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I Have Forgotten How to Eat at a Restaurant

On Sunday, I ate at a restaurant for the first time in three months. Three months! This planet has traversed about 150 million miles of its orbit around the sun since I last ate food at a public establishment. So imagine my great dismay to discover that I have completely forgotten how to eat at a restaurant.

Here are a few things that happened when I tried to gracefully reenter the restaurant-going world:
  • I waited 5–7 seconds for the waiter to indicate to me which chair I should sit in, before remembering that I actually get to choose that myself.
  • It took me several moments to register that there was a separate food and drink menu; the drinks are not listed on the food menu, and the food is not listed on the drinks menu. I turned over each menu at least three times, looking for the other items.
  • I stared shamelessly for minutes at other patrons of the restaurant. I have not seen people eating in public in so long.
  • I accidentally ordered a fucking whiteclaw!!!
  • I accidentally ordered a second whiteclaw, and then a third whiteclaw!!!
  • I accidentally ordered six more whiteclaws!!! That’s nine whiteclaws, ordered by mistake!!!
  • My date asked what an atomic elbow was, so I demonstrated on an unsuspecting patron at the next table! I concussed a stranger, because I have not eaten in a restaurant for so long, and forgot the accompanying social norms!
  • I shit my pants four times! Five, depending how you define a pants-shitting! Did anybody else forget that restaurants have bathrooms?
  • I asked for an affogato made with breastmilk! Can you believe that? How embarrassing that I forgot that many restaurants don’t even keep breastmilk stocked!
  • I tipped my waiter a full 15%, even though he had an eyebrow piercing and I don’t approve of that!
  • I got a DUI on my way home—all because I haven’t been to a restaurant in so long!

White People Didn’t Know This Would Be On The Test

Listen closely. Do you hear it? Do you hear the sound of millions of white people furiously cramming for a test we had 400 years to prepare for?

Nationwide, bookstores and retailers are sold out of titles about how anti-Black racism has remained at the center of our society and how white people of all political persuasions have played an active role in upholding that intolerable status quo. Book clubs are eschewing Sheryl Sandberg for Robin DiAngelo, and local booksellers are placing bulk orders for How To Be Anti Racist

In film too the cramming is apparent, if a bit less heartening. Even as America reopens from the first part of Wave 1 of the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, citizens are staying home to watch The Help (sigh) and 13th (lfg). Even that sacred safe space for white complacency, podcastdom, has been overtaken by a fervor for racial justice.

In other words: at least 401 years after the first America-bound slave was kidnapped, brutalized, and brought to our shores; 237 years after the Constitution falsely claimed that its authors believed all men were created equal; 155 years after the enslaver’s rebellion was put down by force; 134 years after Rutherford B. Hayes traded generations of Black dreams for four years of power; 99 years after Black Wall Street was pillaged and burned by domestic terrorists; 65 years after Emmett Till was murdered; 57 years after Bull Connor’s attack dogs; 55 years after Malcolm X was murdered; 52 years after Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered; 28 years after Rodney King was beaten; 8 years after Trayvon Martin was murdered; 6 years after Mike Brown and Laquan McDonald were murdered; 3 years after Eric Garner was murdered; 4 months after Ahmaud Arbery was murdered; 3 months after Breonna Taylor was murdered; and 2 weeks after George Floyd was murdered… white people have discovered we may have some work to do to dismantle white supremacy. 

Now, that sounds like a condemnation—and in part, it is. Cramming for a test we’ve had our whole lives to prepare for is deeply embarrassing. But feeling embarrassed and trying to educate ourselves are two of the better things we can do right now. The situation is deeply embarrassing and at the same time it’s encouraging. Understanding that contradiction is central to how we maintain the momentum of the last few weeks.

We wrote after Ahmaud Arbery was hunted and killed that we’d been here before, and that it had all become so sickeningly familiar. Now, this time feels different, no doubt. But for it to actually be different it’s going to require white people to finally do the work we’ve been putting off for half a millennium. 

So reading up, getting educated, and sharing resources is a good start. But it really is just a start, a bare minimum first step, and we can’t lose sight of how much damage has been done by waiting this long. If the last-second studying gets us anywhere, it’ll hopefully be a place where we start to conceptualize the work and time that’s needed to repair that damage. 

Jazz Standards That, If Written Today, Would Be Incel Anthems

  • What Is This Thing Called Love?
  • The Way You Look Tonight
  • Can’t We Be Friends
  • My One and Only Love
  • I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good)
  • My Buddy
  • All Alone
  • Back Home Again in Indiana
  • Mr. PC
  • Blame It On My Youth
  • Chasin’ the Bird
  • Isn’t It a Pity
  • They Say It’s Wonderful
  • Woody ‘n’ You

Textual Healing

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held that you cannot be fired for being gay or transgender.

It was a landmark victory for the LGBTQ community. And for many, the makeup of the 6–3 majority—with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch (who also authored the majority opinion) joining the liberal faction—was as stunning as the end result. 

The decision has been hailed as a leftward shift by the majority-conservative Court. It has been criticized as too cramped a view of LGBTQ rights. And it sure doesn’t end the constant threat to trans lives

But besides the crucial importance of expanding Title VII’s anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender employees, there’s another key aspect here: Neil Gorsuch (and Roberts) chose textualism over knee-jerk conservatism. 

Five years ago, Justice Kagan declared “we’re all textualists now.” Yesterday, Justice Gorsuch demonstrated that the Court (or at least a sizeable, non-credibly-accused-of-sexual-assault majority of the Court) would adhere to this interpretative tool, even if it led the justices in a direction they might not individually agree with. Or, as another former Maryland resident put it, “A man gotta have a code.”

As the late gabagool himself liked to say, “the text is the law.” When the text is clear, we’re done—legislative intent or real-world consequences be damned. For Gorsuch, the text of Title VII was clear, even if the logical progression of it could result in “massive social upheaval” (whatever that would look like). The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination “on the basis of . . . sex.” Firing somebody for “traits or actions” that don’t conform to societal norms about their genetically assigned sex is discrimination on the basis of sex. That's it. Now let’s all tap elbows and go home and crank through five episodes of Queer Eye and celebrate RBG as the progressive icon we want her to be but not the employer she actually is

What is heartening for me about Gorsuch’s opinion is its intellectual consistency. It means that liberal and progressive causes aren’t dead on arrival at the Supreme Court; they just need to have a persuasive textual hook. Granted, textualism has serious limits, may be based on a flawed and inherently conservative premise, and can lead to plenty of illiberal rulings in the future. And just because you self-satisfiedly tout yourself as a textualist while you steal Merrick Garland’s seat doesn’t mean you’ll have the testicular fortitude to adhere to that doctrine when the rubber meets the road. 

But, for the moment at least, Gorsuch has demonstrated something that the Court often appears to lack: a willingness to keep its legal philosophy consistent in the face of results that the justices themselves may not approve of.

We’ve been playing in the same court. Now it feels like maybe we’re all playing by the same set of rules. 
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