United States of America

Ejo #126 – 8’46”

Eight minutes and 46 seconds. That’s how long it took for George Floyd’s life to drain from his body as Derek Chauvin, a policeman sworn to serve and protect, pressed a knee bearing his full body weight onto George’s vulnerable neck. It is an uncomfortably short time, if you’d like to demonstrate life’s fragility. But it’s also an uncomfortably long time, if you are to imagine yourself pressing your very own knee to another person’s neck, until they die. I usually try to keep my ejos concise, because I want to hold your interest (I know I don’t always succeed, and I hope that’s OK). But I want you all to watch a video. No, not the video taken by 17 year old Darnella Frazier documenting Chauvin killing Floyd, though do I think that all white people need to watch it. The video below is of a black screen with a timer on it. The length of the video is 8’46”.

I would really appreciate each and every one of you finding a mere 8’46” of your day to sit with this video and, in the time it takes you to watch it, from beginning to end, to think about how long it took for George Floyd to die. To try to conjure exactly how horrific an ordeal that poor man endured, as he was murdered on the street, like an animal. For nothing. How terrifying his last moments must have been, as, his life slipping away, he called out for his dead mother. Try, maybe, to even imagine what was going through Chauvin’s mind. If you can. And if it’s not too much, try reading out George Floyd’s dying words, as you count down each second to his last breath.

Final Words

Heartbreaking

I don’t think it’s possible to address the problem of racism, in America or the rest of the world, without first acknowledging that it exists and then, even more importantly, very carefully examining its origins and structure. Knowing how we got here is imperative, if we are to move forward, even if that makes us uncomfortable. Especially if it makes us uncomfortable.

The protests that have recently erupted in the United States are against long standing, institutional racial injustice. George Floyd may have been the catalyst of the most influential wave of the Black Lives Matter movement to date, but he is not the reason it has exploded the way that it has. His death was just the latest in a long and bloody history of violence against Black Americans by their own government and people.

Why are white people in America so afraid of Black people? Why do they feel such aversion and superiority and hostility towards them? Why does the colour of someone’s skin matter so much? We are not born racist. We are not born bigoted against each other. We are taught to be that way. And even if you were raised in an environment that celebrated equality, you are still surrounded by an infrastructure that does not. Did you know that the invention, and scientific classification, of biological race was established by Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus in the 1700s. This guy just decided to classify human beings into races based on where they were from, and what he personally thought of them. And so Europeaus was classified as being “acute, inventive, gentle and governed by laws”. And Asiaticus was “yellow, melancholic, and ruled by opinion”. Very scientific, right? This asshole, influenced as he was by the opinions and prejudices of his time, categorised Africanus as “crafty, indolent, negligent, governed by caprice or the will of their masters”. This actually became a scientific definition, folks. With zero evidential justification, this man influenced the thinking of an entire scientific community, as well as the community at large. Motherfucker has a lot to answer for. His theory that race defines genetic diversity has been scientifically disproven over and over again. But still, the damage was done. And the concept of race continues to do damage today.

The United States was founded on racism and the enslavement of Black people. It’s absolutely sickening that white men gallavanted to the African continent and gave themselves the right to drag human beings from their homes, and make them their slaves. Their property. Their chattel. Their goods. Such a disregard for human life is incomprehensible to me, and it should be to everyone but for some reason there are some who still don’t see anything wrong with it, and perhaps there are some who just don’t want to think about it at all. Which to me, amounts to the same thing. According to some estimates, up to 65 million African lives were lost in the brutal trans-Atlantic slave trade which fomented the birth of capitalism at the beginning of the industrial revolution. Let the magnitude of that number sink in. Write it down, if you need to. Up to 65,000,000 human lives. For what? Status. Profit. Money. Power. These Black lives were considered a fair exchange for such things. These Black lives did not matter. And we’re just talking about the ones that died on the way. Let’s chat about the ones that were transported for slave labour to the Americas, as far back as 1619. That’s 401 years ago. These events are a blight, a stain, not just on American history, but on human history, a bloody spot that can never be washed off, no matter how hard some of us may scrub.

So, blackface minstrel shows were all the rage in the early 19th century, depicting Black people as unkempt, lazy, uneducated, superstitious, spineless and criminal. The segregation codes known as Jim Crow laws were actually named after a famous blackface minstrel character. These characters were always played by white actors, usually lowly, working class Irishmen who took the job to feel superior to Black people. Kind of like, if I can debase and degrade you, then you are beneath me. It’s not me on the bottom, it’s someone else. President LBJ said “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best coloured man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you”.

W. E. B. Du Bois, Black activist and scholar also pointed out that poor white people would rather join the KKK than identify with poor Black people, “because it associated them with the masters”. And the masters, the white supremacists lapped that shit up. They may have created the system, but the structure was bolstered by poor white Americans who didn’t realise then, as they appear to not realise now, that they are nothing but pawns in a game they have no fucking idea about. These are the people who attend Donald Trump’s MAGA rallies.

