Saturday, March 8, 2014
Monday, January 27, 2014
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Sunday, December 1, 2013
When people talk to me about Nova Scotia, they usually speak of lobster, sea breeze, lighthouses, and racism.
The last one took a while for me to understand and even longer for me to confront, because I, Allison Sparling, left leaning white girl, was decidedly Not A Racist Because I Have Watched Do The Right Thing And I Think Michelle Obama Is Cool am not racist and I am from Nova Scotia. Also, I am friends with people who Are Not Racist Because The Same Reasons And Maybe They Like Basketball (Right?) and they are from Nova Scotia. I mean, maybe there are racists in Nova Scotia but they are not in my social circle so I am a good person. (Right?)
Racism is so infrequently addressed in Nova Scotia because it is always someone else’s issue; someone who is less sophisticated than they are because sophisticated people aren’t racist. People from cities blame people from the people from rural communities and people from those rural communities blame other rural communities until the only racist in Nova Scotia is the one guy who lives on a dead end road in Meat Cove who hasn’t had a radio for the past 30 years. Oh, Fictional Stereotype, you devil you. Stay in your sea shanty. PROBLEM. SOLVED.
The polemic that has made me ignorant for much of my life is englightened white person that I was, I wrongfully assumed that a person was or was not racist. Racists are like old timey bad guys in comic books; they dress funny and talk slick. In reality, people do and say things that are racist, and the only thing that separates us from actually being 'a racist' from 'doing something racist' is acknowledging it and learning from it. I get that it isn’t exactly fun to admit that the potential for racism lives in all of us (just like the spirit of Christmas!) but white people, listen up, you gotta stop pulling the “it’s just a costume!” around every major holiday. It wears thin.
Earlier this evening, my MLA tweeted a picture of him celebrating aspects of his Dutch culture that involved someone in black face. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many “nuances” to this specific, historic blackface, but he posted a picture of himself and his children celebrating Christmas next to a guy in blackface. The tweet was then retweeted by the provincial account for the Liberal party, and then promptly ‘unretweeted’ when someone realized that maybe they shouldn’t drink and do their work’s social media, I don’t know, whatever.
Here is how I see this incident going:
- Joachim Stroink will say he is sorry ‘if you were offended’
- Someone who is not white will attest that Joachim Stroink is a ‘solid dude’ or something
- Everyone who has a problem is a negative hater
Generally funny and very insightful Chad Lucas added: “2b) Some defender says "Why are you making this about race? I guess *you're* the real racist here."
Well, that kind of sucks.
Because here’s the thing. I can’t even begin to try to convince you why even ‘traditional’ blackface is a terrible idea. I am not the right person to do that, although maybe @RedLightVoices is, so consider that.
Instead, I have a modest proposal: instead of accepting when at 8 am people paid to distract and stir up stuff on social media try to dismiss this conversation as partisan rhetoric, you ignore them because they are being ignorant.
I work with government in my job and I deal with my MLA in my life, and I AM one of those people who asks their MLAs for stuff all the time. (Joachim, why don’t you return my calls, by the way? November 20th, 7 pm, according to my phone. It’s cool, you’re busy, but you or some intern is reading this now, so maybe find that message because my number is in it.)
It’s much, much easier for many, many people, myself included, to sweep this under the rug and pretend this didn’t happen until the next time, and then the next time, and then the next time until we wonder why new immigrants don’t stay here very long and our culture suffers and the province shrivels up like the lobster industry, but here’s the thing: I really like Nova Scotia, and I’d like it a lot more if our leaders didn’t give fodder for hundreds of white people with time on their hands to defend Julianne Hough on Facebook because local media thinks race is a surefire way to page hits.
Now, with my weird little corner of the internet, after the dust is settled and a bunch of people have tried to subvert the gaze from the original picture with questions to stretched from the actual issue that they sound like a rejected plot line for Quadrophrenia ("But what even IS racism, guys?), now I can collect this moment and say “Yes, this actually happened” when someone tries to pretend it didn’t in approximately 4 years.
It is now almost 11 pm. In the morning, something will happen.
I suggest you ask yourself:
- Is this acknowledged?
- Is this acknowledged respectfully?
- Is there an apology? Is it actually an apology?
- Is anyone trying to change the subject?
And then I suggest you ask yourself:
- Does this bother me? Why doesn’t it?
A bunch of things are partisan issues, like the Maritime Link unfortunately. I don’t think racism is one of them, and I don’t think calling it out should be. How the people we have elected react to what has happened is far, far more important than what happened. And even if nothing does happen, officially, on the record, at the very least you and I right now are finally thinking about race.
