Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ferguson

I've started this post a few times. It's hard to find perfect words when I'm feeling so much. Thankfully, some people who are better writers than I am have done some of the work for me.

I've always been interested in how we, as humans, interact with each other with a particular interest on how race effects those interactions and relationships. What oscillates for me is how willing I am to engage with people (usually white) who haven't thought about race critically. As I get older I am finding that I am less and less willing to play educator. Now don't get me wrong, at various times I've given talks and trainings on topics of race, diversity and inclusion. That stuff I love. If you want to pay me I'm happy to be a paid trainer. I also love discussions with people who are genuinely interested in fostering anti-racist ideas. The problems arise when people show up in my personal (rather than professional) world looking to "play devil's advocate." The people who don't really want to question their own assumptions but instead want to try and find cracks in my assertions that our identities color the way we see the world.

You know how there are stages of grief? The second stage of grief according to the Kubler-Ross model is anger. The second stage of becoming aware of your own privilege or whiteness according to the Amanda Gonzalez model is Make-A-Person-of-Color-Prove-It-To-You. I spent more hours of my 20s than I want to admit pulling studies, blog posts and academic articles for my white friends to "prove" to them that oppression exists. After more than one of those folks told me things like "well, I read the article you gave me and I decided they don't know what their talking about" I've decided to stop doing that. I feel, however, that I deserve several gold stars for never once screaming, "Yes, Derrick Bell/Angela Davis/person who has lived the experience we are talking about is clearly a moron and you are an expert! Clearly."

What those experiences taught me is that admitting that you receive privilege and power because of your identity is a really hard and painful thing to admit. Especially if you're not used to being challenged. And no amount of "proof" is going to make that change happen for those people.

I also realized that these people, the ones that were insisting that I "prove" oppression to them, had access to all the same documents I had. Why was I spending my free time doing academic searches when they were reading The New Yorker? It's my job and it's not the job of any person of color to educate white people. Why was I spending hours researching my point when there was no obligation on them to research and justify their own (classist or racist) beliefs? If someone truly wants to learn and become anti-racist they will take the initiative to do so without burdening people of color with all the grunt work.

In this excellent article about how to deal with friends' racist reactions to Ferguson Jenee Desmond-Harris encourages readers not to engage with ignorant friends or family on facebook about race or the terrible things happening in Ferguson. She writes, "[H]ere's the thing: Each and every person making comments that rub you the wrong way has access to the entire Internet, live feeds from Ferguson, materials on the entire history of American racism generally and violence against unarmed black men specifically. They are choosing to think the way they do because it works for them and makes them feel good." I think the word "choosing" was particularly impactful for me.

I'm realizing that some of what is sparking so much anger in me is that at some point the ignorance of the "well intentioned" person (even those that are politically progressive) becomes willful. I'm having a really hard time excusing the fact that people often choose to say terrible things or think a certain way (at the expense of people of color and black men in particular) just because it's easier for them.

As I'm sure you've discovered fro the tone of this post, I'm finding myself quick to anger right now. I sometimes feel suffocated by all the news coming out of Ferguson...but I can't not read it. I can't pull myself away and I'm not sure I really want to because I think the anger is justified. I'm angry that a Pew survey found that 47% of Whites think that race is getting more attention than it deserves. I'm angry that black and African American families are loosing sleep at night worry about whether or not cop will harm their son, brother or nephew. I'm angry at the bullshit I've heard my liberal friends saying that the real issue here is the militerization of our police forces. Need I remind you that white men have been killing people of color long before the War of Drugs started funding police tanks? Yes, militarization is a problem. But it's not nearly as big of a problem as racism and the unwillingness of so many to critically examine systems of power, priviledge and oppression in our own lives.

Heartbreaking kiddo and homemade sign at the Denver rally

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Facebook and Pot Roast

Pot o' Self Esteem 

There's something uniquely gratifying about preparing a crock pot meal. This recipe is cooking at home today and I have to admit...I left the house feeling pretty good about myself. It's as if you already know you have a win for the day. The world could go to shit but at least I prepared a home-cooked meal, I can't be that big of a fuck up.

