top of page

Ep.7 Discussibility of Rock Accessibility

Ep.7 Transcription- Discussibility of Rock Accessibility

RR: Ok, this is Rock Rat, coming to you from my bedroom in Spokane. I am sitting down with one of my- actually my oldest friend. Mel, you’re my oldest friend, I just want you to know that. Guys, just- to my listeners- I love all two of you very deeply and um this is probably going to be one of my favorite interviews, so far. Um, meet Mel, Mel please introduce yourself.

Mel: Hello, I’m Mel. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice. Which means that I’m very used to talking about issues of race and gender across all of the spectrum. And I have been also been invested in some of the arts, I also do some digital art and stuff. Yea, I feel like I have a very left-brained mind. Or right-brained….I don’t remember…

RR: Left-brained is logical, I think.

Mel: Right-brained then, very opposite my family. I’m left-handed. Anyway.

RR: Well, that makes sense because the left side controls the right side and the right side controls the left side.

Mel: That’s right, because I’m in my right mind and everyone else isn’t. That’s right.

RR: WHOA! With a capitol “W.” Ok, great! So, This would be an episode of Rockcast Podosophy and you do not identify as a rockhound, but of course the blog is about four things: rocks, philosophy, nature hobbies, and human connectivity or societal issues. So, I’m just gonna sorta break in here and ask, Do you have any experience or any inclination towards the rockhounding community? We’ll just use that as a segue.

Mel: So, really my only true experience with rocks was as a little kid. I’d be walking across gravel at my grandma’s house and she’d be yelling at me to put shoes on and be like, “No, I can take it! It’s like walking across hot coals, you just have to do it.” But, pickin’ up shiny rocks and showing them off and putting them in a bag, never to be seen again, that’s basically my experience with rocks. And also watching all of my friends, including you Rock Rat, just go bananas over rocks. And I’d just sit there and be like, “Dang, those are some really shiny, colorful pieces that you have that I know absolutely nothing about. Is this one salt? That’s all I got, can we eat it?” That’s about the extent of it. Oh and with Steven Universe, that Cartoon Network show, that’s about it for my precious gems. But that’s it. Not too much.

RR: You know, I get told a lot that I should watch Steven Universe. For a lot of reasons, and I never have because I am very disconnected rom our generation in a lot of ways. Also, I don’t find tv like…-you laugh at me, girl, but you know-

Mel: I know that’s why I’m laughing.

RR: -um, it’s just not very stimulating ‘cause it’s just audio and visual but, anyway, anyway. I have been told to watch Steven Universe. And when people find out that I’m a rockhound too, they’re like, “Oh my god! On so many levels…” So like, do you want to talk about that show? Or like what it is about that show that is related to rocks…or whatever?

Mel: Yea, so a bunch of the characters are named after precious gemstones. It’s really interesting that they gave literally all of these rocks anthropomorphic shapes and you basically go through the show being like, “if this was a gem what would it look like? What would it act like?” And a lot of the time it deals with energies people associate with gemstones and that kind of stuff. Um, but I truly think that it’s just a guise to not make up names, truly. It’s a really interesting show about growth and acceptance of yourself. Also it undoes a lot of troupes in that the main cast is mostly women and there’s one man and he’s a thirteen year-old child. So, it’s really neat, it’s really interesting. It’s all about personal growth and … yea, the first three characters that you meet are Pearl, Amethyst, and Garnet. They also have like Sapphire, Ruby, Rosequartz, they go through- and there’s also a caste system within the precious gems. Which is really interesting, and like it definitely feels like a caste system that would develop in regards to like what humans deem as a precious gem, whereas like what should- I dunno. Would you consider like diamonds the highest tier of gemstones?

