Evaluating Eracism (brought to you by the Clorox Corporation)
Posted on August 15, 2008
Two times for your mind: Jose Vadi is the first guest wit to write twice. He’s originally from the 909 but has spent time in Washington, DC, and makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. This makes him, undoubtedly, an All-American Thick Wit. Like Forrest Gump in The White House. Don’t drink the Dr. Pepper, Jose. Here’s his second posting. And a new flick of him. Holler Black youngins.
it was a night for walking and thankfully i was in oakland.
an evening for aimlessness, i found a new pizza spot, walked through some construction sites (why not?), checked out all the graf pieces on Valdez by the basketball courts, even saw my friend’s name on one of the backboards…and then i passed by this bus stop on grand and harrison —
however pissed, i knew i had to just get my eracism kit together. it erases racism. literally. not like the slogan on the t-shirt, nor the record label, but like some actual wax-on-wax-off-racism-shite. peep —
there’s some sponges and a dry towel in there for cleaning purposes as well. you don’t want the city to think you’re dirtier than the filth you’re trying to erase.
here’s the skinny: spray, scrub, clean. three steps, no more n-bombs dropped at your local bus stop. i’m not the biggest advocate of non-gang-related-graffiti removal or incarcerating taggers (or calling them ‘taggers’), just as i don’t advocate skate stoppers, or any form of city-sponsored public defamation that makes the city only uglier, however more ‘safe’ in the process. but i am an advocate of taking things upon yourself and doing something, or at least trying, and however general or vague that may sound, it becomes quite specific when encountering something like the subject of this blog: a bus stop.
…i quickly and reluctantly realized that my custodial activism did very little to change the world. at least not immediately. i would have had to put out a press release that someone wrote something i didn’t like on a random bench in oakland and that i had the gusto to make a change (which is bullshit), which would all probably garner more attention for the unknown author who might play off the whole incident as “just joking around” with a sharpie en tow. maybe i ran back with a bag full of cleaning products for the hypothetical parent who would have to explain to his inquisitive child what the N-word really meant. all in all, yes, it was a selfish act — i was wiping out an opinion that I deemed racist and appalling (which it is) and just did not want to see that in the neighborhood where i live.
to be honest, even by attempting to make a change, i was still slighting some part of my social conscious. i used a few sprays of Formula 409 and Ashby-Bart-Windex to erase the sharpie scribbles. a quick google search revealed how Clorox, who owns Formula 409, was named as one of the “dangerous dozen” chemical companies, according to the Public Interest Research Group in 2004. so there’s my small contribution to the global warming problem, in the name of eracism.
eventually i had to ask myself, If the words were the same but somehow bent toward the absurd and sarcastic, would i have laughed it off as comedy and walked past? If the dialogue was surrounded by a speech bubble and the ‘artist’ indicated that the white commentators were saying such racist lines, that it was their speech bubble, would i have deemed that opinion okay?
the odd thing is that this scribbling on this bus stop was contextualized to contemporary events, but mixed with old racist ideologies; theologies that have taken generations and bloodshed and entire wars to even attempt to reconcile on paper as law, let alone see the effects resonate in our daily thoughts as Americans. even white supremacists are contextualizing their movement in response to the 2008 election, many believing that Obama’s possible victory will be the catalyst for a white uprising.
political or politicized public art has always had an effect on the populace — look at the controversy Banksy started when he hit up the West Bank. If you know anyone from Cuba or who has visited, they will tell you about the murals decrying capitalism, one of the few places where you will see DEATH TO IMPERIALISM emblazoned and unscathed on a public wall. granted, these types of images are state-sponsored, but nonetheless public visuals that are imbued within the minds of the daily populace. and on a local government level, go to any small suburb from my hometown in southern California, the Inland Empire, and you will see banners in most towns with the names of every kid from that town who is fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. how can’t the images we see everyday outside our doorstep affect our perceptions and opinions?
as i was walking home, a man with a green jacket that i believe used to be once white and new asked me for change and i apologized and walked by. at the end of the day the only thing you’re left with for sure is not the effects of your actions, but whether or not you acted in the first place. i walked home realizing i would much rather garner my merit badge for liberalism by applying 409 to AC Transit property than giving a buck to dude by the lake. and really, what did i do instead? what replaced that five second exchange of dollar-bill-to-hand? i took a picture of the lake. and walked away. with a new found sense of confusion/guilt chased with whatever accomplishment i could hear swishing from my man purse with every increasing step i made steadily, towards home.