This Is Today’s Test

I really hate that we’re even having this conversation because it’s so damn stupid, but no one is disrespecting the flag. That’s just a bald faced lie. Kneeling is not a gesture of disrespect. It’s a prayerful, reverent position. If Kapernick had said he was kneeling as an act of patriotic fervor, no one except the Jehovah’s witnesses and the Mennonites would have objected. But he’s kneeling to protest a pattern of violence by the state against citizens, particularly black citizens.

Let’s drill down to brass tacks about this issue. A 12 year old child named Tamir Rice was deliberately shot on sight, without warning, while playing in a park by the police. And nothing happened. His mom got some money because that’s all anyone cares to give her. The local cops ridicule her, sometimes openly. They knowingly lied about her son and what happened. They did not provide immediate first aid for Tamir’s wounds. They made his sister watch her 12 year brother dying on the ground while locked in the back of a squad car, after a full grown man tackled her to stop her from reaching him. They didn’t even follow their own rules. The local DA was forced by protests to convene a grand jury which he threw so flagrantly and deliberately that details of the proceedings were leaked to the public – something which simply does not happen with grand juries. Grand juries do not leak. From front to back, this case is as egregiously unjust and cruel as it is possible to be.

And, by all appearances, a lot of Americans are cool with that. They’ll repeat easily disproven lies smearing a 12 year old child before dealing with the obvious problem Kapernick and other athletes are protesting. To them, the most important thing is that we all agree that there is most certainly not a problem and further, that we are not allowed to talk openly about the problem outside of a few well-worn bromides that have always sufficed before. Unfortunately, there are people with really loud voices and a lot of power who fall into the category of people who just don’t give a shit about a 12 year old kid in a supposed “ghetto” that they won’t even drive through but know everything about. Where a 12 year old child was playing when he was shot by the police, no wilding gang members being available to do the job, apparently. The people who think like this are assholes. These are the people who need to be identified and kept away from positions of power and influence. Because they are literally sociopaths who are a danger to the rest of us.

So here’s what’s happening right now; as I warned y’all a couple of years back we’re going to be having a little test. And apparently God put Kapernick in charge of administering this part of it. The particular question we need to answer for this part of the test is simple:

What is more important to you: living in a country where it’s unthinkable for a 12 year old kid to be shot by a police officer while playing at the park or following protocol for interacting with national symbols?

That’s all you have to answer: which one matters more? A human being or the flag? Justice or a song? Will you kneel for justice and real human lives or will you refuse to on account of mere symbols? That’s the choice you get to make. It’s an easy enough question to answer. Which is more important – humans or symbols and protocols. Sociopaths will make one choice. Decent human beings will make another. So make your choice. What matters more to you? At the end of the day, what sort of person do you turn out to be? Choose. Let us all know. We’re watching.

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Let’s Be Real, My White Peeps . . . 

I read a Facebook post this morning from a woman who has adoptive children from Africa. In it she shared the sort of evil, hateful messages she received about her family. Telling her that her small black son will rape her white daughter is the least offensive example she gave. Because my mixed race family is not as high profile as hers, I have not witnessed much of the open vitriol that she has, just the more pervasive, quiet examples of destructive racism. Like having my family’s future decided by a new boss who had a severe problem with the talented, hot-shot black guy who reported to him. The effects that working in extremely hostile environments for years on end sometimes had on my husband’s mental well being. The neighbors who refuse to socialize with us and sometimes even discouraged their kids from befriending our kids. The occasional bizarre reactions to my sons when they were little.

I could write books of examples of how my husband’s skin tone and nose have affected our lives. The time he almost died from incompetent medical care in an area with one of the highest discrepancies in outcomes between racial groups in the country. That he’s moved into our last 3 homes sight unseen as a way around pervasive housing discrimination. The difficulty getting a decent loan. Seriously-  it’s hard to stop giving examples. It pervades EVERYTHING. I don’t actually think about it much because what’s the point? It is what it is. And I’m not even the one bearing the full brunt of it.

