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racial dysphoria

Note: This post is partly tongue-in-cheek, partly serious. 

Racial dysphoria is the condition where your racial identity does not match your assigned race at birth. According to one study there are more than 35,000 new cases each year in the US.

Rachel Dolezal argued she was “transracial”. Court records, though, show that she considered herself White. Being born White and considering yourself White is not a case of racial dysphoria. The same goes for blackface entertainers and the rest.

What it is like: Two excellent examples of what racial dysphoria is like:

  • “Black Like Me” (1961) by John Howard Griffin. He was a White man who lived as a Black man for six weeks in the US South in 1959. His book describes what it is like to be in a body of the wrong race. The book is, if anything, understated since Griffin always knew he could go back to being White. Joshua Solomon repeated his experiment in 1994 and lasted only one week.
  • “Skin” (2008), a British film starring Sophie Okonedo about the true-life story of Sandra Laing. She was assigned White under apartheid in South Africa but looked mixed-race. No ruby slippers for her.

WABABs: Whites Assigned Black at Birth. The remainder of this post takes as an example those Whites in the US who were assigned Black at birth.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Not feeling right in your own skin.
  • A wish to be White that never completely goes away.
  • Looking in the mirror and being unhappy with your appearance in ways that are particular to race: your nose might be too wide, your lips too big, your hair too curly, your skin too dark, etc.
  • Preferring the company of Whites over Blacks.
  • Race-variant behaviours, like mountain climbing, wearing shorts in winter, kissing dogs on the mouth.
  • Using a White avatar online or in video games.

These are just examples: you might experience none of these and still be racially dysphoric. Or you might be suffering from internalized racism.

Treatment:

  • Limited. The US in the early twenty-first century has no race therapists, no race reassignment surgeries, no skin whiteners that are safe for long-term use, etc. And what little treatment there is, is not covered by health insurance since racial dysphoria is not recognized by doctors as a disorder in need of a cure. Sorry, but you were born into the wrong period of history.

Some patients are left with the cold comfort of being told, “God does not make mistakes.”

Others, though, are able to transition on their own without medical help. And surgeries do help to a degree.

Note that transitioning goes beyond mere physical appearance. Those who transition often have to move to another town, talk and dress a certain way, say little about their past, and maybe even change their name.

– Abagond, 2018.

See also:

527

Early Victorian tea set

An Early Victorian tea set (1840-45) is one of the 100 objects from the British Museum through which the BBC told a history of the world in 2010.

Britain was over-represented: 11 of the 100 objects came from Britain, a place where only about 1 person in 100 lives. But British tea sets are something that did affect much of the world.

The tea set in question was made in the early 1840s of red-brown stoneware and silver by Josiah Wedgwood’s Etruria factory south of Manchester in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England. A mass-market version came without the silver.

Pots: People in Britain have been making pots for thousands of years (since at least -3500 according to my sources). What makes these pots different is what went in them: tea in the kettle, milk in the jug, and sugar in the bowl.

Tea with sugar was largely the creation of the British Empire, made possible by the Royal Navy.

In 1700 in Britain only the rich could afford to drink tea. But during the 1700s the price of tea dropped, becoming something the masses could afford by the late 1700s. And people started adding milk and sugar, making a bitter drink sweet.

By 1800 tea was the national drink, taking the place of beer. In the early 1800s, tea was pushed by religious leaders and the temperance movement as better than beer, wine or gin.

Industrial value: Tea was much safer to drink than city water and, because it did not lead to drunkenness, workers were more likely to show up at the factory gate on time. Tea coursed through the veins of industrial Britain.

By the middle 1800s tea time at four o’clock (halfway between lunch and dinner) was already a thing, helping to make tea drinking a national habit – and creating a mass market for tea sets.

But there were two huge downsides to all of this: the sugar and the tea.