Speaking of Self Esteem 

Truman's company recently brought on a marketing company. Prior to that I was sort of the company's marketing adviser. Which was sort of terrible because I didn't have any control over the situation. I still help update the social media periodically and I take way to much pride in the fact that my posts often do better than those from the pros. The other day I caught myself looking for analytics on my personal facebook page.

And Just to Prove My Point 

Remember my post about how words are not neutral? Here's a little side by side picture of Fox News and Fox News Latino illustrating my point.


Friday, August 1, 2014

On how we create space

I spent the last few days at the UUA's Multicultural Leadership School and ever since then I've been thinking about how we create space and who controls that space. All that is basically hippy speak for the feeling that you get when you meet a new group or people or go to a new place (like an office building or a new city). Does it feel like you belong there? What about the people or the place or the building make it feel a certain way? What about you makes you fit (or not fit)?

I've also been thinking a lot about how we claim space (for better or worse). How do we make it inclusive or exclusive to others. You see, these things don't happen magically. Churches or work places or liberal arts colleges don't just happen to be white/rich/etc.. Systems and people make them that way.

And then, right on time, the internet brought these two wonderful videos into my life. The first is about language. It has always grated on me a little when people correct someone else's grammar in public. It's one thing edit a written paper, it's another which it's speech... because there is so much wrapped up in speech. And the correcting has always implied to me that there is a grammar, a speech, or a code god. Which, or course, given the elasticicity of language, there is not. I love the line about putting "tri-lingual" on a job application.




The second video is about street harassment. It's gone viral on facebook so you may have seen it. A while back I was trying to explain to someone that criticizing other cultures and county's treatment of women or standard of beauty was a little throwing-stones-in-a-glass-house-y. They disagreed. That very night (it was summer so it was still light out) I walked a couple miles to grab dinner (ok, I walked a total of 6 miles to grab some In-N-Out, if we're being honest) and as I did so no fewer than three cars of men hollered things at me. My first reaction to this video was that it was a little over the top. But then I realized that wasn't really the case. The video wasn't over the top, my warped sense of appropriate-ness was. Even imagining a world where a woman can walk down the street without being told "Come on and smile baby" seems tough. Maybe we I need to re-calibrate my norms. Maybe we need to rethink about what kind of so-called public space we create. 
  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Camping and Tubing in Eleven Mile Canyon

Some friends invited us tubing/camping this weekend and, to be honest, I was being  a total grump and didn't feel like going. We went camping with Truman's parents a couple weeks ago and while we were gone (don't worry, it was only one night) Olivia got out. Some neighbors managed to wrangle her back into the back yard but, none the less, I was worried it would happen again.

And I feel like we've been gone a lot. And I'm going to be out of town next week. And laundry needs to get done. And mope, mope, mope. Let's be real, I'm an introvert and I have separation anxiety when I leave the dog. For realzies. Truman was a good sport and did the lion's share of the packing and Saturday morning we got out of the house only and hour behind schedule. But I was still pouting.

Once we got to Eleven Mile Canyon Recreation Area it was great. The area was beautiful. The company was great. The food was awesome. And Katy and I got to go tubing for the first time. I felt silly for pouting...but I still missed Olivia.

We've mostly been backpacking this summer and haven't done much car camping. I almost forgot how fun car camping food can be. It's sillier than what you'd cook at home and, as far as I'm concerned, calories consumed while camping don't count. We made foil pouch meals with ground turkey,onions, carrots and mushrooms for dinner and they were great. For dessert I followed this recipe (thanks pinterest!) to make dutch oven apple caramel cinnamon rolls.

Cinnamon apple goo fresh from the dutch oven, plus darkness, plus a flash doesn't make for the best pictures but trust me, they were delicious.

 This is Raleigh, he was obsessed with the fire. 

Campfire pancakes

Tubing was great. We picked up a little raft at a local sporting goods store the night before hoping that the three of us (Truman, Katy and I) would all fit but alas, it wasn't really made for two adults so I tubed solo. 

 Katy thought this whole tubing idea was a little insane. Regie thought it was hilarious. 

 There was some navigating involved. 





 Tubing selfie! I think I get extra points for a selfie with a dog in it. 




Katy the dog has become quite the veteran camper (six trips in the last two months). She's now gone backpacking, hiked a 14-er (a mountain over 14,000 feet), gone car camping, and done a little tubing. She's 3 craft beers away from being a Colorado stereotype. The only down side is that she's a bit of a pillow-thief in the tent. 




