Sunday, April 24, 2011

Earth Lines

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ATLANTA, GA – This past Friday residents all over the United States celebrated the 41st Earth Day. This year’s theme was A Billion Acts of Green calling on people all over the country to make modest changes to their daily routines for the good of the environment -- like, for instance, drying your laundry outside on a clothes line rather than using an electric dryer. According to Project Laundry List, 80 percent of American households have dryers in their homes and millions more use them in apartment building laundry rooms or coin-operated laundromats. Just to put this in a more international perspective only four percent of Italy’s population have dryers in their homes. Clothes lines are the norm over there.

But using clothes lines in America is more difficult than one might think because over the better part of the last three decades many apartment, community, homeowner, and neighborhood associations have banned them. Why? I mean, how are clothes lines hurting anyone? Well, in America many think they hurt neighborhoods because they are too ‘ghetto’ or ‘trailer trash’, even though drying your laundry this way is a very green practice. To be sure, the presence of a clothes line is often seen as a sign that the neighborhood is going down hill and taking property values with it. The origins of this irrational and ridiculous perspective date back to the 1950's when only affluent households could afford dryers. As dryers became more affordable in subsequent decades, the clothes line became stigmatized.

Many of us who grew up in the 1970's fondly remember clothes lines. They were great places to play tag or hide and seek. And your clothes always smelled so fresh. I also very warmly associate clothes lines with my Irish grandmother. I spent a few years of my childhood living near London and I always knew we were getting close to her immigrated home in Liverpool when you could see the long rows of clothes lines from the train. At the end of one row she would be out there waving us into town. No one had a dryer there. In fact, they didn’t even have heat. But the ‘green’ practice of taking a hot water bottle to bed to put at your feet escaped the stigmatized fate of the clothes line.

Fortunately the tides are turning for clothes lines in America. A number of states including Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Utah and Vermont, have enacted laws to protect residents’ rights to use clothes lines. Let’s hope other states follow suit. Using a clothes line is as green as it gets, and one small way people from all walks of life can pitch in for a healthier earth. So the next time your see a clothes line think green not ghetto -- and consider using one outside your home.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter . You can contact her at

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Maximum Segregation

Posted by David Warford, PALESTINIAN SECTOR, BETHLEHEM – Segregation is present in cities all over the world. But these days few compare to the extreme segregation of Palestine. In fact the biggest obstacle I experienced traveling between Palestine and Israel was the 20-foot cement wall that separates the two countries – a wall that could easily be mistaken for one housing a maximum security prison. The purpose of the wall is to keep the Palestinians out of Israel. Israeli guards are everywhere. There are many checkpoints through which Palestinians are permitted to pass so they can get to their jobs. However, knowing which checkpoint will be open at any given time is very difficult to gauge. Each checkpoint’s hours are unreliable and constantly changing, making the daily ordeal of this passage for all the ordinary Palestinian citizens whose livelihoods depend on it, even more dehumanizing.

On the Palestinian side the wall is covered with graffiti -- graffiti that expresses the frustrations and anguish of living in a caged city where no one can come and go freely. My own experience there was both scary and humbling. I can’t imagine what it is like to have to live in maximum segregation everyday of your life.

David Warford, Jr. is a graduating Psychology major at Georgia State University. He can be reached at

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mammy Isn't Me

Posted by Lindsey Claud, PITTSBURGH, PA – The Strip District is Pittsburgh’s hip hub and a major tourist attraction. It’s a lively place lined with independent stores, cool eateries, and lots of people. One store particularly caught my eye because through its big glass windows you could see a beautiful, colorful mosaic of blown glass wind chimes and figurines suspended from the ceiling. The front of the store did not displease – it was filled with all sorts or lovely, handcrafted knick knacks. But the back had something far less appealing: Mammy dolls. A Mammy is a slave woman who works in the kitchen cooking food for her white owners. Her hair is always tied in a wrap, her attitude is always jolly, and her skin is always as black as night. Popular culture might know her better as Aunt Jemima.  I was with my sister and the sight Mammy stopped us in our tracks. Why would a store filled with beautiful stuff have Mammy dolls? We asked the cashier. He had no idea. All he knew was that the Mammy dolls were actually piggy banks and the only way to get at the coins you put in is to smash them. “Perhaps they were made in China,” he said. He knew nothing about what a Mammy symbolized and how disrespectful and mocking the dolls are to African American people and our history. Well, that day he found out. He listened and shrugged, telling us that the Mammies weren’t selling very well anyway. Mammy may not stigmatize our culture the same way it did before the Civil Rights Movement, but the fact that the dolls in this store were meant to be smashed and shattered speaks to the hidden racism that remains in our ‘color blind’ society. To some the Mammy is not a big deal anymore, but to me it signifies the long way we have come, and the long way we still have to go.

Lindsey Claud is a junior at Georgia State University. She is majoring in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in Race and Urban Studies. Lindsey can be reached at

Sunday, April 3, 2011

City for Rent

Posted by Deirdre Oakley, ATLANTA, GA – Recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau has left city officials in Atlanta very puzzled. As Thomas Wheatley reported in Creative Loafing  last month the Census Bureau’s 2009 population projection turned out to be off by about 80,000 people. According to the US2010 Project, data released by the Census in mid-March put the city’s population at 420,003 up from 416,474 in 2000 -- a mere 3,529 more residents. This is a far cry from the 500,000 estimate released in 2009. So what happened? Some are blaming inflated Census Bureau estimates while others point to the pervasive mortgage fraud that subsequently led to one of the worst foreclosure crises in Atlanta's history. A city tour seems to point to the latter. Gentrifying, poor, and working class neighborhoods alike appear to be increasingly vacant. Empty luxury lofts litter the more high-end neighborhoods, while boarded up and deteriorating single family homes are plentiful in the poor and working class communities. Then there are all the closed, graffiti-tagged businesses. To be sure,  “For Rent”, “For Sale”, "Available", and “Foreclosed” signs are obnoxiously abundant all around the city. What ever the cause, it's likely to be examined by state demographers, city officials, and academics for quite some time. But one thing is certain: deregulation of the mortgage industry played a major role, and while we can not definitively say “Capitalism Did This”, it’s clear that something went very wrong which should make free market, anti-regulation enthusiasts take pause. Why? Well for one thing we now have a city for rent. The first month is free. We need the tenants.

Deirdre Oakley is an Associate professor of Sociology at Georgia State University and the Editor of Social Shutter. You can contact her at To view more photographs from "City for Rent" log on to our Facebook page.