RR: Personally, no. I think diamonds are super boring because one, they’re not as- yea I know just bein’ an eletist over hurr- they’re not as rare as people think. There’s a huge blood trade, obviously that’s pretty popular knowledge, and they’re really boring to look at. Like, you could cut-it’s hard to cut quartz, and they’re the hardest substance out there, that’s true, they’re very beautiful, they’re very prismatic…lots of things are prismatic though. And they’re clear. They’re not even white, they’re clear. I have diamonds, it’s my birthstone ‘cause I was born on April Fools woot shout-out to my three other relatives that were born on that day ‘cause we’re just a super…cool family I guess. Uh,-

Mel: A topic for another time…

RR: -I can’t keep it together for this interview. Ok. Um. I love you and miss you so much! Ok. Um, I think diamonds and colors and shapes, but like you can go online and people are selling them by like the bucketfulls because they’re slightly imperfect or some crap and it’s just….I don’t know. Are they- is Diamond the end-all and be-all of Steven Universe of something?

Mel: So, in the caste system, they are basically God tier. So.

RR: Whhaattttt….

Mel: Yea, which is why I feel like it is definitely the value that…that they use the value scale that humans put on precious gemstones and not really anything on the interest and strength of a certain rock itself. So it’s an interesting show but yea, basically the whole gist of the show is that, ya know, there’s no point in a caste system. We’re all individual rocks ourselves. And nobody’s better than anyone else. It’s pretty dope. So.

RR: Yea, I’ve also been told that there is -and you can, you might have more insight into the social… have explained things to me on so many….when society comes crashing down I’m gonna claw my way back to you, babe….Ok? And we’re gonna survive the Apocalypse together, ok?

Mel: Oh, yea. I’ll do the social cult part and you do the survival of everything else part, right? We’ll have a system.

RR: Yea, we’ll just eat lots and lots of chicken-of-the-forest, ‘cause I know that that fungus is not poisonous. Your face….your face…Um. By the way, I need to add like an ad for this podcast and first of all, we are using WhatsApp right now. Which is a free communication app and just like, side note, do you think that this video service is super effective? Because this is the most stable video connection that I have ever used.

Mel: Yea, I mean, we live….and we’ve been long-distance friends for..a long time now, Jesus. And of all of the -lost your video-

RR: Crap, no, I’m tryin’ to do a thing, I’m listening!

Mel: -and honestly it seems like the easiest to utilize and just it has like the nicest connection the audio is pretty crisp. Like, I dig it. I think it’s better than Google+, better than Skype.

RR: Yes! ********And it also works with different kinds of phones. I was trying to see if there’s like a way to put on like a filter or things…like for other weird things but…there’s not and that’s fine. But, anyway, so I am really digging our connection. I mean- in general. So, Steven Universe- oh! Oh!- I remember what I was gonna say. The hierarchy and queer culture. You have always been more involved in those kinds of societal commentaries and issues, but a lot of the times people are like, “Oh my god, watch Steven Universe because it’s also super queer friendly.” And I’m like, “I’m not sure how to take that….’cause we haven’t had that conversation yet”, but also, maybe you could tell me about that element of the show?

Mel: Um, so it is super queer friendly in that while it …the violets don’t reproduce. They basically form a new rock within the earth, as rocks do..from my understanding of rocks that’s very minimal, like it is very queer friendly. I don’t really want to give you too many spoilers but um,…. So, one of the big themes of the show is that the gems can actually fuse into other stones. So, like **** is comprised of two other gems. And that’s really cool, both of the gems that make her up, they’re both female-presenting. One’s butch, one’s fem, super cute, but yea so. I would say it’s pretty queer friendly. But it’s also -don’t forget- it also needs to air on Cartoon Network so they do play it safe in regards to a lot of things. ‘Cause they didn’t want to get taken off the air, but yea, Rebecca Sugar did what she could to sneak in the gays…as it were. So.

RR: That’s adorable. I listened to an interview with Rebecca Sugar on a podcast called Queery, which is…anyway, um, she sounds super dope. And I- it made me want to watch the show too but they didn’t talk about it very much. Ok, so as far as your understanding of rockhounding… Last episode I was talking with Megan Schindler, and she mentioned how accessible it is to the community. And we didn’t actually talk about this part specifically, but I think it’s interesting because I see a monochromatic…uh…demographic when I do rockhounding. Actually, it’s more gender-equal than a lot of nature hobbies are. There are a lot of females that do it, but it’s very white. And we also talked about skiing and how you have to be able to afford the lift tickets and white privilege and a lot of that. And so, um, as far as nature hobbies go -and not even rockhounding, but nature hobbies in general- I know, we both grew up in St. Louis. We’re both urbanites, suburbanites, technically, um, how do you think accessibility works into nature hobbies and human connectivity?

