“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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
OPEN YOUR MOUTHS, WHITE FOLKS!
SCREAM when others simply cannot or are hoarse from doing so.
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.
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.
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.
USA. North Carolina. 1950.
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.
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.”
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.
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
It took (too) many years coalescing all that I’d seen and heard into some semblance of understanding.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
I have this vision of the Oval Office having “FUCK FUCK SHIT FUCK”s bouncing off the walls like molecules pinging in boiling water.
It is not uncommon for that now-golden-hued room to hear expletives, but I’m betting that as the days unroll with the word “Russia” in each sentence, the “Shit, fuck, damn’s” have been accelerating and getting progressively louder. (And amusing side note: When searching “trump White House expletives,” the suggestions at the bottom of the page all had Bannon’s name in them. Hilarious… and expected.)
For 100 days, I cried and wrung my hands in terror that someone in the White House would accidentally (or on purpose) hit The Red Button and our world would be annihilated.
During those first 100 days, with every stroke of the president’s pen that removed women and children’s rights, that signed away our natural resources so the rich could get richer, that created enormous doses of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, ordering the confiscation and deportation of people struggling to stay alive and on and on and on… and with every bizarre cabinet appointment, my heart broke and despair settled in.
I was directed by my doctors to stop watching the news because all it did was submerge me deeper into depression. I was joined by millions of others who had the new PTSD diagnosis called President Trump Stress Disorder, our nation’s leader now holding the distinction of being the first president to have an anxiety disorder named after him.
An epidemic is sweeping the nation, causing sufferers to experience feelings of hopeless doom, certain annihilation and cataclysmic collapse. It’s an existential plague manifesting itself by enveloping the stricken in a black cloud of despairing suicidal thoughts. The malady that is striking down innocent citizens left and lefter is … the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is literally making people sick.
But now, with the variety of Russian headlines intertwined with you all in that Oval Office, I am glued to the TV, the real news, (what you call the “fake news,”) and I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for the next delicious morsel of information.
“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.
I wrote about my introduction to working with immigrants in ICE Burns: My Early Doula Clients. In 1990-1991, I volunteered as a doula at a Planned Parenthood Prenatal Program in San Diego, California.
El Paso, Texas
When I moved back to Orlando in 1993, I stopped for 3 months at Casa de Nacimiento, a birth center (now closed) in El Paso, Texas. 99.9% of the clients coming through Casa were immigrant women from Mexico, usually Ciudad Juárez. My Spanish, school-acquired, then practiced with the doula clients in San Diego, became second-nature in El Paso.
While Casa gave me an amazing education and taught me many skills, there are lingering worries about being a White person using the immigrant women as practice specimens… a reverse voluntourism experience. I will write about these feelings separately; they are deep and complicated.
I was not as woke about the White Savior Complex as I am now, so merely tried to be the best student midwife I could be. I loved these women and their families. I loved talking to them, learning about their Mexican lives (which were slightly different than the Mexicans’ experiences in San Diego). I purposefully kept my heart open, wanting to be a positive birth worker for the women coming and going through the center’s doors. Those 3 months in El Paso remain some of my most wondrous life memories. While most people despise the city, I found it alive with culture and magic.
Getting from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso for prenatal appointments was often a hit or miss experience for the birth center’s clients depending on which officer was patrolling the border bridge that day.
“It had not been easy: The visa that allowed her to cross back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. is expensive, and she had had to prove she had money in the bank and a reason to return to Mexico to be granted it. The lines at the border between Juarez and El Paso can take hours, and border agents are said to sometimes tear up the visas of women who are noticeably pregnant. Some women end up giving birth on the bridge between Juarez and El Paso because of delays….”
When the border was closed to even those with visas, the pregnant and laboring women, with their families, trudged through the Rio Grande River… day and night… to cross into the United States. They often walked miles to reach the birth center.
Crossing the Rio Grande was bad enough, but the water was/is disgustingly polluted. American maquiladoras rose on Mexican soil years ago as a way to bypass manufacturing regulations implemented in the United States. With so little oversight, the maquiladoras also freely dump their waste, including poisonous chemicals, directly into the river… the same one laboring women were walking through. On several occasions, we would give a river-soaked woman a shower before she felt clean enough to have her midwifery appointment or birth her baby.
