“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.

Bystander guilt 7

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.

 

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.

Cops: Friend or Foe?

It’s been an inner conflict for awhile, but especially uncomfortable since the Pulse Shooting on June 12, 2016.

Love Cops

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Of course, like many/most White Americans, I have been socialized to love the police. Growing up, they came to school to talk about the good things they did in the community, when we saw them out eating somewhere, my family always bought them dinner and I was raised to say “Thank you,” to any law enforcement person I saw up close.

Then when I was with Zack in San Diego, he was a Deputy Sheriff, so I lived with a cop for about 8 years (he was in for 10). Living with the uniform was vastly different than seeing one on the street.

You see, I was molested by my step-grandfather when I was under 10; he was a motorcycle cop. An alcoholic motorcycle cop. I was molested while he was in uniform once. So when I was with Zack, for the first part of our relationship, he changed clothes at the station in the locker room, taking care of my fear of The Uniform.

In 1998, I was arrested and jailed for a total of 21 days in two jails (in Orlando and extradited to San Diego). (Story to come.) I was very fat, but was treated kindly (enough), but I also didn’t fight or buck the System at all. Compliant to the core.

Even still, I have been someone who goes out of her way to be kind to law enforcement officers.

Especially since the Pulse shooting.

The Police and Sheriffs were fucking amazing during the stand-off at Pulse. A couple of weeks after the shooting, I wrote an extensive Thank You to all those who worked to save lives and comfort the dying that horrific night, with special call-outs to law enforcement.

– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.

– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.

– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.

Since Pulse, I go out of my way to thank Policefolks, Sheriffs as well as all the EMS personnel. Not only thanking them, but buying the breakfast, lunch or dinner… even if it is a full table of them.

Hate Cops

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Baton Rouge, Louisiana

And then I look around and as I read and learn more about the Black Lives Matter Movement, I have realized how ingrained it is in the Black community to not have good feelings for, dislike, and even out and out hate law enforcement. (How have I missed this before? White Privilege & ignorance. I do know how.)

Of course, it makes perfect sense considering the incessant harassment and massacre Blacks experience on a daily basis.

One of the best memes I’ve seen talked about the feeling white Hillary Clinton supporters are having after the election, that feeling of being betrayed, let down, disbelief that so much hate and bigotry has been around them all this time and has now been released into the light of day… the meme essentially said: WELCOME TO THE BLACK PERSON’S WORLD EVERY FUCKING DAY OF OUR LIVES. This was very impactful.

I’m reading a lot, keeping my mouth (but not my pen) shut and learning what I can. I search different words, different terms (the most recent new word for me is “woke“) and explore threads on my Facebook (not as integrated as I would like it to be) and my Tumblr, which I am finding more integrated, purposefully and because I am trying to learn as much as I can.

This came from my Tumblr feed:

If you work with Black, Latino, Native, or any youth of color, I feel it is incredibly irresponsible to put them in spaces with police, or to grant police any sort of access to these youth that builds positive public image for an institution created from – and vested in – white supremacy. That’s institutional gaslighting.

This was just wow for me. And I see the Truth in it for sure.

I have two brown kids and one white one. I wonder how I would teach them if they were young today. Taking a little dip from each belief system isn’t even possible; it is all of one OR all of the other.

Even though the kids are grown and gone, I find myself wrestling with this today.

Leaning more on the #BLM side, to be honest, even though I am White.

We’ll see where I tip eventually. Lots of unlearning to do. Lots and lots.

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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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Don’t Call Me an Ally

The Word “Ally”

I have chosen not to call myself an ally… first, because I don’t believe I can name myself an ally, but that it is a word given… graced upon one from the main group itself.

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Gee Lowery of the Onyx Truth explains in brilliant detail why I know I am not anywhere near ally status at this point. They say, in “Dear White Allies, I’m Not Really Interested In Being An Ally With You“:

The day your so-called ally status can prevent a cop from developing irrational fears of Black people & prevent cops from going into itchy trigger finger mode is the day you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status you seek can get a cop sentenced to prison for taking the life of an unarmed Black person, you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status decides to vote to funnel necessary funds into these Black communities that have high levels of Black on Black crime to create economic & educational opportunities so that Black people in these communities won’t have to resort to a life of crime, you might actually be a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status walks up to a political figure with an agenda that is SPECIFICALLY catered towards BLACK PEOPLE that deals with OUR issues ONLY…not this “minority” double talk bullshit…you might actually become an ally.  The day your so-called ally status allows for you come up from behind that computer or smartphone to venture off into the Black community to spend your money in Black establishments as much as possible in order to further help the wheels of Black economic empowerment roll along, you might actually become a true ally.  Until you can actually do that, then what the hell are you actually good for?