Mel: So, I have a few opinions about that as far as accessibility of rockhounding, as far as when I say that when I was a kid and I had stuff to do, I would go play in the gravel or whatever- that was at my grandmother’s house. That was my white grandma’s house- I’m mixed race by the way, my mom is black and my dad is white. So when we went to visit my father’s mom, that was out in BFE, out in Dixon, MO, which you have never heard of. It’s like an hour outside of Springfield. Most of it is, ya know, dial-up only, they could only have one phone line for the family because there was just no service. Dish only. Like, that’s how remote my grandma’s house was. And that was the only way I was able to have access to nature and really get in invested in stuff outside the city. Otherwise, I grew up downtown St. Louis, off Arsenal St. of all places. And so yea, it was just a ‘concrete jungle’ as they say, there wasn’t too to much besides like going to a man-made park. There wasn’t too much out there. So, I think it also has to deal with the fact that you think of jobs and interest, and really being fueled by your passion.

You’re allowed to fail if your family has money. So you can pursue hobbies and pursue your interests that may not generate much income because you know that you have a safety net. Whereas, for instance, I don’t know about the rockhounding, but I had to scrimp and save for a crummy jalopy car that was maybe a thousand dollars when I had friends who would post on Facebook just like, “Oh, now that my great grandma gave me her old her because it had ‘too many buttons’,” and it’s just like….”Oh. My. God. What I wouldn’t do for that kind of experience in life.” So that’s kind of what I believe a lot of minorities end up having to deal with. Not only is there white privilege in the skin that we wear, it’s a foundational privilege. That your family had that privilege as well and was able to grow on that, and be successful and flourish in whatever you set your mind to. Versus black kids and People of Color we gotta do what we know to make money because we don’t get to fail. We have to be successful the first time around. We don’t get that kind of creative effort. I think that means we don’t pursue hobbies like rockhounding or other things like that. Like music or arts, those are passions that allow people from money to develop later in life just because, ya know.

Like, my mom was like, “We need to get a degree in STEM otherwise it’s not gonna be worth your time.” And I was like, “Oook, guess I’m gonna major in biology even though I don’t really care about it.” So. So, yea, I think that that’s a really important point that, yea, it’s pretty white -as you will- in your rockhounding experience. Also there’s the matter of like, yea, transportation. When you’re in such a community where like you may not be able to afford a car or the upkeep on a car, or ya know, public transportation is like your main thoroughfare. Like, how are you going to be able to go out into nature? How are you going to be able to afford to go out and afford these hobbies that you’re doing? Naw. You’re gonna stay inside, where it’s safe, and you’re gonna stay. You’re gonna do what you can to be successful in the way that you know how. So.

RR: Yea, that’s super interesting and well-informed. You are, as ever, articulate, you silver tongued-devil. Um, I have not finished the New Jim Crow, as I know I’ve said, but they do talk about transportation lot. And we don’t have to talk about it! We don’t have to talk about it! ‘Cause I can’t- it’s so..hard…to read…oh my god…

Mel: It really is! It’s just like…”I know I have it, I know it’s right here,” Like can you see it? Can you see my stack of books, here?

RR: Oh my god, right next to Inequality in America?! ******* And what is your Master’s thesis in?

Mel: Shit dude, I don’t even know. I was on a bunch of pain meds when I was having to write that. I have to get my draft out, so I genuinely don’t know. Nightmare city.

RR: Yea, been there.

Mel: Ugh, I gotta put these books back.

RR: I dunno if you can see, ok, I’ll turn mine..I dunno if you can see behind all the stacks of like …fossils and GIS, but there it is! ********Yea, ArcPro..

Mel: That’s a mapping software, yes?

RR: Well yes, GIS is geographic information systems, Arc is kind of….that’s the ESRI name.

Mel: Yea, we took a class on GIS for crime mapping and stuff.

RR: Yea! Ugh! Every time I talk about it, my mom’s just like- my mom, by the way, everyone listening to this- Cassandra Kaufman. She’s just a badass, right?

Mel: Badass!

