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Sunday, October 7, 2018

FACING DEATH


When one speaks out about injustice, inequity - when you speak out against racism, sexism, homophobia you practice embracing life while preparing for death.

Each time you speak you face the death of associations, the death of what some people thought of you, how some people viewed you. You risk the death of friendships,of family relationships. You face the possibility of the unmasking of conditional love and provisional respect. You face the possibility of that death coming at your own hands as you drop the executioner’s axe on the lines that tie you to someone you once viewed as friend, support, backup.

You walk with death, stare it in the face, sit with its shadow, hear its whispers. You see the bodies and hear the stories of the fallen. You know that could be you someday. Sometimes that stops you.

But only sometimes.

You know your death is coming and before that, after that, the births of others who will either wish you had risked these deaths or thank you for each and every one of them. Others did it before you. You are here, able to risk - or not - because of them.

Deaths of many sorts await. And if we don’t face them, learn them, defy them, who will?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

PATIENCE: ALWAYS THERE, OFTEN IGNORED


You fail to recognize that you are the beneficiaries of a colossal amount of patience. Patience is not without limit. When patience grows short, at least two things can be expected: emotion flows outward or it flows inward, sometimes both.

If we express our frustration, our dissatisfaction, we are immediately a problem. Your repeated lack
of attention or stubborn ignorance eventually demands going beyond the calm, assertive reasonings and ample citations. For all the demand for evidence, none given is ever sufficient. We are seen as angry and divisive no matter how calm we are. You would rather not talk or question yourself or be challenged.

If we grow quieter, if we withdraw, nothing changes. We become silent, even easier to ignore. And that is your "normal": our invisibility is your "calm". Our silence is your "quiet". Our complicity is your "peace". Your undisturbed comfort is "justice".

Repression causes psychological and physical damage. It distorts, it erodes. Yet our national modus operandi still encourages repression and suppression, a foundational legacy established - often forcefully and with deadly results - by the Puritan immigrants centuries ago. It is unhealthy as a standard practice.

That is the old way: you accepting us on your terms, you giving status as equal people at your whim, you determining what "equal" means, what "objective" means, keeping "normal" narrow and biased. "Coming to the table" only means your table, your place settings, your comfort as the "middle ground". The old way and the ways you continue to cling to them are being rejected.

What we seek is nothing new. Your responses are nothing new. Your stubbornness is as generational as our tenacity and the struggle itself. You are the obstruction. It is not our failure to do enough, it is yours.

Friday, October 5, 2018

ON ELECTIONS, PARTIES, AND RACE


The election cycle is at another turning point, as it always seems to be these days. A supposedly (but not really) improbable presidential race outcome, people not running for re-election, and people resigning from/being run out of office – the calls to political and voter action are at a fever pitch. With that comes the expected discussion of “Both sides do it!” and the belief that conscientious abstention or protest voting can move the wheels of progress. With that comes the once-every-four-years Libertarian drive to try to win more people to their ranks, presuming all they need to do is either jingoistically or pedantically “reason” people into seeing things their way.

As long as pundits, parties, candidates, and voters continue to deny it, the differences between parties, their demographics, and the votes they get will be dependent on flawed means of addressing the issue of race as well as the too frequent lack of doing so honestly and effectively. They will all try to get as many POC votes as they can without scaring away white people, or abandon that route and scare enough white people to vote a certain way. It has been this way for a long time.

The Republican Party's support base is glaringly white. Libertarian Party's support base is glaringly white. The Democratic Party's support base is noticeably less so. This is not just a function of Democratic party marketing or voter base ignorance. What can be observed time and again is conscious selection. Yes, the Democratic Party, liberals, progressives, whatever you want to call them — definitely have some issues to face regarding race and racism. Yes, execution of ideals can be flawed or stymied, if successful in the first place.

BUT

to regard POC as if we don't know the difference — as if we simply don't know what other parties have to offer — is ignorance. We know how to weigh options. And when your choices between options are based on observing and weighing degrees of racism, words, actions, and cluelessness or lack of compassion, the one party who rates relatively highest will tend to find our support, tenuous though it may be.

