A Note From A Friend

In light of the most recent episode of “why having a badge is equal to having a Purge-like murder pass” as well as, “why justice doesn’t really exist”, I was compelled to post a wonderfully written comment-turned-article by an awesome friend of mine. I urge you to pay attention, understand, and hopefully internalize her words, possibly awakening yourselves to a different point of view that doesn’t seem to be oft held by the majority of the people like her.  It is because of rarely challenged potential (and actual) racist social behaviors that we are able to be desensitized to its effects when the crimes occur. There will never be any chance of change or progression if we fail to recognize and accept that there is indeed a problem. If you are still not angry, if you still do not believe that there is privilege and prejudice at play, if you are still blind to the effects of both “soft” and “hard” systematic oppression, then you too are part of the issue. Please feel free to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments. 

“To My White Friends…” – C.G. Heilmann

When I attended Tulane (2000 – 2004), the Kappa Alpha fraternity held something called “Old South” every year, which was a Confederate-themed celebration and ball. Men in the fraternity rented Confederate uniforms and their dates were expected to rent antebellum dresses. The kick-off event for this day was a march from Tulane’s campus down St. Charles Avenue to Robert E. Lee Circle. This part, I refused to attend. Later in the evening, a black-tie formal dinner and dance was held, which I did attend.

When I was at P.S. 9 in NYC (2008 – 2010), the 5th grade taught a Civil War unit that assigned the students – including children of color – to be Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers. They learned about the “facts” of the Civil War through a reenactment game.

I am ashamed and embarrassed of my participation in upholding white normative traditions, rather than teaching children and ourselves to look at our history and current socio-economic order through a critical lens – asking my white friends to look critically and humbly at ourselves, asking the “why”. Why do we need to control a history, a narrative and a system that continues to hurt and oppress others? Why do we need to hoard all the opportunities, the wealth, and sit in all the places of institutional “gate-keeping?”

This weekend I learned that achieving “whiteness” in the United States is about giving up your ethnic culture, language, spirituality, community, and humanity in exchange for power and privilege, because the melanin in your skin – and the laws of our country – allowed you and your ancestors to do so. In order to right these wrongs, white people can stand up and say that we are ready to give that power and privilege up. That we are ready to stand aside while people of color build their own power and liberation. That we say “black lives matter.”

“Make America Great Again” is about maintaining the racist social order on which this country was founded, in the face of attempts to break that apart, analyze it, and build something else. To my white friends and family, it is ugly, it is embarrassing, it is shameful. It doesn’t feel good and it is easy to get defensive, to say “but I try to do and be right, but I like who I am, but I – and my ancestors – work hard.” But remember, “whiteness” isn’t who you are and it isn’t something you worked for, it is what has been given to you. And as I learned this weekend too, you can’t “do right in a do-wrong system.” That icky feeling in your gut is nothing compared to the violence people of color feel and suffer under every day in our country, and have for generations and generations. And so I am willing to stay in that uncomfortable, icky place…and I hope you’ll join me there.

 

Series Finale

As I begin to write this, I’m a little hesitant, because, you see, in the past, I’ve tried very hard to stay away from political and social issues when it comes to my blog posts. I’m not someone who pretends to have all of the answers, or even someone who pretends to know about everything that occurs in our country and world. What I’m realizing though, is that I can’t be expected to be silent, and then in turn, become outraged at the results of my silence and inaction. On this day – a day a friend of mine characterized as “…growing up in the [19]60’s…”, I am grieving. Not because Hillary Clinton lost (sorry Hillary supporters, I wasn’t on the #imwithher bandwagon…more so #imnotwithim), but because of what we were losing. No, I’m not talking about losing Barack Obama (that in itself is an essay for another time), but what we, as American people, have lost holistically.

escalator

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

I look back over the last year or so, during the campaign, and I want to say that, above anything else, we lost our minds. More importantly though, we lost that false sense of security we were led to believe existed. Somehow, we lost our sense of reality of what has occurred in our country for hundreds of years. Oppression, hatred, misogyny, racism – we somehow have behaved like Columbus and claimed these things as new discoveries, blindly forgetting that they were already simmering below the surface. We lost the understanding that those prejudices and biases didn’t magically go away with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act was similar to how people with terminal cancer are treated. They’re given medicine to help ease the pain and suffering, but the cancer still remains, and unless there is a breakthrough, they won’t be healed.

