A tip o' the hat to Alma Boykin for alerting me to a particularly special academic
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.
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. At a moment of deep disagreement about the nation’s best path forward, here comes a giant round shadow, drawing a line either to cut the country in two or to unite it as one.
. . .
Oregon, where this begins, is almost entirely white. The 10 percent or so of state residents who do not identify as white are predominantly Latino, American Indian, Alaskan, or Asian. There are very few black Oregonians, and this is not an accident. The land that is now Oregon was not, of course, always inhabited by white people, but as a U.S. territory and then a state, Oregon sought to get and stay white. Among several formal efforts at racial exclusion was a provision in the original state constitution of 1857 that prohibited any “free Negro or Mulatto” from entering and residing in the state.
The American West was not the land of chattel slavery—with some brief exceptions, slavery was illegal in Oregon before and after statehood. But among the dreams of the pioneers there was, at least sometimes, a dream of escaping racial strife by escaping black people altogether. As put by Peter Burnett, the architect of one racially exclusionary law in Oregon, the aim was simply to avoid “that most troublesome class of population. We are in a new world, under most favorable circumstances, and we wish to avoid most of those evils that have so afflicted the United States and other countries.”
. . .
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.
There's (unfortunately) a lot more at the link.
That's right. The entire article (which goes on, and on, and on, ad nauseam) draws all sorts of parallels between the path of the eclipse, and America's racial history and current makeup. There's just one problem: there is no logical, scientific, historical or any other connection between a perfectly normal natural occurrence and centuries of US history. It's all in the mind of the author - and nowhere else.
Eclipses were going on long before the human race evolved out of whatever was crawling around in the primal ooze. They were scaring the crap out of cavemen before they could even spell 'Neanderthal'. They were making a lot of money for shamans, fakirs, witch-doctors, fortune-tellers and other charlatans until science finally managed to explain them. After that (we thought hopefully) there would no longer be any superstition attached to them. This article makes it clear that we hoped in vain.
The author has gone back several centuries to the mystical, magical mumbo-jumbo of the scientifically illiterate, and tied together two things that have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. The path of the eclipse is an accident of nature, pure and simple, with no 'message', explicit or implicit, implied. It did not 'choose' to follow that particular path in any way, shape or form - and therefore no message can be, or is, conveyed through, or by, its course. It's an accident. Nothing more.
I'm tempted to nominate the article for an Ig Nobel award, except that it only meets the first half of the criteria for an award - 'to honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think'. Laugh? Oh, hell, yes - in sheer disbelief! Thought? No. Thought, of the logical, rational, scientific variety, at any rate, doesn't enter into this article at all; and it isn't so much an achievement as a veritable holocaust - indeed, a total eclipse - of intellectual understanding.
And yet . . . and yet . . . I daresay there will be those among the politically correct and intellectually 'pure' who will hail this article as a masterful insight into the state of race relations in the USA today. Upon them, as upon its author, today's Doofus Award is wholeheartedly conferred.