“Make a choice. Speak up. Unsubscribe.”

Jarrett Hill wrote an OpEd piece called “White People, It’s Time to Use Your Privilege, Whether You Believe You Have It or Not,” for NBCBLK September 24, 2017.

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Writer, Reporter – Jarrett Hill

It began:

“A message for white people:

“I know how jarring it may be to hear a non-white person, or maybe anyone, even say the words “white people,” as it can take on a pejorative connotation. That’s fine. This isn’t always comfortable to have to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true, necessary, or timely.”

The challenge is for white people (myself included) to stand UP, (and kneel DOWN), speak UP and stop being complicit in the systematic and so-deeply-ingrained-whites-don’t-even-see-it-anymore prejudice and hate against People of Color.

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“Sorry, but not sorry, you’re going to have to take a side. And yes, you have to do it now.”

The United States has always had a divide between races. But now, with the dotard “president,” it has become a chasm, one that grows more visible and wider with each new tweet. White people just cannot keep their… OUR… mouths shut anymore. We have kept silent and turned our backs for far too many decades.

Stand alone if need be

Blacks are being killed by the police nearly every day. Latinx are being confiscated from their homes, from schools, their places of employment and even in hospitals and churches. Muslims are accused of violence simply because of their religion… one many of us do not understand (myself included), but the harassment and death threats are just not what the United States was founded to represent. All of this in order to fulfill the dotard’s horrific ideas… and plans… to rid the country of anyone not white.

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“It’s very likely, and understandable if you feel this is unfair, this is inconvenient, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult, it’s embarrassing, it’s going to alienate you from people you know, love, work with, watch the game with.”

Too fucking bad. SPEAK UP! Speak for those who get killed when they open their mouths, receive death threats when they kneel at a football game (exercising their First Amendment exquisitely). We whites cannot leave Black & Brown people hanging out there alone anymore.

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I read an article yesterday (that I cannot find again for anything) where a Black Medical Resident was leaving work after a more-than-30-hour shift in the Emergency Room and a white man in a car started screaming the N-word at him, over and over again. He added some other racist epithets, but mostly it was the N-word. He said the white man was laughing so hard at his hilarity the doctor thought he would have to give him aid when he finally collapsed in hysteria.

While that part is gross enough, the part that was the most offensive to him (and me) is the whites in the parking lot who said NOTHING.

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NOTHING.

He said they skittered away, trying not to get involved.

What the holy fuck, white people!

SAY SOMETHING! SCREAM BACK! 

Yeah, I know… they might have a gun. If they do, they do. You are supporting/protecting/showing love for another human being that is in the line of fire. If you believe in a God, He will surely reward you for speaking up.

“That’s privilege. Someone once said, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” This is a taste of equality.”

It’s tough to say something when we are so used to just walking on. We cannot just walk by anymore.

WE CANNOT IGNORE THE ISSUE ANYMORE.

WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP!

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OPEN YOUR MOUTHS, WHITE FOLKS!

SCREAM when others simply cannot or are hoarse from doing so.

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artist: Annie Owens

ENOUGH.

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One of my heroes… Colin Kaepernick.

 

My Disgraceful History: KKK

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Racism, Hate, Hate Groups, Black History all discussed.

The horrific events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017, where the beautiful Heather Heyer was killed, were despicable acts of domestic terrorism. An outspoken beacon for ending racial and xenophobic behaviors, she will be honored always for her sacrifice to the cause of equality and peace.

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Hero, Heather Heyer

My Sordid Family Legacy

These clashes between the “right/alt-right/white supremacists/white nationalists/Nazis/etc. brings out, once again, the shame I hold in my heart because of my family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan.

My great-grandfather, Eddie Johnston, came from Sweden when he was young. His family (whose name was Johnson) had been bigoted before they even got to Ellis Island. When my great-great grandfather was asked his name, he added a T to his last name… because far too many blacks in America had the last name Johnson.