My Challenges

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Even to me, I sound like I am making excuses for not being more active, but I know these are my very real limitations: my disabilities (including my size), my mental illness and my financial status.

I cannot physically go out and demonstrate without being in amazing pain as well as the logistical issue of being trapped or hurt if a confrontation with people or the police occurred. I would be a liability instead of a help. Just writing that makes me sad, but I have to soothe my Activist Self with I have marched for LGBT rights, rights for people of size, against the Iraq war and any number of other causes and issues over the last 30+ years.

What I Can Do

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I might forever remain on that bottom rung of the Ally ladder, the top being awarded the Ally Medal of Honor, but I can only do what I can do. (I keep repeating that to myself to assuage my feelings of inadequacy.)

  • I can write: Blog posts. Comments to other blog posts and articles. Tumblr posts. Tweets. Comments to both posts and Tweets.
  • I can give rides to those who need them to get them off the street and out of harm’s way.
  • I can get a tattoo that represents my support for different people and their fighting oppression. At the moment, the Safety Pin is the concept with an LGBTQIA+ rainbow, a Muslim flag…not sure what exactly yet, but something from Islam…, a peace sign, probably a rainbow one combining the two symbols… a #BLM and a flag for immigrants… probably Cuban because I am born of a Cuban Refugee even though they/we are not the Refugees of the Minute. I want a tattoo to show my support… a symbol of support that cannot be taken off like a safety pin. Hijabis, Blacks, People of Color, Disabled folks and many Gay or Transfolks cannot just take off the parts of themselves that bring, not just oppression, but (especially now), violence and death. And I have been looking deeply at my motivation for the tattoo. Is it to make me feel better with my White Guilt? Or is it really as a demonstration of solidarity. At this moment, I feel it is the latter. I have until December 6, 2016 to figure it out.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone, especially in this political climate.

I am here and I am not going away.

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Figure It Out for Yourself: On Not Asking Marginalized People to Educate You

From my Tumblr feed:

Privileged people who say they want marginalized people to educate them don’t really want to be educated. In my experience, people who want to be educated will seek out the information they want, without putting the onus on you.

When privileged people say they want to be educated, what they really want is for you to say no, so they can complain that if you really wanted change, you’d change them. I guarantee that even if you say yes, they will completely disregard everything you say and act like its your fault for somehow failing to change a mind that wasn’t ever going to change. (sic)

My Response

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I actually struggle with this.

My first issue is not everybody has access to the Internet/Google. Not everybody can read, has enough reading comprehension to understand the arguments or cannot read English at all. Some people simply do not learn well through reading, but are more aurel instead. These are not my issue, but I haven’t seen them addressed, so keep talking about them.

My own issue is who do I listen to? How do I know the arguments/pieces on the Net are giving the right information? I am reading and reading, trying to tease the “right” attitudes/ideas from writers, but it is very confusing. I do understand this can happen in real life, but I would much prefer to hear from those I know how I can be an active supporter (avoiding the word ally for the moment) without offending.

I also believe that learning from articles when this is SUCH a personal issue is almost like playing the Telephone Game, learning second-hand. I am well-schooled… learned from books my entire life… am not Not NOT shrugging off my own responsibility to educate myself. But as I grew older, I saw that much of what I learned through books was total bullshit lies. How do I know what I am reading isn’t that all over again?

(more below the horrifyingly, ever-growing, long list of names of blacks killed by police)

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Talking one-on-one is an augment to my learning style. It feels belittling when I am told I shouldn’t ask any POC anything about being helpful in the #BLM Movement. Latinx & LGBTQIA communities don’t seem as resistant to being asked questions of how to unpack White Cis-Able-bodied-etc. Privilege. I am a disabled, mentally ill Latinx  Sex Worker & a femme Dyke, and I’m working hard on this White Privilege I carry. I remain open to respectful questions from anywhere and anyone. It confuses me how others are not like me. (Privilege glaring; I see it.)

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Rachel Bostick

I am also quite uncomfortable hearing this:

When privileged people say they want to be educated, what they really want is for you to say no, so they can complain that if you really wanted change, you’d change them. I guarantee that even if you say yes, they will completely disregard everything you say and act like its your fault for somehow failing to change a mind that wasn’t ever going to change. (sic)

That is SO not me or many (most?) whites in my world. Maybe qualifier of “many/most privileged people”?

I acknowledge this is a forever process, but I am working on it. Daily. Want to offer my skills where they could be used… writing seems to be the place right now.

I really am trying.

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