Fear is isolating for those that fear. And I have come to believe that fear is a cruelty to those who are feared. I once met a man of pro-football-size proportions who saw something in my body language when I shook his hand that inspired him to tell me he was pained by the way small women looked at him when he passed them on the street—pained by the fear in their eyes, pained by the way they drew away—and as he told me this he actually began to cry.
One evening not long after we moved to Rogers Park, my husband and I met a group of black boys riding their bikes on the sidewalk across the street from our apartment building.
The boys were weaving down the sidewalk, yelling for the sake of hearing their own voices, and drinking from forty-ounce bottles of beer.
My mind imagines into the depths a nightmare landscape of grabbing hands and spinning metal blades and dark sucking voids into which I will be pulled and not return. As a charm against my terror of the unseen I have, for many years now, always entered the water silently repeating to myself this command: Trust the water.
I am accustomed to being warned away from the water, to being told that it is too cold, too deep, too rocky, that the current is too strong and the waves are too powerful. Until recently, what I learned from these warnings was only that I could safely defy them all. But then I was humbled by a rough beach in Northern California where I was slammed to the bottom by the surf and dragged to shore so forcefully that sand was embedded in the skin of my palms and my knees.
That beach happened to have had a sign that read how to survive this beach, which made me laugh when I first arrived, the first item in the numbered list being do not go within feet of the water.
It is only since I have discovered that some warnings are legitimate that my fears of open water have become powerful enough to fight my confidence in my own strength. I tend to stay closer to shore now, and I am always vigilant, although for what, exactly, I do not know. It is difficult to know what to be afraid of and how cautious to be when there are so many imagined dangers in the world, so many killer sharks, and so many creatures from the Black Lagoon.
Every society is threatened by a nearly infinite number of dangers, Glassner writes, but societies differ in what they choose to fear. Americans, interestingly, tend to be most preoccupied with those dangers that are among the least likely to cause us harm, while we ignore the problems that are hurting the greatest number of people.
We suffer from a national confusion between true threats and imagined threats. And our imagined threats, Glassner argues, very often serve to mask true threats. Quite a bit of noise, for example, is made about the minuscule risk that our children might be molested by strange pedophiles, while in reality most children who are sexually molested are molested by close relatives in their own homes.
The greatest risk factor for these children is not the proximity of a pedophile or a pervert but the poverty in which they tend to live. Worse than this, we allow our misplaced, illogical fears to stigmatize our own people. One of the paradoxes of our time is that the War on Terror has served mainly to reinforce a collective belief that maintaining the right amount of fear and suspicion will earn one safety. Fear is promoted by the government as a kind of policy. Fear is accepted, even among the best-educated people in this country, even among the professors with whom I work, as a kind of intelligence.
And inspiring fear in others is often seen as neighborly and kindly, instead of being regarded as what my cousin recognized it for—a violence. On my first day in Rogers Park, my downstairs neighbors, a family of European immigrants whom I met on my way out to swim, warned me that a boy had drowned by the breakwater not too long ago.
I was in my bathing suit when they told me this, holding a towel. And, they told me, another neighbor walking his dog on the beach had recently found a human arm.
It was part of the body of a boy who had been killed in gang warfare, and then cut up with a tree saw. The torso was found later, they told me, farther up the shore, but the head was never found. I went for my swim, avoiding the breakwater and pressing back a new terror of heads with open mouths at the bottom of the lake. He built his home on the wooded ridges along the north shore after noticing that this is where the Native Americans wintered.
Rogers built just south of the Northern Indian Boundary Line, which was the result of an treaty designating safe passage for whites within a twenty-mile-wide tract of land that ran from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, a treaty that was rendered meaningless by the Indian Removal Act of , which dictated that all of the land east of the Mississippi would be open to white settlement. And my apartment building would be built on the north corner of Rogers Avenue, just within the former Indian Territory.
During my first weeks in Rogers Park, I was surprised by how often I heard the word pioneer. When I stopped off in his shop, he welcomed me to the neighborhood warmly and delivered an introductory speech dense with code. He told my husband that he had lived here for twenty years, and asked how we liked it. To imagine oneself as a pioneer in a place as densely populated as Chicago is either to deny the existence of your neighbors or to cast them as natives who must be displaced.
Either way, it is a hostile fantasy. My landlord, who grew up in this apartment building, the building his grandfather built, is a tattooed Harley-riding man who fought in Vietnam and has a string of plastic skulls decorating the entrance to his apartment. An amazing if not harrowing start to the collection.
Relatations - Biss ponders what it means to be designated as black through the birth of twin boys one black and one white artificial insemination-accidental and who has parental rights. Also through her own similar aged cousin who was mixed but could pass. It is an identity that carries the burden of history without fostering a true understanding of the painfulness and the costs of complicity.
She describes her great great grandfather's life and struggles as an evangelical preacher all through the lens of what was saved when her mother's house burned down. Really interesting ways at viewing ideas and concepts. Land Mines - Biss ponders the nature and origin of public schools both past and present and finds the seeds of they system are planted in racial fear and a legacy of neglect and abuse. Fast forward to the 90s and Biss's reflection while she worked in the NYC school system "These parents, I was reminded on many occasions, were neglectful, or addicted, or abusive, or simply ignorant.
