Should You Have to Pay Taxes for Issues You Disagree With?

safe of money

Our Third Rail question of the week delves into politics: Should you be able to withhold taxes for issues you disagree with? Email us or comment below with your thoughts.

OZY asked Gloria Steinem about the time she withheld taxes that would have gone to fund the Vietnam War — and whether it could be an important protest tactic of the future. In her own words, with some editing for clarity:

There have been tax revolts throughout history. I remember going to the War Resisters League to research ours. We withheld the percentage of our taxes that would have gone to the Vietnam War. We accepted the government-estimated cost to taxpayers of the Vietnam War and gave people the choice of (a) deducting the then-new 10 percent add-on for Vietnam, or (b) adding this to the 23 percent that was already going to the Vietnam War.

Though the IRS eventually took the money we withheld out of our bank accounts, none of us received the one year in prison and/or up to $10,000 in fines that section 7201 of the Internal Revenue Code can impose for willfully refusing to pay federal income taxes. Of the 421 signers of the Writers and Editors War Tax Protest ads we took out in the The New York Times and elsewhere, not one was prosecuted or sentenced. The collection process alone had a nuisance value and was a way of voting when there was no other. Also, the text of our ad made the argument against the war, and invited others to join us. Despite a Freedom of Information Act request to find out how many people deducted the percentage going to the Vietnam War, I don’t know that there was any response. 

The pro–Vietnam War forces legislated where our taxes went and rarely informed voters of their impact on either Vietnamese or U.S. lives. Today is similar. If people knew the consequences of refusing federal funds to poor women dependent on Medicaid for legal abortions and could withhold their taxes, I believe the other side would lose.

Currently, withholding taxes would make even more sense because the problem is less what our tax dollars are going for than what they are not going for. Instead of keeping the money, we would send it to, say, Planned Parenthood or Head Start or libraries or public schools, thus benefiting those programs. 

There are always three crucial keys to this or any other civil disobedience: nonviolence, knowing the penalty and being willing to pay it.

Let us know what you think. Should you be allowed to withhold taxes for issues you disagree with? Comment below or email thirdrail@ozy.com.

* We have amended the question from its original wording to make it clear that there is a legal penalty to such an action.

The Hidden Treasure of Wine Country: Craft Spirits

Whisky

Swirling a glass of pinot noir against a backdrop of lush Sonoma vineyards … the California dream, right? Sure, wine is pretty damn fabulous, but sometimes, perhaps, you’d rather be sipping on fine spirits. Turns out, you can do that in wine country. According to the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, Sonoma County has experienced a surge of new craft distilleries within the past several years — reaching 13 by 2015. Not all of them are open to the public, but here are a few to wet your whistle.

Spirit Works Distillery

Spirit Works Distillery

Source Courtesy of Julie Albin

If you’re into cocktail joints, you’ve likely noticed Spirit Works’ sloe gin on the backbar. A highly aromatic red liqueur made with gin and sloe (blackthorn) berries, this traditional U.K. spirit is distilled by owners Timo and Ashby Marshall, who opened the distillery in 2013. Located at the Barlow outdoor market in Sebastopol, Spirit Works offers distillery tours to educate patrons on how the spirits are produced, from grain to glass. Back in the tasting room, sample their vodka, gin, whiskey and sloe gin — most of which begin with California-grown, organic red winter wheat. Interesting fact: Spirit Works is run by mostly women. “It is important for women in the spirits industry to remain visible so that any woman interested in entering it knows there is a place for her,” says head distiller Lauren Patz.

Open: Wednesday through Sunday, 11–5. Tours offered at 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. 
Tasting Fee: $5–$20  
Address: Spirit Works Distillery, 6790 McKinley St. #100, Sebastopol, California 

Prohibition Spirits

Prohibition Spirits

Source Courtesy of Julie Albin

Fred and Amy Groth got into the spirits business in 2008, after falling for limoncello while traveling in Italy. Back in the U.S., the couple relocated to California and began making their very own, award-winning limoncello di Sonoma, which balances ripe lemon characters and refreshing acidity. Prohibition Spirits also produces three types of gin, both unaged and aged brandies distilled from local fruit, Italian-style liqueurs like figcello and nocino, and other spirits. Their new tasting room at Cornerstone Sonoma has the rustic-glam factor common to wine country these days: charcoal-gray walls and chandeliers juxtaposed with bright metal barstools in an industrial space. In addition to being a tasting room and retail shop, the airy space is an entrance to Sunset Test Gardens, where you can wander the maze-like trail of fresh herbs, flowers and abstract art fixtures.

Open: Daily, 10–5
Tasting Fee: $10 for 6 spirits 
Address: Prohibition Spirits, 23570 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, California

 

Sonoma County Distilling

Fancy yourself a whiskey connoisseur? Since 2010, Sonoma County Distilling’s proprietor, Adam Spiegel, has been using direct-fire copper pot stills to produce his six small-batch whiskeys: a wheat whiskey, two rye whiskeys and three “West of Kentucky” bourbons. Mentored by master distiller Hubert Germain-Robin, Spiegel employs traditional distilling methods used in Kentucky houses, and creates spirits with non-GMO and organic California grains and spring water from the Sierra Nevada. While tasting the whiskeys, you’ll also pick up on the coastal influences of western Sonoma County. Tours take you through each stage of the whiskey-making process, from mashing to barrel aging. And if you’re the lucky one nominated as designated driver for your crew, your tour is free. “Being a distiller among a world-famous wine region is humbling and motivating,” Spiegel says. 

