Mom, I saw the video. . .

Mom, I saw the video.”
I don’t need to ask what video.
Like, I watched him die. That cop is in jail, right?
He was not.
Why?”

Derek Chauvin can murder George Floyd in plain view and it takes four days of national outrage to arrest him because we White people don’t believe in, or understand, systemic racism. We White people insist that you have to be a bad guy to be killed by the police. We want to believe it so much that we search and search for pieces of information that might confirm that bias, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

If we can’t prove that the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children killed are bad guys, then we White people figure it’s just bad apples who killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Rekia Boyd, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin (to name just a few who are the tip of the iceberg that White America had no choice but to see). Good cop or bad cop, we will focus on their subjective intent more than their impact, because that’s what we White people do.

And I can hear us now, “Not WE! We are not a monolith! I’m not racist! I treat everyone equally!”

But We White people are a racial identity group. A powerful racial identity group. We White people love to ascribe traits and attributes to other identity groups but are deeply offended by the idea that we, as a group, have things in common. Like privilege.

White Privilege.

If this term bothers you, feel free to use a long-hand descriptor that includes, but is not limited to: being- way-less-likely-to-get-killed- by-police-or-Covid-19-or-discrimination-in-housing,-education,-employment,-healthcare,-and -criminal-justice-simply-because-of-my-racial-identity-group.

WHY do you think that things like police brutality, pandemic infection/death rates, incarceration, poverty, are so wildly disproportionately affecting Black people? Do you attribute it to group traits and attributes? Are they inherently violent? Genetically predisposed to corona virus?

Yes? Well, then, I guess you’ve got it all figured out.

You’re excused.

From my life.

If you don’t know how to explain these things to yourself or your children except to say, you know, slavery, you are not alone. We White people worked to build and maintain systems that continuously and permanently disenfranchise, disadvantage, and disregard Black Lives. We White people worked to make the systems essential to our business as usual, and largely invisible, so that the “Good White People” can say “smfh” and remark that they are shocked and bewildered that “this” is still happening in (insert year after year after year after year after year here).

We White people have to take personal responsibility and do work to make the systems visible and dismantle them.

Cue the exasperation and whattabouting.

What about economic injustice in general? What about this other oppressed group? What about the environment?

A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, so anything you can do to mitigate oppression and suffering anywhere, anytime, would be great. But we White people usually only ask “what about…?” as another way of saying All Lives Matter. As in, I don’t want to think/talk/hear about racism.

And it is true that you can’t fix the whole world at once.

You can’t pick all the straws and micro beads out of the ocean, but I know a whole lotta White ladies buying a lot less plastic these days.There are things you can do. Let’s start with some really easy ones.

Just click the headline.
Just google.
Just read.
Just listen.
Just don’t look away.

Figuring out what people actually mean when they say “systemic racism” makes the systems visible. Learning about social science and history in a less self-centering way shows us that we White people, individual as we all may be, are not separate and apart from the systems and biases that make up our culture. We can learn to recognize ourselves as participants in systems that perpetuate racism, without reflexively feeling personally indicted as a bad person.

It seems like a good time, by the way, to be examining all the systems right now – health care systems, voting systems, criminal justice systems, free-enterprise systems, education, child care, elder-care, all the systems. Maybe we should stop trying to manage defective outcomes and focus on the systems that produce the defects.

We White people can’t claim ignorance as a defense anymore. It’s too late and too lame. We need to be able to explain things to our White children in a way that makes sense. And in a way that stops them from hurting people.

Is your kid too young/having too many other issues/deserving of innocence/going to get racist by learning about racism/going to get screwed up by you because you don’t know how to talk about it?

No.

The answer to all of those questions is no.

Perfection is the enemy of the good. Do something. Anything.

How about a free webinar called “How not to Raise the Next Amy Cooper”? That’s doable, right? Click it!

How about the Wee the People “Wee Chalk the Walk” day of action tomorrow, doing things “on our own blocks, with kid-friendly, home-based activities that will open up critical opportunities for parents and caregivers to talk with kids about racial injustice and the choice we can make to speak out.”

How about a book club? I’ll host it. Lemme know.

Hey, White people who don’t see color: Just stop. Please.

And for the love of God and all things holy on this Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, please, please don’t pass your colorblind ridiculousness on to your children. That’s not what he meant.

When you say you “don’t see color,” you mean that you judge people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin – I get it. You don’t care if someone is white, black, brown, purple. . . and I believe that you believe that you don’t care.

You intend to treat everyone equally, and you teach your children to be kind to everyone. If they ever ask, you’ll tell your kids that racists are bad guys. . . we’re good guys. . . golden rule. . .  love is all you need. Boom. Done.

