Never, Ever, Ever, Ever, Never Read the Comments

I read the comments. I know I’m not supposed to. I know that proper mental health hygiene calls for never reading the comments. I think this advice applies to not only press articles online but also on the “stand up and have your say” commentary that people post these days on social media.

Because of my job and well, life, I have a lot of ministers who are friends on Facebook. There have been a LOT of “stand up” posts lately. My gosh. I almost have to set a filter for “preach” or something. No offense, some of them are really good. But my gosh, it can get exhausting!

Today I followed one of the comment threads. It was about using the term “white supremacy” and it went round and round with different people from many different walks of life. I read some of it outloud to my husband, who is, so it happens NOT white.

“So, why don’t people just use a different phrase if this is too much. I mean, move on.”

This brings me to the point where, as a White person trying to follow the lead of people of color want to throw things.

What?

I know I know, it’s not simple, easy or straight forward. And here’s the thing. There are many paths forward.

I, myself, believe that using the term “white supremacy” to mean something other than lynchings and the clan allows us to not just talk about THOSE people. It allows me to really examine the ways that I am complicit in holding up the systems oppression as part of the continuum of behavior. And if we are going to work to dismantle these systems the most important place to start is here, in my own being.

I hear the argument that the folks doing the most harm and the most damage are those on the side of overt white supremacy. And we should come together to fight them.

But I am not so sure. I mean, I can see those people wearing hats and carrying flags, making their beliefs known. Yes, they are dangerous, but they are not hidden. The 2nd Reich flags and hate speech at a recent “Make America Great Again” rally right here in my sunny beach town were a pretty clear sign that some evil people were there. Are here.

But what about my congressman, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who says he “loves Mexicans” and it’s ridiculous to say he’s racist. And yet, he was willing to speak standing right in front of people holding an anti-semitic sign. 

Isn’t he more dangerous? april 28, 2019 • 8-00 pmcarlos' pub & grill201 w 57th st., new yorkhosted by oliver (828.291.3018) (1).png

Are those of us refusing to examine our own beliefs not part of the problem? Because that’s what I see in the comment threads when people don’t want to use the term “white supremacy.” They want to fight the bad guys. They want to fight the racists. They want to do the right thing, and make the world a better place by working against the racists. The racist people over there.

Those people.

When the really hard work begins right here, within us.

Within me.

Oh, no. Hate Mail.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom! (2).pngI got my first hate mail today. It’s 2017 so it was hate email. And it was really only a little hate-y.

It’s not bothering me. I have been taught that the discomfort that I feel as a White person when I am confronted with the hard truth about the prizes and kickbacks I get in this world for having the heritage of a well-traveled Viking ancestor is nothing compared with the discomfort of having the very worth and dignity of your being assaulted on a regular basis when you are a person of color in this world.

That is to say, I have learned that the feeling of needing to defend myself around race is a sign that I need to stop and pay attention to which internal biases are running in the background like a slew of cookies from a clickbait site.

I’m not sure this person has learned that the defensive feeling = pay attention yet. That’s OK. We all gotta get in when we can. If we don’t start speaking out until we are fully “woke” there is no hope of fixing white supremacy.

We have to start where we are. All of us. Each one of us.

This email came to me at my work address. The organization I serve recently backed a Teach In about white supremacy. Well, this woman was not happy at all with me about that choice of phrase: white supremacy. She found it to be angry and not showing interest in dialogue.

Damn right.

This is not about a dialogue where one side talks and then the other side talks. This is a calling in of White folks. We are letting this happen, this continuing practice that all Whiteness is standard and anything else is inferior, abnormal, aberrant. We white folks need to stop it. We don’t need dialogue. We need action. Action! Like a teach in.

I didn’t tell her that.

I’m just a lackey, anyway. I serve a board who makes decisions. I don’t even get a vote on what goes out. (I DO get to actually send the emails/tweets/fb posts and stick things all over the website though….)

What I did tell her was that while I am just staff, I wholeheartedly endorse their decision to support this white supremacy teach in. And then I told her that I had looked her up on Facebook, and we had a mutual friend, so I told her I was going to invite her to be my Facebook friend and I hoped that she would keep an open heart and join with me in a dialogue about this important issue.

Because I’m not “woke” I’m not even out of REM sleep, I think. But I’d like to talk with my hate-mailer about this: that it’s OK to be ANGRY about how the culture of your world devalues you as a human, it’s OK to work against that, that it’s OK to use words and phrases that make the people who hold the power uncomfortable and while I would like to tell her that sometimes dialogue isn’t the right answer, but listening is, that’s maybe too much to lead with.

