Wednesday, November 30, 2005

GIPS--Race Bytes from the Mulatta-Mobile (4.0)

Adjusting the specialized calipers on my head, I also fluff my 'afro' to maximum roundness in the rearview mirror. I must do my best to sit still, for interpolating an accurate up-to-the minute mapping of one's social position requires careful input.

As the system digests my coordinates, I make myself comfortable and wait for the audio ouput version of my perspectivally subjective, space-time specific physiography.

"Did you Say Bayou or Banlieue?" [The GIPS device is attached to the dashboard. The audio output voice is vaguely feminine, digitally composed with a cyber-Parisienne lilt. 'Gigi' reads aloud as the 'phreno-fingers' scan my cranial registry.]

"Physiography of Race in Public Discourse, Summary for Autumn 2005, Prepared by Your Personalized Transportation Unit, Gigi"

"Coordinate one. In France, just a few months ago, several people, mostly the children of African immigrants, had been trapped in their apartment building in Paris. The US news media made nothing of the French government's tepid reaction to this tragedy.

"Entry from Gigi's log: You sat in the cockpit and cried.

"Coordinate two.
When covering the effects of Hurricane Katrina, the US press repeatedly broadcast the tactless, if genuine, observations made by the president's mother: From the position of extreme wealth and privilege, the impoverished black people of Louisiana had lost very little.

"The world was outraged by her insensitivity.

"Since the cat was out of the bag, however, the president did something shocking. Diverting attention from his family as well as from FEMA, he acknowledged the persistence of race as a factor of social inequality in US society. Thus, those who survived the natural disaster and the genocidal aftershocks are now 'affirmatively' authorized by the current administration to blame history for the ongoing power effects of race, lived as Blackness.

"The world was somewhat appeased by his conservation of compassion.

"Entry from Gigi's general log: We noted that these poor people had no access to personal or public transportation.

"Coordinate three.
When USAmerican media began to cover the social unrest following the death of two young, Afro-Parisians who were chased by police into a power plant, reports emphasized that angry mobs had begun to burn cars in the streets all over France. Locally, radio audiences became so enervated by and fixated on this aspect of reportage that KPBS radio announcers were forced to quell the hysteria. They connected callers to on-site commentators in France who offered this perspective: nearly 100 cars burned nightly in France prior to the riots, so perhaps this was neither the most significant aspect of recent events nor very likely to spread to Southern California.

US-based reporters, themselves escaping the paralyzing grip of Southern California SUV-solipsism just in the nick of time, began to ask why the French government had reacted so slowly to recent events. Ellen Beardsley of NPR--stationed in Paris and therefore outside the obfuscating haze--suggested that French politics always happens in the streets. Thus French leaders awaited their cue. "They follow the impulse of the people."

"Notes from Gigi's Log: We noted the opportune nature of this historical moment for emphasizing the relative insignificance of the automobile in most of Europe, especially Paris. Since most Parisians utilize the Metro, RER, and other forms of public transportation, this attack on personal property might be read as an indictment of excessive, unequal privilege in a democratic society, rather than an effective assault on 'freedom' as it is defined in the USA.

"Should we finish the physiography or re-enter the highway?"

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