Triangle of Death

OK, there’s not a triangle of death. But I do have this cool graphic about white supremacy to share. And I have NO idea where it comes from. I have done a reverse image search and looked through hundreds of places where it COULD have originated. I give up. Its’s Friday. I want a glass of wine and some time to fold my monument to the laundry gods before they get angry. And make more laundry.

How do two empty nesters have SO MUCH LAUNDRY? I digress…..

So if you know the source, PLEASE share. There are a bunch of ministers totally psyched to use it in worship on Sunday!

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Oh but one little update. I shared this image and a few heartfelt emails with my hate mailer today, too. I think it helped. A little anyway. She is very earnest. And trying so hard to do the right thing. I have been there. I understand.

I was going to tell the story, today, of the time that I, too, almost lost my faith during a personal tumult around race. Just like my hate mailer. But the wine and the laundry gods call.

So, interwebs community. Where does this awesome graphic come from? It is blog death to publish an image to which you do not have rights! Triangle of death!

Or should I just MAKE A NEW ONE? I could make a new one. Maybe I’ll make a new one. Like, tomorrow.

But if you know, comment! Or FB me. I would love to fairly cite the creator of this fabulous image.

Now, look out world. It’s Frankie and Grace and me and the laundry! Happy Friday!

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.

 

 

Whitewashing

I got two pieces of news today that would seem unrelated but they’re not.

  1. My youngest son was not cast in the big show for spring quarter.
  2. “Ghost in the Shell” appears to be a box office flop.

Related? What?

One word. Whitewashing.

Whitewashing is a casting practice in which White actors are cast in roles intended for a person of color.

My son has played all kinds of roles that were in my mind (like with my always present white supremacy lens, AKA the understanding of white as “normal”) intended to be white: Sky Masterson, Curly McLain, Romeo, Mortimer the Zombie?, Robbie Hart, Horton?, Linus, Fredric, Judas, The Big Bad Wolf–both the Shrek version and the Into the Woods version, Prince Charming and Jack the Englishman. OK, I’m not absolutely sure about zombies, bad wolves or elephants…. He’s also played one role as a mixed Asian-White young man from California (BINGO!) but beyond that, all of his roles have been cast the by colorblind casting and likely assumed to be white.

He was pretty sure he was not going to get cast in this coming play. I brushed it off, he always gets at least offered a role. When he got a call-back I figured that they would cast him and figure it out. But no, and it is a really good thing.

The pay is Clybourne Park, a play about gentrification and what happens between a Black community and a White community. It would harm the story to cast a Hapa person in either a role written for a Black person or a role written for a White person, because their race is integral to the characters. I get it. He’s right. They’re right. I just always want my kid to be the lead, and no I am not biased, I am his mother. He is the most talented young person on the planet. Whatever. But this one I get.

Ghost in the Shell“, from what I understand as a bystander and non-consumer of Manga is a movie based on a book in which a main character has her features changed to appear more white, in Germany, or something. In the film the character instead of being played by a light skinned Asian person was played by Scarlett Johannsson.

This wasn’t a case of yellow face, like Mickey Rooney, Katherine Hepburn or a whole bunch of other Hollywood shameful moments. (This is actually a pretty good run down of shameful moments for Hollywood regarding Asian Americans by Vox) It was a way for Hollywood to say that Asian actors can’t possibly be what the paying public wants to see.

They were wrong. Flop.

I hope that the entertainment industry has learned their lesson. We want to see people who look like us. We want to see real characters and real humans come in more than just White.

Good timing, too, since my son will be out of college and looking for dynamic roles in which he can embody his whole heritage in like three minutes.

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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.

 

 

 

So, tell me about your hair?

I was a late bloomer, as in I think I bloomed underground and then had to fight my goofy, wrecked up daisy head out of the dirt to see the sun. I didn’t finish my BA until one day before my oldest son graduated with an engineering degree. It meant a cobbling together of credits from all over with a final push that included some all-day, one credit seminars.