Open: Wednesday through Sunday, 11–5. Tours by appointment Thursday through Sunday. 
Tasting Fee: $10 for six spirits, $20 for tour, tasting and souvenir whiskey glass  
Address: Sonoma County Distilling, 5625 State Farm Dr., Unit 18, Rohnert Park, California

Sonoma Brothers Distilling

Sometimes, the best things come in twos. Twin brothers and Sonoma natives Chris and Brandon Matthies welcome guests to their tasting room in Windsor to sample flagship spirits, including vodka, gin, bourbon and rye whiskey. You may also have a chance to taste their apple brandy, a limited-production spirit made from local fruit; white whiskey (unaged whiskey, aka moonshine); and their soon-to-be-released grape brandy — all using non-GMO grains. “Even if we had millions of dollars to market our spirits, we believe that our spirits should be made from grain to glass in our facility,” says Chris. If you’re lucky, you might get to meet the adorable distillery dogs, Max and Bailey, during your visit. 

Open: Monday through Thursday by appointment, Fridays and Saturdays, 10–5
Tasting Fee: $5 for 6 spirits (waived with bottle purchase) 
Address: Sonoma Brothers Distilling, 7759 Bell Rd., Windsor, California

Hanson of Sonoma

If you’d rather stick to white spirits, small-batch vodka distillery Hanson of Sonoma plans to open a new tasting room in the town of Sonoma this summer, where they’ll offer a range of organic vodkas, including ginger, mandarin, cucumber, boysenberry and espresso.

If you’re up for some power-tasting, it’s possible to fit a visit to all of these distilleries in one day. But if you prefer sampling at a more leisurely pace, spend the night in either Santa Rosa or Petaluma and continue your tasting tour the following day.   

The Capital of America’s Deadliest Drug Problem

drugs on table

Cars crowd the parking lot outside the Life Enrichment Center in Dayton, Ohio. Inside, a hundred people sprawl around tables, snacking on veggie straws and cookies. 

Almost everyone gathered at the Families of Addicts meeting is white, but otherwise it’s a diverse group: toddlers, teenagers, parents; graying and blond, brunette and pink-haired. They speak. Mr. 104-Days-Clean, who does it for his girlfriend. The mother supporting her 38-year-old son, who has overdosed five times but is recovering. The foster kid who is grateful that his mother is gone, “overdosed from a life of abusement,” he says, sitting next to his foster mother, who has since shown him a better life. Despite the different tales of how they got here, everyone shares one common trait: creased, worn eyes. This is a city of tired eyes.

Last year Ohio had the nation’s highest number of overdose deaths related to heroin and opioids. And according to the Montgomery County coroner’s office:

Dayton had 355 overdose deaths in 2016, leading to the highest rate among the state’s major cities.

The stats fit the anecdotal evidence. In February, Dayton coroners reported that they were running out of room for bodies left in the wake of the opioid crisis. It was declared the most drugged-out city in America – with more than 50 deaths per 100,000 people in a single year in an analysis by ArrestRecords.com using state and federal data from 2014. For Ohio, though, the Gem City is merely the standard-bearer for a statewide problem: Cincinnati (sixth) and Toledo (10th) also made the inauspicious list released last fall.

 

What makes Dayton an epicenter for opioids? High unemployment, the decline of manufacturing and geography all are factors, policy experts say. While the rest of the nation is gripped in the throes of a heroin problem, Ohio has moved on to darker and more powerful drugs. First, fentanyl, then carfentanil and — now that addicts have developed a tolerance even for elephant tranquilizers — a drug nicknamed “gray death” that authorities warn can kill with a single dose and is unsafe to merely touch. The synthetic mix of three opiates is crafted on the Pacific coast of Mexico, passes through El Paso, Texas, and follows Interstate 75 up to … Dayton, a natural trading post for the rest of the Midwest and Northeast.

“We no longer have a heroin epidemic in the state of Ohio,” says state Rep. Robert Sprague, a leader on laws trying to stem the body count. “We have a fentanyl epidemic.” 

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the opioid-related death rate in Dayton. In 2014 it was more than 50 opioid-related deaths per 100,000. 

How Trash Talk Could Change the Outcome of the NBA Finals

LeBron James and Draymond Green

In the end, it was a female-canine analogy and an ill-placed fist to LeBron James’ nether regions that swayed the 2016 NBA Finals in the Cavaliers’ favor. Draymond Green, it seemed, had miscalculated his trash talk.

During a scuffle late in Game 4, the Warriors’ do-it-all forward found himself on the ground and being stepped over, so he swiped up at James’ midsection (and uttered that choice word — twice). Green was suspended for Game 5, and the rest is history: Cleveland completed a historic three-game comeback to capture the city’s first NBA championship.

With a finals trilogy between the teams set to commence on June 1, Green is back under watchful eyes. And while Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Co. versus LeBron James and Kyrie Irving will result in the finest offensive counterpunching that fans could ask for, the league’s most excitable trash talker could decide the series. If Green can goad James and the Cavaliers into a poor showing or two, Golden State will have ample space to pull away. But LeBron is no easy nut to crack. To truly break the man who just passed Michael Jordan on the all-time NBA playoff-scoring list, Green may have to cross the line of acceptable behavior in today’s NBA. The question is: Where is that line, and how did it change?