But the woman whose post I link to above said something that we very much have in common; that she had previously been unaware that white supremacy and racism were still a thing. Just like this woman, prior to marrying my husband, I had no idea it was like this. None. My husband would get desperately frustrated with me early in our marriage because I was completely incapable of factoring racial discrimination into my decision making process. He’d say, “It’s different for black folks. It just is. Things don’t work the same for us as they do for white folks.”
And I’d kind of stare blankly at him, unable to process what he was saying because it was such melodramatic overreaction and not a healthy mindset to approach life with. When I would attempt to explain this to him, the desperate frustration would kick in. Because I was delusional. I really was. I had no idea how reality works. I just didn’t. And that worked for both the good and the bad in the end, but clearly my delusion didn’t last forever. Reality has a way of intruding.
See, I don’t think that white supremacy and racism are primarily heart issues as is commonly said. White supremacy and racism certainly corrupt our hearts, but primarily they are a set of false beliefs. The most obvious being that white people are self-evidently better than black people. We may not put it so crudely, of course. We’ll just point out differences in crime rates and out of wedlock births and style and lack of achievement and the experiences we’ve had with individual black people who rubbed us the wrong way. We’re not saying all black people are bad. If someone lives up to our standards, we’ll accept them regardless of their race. We don’t even care about color! Don’t even see it, in fact! Like Dr. King said – content of character, not color of skin.
I saw a picture of a girl holding a sign at a protest once which I think describes this kind of thinking pretty perfectly:

“You take away our daddy’s and then make fun of us for being fatherless”

Having been trained to think the world work very differently than it does in reality makes us white folks very hard of hearing. (And then we play victim and get mad that people are yelling at us, btw.) But here’s what white people need to hear: there is a very real problem and we can do an enormous amount to fix it. It starts with admitting we are wrong AND – even more important-  correcting that. People shouldn’t have to put their hate mail calling their small sons rapists on display to get your attention anymore. This is not news. We shouldn’t have to have tiki torch Nazis parading around a statue of General Lee for people to realize that there are racists among us. (And not just cordoned off somewhere in the boonies either.)
People have been telling us how bad it is and we don’t want to listen. We want to argue and explain. I had a guy on Twitter the other day try to convince me that racial problems came down to an issue of semantics and bad communication. No – racial problems come down to people being mistreated and their lives getting fucked up while very smart white folks want to talk semantics and demand the benefit of the doubt no matter what. To me, racial problems mean all kinds of real, practical things. To him, it’s all just words. Which is about as good an illustration of the problem as any.
We are the problem. We’ve been the problem. And if that hurts your feelings or makes you angry, too bad! Really. Grow the hell up. You’re not a toddler. You can handle some bad feelings. Ask black folks. They know more about bad feeling a than you do, that’s for damn sure. And no – I don’t need to know you to know that. Because if you really had suffered that much, you wouldn’t have hurt feelings or be mad right now because you know that depth of suffering is far too serious to be that petty about.
Anyways, I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here. It’s a thing that happens – the more you tell the truth, the more people who believe lies reject you. Oh well. But perhaps you can share this with someone who needs to read it. Because this has to stop. We white people need to accept reality and stop arguing/being defensive so that we can all get to work fixing it. Unless white people really do want to live in a world where skin color defines us. Because until we stop fighting, that’s what it looks like to everyone else.

This Makes No Sense to Me

There is this bizarre phenomena that I run into now and again where someone will respond to criticism of modern racism by pointing out that in the early to mid 20th century, the Democratic party, particularly in the south, was unabashedly racist and for a while even aligned itself with the Klan. Like I’ll bring up the fact that Trump was enthusiastically supported by white supremacists and someone will say, “the Democrats are the real racists. They were the ones who passed all the Jim Crow laws.” To which I respond . . . whaaaaaaa????

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the history, it is quite true that the Democrats were, in the past, active proponents of racism and segregation. That all changed after the passage of the civil rights and voting rights acts in the 60s, of course. By the late 70s, Republican Ronald Reagan was campaigning using rhetoric about states rights and racist tropes about “young bucks” and “welfare queens” while Democrat Jimmy Carter was campaigning in African American churches. In the 1980 election, the people who used to vote for the racist Democratic party of the mid 20th century now voted Republican.

So what in the world do people who insist on responding to criticism of current racism by pointing to the Democrat’s history of racism think they are doing? What point do they think they are making? How exactly do they think I’m supposed to respond? I am deeply confused when people do this.

Do they imagine that I will be so shocked to hear that Democrats used to embrace racism that I will refuse to have anything to do with them and run into the arms of the party currently supported by racists in order to maintain my purity? Am I supposed to go easy on today’s racists because in the past they would have been Democrats?