I learned about prisons from the Psych department, I think I took two of those, actually. Super interesting. And then there was a seminar that I will never forget, although I can’t say I even remember the topic. The professor for the day was a White man with long blonde hair and he wore sandals, although it was still a pretty brisk spring in the Pacific Northwest. With socks is OK, but this guy had bare feet.

He pushed his stringy hair off of his face so frequently I actually looked for a ponytail holder in my purse. He lectured and lectured and lectured. But then he turned a chair backwards and sat facing the class. That’s when we knew things were gonna get real.

I don’t remember the exact breakdown of the class. There were a lot of White people, more women than men, a few Asian folks and maybe a few mixed race people. And there were two women who were Black.

Professor greasy hair straddled that chair and looked at us through his hair.

“Because, you know, being a person of color has roadblocks that I never thought of until my students, you know, woke me up.” Fingers through hair, nodding his head so it all just falls in his face again.

“Like ladies, I hope you don’t mind me calling on you here, but your hair! I mean, it’s a whole process, right?”

One of the women raised her eyebrows in shock. The other one played along. “Yeah, you know, it’s just not a big deal.” He went on. They talked a little about, you know, hair.

I mean, our grade was held by this guy. I get it. I didn’t say anything, either. Dumbstruck, or maybe just dumb.

It gets kind of hazy after that, my memory. But I know we ended the day writing an essay about our experience. It must have been some kind of multi-cultural communications seminar, because the intent was to process all of these “new” things we had encountered.

I gave up caring about my grade. I felt guilt for not speaking up in the moment.

My husband jokes about people asking Asians if they can see when they smile. And when I say jokes, I mean he calls them names I won’t repeat here, because that is a stupid thing to ask an Asian person. I understand people touch the hair of people who are Black like it’s a thing you can do. No. It’s not. That is not a thing you can do.

I should have stopped that professor like I stopped children who asked my kids about their Kung Fu dad. Just like you slap a mosquito, without thinking, as a natural reaction. Bam.

So for my final project I wrote about how inappropriate it was for that man to ask two Black women anything in anyway that expected them to speak about their personal business or to speak for all Black women. We White folks have to stop assuming that asking our classmates, co-workers, fellow humans to speak for an entire group is OK.

It’s tricky, I know. White folks get reminded to center the voices of people of color. But that does not mean inviting a person to speak for all people of color, or to “check” you to see if you’re getting some social justice thing “right.”

What this means, fellow White folks, is paying attention when you choose a spokesperson, a leader, the next candidate for something. Not as a token, but with an awareness that you and I have been trained to view White as “normal”, which by default means White as better. Fight that by interrupting it.

Remember that white supremacy isn’t just people in hoods. It’s me, and it might be you, not learning about the systems that we support which oppress our fellow humans; it’s not stopping the greasy haired professors when they say inappropriate things. It’s work and it’s not easy. And we make mistakes all the time. And we keep learning and getting better. We have to.

And you know what? The next time someone turns a chair around and sits down to have an earnest talk with me, I’m outta there.

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But, I have friends who are…

I am married to a person of color, mother to three mixed-race young men and the loving Aunt of two fabulous young Black women. I have friends from all over the country, the continent and world.

That means nothing about my whiteness. Or whether or not I carry my cultural, racial bias with me like a purse full of prejudice every day.

Yes, I do get to see some things at some times through a little sliver of a lens that offers me a tiny glimpse of a view beyond that which I see on my own. I wouldn’t have that tiny sliver without the people who I love dearly who experience walking this earth in different skin that I do.

Sometimes my husband tells me things that he doesn’t usually say to White people. And when I say usually, I have only one time, in thirty years of marriage, heard him tell other White people this kind of thing, and that was a super big, extenuating situation. But this doesn’t mean I understand what it means to be Asian in today’s western culture. I have heard stories, I have witnessed his experience, or some of it. But that’s all.

As a White parent I got to be outraged when someone called my kid “chink.”

But it doesn’t allow me to understand the world by beloved family lives in a whole lot better. Yes, a little tiny bit. Tiny.

When a Black man was shot by a cop not far at all from where my niece lives in Minnesota, my niece who is raising a fine young Black boy who will soon also be a fine young Black man, I did reach out to her because my heart hurt maybe just a little more than it would have if I didn’t have her in my circle of love. But I still don’t understand. Not really.

