Tag: News

When your worldview is a lie

I know I am not as sympathetic to those caught up in conspiratorial thinking as I logically could be. I know how the manipulation works, how media echo chambers function to reinforce the things you already believe or want to be true and insulate you against any difference of thought, and how radicalization works regardless of whether it sends you left or right, religious or secular.

Humans and groups are complex and there are no tidy narratives. I saw people attacking and beating police at the Capitol and I saw people ostensibly on the same side trying to protect those victims. I am sure there are people who never imagined that a protest would turn into a violent storming of the Capitol…but I am equally sure that there are people who knew exactly what they were doing and planned for it.

The evidence of this is mounting every day.

How they were meeting, coalescing, and coordinating on social media.

How specific some of their individual or group agendas were.

How they are not going to stop.

How more is already being planned.

Sympathy for the devil?

And so, no, I do not think of all of these people involved in the storming of the Capitols in exactly the same way…but I am struggling to parse the categories correctly. I think many of them are victims, but where does that victimhood end? In addition to willful bad actors, some were probably just caught up in a moment, the collective conscious of a mob. The vast majority of them have been lied to and isolated from alternative points of view for so long that many people do believe we are living through some kind of cataclysmic crisis.

If I believed some of those things, would I be willing to do something drastic about it? Yeah, if I’m honest with myself, I can see the appeal or at least the logic. Everyone likes to think that if put in the circumstances of history, that they would make the valiant and historically vindicated choice. Well, a lot of these people think that’s what’s happening and they are trying to make what they understand to be a valiant choice. There’s a strange sort of bravery in it.

The problem is…the underlying premise of their belief is deeply, tragically flawed. The people who converged might have nuances and differences, but underpinning all of them is a collective, fatal lie; that the election was invalid in some way.

What do we make of genuine attempts at heroism for a false cause? It’s the same logic of ISIS, the crusades, leftist eugenics of the late 19th, early 20th century, and more. Fervent commitment to a false cause is a human problem, it’s always been with us.

So, what do?

So while I want the people who did illegal and violent actions on January 6, 2020 to face the requisite legal repercussions for their actions, I still think the long term focus MUST be on the ecosystem that made this not just possible but probable. Garbage in, garbage out. We should hold people accountable for their individual actions, but we MUST hold responsible the people who should have been a check on the worst of this and didn’t. And yes, that includes the President, which is why I think impeaching him is the right thing to do. There needs to be deterrent for leaders and those in power from feeling able to leverage violence and extremism – whether through incitement, tacit approval, or passive acceptance – for their political benefit.

I don’t know what to do long-term, however, about the problem of living in alternate realities that are founded on these beliefs. QAnon believers still believe President Trump has a plan to take down a global pedophilia and hormone harvesting ring of Satan worshipers (yes…really…). NeoNazis are already spinning last week as a victory that validates their views and appeals to new recruits. Lots of various other groups believe that they are going to be marched into concentration camps, have their guns confiscated, that the government is about to enact martial law, and any other variance.

Each of these worldviews shares a trait: they have an almost religiously protective reaction to any attempts to persuade them otherwise. It reinforces their faith more than harms it. It’s why I wrote about giving up most of my attempts to argue with people who disagree with me with a view to convincing them – because I’ve lost confidence that it actually produces an effect.

But then, what will work? The only thing I can think of is rooting it out, which is also why I favor deplatforming and push back strongly when it’s called censorship. It isn’t.

We have to confront the ecosystems that create and sustain brittle and false worldviews. This is partly what activists mean when they want to dismantle white supremacy/racism/misogyny, or dispute terminology in a way that makes conservatives mad. It’s also what produces so much backlash against this activism – see paragraph above. If your worldview premises are challenged and they are somehow fundamental to your identity (religious, political, social, you name it), you might interpret a different opinion or movement as an attack. And you might respond accordingly–that’s exactly what’s happening.

