Are They Really Afraid Of Black People?

Last week, during my zoom birthday lunch, I mentioned that there are way too many coyotes wandering around Palatine these days, and how I saw a full-grown coyote on the bike path, and he was not afraid of people. I mentioned that people are concerned that coyotes attack dogs and that I agree there are too many of them around.

Vlad suddenly said very sharply: good! If people are afraid of coyotes, they might decide that coyotes are more dangerous than black people and decide to move to the city.

I was like: Vlad, what are you talking about?! People are not afraid of blacks! Vlad: they do! They just do not say it! Look, people are saying they are afraid to get on the CTA, and if you ask them why they would be: I am afraid of people on the CTA. And if you keep pressing, it would be – they are afraid of blacks. I tried to protest, but then all of them (my kids, I mean) told me that I am an exception, and all other people who live in the burbs think differently.

I told them that I do not think I am an exception and that more of my co-workers live in the city than in the burbs. But in the next several days following this conversation, I had several encounters that proved Vlad’s point.

One of my younger co-workers reacted at the Sanders on the CTA mem on Slack and said that “he has not been on CTA since March, and is not looking forward to it”. And I chose not to ask why. Which I probably should. Then, when I talked with my neighbor, she told me about her granddaughter who will teach in the city and is going to live in the city, and she (my neighbor) thinks it’s not safe. I shook my head, and she asked: you disagree? But it’s not safe! Give it some time for things to settle down.

And the next day, there was a conversation with my other younger co-worker about renting in Chicago, with the same question: is this neighborhood safe?

I tried to answer in detail, explaining that “safe” is a rather relative term, and you should know how to operate in each neighborhood, and giving lots of examples. And do not take me wrong, I agree that young people moving to the city should do their homework and research the neighborhoods’ specifics, safety, and everything. But … I do not even know how to describe it, but sometimes I can hear that these young people were instructed by adults who know nothing about the city except that it is “unsafe.” And I hate when people come to Chicago (not now but in normal times) “just for work,” and do not know anything except for the way to their office, and never try to explore anything else. Because everything outside the Loop is “unsafe.”

Not like I can do anything with this situation. But I feel very sad and annoyed with it…

Inauguration

I took a half-day off today to spend some time with mom. First, because she didn’t get a chance to say happy birthday to me yesterday, and second, I wanted her to see the inauguration.
It was a cold but sunny and really beautiful day, and I went for a short walk.

Yes, I started to put flowers in my bedroom again
Continue reading “Inauguration”

Political

You might not believe it, but I planned to write a political post yesterday, way before everything happened. 

I wanted to write it because I read my very liberal friends’ blog post a couple of weeks ago. She said that Trump didn’t create any permanent damage to society. That yes, he was annoying and embarrassing, but it’s not like he ruined something. 

I didn’t want to comment on her blog because I am avoiding writing about politics in the Russian blogosphere. I am genuinely admiring her patience and willingness to talk to her blog guests, but I do not feel I can match up. However, I wanted to reply not only to her but also to other people who, at least until yesterday, expressed the same sentiment. 

From the beginning of Trump’s presidency, I thought that the worst thing he did to American society is that he gave this indulgence to people to be not civil. While society was changing and accepting more humanitarian values, it slowly became unacceptable to be openly racist. To be anti-LGBTQ. To be a misogynist. And here comes Trump and says: it’s fine. You can do it. You can be racist. You can hate other people. Moreover, you can say it out loud. It became so much easier for people to display the worst of them. 

And this will not be so easy to revert. 

And one more comment which is somewhat related to the first one.

I heard from many people, even those who consider themselves progressive, that they do not understand why diversity matters.

They say it when Biden is praised for assembling the most diverse cabinet ever. Their rationale is: people should be assigned to the high posts based on their qualifications, not on their race or gender.

Let me tell you why diversity is important, especially in situations like choosing the cabinet.

The truth is that nobody performs the country-wide search for objectively the best possible person to fill a position. There is a pool of candidates known to the president-elect, judged not only by their professional qualifications but also by whether the president-elect feels comfortable working with them. In short, even if candidates are selected based on their qualifications, the pool of candidates itself is selected based on some assumptions. And unfortunately, quite often, these assumptions work against minorities. They are being dropped from the initial circle of consideration. And this happens more often than anybody can imagine. And not only when choosing the cabinet members, but on all levels.

That’s why having a diverse cabinet matter.

I wrote all of the above before yesterday’s events. Actually, for over a week, I had this post “almost ready” and didn’t have ten minutes to finalize it. And yesterdays’ events only reaffirmed my opinion. 

Listening to “A Promised Land”

I started doing audiobooks instead of real books first because it became difficult for me to read and because I could listen on the go. After all the eye surgeries of this year, I can read the regular books again. However, I already got hooked on the convenience of listening, so more often, I listen. 

As for this particular book, Obama’s “Promised Land,” there is an extra incentive for listening: Barack himself narrates the book. 

Thirty hours of listening to the voice we do not hear that often anymore! Small suppressed laughs here and there. And the ability to travel back in time and relive all these amazing years again! 