RR: And every time I talk-

Mel: I ran into her the other day, by the way.

RR: What?

Mel: Yea, she was at my work building. And I was just like, “Is that?…” ********* Then she turns around and is just like, “What are you doing out here?” And I’m like, “I work here…”

RR: Oh my god, that’s amazing.

Mel: It was pretty wild.

RR: Yea, and you ran into my dad like, what was it a year ago? Like in the grocery store? God, St. Louis…

Mel: It’s the largest small city in the world.

RR: I mean, it’s …it’s weird that I found out that the last time I was there, I guess that was like 2 years ago, there’s only 300,000 actual citizens of the city itself?

Mel: Yea, that’s actually why there’s new legislation that’s being passed around right now. If you see it on Facebook, give it a looksie. What’s happening is, they’re trying to quote-un-quote “reimagine STL” and they’re trying to rejoin the unincorporated St. Louis counties with St. Louis city again. Because the St. Louis counties are really developed in relation to white flight, where people were leaving the city due to the migration patterns of blacks after slavery ended. They were just like, “We can’t….we can’t be around, we gotta go to freakin’ St. Charles with our trucks!”

RR: God, West County…

Mel: It’s terrible. But yea, the incorporated counties of St. Louis. They were running Valentine’s Day stuff they were just like, “Do you wanna get back together? (St. Louis-to-St. Louis).”

RR: And how’s that- when does it, when do they vote on it?

Mel: I don’t know. I need to do some more research on it. It seems like it’s still more in the very early stages in that it’s created a lot of opposition, of course, because the white people in unincorporated St. Louis do not want to be attached to the city of St. Louis. But yea, we’ll see. I’ll have to do some research on that.

RR: Oh my gosh, yea, oh my gosh. I remember being in high school, junior year, and somebody that I knew from band somebody actually who was in the trumpet section had a debate -and I dunno if it was supposed to be a debate- but it turned into a debate about putting the Metro or driving the Metro into South County. And then I came across the same ideas in The New Jim Crow and I come across it all the time. Like these pervasive… “God, we can’t be connected to that inner-city deviance,” and I just…

Mel: Yea, the bridges in major cities were designed by that same guy and those people deliberately made them short to where buses could not fit under them so that black people could not make it to other areas outside of the city. That was a deliberate and racist move. It was really- it was mind-blowing when I first read that. Yea.

RR: Oh my god, so since we’re just gonna like blow some stuff outta the water, um. One of my friends, I’m just gonna like avoid super specifics here in case this is like super secret knowledge, one of my friends was associated with SLU. Which, for those of you who don’t know, it’s St. Louis University, and, they do a lot of good work. They’re also very…..they do a lot of good work.

Mel: Yea, yea.

RR: They do a lot of good work.

Mel: It’s a private school, and we’ve talked about what money does to privilege.

RR: Especially in St. Louis where it tends to be a little incestuous. Like there are a few families that, ya know, maintain the money in St. Louis… Anyway.

Mel: Well, St. Louis is actually one of the most segregated cities in the nation. It’s like top…I think it’s top three of segregated cities.

RR: Oh my god. So- hold- still?!

Mel: Yea, dude, yea. It’s ridiculous, ‘cause you can go street by street and it’s a completely different demographic. So.

RR: Yea, like down the state streets? Casaloma? Next time I’m in town I’m bringin’ Megan and we’re gonna go to Casaloma, um. So this individual was studying horticulture and- don’t give me that look, you- um, this individual was studying horticulture and they encountered a study where someone was pulling like tree species demographics and when they were planted. Ya know, they were tracking, they were mapping like the species breakdown of the city. Which is like a very understandable like urban ecology study. And it turned out that he -not the person I’m talking about, the person who discovered it- he discovered that the city of St. Louis specifically requested that trees that did not last as long, that were less hardy and provided less shade and like canopy cover were planted above a certain number of street. So not only were they red- what are they called? Redbrick districts? Red block districts… like on a map where they segment out-

Mel: Red-line. Red-line districts.

RR: Red-line districts, which- do you wanna give a definition for that?