And I am still walking through this world in white skin.

So, dear white siblings, let us never, ever, ever, ever, ever use the people who we are acquainted with, or know, or call friends, or love, as the reason we are not biased, racist, supremacist.

Please let us not say in our defense “I have friends who are (Black) (Asian) (Latino/Latina) (Native American) (Ambiguously ethnic)” as anything other than….OK, I can’t think of a time this phrase is appropriate.

Read this, it’s not ever appropriate.

We are learning. We are, all of us, ALL of us, a work in progress. We do what we can. And then we try to do better. I am waist deep in the lessons. Learning. But this one I get.

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De-fense, De-fense!

When I first experienced being on the receiving end of hearing that yes, I TOO, could claim the title of white supremacist (not the hood wearing kind, instead the complicit with my culture kind) my first reaction was to defend myself.

I am married to an Asian man, I CAN’T be racist.

I am aware of bias and privilege in culture, I CAN’T be a part of the problem.

I was raised in a radically liberal faith to believe that all people are equal. I grew up listening to “Free to Be You and Me” and Alan Alda and Rosie Greer taught me that boys can cry. Members of my family are Black.

I was like Wonder Woman fending off the idea that I was complicit in the systems of oppression present in my culture. Wonder_Woman_0001.jpg

But I am. And I was. And I will work every day to root out the cultural norms I experience and benefit from every day, but it is not likely that I will ever be able to drop the vigilance.

I’m part of the problem, but I hope that I am also leaning toward being a part of the solution, too.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned: when I am feeling defensive about an issue, particularly a claim made by people who are historically marginalized by the culture in which I live, that THIS is when I need to stop and breathe into my prefrontal cortex and really, really listen.

Sometimes I need to listen by talking with other white people to help me deal with my OWN feelings so I can hear. Sometimes I need to read a little more on an issue, in particular checking to be sure I’m reading the work of a person of color.

Sometimes I need to just step back and close my mouth (or still my typing fingers) and sometimes, I just need to go for a walk and let my own defensive feelings fade.

Defensiveness = pay attention. I should put it on a sticky note. Maybe on my forehead.

Then later we can talk about the incredibly sexualized superhero uniform Ms. Wonder Woman is wearing. I mean, come on, really?

But hey now, that airplane? I’m all about that airplane!

Want to read more? This is a great blog post by Annie Gonzalez Milken.

 

Nope. Not me. No.

The first time I heard the phrase “white supremacy” directed at me it was not yelled across a protest line or flung in a hateful way. I was taking a class on sex and gender from the local community college. I had just been trained as a sexulaity educator  for young people and figured I needed to get some deeper understanding of things like intersex, fragile x and how gender and sex work in people and in our culture.

This course was offered by the psychology department, and I think it was probably one of those courses that was required for all students to graduate. The head of the department taught the course, and it was clear that she felt like she had one shot to reach these privileged young people from a wealthy Seattle suburb with some big concepts.

There was a lot of reading for the course, and if I remember correctly, it was so many years back that we still had to go buy a printed packet of readings from the bookstore. It was while sitting at a picnic table on campus in the bright spring sun that I read something that implicated middle class white women as upholding white supremacy.

Me? Really, me? I am married to a person of color, my kids are mixed race. I grew up in the inner city of Minneapolis, well, I went home at night but my mom’s daycare center was full of kids who were not white.  But, me? Surely not. I was not a hood-wearing, Aryan-brotherhood-supporting white person. No. I was one of the good ones without a racist bone in my body.

I dismissed the implication that I was part of the problem. I was part of the SOLUTION. I was aware of racism and working to remove it from our culture.

I didn’t get it.

It took a lot more reading and some painful mistakes on my part. But after some time, I think I might be getting it.