Hearing what guys are complaining about, of course trash talk is softer. Guys are friendlier, more sensitive today.

Chris Webber, five-time NBA All-Star

“I hate that label,” Hall of Fame point guard and NBA TV analyst Isiah Thomas tells OZY, upset by the mere mention of trash talk. “Verbal skills used to be a positive in a player’s game — a unique way to disrupt the opponent’s game plan.” Thomas, a 12-time All-Star who led the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons to championships in 1989 and 1990, says that the best players of his era — from Jordan to Bird to Payton to himself — separated themselves by “mentally, physically and verbally” dominating the opposition. “Now that art form has deteriorated into a negative aspect of sport.”

 

Green is a throwback to past eras when mental terrorism was par for the course. He’s not the only current NBA player to run his mouth, but his immense skill and unsettling verbal barbs make him the best of a dying breed. Chris Webber, five-time All-Star and current NBA analyst on TNT, questions the toughness of today’s players. “Hearing what guys are complaining about, of course trash talk is softer,” Webber says. “Guys are friendlier, much more sensitive today.”

James complained to the media following his altercation with Green last June, and Green was suspended. The Warriors were quick to point out that LeBron’s public airing of grievances was a violation of the unwritten players’ code, with forward Klay Thompson telling reporters, “We’ve all been called plenty of bad words. Some guys just react to it differently.” But who’s to say that Green deserved to go unpunished? Today, the move was par for the course for a league filled with increasingly connected and exponentially exposed stars.

 

ESPN analyst and 16-year NBA veteran Jalen Rose credits the league’s efforts to rid the game of excessive physical play, plus a generation of cross-platform athletes who are mindful of what they say and how they say it. “A player can thump his chest and talk trash, but ultimately physical intimidation has been taken out of the game,” Rose tells OZY. “We have social media, cameras everywhere and microphones on the floor. We understand that nothing is out of bounds.” 

Of course, digitization isn’t the only factor in a changing of the guard. On ESPN’s NBA Countdown in February, recently retired NBA legend Paul Pierce said that AAU basketball — the new path to glory for nearly every young prospect — has “killed trash talking.” In Pierce’s estimation, the close-knit circuit in which young players across the country all know each other has eliminated trash talk for young basketball players.

Jaron Blossomgame won’t comment on past eras, but his recent exploits in college and at the NBA draft combine reflect the mindset of today’s young players. Blossomgame, who just completed a stellar four-year career at Clemson and hopes to be a first-round pick on June 22, says that the better the talent, the less trash he hears. “Throughout the course of a [college] season, a few guys will say something crazy,” Blossomgame says. “But you don’t hear much from the stars. They understand that everyone’s watching.” 

At the NBA combine in mid-May, banter was sparse. “I honestly can’t remember one bit of trash being talked,” Blossomgame says. “It’s more of a business setting. You’ve got GMs and scouts all around, and teams really look into character when they’re drafting nowadays.” Blossomgame says that players enter the league knowing that their image is being carefully critiqued.

For the boundary-pushers, though, basketball’s current lack of renegades presents an interesting opportunity. Consider the curious case of the Ball family. Lonzo, a presumed top-three pick in this year’s draft, is rarely heard from — on or off the court. Instead, the patriarch, Lavar, acts as the hype man, stirring up controversy and promoting the family apparel company, Big Baller Brand. Ball senior’s ability to create a news cycle via public trash talking could become commonplace in the new era of sports promotion.

Some gritty stalwarts of old-school, on-court derogation — like Green and Houston’s Patrick Beverley — remain, sent to remind LeBron of his few inadequacies at every opportunity. “This is still sports — it’s not for the faint of heart,” Webber says. “There are guys who are weak-minded. Draymond wants to find them and gauge what kind of night it’s going to be.”

The Noblewoman Who Tried to Poison the Pope

Caterina Sforza

Meet the badass women that history forgot — but we didn’t. Check out the rest of this OZY series here.

Mothers are often vilified for putting themselves first, and for making questionable parenting decisions. We can all probably agree, though, that leaving your children in enemy hands as hostages is not good parenting. Nor is hiking up your skirts and screaming that you don’t care whether or not they kill your kids because you can make more babies.

Meet Caterina Sforza, of the aforementioned skirts, children and fearlessness. The skirt-hiking anecdote, recounted by Machiavelli, is believed by many scholars to be apocryphal. It’s more likely that the pregnant Sforza told the rebels who had assassinated her husband that they could kill her children too if they liked, because, once born, the baby in her womb would grow up and exact revenge. But Machiavelli’s version is certainly more dramatic — not that Sforza’s life ever lacked for drama.

“The legend of Caterina Sforza began during her life.… She shaped her public persona,” says Joyce de Vries, author of Caterina Sforza and the Art of Appearances. “One of the dominant themes in her legend is that she is the exception that proves the rule.” Sforza’s brazen wielding of political, military and sexual power made her a legend in her own time.

Cardinals were arriving to attend the pope’s funeral, but they didn’t want to enter the city for fear of being bombarded by Sforza.

Sforza was born in Italy, in 1463, the illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, duke of Milan. Raised as part of the duke’s family, the 15-year-old Sforza was married off to Girolamo Riario, nephew of Pope Sixtus IV and, by most accounts, something of a wastrel. But being the pope’s nephew was nothing to sneeze at, and the couple lived prosperously in Rome for the next decade, until the death of Pope Sixtus, in 1484, and with it the end of their security and position. 

