Alice Ristroph may be the only person in America who wrote about the solar eclipse of 2017 and related it to race and racism. She delivered a few thousand well written words discussing the solar eclipse and tied it into black folks, geography, the racial history of the land that the sun grazed over, and possibly hidden messages from the galaxy that might be told on the path of the sun during the solar eclipse. She mentioned that the Great American Eclipse travels a path where almost no black people are in the population of the states and cities across. She doesn’t blame the solar system for the lack of people of color in particular geographic regions, she simply points it out the fact that it might exist. Or, that it does exist. At no point does Ristroph ever call the sun racist or even suggest that. The point of her writing was to depict the racial history of places the sun traveled above during the solar eclipse. The story spun wildly out of control into titles like the one we used. Of course, no one thinks the sun is truly racist. If you do, then you might have bigger problems then your tin hat racism theories. Let me state again, incase you're confused - the sun is not racist and no one thinks it is. Please make sure you're aware of that. Now the moon on the other hand....just kidding. The moon isn't racist either. Now let's enjoy the show.
I'm guessing that millions of people watched the eclipse happen on August 22 over America. Hopefully each one of you reads this. And if you missed the eclipse, then there's plenty of photos and videos on Google search.
I watched the solar eclipse of 2017 from Camden, New Jersey. There’s a “whole lotta” black folks up in Camden. Most of them may have been sleeping or high, but there’s certainly no shortage of African American people in Camden. Perhaps Ristroph only meant certain locations in particular, but I know there’s black folks living nearly everywhere. Is there really a town in America with no black people? To her credit, she does say “almost no black people” so she’s not stating anything incorrect. It’s just funny that I came across this article and literally watched the eclipse with mostly all black folks. And, can I tell you, watching a black woman freak out at the sun is the most amazing things you’ll ever see. I don’t know who she was, but we shared eclipse glasses with her and she shot up ten feet and went “OHHHHHH LAWD” when she saw the mere crescent of the sun in the total darkness the glasses provided.
Ristroph provides details about the eclipse and where it begins and ends, but then dives into her bit about black people. Not sure why it matters, but let’s take a deeper look at what else she says.
Here's a map showing the path of the eclipse.
On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will arrive mid-morning on the coast of Oregon. The moon’s shadow will be about 70 miles wide, and it will race across the country faster than the speed of sound, exiting the eastern seaboard shortly before 3 p.m. local time. It has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, and along most of its path, there live almost no black people.
Good information to know about the eclipse, but the part about black people has me asking two questions. 1) How come there’s very little black folks living in those areas? 2) What is the relevance of the population of those towns in reference to the eclipse? She begins to explain that it’s not a matter of solar system being biased towards people, but that the population density by race is the issue. She states that we should not blame the moon or sun, which hopefully everyone is aware of. Some websites have slammed Ristroph and made it sound like she said the sun is racist, but clearly she says otherwise.
Presumably, this is not explained by the implicit bias of the solar system. It is a matter of population density, and more specifically geographic variations in population density by race, for which the sun and the moon cannot be held responsible. Still, an eclipse chaser is always tempted to believe that the skies are relaying a message.
As someone open minded to the possible messages from hidden areas, or in plain sight, this is one thing I didn’t think of. I didn’t think the sun or moon was sending us any sort of message. I just thought that’s how things turned out in the galaxy of space that is so massive we won’t ever reach the tip of it’s iceberg. There is no edge of space because space is infinite. It has to be. There’s no walls in space. At least none that we can see. Either space is real and it’s way too big for us to comprehend, or we are literally in the Matrix.
Here’s where her article becomes a bit interesting and starts talking about the sun’s path and the race of people it hovers above. The sun basically starts in the northwest, travels east, and flies over South Carolina last. She taps into some good points about the population of these areas, but I think there might be other reasons to negate what she says.
Oregon, where this begins, is almost entirely white.
From Oregon, the Great American Eclipse will travel through Idaho and Wyoming. (It will catch a tiny unpopulated piece of Montana, too.) Percentage-wise, Idaho and Wyoming are even whiter than Oregon. And as in Oregon, but even more so, the few non-white residents of Idaho and Wyoming are not black—they are mostly Latino, American Indian, and Alaskan. The astronomers tell us where lies the path of totality; the census tells us where live the people and what colors they are.
The keyword is “almost” because these areas do have black people living there? They do, right? Because I find it very hard to believe that not one black person has moved to these areas. If that’s true, then I am partially shocked, but partially not. I suppose there could be reasons why black folks do and do not want to live in places like Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming. Are there any hip hop night clubs out there? I don’t think so. It seems more like farms and wilderness and that’s simply not what the average African American aligns themselves with. You put a black person up there and they’ll be freaking out because it would be too slow and not enough culture for them.
