I Got Work To Do

Clearly.

One of my favorite things about the civil unrest America is experiencing recently is that it’s inclusive. I think that’s part of what has created the longevity in what we’re seeing with the protests.

George Floyd’s murder wasn’t any more or less representative of the problems in our country – regardless of whether it’s *just* police brutality, something larger like systemic racism or more overt like flat out bigotry – than Breonna Taylor’s.

Or Trayvon Martin’s.

Or any of the many trans POC that have been murdered over the past decades.

Early on, I was critical of muddying the message with unnecessary or unclear hyperbole. As the weeks have gone on, the messaging I’m seeing has evolved away from that, which is gratifying.

I do like a clear message.

But we’re also being presented with messages that don’t exclude people who don’t, won’t or can’t march. Sure, there have been some slips on that unity and inclusivity messaging, but from my perspective, it seems like they are simple gaffes versus an intentional exclusive focus. In my Social Media scrollings, I’m given daily reminders and suggestions of ways to support protests without marching:

Donating to organizations.

Making signs or masks for protesters.

Donating first aid supplies or water – or staffing a booth where they are available.

Things to read to further your understanding.

Conversations to have.

Providing legal aid, if you are a lawyer.

Donating. Because it can be said twice.

Personally, I’m focusing my Lyft shifts around times and areas where protests are occurring. There’s nights where I ferry people along the same five mile stretch for several consecutive trips. Frankly, being able to thank them and encourage them getting out to march makes us both feel good. Plus, hearing them complain about sore feet and tired bodies allows me to remind them that it’s only temporary and thank them again.

It’s nice. And I love hearing the stories of the sense of connection there is amongst the protesters.

I think that sense of community and connection is what has allowed the activists to sustain their momentum this time around. Outlasting the effort that the bad elements in their midst were willing to contribute.

Not hearing about the use of police force or property damage over this past week has been a welcome change. It allows the media to keep the true message of the protests front and center in the public’s mindset versus burnt and broken things derailing the focus.

And then there’s my personal favorite way to show support – supporting Black owned businesses and restaurants.

And this is where I have some work to do – why I feel behind. I got this email from Yelp the other day

It’s like many that I have seen on Instagram and the Facebook. Reminders or highlights that I appreciate. And free promotion for the businesses, which I love!

But then I looked at the list – mainly for places close by that I should try or go back to.

Something occurred to me.

Of the 50 Black owned businesses listed, only one was “in my area”. A reminder of how Portland truly lacks in diversity overall. Also, though, how cost prohibitive commercial real estate is in the core of the city, making it a near certainty that DBEs will remain pushed out.

Maybe with all of the non-Disadvantaged Business Entities folding in the days of COVID, we’ll see a re-thinking of those rental rates.

Maybe.

What also shocked me in reviewing the list was that I’d been to one. Just the one nearby. As much as I eat, you’d think I would have happened into a few of these places at least accidentally, but…no.

Sure, there were two that I follow on Instagram and always intended to go to. But you can’t take intent to the bank.

So there’s the work I need to do: eat out.

Just like we can vote with our dollars, we can support with them, too.

Now, before I finish knitting my selfish, racist bastard sweater out of flammable yarn I should say that Yelp’s list of 50 is hardly – thankfully – exhaustive. I’ve seen other businesses listed elsewhere and I’ve been to some that weren’t listed at all.

That’s fine. I give credit for effort and someone at Yelp did something, which is better than nothing.

But back to Portland’s lack of diversity for a second and how I can change my behaviors to support equality myself. This odd fact came up in conversation the other day – I want to tell you about Portland’s best BBQ.

It’s great. Really, really great.

Really.

And it’s owned by a fucking white guy.

Surprised?

In retrospect, I was – and not to sound racist, but c’mon…BBQ is kind of half the game with Black cuisine, right? Soul food and BBQ are top of mind when you think of a Black owned restaurant, aren’t they?

Maybe it’s just me. I doubt it dunno.

But when I set out for BBQ, do I need to go to the one that some newspaper food critic called the best? Is that maybe just another example of systemic racism?

How many Black food critics can you think of?

Zero is how many I can think of. Given the departure of Adam Rappaport from Bon Appetit last week for leading and perpetuating an exclusive culture at that particular food magazine, I’d say I’m both not alone and correct about the pervasiveness of systemic racism in yet another facet of American culture.

So, do I need to limit my BBQ options to what someone labeled “the best”?

Nah.

And I think it’s an example of a small behavioral change that would have a larger cultural impact.

Changing who or how we support business spreads the wealth. That sharing of resources allows the small Black owned businesses to create their own change independently. Whether that manifests as hiring more people into their business, opening and sustaining a new location in a less diverse part of town or just being able to care for their family on a different level…it matters. Hey, not all changes toward racial equity have to reinvent a wheel.

And at the end of the day, my belly is still full, so everyone wins.

I Got Work To Do

3 thoughts on “I Got Work To Do

  1. You know there’s a certain amount of exclusion/partisanship/discrimination in targeting black businesses for support that falls right in there with special parking places and discounts and free shit for responders (what, have we forgotten them so soon?) I heard Morgan Freeman on why he despised Black History Month. Black history is American history. Confederate history is American History. Nobody’s saving me a parking place, or money, or buying my groceries or ppe. No one has asked the BLM people why 97% of murder against black people is by black people. No one is pumping free advertising the gear I have for sale on Reverb. Or whiting out their logos for me because a black kid shot a white mother in her driveway last week because he liked her car. No one is addressing the “systemic” failure of the family unit, or why half Indians and half Latinos and Mariah Carey are white, why Obama and Halle Berry are black. I’m glad people of diverse ethnicity have time and money to march while old, “retired” privileged me has to work or the politicians and the unemployment checks will bounce. The conversation needs to be about real equity instead of stereotypes, and about real causal issues, not flags and nut cases. I don’t see Christians protesting because Catholics have the body of Christ, or rape victims protesting penises or other ridiculousness. My father was a bombardier and navigator on a B17. Where’s his plaque? Oh, right, it’s in Tuskegee. And that sucks in both directions. Unweight the language of racism and division and the continued practice of division by racial acknowledgement and the problem will be solved. I’ll the best barbecue I can find, I don’t care what color the person cooks it is and I should be allowed to park wherever I damn well please. So…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, I know…I get all that. And while I may cheekily call myself a racist in my post, I only half mean it. I’m not a racist, but if I look at my routines and behaviors, some of my reality has racist foundations.
      I think 50-odd years after MLK was assassinated I can get behind overcorrecting. Simply being satisfied that I wasn’t actively making racism in America worse hasn’t helped. It’s time – at least for *me* – to start looking at things I can do to diminish the reality of racism in America. Now, let’s just watch how this backfired on me…🤓

      Liked by 1 person

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