Sugar was grown by Black slaves in the Americas, especially in the Caribbean. Even after the British Empire outlawed slavery in its own colonies, the cheapest sugar was still being produced by slaves, in places like Cuba. (The BBC does not point this out, but some people in Britain stopped putting sugar in their tea in protest knowing full well where it came from.)

Tea came mostly from China. To pay for it Britain got China hooked on opium. That led to the Opium Wars, which China lost. Opium and tea became two sides of the same coin.

India & Sri Lanka: Britain did not grow tea in India on a large scale till the 1830s. To grow it in Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), the British brought in Tamil workers, both male and female. (The BBC does not point this out, but British policies like that led to ethnic violence in Sri Lanka in the late 1900s).

Milk came from cows in Britain. They lived in the city till the rise of railways in the 1830s.

Now you know 1% of world history 😉

– Abagond, 2018.

Source: mainly “A History of the World in 100 Objects” (2010) by Neil MacGregor. 

See also:

553

Remarks: 

This song came out in Brazil in 2010. I do not know if it charted, but it does rate at least six ukulele covers on YouTube.

The main line:

Só sei dançar com você
Isso é o que o amor faz

in English is:

I only know how to dance with you
That is what love does

This song, a duet about dancing and love, could have an amazing music video and there have been several attempts at one, but no one has nailed it yet. The video above, by Glória Gomes, is in the right direction and comes closest.

Among Ruiz’s influences are Gal Costa, who has been featured here before, Joni Mitchell, who has not, and Meredith Monk.

See also:

Lyrics:

Você me chamou pra dançar aquele dia,
mas eu nunca sei rodar,
cada vez que eu girava parecia
que a minha perna sucumbia de agonia

Em cada passo que eu dava nessa dança
ia perdendo a esperança
você sacou a minha esquizofrenia
e maneirou na condução

Toda vez que eu errava “cê” dizia
pra eu me soltar porque você me conduzia,
mesmo sem jeito eu fui topando essa parada
e no final achei tranquilo…

Só sei dançar com você
Isso é o que o amor faz
Só sei dançar com você
Isso é o que o amor faz

Você me chamou pra dançar aquele dia,
mas eu nunca sei rodar,
cada vez que eu girava parecia
que a minha perna sucumbia de agonia

Em cada passo que eu dava nessa dança
ia perdendo a esperança
você sacou a minha esquizofrenia
e maneirou na condução

Toda vez que eu errava “cê” dizia
pra eu me soltar porque você me conduzia,
mesmo sem jeito eu fui topando essa parada
e no final achei tranquilo…

Só sei dançar com você
Isso é o que o amor faz
Só sei dançar com você
Isso é o que o amor faz

Source: Vagalume, Wikipedia.

Saheed Vassell

Saheed Vassell (c. 1984-2018) was an unarmed Black man killed by New York police on April 4th 2018, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. What police thought was a gun turned out to be – a shower head with a piece of pipe.

As with Tamir Rice and John Crawford, police received reports of someone with a gun – but did not wait to determine what was going on. Instead “within two seconds” of jumping out of their unmarked car the police gunned him down in a hail of bullets:

BANG

BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG

They did not even waste time telling him to put his hands up, drop his weapon, or anything like that – like he was a wild dog.

One bullet broke a window, the rest broke his body. He was dead by the time they got him to the hospital.

Mental illness: Vassell was mentally ill but was considered harmless. As one neighbour put it:

“It’s visible. You could see it. Listen. Ray Charles could see that man was crazy.”

He talked to himself. He picked up junk from the street and played with it. He had bipolar disorder which had not been treated in years.

Even one of the calls to the police noted, “He looks like he is crazy.”

He and his mental illness were well known to neighbours, shopkeepers, and even the police – but apparently not to the White gentrifiers and the anti-terrorism police who seemed to have set events into motion.

