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Race

The Unbearable Whiteness of Grifting.

Between this IG scammer and her empty mason jars, the Theranos lady with the crispy ends, punchface Fyre douche, and the Russian lady living for free in fancy hotels, my spirit is just completely done with unqualified white people fumbling the bag due to LAZINESS. Any one of them could’ve been sitting on bags of money handed to them by dint of being white and slick-mouthed had they not overshot into mind-boggling greed and followed it up with enraging ineptitude.

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Between this IG scammer and her empty mason jars, the Theranos lady with the crispy ends, punchface Fyre douche, and the Russian lady living for free in fancy hotels, my spirit is just completely done with unqualified white people fumbling the bag due to LAZINESS. Any one of them could’ve been sitting on bags of money handed to them by dint of being white and slick-mouthed had they not overshot into mind-boggling greed and followed it up with enraging ineptitude.

If you are a white woman, a journalist, a New Yorker, bored and on the Internet too much, or a combination of the aforementioned, there’s a fair chance you’ve seen the name Caroline Calloway pop up somewhere over the past week.

Something instinctively told me to leave that mess alone because I saw enough warning signs to know that Rich White Girl Goes Through Troubles Of Her Own Making was a ministry I was not prepared to receive. And then last night, I did it. I took a peek into the rabbit hole and went headfirst into the latest edition of Squandering White Privilege.

The long version is best told in these three articles, all of which I read straight through in a row at 2 in the morning while I was stressing out about being unemployed and paying bills. If you have the time and the fortitude, I recommend this order:

First: “The Case of Caroline Calloway and her Creativity Workshop Tour”
Here we see a rich white girl with no qualifications other than a popular Instagram putting together a nationwide tour in less than a month that inevitably falls apart a la Fyre Festival because neither she nor anyone else knows what needs to be done logistically. White girls across the country ponied up $165 each for the privilege of learning how to be yourself from a woman who was faking it. And there was supposed to be salad and orchid crowns.

Second: “The Story of Caroline Calloway and her Ghostwriter Natalie”
The ghostwriter herself wrote it. Caroline’s friend Natalie was so good at writing Caroline’s Instagram captions that she (Caroline, not the friend) landed a 6-figure book deal. In terms of writing, it’s one of my favorite first person narratives of the year. In terms of subject, both of these white girls are maddeningly ridiculous. It’s wild read, from a budding friendship at NYU to multiple near misses with sexual assault wandering around at night in a foreign country.

Third: “Who is Caroline Calloway”
Vox hits the highlights. If you want to know broad strokes and can’t sit through the details, Vox is it.

If you want to know the broadest strokes: Caroline Calloway is a rich white girl. Her dad is a retired lawyer, her mom is a retired data scientist, and her grandparents were real estate tycoons who owned most of Sarasota or something. (x) She took glamorous pictures of her life, her best friend wrote lonnnnng captions, and they became so popular she got a $500,000 book deal to write her memoirs. She couldn’t finish the book, scammed her followers out of $165 a piece to “workshop” with her for four hours, and now certain corners of the internet are obsessed with how a talentless nobody could swan dive into half a million dollars and a massive following.

IT’S BECAUSE SHE’S WHITE AND RICH.

How many times have we seen this? White person from a privileged background tries to leverage that privilege into even more money. They have no skills other than salesmanship, so they sell something that doesn’t exist. When people finally want to receive what they paid for, the emperor is found to be stark naked.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

At this point in my life, I’m almost numb to watching unqualified white people fail upward to ever loftier heights of success and riches. Knowing Caroline Calloway got a book deal for memoirs she wasn’t writing doesn’t even make me blink twice. But y’all. Y’all!! All she had to do was let her friend finish writing the book! Sit still and tell a few stories, either true or fictionalized, let the girl who had been writing your Instagram finish writing the book, and both of y’all collect that bag. She couldn’t even be bothered to do THAT.

If someone was trying to pay me half a million dollars to let someone else write a book about my life, you couldn’t shut me up. What do you need, Sis? You want me to tell you about the bully who called me a faggot in second grade so I ran home to write mean haikus about him in my Trapper Keeper? You wanna know about how two of my friends and I set the carpet on fire in the guidance counselor’s office when we were supposed to be taking the flag down and folding it? Wanna know how I almost got expelled from school senior year because I wrote a blog about how a clarinet player and I drank the alcohol in a host family’s cabinet, replaced it with water, and showed up to rehearsal the next day mad hungover on an orchestra trip? I got stories on stories on stories. How much time you got. How much length we going for.