Sforza was seven months pregnant at the time — she and her husband had five children already — but that didn’t stop her from riding horseback, allegedly in full armor, and occupying the city’s papal fortress, Castel Sant’Angelo. Cardinals were arriving to attend the pope’s funeral, but they didn’t want to enter the city for fear of being bombarded by Sforza, who refused to leave until she could give the fortress to the new pope. The cardinals had to guarantee her husband control of the cities of Imola and Forli and offer a huge ransom before she relented, allowing them to meet and elect the church’s next leader.

Sforza and her husband then moved to Forli, where his lackluster governance of the city — he had already been the town’s hapless lord — grew even worse. He levied huge taxes, sparking a revolution, and was slashed to death by a group of nine assassins. Sforza had just enough time to send for help, telling her chief castle guard to refuse to surrender, before she was taken prisoner alongside her mother and children. When her captors paraded her in front of the Rocca di Ravaldino and made her beg her chief castle guard to give in, he knew she didn’t mean it. Finally, Sforza, her captors and her guard agreed: He would surrender the fortress after meeting with Sforza first — if she tried any funny business, her captors would kill her children. Once Sforza got into the castle, her skirt-lifting antics — which scholars agree were likely exaggerated to make her seem particularly heartless — began, and she refused to leave. With the help of a powerful uncle, she defeated the rebels, and her children survived.

Caterina Sforza

Caterina Sforza, warrior noblewoman extraordinaire.  

Source Mansell / Getty

Sforza took revenge in the customary way, imprisoning the conspirators, their families and their allies. But her second marriage — which included a secret wedding to Giacomo Feo, the brother of her chief castle guard — ended with Feo’s assassination. To get back at her second husband’s killers, Sforza threw out the rules of revenge, ordering the torture and execution of the conspirators and their wives, mistresses and children.

Her third marriage, to Giovanni de Medici, was reportedly also for love. After another secret wedding, and their only child born eight months later, de Medici died of gout. A territorial dispute with Cesare Borgia saw Sforza, now alone, going into battle against the legendary Italo-Spanish family — an association that’s seen her featured in the Showtime series The Borgias and Assassin’s Creed video games — and landing temporarily in prison, in 1499, in Castel Sant’Angelo, the same fortress she had held by force just 15 years earlier. After 18 months, during which she was accused of trying to kill the pope with plague-contaminated letters, Sforza was freed, whereupon she spent years fighting for her third husband’s inheritance and custody of their son, both of which she won. 

Many public figures retire and devote themselves to a hobby, and Sforza was no exception — but it was perhaps this part of her dramatic life that would offer the most staying power. Sforza holed up in her house writing The Experiments, a text on alchemy that is still considered important to the history of pharmacology. Alchemy was her forte — her recipes were part of a massive trend, mostly marketed to women, of devising recipes for cosmetics, medicines and alchemical “secrets” supposedly passed down by noblewomen, according to Meredith K. Ray in Daughters of Alchemy.  

Don’t turn to Sforza for parenting advice, then, but if you want a recipe for counterfeit gold, or the secrets to restoring the dead to life, you know whose work to consult.

Meet Black Coffee, Africa’s First Superstar DJ

Black coffee 2 111 1aa

Like a shot of espresso, when Black Coffee took the stage at the Knockdown Center in Queens, New York, he energized the crowd. From the first song, “Child,” by George FitzGerald, the vocals echoed and the underlying percussion ricocheted from one body to the next. He built the energy with sounds from his native South Africa, playing soulful dance tunes from Black Motion, his own ethereally groovy “I’ll Find You” and ending the performance with the steady tech-house banger “Y.O.U.D.” by Culoe De Song. It was a short set, a café cortito. But he hit the crowd with musical caffeine.

Black Coffee — real name: Nkosinathi Maphumulo — is Africa’s first superstar DJ. Part producer, part house music evangelist, Maphumulo, 41, escaped the doomed label of “world music” and today describes his sound as “Afropolitan”: It’s influenced by rhythms of South African villages and sophisticated urban soul. You hear touches of jazz and modern dance beats. “He’s the mack daddy of South African DJs and South African house music. He’s our DJ Khaled,” says South African singer Bandile. He’s spun at top-flight festivals Coachella and Ultra. Black Coffee’s last album, Pieces of Me, went platinum. And last year Maphumulo won a BET award, becoming the first South African artist to do so. 

Born in Durban, Maphumulo grew up in Mthatha, in the Eastern Cape — a township he describes as a quiet thief that stole hope and robbed people of ambition, not through oppression, but through the quiet normalization of poverty. Despite his surroundings, Maphumulo dreamed of international stardom and loved the arts. He sang in choir, studied music and, while still young, created his own playlists on cassettes.

He’s focused on taking South Africa’s music and Afropolitan sound mainstream.

But Maphumulo’s life took an unfortunate turn on February 11, 1990, the same day his country’s dreams were being realized. Then 13-year-old Maphumulo was celebrating the release of Nelson Mandela from a 27-year imprisonment when someone drove a minivan into a crowd. Maphumulo was hit, and he lost use of his left arm. He relearned how to tie his shoes and then learned how to DJ and drive a car one-handed. He poured himself into music, taking classes and singing. Soon, he enrolled in the school now known as the Durban University of Technology to study jazz. 