We don’t have to be talking about “isms” for this logic to work. I could say the same same is true of the systems of education and media and politics in which we find ourselves, which have helped shape deep and entrenched identities. At a deep level, I’d say this gives insights into how left-leaning people like me position themselves and why. Because I don’t want to dismantle existing systems of power (white privilege, patriarchy, the worst iterations of wealth inequality, and so forth) because they are MEAN or UNFAIR–a criticism often lobbed which I think is juvenile and patronizing. I want them to end because they are founded on lies or false narratives.

We have to confront the lies at the core of these identities. Otherwise they will do what extremist and reactionary movements have always done – reconstitute themselves underground until they see another chance to break out again. History demonstrates this over and over.

The Big Lie

Ultimately I keep coming back to thinking about lynch mobs, that horribly American historical precedent. This is absolutely stemming from seeing a gallows erected on Capitol Hill. People are frantically debating whether it was meant to be symbolic or was intended to kill people…and I think that utterly misses the point.

It’s as useless an argument as whether we were supposed to take Trump “literally or seriously,” because ultimately…it doesn’t matter. The big lie enables and justifies either outcome. That’s why it’s so dangerous.

Looking at the history of lynchings in America, it is actually rare that every single person would have participated in the actual torture and murder of the victims, many would have been spectators or even treated it as some kind of ghoulish community event. But everyone in those crowds would have thought what was happening was “right,” “justified,” or even “righteous.” They would have believed that this action would have been taken because the victim, almost inevitably a person considered inferior or dangerous (whether Black, Jewish, German, Chinese, or any other group) “deserved it.”

You didn’t have to be the one slinging a rope over a tree limb to participate in the big lie of racism. They believed what they were doing was right, whether they watched from a picnic blanket or murdered with their bare hands. These might not be considered equivalently evil acts when viewed in isolation through a purely objective lens – but you can’t do that. Both are categorically underpinned and linked by the same false and evil premise and you cannot detach one from the other.

To do so is to capitulate to the lie. And ultimately, that’s what they want.

Weekend Links

Guys, I just

I mean…

The thing is…

I can’t. Have some links. Let’s catch up in the comments.

See, the American right needs its viewers and product consumers absolutely livid with rage and grievance…but not enough to actual riot over it. That’s a tricky balance, and I’m not surprised they lost control over it. That’s always the end result of rabble-rousing. I wrote about this back in 2016 and the last four years have only reinforced my thinking on the matter.

Hells yeah, and I’m one of ’em. Shout out to my doctor who explicitly said she didn’t want to take me off my meds in winter in a normal year and she definitely wasn’t going to do it in 2020. Bless her.

A story about emeralds, the best gem:

Indeed, there are things from 2020 we need to retain, and righteous anger is one of them. And activism, which is not at all what the storming of the Capitol was.

This story is bizarrely engrossing.

America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It also became more delusional.” Yeah…but he owned the libs, so…

I know we shouldn’t be surprised by anything this may does anymore, but still – HOLY SHIT.

A grim assessment.

Locking the barn doors after the horses have stormed the Capitol….

Who cleans up after the coup?

When you feel betrayed by your messiah figure, what happens to belief? Well, you despair, you hold out hope, or you wait for a sign. MAGAland is bang on target. But I feel obliged to repeat, this is also bang on target for fascist movements which will stay enraged and look to the next guy to lead them to victory. Apart from his personal failings, which are legion, the long term risk of Trump was that he would pave the way for someone much better at the authoritarian dictator gig than he was.

Starting to think misinformation is bad and dangerous, fam…

Understanding the new mutations of the coronavirus.

Do. Not. @. Me.

Fascism is at its most base and basic, the singling out of chosen, “superior” in-groups to enjoy the protection and backing of those in power–from vicious rhetoric through violent means–at the direct expense of villainized outgroups who are denigrated, disempowered, and at worst violently targeted.

And here’s the thing: you can’t fake it. You can’t cosplay fascism on the weekends. You can’t indulge in a little light fascism for fun and profit. You can’t enable it, it thinking it will benefit you but that you can leave it behind when it becomes just a little too distasteful. You can’t flirt with fascism. It’s not what you believe, it’s what you do.