$500,000?! Couldn’t be bothered. She just let the deadlines pass and then cried about it when the publisher wanted their advance money back.

This country is founded upon an implicit trust in white people, and the economic success of this country in combination with a hypocritically bastardized Christian worldview of prosperity has led to a large proportion of the population that believes wealth is a byproduct of morality. If you’re rich, you deserve it. If you’re poor, you deserve it. We give more worth to the words of rich people because they matter more, and we give more benefit of the doubt to white people because we trust them to pull through and succeed. We are a country that is the perfect breeding ground for Caroline Calloway or Elizabeth Holmes or Anna Delvey or Billy McFarland.

We’re a country that put a businessman with multiple bankruptcies in the White House just because he said he was rich and had the flashy trappings of wealth. As long as there are rich white people, there will be Americans ready to follow in their wake hoping the illusion of prosperity and privilege rubs off on them.

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Race

Seneca Village, Black displacement, and the history of Central Park.

Let’s have a look at the first free Black settlement in NYC.

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Some tweets about Central Park have been going viral the past two days and they are missing valuable context and clarity. Yesterday, I saw this one:

Black people owned less than 1% of the land that would eventually become Central Park.

Seneca Village was about 5 acres of land. Central Park is almost 850 acres of land. So no, the area was not called Seneca Village. There were lots of little villages with their own names dotted throughout the area.

A third of the people in Seneca Village were white. In fact, most of the people in Central Park were white — they were Irish and German farmers.

The United States is a terrible country founded upon theft, greed, and subjugation. All of this land was stolen from Native Americans in the first place, so this is not an effort to impart any warm and fuzzy feelings about US history. Hyperbole is the enemy of truth, and exaggeration in one area of history serves to undermine facts in another. We live in a country where textbooks speak of slavery as a valid business model with a few mean employers. Because of that, when we are trying to force the reality of the horrors of slavery and racism into the American narrative, we can’t afford to embellish other injustices.

When you say Black families had their homesteads razed to make way for Central Park, the average person will picture roving bands of white people setting fires and violently chasing Black people with dogs and weapons. It happened all over the country throughout our history. Countless Black communities are forgotten today because the history of white America is written in Black suffering.

The location of Central Park wasn’t a decision made with race at the forefront. Seneca Village was indeed the first free Black settlement in NYC after slavery was outlawed. Free Black men could vote if they owned enough property, and around 15-20% of those property-owning men lived in Seneca Village. The city did take control of that property through eminent domain to make way for Central Park. All of these things are true.

These things are also true: At its peak the population of Seneca Village was less than 300 people and a third of those people were white. The total population of the area now known as Central Park was almost 2,000 people, and the majority of them were Irish and German farmers. The city used eminent domain to take all of their lands, but that doesn’t mean the lands were stolen from them. All of the residents who owned their property were paid for it — double or triple what the original selling price was — but they couldn’t say no to the sale. The city forced them to sell and move elsewhere. Aside from that though, most of the population of NYC lived below 14th Street, which meant much of the rest of Manhattan was semi-rural and people farmed land all over the island that they didn’t own. When the city decided to build Central Park, they forced the squatters to start paying rent to the city, and when they couldn’t pay, they were kicked out.

The image being painted on Twitter is that Central Park was full of communities of prosperous, land-owning freedmen who lost their voting rights when NYC decided to build a park where the Black people live. And that’s a fair assumption! NYC is full of racist building projects, and US history is full of racist legacies where successful Black towns were essentially punished or destroyed for simply thriving. That’s not quite the case for Central Park. Most of the displaced people were white. Most of the residents of Seneca Village were poor and 80% of them didn’t own the homes they lived in. Those who owned property, which in turn meant they could vote, were paid more than they’d originally invested.  They could use that money buy property elsewhere, which meant they could still vote.

But! This is still the United States. While racism may not be the central figure in the creation of Central Park as it was in other tales of yesteryear, it’s still there as a supporting character.

When NYC wanted a park, the original location chosen was a place called Jones’s Wood. The prosperous white families in that area successfully fought the city, so a new location was scouted and the city settled on the area now known as Central Park. Seneca Village was a very, very tiny portion of the land area and the Black residents there were a small percentage of the mostly white population that would be displaced, but there were very prominent Black families in Seneca Village. The majority of the residents were indeed poor farmers, laborers, and domestic workers who didn’t own land, but the people who did own land were important to the Black community in NYC at large.

The Lyons Family in Seneca Village were conductors on the Underground Railroad.