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Murrieta City Manager's Words Are Not Neutral

As a licensed attorney and critical race theorist, I know that words are incredibly important. If you've ever signed a contract or even fought with your spouse you know that as well. The race crit in me knows that we convey, embrace and norm culture through our words. So...I was infuriated when I read Murrieta City Manager Rick Dudley's letter that was posted on the city's facebook page. Here's the original message: 

This has been a difficult week in the city of Murrieta. We have been challenged and in some ways we fell down in the face of the challenge. We have been both celebrated and vilified locally and in the national press -- and mostly based on inaccurate interpretations of the same issue. On Monday, Mayor Long gave a press conference. During that press conference he recognized people’s right to peaceful protest. He also expressed frustration with the federal immigration policy that appears to be encouraging women and children from Central America to migrate to the US via the Rio Grande Valley. He recognized that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, but was concerned that the Murrieta Border Patrol station would be receiving 140 women and children every 72 hours for processing. This facility is not appropriate for that purpose – it is essentially a jail, designed to hold drug runners and criminals caught at the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15 just south of Temecula. When Mayor Long expressed frustration with the federal government and recommended protest, he was suggesting that concerned citizens contact their US Representatives and the President to share their thoughts. To that end, a list of federal offices, Members of Congress representing our area and the White House phone numbers were compiled on a list that was shared at the press conference.
Sadly, too many people took this as encouragement to protest the arrival of buses carrying the women and children to the Border Patrol station in Murrieta. Protesters came from around the southland to oppose the arrival of undocumented immigrants to Murrieta for processing. In the face of the protest, three buses were turned around and the protesters claimed victory. This was not victory. It was a loss for the city of Murrieta, for the community that we live in and love. It made this extremely compassionate community look heartless and uncaring. That is NOT the Murrieta that we all know and love. 


There appear to be two sides to this issue – those who believe Mayor Long was encouraging them to stand in front of the buses in protest, and those who believe that Murrieta does not recognize that the US is the envy of the world and that people want to migrate here, even at the risk of their lives and the lives of their children. Both sides are wrong. We understand that people want to come to the US to seek a better life for their families, and we are a compassionate people who want to help. But we also are a country whose legal system is based on the rule of law, and the people migrating must do so within the boundaries of the law. The protests resulting from the incorrect interpretations of Mayor Long’s comments have given our community a black eye. 


To be clear, the City of Murrieta’s primary role is public safety. Our police department has been out in force to protect the lives and the rights of those individuals who have chosen to protest. We are proud of our police department knowing that they have done an outstanding job of maintaining the peace.

Beyond that, we recognize that there is a battle in play between the Congress and the President over immigration. True, this is a federal issue and should be resolved at the federal level. But it is affecting our community is a very real and ugly way. This brings us back to Mayor Long’s original message – we should be contacting our US Representatives and the President and letting them know that their failure to resolve this issue has damaged our community, and not only ours, but communities throughout the southwestern US. We should be encouraging them to begin a dialogue – a dialogue that we are very ready to be part of. 

And above all, we should show everyone what a truly compassionate and caring community Murrieta is!
Rick Dudley
City Manager


I hated that, under the guise of neutrality or even compassion, the city manager reinforced the ideas that the immigrants in the buses were scary, bad, and illegal. To prove my point, here's another way the letter could have been written:

This has been a difficult week in the city of Murrieta, our community and the women and children who are seeking safety in the United States. Our city and its current residents have been challenged and in some ways we fell down in the face of the challenge. We have been both celebrated and vilified locally and in the national press -- sometimes accurately, sometimes inaccurately. On Monday, Mayor Long gave a press conference. During that press conference he expressed his own fear and concerned that the Murrieta Border Patrol station would be receiving 140 women and children every 72 hours for processing. Some of his fears were about infrastructure whether the facility could handle increased use. City officials believe the facility is not appropriate for that purpose – it is essentially a jail, designed to hold drug runners and criminals caught at the Border Patrol checkpoint on I-15 just south of Temecula. When Mayor Long expressed frustration with the federal government and recommended protest, he should have explicitly specified that citizens who shared his views could or should contact their US Representatives and the President to share their thoughts. 