Mel: Yea, red-lining is the term for banks. And it’s actually people that are in red-line districts, banks will not loan them money. Which means that these people can not move out of their impoverished neighborhoods. They literally cannot better themselves. Red-lining still exists today, but yea, it’s really messed up. Like, also like, with the housing market, one thing they tend to do is to show different street and different homes to people of different colors. So, the only reason my family was able to move out to South County was because my dad did most of the house shopping. My white dad did. Otherwise, had it just been my mom, or my mom and my dad trying to do this house shopping, we probably wouldn’t have moved to South County which is pretty far away from the city. So.

RR: Yea, it’s like a solid 15 minutes….I mean, if you hop in the river, but…anyway- like that’s just what we’d do, um,…

Mel: With all the toxic waste…

RR: Ugh, all the runoff from the quarry, ugh….Anyway, so it was discovered that St. Louis city had requested, when they were planting these trees – and it wasn’t even a monetary issue – they specifically requested these lower quality trees that were not as beneficial for the neighborhood and for the humans! To be planted in the minority neighborhoods. And when this came out, the researcher was trying to get their study published because, from an ecology stand-point, they had a map like “look at the actual trees, this is urban ecology.” And from the other standpoint they were like, “BTW, ya’ll, this is super racist and super not great and we need to be including all the humans in the environment where they live.” And St. Louis -like the university or the city council…not the city council, but some political power- contacted SLU and was like, “Shut it down.” And his study was refused to be published. They were like, “We will pull all of your funding, we will ruin you so fast if you publish this study.” And so what he did was go around to all the other people and be like, “Guys, look at this!” And that’s how I found out about it. So tell your friends. Racist trees.

Mel: That’s really, truly terrifying and absolutely something I would expect from white people. So.

RR: Great. Yea. That is a beautiful segue for us to, let’s just take a break here for a second. Regroup. And we will be back after a brief ad from our sponsoring host site.


RR: Ok, we’re back, and we are still discussing societal philosophy and -with out expert criminologist, Mel, here- and um, so… During the break, I’m gonna lead us off here with what our discussion was during the break. I have an understanding that one of the barriers to outdoor exploration which, personally, was very important to my field. And I actually have a lot of conversations with my coworkers about the privilege involved in being a wildlife biologist, because if you don’t have a family that can like catch you in the off-season you literally can’t do it. You will get worked out of the field so quickly it’ll make your head spin. And-

Mel: Wow.

RR: I mean seriously, though, it’s a difficult job. Which is actually one of the reasons why I started this blog. But….people being afraid to leave their houses. So like, I was trumping around South County on my bike until 9pm. I was catching fireflies, I was playing in that childhood creek, and I didn’t have any worry about walking home. And I know that’s not the case for everyone. So like from a criminological standpoint, do you have an opinion on this? Accessibility of nature hobbies?

Mel: Right. So, as far as accessibility to nature hobbies, it’s one of those things where if people are too afraid to leave their house for safety reasons, but also for legal reasons. So when you think about inner city housing, they may not have air conditioning, they may not have things to do in their house, or tools to help them enjoy outside activities like, ya know, with sports it takes equipment. So there’s this idea of being too afraid as far as getting mugged, or from my knowledge it’s also about avoiding getting into legal trouble. As far as being stopped by police officers for no reason, getting stopped and frisked, possibly shot, for no reason.

For kids it’s about safety and about avoiding situations in which they could be pinned as an undesirable in the community. It’s a lot more intricate and a lot more institutionalized then really people give it credit for. In that, when you think about drug laws, who is making these laws? Well, it’s politicians. What’s the majority of politicians? They’re white men. So, white men making these laws, they may not be in the city. So like a drug law where you’re not supposed to have drugs within 100ft of a school, or around a school. Let’s even stretch that out to 500ft. Now, in an area where the population density isn’t as tight, that might be easier to do. They might be able to retreat to their homes in order to do activities of an illegal nature. Whereas people in the inner city, if you are fair game for these very strict legal penalties even if you’re not what you believe to be cose to a school. And you may end up being more harassed by officers just because the density of police officers in the city if greater than versus the county. So it’s very interesting how, yea, there’s a lot of institutional barriers for People of Color and particularly black people to actually go outside and just enjoy being alive.

Like there’s literally this phrase: Driving while black. Now,