I remember one visit down to the edge of the river to help a nursing mom up the slope, the surface of the water had an oil (or gasoline) slick on it as well as scum like this:
All because Border Patrol would feel holier-than-thou and not let people over the bridge even with valid visas.
I’ve not been to El Paso or Ciudad Juárez since 2002, but the border topic, with #45 in power, has a new focus.
In Raids, they are knocking on doors, stopping people in shopping centers, going to workplaces, setting up checkpoints to examine papers and licenses and other vile ways to take, what seems to include, non-criminal folks who have been in this country sometimes for 20+ years.
Hiba Ghalib, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said the ICE detentions were causing “mass confusion” in the immigrant community. She said she had heard reports of ICE agents going door-to-door in one largely Hispanic neighborhood, asking people to present their papers.
“People are panicking,” Ghalib said. “People are really, really scared.”
I cannot even imagine how terrifying it must be to hear footsteps outside your door, then even worse if there is a knock.
My Early History with Immigrant Women
I’ve spent an enormous amount of time with birthing immigrant families, most from Mexico, but others from all over Central and South America, as well. From Orlando, El Paso and San Diego, I was a midwife and doula to several hundred immigrants over a 20-year period.
My first experiences were when I volunteered to work at Planned Parenthood as a doula to their (99%+) Spanish-speaking-only prenatal care clients. My Spanish was school-learned at that time; I became fluent over the years. I made many language mistakes along the way.
While the women did not all work, a myriad did, usually cleaning houses and/or being a nanny for White, often English-speaking-only people. The partners (almost always husbands) worked anywhere they could. Plenty were migrant farmworkers.
A White Observer
My care as a doula began by going to all prenatal visits during the pregnancy and visiting their home twice, making sure they had the supplies necessary for the new baby. It was not uncommon to take mom to the store, kids in tow, and buy her bags of groceries because there was nothing but rice in the cupboards. Everything from toilet paper to diapers were needed by my clients. I foraged wherever I could to find what they needed.
It had to have been difficult to have (yet another) White person enter their home and see how they lived. Would I judge? (No!) Would I think they were bad parents and turn them in to CPS? (No.) It was nice after the first couple of women let the others know I was a decent person and could be trusted.
My role as doula continued by going to the client’s home when she was in early labor, then taking her to the hospital as labor progressed. (Doulas do not transport clients anymore because of liability.)
Once in the hospital, I remained with the client and her partner (if he chose to come and/or stay in the room) until after the baby was born, including helping her get started with breastfeeding. I translated from Spanish to English so the nurses and doctors knew what she was saying and needing.
You know how many women choose an epidural for pain relief in labor? Back in 1990, an epidural was not an option for women on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid).
Do you hear that?
Women on Medi-Cal could not get an epidural for pain relief.
If my immigrant clients thought they might want an epidural, they had to give a $1000 down-payment or it was simply not an option.
The controversy over Medi-Cal rates was highlighted further through news stories about physicians charging Medi-Cal recipients for services. The Los Angeles Times reported on the practice of some physicians and hospitals illegally forcing Medi-Cal beneficiaries to pay cash for epidural anesthesia during childbirth. The physicians named in the story maintained that they had to demand payment from the patients to cover their costs because Medi-Cal payments were insufficient.
My History with Immigrants
Over the years, I worked at Planned Parenthood, overseeing one of their Prenatal Programs, then, in 1993 and again from 2000-2001, went to Casa de Nacimiento in El Paso, Texas, my path towards becoming a midwife. In 1994, I worked under a CDC grant at the Farmworker Association of Florida as a Spanish-speaking HIV/STD educator for female migrant farmworkers.
As we watch the decreasing rights for immigrants in the US, ICE hunting men, women & children down for deportation, my heart aches. I know, because I know, some of the people being shoved out of our country are the women whose hands I held during labor, the babies-turned-children-turned-teens I helped into the world and the fathers who took care of their families working the fields and doing whatever they could to pay the bills.
(For some amazingly strange reason, this post cannot be formatted correctly, no matter if I work in WYSIWYG or HTML; I have tried for 2 days to fix it, to no avail. I apologize for the bizarre lack of paragraph breaks/doubling of paragraph breaks.)
I have a theory (that has surely already been discussed in other places) that the new administration has an entire strategy to create as much turmoil as possible, knowing there would be protests (because the Women’s March on Washington was planned well in advance of the Inauguration), then seeing even more protests with each Executive Order, their idea took on greater and greater maniacal glee.