All Angels church was one of the few interracial congregations in the country. When riots broke out in Lower Manhattan as white racists attacked Black abolitionists, Seneca Village much farther north was spared any damage. As a result, this much more rural area attracted other prominent Black activists, and by the time Central Park was planned, 20% of the Black voters in the city lived there. The residents of Seneca Village put up a fight against the city just as the residents of Jones’s Wood had, but where those prosperous white families ultimately prevailed, the prosperous Black ones did not, and the city moved forward with its plans.

The two biggest takeaways from the creation of Central Park and the history of Seneca Village is the lack of violence and the displacement of white people. Those two factors counter the image most of us have when we hear the city took land from Black people to make a park. There are no stories of Black displacement where most of the people affected were white, and there are few stories of Black displacement from the 19th Century where the government engaged in protracted legal battles with the residents and ultimately paid property owners for their land.  Seneca Village should be remembered as the first free Black settlement in NYC, but we don’t have to paint it as another Tulsa to drive home the history of racism in the US. There are enough Tulsas to go around.

 

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Some sources if you want to read in more detail:
NY Times: Seneca Central Park
Columbia University: Seneca Village
CentralParkNYC.org: Seneca Village
Documents of the Assembly of the State of NY 

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Race

Leave slavery out of your abortion conversations.

Why do seemingly well-meaning white people like to compare various struggles to slavery

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Another day, another White Liberal unnecessarily using slavery to make a point.

(Twitter)

Joyce Alene is a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law. She has appeared as a legal analyst on various cable news channels and she was an attorney for the Obama administration. And she thought it was a good idea to compare abortion rights to slavery.

Not sure why this repeatedly has to be explained over and over, but it is very much possible to discuss persecution without bringing Black people into it. There is never a need to compare any struggle in this country to the worst atrocity in the history of the United States, and doing so makes you look unserious. What we are dealing with right now in regard to reproductive rights can be discussed on its own merit. We should be horrified by what’s happening, period. No hyperbole is necessary. No conflation with genocide is needed.

Why do seemingly well-meaning white people like to compare various struggles to slavery, when absolutely nothing the Modern White American faces has any similarity? Nothing the Colonial White American faced had any similarity. Leave slavery out of the conversation.

It’s a double insult. On the first side, Good Whites can’t come to grips with the foundation of America’s success in the world firmly resting atop slavery, so comparisons to modern struggles are subconsciously made to lessen the severity of what happened. Even the most liberal of White Americans has a difficult time accepting the fact that everything you see owes it existence to slavery. There would be no United States without the economic engine that was chattel slavery. From Yale to Bank of America to whiskey — the legacy of slavery is everywhere.

On the other side, too many Good Whites feel such a strong need to identify with the oppressed that they will manufacture similarities that don’t exist.

Or possibly a third side:

If you acknowledge that it’s a bad take and you don’t mean any offense, then you only said it to be shocking and to grab attention. You have trivialized slavery as a gotcha for clicks, and that’s even worse.

Women are being oppressed. Yes, restrictive legislation on reproductive rights disproportionately affects poor women and women of color, but all women are at the mercy of an evangelical government that believes it has the divine right to subjugate Eve’s daughters. That is enough to work with. Comparing it to anything other than that is a distraction and a disservice. Women deserve rights on their own merit.

 

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Race

We gotta invite Tigger to the Cookout now.

Maybe it sounds so much like n—-r some people just lose their minds.

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Some cartoon characters are Black because they’re created that way.

Some cartoon characters Black because we decided they are.

And some cartoon characters are just cartoon characters. I don’t recognize any Winnie the Pooh characters from my daily life, so they’re just animals to me, but we might have to welcome Tigger into the family. There’s no other explanation for why this white lady is so mad that he’s on a flag.

Tigger must’ve played rap music in her driveway or looked at her purse on the elevator or something, because this lady is acting like that flag says Black Lives Matter And Yours Does Not. I am very certain there are no rules (by this non-existent housing association) prohibiting a cartoon character flag and this woman feels like “rule” is the same as “I don’t like it,” which is unsurprising given the age and hue of the protagonist in this short film. My first retail job was at Bath & Body Works in a Southern shopping mall, and if there’s one thing I know for certain about that particular demographic it’s that they definitely believe personal opinions are facts, feelings are rules, and there is a manager of something somewhere who will side with them so they can get their way.

Bless the restraint of this homeowner. I probably woulda cussed that woman from here to Tara and then I would be gone with the police after she called 911 on me.

 

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