Monday, October 28, 2013
There is a park near my apartment to commemorate Sir John Sparrow(???!) David Thomspon. You know, the former Prime Minister. Yes, on a little, residential street. It is a few meters of grass behind a store that sells wood chippers, chain saws, and bubble gum, so I think we can all forgive ourselves for not noticing. Except we can't, because there is a plaque.
Nova Scotia is a province of plaques. I have seen plaques for spots where the Queen has stopped to admire the view, plaques for where beer was brewed, plaques for where important works of literature were written, and plaques for where people have gotten the crap kicked out of them in bar fights.
Started by 99 percent invisible & The Atlantic, READ THE PLAQUE was not a project created with Nova Scotia in mind, but it should have been. Let's be super nerdy in the best possible way and honour the drinkers, fighters, lovers, etc. who made our hometowns great by submitting photos of local plaques. Seriously, if there's one thing my province excels at, it's putting weird words on weird metal to commemorate the weirdest people ever. To all the non Scotians: I'd love to see if your immortal beer tales could rival ours. (Doubt it.)
» Put your plaque on the map.
» Hear the funny story that started the project.
» I've submitted a few from our neighbourhood and Cleveland that I hope will be on the website soon. I've decided I will find the 5 best bronze Halifax history hotspots and will have them sent in by next Sunday. I'd be happy for your suggestions, as well as nearby places to eat, because that's one of my favourite parts of any adventure.
Finally: name your kids Sparrow because that's awesome.
Thursday, September 5, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
- When I discovered that Daria: The Movie wasn't actually being made I might have cried more than a little bit. Still, love Aubrey Plaza.
- A dress too wonderful for words.
- While researching a potential autumn road trip to Cleveland I found this lovely vintage poster. It seems I've missed it by 77 years, so... any recommendations?
- I've only recently learned that lobsters are almost immortal until we Annie Hall them. Now I discover they're cannibals. Yep. Nope. Not okay. Sea freaks...
- My iPhone background is always a series of either lines or dots. My current favourite.
- This house fits perfectly into surroundings & I think that's kind of magical.
- I don't think social media makes people dumber; I think dumb people are revealed by social media. (Hilarious.)
- Planet Money explored plans that failed Detroit while Fresh Air talks plans that can succeed.
- The Real Dazed and Confused of the 1970s.
- A gentle reminder as I try to get rid of my stuff instead of cramming it back into my bedroom.
- This interview with Amy Poehler can only be described with this series of Parks and Recreation gifs.
"Well, Offerman and I would be great “mama” and “daddy” of a cult. He would do all of the hard work and I would be good at keeping up morale."
-Amy Poehler, teasing about my dreams coming true
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
I am an anxious person masquerading as someone who is laid back. Only those close to me see that my toe starts tapping within the twenty minutes of having to catch the bus mark and the weird stress faces I make when forced to do something unproductive when there are deadlines. Living in a house where CBC was always on, I grew up with serious sounding jingles as a means of telling time. (As It Happens meant supper soon!) In fact, my early meanderings of the Internet were mostly spent seeking clips of Peter Gzowski’s wonderful voice in its hey day, before he became a guest on other up and comer’s shows and eventually passed away.
Performers tell their stories. Some are good, some are bad, some are campy, some are inspiring. When they are good, they are very, very good. When they are bad, they are the people who think they are legally entitled to a cronut or some crazy New York crap like that.
Please note that my two favourites for this show are possibly by favourite 40 minutes of anything ever. Both stories make me nostalgic for things I don't understand.
Maybe coming soon:
Badass female podcasts / Reporting to make you feel things / Sports with humour or Why Grantland is the best and nothing will ever compare...
Sunday, July 21, 2013
- I really enjoy doing an annual resume refresh. Here's some inspiration to get you started.
- This ultra modern landscape & these surreal beaches have me thinking about Brazil.
- These tweets from the Abbotsford Police Department left my stomach hurting from laughter.
- We have a myth that if the poor work harder, they will succeed. This suggested budget by McDonalds tells its employees to work two full time jobs and acknowledges that they still couldn't afford heating.
- It may be a little baseless in this article, but I'm loving anything positive about Detroit right now. (Keith Law thinks the Tigers will do well!) Here's everything else you need to know.
- I fell down a historic pop culture images rabbit hole this week; I'm shocked I had never seen The Supremes look this vibrant and Ingrid Bergman look this magical.
- If you're inspired by the women above, also check out Hannah's take on Audrey Hepburn, but not the Breakfast at Tiffany's one. (I never have the patience for make up learning, but Hannah is magical.)