I hope she accepts my invitation to be friends. We all have a lot to learn. Me, too. Probably you, too–although maybe not about this. Maybe about macrame. Or the literature of Scandinavia.

Whatever.

May we learn and grow and get better at this being human thing. May it be so.

 

 

Doing it Wrong

Bridge (1).pngSo how do I, a White person, work on fighting white supremacy without, you know, trying to smear my white privilege all over and muck it up?

I get a little frozen here, sometimes. OK, all the time.

Because I don’t want to do it wrong. I don’t want to do something to make more trouble, more whiteness centered over the need to stop centering whiteness.

The recent Huffington Post piece about the invasion of racial justice spaces by White people hits right at the core of this fear. This is what I don’t want to do, can’t imagine how not to do, am frozen in fear about. I don’t expect to turn to leaders who are people of color to hold my hand or tell me what to do, but I don’t want to look to people like me, either.

I am certain that I am getting this wrong, but I will keep trying until maybe I learn how to get it less wrong. For now I am working the hardest on myself in my own white space in my head and my heart.

Then, when I feel OK there for a minute, I am trying to stay low the ground, crouching along and not being led by my ego or my privilege and working on stepping beyond myself, to be what I think we need in our greater culture: a person who behaves in public discourse like a fair minded anti-racist, anti-white supremacist person.

My husband tells me that sometimes I’m a bridge. I know a little about how things are on both shores, and I can move ideas from one side to the other. Maybe he’s right.

I know that I understand Whiteness better from Robin DiAngelo than from places that just take me hard and fast to shame where I find myself just wanting to jump off a bridge instead of trying again to learn and grow and do better. I know that I am supposed to work toward feeling worse and not being able to sleep at night and that’s how I’ll know I’m not occupying racial justice spaces. But I am the kind of person who gains 10 pounds when I put a “motivational” picture on the fridge. Guilt and shame make me depressed and I don’t mean sad. I mean depressed. Big D.

I don’t want to pat myself on the back for being a “woke” White person. I’m not “woke.” I’m not even kind of woke.

I want to move toward being a whole and authentic person who works for the world to be a place where that’s possible for all of us, to be whole and authentic, and able to be who we are and maybe be respected for just that.

Not because it feeds my ego, although maybe that is what drives me, but I think I work for this because it’s the most basic human right of all; to have the right to be our true selves.

 

 

 

FIGHT LIKE HELL!

I’m wearing my favorite Hillary campaign t-shirt. No, not because I live in some dream land where Hillary is president. I don’t. I live right here in Trump’s America where the time I spend in lovely downtown Huntington Beach, California is with a protest sign and a threat that the police will arrest me if I step foot near the office of my member of Congress.

I suited up in my Hillary gear because I need to feel like there is hope for my country. Post-election I was sure that what had happened had to be some massive mistake. How could people vote for a candidate with the values of a carnival huckster?

On the day the electoral college met and did NOT do their civic duty, I cried in the grocery store and bought the really good lavender fabric softener to sooth my soul.

I marched in the Women’s March and signed up with my local Indivisible group and, because I was the first person to click “Join” on the congressional district page, I got to be an administrator.  A month of speaking before groups about Indivisible, being interviewed by the LA Times, local ABC radio and ThinkProgress was heady and exciting. I felt like we were making a difference! We were visiting our MoC, people were joining us in droves, we were on the Rachel Maddow show!

Then my dog got sick. Really sick. I had to step back from everything I could possibly step back from. For a long time I couldn’t feel anything but dread about my pup. And then, just when we thought she was going to be fine, she had an awful relapse and we had to let her go.

Here I am now. A week out from losing my girl. The news is awful. Terrible. I mean, isn’t what we are talking about from the Trump campaign called treason? Does it not come with the death penalty? Am I seeing most of the Republicans, including my member of Congress who calls Putin a “Chicago Mayor Daly-style politician, fall in lock step with a traitor?

Hillary had to re-invent herself at age 50 out of the ashes of the Lewinsky scandal. Hillary had to pull her husband out of a horrific loss and put him on the right path so he could be governor again after he lost. Hillary had to give up the dream of what she always wanted to be because people didn’t believe in her. Hillary did it. She still smiles. She still reads books and goes for long walks in the woods and enjoys her grandchildren. She still believes in this messed-up damn country.

Lily and I miss Noodles, but we are fired up.

Today it’s not about politics for me. It’s personal. I may not have always agreed with Secretary Clinton’s stand on all the issues. But one thing we can say is that this woman knows how to fight like hell. Fight like hell. If she can, maybe I can. This country is not for the haters. It’s not about keeping people down, it’s about lifting each other up. We can’t stop working for each other. It’s too important. There is too much on the line.

I still got a lot of fight left in me. And I got a t-shirt to prove it.