Snarky, informed and witty I respect. Ignorant, petty and patronizing? Not so much so

So we’re going to start with Lauren Ober writing in the 7 Days blog:

The Associated Press reported that Aldrich’s refusal to barber the patron – Dr. Darryl Fisher, of Taos, N.M. – sparked a demonstration by people who claimed his denial of service was racially motivated.

Except that… it didn’t.  The piece she links doesn’t say anything at all about those of us who were at the demonstration making any claims, and there was actually a lot of fairly careful discussion about that at the demonstration itself.  Most of us were very clear that we weren’t accusing the barber of racism, but were concerned about someone having developed the sense that the town was racist and trying to figure out how best to address that.  But hey, why stick to the facts when you can just make stuff up as you go along, such as:

It is entirely possible that Aldrich is, in fact, a racist who didn’t want to cut Fisher’s hair because he doesn’t like people of color. If that’s the case, I best not be defending the guy. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Aldrich is a stand-up guy who loves all people regardless of color, creed, political persuasion or sexual proclivity. Then this story makes a lot more sense.

The piece I just quoted was posted yesterday (Wednesday, November 10th) at 8:30 am.  Let’s take a moment and enter the Wayback machine to go back two days to the Brattleboro Reformer, reporting on Aldrich’s own comments (since Reformer writer Jaime Cone actually talked to people involved and did some actual work here):

He also seems angry that Fisher spoke out about what happened.

“What does he have to go stirring this up for?” he said, adding that he believes black people are more racist than white people.

But yes, even though Aldrich is on record making a bigoted comment about blacks, the story “makes a lot more sense” if we just “assume for the sake of argument” otherwise.

If you think I’m done with this, you’re sadly mistaken.

Ober, not satisfied with making mocking comments about those of us attending the demonstration (“Oh, you gotta love Vermont and its knee-jerk PCness. Well done, white people, for making a fuss about something you know nothing about – black hair.”), also decides that in order to support her position, she’ll just make some stuff up:

Aldrich, like 99.9 percent of white hair stylists, doesn’t know how to cut black hair.

99.9%?  So if we randomly pulled out 1,000 white hair stylists, only one of them would know how to cut black hair?  Why not 99.93%?  Why not 97.24%?  Why 99.9%  Because that’s the number you use when you are making things up out of whole cloth to express a vast majority.  

Oh, and:

That’s understandable, since he lives in Bellows Falls, a town of 3000 white people and 11 black people.

Let’s back that statistic up for a moment.  The source she uses for it is here.

It’s accurate that Bellows Falls is estimated to have had around 3,000 residents in 2009.  But the number of blacks listed is from ten years ago.  If you’re reporting on demographics that small, you should probably, for accuracy’s sake, indicate the age of your numbers.  But I will give her credit for not just making the number up.  It’s true that in y2k, the census did report 11 black people in Bellows Falls.  I just don’t know that that number is quite so accurate in 2010 and would think it would be useful to include the fact.

If at this point, you think I’m being picky, you’re right.  I’m annoyed at this piece which attempts to simplify and dismiss something serious and I’m  particularly not fond of white people trying to pretend that racism is irrelevant, meaningless or that responses to it are just PC.  

So yes, I’m being picky.  I’m also doing something that Ms. Ober clearly chose not to do in this case: I’m being thorough.

It’s clear from the accumulated evidence that Aldrich doesn’t know how to cut the hair of black people and, it seems clear, that he doesn’t care to know.  But that doesn’t mean that others are equally ignorant.  If Ms. Ober had bothered to do some research before writing this piece she might have learned from the Brattleboro Commons (in which Allison Teague actually learned some facts about the situation before choosing to write about it):

Lori Brown, owner of Boccaccio’s hair salon in Bellows Falls, said, “We are all trained to cut any kind of hair whether you’re African American, Caucasian or Indian,” she said.

I guess that, given Lauren Ober’s statistics, that’s probably it for the state of Vermont for white stylists who know anything about black hair.  But hey, she knows more about this than we do, because even though she didn’t attend the demonstration, didn’t talk to anyone involved with it, doesn’t know what actually happened, and feels comfortable just making things up out of whole cloth, she did have a black roommate in college.  

So forget everything I said.  I’ll just defer to her on this.

