Some things are just Midwestern* af. Earlier this week, I popped my head out of my cubicle to endorse cornhole (“bean bag toss”) to a colleague, and my other Midwestern coworker came running around the corner like “DID SOMEONE SAY CORNHOLE?”
Free zucchini from your coworkers’ gardens? Midwestern af. Zucchini bread because too many zucchini? Midwestern af. Jello salad? Midwestern af. “We’re not racist because we’re not the South?” Also Midwestern af!
The suburban township in which I grew up, which was 95% white according to the 2010 census, always had some insidious racism (and sexism, queerphobia and ableism) bubbling beneath the surface, but when you’re from southern Ohio, it’s a lot easier to point a finger at Kentucky and say, “We’re not racist like those Southerners!” Or even the folks from the next (more rural) county over. It’s hard to see yourself in context when you’re entrenched in it, when that’s the only way you’ve ever “known” things to be.
Here’s the thing: Moving to more diverse cities and schools helped me expand what I “knew” of the world, as did moving to a foreign country. Yet those experiences, without context, didn’t necessarily force me to examine my biases and sit with my discomfort. Actively reading and listening did.
If you’re marginalized in one or more ways, consider that a starting point, not expertise. As a queer person, I can tell you that saying “I’m an ally” or “love is love” or “fuck gender roles” or “we’re all human” doesn’t mean shit if you aren’t actually doing the work. (And if you’re using those phrases, well….) Your experiences or your friends’ experiences don’t mean you can relate to the experiences of other marginalized communities; you’re not able to speak for them. You may not be able to speak for others in your community who have different intersections of marginalization and privilege than you. Be the kind of ally to other marginalized folks that you would want to see in your own community: one who doesn’t take up space, ask Google-able questions, act like a savior, or demand emotional labor or “ally cookies.” No more white tears, okay?
So what can we do?
First, reconsider what allyship actually means: being a turncoat.
Next, ask yourself: Racism. Where do you fall?
Take action on Charlottesville: Charlottesville organizers ask you to take these 8 actions
Know where your local hate groups are. Southern Poverty Law Center has a list.
Influence your community: Practical Ways White Allies Can Influence Their Communities
Read more about the problem of “nice white people.” Chris Newman, owner of the Sylvanaqua Farms, wrote in May about segregation, appropriation and racism in Charlottesville; in a separate post, he lists POC-owned businesses to support.
Get shit done: Queer Activists are Taking Down Racist Symbols in the South.
Further reading from intersectional sources (feel free to add your own in the comments):
Everyday Feminism, The Root, Very Smart Brothas, Bitch Media, Teen Vogue, Code Switch, Racist Sandwich, Afropunk, The Establishment (including “Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement–Here’s What You Missed”)
In short, be proud of your overabundance of zucchini and your bean-bag games, but white Midwesterners, don’t think for a second that you don’t have to deal with institutionalized racism, ignorance, and hate groups because you aren’t in Charlottesville or the South. It’s our heritage, too.
Now, about that free zucchini. My family’s favorite zucchini recipe is chocolate zucchini bread. This recipe makes two loaves, so give it to your friends, bring it to a planning meeting, or freeze it for later. Remember to foster an equitable culture of support within your activist community and fair trade emotional labor economy.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
Yields 2 loaves. Serves 8 (breakfast) ~ 16 (part of a balanced breakfast).
2 cups (~285-340 g / 10-12 oz ) shredded zucchini
1 cup (255 g / 9 oz) applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups (360 g / 12.7 oz) flour
1.5 cups (300 g / 10.5 g) sugar
3 TSP cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup + 1 TBSP cocoa powder (48 g / 1.7 oz)**
3 TBSP olive or canola oil**
**can substitute 3 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, for the cocoa powder and oil
Two 9″x5″ bread pans (or one 13″x9″ cake pan)
Grater or food processor with grater
Two large bowls
- Grease the pans (use olive oil if you would like to keep this dairy free).
- Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C).
- Mix the zucchini, oil, eggs, and vanilla together. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients, then add to zucchini mixture and mix to combine. Do not overbeat.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans.
- Bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool before removing from pan.
*Midwest: There’s the Great Lakes Midwest and the Plains Midwest, and while we have our differences in culture and region (the historic Midwest vs. the physical Midwest), we are all the Midwest, and I will fight you.