Because due to the very nature of the ideology and by design there are ultimately only two categories–the fascists, and their victims. You are either with them or you are against them, and all the evidence of history shows us that there is no room for conscientious objection. The structure does not allow for it. Sooner or later, whether because you truly believe in it, or are just willing to look the other way while others enact it, you end up with the fascists or on the enemies list. Every. Single. Time.

A lot of people have cosplayed as seditionists and lite-fascists for so long that that’s what they have in effect become. It frankly does not fucking matter what is in their heart of hearts. Fascism is what you do, not what you believe.

You can be shocked but only the dangerously or willfully ignorant can claim to be surprised over the events of the last 24 hours. This is the wholly predictable (and indeed, predicted!) culmination of years of media manipulation, deconstruction of institutions (including the very notion of god damned objective truth), and the coddling of the absolute worst of our national character and history. It doesn’t matter the numbers of their minority, what matters is the vigor of their commitment and intent.

Every single politician who did the devil’s arithmetic and calculated that they could infinitely head a mob, continuously whip it to greater heights of rage, and expect to stay in charge of it, your ignorance alone should disqualify you for public office. The entire weight of history is against you. Every person who told themselves that by staying in the room and abetting the worst tendencies of a malignant narcissist with the nuclear codes they were somehow doing us all a favor, your hubris is insulting as it is laughable. Every official who is performatively resigning with less than three weeks left in their tenure, your cowardice and self-interest after spending four years enriching and empowering your ingroups is naked. You deserve to be hounded from public life. Every single person who shrugged at the antics and rhetoric (which you would NEVER have tolerated from anyone outside your precious ingroup), you are complicit not in just the coarsening of our public life, but in a rising tide of nationalism and authoritarianism which you were happy to go along with when it benefitted you…BECAUSE of the people it harmed, not in spite of it.

Fascism isn’t something you believe, it what you do. And you are either with them, or you are against them.

Weekend Links – My Dog Died

I’m having another week where trying to keep up with the cascade of bad feels like it takes too much. Britain COVID cases are trending up again, wildfires plus plague plus civil unrest in the US, really scary protests in Europe against authoritarianism, 9/11, malignant incompetence made worse by deliberate misinformation run rampant–and no one is being held accountable for any of it. I’m exhausted.

And then my family dog died this week. And for all of the above plus a heaping dose of sadness, this just ENDED my siblings and I when my mom told us. There were a lot of tears, lots of story swapping and commiserating across three continents. She was an animal with a lot of personality and character, and she was our dog for 16 years. Even Jeff really loved her and shared a ton of photos with us.

She was old and we knew she was going to go soon, but losing this little neurotic goofball bloody hurts extra hard.

She knows of which she speaks.

The legend of Mulan has evolved to fit the times. Doesn’t mean the movie is particularly good.

Radicalization is the same, whether ISIS or hypernationalist militias. There is. No. Difference.

END THIS RIDICULOUS FAKE “TRADITION.”

Philanthropy is no substitute for the collective civic investment that is…taxation. We badly need to rewrite the narrative on taxes. Taxation and the subsequent allocation of monies by a democratically elected body is not theft, it is not punitive, and it’s not something to find loopholes to get out of. It’s the literal costs of running a collectively beneficial society. Tax the rich, tax business, simplify the code and close loopholes. And for the love of god stop asking “but how will we pay for xyz” in bad faith.

Clearly, there’s a sinister side to memes that requires unpacking.”

So…a government function is going to be deployed for the defence of the President in his capacity as a private citizen

And look, more whistleblowers.

And look, more manipulated information.

We’ve known this was coming for years, and still the images are wrenching. And yeah, where will we go, indeed?

I really love Anne Helen Petersen’s writing, her personal work as much as her reporting, but her latest newsletter was rough again because I think she nailed the sensation of trying to comprehend and compartmentalize time and information in an overwhelming year. “The past year has been an exercise in mass compartmentalization: how can you take what’s happening around you, flatten it, then divide it into small enough sections that you can endure it? If you can just get through the summer, you’ll be okay. If you can just get through the week, you’ll be okay. If you can just get through the day, the afternoon, the hour.”