Memories of Racism

  • I remember when my family moved from northern California to Orlando, Florida in 1966; I was 5 years old. As we drove deeper and deeper into the south, I saw more and more segregation. I had no concept or context, of course, but absolutely remember the different water fountains and different bathrooms. Today, I am horrified at those memories.
  • In 5th grade, Mrs. Moore made it clear where she stood on the race issue. We still had no blacks in the school… the first and only black person came the next year… but as she taught American History, she lingered on the south’s views in the Civil War segment.
  • A friend of mine, Angel, brought in something that she wouldn’t even show me, but went to Mrs. Moore to ask if she could share with the class. I was near the desk so could hear it all, still not putting it into context for several more years. Angel had brought in some Civil War memorabilia, all southern in origin. I can still hear Mrs. Moore saying, “I believe the same as you do, but we aren’t allowed to talk about those things.” I went to sharpen my pencil and saw a photo of the white hoods and a burning cross. It was the first time I had ever seen the KKK.
  • My Nana, whom I was named after, was married to my Johnston great-grandfather. I distinctly remember her seeing black children, pinching their cheeks and telling them what cute “pickaninnies” they were. How I wish I could remember the faces of those children’s mothers; they had to have been disgusted.
  • When we spent weekends with my great-grandparents, watching television became an adventure in racism. The Flip Wilson Show, one of the first TV shows that starred a black person, was popular, but my great-grandfather would holler epithets at the blacks on his show and kvetched the entire hour it was on.
  • You know the child’s game of Eeny Meeny Miny Moe, yes?

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When we played the game it was “catch a n-word by the toe.” I had zero clue what I was saying. When I had kids, they would play the game and sing “catch a tiger by the toe,” but there was not one time I didn’t flinch when they began singing the song, fearing they would say that horrible word. They’d never even heard that version of the rhyming game; I still braced myself.

  • Peppered around the south are Brazil nut trees. We called them “n-word toes.”

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heavy sigh

Add the KKK to My History

I was about 10-years old when my racist great-grandfather lay dying in a hospital from emphysema. The stories began being told about his life, one of which was his history with the KKK. Apparently, he had been an active member in the 1930s and 1940s when my family lived outside New York City and then again when my great-grandparents retired to Florida in the early 1960s. Hints that he might have been a grand wizard wafted about as well.  I have no idea either how to find out if that is true nor do I have any desire to learn more about his/my shameful history.

How I Was Raised

My father, a Cuban, was called the n-word in high school (in Miami) and my mom’s family became apoplectic when they became engaged. Not sure if my mom had some inherent understanding of racial issues, but she was a supporter of civil rights issues in the 60’s. Not that she could march or anything having 3 kids one right after the other, but she said she did speak up as much as possible with friends and family.

For whatever reason, we just didn’t say the n-word at home. Except for what I mentioned above, I cannot recall ever using that word to describe anyone or use as an epithet.

It took until junior high, which bused in blacks, before I heard the word used regularly. I didn’t connect the word with racism until long after I graduated from high school. I remember, in high school, hanging out with band members who “joked” about being in the KKK, how they were looking for local meetings and even talked about burning crosses. I sat mute, confused and lost. How much more oblivious could I have been? I’m baffled at my inability to see the graphic evil stewing around me.

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Somewhere along the line, my mom gave me the book, Black Like Me… a not so subtle teaching of stepping into another’s shoes… black shoes. I remember reading it as if it was yesterday.

After my parent’s divorce, my dad married a deep south-thinking bitch. When she met my Dominican husband, her face pinched tight and she asked, “Are you black?!” the word “black” spit out like a bitter pill. Somewhere in me, I sat up straighter and mentally stuck my tongue out at her.

In fact, his grandmother was black, 2 of my children being brown, the last white like me.

Confronting My Own Racism

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It took (too) many years coalescing all that I’d seen and heard into some semblance of understanding.

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I’m sitting looking at the blinking cursor, not even sure where to go from here.

pausing some more

I need to amend a sentence I wrote above.

“I cannot recall ever using that word (the n-word) to describe anyone or use as an epithet.”

Amendment: Out loud.

After not using that word in my life, how did it jump into my mind when I was frustrated or angry with a Black person (usually in the car)? Where did that (disgusting) habit come from?

The 1980s were a really introspective time for me. I tackled issues like boycotting, feminism, inner-homophobia, non-violent communication & childrearing… and began exploring my beliefs (and lies) about racism and xenophobia.

(This is much harder to write than I expected.)

I am the embodiment of white privilege. I might have Cuban blood and a Latinx surname, but I have been indoctrinated in the ways of the white culture.

Despite working with Latinx migrant and immigrant women for a couple of decades, learning Spanish, and being able to make platanos maduros, I remain steeped in whiteness.