I mean, back in the day, the Democrats were a big proponent of maintaining an agrarian society and distrusted paper money. The Republicans used to believe in a strong federal government and opposed states rights. Should we be trying to hold the parties to their original standards? Should I bring that history up when a Republican advocates for more control for states and a weaker federal government? If in 50 years, the Republicans are staunchly secular and the Democrats are highly religious, would it matter that in the past the parties were reversed? Does the label of Democrat and Republican have magic juju bound to it that transcends whatever the party is about in real time?

Can someone help me out here? I’ve tried asking these questions of the people who do this and, strangely, none of them have been able to come up with an answer that makes sense. And yet they keep doing it. I’m just trying to understand the logic here. Which, now that I think of it, is probably a mistake on my part. Sometimes the answer really is “because they’re morons.” It happens.

Just Define the Racism Away . . .

This morning on facebook, I commented on a post saying that we have not made nearly as much progress combating racism as we like to give ourselves credit for. One man responded by claiming (ie lying) that because of a disability, he had applied for government assistance. While there he saw a black family driving a luxury SUV get all the government assistance they needed but he was turned down for help because he is white. Another man included the phrase “ni**er loving ass” in his response to me. Both were arguing that my original claim was wrong. I’m 100% certain both would insist that they are not racist and have a special snowflake meltdown if you said otherwise.

Life in post-racial America; where you get rid of racism by simply defining it away.

The Fragility of Our Dominant Culture

True story: someone I’m connected with on facebook just posted an article claiming that “radical leftists” were guilty of shutting down discourse by insisting on trigger warnings, safe spaces and calling out micro-aggressions. I responded that this was bullshit. None of those things actually shut down discourse. People disagreed. I stood my ground. So the person who claimed that “radical leftists” were shutting down discourse decided that the conversation was too heated and deleted it. I believe that the word for this is irony.

15135763_10208953533409178_5817473775491816140_nOne of the things which has become abundantly clear is that there are a lot of people on the right, but also among neo-liberals who are engaging in heavy duty projection. They are the ones who can’t handle vigorous discourse and shut down at criticism or pushback, so they accuse others of doing so, for example. I mean, you will never find a bigger whiny special snowflake than someone who complains about political correctness. All you have to do is say the word “racism”  or call out intolerance and they melt down, claiming that you’ve make discussions impossible. Meanwhile, let a black person be told that they are pulling the race card or want to be given something for nothing and that same person will expect them to remain calm and composed.

What’s really happening here is that people who have previously been marginalized and whose concerns were ignored are gaining a voice. And it’s an uncomfortable, unfamiliar, challenging voice for those who are ensconced in the majority culture to hear. The impulse is to get them to shut up. To mock and marginalize their attempts to be heard and exert some influence on public discourse in ways that address their own needs. I’m sure that many of the people doing this have no idea that they are actually the ones who are trying to shut down public discourse because they’ve never considered that public discourse which includes and is mindful of everyone will look and sound different than public discourse they are used to.

The other dynamic which I think we’re seeing is that as those who have previously been marginalized push back against things which are hurtful and harmful to them, it exposes the fact that the dominant culture has been callous, cruel and completely unfair to many people. No one wants to think of themselves as callous, cruel and unfair, of course. But instead of recognizing that they haven’t done the work required to ensure that they aren’t actually callous, cruel and unfair, a lot of people just retreat into denial and scapegoating. They blame the person who brings their inadequacies to light for making them feel bad and become hostile towards them.

The discussion surrounding things like trigger warnings, political correctness, safe spaces, microaggressions and the like is extremely frustrating. People who oppose and complain about these things consistently show by their own words that they lack any actual understanding of the subject of their ire. But the good thing is that people who have been marginalized, far from being fragile children and special snowflakes are quite accustomed to dealing with and persevering through hostility and opposition. Once the dominant culture figures out that they are capable of doing likewise and actually engage with the issue like grown-ups, reality will win.

Wait – I thought Racial Discrimination Was Illegal. Silly Me

Very early in his career, my (African American) husband was on a temp-to-hire job doing complex data analysis – something he excels at. He had a 60 day review which was outstanding and his boss commented on how quickly he was performing as well or better than long time employees in the same position. Typically the 90 day trail period they put new employees through was just to evaluate if they had the capability of learning how to do the work.

A few days later, someone left an extraordinarily racist cartoon of a “ghetto fish” on my husband’s chair at work before he arrived in the morning. While he was looking at it in shock, one of the other employees walked by, glanced at the paper and said, “that’s pretty funny” (as if he had already seen the cartoon). Then waked off.

