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I'm not really sure how much I particularly want to continue participation in this thread, but I at least want to share one of the reasons for my own frustrations with how this conversation has gone.

 

The reason I care about this stuff is not because I'm some elevated human who arrived at a natural ephiphany about the nature of justice and fairness in the world, or because I'm engaged in some complex White Guilt dance, or because I'm trying to extend my progressive empathy penis.  It's because people I love shared their lives with me and opened me up to their experiences.  Which is, ultimately, a pretty selfish/myopic reason to care.  It's why conservatives hate gay people until they discover they have a gay kid.  But it's the truth of how I got here, so no reason to deny it.*

The person I originally saw the collards article from I've mentioned a few times in this thread.  He's a former co-worker who became a dear friend.  His parents (and aunts/uncles/cousins) were migrant farm workers.  He was put to work in the fields in late elementary/early junior high age, because the whole family had to work to make sure they could all eat.   He was forced child labor.  Many, many, many meals we have all eaten have child labor at some point in their chain**.  Not like in a foreign factory thousands of miles away, but here, in the US.  To this day, my friend talks about how certain fresh vegetables, things he knows are healthy, give him anxiety, both from his own history and his fear that there's another kid like him picking that tomato.  This even applies to traditional Mexican food.  He's talked about how Mexican restaurants, particularly those white owned, are likely contributing to an ongoing oppression right now, not as a theoretical historical oppression, but as a current, in the field right now oppression***.  And then that oppression in the field becomes profit from capitalizing on the image of his culture in the restaurant or the grocery store, as his people are producing the food product from beginning to end (including in the kitchens), but rarely the ones to profit from their own cultural heritage.  

When he talks about the intersection of race, class and food in this country, I listen.  And quite frankly, I give him a lot more attention than any writer for the New York Times or the New Yorker.  when I see white people wringing their hands about whether or not we can authentically judge whether someone is producing a cultural product, it makes me angry.  Because in making that statement, a judgement is being made.  A judgement that says no judgement can be made is still a judgement, because I see it as an acceptance of the status quo, or an unwillingness to question the status quo (I don't know if that's fair or not, but that's how I hear that message).  And ultimately I think it's a judgement that ignores the voices of someone like my friend, in deference to white voices that write articles in publications with New York in the title.  It's not that my friend is necessarily 100 percent right in his views, he's human with a subjective experience, he almost certainly isn't completely right or accurate in his views or even his memory (none of us are).  But his voice has power and worth.  And I think this society, and this thread, is much less likely to listen to him than it is to listen to white voices.  


*

And, building on my opening statement, the reality is probably that if I had a close friend who had worked in a Chinese factory under super shitty conditions building cellphones, I'd probalby be a lot more likely to speak about that subject.  I'd have an emotional connection, and a greater depth and breadth of knowledge of that subject.  As it is, I don't, so I don't.  That's hardly fair, but the reality is that my time and emotional bandwidth to engage in these issues is limited, and so I focus on the ones for which I feel both the most knowledge and emotion about.  




**

As an aside, I was also child farm labor, but on a farm my family owned.  My friend and I actually have some pretty similar experiences, but with radically different outcomes because ultimately my labor was helping to build my family's wealth, a wealth I benefited from and will likely one day inherit, and his labor was rooted in the despereate necessity to feed his family.  




***

On the connectedness of cultural food and oppression, there's also plenty of criticism and discussion to go around.  There are pretty vivid accounts of how some Chinese restaurants prey on desperate new immigrants, suckering them into a kind of indentured servitude where they both live and work at restaurants. This usually involves people of their own culture and heritage preying on them.  The smugglers who bring farm workers across the border illegally are most likely to be from those cultures.  I think the complexity which has been alluded to in this thread INCLUDES the fact that we can show how kind of fucked "exotic" immigrant food can be, but that complexity doesn't mean that we should be washing our hands of judgement like Pontius Pilate.

 

 

Final thought/footnote

There's up to 3 million migrant farm workers in the US every year, most of them foreign (specifically Mexican) born. Just in case someone wants to trot out the argument that this is just one anecdote, it's an anecdote that's been repeated tens of millions of times in the last couple of decades, and most people have only a passing knowledge, if any at all, about the millions and millions of Mexicans who get paid shit to make sure we can all eat every day.  My friend's story is unique in that it is his story, but it is also just one of many, that are all very much the same.

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I never want to be the smug person who feels morally superior for eating at a Mexican restaurant in the Mission over going to Chipotle, because I'm sure that there are tons of "ethnic" restaurants that are capitalizing off that feeling.