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My Apology

I acknowledge there is very little I can say to alleviate the damage done by me and my family, but I have to apologize, nevertheless. I am deeply sorry to everyone affected by those in my family… and perpetrated by myself, even inside my mind. I do not want forgiveness, would never ask for it because I do not think forgiveness is in order. I want blacks to know, in my heart, I do apologize every day. I try to use the privilege I have to rectify, support and lift up the blacks I see and interact with. I am so, so sorry. There are not enough words to express myself.

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Some Things I’ve Learned

“For a black American, a black inhabitant in this country, the Statue is simply a very bitter joke… Meaning nothing to us.”

James Baldwin, Ken Burns‘ America: Statue of Liberty

Black Lives Matter is an amazing group that holds black people in the esteem they deserve. I love their goals of ending the country’s systematic incarceration, ending police violence with regards to black folks and being “unapologetically black,” fighting for reform of the justice system that is overwhelmingly against blacks and standing tall in their shared problems and successes. I’m listening.

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It makes my heart ache seeing what’s happening with this country because of 45. Each of us has a role to take in ending the pain and growing chasms tearing our country apart. I cannot march, but I can write. I need to write more.

“What’s different, he said, is that the world now has a history of what Nazism is and what it led to, which it didn’t have 75 years ago.

“We don’t have the ability to pretend like it’s not happening,”

Listening Hard

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Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Politics: Brokenhearted

I go a couple three days without reading even headlines. Then, like tonight, I peek at what is trending.

And now I am despondent.

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artist, Anna Giladi

Just the headlines are enough to make me want to crawl in a hole. Imagining these people in control, making rules and regulations (or undoing regulations as the case may be)… it’s terrifying.

Rape

I do not say the word “rape” lightly. I do not use it randomly. I have been raped. I know the seriousness of the word.

So when I say I am horrified seeing who is going into the Cabinet because they are going to rape the United States, I mean it with all the terror that comes with the word.

The people being appointed are going to make the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “conflict” look like a picnic. They are going to dig deep into the land, tearing up beautiful homes, ruining National Parks… and the repercussions will be felt/known/experienced for hundreds of years after these fucking pigs are out of office and dead.

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Hopeless

I felt hopeless for a couple of hours. My chest felt like someone was sitting on it; I struggled to breathe. My blessed cub held me and talked to me as I cried about how horrible this all is.

And it hasn’t even begun yet!

I think that’s the scariest for me is if I am this upset and sad now, what am I going to be like in a year when we are in the middle of the rape, still years ahead to be attacked… every which way we try to get away, to fight our attacker, he strong-arms us and continues the assault.

Not Giving Up

I saw this photo:

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I cannot let anyone die alone.

No LGBTQIA+ youth who is outed because of new laws will not be alone. We will do everything in our power to save you from the evils of “conversion therapy”… torture.

No woman who has to have an illegal abortion because abortion has been outlawed will not be alone. Those who can will learn to do abortions safely, despite the laws, risking jail, but finding the risk is far less than a woman attempting self-abortion.

No Muslim who has to “Register” to be in this country will not register alone. Women who have their hijabs mocked or pulled off will be defended so she is able to practice her religion in this country that still allows religious freedom (so far).

No woman who is attacked… grabbed “by the pussy”… will not mourn and heal alone.

No Black man, woman or child will endure the escalating hate and murder alone.

No immigrant, here legally or “illegally,” will fight to live here alone.

No Native American will have to wrest their rightful land back from the lying White people alone.

No disabled person will be left to live or suffer alone. We will find the tools they (WE!) need for anyone who still has needs. We will not let the world become completely able-ist, forgetting/not caring for those who have challenges.

No writer, photographer or artist will be censored. We will find ways to get the words and images out to the world.

No child who is hungry and has lost their free breakfasts, lunches or dinners will starve alone. We will find food for you precious babies of ours.

And then there are the promises I cannot keep:

We will not know the impact slashing Social Security will have on our elder Americans. Will they die alone freezing and starving while those in charge have billions of dollars to spare?

What are we going to do for our mentally ill (myself included)? What if our free care is removed? What if we are not allowed our medications, therapy, our psychiatrists?

We know a only fraction of our brothers, sisters and others who have killed themselves because of their despair of who is coming into the White House. What of all the others who are misgendered, hidden, reported as dying of “natural” or “accidental” causes when they really overdosed on purpose. So many suffering without our knowing they are there.

I need to go house by house looking for those in pain. Like the Christians in Germany who saved the Jews, taking chances, risking death even… all to save even one soul.

