Tag: Racism

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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Weekend Links

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness. ”
– Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The American political news this week was appalling and, as a citizen abroad, cripplingly humiliating. The history of the American nation is one of a country constantly falling short of its own ideals, and yet striving tirelessly towards them anyway. We’ve backslid, we’ve divided, we’ve pushed for better, we’ve linked arms and moved forward together. I trust that will continue. But the current moment feels really, really dark. There are astonishing moments of light and brightness, yes, but I find myself constantly dismayed at my own naivete in thinking so many of the forces I see ascendant now were–not dead (I’m not that dumb), but were at least on the down and out. I was wrong. I was ignorant. I won’t make the mistake of complacency again.

To put your money where your mouth is in condemning white nationalism (code of white supremacy), BossedUp has put together an excellent list of causes you can support here. I will be donating, I encourage you to do the same.

The whole Charlottesville story is awful so let me be clear: if you are a purpose who purports to stand against people mobilized by dangerous ideology (political and religious) happening “elsewhere,” I damn sure expect you to oppose it on home turf. At time of adding this story, the photos look inches away from an actual Jim Crow South style lynch mob.

Added over the weekend: it got worse. Rest in power, Heather Heyer.

It got even worse. Seth Meyers, of all people, summed up my feelings on the president’s statements on the matter. Which he then tried to walk back with a scripted statement, which he later overturned again to confirm that his first statements that “both sides” were to blame truly reflected his views. I will concede that both sides threw punches; only one was able to show up armed better than the actual police (thanks to decades of paranoia-rousing and the systematic arming of civilians with military grade weaponry, and entrenched racism–I dare anyone to argue that a para-military group of black men armed to the teeth in an identical way would not have been met with swift and deadly force). Only one side is embracing an ideology that necessitates the subjegation or extermination of millions. There is no moral equivalency, and “both sides” arguments will not hold water here.

Seth Meyers nailed it again. I feel out of ways to say that Mr. Trump is unfit for the office he holds. I am not calling for his impeachment because that is a legal process that must be done in the right way for reasons within the boundaries of law…that or our laws are meaningless. But he is morally, intellectually, temperamentally unfit for the role he has been awarded, and I believe he is causing damage to the office and both the functionality and perception of the American government.

Vice produced a compelling, informative, and frightening mini-documentary almost in real time that should be required viewing in this moment.

This thread about the, let’s be frank, false victimhood of the American white male is required reading.

 

I legitimately had to read this article a couple of times and sit with it, because it’s so self-descriptive. I am horrible at taking holidays, and I am trying to take advantage of them (seeing as how I’m legally entitled to them, and all…) but the guilt I often feel for putting in a time off request is corrosive.

I am not the biggest fan of Taylor Swift, but I read this story of her testimony against a man she accuses of assault with great satisfaction. When questioned how she feels about him losing his job due to the incident, the cool response was: “’I am not going to allow your client to make me feel like it is any way my fault, because it isn’t,’ she said. Later, she continued: ‘I am being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions and not mine.’” Amen and amen.

Sir, could you just not?

Wealth is a strange thing.

Disrupt away, ladies!

Faith in humanity ticking back up.

WAY behind the times but worth celebrating.

Oh man. I’ve given myself permission to buy from this collection when it launches, but now I fear it will take ALL of my money…

I might need to arrange to be on Westminster Bridge next Monday.

Pro tip: be a dick in public, get dragged in public. It’s the brave new media world.

Why white people don’t get to say, “This isn’t us.”

This story could have been handled in a tabloid-y and gross way. In McKay Coppins’ capable hands, it’s done very well.

Another tiny bright spot.

This week in Mormon news, another thing to warm your feeds!

What the **** is wrong with people?! (trigger warning on this one, but a number of -isms are on display here and need to be confronted)

And then, on Thursday, there was another terrorist car attack, this time in Barcelona. Waking up this morning, there was more bad news in Spain. My heart hurts.

Album of the week: Silk and Soul, by Nina Simone