Ummmm… No. Your 5 year old is already steeped in racism. Just like I was by the time I was five. Surrounded by well-meaning, educated, kind white people who professed not to have a racist bone in their bodies.

When I was growing up White AF in the 80s, nobody talked to me about skin color or race. I do remember hearing mortified parents talk about their toddlers, who were not colorblind, making loud observations about of People of Color in the grocery store.  And when those naturally observant babies saw how nervous and embarrassed their culturally incompetent adults became, here’s what they took away from that: something about brown skin is unspeakable.

Once a year in January, people in my liberal bastion of Whiteness would praise selective aspects of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings. Sharing his dreamy peaceful idea of children holding hands. Not sharing ideas, or facts, about why there were virtually no Black children anywhere near me or my hands. And nobody talked to me about how that came to be, or why it was still a thing.

So, the world informed me without explicitly telling me, that the fairest of them all was the most beautiful. That hair is supposed to be let down and silky smooth. The news, the movies, the shows, the suburban legends, all overrepresented People of Color as poor and violent and criminal, as athletes and as entertainment, and underrepresented People of Color in every other way.

We were all racialized and were all passively taught to believe that White cultural norms and standards of beauty are just “normal”. Taught to see Black communities as less fortunate. Taught that discrimination happened in the south, and taught not to examine or question the present de facto segregation all around us. The idea that Whiteness is ideal, is supreme, has been subliminally seeping into us all our lives as if through osmosis, down to our bones. Not just the one racist bone.

White people who tell me they don’t see color generally don’t fully understand how they are still benefiting from racism or understand their own implicit biases  and we all have them. If we don’t see color, then we don’t see social constructs like Whiteness and systemic racism. And if you don’t think about these things on your own and share them in developmentally appropriate ways with your kids your failure to acknowledge and discuss race and racism in America is hurting people.

And yes, it sucks when your sweet, loving child becomes aware of awful things. But please know that other people’s sweet loving children will suffer awful things because of your privilege to ignore them. Protecting your child’s innocence is giving the next generation of white supremacy a head start. 

anna

How to even start talking? There is no shortage of videos, articles, and books even for your babies. It’s not hard to find everything you need to make yourself and your kids more culturally competent, and make the world a better place. Just open your eyes.

Juneteenth

Yesterday, Americans heard the broadly broadcast Propublica audio recordings of caged babies and it made mainstream us sad enough to at least talk about it.  It sounded like our babies would sound if they were panicking, locked away from us while we were breastfeeding and they didn’t know how to suck a bottle. It sounded like our toddlers sound when they go concave with hurt and fear. 

Interrupting the stream of whimpering stolen children, the President of the United States addressed the nation. “We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force: separate but equal.”

But not even a shout out to lawful racial segregation with a proclamation of galactic domination drowned out the audio of those wailing immigrant children in those cages in empty Walmarts.

We have been locking up and ripping babies out of the arms of the conquered, the enslaved, the criminalized, the tired hungry and poor for centuries. But when we have to actually listen to what that sounds like? We were collectively outraged for at least five minutes.

Today is Juneteenth. Fox news covered it (in a way that’s problematic, to me, for other reasons) and the Fox audience comments came in at what I’d call not-so-fringe-troll/mainstream-porn level racism.

The 13th Amendment says its okay to have slaves as long as they have been convicted of crimes. That is not an interpretation – that is what it actually says. And that is what actually happens.

Back in the day, we had vagrancy laws that made it a crime to be “without visible means of support” to re-fill the chain gangs and fields and factories and mines after slavery.  Still, prisoners pick crops, sew clothes, answer calls, and make stuff for free. Vagrancy laws died the year I was born, but various schemes of criminalization evolve to keep locking up the symptoms of poverty, of illness, of victimization, of seeking asylum. 

In my lifetime the prison population has increased 500+%. We have 5% of the whole wide world’s population and 20% of its prisoners.

No one has more people in jail and prison than us. No one. Believe me. Everyone agrees. We have huge prisons. Huge.

And if we see a decrease in undocumented migrants picking crops for next-to-nothing, you know who will pick up the slack? Prisoners. They get leased out to agri-business. As in, the corporations pay the prisons for use of its slaves/prisoners.

Prisons are run by private, for-profit, profitable companies. The largest one, GEO Group had its last leadership summit at a Trump golf course. It is classified as a real estate investment trust. It spends millions of dollars annually lobbying. It donated to Trump super PACs. It loves Trump. When he reversed the Obama policy of reversing the trend toward privatization of prisons, its stock went nuts. It’s been build, build, building like mad since.