21 thoughts on “Snarky, informed and witty I respect. Ignorant, petty and patronizing? Not so much so

  1. So, assuming Aldrich is an upstanding human, it sort of makes sense that he would plead ignorance regarding black hair. And maybe it’s just as well for Fisher. I’m sure he didn’t want some whitey brush cut, anyway.

    –From 7 Days.

    So assuming Aldrich wanted to be upstanding toward another human, he could have pleaded ignorance. HE DIDN’T

    Mr. Aldrich lied to Dr. Fischer because Dr. Fischer is black and he did not want to cut his hair.

    Mr. Aldrich claimed there was no barber on the premises and sent Dr. Fischer away. He did not plead ignorance although that turned out to be his rational after he was called on his conduct upon seeing a black person enter his shop. There was nothing upstanding about treating Dr. Fischer the way he did because of his skin color, or any other reason.

  2. If the original incident reflected badly on Vermont’s environment for diversity; her piece only served to exaggerate the damage.   Just because it’s a blog doesn’t mean the writer has no responsibility for sourcing her facts and engaging her stupid-check neurons before hitting “save.”

  3. I’m intrigued by the idea of having a DISCUSSION at a DEMONSTRATION.  Can you explain how that worked? From the “news” reports, one has the impression of people carrying signs, etc., and while that’s an effective declaration of ideas, it usually doesn’t further exploratory conversation. How was the discussion part organized?

    Did you feel that any news organization covered the discussion content of the demonstration thoroughly? Are there plans for more discussions? I’m curious, for example, as to whether local merchants are working with Mr. Aldrich to help him understand that his beliefs are his to hold but his actions harmed a whole community. Or is there a coalition of local hairdressers and barbers that might want to address this? Focusing on the community’s need to be viewed as a respectful, welcoming place sounds like a positive approach, and I hope efforts in that direction can get fair and thorough coverage.

  4. for bringing this to the forefront.

    And, many thanks to the individual for eye-opener & pointing out the bigotry that still exists in places everywhere, even in VT as well as taking it public. Will never know if it had happened before.

    The town leaders should do something to make amends. If Mike was in fact truthful, should make this known & clear to the man w/apology himself if he hasn’t already.

    I won’t hold my breath.

    When I read the blog post, I was aware it was a quite obvious whitewash, no pun intended.

    This story brings together all the information so it is easier to see more clearly the audacity & sheer ridiculousness of blog post. It is up there w/now infamous ‘poll’.

    Something in the water over there?

    If it were me & I truly didn’t feel comfortable providing a service (I once had a cosmetologist refuse to do a spiral perm b/c she didn’t like to do them), I would have offered a complimentary free service & even called another shop.

    Boccacios should hopefully get alot of new business for Lori knowing her job.

    Author also curiously avoided, I think, the two comments Aldrich made, about his opinions on black people & racism as well as being irked @ his complaint, which told the true story. Those dang Freudian slips do it every time.

    His place nothing but a hangout for the local-yokels anyways, so it likely won’t hurt him. Many have already come forward in letter box & online w/their deplorable comments.

  5. Over on the 7days blog referenced above Odum mockingly referenced Vermont as being post-racial.  I’m actually beginning to think that we’re unenlightened enough about race that we can start calling ourselves “pre-racial”

  6. has stated he has never had to wait to get his hair cut when he goes there.

    I have spoken with a customer. I asked:

    – when he goes to get his hair cut, if owner Mike Aldrich is playing cribbage does he have to wait, he said ‘no Mike gets right up’.

    – if he has ever seen anyone ever have to wait while Mike plays cribbage. He said ‘no’.

    Although this is only persons account I see no reason for the individual to give false information.

    I see no reason for things to change from customer to customer.

    Someone wrote a letter to the Reformer editor who also claims to be a customer & stated it was common knowledge that when Mike is plating cribbage anyone who comes in has to wait, is patently false.

    Though on its merits comment was suspect, also completely ludicrous b/c those who own a business & make their living this way would not be in business very long if this were a practice at all let alone a common practice.

  7. …when us white folk get our flaxen locks cut there?

    I’m thinking Rush, or Laura Ingram, or O’Reilly, or Hannity, or Savage, or Howie Carr (Doob’s favorite), or the similar sound of some local yokel (Paul Beaudry needs a job!)…

    Black racism and reverse racism are constant memes on their shows..

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