- I hope the internet finds whoever sent this threatening letter to a Kingston lesbian couple... I won't say why.
- These portraits of people as they were might make you a little emotional. (via @DartmouthKate)
- What would the perfect women's magazine look like? I am a huge fan of both Chatelaine and Real Simple. I have been since I was about 16. Maybe not their target market, but...
- "Education is what makes us fully human": a short, lovely piece.
- Beth Hoeckel's art reminds me of nostalgia and expresses what I would have liked to express with visuals at so many points in my life but I didn't have the vision or talent. Luckily, she does.
- Beyonce: artist, diva, and evangelist minister / exorcist? Yep.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Things to do with teenage girls:
- Introduce them to ‘important’ people. It must be a bylaw that every elected official has to tell every kid that they can be in their position some day. Although it gets a bit cheesy after a while, there remains power in this saying. You need to get it in the brains, even if they’re wearing a Pikachu costume. It worked in Back to the Future, right?
- Introduce them to people they’ll like. Frequently, it can be tempting to see quality time as alone time, but the real value can sometimes be found in being the person who lets two fans of anime or country music or nail art enthusiasts talk. When growing up your pools of places to be introduced to people are fairly limited. Introducing them to others with similar interests gives girls new ways to see what their hobbies can become. (Any women in the gaming industry want to come do coffee with us?)
- Go outside. No one spends enough time outside. No one. Outside is not just hiking. Especially if they are from a suburban background (hi), it can be liberating to just walk down streets they are not used to.
- Take them to campy restaurants. Truly campy restaurants are usually old, making it the perfect place for feeling cool because they’re not at Swiss Chalet or Chipotle’s or whatever the family favourite is. They also make wonderfully bad references to the past which is especially important to the digital natives (LINK). Sophie watched my face drop as she asked what a card catalogue was (in a library, remember?) but then I realized there was absolutely no need for her to know what that was. This started wonderful conversations about the way things were, all of 15 or so years ago.
- On storytelling vs. gossip: Whether it’s through DNA or culture, it is undeniable that the practice of storytelling is incredibly important to women’s bonding. Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous spiel goes “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” but ideas are only understandable in the context of their time. It’s likely useless to start talking Adorno to a 13 year old and NOT because they’re not smart enough. Honestly, it’s patronizing to start a conversation with an idea without the context; I’m tired of intelligence being made to look like something some people “have” and some don’t. Bringing great ideas into other conversations is how we keep from falling into the tempting gossip trap and grows great minds, both in yours and hers.
- Make crafts. I’ve never been a fan of gluing things on pinecones, but whether you’re good at woodworking or can make one skirt, there is an indescribable power in creating instead of consuming that can’t be put into words. This is what I will say to try to get Sophie’s help in painting my bedroom walls next month.
- As an add on, if you buy someone young a cheap canvas and tell them to do whatever they want on it and then hang it in your house, you will earn all of their respect forever and likely get a new piece of hilarious abstract art out of the deal.
- Anything that is part of a festival. The word “festival” holds attention in ways I don’t understand. They can still appreciate music if they show up to the one all ages event at Whatever in the Park looking dressed for Coachella.
- Play games. To go back to the “introduce an idea with context”, it’s really not great to take someone somewhere and just expect them to appreciate what’s there because it’s “great.” According to who? That question alone can spur an entire conversation, but informal scavenger hunts based around finding the colour red in an art museum, and then talking about why red is or isn’t there, is fun for both of you as long as you’re both playing the game so you aren’t self relegating yourself the teacher.
- Teach them how to apply make up. Maybe you think make up is a tool of the patriarchy. I’m not going to be the one to convince you otherwise, but maybe others will. I won’t peddle this blend yourself a slimmer face crap, but I would’ve appreciated knowing how to apply mascara in a way that didn’t make me look like a raccoon.
- Let them pick groceries. This frequently doesn’t happen until you’re out on your own for the first time and end up buying cereal and cheese. When you’re not buying food out of hunter-gatherer instinct you can actually appreciate the environment and the strangely liberating feeling of choice.
- Do anything at night. There’s no logic behind this. It is exciting to be out at night because young teens seldom have a reason to be.
- Talk out issues instead of always challenging them. You may find the gender roles in her comic books a little questionable, but she probably has a more progressive view on culture or art or something that she doesn’t understand how big it is, but she will have a view like this, and she will have arrived at that conclusion without an academic paper telling her to, and it will blow your mind.
- Finally, they’ll talk when they want to. They will. Really.