The Portland Phoenix

Leftovers: Top-shelf justice

Drinking vodka in my house is a challenge. 

Tito’s, made in Texas, has been banned from my top pantry shelf for months. There will soon be more room when the open bottle of Stolichnaya Peachik – the secret ingredient in my younger daughter’s legendary summer sangria – is empty, too. (Truth of the matter is, Stoli and most “Russian” vodkas aren’t produced there, but the sentiment stands; I’ll be searching for an alternative and open to suggestions.) 

Boycotting products at the individual end-user level may ultimately be senseless, but it keeps me in check about what’s going on in the world. I’m not sure it makes any kind of difference to boycott products or services, but it serves my notion of solidarity when I’m essentially unable to help directly. Like supporting Black-owned businesses to remember someone like 22-year-old Stephon Clark. 

Clark’s is not a household name like George Floyd’s or Breonna Taylor’s, but he is just as much a victim. In 2018, Clark was standing in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento, California. Police officers said they thought he was holding a gun when he was actually holding a cell phone. He was walking toward the officers with his arms extended when they shot at him more than 20 times.

What followed was 800 pages of reports and testimony before the officers involved went back to work without charges. Clark’s family settled with the city for $2.4 million. 

There was a lot of local discussion about Clark after he was shot. He was a hardened criminal in his early teens, convicted of several felonies, and was on law enforcement’s radar. But all of that was back-shelved when the police shot him while he was holding a phone. I can’t make sense of it or rationalize it away, but if buying from a black-owned business will reduce my anxiety about what justice is versus what justice has become, I’m all for it.

But back to my Texas-born vodka and southern-style outrage. How is it that some white guys (and a few die-hard Karens) can make sweeping decisions about a woman’s body? How is it OK for local citizens to become “pro-life” vigilantes and report anyone assisting a woman in obtaining a safe abortion? Talk about government butting in on personal rights. 

As the higher courts debate this five-alarm issue, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott one-upped himself when he compared transgender-affirming medical care to child abuse. Child abuse? This is from the same side that said MYOB when it came to masks to protect school-age children from COVID-19.

“Let the parents decide,” people like Abbott said. Why aren’t they saying that now? 

Why do state government officials feel the need to inflict their own self-righteous leanings on the people who know their children best? Once again, why is it anyone else’s business? Helping a child feel loved and supported as they become their most authentic self creates difficult, soul-searching issues for Texas parents. Sadly, they aren’t alone. The great state of Arkansas led the way in March 2021, with at least 15 other states now working to follow its lead. 

Having recently been chastised for calling out Texas one time too many, I’m taking my indignance further southeast to the Sunshine State. My favorite ruby-red grapefruit can be sourced from many other places, but I would be willing to forgo it forever if the “Don’t Say Gay” foolishness was a hoax. But it isn’t. 

Florida’s legislation would limit discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. Now, taking it a step further, an amendment requires educators to out students to their parents within six weeks of identifying a student as gay. 

Supposedly, there’s a safety net for kids who may be in harm’s way if their parents learn they’re gay, but I don’t buy it. Those in public schools who support  “Don’t Say Gay” are not going to withhold such lawbreaking information. And really, a safety net? How many children are abused at home without anyone ever knowing? Imagine adding this tidbit to the fire.

This information isn’t just a note from the principal that says Mary was talking too much in class. Instead, it is a potentially damaging and life-altering situation for Mary, Timmy, and all gay children in Florida. 

Every LGBTQIA+ adult I know experienced great emotional trauma when their parents and family learned they were gay. No matter if they shared the information, or if their parents intuitively knew, it was a terrifying time. Shame on Florida, and all the other states that somehow think this law is a good idea. 

If I went on, I’m sure I’d find myself boycotting stuff from every corner of our country, and certain parts of the world. But justice, true justice as we know it in our hearts, is worth thinking about and possibly sacrificing for.

I’m not sure what I’ll find on my top pantry shelf these days, but I’ll use it to toast to thinking, boycotting, and most of all, to justice.

Natalie Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at

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