After Wyoming, the eclipse will go through Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri. This is America’s heartland, and also, literally, the land of compromise. When Missouri sought statehood in 1819, the United States consisted of 22 states, equally divided between those that permitted slavery and those that did not. Missouri’s request to enter as a slave-holding state threatened to upset the balance, but a kind of unity was preserved with the Missouri Compromise. The deal allowed Missouri its slaves but drew a line across the nation, east-west to the Pacific Ocean, and mandated that slavery would be illegal in all other territories north of the line. Nebraska and Kansas, bordering Missouri to the west and lying just north of the compromise line, were thus to remain slavery-free. But the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed the (white) people of those territories to decide for themselves whether to have slavery
She talks about the line of compromise and references to slavery in the 1800’s. Here we are today, with the sun drawing a line of compromise. Is that what she wants us to believe and be reminded of?
I have a different theory. When slaves were brought to America, they were not brought in through Canada. They were brought in from the south and ships along the coast. Perhaps slaves didn’t make it as far north as we thought. It’s not like slave owners could take an airplane to Idaho back in the 1800’s, so it makes perfect sense if the northern/western states have a smaller black population. Pair that with places like Nebraska who live in the snow and people won’t gain any color in their skin over the thousand years. People closer to the sun have darker complexions, so that probably is another reason that places like Oregon and Idaho have very little people of color.
The lack of slaves in the 1800’s, not enough sun strength in the northwest over time, and no urban culture is my three reasons on why these states are mostly white people.
She goes on about some other things, even mentions Chelsea Manning, and I basically zoned out at this point. Finally she begins talking about the path of solar eclipse and how it’s not going into black neighborhoods.
From Kansas, the eclipse goes to Missouri, still mostly bypassing black people, though now much more improbably. About a third of Kansas City, Missouri, is black, but most of the city lies just south of the path of totality. To get the full show, eclipse chasers should go north to St. Joseph, almost 90 percent white and about 6 percent black…
This is where she begins losing me and I start thinking “who cares” and “why is any of this important or relevant?” She get worse. Now she’s about to talk politics and police and criminals and the entire time I’m just thinking to myself now “would she please shut up already” because it becomes quite oblivious and it’s almost like she really is reaching for the “sun is racist” aspect. I don’t think she was before, but perhaps that was her way to sink the hook in our fishlike attention span. She reeled me in hook, line, and sinker. She’s an educated woman who penned this really well, although I’m starting to dislike it.
Moving east, the eclipse will pass part of St. Louis, whose overall population is nearly half black. But the black residents are concentrated in the northern half of the metropolitan area, and the total eclipse crosses only the southern half. Eight miles north of the path of totality is Ferguson, where Officer Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown three summers ago. The majority of residents of Ferguson are black, policed by white officers who, like Wilson, live elsewhere.
How does she know where the white police officers live? I’m curious if there’s any place on the map where it’s mostly an African American population and the white man is the odd man out. Part of me thinks she’s doing a great job giving a timeline of events for the cities the sun passes over. The other part of me thinks she might be going for some political reach by mentioning certain things.
Brown’s death brought pain and protests and efforts to show that Black Lives Matter. It has drawn needed attention to the distribution of state violence by race, but the sad irony is that black lives have always mattered in this country. Since the founding, white people have been arguing about, first, how much a black life matters, three-fifths as much as a white life or something more or less; and second, for whose political benefit those lives will be counted.
I know she's just giving us a racial history of the areas the sun will grace with it's firey presence, but is there any good news she can give us? Is there anything that ever happened in these areas that is not about some racial nonsense that happened so long ago that many of the readers weren't old enough to remember it? We're almost at the time in history where no living people were old enough to remember certain things. Maybe we're not a few years away, but at least another generation or two goes by and pretty soon we don't have anyone from some of the darkest times in America. If you thought it was dark during the eclipse (or every night on a normal day), then you don't know darkness my friend. I don't either. Most of us can only read about the times before we were born, so it's not like we lived through the dark era of slavery or segregation. Thanks for the history lesson, but I think a story about the good times we saw under the path of the eclipse may have gotten her better attention.
Back on track - of course black people matter. It’s almost irresponsible of her to suggest that some people think they don’t matter. Granted, there are plenty of racists in our country, but there’s people in every group who hate people of every other group. There's blacks who hate everyone, Asians who hate everyone, and there's whites who hate everyone. There just going to be some hateful people in the world and it's our job to diffuse their flame or ignore them entirely. It’s human nature that some people hate other people. We can’t expect Utopian principles to ever happen in every place. Not a chance. The solar system would explode if everyone was nice for a day.