At the university, Maphumulo had his first shot at stardom in SHANA (Simply Hot and Naturally African), an Afro-pop group he formed with fellow music students Mnqobi Mdabe and Thandukwazi “Demor” Sikhosana. The trio combined contemporary soul music with traditional African tunes over electronic grooves. South African pop queen Busi Mhlongo introduced the young men to Robert Trunz, famed Swiss producer and label owner of M.E.L.T. 2000. Trunz was impressed. “All three of them had beautiful voices,” he tells OZY. He signed them to his label in 1997. But three albums later, their career stalled. The trio was labeled a world music group — a death sentence for any musician trying to break into the mainstream. It’s fine for those who want to do a few gigs a month or hit festivals, says Maphumulo. But that wasn’t them: “We wanted the club scene.” 

DJ Black Coffee

DJ Black Coffee performs onstage during Day 1 of Coachella in 2016.

Source Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Trunz gave the 26-year-old an opportunity to produce a record by himself. Maphumulo was surprised. “I was that guy who didn’t even speak in the interview — I would just sit there nodding. It was a turning point that someone believed in me so much.” But Trunz was eager. “His early house productions were layered with a strong flavor of local music,” he recalls. It was a sturdy bet.

 

While working on his solo album, Maphumulo attended the Red Bull Music Academy in Cape Town, where he polished his production and DJ skills. In 2005, he launched his solo career with a remix of “Stimela,” a deeply political jazz and Afro-funk ballad released by Hugh Masekela in 1974, now reimagined as a modern dance hit. He released his self-titled Black Coffee debut later that year on his own label. The fresh take on dance music earned him a South African Music Award (SAMA) for best urban dance album in 2006.

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Source Courtesy of John Castillo

Shortly after making it big in his home country, Maphumulo started curating his brand abroad. His international debut was in 2007 at Sonár, Barcelona’s premier three-day electronic music and arts festival. Three years later he headlined the Soul Summit Music Festival in Brooklyn. DJ Tabu of Soul Summit remembers a “definite buzz” about Black Coffee, noting, “The crowd was euphoric.”

He grew musically as he ascended: His earlier albums were raw, stripped-down Afro-house tunes; later albums show a lush musicality. The Africa Rising CD/DVD was recorded live with a 24-piece orchestra, and Pieces of Me showed his side as an experimental musician. Now, he’s poised to have his biggest year yet. This summer the DJ and producer landed the crown jewel in any DJ’s cap: a residency in nightlife mecca Ibiza at the most highly anticipated club in years, Hï Ibiza. He’s tapped for a couple of high-profile collaborations, including with rapper Drake. (OZY caught up with him just after Drake released “Get It Together,” a remake of Black Coffee’s hit “Superman.”)

He’s focused, he says, on taking South Africa’s music and Afropolitan sound mainstream. That’s a challenge for a house producer; the genre has remained constrained, with more artists failing to crack the top 100 than not. Maphumulo is ambitious, though, and reports that 4 million people streamed Drake on the first day — far more than could hear him in the club. For DJs who make the leap to mega-producers, such high-profile collaborations are key. If Maphumulo breaks through, he’ll join the ranks of artists like Calvin Harris — but that would be a rarity.

Back in Johannesburg, a jazzy voice and soft beats float on the wind at a rooftop party. In a backyard in Soweto, a DJ delights the crowd with heavy percussion, deep bass lines and groovy melodies. On the radio during the work commute, breezy sounds loop over tribal rhythms. Kids practice new dances to rugged bass lines and steely beats. There is no shortage of hometown sounds for Maphumulo to choose from.

Is It OK to Have a Racial Preference in Dating? OZY’s Audience Weighs In

couple kissing

Last week we asked: Is it OK to have a racial preference in dating? Here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.

Ian Lane

Just the way you may have a preference for long-legged women, hairy-chested men or tall men or large-breasted women, these are nothing more than personal preferences and have nothing to do with anything negative. 

Wanda Johnson

I am a Caucasian woman who has dated Caucasian, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Black men. I think “preferences” can change throughout your lifetime, so I think it should be OK to have a preference, if you are basing that preference on attraction. The question of maintaining racial purity — be it Black or white or chartreuse — probably needs to become a thing of the past, but that statement is coming from someone who has been accused of taking a good Black man from a Black woman. I think we are all in one big melting pot, and the colors are coming out just fine.

Rebecca Johnson

I think people are looking for a partner who is in their “tribe,” and it comes down to how you identify your tribe. It could be race and religion and regional identity. But more often in modern times it can also be more related to values and worldview. So for me I’d rather date a liberal Black person than a conservative white person (probably). So why haven’t I dated a Black person? They seem too far from my tribe. That’s the short answer. Too different, physically, culturally, etc. 

Alfred Lukasek

Date who or whatever you want, purely a personal thing.

Brittany Harrington

Having a racial preference becomes a problem when you won’t even consider dating someone because of their race. That’s neither natural nor tolerable.

Chika Dunga

I am a 24-year-old first-generation Nigerian American. This question comes at an opportune time because just yesterday I had an argument with [a relative who] proclaimed that “he’s not into Black girls.” Where is he getting these messages from? I blame this toxic society that constantly emphasizes that white is the standard and Black is the last thing that should be on your mind. I find it ridiculously naive to pretend that color doesn’t matter in dating when it really does. Black men and Asian women have the highest rates of interracial dating compared to other groups. In an ideal world, interracial dating rates should be equal across all groups — but they are not. The numbers don’t quite add up. 