I was part of the problem. I AM part of the problem. Yes, that doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the solution, I can. I SHOULD. I am working every day to learn how to unlearn this. But the truth is that the culture that I grew up in and that I live in every day centers whiteness. The culture of my country views white as the default. Think about it, in most places at most times it takes another step to add “person of color” to the description of….whatever. Casting comes to mind. I know that across the country theaters use “color blind” casting but most of the time unless specified, the character is assumed to be white. Think of fiction….do you read a description of skin color if the person is white? Not usually. White is the assumed baseline. White is “normal.”

And if we’re honest. Our culture teaches not only that white is “normal” but that white is “better.”

THAT is white supremacy. Not only hoods and brotherhood, but holding “white” as the default and better. This is something we all learn without ever being taught. I’m upholding it, my Asian husband is upholding it, although he’s also ripping holes in it every single day. We can’t point at that person over there as the problem without also looking with steely eyes to our own hearts.

Today I am taking some time to read and study my own white supremacy. All these years after my firm rejection of my own white supremacy while reading on that community college campus, I am still fighting it. I will keep fighting it, starting in the only place that I control. Me.

For my UU siblings there is a call to action for a teach-in about white supremacy which began with a group of religious educators, doing what we do best, teaching. I hope you will join me.

#UUWhiteSupremacyTeachIn#BuildingANewWay

 

Now. The time is now.

I am part of a happy little liberal faith. We sing. We donate to good causes. We fight injustice. Simple, right?

Yeah. Nope.

We have recently gone thru a crisis. And I really mean it. A full-on crisis. My friend saw injustice and in looking closer, she smelled a rat and then she brought that rat out for all of us to look at.

We are Unitarian Universalists. Church of the open mind The loving heart and the helping hands. Inclusion. Radical acceptance. Proactive structures that prevent biased hiring.

Not the church of the all white staff. Who is again, with a new hire, now debuting an all white staff.

What is true is not that we are open and proactive and moving forward. What is true is that we are apparently looking for the right “fit” when we hire. We do not live this thing that we talk about and wear t-shirts about and hang signs on our church proclaiming. Not enough, not always, not in the way we white folks think we are…..

And I will admit. What made me scrub my kitchen floor with a little blood and a lot of tears and probably too much bleach was the statement from the president of the UUA that religious educators don’t have enough management experience to be hired as staff leaders.

I know that’s wrong. I know my people, the ones who can pull off miracles of staffing/programs and finance sometimes from thin air are the ones who make this faith tick. I know it. I DID it.

I see it every day when I go to work. I serve these people in one of the most humble repeated daily rituals of my life. It’s my job. They cry with families, cook food for a whole homeless teen feed on their own, they whip up worship and fire crappy staffers and make ministry of even a middle school class. EVEN A MIDDLE SCHOOL CLASS, do you know how hard that can be? If, perhaps, some staff groups in existence now had this kind of resourcefulness in house, we would be a better faith for it. We would have grown more. We would not have so many meetings or so much travel, but instead, would be DOING things that matter.

And. And and and. That is not the crux of this. The issue at the center of our crisis is that this stoic old faith is still, clearly, holding strong to the belief that white is normal. White is the starting point. White is the core of who we are.

This faith is holding on to white supremacy. Our faith is holding onto patriarchy. We are not who we can be. We default to centering whiteness. Yes. Me, too. Yes, likely, you too. And no we are not talking about the Aryan nation, or the KKK. Centering whiteness, believing that white is the baseline that white is normal is also holding this.

And so, I, as a white person and a Unitarian Universalist insist that hiring practices in the UUA must change. That congregations must change, that we white folks must change. Let us commit to hiring more people of color. Let us examine the way we hire leaders, and let us examine our definition of “management experience” to conform with the best practices in our living congregations.

Let us see a 25% increase in people of color in leadership at the UUA and across our movement by 2019 and let us see non-ordained religious professionals as an increased cohort of respected colleagues on regional staff teams.

Together we white people can examine our inherent biases. Together we can make amends to our siblings in the movement. Together we can build a new path toward justice and love. Together we can find a way.

And who is in the lead, knocking down barriers and old ways of doing things? Who are our leaders?

Religious Educators. Let us not lose sight of who is making things happen in this good faith. It is our fierce and fearless religious educators leading the way.

#BuildingNewWay #25percentIncreaseBy2019 #UUA

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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.