Oh dear, Posh is going to take more of my money again.

Fucking GOOD. Finally.

As per usual, Dr. Blyth sums up a lot of my frustrations.

How to help victims of the US wildfires.

Weekend Links – #BLM, Baby Yoda, or GTFO

I’m not sure what it is about shorter weeks that somehow twist the fabric of the spacetime continuum to feel twice as long, but this week was definitely one of those. I’m staying mostly logged off to preserve my own sanity after another bonkers roller coaster ride in 2020, but rather than just spew unfiltered rage, I’ve made a deliberate attempt to provide you an extra heaping dose of style and pop culture. We’ve got a lot on fashion and style because we need beautiful things to look at and think about, in between bouts of sharpening our pitchforks and ensuring we retain and use our rights to vote.

I thought I was alone! (Seriously, I hope I never meet our downstairs neighbors who I must regularly traumatize with my constant klutziness, especially my phone or water bottle, and usually out of reasonable hours. I cringe at just the thought of encountering them in the stairwell.

Well, this is just heartwarming.

Feel like everything you see on your social media feed is the same? You’re not crazy. And we all might be sick of it.

What a great and interesting project! It’s always fascinating to see icons or iconography made human.

Yes, I will watch the crap out of this film. Mary Anning doesn’t get nearly enough playtime.

Major world events trigger fashion changes, so what do we think is going to be the post-COVID style leap?

His artistic work is the loss, but TLo did a beautiful tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s beautiful personal style and retrospective of how he opened up fashion for men in a big way.

Damn, Refinery29 pulled out the stops on this one!

Every brand is a media brand in 2020.

Damn it. I think I need to learn how to sew

BAD. Bad for the whole international military and supportive communities. BAD.

No one:
Literally, no one:
Not a soul:
Donald Trump: I DIDN’T HAVE A STROKE!

Grim. Grim and horrible.

Cool. We’re doomed. I look forward to the entire political right pivoting to caring about debt again – depending on the outcome in November.

In slightly more uplifting new, a meme accomplished something good!

I fucking hate him. I really, really do. And I cannot understand the mental gymnastics required to continuously justify the stream of petty cruelty, selfishness, incompetence, UNFIT filth and enablement that flows from him without any consequence.

Who else but Lindsay Ellis could possibly delve into the world of bizarre fanfic erotica and the legal implications of the federal court case that ensues and keep the whole thing not just SFW, but an examination on the difference between genres, tropes, and copyright claims:

 

Oh thank god. I need this. WE need this.

And yea, if you were still wondering for some reason, BLACK LIVES MATTER.

Weekend Links – Wakanda Forever

So. This week. Major party convention machines took over or merged with federal operations with zero opposition. Wildfires AND hurricanes are raging. Civil unrest continued due to a fresh round of atrocities. Protests in Europe against authoritarian regimes, and what we can reasonable assume is the attempted murder of a major Russian dissident. COVID cases spiking again. Travel restrictions amping up in response. Schools trying to educate online, disrupting working families (especially women). Workers are being hustled back to work not because it’s safe but because the ripple effects of COVID are spreading and we’ve all collectively decided that the economy requires blood sacrifice.

It’s a lot.

This week’s link roundup is a bit heavy, but as always there are a few smatterings of humor to help leaven the sadness. Stay focused on the problems, stay committed to solutions. Take responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of your fellow humans – wash your hands, wear a mask, defend their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as much as you would defend your own.

The sheer cosmic luck and accident that allowed this to happen delights and impresses me.

Second verse, same as the first.

…Donald Trump’s party is the very definition of a cult of personality. It stands for no special ideal. It possesses no organizing principle. It represents no detailed vision for governing. Filling the vacuum is a lazy, identity-based populism…’Owning the libs and pissing off the media,’ shrugs Brendan Buck, a longtime senior congressional aide and imperturbable party veteran if ever there was one. ‘That’s what we believe in now. There’s really not much more to it.’