You and Chris keep bringing this type of person in here who's smug, and trying to 'win' at something. I don't feel that is at all relevant to the discussion at hand.

Further, in the case I quoted, isn't eating at a privately-owned eatery in the vast majority of cases going to be a greater net societal benefit than funneling money into a chain? Is the fact that Chipotle is not even trying to pretend to be genuine something that makes it preferable to eat there on the chance that eating somewhere else might make you feel unjustifiably like you're doing something better? That feels rather defeatist to me. I'd rather try to make an effort to find out about the place I'm eating at.

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Really interesting, Bjorn. Although the scorn for the New York Times caught me off-guard. You don't have to read the article I linked, obviously, but I'm bummed at the disparaging remarks made against it, especially since the author seems to agree way more with you than with anything I've been saying. I don't think it's fair to set up a choice between your friend's story and what someone might write on the subject of race in a big publication, because that seems like a backwards way of correcting privilege. In a just world, there wouldn't be a choice, and someone with your friend's background could share a byline with the woman who wrote that article.

 

(Unless you think that institutions like the New York Times are inherently oppressive and no number of minority writers will change that. If you do -- and I'm sorry if I'm putting words in your mouth here -- than fair enough. I don't happen to, so I'll try and politely raise my objection. I suppose it's a display of my own bias that the part of your piece that I chose to respond to was your criticism of the NY Times, but I honestly don't have anything else to contribute to your friend's story except to say that I'm sorry the world exists they way it does and I want it to get better for everyone.) 

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It would really bum me out if people felt that I didn't care enough about these issues and attribute that to what's driving my opinion. Not to get all "some of my best friends are black," but my sister is black and was raised entirely by my white mother in an all-white environment. So I've seen first-hand the way many of these issues have affected her and my family. I'm sorry that I'm bringing up this personal history, but I feel the need to defend myself  in the face of a (maybe entirely imagined) perception that I might not care enough.

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You and Chris keep bringing this type of person in here who's smug, and trying to 'win' at something. I don't feel that is at all relevant to the discussion at hand.

 

I've been very tempted to post in here and have read and re-read all of the comments multiple times but this has been one of those arguments that has left me feeling frustrated and seems like there is no way to say what I want to say without possibly mischaracterizing what others are saying or coming off as 'tone policing' or whatever you want to call it. But whatever, I'll dive in and hopefully not regret it.

 

Leave the 'smug' part out of what you quoted and I think I tend to agree with the spirit of what Chris and Argobot are getting at and I believe it is central to the discussion at hand. I honestly believe that everyone participating here is coming from a good place with good intentions and most of us agree on major issues like 95% of the time. Where I get frustrated is when there is an actual disagreement, there is a certain subset of very well educated and well spoken people here that tend to lay down the 'correct' viewpoint and don't leave much room for debate on the topic, opting to instead educate the dissenters on why they are wrong. I know I haven't participated in this conversation and maybe I have no right to butt in with my thoughts but I definitely feel like some of that was going on here and it prevented me from having any desire to participate.

 

Gorm and Bjorn, I love you guys. But I don't think I entirely agree with you here and I feel like, had I participated, I would have had to either acquiesce to your point of view to avoid things escalating as they did, or continue to disagree and majorly frustrate you guys with my inability to see your viewpoint. (I've learned as much by trying to debate people here on things like fashion and the ethics of meat consumption(although that was the ultimate clusterfuck)).

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Everything Zeus said is why I don't participate in these kinds of threads anymore. Though I once enjoyed the back and forth and trying to learn about other people's viewpoints, even where we disagreed (and often coming around to someone else's point of view over time), I've reached the point where it's just immensely frustrating to be the person who disagrees with the majority. Wall of text after wall of text telling me why I'm wrong. It's been a long time since I've been on the receiving end, because, like I said, I just don't participate anymore, but I've seen it happen to other people.

 

I understand that these are all super sensitive topics, and a lot of us are white dudes coming at it from the angle of white dudes trying to be better people. I understand that very rarely are people actually angry and actually trying to upset people - so rare, I don't even know that it's ever happened (besides maybe some GGers posting here when that first started...). I understand, and! I'll forever be grateful to the Idle Thumbs community for helping me learn about these sorts of things; I am literally a different and better person because of these forums. Very grateful!

 

But it's so overwhelming and brutal when you're the odd man (or woman!) out in one of these discussions.

 

Okay I've felt that way for a while and now I've said my piece and now I hope it doesn't blow up in my face phewwwwwwww.

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...but I feel the need to defend myself  in the face of a (maybe entirely imagined) perception that I might not care enough.