Honey Sunlight

I am mixed. My mom is white and my dad is Black. We’re a few other things too, but if my mom told someone she was fully white and my dad told someone he was fully Black, that someone would have no problem believing them. I’ve experienced both white and Black men fetishizing me for my skin tone, and I really don’t enjoy that feeling. But to be honest, mixed people very rarely hit on me or show romantic interest in me, at least not nearly as often or as much as Black or white men. I’m not sure why that is.

Ricoshay Bounce

I had a coworker at a previous employer tell me, “I only date Black men.” I say anyone who uses race as a qualifier is narcissistic and not a safe date.

Chrystal Hunt 

You shouldn’t write someone off purely for skin tone, but if you’re not attracted, you’re not attracted. My No. 1 preferred feature is blue eyes, which knocks out a good 80 percent of the planet anyhow.

Kenneth Paciocco

Our preferences don’t make us bad people. They just make us unique. Enough with political correctness.

Su Waldron

I have been told by Black and Asian friends that they prefer to date their own race. I personally see nothing wrong in it. I think it depends on your own feelings.

Stacey Baker

Even though it’s a simple question, I don’t think there is a yes or no answer. I think the problem arises when you will only date or refuse to date someone of a certain heritage because you assume they all share the same traits, or when you refuse to date someone of a particular ancestral heritage because you think they are beneath you; that’s the problem.

Personally, I date based on attitude and face. I like quiet, Rubenesque girls. Color of the face doesn’t matter, as long as it’s round and attached to someone shy and giggly.

Frank Thomas

If I’m a cow, why would I want to date a horse? I’ve seen gorgeous people of several races, and if beauty were the only reason for dating, I would have tried to snag one of them. Do not date someone you would not want to marry. I am not against racial marriages, but they do have their baggage, and you need to be sure.

 

The Gutsy Scottish Woman Who Climbed an African Mountain

Table Mountain

Meet the badass women that history forgot — but we didn’t. Check out the rest of this OZY series here.

When Lady Anne Barnard first set eyes on Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain in July 1797, she was instantly transfixed. A few weeks later, she resolved to go “where no white woman had ever been,” setting off early one morning with a party of European men and slaves to hike to the top. Dressing the part, she wore her husband’s trousers and tied rope around her shoes for traction.

Even today, with modern equipment and a road to the trail, hiking Table Mountain is no dawdle, but Barnard was not one to focus on negatives: “To feel the pure air raising up … gave me a sort of unembodied feeling such as I conceive the Soul to have,” she wrote, according to The Cape Journals of Lady Anne Barnard. 

At the top, after painting a few (very accomplished) watercolors and collecting specimens, she ate a hot supper of “at least a dozen snipes” and even tried the slaves’ fish curry — something she vowed never to do again, owing to its “unaccountable singularity.” Later that night, in a tent pitched at the summit, she wrote in her journal that she and her husband “found a good bed on which two hearts reposed themselves which were truly grateful for all the blessings conferred on them.” 

While she spent less than five years in South Africa, there seems to be little doubt that it was the happiest time of her life.

Born Lady Anne Lindsay in 1750, this eldest child of a Scottish Earl was raised to be a beautiful, talented — one of her ballads was set to music by Joseph Haydn — and fiercely independent woman. Her family, rich in titles but short on cash, thought they could marry her off to swell the coffers, but she had a habit of saying no to her numerous suitors. Bored by the insularity of Scotland, she moved to London and into high society; aristocrats loved how she was the life of any party. She took numerous prominent lovers before falling madly in love with William Windham, “a real bad egg who treated her terribly,” says Stephen Taylor, author of Defiance: The Life and Choices of Lady Anne Barnard. After tiring of Windham’s mental abuse, she cut things off. 

Lady Anne Barnard

Lady Anne Barnard

Source Hulton Archive/Getty

In 1791, at the height of the French Revolution, she headed across the channel to see the chaos up close before returning to London. By the time she finally married Andrew Barnard, an obscure soldier 12 years her junior, she was 43. No longer desiring life in the fast lane, she wielded her influence to land Andrew a position in far-off Cape Town.

While she spent less than five years in South Africa, it was a happy time in her life. She and Andrew were deeply in love (that they had no children was “not for want of sex,” says Taylor), and she thrived in the simple, nature-filled setting. At first, the Barnards spent a lot of time at Paradise, a small government cottage at the base of the mountain gifted to them by Lord Macartney so that they could enjoy rural life. This was typical Barnard, Taylor says. “She loved throwing parties, but she also liked getting away from it all.”

 

In 1798, the Barnards embarked on a voyage to the interior, a 700-mile trip undertaken on ox wagons, which convinced her of the Cape’s amazing potential as a bread basket — something the powers that be would not see for decades. On the trip she wrote and painted furiously, marveling at the hospitality of the Dutch farmers and at the sincerity of a church service at a simple mission station. “I doubt much whether I should have entered St. Peter’s at Rome … with a more awed impression of the deity and his presence than I did this little Church of a few feet square, where the simple disciples of Christianity dressed in the skins of animals knew no purple or fine linen, no pride … no hypocrisy.”