This is good. We need to reconsider how we write algorithms and what human biases have gone into the codes that came before.

Hoo boy.

For fucks sake, enough. How much more evidence do we need about systemic problems?! How many more protests is it going to take?! (How you can give to the family.)

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How you can give to help people affected by Hurricane Laura. (Minor positive note: nature is healing.)

Never underestimate the ability of one or two people to do amazing good, or outrageous harm.

I pile on Utah a lot, but this is unequivocally good and a standout perspective among institutionally conservative states. It advocates for mail-in voting and enables it.

We NEED to understand the insidious overlap of violent misogyny, violent racism, and violent nationalism. In huge numbers, the venn diagram is a circle.

Perennial topic of interest in Small Dog Nation.

Jeff is the NBA fan in our household, and a lifelong Utah Jazz devotee. He opened my understanding to the political clout and cultural influence of the NBA in a way I didn’t really get since my family is not at all sporty. Learning the difference between sports leagues and how they use their influence over the last few years has been interesting, and of course the tides are shifting all the time…but at the moment I’m pretty sure the NBA is doing more to provide safe voting in November and invest in Black communities than our actual Congress.

Baseball showed up. And ironically set us all up for some devastating news…

What a horrible loss! You only need a cursory glance at social media to see the impact he had in his career and how much his portrayals of Black icons meant to the community. To learn he did his widest reaching and most physically demanding work while battling cancer…no words. Rest in power. Wakanda forever. (On creating a character’s voice, why Black Panther matters, spreading joy.)

Speaking of Black icons, let’s remember the anniversary of the March on Washington.

And finally, let’s have a laugh.

Weekend Links – LET’S GO!

This week we’ve had a heatwave, intense thunderstorms, political news, media watching, and a few smatterings of fun and whimsy. It must be the weekend links roundup, kittens! Check in with the coterie in the comments and let’s hang out.

WE’VE GOT A TICKET. I’m not counting any chickens before November, but I think the Biden/Harris team came out of the gate strong and cut straight through lot of the (expected) racist and misogynist reaction at the start. Let’s go!

Trump said, out loud and in a public interview that he got rid of the head of the FBI because of the Russia investigation. This week he said, out loud and in a public interview, that he’s trying to sabotage the US Postal Service to give himself an electoral advantage. And of course, there are no consequences because the right is complicit or willing to benefit and the left is functionally useless due to ceaseless infighting. Twitter is nuts with rage, but the only hope is Nancy Pelosi’s spine holding.

We are not ready for how ugly November is going to be.

In an era where the media does more amplification than fact checking – again, across the political spectrum – we may be in an uncomfortable place of having to use different institutions to question truth claims. Since we’ve rejected science (lefty anti-vaxxers as much as righty climate change deniers), education (lefty liberal arts and righty social sicences), and consensus (…Twitter) maybe the solution is legal rather than persuasive. Maybe.

Will be interesting to see what happens to TikTok over the coming months, and this latest twist would be intriguing. Given the differences between platforms and their various attempts to build a monopoly and respond to a changing media landscape, Twitter v. Facebook continues to be the top story. Facebook/Instagram have rolled out their TikTok competitor Reels in the last couple of weeks and the jury is still out. Meanwhile, also on Facebook…

It’s a cult.

This piece is three years old and I literally think about it about once a week.

I’m seeing a lot of this from my mormon friends and loved ones in particular and it makes me want to scream. Not least of all because the majority of the people sharing it have had precisely zero interest in activism until suddenly BLM gets up and running. My cynical brain cannot help but feel this is another extension of the (stupid) culture wars, where you assign your attention not so much to support one cause as to refuse to support another. Child victimization is an ugly blight on our society, and it IS a real threat…but it’s worth consider who is only raising their voices about it now, and why, and based off of what information. Because we live in the darkest timeline and you have to check yourself to ensure you aren’t accidentally feeding a cult.

