Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chauncey DeVega says: What Racial Group Does This Garbage Belong To?

I have been searching for this clip a long time. In fact, this interview with the King of All Blacks of Howard Stern fame is one of the impetuses for this blog. A few years ago, I was watching Stern on Comcast and yelled at the TV, "this is the greatest thing ever!" Guessing the race of a family by the garbage they put on the curb is perfect, efficient, and revealing. There is an anthropology dissertation here: Trash Studies, Disposable Culture, and the Intersections of Race, Ethnicity, and Class.

At the time, "naked garbage" was/is one of my new favorite words. I used it for weeks after seeing this show. Everywhere I would go I would point out "naked garbage!" I would see ignt's throwing garbage on their own stoops, and I would yell "naked garbage!" Random factoid: humans, along with owls, are the only animals that soil their own nests. Disgusting.

Zora was not amused by my fixation on naked garbage and demanded that I cease and desist this new found habit. Interestingly though, she goes into a near fit whenever she sees someone spitting on the sidewalk. Go figure.

As the son of a maintenance man, and yes I am reifying race and class, race matters in the garbage game. Class matters too--trust me, there is a binary distribution here where in my experience the ghetto underclass have either A) the cleanest home and neatest garbage one will ever see or B) the most utterly disgusting mess one can imagine. Funny thing, rich folks fall into a similar distribution.

Is there a correlation between race and refuse? Is this more a story of class than either race and ethnicity? Does region play into this? Is southern garbage heavier than northern garbage? Or is this a story of neighborhood norms? Thus, the tensions when neighborhoods are in "transition" and the new arrivals are loathe to conform to existing middle class norms?

I have to ask, what does Asian garbage look like? Or Native American garbage? Pray tell.


Part 2

Part 3


Cobb said...

OMG. I almost forgot that people like Howard Stern existed. I used to listen to him until he finally got divorced. Wow. Long ago.

This is classic stuff, and very New York. Took me a while to find Kedem grape juice via Google. Never heard of it. Entenmen's I know. Also, very clear that it's New York, because of course, block by block, you know if it's black, puerto rican, jewish, italian..

Lessee.. I shred all my letters. Nothing goes out of the house with my name on it. We drink 2% milk. Not much soda here. No wood in the garbage, that's for sure. Peanut butter, yep. Grape jelly, yep. Whipped butter, yep. McDonalds - heh. That stays in the car.

Nobody tips garbage men in California. Ever. And we have three different kinds of recycle bins. Haven't done naked garbage since 1980.

Lady Zora, Chauncey DeVega, and Gordon Gartrelle said...

I knew a respectable negro like you wouldn't enjoy naked garbage. My secret is that I don't believe in recycling and throw everything out together. The recycling deal is a mafia kickback as--at least where i grew up--all went into the same landfill anyway.