At 4.40pm the police were receiving reports like this:

“He looks like he is crazy but he’s pointing something at people that looks like a gun”

and:

“I don’t know what if it is if it’s a gun. It’s silver”

and:

“an African American guy. He has on a brown jacket. … He’s pointing a thing in people’s faces”

and (last but not least):

“black guy [I] see holding a gun”

Five minutes later a crack anti-terrorism force was there to save the day. They apparently did not know him or the neighbhourhood. All they seemed to know was “black guy” and “gun”.

By the rules of police engagement, once they placed themselves in front of him, they could claim they had to make a Split Second Decision to gun him down – because they “feared for their lives”.

The police claim they did not know he might be “crazy”.

In my younger days I used to walk down the street pulling my gun on people just for laughs. I was not afraid of the police because, like what the police said Vassell did, I could always take “a two-handed shooting stance” and shoot my way out against the largest police force in the land.

Poor judgement: The mistake that Vassell made, aside from arming himself with a shower head, is that he forgot to gun down eight people at a Bible study in cold blood. Oh yeah, and have pink undertones to his skin.

Still alive.

– Abagond, 2018.

See also:

535

I live in the land that produced Martin Luther King, Jr. And I live in the land that killed him. He turned the other cheek – and was shot in the face.

Stokely Carmichael:

“White America killed Dr King and they had absolutely no reason to do so. He was the one man, in our race, who was trying to teach our people to have love, compassion, and humility for what white people had done.”

He was killed 50 years ago today: Thursday April 4th 1968 at 6:01 pm in Memphis, Tennessee. Age 39. A week and a day before Good Friday. During that week 125 cities across the US burned.

The night before Dr King spoke at Clayton Temple. He urged his packed audience of 2,000 to buy Black and bank Black and stand bodily with the striking Black sanitation workers. He told how he was stabbed once in New York and narrowly avoided death. He ended by saying:

“We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

“And I don’t mind.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

“And so I’m happy, tonight.

“I’m not worried about anything.

“I’m not fearing any man!

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

The next day, getting ready to go out to dinner, he was standing on the second-floor balcony in front of his room at the the Black-owned Lorraine Motel. He was talking to Jesse Jackson and musician Ben Branch in the parking lot below, about an event later that night for the striking sanitation workers:

JACKSON: You remember Ben?

KING: Oh, yeah. He’s my man. Be sure to play ‘Precious Lord’ and play it real pretty.

Solomon Jones, his driver, said he should put on his topcoat, it was going to be chilly. King agreed, straightening his tie. Then came what sounded like a firecracker. Just one shot.

Then came what Coretta Scott King, his wife back in Atlanta, called “the call I seemed subconsciously to have been waiting for all our lives”.

US National Guard troops block off Beale Street in Memphis as striking sanitation workers march.

On April 8th, King was to lead a protest of striking Black sanitation workers in Memphis.

On April 22nd he was to lead a March on Washington of poor people of all colours, the Poor People’s Campaign.

King had been on the FBI’s Reserved List, Section A, for six years: someone considered so dangerous that he must be watched and, in case of emergency, jailed.

But he was one of the last two bridges between Blacks and Whites at the national level in the US. Now only Robert Kennedy remained.

– Abagond, 2018.

See also:

591

Here are the best-selling novels of 1949 in the US according to Publisher’s Weekly:

  1. “The Egyptian” by Mika Waltari
  2. “The Big Fisherman” by Lloyd C. Douglas
  3. “Mary” by Sholem Asch
  4. “A Rage to Live” by John O’Hara
  5. “Point of No Return” by John P. Marquand
  6. “Dinner at Antoine’s” by Frances Parkinson Keyes
  7. “High Towers” by Thomas B. Costain
  8. “Cutlass Empire” by Van Wyck Mason
  9. “Pride’s Castle” by Frank Yerby
  10. “Father of the Bride” by Edward Streeter

In 2018, nearly 70 years later, only two of these books even merit a Wikipedia entry, the first and the last.

