Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reacting to Baltimore: Do You Really Need a Pretty Please?

In the discussion of Baltimore, and in the general issue of police violence towards blacks, I’m hearing a lot of similar comments from white friends and acquaintances. 

Of course, there are always those who are simply determined to not question the integrity of the police, especially against the word of urban blacks.

However, there are others who are willing to concede to the at least possible extremity of police responses in at least certain situations. And yet of all the players in this issue, the angry rioters always seem to steal the attention. I hear comments such as, “but still, there is no excuse for lawlessness” and “if you want the cops to be more nice to you, why would you burn down your own town?”

And to these questions, and with present restraint from addressing other facets of the situation, I would like to make this simple point:

As a member of the human race, my responsibility to consider the concerns of others is not contingent upon how they appeal for that consideration. My charge to acknowledge the suffering of others is not dependent upon the way in which they make me aware of that suffering. My inherent duty to face the problems interwoven into the very fabric of my homeland does not change according to how others have chosen to face those problems.

Closing my eyes to what’s in front of me because I don’t understand it does not excuse me from being a witness and closing my ears to a shouting voice because I wish it were whispering does not change the content of its words.

Whether by action or inaction, we are all writing the pages of our children and grandchildren’s history books. Consider carefully what part you’re playing.

Friday, April 24, 2015


So for the past month or so, I did some cultural resource management work (CRM). When I land one of these temporary gigs it means I get paid to do "archaeology."

It's not what you think.

We were doing Phase I work in the Kisatchie National Forest of Louisiana. Phase I means we aren't going in because we know there is an archaeological site there. It means we're going in just to see if there is. And usually....there isn't.

But hey, there is still a bit of adventure in it. I've braved everything from thorn bushes to creepy hotel life! To give you an idea of what it's like, Here is a random assortment of moments from my work in Kisatchie, complete with pictures!

Wednesday, March 25th, 6:45am: I make my sleepy way to the breakfast area of the Econolodge in El Dorado, Arkansas. There's really nothing "continental" about this breakfast. Not finding any fruit, I grab a couple of those little muffins with the carcinogenic fake blueberry bits. We're supposed to meet at 7:00, but no one else from my crew is down here yet...just some construction worker dudes who are used to being in hotels filled completely with other construction worker dudes.

I think I'll just enjoy my fake blueberry bits alone in my room.

Saturday, March 28th, 7:30am: On the drive through the forest to the parcel that we're working on, we see a lot of trucks parked along the roadsides. On a hunch, our crew chief googles something...

Turns out turkey hunting season starts today. Each of those trucks corresponds to a turkey hunter out in the woods that we are supposed to be surveying. How did the company not find this out BEFORE starting the project??

Wednesday, March 29th, 1:00pm: In an effort to get us away from the hunters, the company has moved us to another parcel. And it's a swamp.

Like, seriously, this area has to be underwater for a good part of the year.

We spread out fifty meters apart and walk along parallel lines through the forest. We each use pink sighting flags and sighting compasses to make sure that we are staying true to our line. We are also each carrying a backpack with lunch, and paperwork, and some random small useful things, as well as a shovel in one hand and a screen in another. We lug all this equipment along all day, putting in a small shovel test every 30 or 50 meters to check for cultural material.

They're all mud. If anything or anyone has lived here EVER, the evidence is all washed away. Except for the evidence of this little guy...

Saturday, April 11th, 7:30am: On this project, we have to work ten days in a row and then get four days off. Now it's our second ten day and we're working on a different section of Kisatchie deeper into Louisiana.

We pull up to a little white church tucked into the forest. We'll be working through the woods to the back and side of the church's cemetery for the next few days. As we walk along the cemetery fence line, casually observing names and dates on nearby headstones, our crew chief comments that it may be old enough to have unmarked African American graves that got left outside of the fence. In the area we'll be working in.

But I think he's joking. I mean he is joking, right?

Sunday, April 12th, 2:00pm: One  of my fellow field techs and I are working together on a transect. The undergrowth here is intense. Too intense to back-spot to the last sighting flag after going more than a few meters. We end up crawling through tunnels of thorns on all fours at points, trying to ignore the fact that we've been warned about multiple species of venomous snakes that live here.

At one point I look back and see her struggling to get all of her equipment through a sea of undergrowth. I could help her...or I could take a picture and document her struggle for the glory of the internet.

I feel like I made the right decision.

Monday, April 13th, 12:00pm: It looks like it might rain today, so we stay at the hotel and clean and sharpen shovels. This company hasn't exactly been putting us in fancy hotels, but I'm still a bit disturbed when I notice some handcuffs connected to a fence around what used to be the pool.

Like....those are not cheezy magician handcuffs. Nor are they pink and fuzzy. Those are legit handcuffs. WHY IS THIS A THING?