In 1800 the Barnards built the Vineyard, the first English country house in South Africa — now a prestigious hotel — in what were then the rural farmlands of Newlands. There she lived, keeping antelope and telling anyone who would listen about the wonders of the country until her return to London in January 1802, when control of the colony passed into Dutch hands.

Dutch rule lasted less than five years, and in 1807 Andrew Barnard returned to the Cape for a temporary posting. Anne had planned to follow, but Andrew died shortly after, aged only 47. His widow was devastated, describing it as a sorrow “not to be soon got the better of.” She even discovered that he had cheated — and conceived a daughter, Christina, with a slave woman. Instead of turning her back on his past, she again ventured down the hard road: transporting the child to London and raising her as her own. Before her own death in 1825, Anne secured Christina a good dowry, and the child married into a prominent Wiltshire farming family. “What Anne Barnard did with Christina was most extraordinary for the time and very brave,” says Taylor. “But that was who she was. She was a woman for our time, a one-off … an aristocrat and a rebel.”

The Anatomy of a Hate Crime

bloody nose

I was 86 pounds in high school. So in 7th grade, I was probably 65 or 70. Small. Wittle.

But I grew up in the projects of Boston, so I was no stranger to mean kids and ass whippings on the playground. I went to elementary school in Roxbury, south of Southie. My earliest childhood memory is an attack I received out in the projects. A kid randomly grabbed a hypodermic needle off the ground and stabbed me in the back with it. My mother was outside and he attacked me right in front of her. I was 5 years old.

My dad, who was Irish, had left when I was 2 and my mom was a tough Puerto Rican who would tell me to simply punch the bullies in their faces. I tried this. Once. This angered a particular bully who would torment me or destroy my comic books and my school books and break my pencils. He slapped me in the back of the head, so I hit him back. I was too scared to punch him in the face, and he was tall, so I think I got him in the shoulder.

Being the only white kid in the projects probably made me a target. Being small and shy made me an easy one.

He beat me up good that day. I was bleeding from my nose and mouth and he dragged me by my head to a rock on the ground and started hitting my head on the rock. I remember losing my shoe and he threw it on the roof of a building. He had to stop; we were on our way to school and had to catch the bus. He warned me if I told anybody that he had beaten me, he would kill me.

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The author, before the trials by fire.

Source Photo courtesy of David Derby/Lorraine Santiago-McPhee

I was scared and actually believed him. I was 10, and the way he beat me, I thought he was capable and willing to kill me. I got up and threw up, maybe my first concussion? I don’t know, but I was bloody. Being the only white kid in the projects probably made me a target. Being small and shy made me an easy one.

Once Whitey Bulger pulled some kids off me. The guy he was with kept saying, “You can’t let these niggers do this to ya!” I remember Whitey said, “Hey!” Told his muscle to cool it. Whitey never cussed or was racial. He asked me my name and who my parents were. Guess he knew who my father was because he called me “little Dave,” dad being “Dave.” Bulger didn’t use racial slurs; he simply said, “You gotta stand up for yourself, and you need to find better friends to play with.”

 

But I couldn’t hate Black kids for beating me up because some Black kids rescued me on more than one occasion. Once, a very popular dark-skinned girl, Trina, stood up for me. A kid punched me right in the face, blood pouring out of my nose. He loved it and hit me again, stuff was everywhere, all over my clothes, on him. She physically got in between us. He shoved her, and she shoved back. She was amazing and strong and always dressed nice. She had some older brothers, John-John and Jay-Jay, which is probably why she was tough and probably why he backed down.

I tried to go home, but she held my hand on the bus all the way to school. She gave me a hug and I wiped my nose with notebook paper. She took me to a teacher and told her what happened. Someone on the bus said I was her boyfriend, and she whacked them too.

My aunt married a military man who got stationed in North Carolina. We went there one summer to visit and my mom also met a guy, so we ended up moving to North Carolina less than a year later. From the projects of Boston, where they kicked my ass, to the trailer parks of North Carolina, where I soon discovered they’d kick my ass too.

One day I was out playing basketball in the trailer park when a rat-tailed sporting guy nicknamed “Queer Bill” made a comment. I was short and kids were teasing me. He said, “Don’t let them bug you, Dave. You’ll grow, and if you keep playing with it, it’ll grow!”

Everybody laughed. Girls laughed. And pointed. I don’t know how much I actually “played with myself,” and I’d be totally unashamed about something like this now, but at 12? I was mortified. And sick of it.

Bill had bragged that he was going out of town that weekend to Florida. He had also bragged about his belongings, stereo, whatever.

So I talked some neighborhood boys into looking out for me, and we broke into his trailer. I was so full of rage, I couldn’t steal nada. I was just breaking stuff. I did get cases of tapes — AC/DC, Ozzy, Dio, over 100 — and gave them out to the neighborhood. 

David Derby

The author. His win-loss record is now tattooed on a well-muscled torso.

Source Photo courtesy of David Derby/Briana Wine

Worst was probably his waterbed. I stabbed it like I wanted to stab him. There was a quarter-inch of water on the floor, and I broke his stereo, his mirrors. Everything. A few days later, I saw police at his house. He was on his porch, crying.

I felt bad. Then I heard him say, “Why would anyone do this?” I knew then it was useless to get revenge unless you made sure they knew the who, what and why. I can’t believe I didn’t get caught because of the tapes I handed out. But I didn’t. I would later, as an adult, do porno films to erase the notion that I had a little penis because I was a little guy. I wrestled, boxed, took karate. And I have fought mixed martial arts (MMA) professionally to erase the notion that my ass was going to be easy to kick anymore too.

