refreshing, as it were, than white ones.
No one did a taste test with white and black babies to see which ones the alligators preferred. Villiers was simply indulging in racist humor.
Gator bait stories are not history. They were only a way for racist whites to laugh at the idea black people were so worthless their own mothers would rent them as gator bait for $2.
Live Human “Alligator Bait” — Fact or Fiction is very thorough and concludes that it’s fiction. I especially like this find from the Tampa Tribune, Nov. 2, 1923:
Just a Liar — Macon Telegraph: It takes all sorts of folks to make up the world, including the blockhead who believes that negro babies are used as alligator bait in Florida.
The Coon Caricature: Coons as Alligator Bait and Media Assassin: Gator Aid makes no claims about the origin of the stories; they simply describe them and include many examples, beginning in the 1890s, when the first stories of gator bait babies may have appeared.
Jim Crow Museum: Question of the Month: Alligator Bait is interesting and well-documented, though the writer assumes the examples have a basis in fact.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

No Vanilla Ice Cream for Negroes? History versus Folklore #1

Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou wrote:
People in Stamps used to say that the whites in our town were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn’t buy vanilla ice cream. Except on July Fourth. Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate.
Some people—including a writer for the Guardian newspaper—think Angelou was sharing a fact. They misunderstand what’s meant by “used to say”—it was a grim joke: “How racist were the people in Stamps? They were so racist a Negro could only buy vanilla ice cream on the fourth of July.”
In the Jim Crow South, some white businesses refused to serve black people and most had special conditions for black customers: order at the back door, eat in the back yard, use the “colored” wash room, watch movies in the balcony, etc.
But there’s no evidence vanilla ice cream was forbidden to anyone. White business people were business people first. They sold white products like milk and bread and ice cream to black people because black people’s money was green.
Folklore is never about what’s historically true. It’s about what’s emotionally true, so black people joked that a Negro couldn’t even buy vanilla ice cream where they grew up. Humor has always been a survival tactic for people in hard times.
Researching this brought up an interesting fact: In 1894, the New York Times mistakenly credited a black man with inventing ice cream:
THE ORIGIN OF ICE CREAM: The man who invented ice cream was a Negro by the name of Jackson, and in the early part of the present century kept a small confectionery store. Cold custards, which were cooled after being made by setting them on a cake of ice, were very fashionable, and Jackson conceived the idea of freezing them, which he did by placing the ingredients in a tin bucket and completely covered with ice. Each bucket contained a quart, and was sold for $1. It immediately became popular, and the inventor soon enlarged his store, and when he died left a considerable fortune A good many tried to follow his example, and ice cream was hawked about the streets, being wheeled along very much as the hokey-pokey carts are now, but none of them succeeded in obtaining the flavor that Jackson had in his product.
New York Times, March 11, 1894 (p. 18)
Ice cream is, of course, much older than the possibly mythical Mr. Jackson. The first historical appearance of ice cream was around 500 BC in Iran.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I thought I was a loner, but it seems I'm an introvert

I've known about introverts and extroverts for decades, but I never identified with either. I suppose I thought I was a nontrovert. Okay, I thought I was a loner. I prefer some of the older, imprecise names for personalities—being a loner is romantic, while being an introvert is just geeky and a bit antisocial. I wish I hadn't realized I'm an introvert. It doesn't change a thing about me except my self-image.

Hmm. Though maybe I'm missing a progression here. Maybe when I was a loner, I wasn't quite an introvert. Maybe I'm now a hermit, and that's why I finally realized I'm an introvert.

When I told Emma I realized I was an introvert, she laughed. It is good to live with people who know us better than we know ourselves. Well, so long as we're willing to know ourselves.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

why yesterday's poetry worm was "dig and be dug in return"

I've liked this for ages:
by Langston's Hughes

I play it cool
I dig all jive
That's the reason
I stay alive
My motto
As I live and learn
Is dig and be dug in return
Yesterday, while doing minor landscaping and gardening, the last line kept going through my head. After a couple of hours, I wondered why.

Then I looked at the shovel in my hand. My subconscious has a really stupid sense of humor.