I remember it so well – exactly how he describes it in the book! I remember this feeling: now it’s the time! I remember how everybody was saying: it’s too soon, and at the same time the feeling was mounting: now IS the time!

I remember everybody in the City of Chicago building where I was doing my consulting work saying: he is our future president. Before anything happened, before Springfield. I remember Anna happily telling the story of her encounter with Barak on Melissa Bean’s campaign trail: you are still above us, but we appreciate the gesture! She was so happy that she made Barak laugh.

And I remember this cold February night, the night before the announcement. I remember her calling her coach: can I be excused from practice tomorrow? There is somebody who can drive me to Springfield! And I remember the silver bells in her voice: Thank you, coach!Β 

Continue reading “Listening to “A Promised Land””

What’s Next?

Where did these past three days go? I do not even know! Three and a half days since I returned, and it is work and work, and lots of different online activities. And the book is not moving again. 

On Tuesday, I had two online events after work. One of them was a victory celebration with our Stand with Women group. We talked about the memorable moments of the past several months, which lead to our victory (I mentioned Anna canvassing with two small children!), and then we talked about “what’s next.’

Everybody started to talk about the Georgia Senate race, and phone banking, and all related things. And I said: my goal for the upcoming year is to help to bridge a Big Divide. I repeated all my thoughts from this post

I recalled the beginning of the Obama presidency and how people got upset so quickly. And about this half of the country, which voted for Trump. 

BTW, my direct report told me yesterday that he can’t understand how anybody could vote for Trump. 

I said that we need to talk to people, and some of the participants said that you could never convert a Republican, and arguing on Facebook is just a waste of time. I told him that the part of the crowd that is silently listening to the argument is the one we are influencing from my experience. And then I decided that it is not worth arguing πŸ™‚

I stopped arguing, but I am planning to have it as my goal for the year, along with practical support.

Strangers In Their Own Land – a Book Review

I listened to the book Strangers In Their Own Land a couple of weeks before the Elections. And that was very appropriate reading for that time! The book description from Goodreads says:

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country – a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Russell Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets – among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident – people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Russell Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream – and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Russell Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea? 

The idea of this book resonates deeply with me. I am often faced with questions from outsiders, especially from people who live in other countries, how people in their right minds can support Trump? I always say that it’s not like these people are cruel and inhumane; it’s just the see different sides of Trump’s policy, and that there may be reasons why they find these policies appealing, and why they find government interventions bad; and it’s not like they are stupid. 

I really liked this book for the conversation’s calm tone, for the author’s willingness to listen and understand. You can’t change people’s mind stating that they are idiots; if you want to convince people to your views, or at least plant a seed of doubt, you should clearly understand where they are coming from and converse with them on their territory.

Once again, some of the people’s stories in this book reminded me of my grandparents’ generation point of view. They might seem to be on the opposite pole of the political spectrum, but I remember this pride of always providing for themselves, always doing their best at work, never being late. Interestingly, somehow they never considered any government assistance, like pensions, the housing they were “given”, things like free education as “assistance.” And probably rightly so, because all these things would never compensate for what the government effectively took away from them in the form of reduced pay, budget redistribution, etc. In any case, I was surprised to hear my grandfather (and to some extent, my mother) in these voices from the American South. 

After-Election Thoughts

Thinking about what had happened yesterday… First, it still does not feel like it’s all over. Still can’t put my guards off. Still, I feel like – “is it really over?” 

Make no mistake, I know better than anybody that at large, it is not over. But the first obstacle on the way to normalcy is removed, and I still can’t internalize the feeling that I can let this anxiety go. 

Yesterday, when I listened to Kamala and Joe, I could not stop thinking about Obama’s speech twelve years ago. I remember this speech very well; I saved the recording and listened to it multiple times. In that speech, Obama practically laid down all he was going to do in the years to come, and he told his audience that there would be things they won’t like. I remember how people were getting angry at him at some point in his presidency and how he was often not understood. I am sure the same will happen with Joe, and I am mentally ready for that. 

There are even more chances that people will be unhappy. After all, he is a centrist. Yes, that was a calculated move; any candidate just a little bit further left could hardly win. Even Biden was called a socialist by the Trump supporters. But I can see how the left wing of the party could become unhappy with him pretty soon. Not like this is something new or avoidable. 

I also thought that this happiness was very different from happiness twelve years ago. Back then, it was excitement about great things that would come; it was “we will do so much better!” Now it is more like, “OK, now we can start rebuilding what is ruined, now we can start planning how to clean up this mess.” Happy thoughts, but at the same time, pretty sad thoughts. 

Like most people, I am thinking about how to approach bridging the Big Divide. Too many people whom I know personally voted for Trump. Too many people understand nothing about BLM, and worse – do not even want to try. I am torn between the feeling that I do not want to talk to people on the opposite side of the spectrum and that I need to talk to them because things won’t change otherwise. 

I am hopeful, and I worry, and I am relieved – all at the same time.