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20 things to leave in the 20th century, Part 1 

Sorting the Century

1.Breast implants

2. Fighting the Civil War

3. Japanese business philosophy

4. Junk mail

5. Super-sizing


Everything is "super-sized" these days except super models, and there seems to be no end to the madness. That icon of excess, 7-Eleven's 64-oz.Double Gulp, enough beverage to swim or bathe in, comes in a cup large enough to fit over a baby's head. As a society, we no longer have access to 8- or 12-oz. sodas — if we can't consume at least 20 oz. (or don't want to pay for it), we're forced to go thirsty. Again, 7-Eleven

has stopped offering 8-oz. coffee cups in some stores. Restraint, it seems, is no longer an option. Have you tried recently to buy a regular-size order of French fries? Let us know if you have any luck. Even kids' meals, once

appropriate portions for small human beings, are bigger now. So even if you want a normal-size meal you might have to order a super-size kids' meal. Does that make any sense? The stores we shop in are Big Kmarts and Wal-Mart Supercenters. People are building 20,000-square-foot houses in the suburbs for their families of four and driving their two kids around in 19-ft. SUVs. The last time we saw this kind of excess and wastefulness in the name of sheer size, it was in the Atlantic Ocean, snapping in half, while the band played "Nearer My God to Thee."

6. Racism
by Mayor Timothy M. Kaine

Richmond entered the 20th century going backward. For many years after the Civil War, the community began to overcome its racial division as African Americans were allowed to participate — for the first time — in commerce, education and politics. Few people know that there were more than 20 blacks elected to the Richmond City Council during this time.

[image-1]Women stage a sit-in protest at a Richmond Woolworth's lunch counter in the 1960s.But, by 1896, the move toward equality and unity was being reversed: Richmond streetcars were resegregated; white politicians defrauded black voters and Council members and re-established a whites-only City Council that lasted for 50 years; and the Commonwealth passed a new constitution designed explicitly to disenfranchise African Americans. At the national level, the Supreme Court upheld segregated transportation and declared that "separate but equal" was the law of the land. As the century came in, the "Jim Crow" era of racial division was born.

This sad history raises a key question. Are we heading into the new millennium pointing toward unity or division? Better yet, what can each of us do to make sure that we start the next century in a more progressive and moral way than we started into this one?

The signs are strong that we have progressed in the battle against racism. Judicial and legislative advances toward equal rights for all have been dramatic, and Richmond heroes such as Oliver Hill played a key role in these victories. Rigidly segregated housing patterns are beginning to break down. In L. Douglas Wilder, Richmond has seen the nation's first African-American elected governor, and patterns of crossover voting are evident in local elections throughout the region. The Richmond City Council has not divided along racial lines on any agenda item in more than five years.

At times, we seem tantalizingly close to a level of unity that could be a model. I was inspired in the recent downtown Christmas parade to see the streets lined with all Richmonders, rich and poor, city and suburban, black and white, young and old — all together peaceably enjoying each other in welcoming the holiday. At our best, we are more together than we have ever been.

But, the evidence of progress is not uniform. There are still wide disparities between the economic success of whites and blacks. With the exception of a few schools, education in Richmond has become resegregated as whites (and, increasingly, African Americans) have left the public school system. And, we still exhibit the penchant for stumbling over ourselves on issues of racial controversy — the Floodwall mural display is the latest example — in a way that sends the message, both inside our community and to the world, that we haven't yet figured out how to get along.

Successful cities with similar histories have nevertheless managed to avoid some of the missteps we have made.

How can we leave racism behind in the next century and work together? First, community leaders have to preach unity at every turn. I've often felt that the problem here is that the leaders are behind the people when it comes to interracial tolerance. Leaders, particularly among the young, have to lead the way in pushing for greater understanding, as well as in refusing to tolerate any form of discrimination.

Second, we all have to adjust our vision a little to realize that the world of tomorrow is not just black and white. Richmond, like other cities, has growing populations of people from around the world. The presence of sizable Hispanic and Asian populations gives us an opportunity to break the mental picture of the past and newly understand the city as a more global, less insular, place.