Race riots are not a new thing in America. Over 101 years ago, in 1919, there were more than 25 race riots across the United States during a period referred to as the Red Summer. About 380,000 battle-hardened African American veterans who had just returned from war were targeted and brutalised, in a systematic attack led by returned white servicemen. Instead of society being grateful for their service, the Black veterans were perceived as threats, and attacked by angry mobs. During a six month period there were 97 recorded lynchings across America. African Americans fought back. Hundreds of people died and over a thousand Black families were left homeless. Even though slavery had been abolished years earlier, life for a Black person down south was untenable, and at the end of 1919, after all the riots, Black people migrated north en masse to seek better economic and educational opportunities.

White kids

White children cheer outside an African-American residence that they set on fire in September, 1919. Look at those little fuckers’ faces. They are learning that Black people are inferior. This image hurts my heart

In 1954, school segregation was deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Supreme Course case Brown vs Board of Education. Three years later, school segregation continued to occur, enabled by state and local politicians. In an historic turning point, nine teenage students in Little Rock, Arkansas, who had been prevented from attending school because of the colour of their skin, were escorted onto school premises by the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Outside the school a mob of angry white assholes protested, chanting, “Two, four, six, eight. We ain’t gonna integrate”, their mouths contorted by hate into ugly gashes and recorded for posterity.

Elizabeth Eckford

Fifteen year old Elizabeth Eckford on her first day of school.

The 50s and 60s saw the birth of the momentous civil rights movement, with Black people finally saying ENOUGH, and standing up against the injustices. It inspired several consequential law changes which were “supposed to” bring an end to centuries of inequality.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act signed by LBJ was “supposed to” outlaw discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex or national origin. A year later, in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was “supposed to” outlaw racial discrimination in voting (and, I’m sorry, but I don’t even have the energy to address how much of a problem voter suppression still is today). In 1968, the Fair Housing Act (actually an expansion of the Civil Rights Act) was signed, prohibiting the refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to anyone based on their race, colour, disability, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin. The act, strongly supported by Martin Luther King Jr., but originally blocked by Congress, was signed during the riots in the week following his assassination. A year before he was murdered, Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. As long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again”.

He was not wrong.

Race is, and always has been, a sociopolitical construct. We have never been divided by colour. Never.  We’ve been divided by greed and the pursuit of power and control. Colour was just a way in which white slave owners could justify their ownership of other human beings. Black people being regarded as biologically inferior made it OK to treat them as less than human. John C. Calhoun, the vice president of the United States from 1825 to 1832, went one step further in his rationalisations of slavery. He actually had the fucking nerve to say, “Never before has the Black race of Central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilised and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.” How’s that for fucked in the head. But you know what? Black and brown people are the same race as white people (and it shocks me to my core that I even need to write those words down). When we talk about systemic and institutionalised racism, what that means is that people of colour are categorised as less than, or inferior to, white people in order to prop up the system of codified oppression that is necessary for capitalism and industry to thrive. Andre Henry, writer, musician and self-proclaimed trouble maker, writes in an article, “Black death was chosen as the fuel for our economic engine, beginning with the Slave Trade”. If you want to get an education, do yourself a favour and check out his blog for more insightful commentary.

In my next ejo I’ll outline what I think our responsibilities are as white people, and also provide a few other sources for you to read up about what you can do to help the movement.  I hope you’re interested.  Hit me up, if you want to know more.

Ejo # 57 – To Be (A Mother); Or Not To Be

They told me I’d change my mind about never marrying when I met the right guy. And they were right. But they should have just taken the win and stopped there. Because even though I married an amazing, kind, loving guy (and even after nearly eight years of marriage) I’m still 100% sure that I’ve made the right decision not to have children.

For some reason though, people still ask if we’re going to procreate. I’ve taken to telling strangers who mention it that my uterus is barren and that we just can’t have kids. This tends to shut them up for a bit while I enjoy watching them wriggle in discomfort (because, really, how rude – though that’s a whole other ejo right there).

There was only ever one time I seriously contemplated motherhood and it was right before I shipped off to the USA at the ripe old age of 26 to spend 12 months as an au pair. Yep, that year of looking after someone else’s kids beat the desire to be a parent right out of me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the kids and still do. As though they were my own. But I was disavowed of the notion that I could give of myself so completely and selflessly to little people for the rest of my life.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me when I say I don’t want children and interpret that as meaning that I don’t love kids. I actually really do (and would LOVE to be an Aunt – no pressure Mari and Pieta!!). I find children fun, and funny (hilarious, in fact) and truly fascinating and I enjoy spending time with them and being around them – it’s a bit of a novelty for me I guess. So, on the one hand that old cliché of enjoying kids but more enjoying being able to hand them back is quite true for me. On the other hand, I also sometimes find that when a small child I love wants me to hold their hand or give me a hug and a kiss it stirs a deep, almost painful, longing in a place somewhere behind my solar plexus. An ancient desire or need or instinct to be able to experience that connection on a more intense and personal level. But I have had enough experiences with children to know that this feeling of potential regret, while strong, is not as strong as the fear I have of potentially ever regretting having them.