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Reaching Out

I might cry again. No, I will cry again.

But I cannot give up. I cannot let someone die reaching out for another hand. I know mine is not the only one searching. Maybe, just maybe, if we all keep holding our arms out, joining hands, we might be able to save more than just one person.

I cannot give up.

Recognizing Racism (Including My Own)

I had two experiences two days in a row that had me crying foul against what was coming out of someone’s mouth.

That I can recall, these are the first instances when I called out Racism in those around me.

I finally opened my mouth.

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Bishop Desmond Tutu said:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

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El Paso, Texas – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

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El Paso in the foreground; Ciudad Juárez in the background

I was chatting with a girlfriend and the subject turned to the racial integration of the cities we had visited around the United States… a really great topic, actually. We talked about what cities were really White (Seattle & Portland, although there are many Asians in the Pacific Northwest), the way so many cities are segregated (Orlando and San Diego) and then I talked about El Paso being a place where there wasn’t anywhere I could go that I didn’t hear Spanish. As I was learning Spanish, it was nearly an immersion experience and I loved it.

My girlfriend, someone I consider incredibly enlightened with race issues being of a minority herself, said, “El Paso really is part of Mexico.” And she laughed. I was rather shocked, but gathered my wits and said, “I do not find that amusing and it is rather racist.” I continued that people flee Ciudad Juárez for El Paso. I have listened to Americans malign El Paso for decades and it pisses me off. El Paso is a magical place in the middle of the desert and for many, many Mexicans, living there can, quite literally, be life-saving.

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This is taken from US Interstate 10 in El Paso, looking into Ciudad Juárez.

My friend realized what she said immediately and apologized profusely, saying she didn’t even realize how racist that was thinking it.

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This offers a small glimpse into what is just on the other side of the Rio Grande, looking into Ciudad Juárez.

Confession of My Own

As we left the El Paso discussion, I felt safe enough to share one of my own Secret Shames.

I do not say or even think (obvious to me) racist thoughts in my day-to-day life. However, put me behind the wheel of a car and the racial epithets fly unbidden. Only in my head… never out of my mouth… but it is still incredibly disconcerting. And wrong. I’ve meditated on it many, many times over the years trying to purge it from my psyche. I’ve looked at it trying to figure out “Why?” All I can figure is it was how I learned stress relief in a car, hearing it growing up. I have learned in therapy that the younger imprints can be some of the hardest to delete from our habits.

I will not give up trying.

“Think Good Thoughts”

A beloved family member recounted a story of going to a Christmas Concert in a local park and seeing a young Black girl carrying a sign that said (to the best of her recollection), “As night falls, the guns come out.” My relative was quite upset seeing it and said she wanted to go talk to her and tell her to “think good thoughts,” to not think so negative.

I winced, took a deep breath and gently explained how that is a horrible racist-ly negating thing to say. I said that Blacks are told what and how to think all the time by Whites and they have every right to demonstrate the pain and anger they feel in public. And it is our duty to be quiet and listen.

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My relative was somewhat receptive… she is trying hard to move along with the times, but it is confusing for her in ways I cannot imagine, she having lived through the Civil Rights years.

Right after that discussion, she said one of the other Never-Say-to-Blacks (or People of Color) statements:

“I Don’t See Color”

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I took another deep breath and quietly said, “You do see color. You look in your closet and pick out clothes that match. Colors of people might not be in the forefront of your thinking, but saying you do not see color is not a compliment. It is an insult.

In Why I Hate The Phrase “I don’t see color,” Roni Faida says:

Tell me this, if you were walking down the street and saw a Black man with a hoodie on with his hands in his pockets walking toward you, you really think you wouldn’t notice his color? If your child was going on a date and you saw that the date was Black, you mean to tell me you wouldn’t notice that fact? Come on now, of course you would.

Maybe you are one of those people that really wouldn’t mind. Maybe you truly believe that you absolutely don’t care about the color of someone’s skin. But answer me this, how many people of a different color have been to your house to eat? How many times have you broken bread in the home of a person of color? When you reach for the phone to call one of your dearest friends, are any of them a different hue than you?

Exactly.

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I am ashamed of how racist I am seeing myself. I can’t even say the terribly racist statement, “I have a black friend,” because I don’t have any. That’s how racist I am. I represent the segregation of America. And it sickens me.

Obviously, I need to devise a plan to remedy this really negative oversight.