You learn activism by doing it, they said. One of the main obstacles to activism is the idea that you have to be an expert to do it —
Because there are so many causes to fight, it can be challenging to protest everything one feels strongly about. Surely, the administration is having a field day cheering that fact.
I see people in my own life swirling around, grasping at causes willy-nilly, protesting 1 one day and another, 2 days later. This frenetic energy cannot possibly be maintained. Speaking up, living in crisis mode, changing one’s life patterns, even for a short time can exhaust someone, causing Outrage Fatigue.
Every morning, we wake up to a fresh Trumpian outrage, as the orange one’s fat little thumbs have tapped out the latest vitriol via Twitter before we lift our weary heads off of the keyboards we fell asleep on because we were up past midnight planning how to block his Cabinet, or save ACA, or get to Burr and Tillis, or, respond to Russian hacking. Is it any wonder that some of us are experiencing outrage fatigue?
As the Day of His Ascendence (formerly known as Inauguration Day) approaches, the more the sense of impending doom and inevitability grows. After the election, outrage and disbelief propelled many into passionate, but ultimately quixotic pursuits. Flipping the electors. The Jill Stein recount. As those prospects faded away, and the names and hideous bios of Trump’s Cabinet appointees came out, many geared up to protest and block that odious pack of cronies, capitalists, and cranks from running the country. Lists of committees were drawn up, scripts written, action plans mobilized. The GOP then ganged up on ACA, as Trump fanned the flames. No, no, protest that! many online cried. Russian allegations exploded; Trump kept tweeting. Crooked media! Overrated Streep! All-talk John Lewis!
As sure as I am sitting here, the White House and even much of Congress are devising ways to wreak havoc on America and betting “libtards” will be out en masse protesting within a couple of hours. They are counting on it. So far, we are not disappointing them.
But with the passage of time, people become numb and mute, collapsing with exhaustion, creating an open, wide and clear, path for the “president’s” coup to complete itself. (And I do believe we are in the middle of a coup!)
Long-time protesters each speak about outrage fatigue, previously called burnout, in their stories. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement and even the LGBT(QAI+) (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, etc.) all find themselves teaching younger generations how to avoid the outrage fatigue that comes with long battles, ones we are surely just beginning with this “president.”
What I Can Do!
I have Bipolar Disorder and struggle with depression and must be hyper-vigilant to not become overwhelmed with sadness and pain, something that’s been quite a challenge the last 6 months or so, increasing each day. I’m also physically disabled, unable to go out into the streets to protest.
But I can write.
Since the Inauguration, I have been sitting back and pondering… considering what cause resonated most with me, which one I would be most effective battling.
What bubbled to the top was Censorship.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve been censored several times, from Blogger slamming my blog shut for having nude women (giving birth and breastfeeding!) to my midwifery licensing organization strong-arming me to “edit” one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written. (I did and deleted the original, something that still brings tears 9 years later.)
Government censorship has always made me crazy, but it’s been over there… you know, in other countries.
Until this “president” brought it front and center in the United States.
I could enumerate so many examples, but the loudest and most obnoxious recently came from “president steve bannon” when, on January 26, 2017, in the New York Times, he said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while….”
You can imagine the response.
From shock to hysterical laughter, CNN’s Jake Tapper gave the best answer of all; an emphatic, “NO.”
My Strategy to Avoid Outrage Fatigue
I have chosen to focus on that one strength of mine… writing… and the topic that most resonates… Censorship.
This way, I will be able to pace myself. During the couple of weeks with this new strategy, I’m finding myself able to see-and-toss the non-censorship posts, news pieces and videos, but am seeing, quickly and clearly, the pieces that relate to me specifically. This prevents news overload, which pulls me down towards depression. It is, sometimes, challenging to ignore the information on the periphery, but as I do, I find myself more and more at peace.
By focusing on my life-long writing skills as my major protesting mechanism, I am able to keep my interest level high and will have long-term focus on the censorship issue.
One last strategy is for me to connect with other writers, especially those who focus on censorship. Companionship fosters support and support can manifest in many ways including encouragement, reminders of the mission at hand and backing each other up when conflict gets nasty.
I’m hoping that as I send this out over the airwaves, it will find other like-minded people, but especially writers. I could use the support and suspect you could, too.