snow-bridge

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

Lately, there has been heavy discussion in many groups about the importance of organizing and mobilizing, and that is a beautiful thing. Because you see, we allowed our obsession with the Kardashians and the filtered world of social media to keep us uninformed and complacent. We’ve spent the last 50 years in this ocean of information that kept getting shallower and shallower with each passing decade, and now it’s barely deep enough to wade in. Even for the last four years, we remained apathetic and disconnected from reality, instead of remembering that we only had four years to focus on getting it right. I’m frightened that it has taken the election of the monster society created to snap out of it. And unfortunately, many people are still living in their land of Instagram likes and followers, unable (or unwilling) to face the fact that we’ve lost.

plants-in-window

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

So what do we do now? How do we reverse this social media culture of information overload that has bred ineffective people who lack basic critical thinking skills? Is this the potentially catastrophic event that will cause people to turn off their phones and turn on their brains? Is this what begins to make us think, to read, to care? If you are not preparing for the next four years, then you shouldn’t complain about what occurs after it. If you are really outraged, if you are really disgusted, if you really care, then you have no choice but to take action. Now is the time we decide if the network is picking us up for another season, or if this is the end.

blue-sky-walls

Photo courtesy of gratisography.com

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Racism Still Alive, They Just Be Concealing It

Ok, it’s been a while since I posted, and it’s due in part to me being consumed with my thoughts on racism, and not knowing how I could express these thoughts without coming on too strong (maybe I’ve been reading too many books on race relations, I don’t know). This isn’t about being an angry Black woman or anything like that, more so about the wool that’s been efficiently pulled over many of our eyes. I haven’t figured out how to tone it down, but I’m going to share my thoughts with you anyway. I think my bigger problem is that I just have too much to say, but here goes…

No Hate

As of the last few years, especially these last couple of months, it seems that we’ve been bombarded by the media with racist, or seemingly racist acts here, a hate crime there, from Trayvon Martin to Oscar Grant. There are, of course, many racist acts and comments that don’t even get the media attention that the two cited above have, like the murder of James Anderson by a 19-yr-old male, or the comments of former GOP candidate Rick Santorum. The fact that this stuff isn’t well-reported on isn’t what annoys me though. It’s the fact that when it is, well, everyone seems extremely surprised. Because you know, racism doesn’t exist anymore.

As a Black woman, I am constantly confronted with comments and actions that can be deemed racist. It seems silly, that people would be overtly racist in my presence, since they know my racial make-up, right? But no. My fair skin tends to make people forget who they’re talking to. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “Well, you’re not Black Black“, or have been “in on” jokes full of racist stereotypes (“It’s because you like fried chicken, huh, huh” as they nudge me). I’ve even had people use the N-word around me, and THOUGHT IT WAS OK! And when you check people, whoo, watch out. You’re now labeled a reverse racist and a race baiter.

Racism

Most people don’t like to hear about this, because they believe that Black people are beating a dead horse, that we need to “get over it”. While I believe that some less motivated people use our past as a crutch, there’s no denying that racism is still prevalent. Just because you don’t hear about it on the news daily, doesn’t mean it’s not happening in your own backyard. When you’re not Black (or any other racial group that’s constantly persecuted), it’s easy to convince yourself that society has gotten better, and that we’re all one big happy family. Remember, although slavery was eradicated in 1865, it was still an institution for approximately 300 years. And Black people didn’t receive equal rights until the 1965 Voting Rights Act…years after my parents were born. There are still people alive who played a HUGE part in perpetuating the race crimes, who took part in the 500 year campaign to view the people of the African diaspora as less than human …you think they changed their mindset in 1965? Yeah, right.

Runaway Slave

Point is, stop thinking that the events that happen now are rare in nature, because they’re not. If you don’t like to see it, then educate yourselves, do what you can to make sure that it actually ceases to exist. I would have liked to make this post longer, but I think you’ve read enough. I’ll also be discussing this topic on April 27th, on BWE Network. Because I don’t pretend to know everything about everything, I definitely appreciate your comments and thoughts. Oh, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter!

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