Here are the ten best books of 1949 according to 2018 (at least among those who have posted the 50 million or so user reviews at Goodreads):

  1. “1984” by George Orwell
  2. “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller
  3. “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir
  4. “The Lottery and Other Stories” by Shirley Jackson
  5. “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell
  6. “Crooked House” by Agatha Christie
  7. “Earth Abides” by George R. Stewart
  8. “The Sheltering Sky” by Paul Bowles
  9. “A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold
  10. “The Weight of Glory” by C.S. Lewis

Not one of the bestsellers are now considered to be among the 100 best books for 1949 (or 1948, when some of them were published). Not even Waltari’s, the top selling book of 1949.

Tastes change, of course. The people in the US of 2018 are not, on the whole, the same people of 1949. Only about 10% are. But there is more than just that going on. I notice the same sort of thing going on with me and I am the same person.

I was not alive in 1949, but I was alive in 1980, about halfway back. Better still, I kept a list of the books I read that year. Looking at the list now, about half the books are as forgettable as the bestsellers of 1949. And the most forgettable books I read back then were the very ones I bought new at the bookstore.

What was true in 1949 and 1980 is presumably still true in 2018: bookstores are a terrible place to get books. Libraries, as it turns out, are only somewhat better.

But I noticed something: If I list the books I read in 1980 by date of first publication, they generally get better the older they are. That was the year I first read “1984”, which was way better than, say, “Utopia 3” (1978) by George Alec Effinger, which I also read that year. The Gospel of Matthew, in turn, was better still.

The 15-year rule: Nearly all the books that were at least 15 years old at the time were good. The break-even point was at the eight-year mark: most books that came out after 1972 were trash.

Shelf space: The US did not experience a cultural meltdown in 1972. At least not according to most observers. But bookstores and libraries do have limited shelf space. They make way for new books by getting rid of books that are least in demand. Therefore it is their older books that have stood the test of time.

– Abagond, 2018.

See also:

525

Evanescence: Bring Me to Life

Remarks:

My favourite goth metal song. In 2003 this went to #1 in Europe, #2 in Brazil, and #4 in their native Anglosphere. I always took the song in a Christian sense. I was not alone. But in 2003 the band distanced themselves from Christian rock.

Happy Easter!

See also:

Lyrics:

How can you see into my eyes
like open doors
leading you down into my core
where I’ve become so numb?
Without a soul;
my spirit’s sleeping somewhere cold,
until you find it there and lead it back home.

(Wake me up.)
Wake me up inside.
(I can’t wake up.)
Wake me up inside.
(Save me. )
Call my name and save me from the dark.
(Wake me up. )
Bid my blood to run.
(I can’t wake up. )
Before I come undone.
(Save me. )
Save me from the nothing I’ve become.

Now that I know what I’m without
you can’t just leave me.
Breathe into me and make me real.
Bring me to life.

(Wake me up.)
Wake me up inside.
(I can’t wake up.)
Wake me up inside.
(Save me. )
Call my name and save me from the dark.
(Wake me up. )
Bid my blood to run.
(I can’t wake up. )
Before I come undone.
(Save me. )
Save me from the nothing I’ve become

Bring me to life.
(I’ve been living a lie/There’s nothing inside.)
Bring me to life.

Frozen inside without your touch,
without your love, darling.
Only you are the life among the dead.

All of this time
I can’t believe I couldn’t see
Kept in the dark
but you were there in front of me
I’ve been sleeping a one thousand years it seems.
I’ve got to open my eyes to everything.
Without a thought
Without a voice
Without a soul
(Don’t let me die here/There must be something more.)
Bring me to life.

(Wake me up.)
Wake me up inside.
(I can’t wake up.)
Wake me up inside.
(Save me. )
Call my name and save me from the dark.
(Wake me up. )
Bid my blood to run.
(I can’t wake up. )
Before I come undone.
(Save me. )
Save me from the nothing I’ve become.

Bring me to life.
(I’ve been living a lie/There’s nothing inside.)
Bring me to life.

Source: Vagalume.

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