It owns and runs the federal immigration detention centers. It buys the warehouses and Walmarts and builds the cages for the babies. The NYSE values it at $7,432,590,000.00

Homeland Security uses your money to pay GEO to put them in cages grouped by ages. For a few days. Then they move to a new box store that has beds. And basketball, movies, and Zumba. Zumba classes. Because that’s what all children in the throes of shock and trauma want. It costs a lot of money to house them, feed them, teach them Zumba.

We pay for that. We shake our heads and express dismay and then we pay for it. With our taxes and our investments. Here are some shareholders in GEO: Bank of America, Vanguard, BlackRock, State Farm, State Street, Prudential, Tiaa-Cref, the Public Employee Retirement Systems of I don’t know how many states, maybe all. Pretty much every mutual fund, hedge fund, all the funds, the banks, the whole street.

So, before you distance yourself too far from this latest round of atrocities, before you blame THEM, please be aware that it is US.

We do this. We do racism, isolationism, nationalism, xenophobia. We benefit from it and we, generally speaking, do nothing to stop it. Our individualistic values and apathetic behaviors, living the dream, willfully ignorant, distracted by Space Force, tuning out the cries of children forced into cold, metal cell spaces.

Please help

Dear white, well-off, suburban friends not particularly attentive to issues of social justice: I don’t know how better to say it than to simply ask. Please pay attention. Please engage. All of you who hear news from Charlottesville and say “OMG, I can’t believe this is happening in 2017“, I’m not asking you to completely burst your bubble, but maybe you could just compromise the seal, just a little. Why? Well, I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care about other people.

You like to think that if you were there when this picture was taken, you would have spoken up, right? You would have given Rosa Parks your seat on the bus, right? You wouldn’t have just sat there and watched, right? Well, thanks to the internet, we are all watching. We are all “there”. You actually have the opportunity to say “Hey, stop. I don’t like this”.

To whom? To any fellow white people who can hear you. Where? Doesn’t matter. Yes, it might feel quite awkward to work “gee, how ’bout that racism. . . ” into a conversation about your vacation, but it’s kind of urgent.

Woah, woah, woah, it’s not my fault/responsibility/problem, don’t tell me what I should or should not do. 

Okay, fine. But if you think you would have resisted slavery in America, or Nazis in Germany, and you say nothing now, think again. If you think you would have supported the civil rights movement back in the day, but you don’t now, make no mistake, you are the people who looked away and shuffled out of the Cherrydale Drug Fair when the boys pictured above came in.

That’s not fair. I’m not racist. This is different.

Really?  Yes, the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s helped to ban the formerly acceptable practice of straight up torturing and killing Black men, women, and children at will. White people were persuaded to stop randomly and spontaneously beating, mutilating, burning and hanging Black people from trees. Emmet Till was lynched in nineteen fifty fucking five. He would only be 75 today if he were alive. So, yeah, we frown on wild packs of angry white men randomly murdering children now. Congratulations to us on that amazing progress.

We are now collectively shocked and shamed by the lunch counter sit-in photos. Look how much progress we’ve made. We want credit for allowing people into public spaces? Seriously, how far we’ve come from WHAT? How low is our bar? How absurd a standard of measurement? Congratulations white America on the improvement of “race relations”. Oh yeah, wait, you, as a whole, didn’t do shit. Congratulations on giving in to demands when they got too in your face to ignore anymore.

Freedom Riders, Selma, MLK, all the greatest hits iconic protests and civil disobedience we all know and honor and admire and respect and praise now. You know what they were saying? Black Lives Matter. Would you have complained that a theoretical ambulance wouldn’t have been able to get across the Edmund Petus bridge? Would you have been saying that the protesters would have a lot more support and sympathy if they didn’t cause economic harm to the public transportation system in Montgomery?

No? Then shut the fuck up when people actually doing something to be the change interrupt your regularly scheduled privilege. Or better yet, show up.

When the President of the United States was forced to condemn the white supremacist side of the “many sides”, his insincerity was palpable. My bad, No worries, Nice to meet you. All more sincere expressions than Donald Trump saying “Racism is evil . . . we all live under the same laws”.

Black men today have a 33% (or 25% depending on who you believe, but either way, WTF) chance of going to a (for profit) prison, as opposed to a white man’s 6% chance.  There are more Black men in prison/probation/parole than there were slaves in 1850. 10% longer sentence than a white man convicted for the same crime. They are 12% of drug users and 59% of people in state prison for a drug offense. Black students get suspended and expelled at almost 4 times the rate of white kids. Schools are as segregated as 1968. White sounding resume names get called for interviews 33% more than Black sounding names on the SAME RESUME. Black children are 4 times more likely to be poor than white children.  Racism is a pervasive, constant, institutionalized, systematic, non-stop thing in America, in ways you may never have considered, and you directly benefit from it. Like it or not.