Third, getting over race-fixation is sometimes accomplished best by dealing with it directly. The Richmond tradition of gentility often leads to avoiding plain discussion of issues that need attention. Discussions that lead to more understanding help ease tensions, while polite denial causes those tensions to build and explode. Groups like Hope in the Cities who promote constructive dialogue offer Richmonders an upward path.

Fourth, political equality is hollow without economic equality. Given the long history of state-supported actions that deprived African Americans of education and wealth opportunities, current income disparities are not surprising. We cannot now claim to be about equality unless we care passionately about strategies to increase economic opportunity in minority communities.

A final need is particularly focused on white Richmonders. While any person can be a racist, the most significant and foundational racism in this country has been by whites against citizens of African descent. Even now, at a time when much overt racism has been defeated, many whites are still prone to inaccurate stereotypes about blacks and others because they have little experience in dealing with minorities on a personal level. To generalize, most blacks understand the nuances of the white world pretty well because they have to move in it every day. But, most whites have little understanding of African Americans because they are able to be isolated from black institutions, neighborhoods and individuals.

Fifteen years ago, my wife and I joined a church congregation in Richmond that is predominantly black. My years at Saint Elizabeth's have been my best education in people (their similarities and differences) and in my own stereotypes. Things that I thought I knew about myself and others have turned out to be wrong. In addition, being in a minority even in this small way has made me appreciate better what a challenge it can be, even under the best of circumstances.

If you want to fight racism and start this next century off right, commit some part of your life to working, learning, worshipping or recreating in a group of people who have a different racial background than you do. Do it persistently and over a long period of time. Learn and grow as a person as you go beyond your normal social bounds. Changing yourself is the best way to change our community.

7. Diets

[image-2]Photo by Stephen SalpukasAs a society, we have done them all. The Rotation Diet, the Grapefruit Diet, the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Carbohydrate Addicts' Diet. We've been fat-free and low-carb, but not at the same time 'cause that would be a diet faux pas. We've followed Pritikin, McDougal, Atkins and Scarsdale, eaten raw foods, whole foods, green foods and "thermogenic" foods. Some of us have designed our own programs, including "Caffeine, Caffeine, Caffeine," "Stress Your Way to Thinness" and "Hot-Cha-Cha: If Your Food's Too Spicy to Eat, You Can't Get Fatter."

Our bookshelves have stored "Gabe Mirkin's Fat and Fiber;" "Diet for a Small Planet;" Eat More, Weigh Less;" "Eat Well, Lose Weight While Breastfeeding;" and "Fat Is A Feminist Issue." In desperation, we've turned to Diet Center, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and even Richard Simmons. Protein Power? Sugarbusters? Fit For Life? Done it, done it, done it. We've dosed on Dexatrim, sucked down Slimfast and purged our innards with ABC Colon Cleanse.

We have been hypnotized.

The upshot of it all? We still have our cabooses, love handles and flabby thighs.

It's time to start understanding once and for all: It's in the jeans because it's in the genes. No diet will change that, no matter what the authors and their publicists say.

It may sound simple-minded, but in the new millennium, let's quit talking about weight loss and stop cutting out entire food groups. Instead, let's eat when we're hungry, stop when we're full and stay active. And let's pitch all those damn diet books.

8. SUVs

[image-3]Photo by Chad HuntHenry Ford did a wonderful thing by creating the automobile, but whoever invented the sports utility vehicle took the concept a bit too far. Unless you are in the military, regularly hunt for big game in the African bush, or need a really sturdy vehicle to tool around your 5,000 acre Montana ranch, a regular old car will do you fine.

Imagine what a lovely next millennium it would be if every owner of a big, gas-guzzling road hog — er, sports utility vehicle — drove their offending automobile into the suburbs before the calendar turned over to the big two-oh-oh-oh and left it there! Even better — how about driving the offending vehicles into a muddy field, getting stuck in the mud and being forced to desert those all terrain vehicles in complete humiliation! You may think your shiny, hunter-green SUV marks you as a rugged individualist, but you can't fool us. We know you use it as your primary means to transport groceries from Ukrop's. Ever heard of a station wagon?

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