 

That's why I posted more of my friends story than I normally would have, feeling like I needed to defend myself from the perception that I was engaged in these conversations for some ulterior motives.  So I know that feeling.

 

 

Leave the 'smug' part out of what you quoted and I think I tend to agree with the spirit of what Chris and Argobot are getting at and I believe it is central to the discussion at hand. I honestly believe that everyone participating here is coming from a good place with good intentions and most of us agree on major issues like 95% of the time. Where I get frustrated is when there is an actual disagreement, there is a certain subset of very well educated and well spoken people here that tend to lay down the 'correct' viewpoint and don't leave much room for debate on the topic, opting to instead educate the dissenters on why they are wrong. I know I haven't participated in this conversation and maybe I have no right to butt in with my thoughts but I definitely feel like some of that was going on here and it prevented me from having any desire to participate.

 

It saddens me that myself and others lecture, rather than discuss, and that that keeps people out.  And I have no doubt that that's how it feels/looks/is with at least some of these topics.   I think a lot of it is that this is text based.  If me and you, or Argo, or Chris, or Ninety were to be in person talking about this, it would be easier to both discuss and disagree, if for nothing other than a changed and less formal (not written) format. 

 

I suspect that a lot of it is that I've lost my taste for debate online.  Sometimes I have something I want to share, or have something I want to say, but between previous forums and facebook, I know how much time and energy a back and forth can take. 

 

 

At any rate, I respect everyone here, even if they've disagreed with me or I've become angry or frustrated over something. 

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It saddens me that myself and others lecture, rather than discuss, and that that keeps people out.  And I have no doubt that that's how it feels/looks/is with at least some of these topics.   I think a lot of it is that this is text based.  If me and you, or Argo, or Chris, or Ninety were to be in person talking about this, it would be easier to both discuss and disagree, if for nothing other than a changed and less formal (not written) format. 

 

I think there's an issue with a lack of trust, or familiarity or both. We all know the internet is full of trolls and smug jerks and so on, so as soon as we get enough disagreement from someone, we take a shortcut. It's easy to assume the other person is a troll or a smug jerk and write them off as unreasonable, and it's harder to accept that a reasonable person could sincerely disagree with us, because our position naturally seems so right to us. As soon as we take that shortcut, we start arguing against an archetype instead of the person in front of us (which seems to have happened a lot in the last few pages), and the quality of the discussion plummets.

 

Of course the above is my entirely baseless speculation and personal observation, am I way off-base here or does it make sense to others?

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Bjorn, you are a wonderful person and I appreciate the thoughtful response.

And I agree with both you and Ninety-Three on why these things are so difficult, even in our quiet little neck of the internet. This format all but guarantees these types of disagreements and assumptions will happen. Hopefully we can continue to recognize that moving forward and respect each other as fellow intelligent humans with good intentions.

I do have some thoughts on the general topic that started all of this but I'll wait a bit and maybe post something later in the cultural appropriation thread.

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haha staying out of this was the right choice

 

 

 

 

I do want to bring this up, though, because it has nothing to do with collard greens:

 

 

Where I get frustrated is when there is an actual disagreement, there is a certain subset of very well educated and well spoken people here that tend to lay down the 'correct' viewpoint and don't leave much room for debate on the topic, opting to instead educate the dissenters on why they are wrong.

 

It's funny that you mention Gorm and Bjorn here* because if I take that quote out of context, I'd assume you were talking about Chris and Argobot. This is fine, because:

 

I think that, with things like this, we bristle at people who make different choices because we take it as a condemnation of our own beliefs, and it's actually worse, not better, when we've been thoughtful about those beliefs. It's the same thing that makes people mad about vegans, or people who don't watch TV. I doubt that anyone here is intending to lecture, more that, well obviously there's a disagreement here and so if we post our entire chain of reasoning to this point then we can work out what the differences are (which is also why when these arguments get contentious, they also get really, really long). It's a curiously robotic form of argument**, and as I think we've proved here, it's not particularly persuasive because people don't, by and large, hold positions rooted in logic. There's no one fact that's going to shatter someone's beliefs, because they're not dependent on facts, especially around social justice which is almost always a horrifically wicked problem with no clear takeaways or places where people can definitely find common agreement if they're not starting from similar places.

 

I think some people here worry about being the person who everyone takes as silently judging them, and I'm happy to tell you that ship has fuckin' sailed. Being that person is very rarely about what you do or think, and much more about how others take your actions as a reflection upon themselves. I've been relentlessly bullied by people who take it as a personal affront that they're not the smartest goddamn person in the room. If I manage to realise that's what they're doing, all I feel for them is sadness. How sad is it that your self-identity is so fragile that it can't handle a change in the weather.

