Planning to enjoy today’s solar eclipse? Shame on you. You are a party to white supremacy. So says Alice Ristroph, writing not in Slate or Salon, but in The Atlantic. Excerpt:
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will arrive mid-morning on the coast of Oregon. The moon’s shadow will be about 70 miles wide, and it will race across the country faster than the speed of sound, exiting the eastern seaboard shortly before 3 p.m. local time. It has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, and along most of its path, there live almost no black people.
Presumably, this is not explained by the implicit bias of the solar system. It is a matter of population density, and more specifically geographic variations in population density by race, for which the sun and the moon cannot be held responsible. Still, an eclipse chaser is always tempted to believe that the skies are relaying a message. At a moment of deep disagreement about the nation’s best path forward, here comes a giant round shadow, drawing a line either to cut the country in two or to unite it as one. Ancient peoples watched total eclipses with awe and often dread, seeing in the darkness omens of doom. The Great American Eclipse may or may not tell us anything about our future, but its peculiar path could remind us of something about our past—what it was we meant to be doing, and what we actually did along the way. And if it seems we need no reminding, consider this: We tend to backlight our history, and so run the risk of trying to recover a glory that never existed. When the light in August changes, watch carefully.
In Iowa, unpopulated land will get about 30 seconds of darkness. The path will clip the northeast corner of Kansas, passing most notably over Leavenworth. Census.gov tells us that Leavenworth has a much greater population density than the state average, and its black population is almost double the percentage of black residents statewide. Census.gov doesn’t mention it, but Leavenworth is a prison town, hosting a few federal facilities as well as the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility. Until her release earlier this year, Chelsea Manning was held in the U.S. Penitentiary, Leavenworth.
The Great American Eclipse illuminates, or darkens, a land still segregated, a land still in search of equality, a land of people still trying to dominate each other. When the lovely glow of a backlight fades, history is relentless, just one damn fact after another, one damning fact after another.
Read the whole thing. Clearly we have to tear down that racist sun. Or at least allow the eclipse to be not an occasion for wonder, but instead of white heterosexual cisnormative guilt. For the record, the author, Alice Ristroph, is a young white law professor.
And by the way, if you go out to eat after the eclipse, and you choose a restaurant that features an artisanal approach to cooking, well, that’s racist too, according to Lauren Michele Jackson, an African-American literary scholar in training. She writes:
Amber Waves and its act of historical transfiguration are typical products of what might be loosely labeled as “craft culture,” which has, over the last two decades, radically reshaped how the richer swaths of America think about what they eat and drink, and how those things were produced. Craft culture has seeped into cities and spread throughout the country, bearing the fruits of bean-to-bar chocolate and traditional butchery and single-barrel whiskey; ancient-grain breads and heritage-breed pigs and heirloom corn and $8 mayoand $12 ice cream; local honey and local beer and local pickles. Craft culture fetishizes the authentic, the traditionally produced, and the specific; it loathes the engineered, the mass-produced, and the originless.
Craft culture looks like white people. The founders, so many former lawyers or bankers or advertising execs, tend to be white, the front-facing staff in their custom denim aprons tend to be white, the clientele sipping $10 beers tends to be white. Craft culture tells mostly white stories for mostly white consumers, and they nearly always sound the same: It begins somewhere remote-sounding like the mountains of Cottonwood, Idaho, or someplace quirky like a basement in Fort Collins, Colorado, or a loft in Brooklyn, where a (white) artisan, who has a vision of back in the day, when the food was real and the labor that produced it neither alienated nor obscured — and discovers a long-forgotten technique, plucked from an ur-knowledge as old as thought and a truth as pure as the soul.
It’s true that craft food culture can be exceedingly precious, but still, you might have thought it was a good thing that younger people are getting interested in food and food traditions, and learning how to make these things instead of relying on mass producers. That just goes to show how racist you are. More Jackson:
But craft coffee readily displays the black and brown bodies of the people who farm it only because it doesn’t have much of a story to sell without them. While many artisanal products derive a portion of their premium from the perception that they are ethically produced — the heritage hog that gave its life for this pork shoulder died happy; the heirloom grains in this beer weren’t sprayed with planet-killing pesticide; the butcher’s apprentice is fairly compensated — it is the core value proposition for craft coffee, which cannot be produced locally. The sociologist Nicki Lisa Cole has found, as a result, that the movement towards a socially conscious cup of coffee is heavily invested in making “interaction with racialized bodies safe for white consumers.”
In a survey of imagery used by coffee companies, Cole found that they leaned on “racially and culturally essentialized depictions of the coffee farmer, their lives, and communities, which facilitate knowledge of coffee farmers as distinctly different from consumers in the United States,” neatly distancing the farmer from the consumer.
Further, Cole writes, “coffee farmers, their families, and communities are described as helpless against the exploitative forces of the capitalist market that undervalues their labor by setting a low price for coffee. The discourse tells consumers that by purchasing socially responsible coffee they can improve lives and communities in coffee growing regions, thus consumers too are able to help steward coffee farmers toward a better way of life.” Every $5 cup is dosed with a whiff of philanthropy, satiating the coffee drinker’s desire to be an ethical consumer with good taste, even though farmers get just pennies on the dollar.
A white-savior narrative is also neatly embedded within the typical story of how craft coffee gets from the farm to the consumer: The pristine crop lies deep in a primitive land, waiting to be discovered by oracle-like coffee buyers; the benevolent coffee company shows the farmer how to grow his own crop to meet its high standards; finally, the beans’ essential flavors are unlocked with masterful roasting on vintage equipment and the skillful techniques of tattooed baristas.
And on and on. Read it all. Basically, during the eclipse you should be sitting quietly in your darkened living room, eating thin soup and dry bread, meditating on America’s depravity.
This is why the woke Left won’t let us live in peace. It’s constantly scanning the culture for sinfulness, terrified that somewhere, someone is taking ordinary human pleasure in something depraved, like the sun, or a cup of coffee.