Sadly, too many people took this as encouragement to protest the arrival of buses carrying the women and children to the Border Patrol station in Murrieta. For that the mayor should take responsibility for the lack of clarity in his call to action. He is sorry that such ugliness resulted from his action and encouragement. Protesters came from Murrieta around the southland to oppose the arrival of undocumented immigrants to Murrieta for processing. In the face of the protest, three buses were turned around and the protesters claimed victory. This was not victory. It was a loss for the city of Murrieta, for the community that we live in and love. It made this extremely compassionate community look heartless and uncaring. That is NOT the Murrieta that we all know and love. We can and will all do better. 


There appear to be two sides to this issue – those who believe Mayor Long was encouraging them to stand in front of the buses in protest, and those who believe that Murrieta does not recognize that the terrible situation many people are in and that leaving the homes they know and love is one of their only options, even at the risk of their lives and the lives of their children. We understand that immigration policy in the United States is complicated and that we would all be better if we approached the situation with love, sympathy and compassion. Whatever your political beliefs about immigration, the protests resulting from the interpretations of Mayor Long’s comments have given our community a black eye. 

To be clear, the City of Murrieta’s primary role is public safety. Our police department has been out in force to protect the lives and the rights of those individuals who have chosen to protest as well as those who are in the midst of a very complicated immigration process. We are proud of our police department knowing that they have done an outstanding job of maintaining the peace. 


Beyond that, we recognize that there is a battle in play between the Congress and the President over immigration. True, this is a federal issue and should be resolved at the federal level. But it is affecting our community is a very real and ugly way. During this time of tension and ambiguity at the federal level we encourage you to be kind and to make our city proud. 



And above all, we should show everyone what a truly compassionate and caring community Murrieta is!


Rick Dudley
City Manager


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Terrible Place Called Murrieta

It's funny how you can just know if a place is for you. If you fit there.You know by the vibe or the feeling or the air if the space is meant to be inhabited by people like you. Or at least if it's currently inhabited by people like you.

My family moved to Murrieta, California when I was 5 and we (half) joke that by the time I finished first grade I knew that this was not the place for me. What can I say, I'm just not the mega church kind of girl. I also really happen to value racial and ethnic diversity along with diversity of thought. Sometimes when people ask where I'm from I say something like "a terrible place called Murrieta." It's a little bit in jest. But sometimes the city earns the designation. 


An acquaintance from high school posted this article about immigration on Facebook today and the tone just made my soul hurt. Apparently 140 of the children who are in that horrible situation in Texas (more sad pictures here) are being moved to Murrieta. All the talk about "health screenings" and whether or not "they" had been "processed" is pretty gross. If you didn't know better you would think the article was talking about livestock rather than families and children. 


In a Facebook comment one Murrieta resident says, " who knows what kind of illnesses these people can be bringing in to our community [...]." In another Faceook post the mayor talks about safety in capital letters and then gives an "illegal immigrant update." I wish it all didn't feel so reminiscent of Nazi propaganda. 

Look, I know that realities around immigration are really complicated but at the end of the day, no matter what your politics are, it's important to remember that these are people. They are humans with feelings and we should treat (and talk about) them with dignity and respect. 

If you want to read some particularly disgusting comments you can check out the bottom of this article from NBC or this Facebook post from Murrieta's mayor.

Update: here's a picture from twitter of some lovely people of Murrieta trying to block the bus. Let's be honest, my high school history teacher the nut job I took AP American History  is probably one of them.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Crafty Canvas Wedding Anniversary Present

For our first wedding anniversary I ordered Truman one of those prints on canvass to hang in our bedroom. I used Photoshop to layer on a paragraph of my wedding vows to him. The camera phone picture below isn't perfect but I was really happy with the way the canvass came out. The only think I would have changed is I think would have ordered a frame for it. Oh well, Michael's or Aaron Brothers can probably make that happen. This project let me be a little crafty without making my husband pretend to be excited about some puff paint mason jar and glitter monstrosity. Puff paint is so 1995.


In a pretty funny great-minds-think-alike moment he also had a wedding picture blown up for me (except his had a frame). Thanks to our wedding anniversary our house is finally getting some decor on the walls. He also got me tickets to see Sarah McLachlan at Red Rocks. The concert is this Wednesday and I can't wait for date night!