 

The only thing I'm in control of is my own behaviour, really, and I'd prefer to be as genuine as possible and remember that no matter what I do I can't have everyone like me. I'd rather do what I can do, and embrace the fact that it still won't be enough.

 

* and minimise Blambo

 

** I wonder if this is rooted in how none of us have learned rhetoric at school. We argue, as a civilisation, a lot more than we used to even twenty years ago, because most of the time we met people who shared our experiences. Unless we were in a college dorm; college dorms are infamous for their rambling, insipid arguments. We seem to have farmed that out to the rest of the internet.

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It's funny that you mention Gorm and Bjorn here* because if I take that quote out of context, I'd assume you were talking about Chris and Argobot. This is fine, because:

 

* and minimise Blambo

 

I don't know if I should be annoyed at you or just laugh at your petulant little jabs. I try to respect everyone here as intelligent and respectful human beings but you make it pretty damn hard sometimes with unnecessary comments like these and your constant commentary on how shitty America is compared to the perfect country you live in.

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I hope we don't lose our privilege to talk about these subjects on the Idle Forums. But if things continue to escalate into aggressive dismissal and insulting accusations I would understand why the thread got locked. I think it's possible to deescalate while still expressing difference in opinion.

I don't think Merus is necessarily jabbing, I think they may be pointing out that spokespeople of both viewpoints are going to sound authoritative. Also, Merus isn't necessarily saying that America is shitty in comparison, but there is a tendency to be more comfortable talking about these issues in American culture than in a poster's backyard. I actually very much enjoyed Blambo's perspective because it showed me how american-centric I'm viewing these issues by pointing out their own perspective informed by their own personal localities.

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Ok looking back it looks like I missed about 2 pages of content in the thread before posting my own comment. It makes little sense to just plop a random opinion down on an ongoing conversation like that. I didn't mean to come off as like saying that "everyone arguing is wrong and here is the correct thing", but I probably should have checked to see if my point was being made already. Sorry!

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I thought your post was really thoughtful and fit in well with the discussion Blambo. 

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Blambo's post was a gooood post.

 

I don't know if I should be annoyed at you or just laugh at your petulant little jabs. I try to respect everyone here as intelligent and respectful human beings but you make it pretty damn hard sometimes with unnecessary comments like these and your constant commentary on how shitty America is compared to the perfect country you live in.

 

It was supposed to read as petulant and hypocritical, because coming into a contentious topic like this and acting like the font of wisdom needs to be undercut by a little obvious hypocrisy. It doesn't sound like it made me come across as less of an asshole. I'm sorry for that.

 

Also no-one except for Australians and New Zealanders care about what Australia does wrong, which is why I don't usually talk about it. I haven't had much luck having a discussion with the nuances of my culture on the internet, particularly when other people in the conversation were assuming that we were living under the yoke of tyranny because violent games kept getting rated RC. I do not think badly of you, but I've been burnt too many times.

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Yo, where are you guys seeing it ever called General Zuo's chicken? Did I miss something? Is this regional? I've always known it as Tso's or Joe's (if one should be inclined to be Joe cool).

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Yo, where are you guys seeing it ever called General Zuo's chicken? Did I miss something? Is this regional? I've also known it as Tso's or Joe's (if one should be inclined to be Joe cool).

Zuo and Tso are different romanizations of the name. For some reason it's mostly known by the Wade-Giles version, "Tso", even at restaurants where the rest of the menu is rendered in pinyin romanization. I used Zuo because pinyin just looks more right dammit at the cost of other people being able to actually read what I write.

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Is this the stuff that the Canadians call General Tao?

 

I tried to explain to them that I had never heard of the stuff outside North America (still, General Tao Tofu is delicious).

 

I think there is a really interesting documentary about it on Netflix:

 

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In the context of the article Bjorn posted, the issue with collards being badly made is that much of the marketing energy isn't being spent on the restaurant having good collard greens, but that they sell what people consider Southern food without effort to make good collard greens in the value system that they're marketing. The fact that this is the focus is what I find problematic.

 

As a Filipino-American who has seen an increasing amount of butchered lumpia being sold as authentic Filipino food, all of this rings perfectly true to me. I was trying to figure out how to characterize exactly what the problem described in the article was because it also rang true to me, but you captured it - it's not the fact that non-native people are cooking these things, it's that it's inauthentic to market them as legit while disserving them. It's why the example of many different cultures enshrining French cuisine (and why isn't that appropriation?) also doesn't track for me, because the adoption of French cuisine is obscenely earnest and many chefs spend an eternity learning in French kitchens, ascending from the guy who carefully chops the garnishes to years later being the guy who cooks the fish.

