Oh, Memphis

Memphis is absolutely one of my favorite cities in the world.   I love so much about it–the history, the creepy factor, the music, the feeling like something ridiculous or wild could happen at any moment.  And it pisses me off and makes me feel so helpless the way the state treats Memphis like you’d treat an old woman shitting in your back yard–oh, well, there’s Myrtle, don’t look, kids.  Don’t encourage her, and thank god she’s in the back yard where no one can see her.

I read this and I just about cried.  Yes, let’s not even give kids in Memphis a chance.  That’s just great.

Speaking a Truth She Doesn’t Live By

This week’s Scene has an interesting story about Carol Swain.  I quote:

“I thought for a while I might go into the ministry,” she says. “And then I realized that what I do, in a way, it is ministry…. I feel that I am called to speak truth to a world that doesn’t want to hear it.”


Last year she edited the book Debating Immigration, a collection of essays exploring different aspects of the immigration question. Swain’s contribution to the book is an essay on how immigration hurts African Americans, while the Congressional Black Caucus essentially sits on its hands and holds cocktail parties. She also says that employers who hire undocumented immigrants should be held accountable. “If people are not authorized to work in this country and you know they’re not authorized to work,” she tells the Scene, “then I think there should be some penalty for the employer.”


“As a homeowner that has a construction project, and the crews that come, I’m not out there checking immigration papers. I don’t want to know. I don’t think it should be the responsibility of ordinary people to check immigration status…. It could even be dangerous.”

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Volunteer Pumpkins

This morning, I was walking Mrs. Wigglebottom and over on the interstate side of our street was a clump of large orange-yellow flowers, blowing in the breeze like damp tissue paper.

One of the neighborhood miscreants threw a jack o’ lantern over there shortly after Halloween, and it spent all winter there slowly rotting.

But still, you rarely, if ever, see feral pumpkin just growing wherever (though, I imagine some of you gardeners will argue that, the second one takes her eyes off a pumpkin, it has a tendency to grow wherever), so I wasn’t sure.

I went over and reached down to touch it.  And there it was, the familiar prickle of the pumpkin vine.

It’s funny, to me, at least, that I don’t really consider my mom to be an avid gardener.  It’s just something she did–have a vegetable garden there in the back yard.  And I thought nothing of it.  We always had one.  And you could go in and snap green beens right off and eat them or, better yet, sugar snap peas, which I would gladly stand in the garden, and eat fresh off the vine until I was too full for dinner.

But, if you asked me about my mom, I don’t think I’d think to tell you about her garden.

And yet, folks, when I reached down and felt those prickles against my skin, the memory of standing in her garden fell over me like a fog, like I had lost my present self for a second, and was a small girl bending down in her dirt, checking to see if any small pumpkins were forming.

It’s just funny to me, the things you remember that you don’t know you remember.

It gives me comfort, though, to think that it’s all stuck in this head some place and that I can spend the rest of my days stumbling across things that pull me into those memories, like little treats of the mind.

More Thoughts on White Feminism

The more I think about it, the more I think that my feminism is rooted on the women in my family, who didn’t consider themselves feminist, but believed in finding ways to do what you had to do to make room for yourself in the world, and women like my College Professor, who taught me an articulated feminism that, at the time, seemed to contradict a lot of what I thought I’d learned from my family.

Aw, hell, of course it contradicted a lot of what I learned from my family.  Let’s not kid ourselves.

But what I learned from all these women was a deep commitment to the well-being of everyone and a deep suspicion of being too certain of knowing what constituted “well-being.”

I am convinced that, for myself, the biggest pitfall I face in my desire to aid in everyone’s well-being (and I know that’s a vast oversimplification, but bear with me.  I’m not so much interested in talking about end results at the moment.) is how my being white intersects with my being a feminist.

The impulse, and it comes from a good place, is to take charge and fix things.  And I find it very empowering to take charge, to feel that I can have a powerful influence on the world.  And a lot of how I understand myself as a feminist comes from the belief that women, in general, but namely me, need to be able to take charge.

Don’t worry, I think, I will lead the way.

And I’ve never been non-white, obviously, so I don’t know, but it’s that impulse, I think, that’s very steeped in white culture–this idea that leadership is rightfully ours and that injustice is when we’re denied the ability to lead.  I even see it in the huge blowups we have in the feminist blogosphere, which many prominent white feminists seem to understand as critiques and checks on their leadership–demands that they change direction.  When, clearly, it’s about more than that.  It’s a critique of the structure of leadership in general.

Still, there’s that underlying belief that the women who take the lead deserve the lead, that we should have leaders, which I don’t think we, who feel the impulse to want to lead, do enough to question.

But here’s my point, and maybe it’s all the Sesame Street I watched as a kid, but I do believe that we’re all in this together and that we all suffer when anyone faces injustice.

I look at Obama and I feel amazed and excited.  I don’t feel cheated.  And I have a hard, hard time understanding the outrage with which some white women express their feelings of being cheated.  I’m not a liberal just because I want things to go my way.

Of course that’s a part of it.

But I believe that a black person being able to seriously vie for the Presidency is cool as hell.  This is the hope I have for us.

My hope is big enough to hope for a country in which a black person can be president and in which a woman can be president.  And yes, I am disappointed that Clinton’s failure to clinch the nomination came draped in real ugliness towards her as a woman, because I am a liberal and I believe that, when you’re arguing with a person, you argue their ideas or their personal behavior.  You don’t try to crush them with the historical ugliness you can bring to bear against them.

But I believe that about Obama, too.

And not getting exactly what I want when I want it is not an excuse to betray my core beliefs.

I just don’t recognize that.  I don’t understand that.

If it’s wrong to be racist, it’s always wrong to be racist, even when we’re pissed.

If it’s wrong to be sexist, it’s always wrong to be sexist, even when we’re pissed.

And yes, it’s been gruelingly disappointing to see the racist and sexist tropes bandied about by the folks we thought were on our side, but damn.  You don’t meet like with like.

Not if you want things to be different than that.

The Long-cut

We were talking about this the other day–how hard it is to get to Swett’s.  And I meant to bring it up here, to see if anyone else has noticed this:

There appear to be two types of people in Nashville–those who can get to Swett’s and those who can’t.  The first few times I went to Swett’s, I thought, “My god, could they have put this restaurant in any more of a difficult place to get to?” because the people driving me were taking lefts and then rights and then lefts some more and then doing U-Turns and three-point turn-abouts and then, just when you’re like “I’m either going to die of hunger or car-sickness” magically, you’re there.

But, it turns out that all you have to do is go down Charlotte to 28th, turn, and it’s there on the right.  It could not be simpler to get to.

And yet, it turns out that I’m not the only person who’s noticed that people have a hard time getting there, that they literally seem to drive around in circles until they find it.

I just wonder what’s up with that.  Is Swett’s the kind of place you take the opposite of a short-cut to get to?