It speaks poorly of our country that It’s 2018 and a significant bar for POCI is still which is the least racist option. It's a low bar, yet we are frequently given excuses for and examples of how it is unrealistic, antiquated, or an unjust expectation that is simply too difficult to manage.

We are surrounded by the social concept of whiteness all day, every day. We see how it moves throughout our world, how it is constructed, how it is maintained, how it operates, and how invisible it is to those who benefit from it most. Many of us live at intersections of identity and know how whiteness and those intersections relate to economics, jobs, healthcare. We have experienced how it all ties together generationally. Our progenitors were surrounded by this whiteness. We have entire families and robust social circles who are. We talk. We share experiences. We compare and compile notes.

Social media augments that shared experience and erodes the historic strength of white-centering propaganda. We have to navigate you and that whiteness. It is how we survive and thrive, some of us to achieve the very status that is turned back on us and weaponized to shame our own who have not achieved it. We see you. We know you. 

For those of us who are conscious of and concerned about this country’s history and how it continues to affect things today, we tend to side with whom we do because we believe white people can do better. We believe white people want to do better. If we don't participate we will get screwed even harder — by you and/or by people who look like you, who have the same privilege, and the same glaring denials and lacks of awareness you do. If we don’t believe in your will and the potential for redemption, our souls are as damned as yours.

So, we choose the least of the many available evils. The least evil has the best chance to get us closer to where we want to be, where the USA claims it wants to be. The most virtuous options usually lack the power and the funding to get us there, so we hold our noses and vote for what we believe is the best chance — the least racist. Time and again that tends to be the Democratic Party.

Demographically that camp is well past the stage of playing representation bingo. That doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen as a windfall or lacking awareness, and it doesn’t happen from siding with whomever offers the most free stuff. For better and for worse, they are well ahead in the realm of maintaining their POC voter base instead of awkwardly struggling to build one they don’t have. And yet, that camp faltered in the last election and is stumbling under the weight of its timidity, tripping over the leavings of its own  hubris and ignorance. This is setting the foundation for a potential, truly
progressive upheaval.

We learned from our so-called allies that we and our inconvenient awareness of the lasting effects of racism and intersection were to blame for that. Apparently our belief that people who call themselves allies would be willing to work on behalf of actual, active inclusion in policy is unfair or unrealistic. It's most definitely not appreciated or taken seriously. And that does not go unnoticed.

We see you. We know you. We talk. We share experiences. We take notes.

Quite a few democrats/progressives/liberals have been increasingly loud about purity tests being the thing that hurts party unity. If only we would set aside these expectations and rally together, the party would be stronger. Purity tests are not the problem, and these are not purity tests: they are calls
to do better, expectations to pay more than lip service or delaying games. The dismissal of the validity of those expectations is the problem. The repeated deferral and denial — the trillionth time someone is told “Now is not the time for this” — is the problem. The fact that currently living generations still pawn it off to the next is the problem. The idea that unity can only be achieved by setting aside these expectations is the problem. Patience has its limits and our patience grows dangerously thin.

This is the 21st Century. We have had these issues of equity — these dehumanizing -isms — for generations and the fact we still have them is the problem.

The time is long overdue. If equity is truly your goal, why should we continue to take a back seat? Do you truly seek progress? Are we truly your companions in the struggle for equity? Or are we simply warm bodies to court just so one party or another can win? Are we still just livestock solely serving to comfort the egos of America and American whiteness?

It’s not just economics. It’s economics and race. It’s not just jobs, it’s jobs and race. It’s not just health care, it’s health care and race. Unless POCI are explicitly included in word, thought, and deed, we are excluded in word, thought, and especially deed. It shouldn’t be that way — we know it and you know it. We experience that it is that way and you dismiss our experience. Examination of history repeatedly confirms our experience.

You know what needs to change. The information is out there; you should know better. You can do better. If you don’t know better, you can learn. The expectation to do better is built on faith you can do better, the hope you will, and the charity of repeatedly giving you another chance to do so. The expectation to do better is the call, the challenge to pursue a path to individual and collective redemption.