 

Those are interesting perspectives, but I can't 'feel' them.  Perhaps that is because I grew up in a culture that was busy bastardizing its own for economic gains that I have zero regard for authenticity?

 

Like, if I were to see terrible "Korean" restaurant operated by non-Koreans marketed as genuine, I wouldn't really care and the idea that similar thing has affected you two emotionally is intellectually interesting because it seems like something I should have empathy for but don't...???  Like the reverse of that, where people talk about having good Korean food makes me giddy cause it's like those shared experience moment but this just escapes me.

 

It would really bum me out if people felt that I didn't care enough about these issues and attribute that to what's driving my opinion. Not to get all "some of my best friends are black," but my sister is black and was raised entirely by my white mother in an all-white environment. So I've seen first-hand the way many of these issues have affected her and my family. I'm sorry that I'm bringing up this personal history, but I feel the need to defend myself  in the face of a (maybe entirely imagined) perception that I might not care enough.

 

AFAIK, everything you posted on this forum has been pretty role-model-y so don't feel so sorry Argobot~

 

And on more general note, my personal preference is that I actually find the strong emphasis on 'white-privilege' here very awkward to navigate around because lot of the terminologies are set up to classify people and I don't like that.  I get why it happens and empathize with the why (to tackle complex social problems like racial discrimination), but not what is actually being done (constant labeling people into categories).  So personally I actually prefer more laxed conversational approach that you brought thus far.

 

But that kind of vernacular preference clearly personal one as there are many here who do not share that and that's fine too I guess.

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I live in a small country which means there are hardly enough people to specialize in everything. Thus it is seen as kind of important here to judge eating places by whether they have chefs native to the cuisine - because locals would not likely have the experience/knowledge/skill required. This may also be influenced by us having been behind the iron curtain for a long time - only during the last 25 years have people been able to move around the world freely. That said, I'm not sure who the chef is at my favorite sushi takeaway place. Just my 2 cents.

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I've been following this thread with great interest. And I have, at times, been incredibly guilty of the "most emphatically guilty" white person in the room syndrome that Chris described above. I try not to be, because it obviously doesn't help anything or make anyone feel better about the problems that we have in this culture (and I can only speak as an American).

 

For me, the biggest difficulty in this realm comes not from food, but from where I live and pay rent. I just moved from the mission in San Francisco - the same historically working class Latino neighborhood that my girlfriend grew up in, as a working class Latina woman. And where did my gentrifying ass end up? Bushwick, Brooklyn, a historically Latino and Black neighborhood.

 

There's a ton of art here (one of the things I love about my neighborhood), and much of it bemoans gentrification. And it's right! The rent is too damn high, it's a travesty when people are priced out of their homes, and it all sucks. But yet, I'm here, I pay my rent, I try to be a good neighbor, and soon I'll be a volunteer EMT serving this community. I can't be a *complete* piece of shit, right? Or, so I hope, and want not to be.

 

This is all very personal, which is why emotions run high in this thread, I think. 

 

FWIW, I try very, very hard to spend time with people whose viewpoints and experience differs greatly from my own, because I've been guilty of spending a lot of time in "bubbles, " and I try hard to be proactive and take what small action I can. It pretty much always comes down to volunteering or donating to organizations that I feel are effective at working on a particular problem, etc.

 

That's a super general last thought, but as a sorta-still-an-activist, I still like to end on notes of hope/encouragement/action, because I know how very depressing and hopeless much of this can feel. 

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For those interested in the complexity of gentrification, I suggest reading this article: http://www.bkmag.com/2015/11/02/white-flight-round-two-or-how-gentrification-ends/

 

If gentrification is unavoidable -- which to some degree I think it is -- than one way to mitigate it as a gentrifier is to try and lift up the community you find yourself in. That article talks about white couples moving to urban areas and then immediately leaving for 99% white suburbs once their kids reach school-age. People need to do a better job of contributing to a community, rather than just taking from it. I hope that the longer I live in San Francisco, the more I'm able to do as a good community member.

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@Gaizokubanou: I was just describing the phenomenon as an example of cultural appropriation, where an essentially "Chinese" aesthetic and identity is used to represent a culture that does not uniformly reflect it. I'm not saying that everything needs to be authentic, but that the act of selling authenticity without actually pursuing it betrays and profits off of an essentialized image of a culture. I suppose anything being marketed as authentic at all invokes a fixed identity.

Did I come off as emotional? I should say that I'm not trying to express resentment at "fake Chinese" out of a kind of extreme pride for my ethnicity.

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