But I’m sorry, Bill. Not for fucking up your shit and robbing you. But back then my mentality was “I’m so low, even the gay guy’s cracking on me,” and that’s what I’m most apologetic for. Prejudice is terrible, and this motivated the severity of my attack, and it sucks and I suck for yielding to it. 

Soon, Your Boss Will Be Watching Your Every Eye Movement — Get Ready

Eyeball

This article is NSFW — Not Safe for Work. Not because of sex or drugs or images of scantily clad women. For that, or for at least two of the three, check out my colleague’s repertoire. But if you’re at work, then under no circumstances should you be reading this article for pleasure. How dare you!

As you may know, your boss has the right to monitor your browsing history during working hours to ensure that company-issued technology is used in a productive manner. And now comes a new development that can track, monitor and optimize workers in the physical world too.

Enter the latest performance-enhancing device: eye-tracking glasses. Granted, eye-tracking tech has been around for decades within the four walls of a lab. It’s frequently used in academia for psychological studies and in software development to judge how intuitive or confusing a website is for new users. It’s only recently, though, that it’s been possible to miniaturize and integrate tracking hardware into glasses that allow wearers to freely explore the world as tiny cameras monitor every subconscious glance or iris twitch. A third front-facing camera captures the surrounding environment.

With a few fancy algorithms and some trigonometry, the glasses can output a video overlaid with a triangulated point of the wearer’s real-time gaze, explains Tom Englund, a business unit president at Sweden-based Tobii. While the glasses have been employed to test how shoppers interact with store displays, for example, the “human performance segment” — with employers using the glasses to help train or monitor workers — is a burgeoning new market, says Englund. The gizmo could lead to new workflow efficiencies, or an overreaching boss getting an even creepier level of oversight. 

We aren’t looking to make [the workers] automatons, but we are looking to make them more accurate and efficient.

Page Clinton, user experience researcher, Heavey RF 

It’s currently very difficult to manage employees whose jobs rely heavily on visual tasks. For quality assurance on an automotive production line, for example, best practices on how to inspect a paint job are “seldom documented well,” says Englund. Eye-tracking tech could be used to record and review the training of new inspectors; the Tobii exec cites companies whose training times have been reduced by two-thirds.

Indeed, companies deploying eye-tracking systems have been able to understand operations from a worker’s-eye view, allowing insights that were previously impossible. In a study of air traffic controllers conducted in conjunction with Sweden’s Linköping University, researchers found that controllers “were not observing conflicts in flight paths as they were supposed to,” says Billy Josefsson, an automation and human performance manager at LFV, the Swedish state-owned civil aviation authority. As for mistakes caused by fatigue or dwindling focus, “eye tracking is the most reliable source” for monitoring “attention capacity,” says Josefsson. The results of LFV’s tests prompted changes to the layout of display screens to more seamlessly alert air traffic controllers to incoming threats.

Tobii pro glasses 2 eye tracking air traffic controller lfv

Look out! An air traffic controller at Stockholm Arlanda Airport wears Tobii eye-tracking glasses.

Source Courtesy of Tobii AB

The eye-tracking tech is catching on in less highly skilled professions too. Heavey RF, an Irish company that develops technology and software for warehousing companies, has implemented glasses-mounted eye tracking to analyze the patterns of workers retrieving stock from shelves.

The eye-tracking tech can even provide a window into the mind by recording microchanges in pupil dilation and timing how long someone looks at a certain object. That way, the software can analyze whether the viewer is passively seeing something or actively looking and thinking about it. These so-called “cognitive workload” measures help Heavey RF design more efficient practices for warehouses participating in the eye-tracking tests. 

 

In many instances, eye-tracking studies are replacing an over-the-shoulder supervisor with clipboard, pen and paper, says Englund, which is often too disruptive to workers to yield accurate results. In a variety of professions, developing a level of almost machinelike efficiency might seem alienating, but it could be the key to surviving the trend toward complete automation. “We aren’t looking to make [the workers] automatons,” says Page Clinton, who conducted the eye-tracking research for Heavey RF, “but we are looking to make them more accurate and efficient.”

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Keep your eyes on the prize: a warehouse worker in a Heavey RF eye-tracking trial

Source Courtesy of Heavey RF Group

The technology, however, brings with it concerns about employers monitoring workers’ every move — and indeed, their every glance. Though current applications have been limited to short-term tests and training programs (the battery and SD card storage on the glasses currently last only a couple of hours), serious privacy concerns could arise if the glasses are used around the clock for real-time monitoring. “Employers have misused every monitoring technology ever invented, and there’s no reason to think they won’t misuse this one too,” says Lew Maltby of New Jersey–based National Workrights Institute, an advocate for workplace privacy.

The potential of the technology might well boil down to the software used for interpreting the data — time-intensive analysis of eye-tracking data has proved prohibitive in early tests. The same is true for its privacy potential: If the software that interprets the data does so to look for patterns across all employers, there are few concerns, says Maltby. But if an employer can “disaggregate the data” to look at any one employee’s every eye movement throughout the day, that could be “a serious invasion of privacy.” 

Big Brother — or Big Boss — may be watching you. Now, try not to think about that disturbing reality the next time your mind wanders at work.