Sunday, April 11, 2010

Notes from a Speak Easy

I am in North Carolina on a project with the EPA, and that gives me a chance to look around the Raleigh-Durham area. Yesterday, I decided to look up Carmen's Cafe, a Cuban joint - or that was the description, anyway! When I showed up around 10:30 PM, turned out there was a Speak Easy rather than Salsa dancing. Figured I'd hang out and see what it was all about.

The demographics were interesting - I was definitely the only Indian, but unlike Colorado bars (mostly White), this place was filled with African-Americans. Maybe 1 or 2 Caucasians, and the two bartenders were Latino. The Speak Easy (not a speakeasy) was essentially a sort of vox populi, with moderators posing questions, and audience members chiming in. As the tagline put it, "combining entertainment with intellect!"

The first question was about a woman who, six months into a relationship, found out the guy was a convict out on parole, after 10 years for armed robbery. What should she do? Opinions varied, and a spirited debate ensued: a guy saying "women won't go out with a convict", women saying it was about honesty, one woman saying 18-19 year-olds do stupid things that should not weigh them down forever, but finally, a woman ended that discussion with "we don't tell men we were hos!"
A later question was about problems with the school system, focusing on cross-dressing school kids and whether the schools should do anything about it. There was some conservatism - "parents should tell their kids they are going to school to study, not to bring attention to themselves"; caution ("schools can get sued!"); but also a female school teacher who said "these days, it does not cause disruption; 10 years back, gays and lesbians were outcasts, but now they are normal."

Today, I had the familiar l'escalier effect - what I should have said. As the school teacher pointed out, cross-dressing kids might well be viewed as normal by the other kids. In my opinion, the Speak Easy missed the bigger point - the problem with schoolkids is not the cross-dressing kids (if at all), so much as kids who bring guns and knives, forcing the school to install metal detectors. What sort of parents and school system allow this behavior to continue? And tying the two discussions together - isn't not-controlling violent kids (and instead, worrying about the "disruptive" effects of cross-dressing kids) what leads to the stupid things that 18-19 year-olds do that ends up with them in prison?

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