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.