I am currently on a trip with David to the USA and not only have I managed to catch up with both the kids I used to look after way back in the day (shout out to all-grown-up Holly and Daniel – I love you guys), but I am currently staying with one of my most beloved friends, a girl I met right after my year as a nanny and whom I’ve been friends with ever since. And, guess what, she has two little boys aged four and six. Spending time with them has been awesome, especially since the last time we saw them was over three years ago and their little personalities have developed so much since then. But I admire the hell out of their Mum/Mom for having the patience of a saint. They’re pretty damn well-behaved kids but there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve wanted to just run away to my room, leaving the madness behind. My friend doesn’t have that luxury. She has to deal with the demands, the needs and, of course, the occasional tanty. And she does it with such grace and aplomb that all I can do is just sit back and tip my hat to her.

And that’s kind of what scares me a little about parenthood. Let me tell you how my kids would be raised. Pretty well from birth they would wake up when it suited me, go to bed at their scheduled bed time, brush their own teeth, clean up after themselves and respect my personal space. My children (should they be so lucky to be born to me) would be ready on time for school (after making their own lunches), never be sick and they’d stick close to me when we went out in public. They would do well at school, make friends easily and be super-polite to everyone they met. They’d be quiet, calm, obedient, little robots that would clean the house while I was at work and make me a stiff drink when I got home. Now ask me again when I’m going to have kids.

Most of my closest female friends are mothers these days. And they are all truly incredible at doing one of the most difficult, time-consuming, personality-crushing, technically proficient, love-sucking jobs in the world and still being funny, interesting and bloody fabulous human beings.

Better them than me.

Photo Series: The French Laundry versus In-N-Out (The Menus)

The French Laundry

The French Laundry

“OYSTERS AND PEARLS”

“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Treasure Cove Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

Schramsberg, Extra Brut, “Cuvée French Laundry” – California, 2006

Oysters And Pearls

*

MOULARD DUCK “FOIE GRAS EN TERRINE”

Rose “Gelée”, Pink Lady Apple, “Génoise”, Nasturtium, Red Walnuts and Périgourd Truffle

Karthäuserhof Riesling, “Eitelsbacher Karthäuserhofberg” Spätlese – Mosel, 1994

Moulard Duck Foie Gras En Terrine

*

SAUTÉED FILLET OF ATLANTIC HALIBUT

Hobbs’ Bacon, “Petit Pois”, Tokyo Turnips and Wild Ramps

Sauteed Fillet Of Atlantic Halibut

*

“CAESAR SALAD”

Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail, Caramelised Romaine Lettuce, Garlic Melba and “Bottarga di Muggine”

Louis Carillon, Puligny-Montrachet, “Les Combettes” 1er Cru – Burgundy, 2006

*

DEVIL’S GULCH RANCH “JAMBONETTE DE LAPIN”

Stinging Nettles, San Marzano Tomato Marmalade, Braised Pine Nuts and Parsley Oil

Frank Balthazar, Cornas, “Les Chaillot” – Rhone Valley, 2007

Jambonette De Lapin

*

“RAVIOLI DE RIS DE VEAU”

Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Sunchokes, Fava Beans and Knell’s Mangalitsa Ham “Consomme”

Copain Roussanne, “James Berry Vineyard” – Paso Robles, 2008

Ravioli De Ris De Veau

*

SNAKE RIVER FARMS “CALOTTE DE BŒUF GRILLÉE”

Akita Komachi Rice, Eggplant “Confit”, Cherry Bell Radishes, Kanzuri Purée and “Sauce Japonaise”

Marques de Murrieta, “Castillo Ygay”, Gran Reserva – Rioja, 2001

Calotte De Boeuf Grille (the best dish of the meal in my opinion)

*

“BOHO BEL”

Yukon Gold Potatoes, Pickled Pearl Onions, Cornichons, Frisée and Dijon Mustard

Meyer-Fonné, Pinot Gris, “Hinterburg de Katzenthal”, V.T. – Alsace, 2007

Boho Bel

*

STRAWBERRY SORBET

Mascarpone “Bavarois”, Sicilian Pistachio and Ages Balsamic Vinegar

*

“MOUSSE AU CHOCOLATE BLANC”

Morello Cherries and Marcona Almonds

Disznókõ, Tokaji Aszú, 6 Puttonyos – Tokaj, 2000

Mousse Au Chocolat Blanc (David’s Dessert)

*

“ÎLE FLOTTANTE”

Lemongrass, Meiwa Kumquat, Black Sesame and Ginger “Anglaise”

La Morandina, Moscato d’Asti – Piedmonte, 2009

Ile Flottante (my dessert)

*

MIGNARDISES

******************************************************************************************

In-N-Out

In-N-Out

Hamburger

Lettuce, Tomato, Grilled or Fresh Onion (Optional) and “Spread”

*

Cheeseburger

Lettuce, Tomato, Grilled or Fresh Onion (Optional), Cheese and “Spread”

*

Double Double

Lettuce, Tomato, Grilled or Fresh Onion (Optional), Double Meat/Double Cheese and “Spread”

Double Doubles (the one on the right is “Protein Style”)

*

Animal Fries

Melted Cheese, Grilled Onions and “Spread”

Animal Fries (look disgusting, taste delicious)