Pondering, pondering

Alllll that said, I am proud of myself for opening my mouth finally. I will keep doing it, too.

The Maze

I read articles or blog posts and love to share them with my cub. He is brilliant and has his (professional) hands in many different specialties, including history, law and geopolitics.

What is amazing is how we both come to two totally different conclusions about the same pieces of journalism or commentary despite an overall agreement with many social issues.

I have come to call this The Maze.

My View of the Maze

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I look at the articles and posts from far above, hovering in a hot air balloon. I read and then draw conclusions from the whole. I am able to set aside any conflicts within the piece or can integrate the contradictions as part of my take away.

Another aspect that I do is unquestioningly believe the person speaking. Especially if they are within an oppressed group. It is almost as if I bow down to their expressions of dissatisfaction, anger or even hate, and will accept the blame for them because I am White.

I tend to think this comes from the very submissive way I (literally and figuratively) walk through the world: eyes down, moving out of the way of someone walking even if I have the right of way, apologizing for bumping into someone even if it is their fault and on and on. Clearly socialized girl behavior.

I am able to write and speak out against oppression however (my Tumblr and this blog are two examples), but when it comes to my voice versus theirs, I defer and allow theirs to soar over mine.

My cub’s View of the Maze

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My cublet, on the other hand, is inside the maze, using a magnifying glass, able to see the veins on the leaves and any added droplets that might be falling from the author’s fingers. He sees the most amazing details that I either missed or overlooked, bringing them to clarity and verbalizing their importance within the context of his knowledge and experience.

He says, “Big red flags flew up.”

I am baffled how he sees these things I missed, but he is right much of the time and I am so thankful I have someone off which to bounce these ideas… someone with his knowledge and education.

The most profound piece of his knowledge that is incredibly foreign to me is when he says:

I want to stop police brutality but that doesn’t mean I have to stop thinking. I take the words of a black person very seriously on this issue, but they can be wrong.

Being oppressed does not bestow perfect clarity or give access to some eternal truth. 

PoC disagree with each other (so why can’t we disagree with them, too?).

I still don’t know what to do with that information even though intellectually, I know he is absolutely correct. Can I disagree with a Black person or Person of Color when they speak their Truth? Do I really have to accept, as a whole, every. single. word. they say as The Correct Way to Think?

You can’t see it, but I promise, I am processing these new ideas as fast, but as thoroughly, as I can.

Combined Views of the Maze

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What I do know now is that when my cub and I discuss the goings on of the world, I am being introduced to new ways of thinking… and he says he is, too. I find this pretty amazing considering I am 55-years old and have discussed oppression for at least 30 years.

We both think so differently from each other, it is in my getting closer to the maze… and for him to pull back some… that I believe I am able to find a new place of balance (he can speak for himself).

And balance is always a good thing.

 

Sitting & Listening

From my Tumblr Feed:
Dear White Friend,
Your job in racial discussions is mostly to listen and ask questions. When you speak over PoC it’s not only disrespectful but it makes it painfully obvious that you really have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.
Sincerely,
your friends of colour

I Am Listening

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I am watching as increasingly negative, even hateful, memes/quotes/commentaries about White people flow like lava from an exploding volcano on my Tumblr feed. Sure, I Followed them willingly and I could just as easily, with the click of my mouse, Unfollow those blogs, but I think it behooves me to sit in my discomfort and listen to what is being said. Even when the words say, “I hate all White people.” Especially then.
At the moment, the words are floating around me; I am absorbing as fast as I can, but it is a challenge. I feel like an overfull sponge trying to take in another flood of liquid.
I am pretty sure this is where the Unlearning & Relearning comes in, right? To unload some/many/most of those old beliefs I have from a White-oriented American school education and growing up in a White-oriented life… and relearn as many facts/realities/experiences from Blacks/People of Color/people I don’t know very much about.

Why Am I Listening?

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I am listening because I want to learn how to “unpack my White privilege” and (for a start) use my privilege to shut other white people making racist comments up. I don’t know the words yet, but I feel them percolating inside, preparing to coalesce into ideas, then a couple of words, then sentences… and finally into arguments/demands for someone to shut the fuck up with their racist bullshit. I want to use my White voice in a way that shows respect and honors Blacks who walk in hate in America. (Especially now that Hate-Garbage is being hurled at Blacks and People of Color at an horrific rate.)

I acknowledge speaking up is barely anything meaningful… and for me, speaking up is often online and in writing, however, for me, it is a start.

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