The Excitable Scientist

Mostly cheerful, sometimes snarky commentary on life science research and its broader impacts

Trailing Clouds February 5, 2015

Filed under: life outside the lab,medschool,social justice — excitablescientist @ 12:24 am

Today’s edition of our medical humanities class was one of the most special (and emotional) lectures I have attended in med school thus far. It was on prison health, which has increasingly been on my mind, for reasons I’ll leave for another post (but, briefly, including Marissa Alexander, Raif BadawiBaher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste, among countless other people imprisoned without just cause, a reality to which I feel screaming is the only appropriate response)

Our small group had a chance to talk to a previously incarcerated woman about her experiences with the health care system, and at the end of the day I had the special opportunity to meet her beautiful baby. Being a witness to this ubiquitous yet extraordinary mother-child bond and the incredible renewal of life it represents brought to mind a memorable line from a memorable sermon (Jan. 11th) by Rev. Dan Chambers:

A baby is received into the world still trailing clouds of glory, with eternity shining in her eyes. 

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Photo from Flickr user Dennis Amith, used under CC BY-NC 2.0 license.

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Open letter to Parallel 49 (re: “Gypsy Tears”) September 15, 2013

Filed under: social justice — excitablescientist @ 11:30 pm

Dear Parallel 49 Brewing Company,

I’m writing today as your big fan and also as a concerned citizen.  I will start by saying I’ve really enjoyed your beers, particularly last summer’s Seedspitter Watermelon Wit, which is one of the best wheat beers I’ve had.

However, the branding of your Ruby Ale with the moniker “Gypsy Tears” has left me at a loss for words.  I am not sure if it was meant to be in some way ironic, or merely entertaining, but appropriating a group’s cultural identity for the purposes of marketing a product is a reprehensible act in any circumstance.  This action is all the more grave as it serves to perpetuate stereotypes about an ethnic group which has been persecuted for a millennium and subjected to genocide less than a century ago, whose members continue to be the among the most disenfranchised people in Europe today.  The active propagation of stereotypes surrounding Roma people (or “Gypsies”, as they are sometimes called, usually with derogatory connotations) denies them basic respect, negates their right to serve as representatives of their own culture, and hinders their efforts to be taken seriously as active participants in modern, democratic societies.

I’m a strong believer in buying locally and as an East Van resident, I would love to support you, and I’m almost certain you didn’t intend to cause offence with this particular beer.  However, I do find myself unable to support a company which relies at least in part on the propagation of racist stereotypes to sell their products.  I’m sure that a team of sufficiently creative marketing experts will be able to find a way to promote this product without relying on inaccurate and damaging stereotypes about an already marginalized ethnic group.

I hope you will consider the implications of this product on your ability to operate as a socially responsible company, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sincerely,