Tag Archives: class

Will Masks Become the New Class and Race Divide?

New Orleans        It is no secret that opening versus stay-at-home from state to state and nationally has now, somewhat amazingly, but unsurprisingly as pandemic combines with polarization in the United States, become equally politicized.  Having recently returned from my monthly commute from Louisiana to Mississippi to Arkansas and back, I can’t help but reflect that this experience may be more divisive than simply red states versus blue states, although that is going to be hardcore as well, no doubt.  There is every sign that we will be able to see the masks as new markers of racial and class division.

In Greenville, Mississippi as I drove through this small delta city on the way to WDSV, the noncommercial radio station, we help manage, I saw literally no one wearing a mask in this working-class, agriculturally-based, largely African-American town.  At the station, my partner and programmer there was wearing a homemade mask, and that was the first I observed.  A woman up the hall from the station had one around her neck.  In Mississippi, the stay-at-home and shutdown had already been lifting.  Restaurants in some cases had two lines for customers, one that said take-out and the other separated by a rope in one case I observed, indicating eat-in.  Tables were spaced out from each other.  I had a mask on as I looked in, and I noticed, as I was leaving, that the counter server had put on a mask after seeing mine.

In southern Arkansas on the other side of the Mississippi River, fewer restrictions had been lifted, but the same no mas no masks seemed to exist.  Stopping for gas from place to place, there were some changes.  Plexiglass shields had been hung with string.  Workers weren’t wearing masks behind the shields though.  Customers weren’t either.

Lake Village, McGehee, and Dumas, Arkansas, black and white, no masks.  Lake Providence, Tallulah, and Hammond, Louisiana, black and white, no masks.  I saw one family waiting to get in the restroom at a gas station in Vicksburg, Mississippi, who were all wearing masks.  I’m afraid, they, like me, were just passing through.

Even in New Orleans, peeling my eyes along St. Claude and Franklin Avenues and out in East New Orleans, people were lining up at snoball stands and walking the streets.  Very, very few masks, if any, from what I could see.   Across from the office recently a group of twenty young, African-American men on the corner.  No masks.  No distancing.  Riding bikes along the Crescent City Park in New Orleans next to the Mississippi River, a haphazard spray of masks here and there.

I think we can see the future weeks pretty clearly.  There’s a geographic, racial, and class divide emerging.  It is hard to believe that masks for the masses is going to be part of the post-pandemic.

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Please enjoy “Your Love Is to Blame” by Don Bryant

Thanks to WAMF.

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Mexico City’s Roma: Film and Reality

Ongoing demonstration on Reforma for the missing busload of students still not found in recent years

Mexico City     How could we be in Mexico City for the holidays and not hear from friends in the States that we needed to watch Roma on Netflix?  How could we miss the signs on bus stops and billboards everywhere as we walked along Avenida Reforma advertising Roma in theaters as well as on NetflixOk, we couldn’t, so laptop, literally on my lap, we hunkered down to see what the film offered.

So, if you are not in Mexico City this may have slipped by you with the US government potentially shutting down, the Defense Secretary resigning, troop pullouts in Syria and Afghanistan, and Trump going on and on about building his new wailing wall at the border.  Roma is a very personal film from director Alfonso Cuaron based on his own upbringing in a middle-class family in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City in the 1970s and is centered on one of the domestic workers who lived with their family.

Alfonso Cuaron is one of the great directors of our time.  He won an Academy Award for Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the first Mexican to do so.  We’ve seen Children of Men (2006) and Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001) which he directed and were unforgettable.  He was the producer of Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), another unique film.  Short story:  Cuaron is serious business.

Roma is a period piece for a time in the early 1970s that is unforgettable in Mexico and for those of us who travel in the country and care about it deeply.  Films about domesticity where class, race, and ethnicity are so stark are wearing, and I found the first thirty minutes a personal slog.  Had I not been watching it with family, I would have fast forwarded, but that would have also been a mistake, because Cuaron was setting the scene where calm and order breed chaos, and inequity holds the seeds of rage, even when misdirected.

Cuaron used an untrained actor for Cleo, the family maid and mother-substitute for the family.  He reportedly spent a year trying to find someone with the look and sensibility that matched Libo, his family’s maid and caretaker.  She is quietly powerful throughout the movie and the drama ends up paralleling that of the family where his parents are going through a divorce and the country is experiencing the upheaval that ended in the tragic killing of student protestors by police, military, and rightwing militants.

street laborer: Sweeper (old school)

Almost fifty years later, harkening back to my first visits to Mexico City in 1974, it is surprising how many things are still the same.  Some are simple like the whistle of the knife sharpener in the neighborhood, which we heard staying in Contessa in 2015.  The street vendors, cart pushers, and constant presence of manual labor, cheaply regarded, both in private and public settings also still seems the same.

Cuaron, being interviewed by The Guardian, after the paper named the film the best of 2018, offered the clearest comments about the personal being political and the political always being prominent in answer to their questions:

Has Roma made you think differently about your childhood?
Not only my childhood; it has made me reassess many things, including my own complicity in certain situations – such as hierarchical society and the relationship between class and race that is prevalent not only in my country, but throughout the world.

What scenes do you find most personally painful in Roma?
There are many scenes. But what gave me the biggest pains were the scenes about the bubble of this middle-class family. This movie is set in 1971, and the social problems have actually got worse since then. That is really painful. Yesterday, we received good news about domestic workers, who have been campaigning for social security and to be legally protected. The judges declared it was discriminatory not to grant them those rights. What is so scary, though, is the amount of racist commentary about this on Twitter. And when Yalitza was on the cover of Vogue, you have no idea of the amount of racist comments about it. So, 1971 or 2018? The problems are even more acute today.

This is a film worth watching, whether you are in Mexico City or not.  The themes and concerns are universal and need to be seen uncomfortably, just as they exist in reality.

street laborers: Uber eats

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