What on earth is wrong with us as a society?!

The last thing we need is another huge environmental disaster this year…one to watch and plan ways to support cleanup efforts and accountability measurements.

Is London still “worth it?” More than a few people I know are debating this within their families right now and to me it’s another example of how long a tail COVID is going to have for population and demographic changes over the coming years.

Excuse me, how did I fail to follow this year’s Tiny Desk Contest?!

Ezra Klein is a very thoughtful and thorough interviewer, able to articulate his own positions and biases, and giving his guests space to articular their own. This recent episode had me gripped because yes, it supports my own opinion, but the fact of who is doing so and how is incredible.

SHE DESERVES.

Has anyone ever successfully stopped biting their nails? What do we think of this as an idea?

What a glorious labor of love this is: a massive compendium of cookbooks across the ages!

FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast is live and is designed to be informative as to how models work as much as report latest updates- since a lot of people didn’t get it four years ago. It’s instructive and transparent in how it works, what it measures, and predictive logic. Horserace commenced.

The only thing I will say about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s gloriously filthy new single.

I saw a description of the combined line of attack towards Harris as “misogynoir” and yep, that about sums it up. It took less than a day for “birtherism” to rear it’s head again, evolving to suit the landscape. The claim that Obama might be illegitimate has become that (according to some) Harris SHOULD be illegitimate. Susan Hennessey of the Brookings Institute nails it:

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Weekend Links

Kittens, it’s been…it’s been a week. There are a lot of troubles in the world. I’ve tried to round up some important stories in our usual interest realms – media and information, politics, and cheese. I’ve tossed in goodness to help the grim go down better.

Love you all, stay safe in the heat!

Iconic.

All families have some kind of secret history.

NOT NOW, PLAGUE.

Racist dogwhistles (and outright racism) to own the libs. Damaging the environment in ways that will affect our entire species to own the libs. Practicing cruelty and exclusion of marginalized people to own the libs. Economic self harm to own the libs. It’s just a fundamentally bizarre way of thinking to me and I’ve given up trying to understand it. It’s a pointless game of one downsmanship.

It’s a cult.

If 2020 has a theme it’s that all the screen tropes are happening in real life.

You’d think I’d be unmoved by all the evidence confirming my worst feelings about his capability and fitness for the office he holds, but I still manage to find myself grimly shocked.

Oof

Monica speaks wisdom.

HOLY CRAP. If “everything Trump touches dies” holds true, I will not be sorry to see bogus culture wars be among his anti-Midas-touch victims. I for one have no sympathy for those who have enabled the worst fringes of their own team to the point that almost every norm is trampled and every institution is under suspicion.

Yes please, I want more African ballet across the board.

Save the cheese!

And why you should exercise caution about those “save the children” campaigns you’re suddenly seeing crop up everywhere. It’s not happening on accident. Be sure of your information and its sources.

Weekend Links

Hi fam, how are we? We limber, rested, hydrated? Or we spiraling into existential dread? All are welcome in Small Dog Nation without guilt or shame.

This week’s links are not terribly light and fluffy, but are important. We’re emphasizing online culture, disinformation, and one or two nice things thrown in to surprise the palate. Let me know what you’re up to in the comments and keep safe!

Everyone who wants to understand current radicalization of all stripes NEEDS to understand the transition from meme/online culture to real life. Whether ISIS’ robust online PR operation to radical leftist anarchists on 4chan, the pathways are eerily similar.

as I was saying

again, still saying

Not unrelated: the attention economy politicians work, think, and measure success in a different way than actual politicians. Understanding this is important.

We’ve still focused on the police, don’t get it twisted. But we need to understand their culture in order to make change.

Also key: how the internet and online life is changing. Will the attention economy politicians keep up or will they be outstripped or outflanked by the meme cycle – including among their own ranks? I continue to believe that this cycle has dragged the right and left in their extremists directions more than leadership has – people are radicalizing themselves and institutions are scrambling to catch up or retain control. I also believe that the right has been more effective at allying around specific topics and staying on message than the left…but that this has in turn exacerbated the radicalization process and that they are at real risk of losing control of their wingnuts.

no shit, Sherlock.

