Imaginaries of racism

Map of areas covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, via

Map of areas covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, via

Juxtaposed with ongoing discussion (online, at least) of chef-personality Paula Deen, today’s SCOTUS decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act raises certain questions about racism and geography in the public imaginary.

A common theme in many responses to and defenses of Deen–on public trial for a raft of racist utterances–is reference to her Southernness. These comments take the form: ‘What do you expect from a white woman raised in the South? It’s just backwards down there.’ Or alternately, ‘She left the South. She should have learned better by now.’ Continue reading


Changing the points

The shunting yards

One Russian idiom that comes up a lot in conversations about politics is переводить стрелки, “changing the points,” [1] which originated (if I’m not mistaken) as a railroad term for changing the tracks to shunt a train onto a different set of rails. In politics, “shunting” refers to redirecting blame or guilt. It strikes me as a curious metaphor, as if blame for a given mistake or problem is as unstoppable as a train hurtling down the tracks. All one can do (if one is a shifty politician) is redirect it.

When I read the NYTimes’ coverage over the weekend of the “Bolotnaya Case” trials, “shunting” came to mind again. Continue reading