You matter, I matter, everyone matters. Don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Atlanta Falcons blew a huge lead in the Super Bowl last year, but they probably got a better view of the solar eclipse than the Patriots in New England. We could be 1,000 years from now and people won't forget that Super Bowl comeback from the Patriots!
At some point I wonder if Alice Ristroph selected these controversial topics to influence people’s commenting. I know she purposely picked the racial history. Perhaps this was designed to be a hard read. Not hard in the point that it's boring (some parts were), but a read you simply don't want to read about anymore. I'm tired of hearing about the past. I want to make the future.
I'm sure Ristroph knew what would happen if she published the racial history under the path of the sun. Some places would say she's calling the sun racist. Then people would say the blogs are racist. Then people would comment on her looks. Once she mentions Black Lives Matter, then the far right come out. Once she mentions cops doing their job, then the liberals come out.
You know how people get. One mention of Black Lives Matter and Ferguson and the comment are going to be off the hook. The pro-cop people vs the pro-criminal people come out of the wood works when they hear there’s a good comment thread going.
Back to her writing. I skipped parts of her article because it became slightly boring. I finally made it to another good part where she somewhat makes the point I had earlier. I believe that more black folks live in the southern states because that is closer to where slaves were taken from slave ships. Then once they were freed, they didn’t go very far. They set up camp and started their life. They populated the area they were already in. Makes sense, right?
Former slave-holding states are still the home to most of America’s black population. In Kentucky, Tennessee, and eventually South Carolina, the eclipse will finally pass over black Americans. Even here, though, the path of totality seems to mark the legacy of slavery and the persistence of segregation more than any form of inclusion.
This is another place I feel Ristroph is reaching with her fingers as far as they extend. It seems like she suggests the sun might travel over the land, but now it’s the mark and reminder of the horrible days of slavery and segregation. That could be her interpretation, and there’s nothing wrong with her views on it. I just don’t think many people will agree with the path of the sun casting negative light on an area. I feel that’s like we’re living in the past instead of shining the light on the future. How can we proceed when we won’t let go?
A few more paragraphs talking about various states or cities and their population numbers go by. Then she hits us with this:
The arc of the eclipse is long, and it bends toward Charleston. In South Carolina in the last 12 or 13 minutes of the Great American Eclipse, it will probably pass over more black Americans than it does throughout all of its earlier journey. After Greenville and Columbia, the eclipse goes out where so many slaves once came in: Charleston was the busiest port for the slave trade, receiving about 40 percent of all the African slaves brought into the country.
If anyone out there thought the sun or moon was still racist, then this should help clear that up. This also reiterates my point. If slaves came into the country from along the middle or lower portion of the east coast, then it makes sense that not many of them made it all the way across the country to Oregon.
She ends her story well by suggesting that the sun drawing the line across our country is a reminder that we need to get organized. She also ends with a saying that I’m not sure I agree with, although it was very well put.
But perhaps the strange path of the eclipse suggests a need for reorganization. We have figured out, more or less, how to count every person. We have not yet found a political system in which every person counts equally.
The American political system is a disaster. People of congress don’t use the same health care that we do, so it’s no wonder health care is an equally horrible disaster. We do have a voting system in which we count equally, but maybe our political system needs a huge shakeup to make all the pieces come crumbling down like a 1,000 piece puzzle falling to the floor.
Then we need someone to pick up the pieces and put us back together in a way that finally makes sense.
The irony behind that is that we’ve already shaken up the system. Americans voted for Trump and he’s dismantling government one job at a time. On the contrary, the epic shakeup that Trump has caused, has also caused leftists to lose their mind. Trump’s administrative team is quitting or getting fired nonstop. Who will be left? Is it people who truly care about the path of America? Or will it be people just looking for jobs? There’s so many people who hate Trump and they don’t even know why. They’re just following the path in the wrong direction. People don’t have to love him, but they should sit back and think about what’s really happening. This IS the epic shake up and reorganization of politics. Trump isn’t a politician and he’s clearing house. Or, to be cool, you can say he’s draining the swamp.
The solar eclipse took it’s path, to the right (like Republicans), and Alice Ristroph gave us a racial history of the areas that the sun traveled over. She didn’t call the solar system racist, but some people are pressing articles like she did. It needs to be reminded that she simply provided us with some background on the areas the eclipse was visible over and left us with the message to get organized.
It’s important for us to read into things ourselves. We need to chose our own path and not fall into the group hive mind mentality that could accidentally, or willfully, push us off the edge.
Think for yourself. Follow your own path.