Undoubtedly, some of these things were true, as they are true of many parents. But what is striking to me now is how closely this portrait of parents resembles the way Northerners once imagined freed slaves: as indolent, simple, intemperate, and prone to violence.
Black News - Biss reflects working for a Black newspaper opened her lens on how she views the world and the way that publications with targeted audiences present and consume news differently. This one is brutal when she draws it. Her example was how African American families were the most likely to be investigated for neglect and abuse of children by far of any other racial group yet the statistics of abuse and neglect do not support these actions. The results of which are African American families are the most likely to have kids placed in foster care.
Silence because I needed his help and I suddenly understood the contract. Families, inspected across time and marriages, are ipso facto multiracial. When a youthful Biss first moved to San Diego, the apartment she could afford was 10 blocks from the bus stop but nestled among four liquor stores. She reported on a riveting custody case, but quit before it resolved. This is nowhere more apparent than in the essay Black News, in which Biss reflects on a stint working for the San Diego-based African-American newspaper Voice and Viewpoint.
The seemingly unbridgeable distance between the two worlds was evidenced in the incredulity of reporters sent to New Orleans to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in , who were genuinely shocked at the state of affairs they encountered.But whiteness now clearly has proud and sinister faces that call explicitly for the systematic dehumanization and destruction of people of color. We secretly suspect that we might have more than we deserve. For instance, by pairing it with a suggestion of fear. Race is a social fiction.
It apparently only existed for about 20 years and once people left the town they went back in to the world such as it is and got a view of how the world sees African Americans. A snapshot of the Midwest in the life of one person.
But even now, at a much more wary and guarded age, what I feel when I am told that my neighborhood is dangerous is not fear but anger at the extent to which so many of us have agreed to live within a delusion—namely that we will be spared the dangers that others suffer only if we move within certain very restricted spheres, and that insularity is a fair price to pay for safety. The Chicago trains end here, and the tracks turn back in a giant loop around the gravel yard where idle trains are docked. He told my husband that he had lived here for twenty years, and asked how we liked it.
Affluent student thought Biss found herself on other side of the class divide during a spell as a teacher at the University of Iowa, where a score of blond, affluent students cheerily informed her that racism and sexism no longer exist in the United States, that those battles were fought and won in the s and s. Is this Kansas - Biss looks back on her time teaching in lily white Iowa City where the population sees itself as "colorblind" and fair and just as they judge the activity in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina not seeing African Americans as victims of an inept government response, loss of their homes and livelihoods, but as opportunist villains looting the city. Pa stays up late making bullets, and Laura wakes to see Pa sitting on a chair by the door with his gun across his knees. New condos fly banners that read luxury!
New condos fly banners that read luxury! Through this rhetorical move and others like it, Biss invites readers to change their own patterns of attention with regards to race, as she has changed hers. Johnson guesses the agency won't grant her custody because she's "too black".
To the south are the last city blocks of Chicago, where the beaches are free but rocky and plagued with chunks of concrete. Eula Biss: her writing is simultaneously both forceful and measured. There is an open Jamaican restaurant, a Caribbean American bakery, a liquor store, a shoe store, and several little grocery markets. Reading her essays and her take on cultures and how we view race was surreal and intoxicating.
During my first weeks in Rogers Park, I was surprised by how often I heard the word pioneer. She tells us, instead, that Pa digs up the potatoes he just planted and they eat them for dinner. The government could have enforced a fair policy. This is worldwide, not just America hide spoiler ] Obviously a lot of racially charged things have happened since this book was written. This one is brutal when she draws it.
But what is striking to me now is how closely this portrait of parents resembles the way Northerners once imagined freed slaves: as indolent, simple, intemperate, and prone to violence. What kind of conversation would we have had if Brett Kavanaugh had apologized to Dr.
The first essay implicates white readers in racial violence; the last carries them along in an attempt to absolve white guilt, and intentionally fails. Here, Biss, bringing her white family into the narrative of telephone poles and lynchings, figures what can be seen as the primary movements of the collection: deconstructing white innocence, and replacing it with a sense of complicity in the racial violence that characterizes the United States. One evening, I watch the police interrogate two boys who have set a large bottle of Tide down on the sidewalk next to them, and I cannot forget this detail, the bottle of Tide, and the mundane tasks of living that it evokes. Taking a job in NYC that led her to the "worst" areas and finding out they were poor areas but not bad areas. But, as it happened, the government revoked its treaty with the Plains tribes within what one historian estimates was a few weeks after the Ingalls family abandoned their house in Kansas.
To the north are the first city blocks of Evanston, where the beaches are expansive and sandy but require a fee of seven dollars.
Taking all of this into account, for me Biss does not come across as dated. There is an open Jamaican restaurant, a Caribbean American bakery, a liquor store, a shoe store, and several little grocery markets. When I walk from my apartment to the train I am asked for money by all variety of people—old men and young boys and women with babies. The results of which are African American families are the most likely to have kids placed in foster care.