Yep. Sure. The problem with the royal family is this pair and not…this mess. Sure.

Snowflakes.

Speaking of, “The Right Wing Myth of the Left Wing Mob,” is something that I sincerely want to send to a dozen specific people. But I’m not trying to convert anyone anymore (she reminded herself).

Meanwhile, on YouTube

Here is a nice list of book recommendations to consider!

(takes deep breath) BIRTH CONTROL IS HEALTHCARE. This week the US Supreme Court gave the double whammy of allowing employers to deny birth control coverage to workers on religious grounds, AND upheld religious organizations right to discriminatory hiring practices. I worked for an institution like this once. Never again. I had health insurance and Planned Parenthood was STILL a better option for my reproductive health.

10% of our entire population.

Sunday Check In – Recognizing Racism and Doing Better

God, I hope I get this right because this is a difficult subject and while I want to write from my perspective, I want to also state clearly and up front that this is not about me. It’s peak white woman to try and make someone else’s struggle your own, but that’s not what I’m trying to do here, I’m trying to write about the only personal existence I’m an expert on and that happens to be my own. If I’m clunky about it, help me do better and make my actions and word better reflect my intentions. 

I was raised in a religion that denied ordination to the priesthood for men of color until only a few years before I was born. More than that, the doctrine of Mormonism requires participation in certain sacred ordinances – which in turn require those (male) participants to have been ordained. These rituals are necessary to salvation. In other words, I belonged to a faith that for a century taught that people of color couldn’t be “saved” in the same way as white folks. By the time I was growing up in the church, this was no longer true, but generational racism didn’t vanish from that community and it was a long time before I really confronted the history and teachings that had reinforced it for so long – and which have never been fully repudiated. The last time my husband and I voluntarily attended church services was the week that the church published an essay on its past racism and a white man who was teaching the lesson stood up in front of our predominantly black congregation and lectured people of color about how he had been taught “certain things” about race growing up and how the essay didn’t make sense to him. Of all the people in that room, we had the least right to anger, but we still felt it and it was still a transformative moment in our decision to leave the faith.

I spent large portions of my life as a racial majority and didn’t really think about how that impacted me. This included two stints in Virginia and one in Texas – not exactly places with an ambiguous history when it comes to America’s racial history. Luckily I also spent some important years on a Micronesian island where white folks were the minority which was instructive in ways I didn’t fully appreciate at the time but do as an adult. Everyone should experience being a minority. I was outrageously privileged given my family’s circumstances, but it was the first step in more self awareness that my experiences were not the norm.

This isn’t to big myself up, quite the reverse. I can look back on my life and cringe at comments I’ve made which I didn’t realize until much later were racially charged. I’ve never used racial slurs and would have reacted with outrage if anyone accused me of being racist, but I can see in retrospect that while I might have been innocent of malice, I was still ignorant.

One of my grandmother’s once told me that she and my grandfather would “have a big problem if [I] married a black man.”

University professors lectured me on how poverty was a self-inflicted wound.

Family members opined on how various communities could only experience tragedy or difficulty due to a lack of “virtue.”

Church leaders taught me that God had to wait for white people to be “ready” to accept black folks – as if other people’s salvation were dependent on my personal level comfort and that was a perfectly okay thing to believe.

I grew up swimming in racism, I just didn’t recognize it for a long time. 

You learn better, and you do better. I still screw up despite good intentions, I’m still unlearning assumptions and patterns that I didn’t realize I’d ever been taught, and I’m still unpacking where I may be part of the problem. Sometimes this means speaking up, sometimes it means shutting up, and other times it means using whatever voice I have to amplify other voices instead of my own. Because it’s not about me. 

Becoming anti-racist requires you check your assumptions, your privilege, and your power at the door and deliberately work to empower others – even and perhaps especially at the expense of your comfort.

Here are some resources to learn better.

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