My husband didn’t think it was funny at all and went to his boss to show him the cartoon and explain what had happened. The boss wasn’t alarmed in the least but just snorted and told him to ignore it. That evening, my husband got a call from the employment agency telling him that the company he was doing the temp-to-hire with didn’t need him anymore. That was all he was told – “they’ve decided that they don’t need you to return.”

At my insistence, he contacted an employment lawyer to discuss the situation. He spoke to two different people who explained that filing a discrimination complaint is a long, drawn-out process involving a review by the EEOC which must be performed before any lawsuit can be filed to attempt to address the wrong done. The lawyer for the person who claims to have been wronged typically works for little to no money upfront, so they aren’t particularly motivated to pursue individual cases with little hope of a large pay-out. They will take those small cases, but typically the company uses their lawyers to draw the cases out to the point that they simply aren’t worth it and the lawyer forces a settlement that leaves everyone no better off than where they started. Further, they explained, once it is known that you have filed an EEOC complaint or are involved in a lawsuit, it is almost impossible to get hired in the same field. (Lawsuits are public record and if the EEOC decides to take action on a case directly, they make a press release.) They recommended that my husband only file a complaint if he was already planning or prepared to change his line of work entirely or get training to do so.

After that, my husband only ever complained to management about racism in the workplace once. That was also early in his career when he was hired to be a manager of a small office and his employees left racist graffiti on his car and refused to attend his meetings. He was told to ignore it and give people time. Otherwise he just found ways to work around the racism he encountered. And years later, when he was in a position to hire someone, he was told that he couldn’t hire his chosen candidate because it was known that she had won a discrimination lawsuit against a former employer which allegedly made her a high risk hire. Confirming what those employment lawyers had told him. Imagine that – you get treated like shit, stand up for your rights and then become unemployable in some employer’s eyes.

So, that’s the state of our workplace anti-discrimination laws in this country. In case you were wondering why things aren’t better. (Don’t worry – there’s lots more where this story came from.)

Black and White Drug Dealers in America

Late last Saturday night, my husband and some friends were driving home when there was an accident a ways ahead of them. A piece of debris from the accident punctured the gas tank of our family’s only vehicle. Which, of course, we had used our last pennies to pay off the day before. Because, of course.

On the upside, one of my husband’s friends has stepped up and is driving him to and from the bus stop while they work on replacing the damaged gas tank. He took my husband to buy the replacement, brought over the tools needed and has spent at least 6 hours so far on our cold, filthy garage floor helping my husband remove the damaged tank. Obviously, he’s a very good friend.

However, about 15 years ago, he was our town drug dealer. He sold everything, but particularly cocaine and meth. And he had become a meth user himself. He says that the first time he tried meth, he felt so good that he thought, “this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Big ambitions.

He was still in high school at the time and one day, just a few months short of his 18th birthday, he was caught on school grounds with a large quantity of drugs and cash in his car. At this point, his fate was in the hands of the county prosecutor.

There were enough drugs and cash in the car that it was obvious he was the source of a lot of the drugs being used in the area. And he had been found with them on school property, during school hours. He was close enough to his 18th birthday to be charged as an adult with multiple felonies and sent away for a long time. In fact, the DA and the local police would be able to make some real political hay with the case. Plus could hold a press conference with the drugs and cash laid out on a table, announcing that they had just taken out a major player in the local drug trade. Continue reading

Colonizing Cities for White American Jesus

No one likes to think of themselves as racist or prejudiced. Even the KKK denies being a racist organization. Which for some people just affirms the deeply held idea that there’s something wrong with people of color. If there wasn’t something wrong with them, people of color wouldn’t have so many problems now that racism isn’t a problem. How can racism be to blame when there are no more racists among us?

Of course, racism and the residual effects of centuries of being raped, robbed and pillaged continue to be an issue. If we’d ever like to get to the day when there really are no racists among us, we need white people to be a lot less clueless. Like, for example, we need for this to become unthinkable, particularly for Christians:

When I asked the white pastor of a large suburban multi-campus church to . . . reflect on whether he has earned the right to do ministry among the oppressed, he responded by saying, “Obviously, the pastors [of color] that are already in the community aren’t more qualified to minister in that neighborhood than I am. If they were, they’d have made a bigger impact by now. They’ve had their chance. Now it’s mine.”

Or this:

One older African-American pastor said he’s heard chilling reports of meetings, in which representatives from many of the suburban churches have gathered around a map of the city and marked each church’s “territory,” as if Buffalo was theirs to divvy up. The indigenous leaders were not invited to these meetings, nor have they been contacted by these churches. It’s as if they don’t exist, their churches don’t exist, and their expertise doesn’t exist.