So yeah, we’ve made progress from the randomly murderous with loud proud impunity days. No, excuse me, the people who push and resist and advocate, and fight fight fight for progress have made progress. We, white people in ‘Murcia in general, have allowed this progress to happen with embarrassing and shameful delay and indifference.

I am speaking to you, my white, wealthy American friend who hates the news. Who finds it all too scary and too depressing to contemplate. In enclaves where all of this is just not a thing one needs to think about. The enclaves that were deliberately created to exclude Black people, by the way, in case you’ve ever wondered why your neighborhood happens to be so white.

But sometimes, like now, news of racism penetrates and floods your feed and your tv. And for a day or two you are forced to hear about the latest unarmed Black man shot. And the resulting protests. And you can change the channel. Or not click on it.

Because. . . he shoplifted, or ran away, or looked older, or could have looked like someone else. . . 

Or whatever you tell yourself to help you believe that this is not really real. Or that it’s too complicated, and ALL lives matter, or whatever your personal short-cut way out is.

But the same white Nationalist  supremacists  from the Charlotteville Unite-the-Right rally are coming to rally in Boston on Saturday. They are not coming to protest economic conditions that have resulted in the loss of their jobs and security. They are not coming to protest housing/healthcare/education policies that have left them feeling left out. They are Neo-fucking-Nazis and people who believe that a white genocide is underway.  This is a pretty easy one, folks. If you can’t come out clearly on one side or another here, that’s something you should know about yourself.

I realize that you may be put-off because you think I’m saying that if you don’t protest then you are racist. No, this is not about you. It’s about us as a whole. But I am asking you as an individual to do ANYTHING other than just look away. I’m sorry I don’t have more time to put it more gently or nicely. I’m more concerned about the feelings of my Black friends who have to go through this shit over and over and over again, watch us do nothing, and then get called racist for calling out racism.

Carry on.

Or not.

 

Hook versus verse

Our first post-holidays national holiday came and went as expected. Except for that part when the President, having devoted exactly zero minutes of service to any cause other than self promotion, called a man who has given his life, his body, his liberty (45 times), to the struggle, “all talk.” I did not see that coming. But the rest of the weekend was predictable. Some white people I know, people who give zero fucks about racial/social justice 364 days per year, even people who go so far as to utter All Lives Matter type rhetoric in comments, posted rainbow and unicorny as hell excerpts of quotes and photos about peace and love and following the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What’s my problem? To paraphrase one of my current favorite fictional figures, Andre Johnson Jr., It’s like the hook without the verse.

MLK is not the good guy to be juxtaposed against Black Lives Matter or the Movement for Black Lives or Colin Kapernick or anyone else you want to blame for currently inflaming racial tension in America.  This whitewashed idea that he worked for change the right way, while the people on the front lines in the fight against racism today are doing it wrong, is just remarkably insane.

MLK railed against police brutality and undereducation and overpolicing and systematic, institutionalized income inequality. He vehemently protested against the condemnation of rioters by people who were not outraged by the roots and causes of the riots. He was accused of inciting violence. He was criminalized. In response to the Dream Speech, the head of the blue FBI lives called him “the most dangerous Negro of the future in this Nation from the standpoint of . . . national security.” And he was widely condemned by people who claimed not to be racist – they just didn’t approve of his disruptive tactics and the urgency of now.

You got a problem with Colin Kapernick? You got a problem with MLK. You know what he was locked up for when he wrote the letter from Birmingham jail? Kneeling down in a space where protesting was not allowed. Responding to “supporters” who agreed with his goals but not his tactics, he wrote “Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront an issue.”

You know what else he said? “There is nothing wrong with a traffic law which says you have to stop for a red light. But… when a man is bleeding to death, the ambulance goes through those red lights at top speed.. . . There is a fire raging now for the Negroes and the poor of this society. . .” And he called for “massive civil disobedience. . . at least as forceful as an ambulance with its siren on full.”

 

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be an 88 year old man today with a ton of work left to do. So I’m glad you choose love over hate because hate is too big a burden. Again, congrats on that amazing work. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you like the dream of little white children holding hands with little Black children.

Now wake the fuck up and get ready for the nightmare of a law and order administration that erroneously thinks that civil disobedience = a war on police. Who promises to bring order without justice. You want that dream? Educate yourself on what BLM or the Movement for Black Lives really means and stands for. Share that dream.