Which party is willing to accept the less than flattering reflections of themselves, their ideals, and history, and work at being less racist? We can’t answer that question - only you can - but best believe we are asking it louder and louder, noting the responses. The answer will be up to the parties, the people that determine their courses, and the predominately white populace who votes for those people.

You don’t have to tell us to hold our noses and vote. We’ve been doing it for generations. It’s more than fair we expect you to face your ego, challenge your ignorance, and do the work for equity or confirm the cynicism we constantly battle. You must recognize and address the role race and racism play in the creation, passing, and implementation of policy. If we are truly in this together, it's way past time to act like it. It's not realistic, fruitful, or decent to expect POCI to keep taking hits, but it is definitely American.

Being American can be better than that, regardless of political party.

Monday, April 30, 2018

POEM: Parade of Virtues, 5:45am Thursday


PARADE OF VIRTUES, 5:45am THURSDAY

You wrong us
We let You know how
- is that not love?

You ask how to do better
We believe you can
- is that not faith?

You stumble or fail
You get another chance
- is that not patience?

You obstruct
We continue
- is that not persistence?

You press down
We rise up
- is that not determination?

Though You fail
We believe you'll succeed 
some day
- is that not hope?

You renew the cycle,
still We walk among you
- is that not tolerance?

We've offered You answers
when You have sought them
- is that not charity?

You ignore or dismiss this
and think You're doing fine
- is that not ignorance?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

30-Some Years and Counting

I remember you.

I don't remember your names or your faces or what assorted small Iowa towns you came from.

I was probably the only black person you'd ever met in person. You probably never knew a black person. I definitely didn't act or talk like the black people you'd probably seen on tv. The fact I didn't talk or act "Black" was something I heard a lot, especially in my teen years. You probably had no clue how to react to me.

I heard you that night in our cabin at the retreat center. It was late, lights were out, you weren't ready to sleep and you started telling jokes to pass time. Maybe you thought I was asleep.

I wasn't.

I heard every joke. Every word. Every use of the word "nigger".

I remember how easily and gleefully it came from your mouths, how easily nigger joke after nigger joke came from your seemingly endless stores of comedy black gold. I heard the reason we have sex on our minds all the time is because of the pubic hair growing from our heads. I heard about the truck with the shipment of bowling balls that picked up a hitchhiker and how the state trooper was dismayed when he discovered one of the nigger eggs had hatched. I don't remember all the other jokes, but I remember I dared not move, I dared not speak, I dared not give away that I was awake, and I definitely dared not fall asleep until after you did.

I may have told one counselor the next day, or I may have told one of my friends. I don't remember. If I did, I don't remember if anything happened as a result. No one left, but my trust definitely did. In a retreat center in small town Iowa, surrounded by small town Iowa Catholics I felt even more isolated than before. Washed over by messages of love and unity and service and acceptance, I remained on even higher alert.

I have never been called "nigger" to my face, just when nobody thought I was listening.

Poem: BURDEN OF PROOF

BURDEN OF PROOF

Prove to me
you can actually believe

Can you cite evidence
that my efforts
have any chance to actually
change your mind

For a chance of change
I have to have faith
in your good faith
though it seldom
proves to be so

I have every reason to doubt
you actually want to know
and want to try
rather than to simply
bog me down
or shut me up

If you actually did
I have to believe
you'd look for yourself

There is more than enough proof

You would choke on citations
cough up study
after study
be sick to death
of mounting evidence
you would drown in proof
while I have no proof
you would actually believe
this time


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Poem: I OFFER MIXED BLESSINGS

I OFFER MIXED BLESSINGS

I do not wish you ill

I wish you awareness
I wish you realization
I wish you an open mind
open ears
and an open heart

When those truly come
the weight of your ignorance
will cause confusion
turmoil
sorrow
pain

May you lament your past perceptions
and may the ignorance of others
drive you mad
drive you to speech
drive you to action

You might understand
our rage
our resilience
our restraint
the depth of our faith
and our dismissed strength

You may even grow
to resent their resistance,
remember it was yours,
and know at times
it could too easily be
again

I do not wish you ill —
only the experience
of awareness
as catalyst
and also
as curse