Those quotes come from a really excellent article by Christina Cleveland called “Urban Church Planting Plantations” which ought to be required reading for every suburban pastor. And for you too. It’s super good.

I had heard talk of urban church planting and knew that most such church plants fail miserably. Often they become money holes for the church supporting them. Even relatively successful ones find that instead of ministering directly to poor, struggling communities, they are attracting a crowd that doesn’t actually live in the area the church is supposed to be ministering to.

In fact, the last church our family was seriously involved in was an urban church plant supported by a large, predominantly white denomination. They had a long history of working for racial reconciliation and so did better than most. They hired African American pastors and ministers who were at least somewhat familiar with the community. They were even paying for additional education and training to bring the pastors up to the denomination’s standards. But at the same time, we were driving 40 minutes each way to get there. Urban ministry is much harder than Pastor “It’s my turn” thinks.

Continue reading

Do You Think I Should Send This?

Dear Bertha*,

I am writing to let you know that my daughter mentioned to me today that on several occasions now your daughter Suzi-Q has made derogatory comments to her regarding her half-black heritage. The poor thing even tried claiming that you had told her that you didn’t like black people too. I knew you would want to know about this right away so you can talk to Suzi-Q about not repeating every ridiculous thing she hears some ill-bred child on the playground saying. And of course, we wouldn’t want other, more credulous people to catch wind of her claim that you don’t like black people. I’m sure that she’ll never repeat such nonsense again once she understands that people will assume she is being raised by repugnant trailer-park trash who doesn’t deserve to breathe the air that the Good Lord provides us. I mean, obviously I’ve known perfectly fine people who live in trailer parks and it’s completely possible for scummy filth to reside in a lovely home like your own. But you know how people can be with their ridiculous stereo-typing and absurd assumptions based on the shallowest of pretenses. We’ll just have to hope Suzi-Q’s unfortunate statements haven’t gotten back to anyone else and harmed your family’s good standing in the community. Continue reading

My quick take on the news

After putting up 4 fairly long posts in less than 24 hours yesterday, I need to take some time to attend to the kiddies and my gardens. But I’d hate the leave my minions without their Upside Down World fix (that’s a joke, btw 🙂 ). So I thought I’d pass on my take on a couple of recent news events which have been bugging me.

1. Oil. Obviously oil costs too much. Obviously we need to find ways to cut back. Obviously what we are doing isn’t sustainable in the long term. However, the reality is that our best case scenario right now is to cut back and go through a transition period away from heavy dependence on oil. Which means that for the foreseeable future we will still need the stuff. So, it drives me nuts that we refuse to allow drilling and oil exploration either on or off shore in the USA. Now, I’m not saying we can become self-sufficient by drilling in the USA. However, the main protest against drilling seems to be environmental. Normally, I’m very sympathetic to environmental causes. However, do other oil producing countries not have environments? Are we to believe that Russia and Nigeria and Argentina are taking their oil from lifeless wastelands? Is the USA the only place on the planet where there is an environment worth preserving? Come on people! At least in the USA we can be assured that best practices will be used to protect the environment. Can we really have have any confidence that Gabon will do the same? It seems to me that from a global level, those who really want us to do the least amount of environmental damage possible would be trying to get oil production moved into the places like the USA. IMO, our current approach is silly and selfish.

2. Scott McClellan, as you have surely heard, has written a tell-all book which repeats the same things every other book about the Bush administration has said (ie he’s an incurious baboon). What I have found amusing about this is the press reaction to the book. Now, I know that the press, having dealt with McClellan as press secretary don’t care for the man. However, they keep saying, “why didn’t he say anything when he was in office?” Yeah, I can see how that would have worked: “Thank you for coming today, ladies and gentlemen of the press. The president has asked me to tell you that things are going well in Iraq and we’re making adjustments on the ground as needed. However, I would personally like to add that the president is delusional and he was picking lint from between his toes during the morning briefing, so I doubt he has any real idea what’s going on. I’ll open the floor for questions now.”

3. Kathleen Parker, the (I hate to say it) conservative columnist has apparently taken up the use of psychotropic drugs and is now acting as a propagandist for various white-power groups. If you were fortunate enough to miss it, Ms. Parker wrote a column about voters looking for a “full blooded American” to vote for. Continue reading