Friday, February 27, 2009

Mixing it up in a Nation of Cowards

The new Attorney General, Eric Holder, spoke provokatively on the subject of race this past February 18, 2009:

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

“Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.”

OK, I’ll show a little courage and enter in this discussion. Let’s say that Americans become 100% race blind, and intermarry across races in random proportion to percentage of population. The following chart shows the resulting changing racial demographics over 5 generations.

Native American

As you can see, the African-American race disappears after 2 generations and the white race disappears after 5 generations, after which all of us are mixed race.

Now you are going to say that’s not realistic. This chart implies that in generation 1 75% of African-Americans would marry and have children with whites and 12.3% of whites would marry and have children with African-Americans. (Actually, it’s sufficient to have the children without getting married.)

And true, due to the voluntary living patterns that Holder describes, many African-Americans in this country live in majority African-American communities. So the African-American race is not likely to disappear so quickly, nor should that be a condition for a color-blind society.

But we are moving in this direction already. In my own Midwestern family that most outsiders would describe as white, we already have Native American, Hispanic, and Asian mixed race relatives. In fact, this is true of most all of the other “white” families I know. It’s true that you don’t see as many white families with African-American intermarriages. But I can think of several such mixed race couples that I am friends with or close with. It’s just not that exceptional anymore.

So, if that’s where we are going, what are we going to call this new mixed race of people? Same as we always have: Americans.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kicking Sand on the Grammy Record of the Year

The big news at this year’s Grammy award was five wins for Allison Kraus and Robert Plant, all for tracks on their album Raising Sand:

Record of the Year for the single Please Read This Letter
Album of the Year, for Raising Sand
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for Rich Woman
Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for Killing the Blues
Best Contemporary Folk/Americana album for Raising Sand

Now I love Allison Kraus, and every bluegrass fiber of her voice. And Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame is a rocker of the ages. Hell, my high school prom was themed Stairway To Heaven. The album producer T Bone Burnett has produced too many great albums to count, and is a great musician in his own right – just check out The True False Identity. Even the label, Rounder, screams cred.

This should be a marriage made in heaven, officiated by a god himself in the high church of folk/americana, the music I love, and yet… what kind of a song is Please Read This Letter? A long droning repetitive complaint of those three title words, with some sort of strumming or fiddling thrown in towards the end, that’s what. Killing the Blues hits the mark, but Rich Woman just lies there too.
This album came out way back in October 2007, at the very beginning of the Grammy year. It must have been a slow year. Yes, I got a copy back then and have been waiting this long to complain. And who picked that prom theme?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sarah Borges Spills Her Beer at Johnny D's

Sarah Borges played Johnny D’s last night. She wore a green turquoise dress with matching tattoo and long dark hair. From the stage she said she had spilled her beer all down the front of that green dress coming out of the green room to go on stage, yet again taking the rocker chick thing to a new level. In December, she won another Boston Music Award. And she has a new CD coming out March 24, that is, if groundhog sees his shadow tomorrow.

Boxing Crate and Barrel

The Crate and Barrel store at the corner of Story Street and Brattle Street has closed after almost 30 years in Harvard Square. Since the late 1970s, this was the place for Cambridge yuppies to stock up on their housewares. They had the coolest stuff. Designer glassware imported from Europe. Kitchen gadgets for uses you had never imagined.

If you went to a wedding, a shower, a birthday party, or even an office party with gifts, there was sure to be at least one white box with the black lettering from Crate and Barrel. And year in and year out the staff was always incredibly nice, an endless train of young brides to be who would take the jobs there for the employee discount on their wedding registry.

It was business as usual through Christmas, but in mid-January they announced they were closing and sold the place down to the display cases. On the last day, the store had plenty of people, pawing through the last of the red Christmas and blue Hanukah plates in stunned disbelief.