Tag Archives: Jim Crow

Some Of Us White People

30 Jun

Protest following death of George Floyd, Providence, RI, June 5, 2020

It’s been a little over three weeks since the local protests took place here in Providence, and all over the world, in the wake of George Floyd’s death. And it feels like it’s been three weeks of vast numbers of white people in a tizzy over how we could not have known how bad things were for Black people in America, and how blind we all were to systemic racism.

Some of us woke up, and rose up, and said we want to help. We pored over the Google Doc of resources shared widely on social media by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein–books, articles, organizations and funds to donate to, and legislators to call. Some of us also learned of the Justice in June Google Document turned website with expanded anti-racism resources and teachings by Autum Gupta and Bryanna Wallace.

Some of us bought all the books recommended on social media to educate ourselves on the history of racism in this country. Books like, Stamped From The Beginning, and How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, The Me And White Supremacy Workbook by Layla Saad, Waking Up White by Debby Irving, and White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Currently, The New York Times Bestseller List for Paperback Non-Fiction, shows all top ten books are on race, with the aforementioned books on the list.

Some of us have confessed on Facebook how ignorant or blind we were to our own white privilege. How blind we were to the continued systems of racial inequity that came about post-slavery through policies and laws that created redlining, Jim Crow laws, loan discrimination, education disparities, job discrimination, mass incarceration, and the one we, if we have any humanity, can no longer deny: the more than “a few bad apples,”systemic racism inherent in law enforcement, and the never-ending police brutality against Black people.

Shortly after some of us spoke about being overwhelmed and not knowing where to begin to educate ourselves, and take action, we learned about the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy’s parking lot in Atlanta on June 12th. The 27 year-old Brooks, married and the father of three children, had fallen asleep in the Wendy’s drive-thru and the police were called. After a half-hour of conversation where Rayshard politely told officers he had a few drinks, and offered to leave his car in the parking lot to walk to his sister’s house which was just a few blocks away, the officers decided to arrest Rayshard after a failed sobriety test. Rayshard, who was on parole, and working hard to stay on track with his family and work life despite the many restrictions and burdens the judicial system placed on him, most likely feared what an arrest would mean for him and his future. He resisted by trying to free himself from the officers trying to cuff him, Brosnand and Rolfe, and a scuffle ensued. Rayshard did grab one of the officer’s tasers and ran away, pointing it over his shoulder, and shooting the taser once at Rolfe, a taser which cannot cause deadly harm. Officer Rolfe shot at the back of Rayshard Brooks with his gun, hitting him twice. Rayshard fell to the ground. Officer Brosnan stood on Rayshard’s shoulders while he was on the ground, and Rolfe kicked his body. They stood over his body for two minutes before administering any medical attention. Rayshard Brooks died later that night at the hospital after coming out of surgery.

Some of us returned to our urgent call to ourselves to “do something!” Some of us worried still about offending Black people by either saying or doing the wrong thing, so some of us did nothing. Some of us thought and hoped we were doing the right thing by reaching out to our Black friends and asking them how they were doing. Some of us felt guilty when we read articles written by Black people who were taken aback, or baffled, by the awkward ways white people were reaching out to them– about friends who before now, rarely, if ever, had conversations about race with them, or ever noticed the micro-aggressions their friends endured, or the way their own white privilege allowed them to move through the world never having to think about their race, because their white skin was the default.

Some of us Venmo’d our Black friends, either at their request, or after seeing articles that said sending money to your Black friends is what you should do, because we sure owe them, or as a gesture to promote self-care for the recipient, then felt guilty again when we read some posts on social media about how sending money to Black people was insulting. I received a link to a podcast through Facebook Messenger from my friend, Darrell, who is Black, which he thought was hilarious, and which I had to admit I could see my own shortcomings in. The podcast, /reply-all/, episode #162 The Least You Could Do, produced by Emmanuel Dzotsi, was about this very subject of Black people receiving texts with offers of money from white people, like some kind of offering to absolve ourselves from the sin of being white, and benefiting from white supremacy. In fact, toward the end of the podcast, Black Latinx comedian, Milly Tamarez, did just that. After the 2016 Presidential election, she did a stand-up act asking white people to pay her, and if they did, she would absolve them of the sins of their people. It took off, and lots of white people sent her money, confessed of their sins, and received absolution. While some of the sins confessed started out light, like performing in a West Side Story play in school where all the parts were played by white people, some got darker as time went on, like the confession by a young white guy who was dating a Black woman but was afraid to get intimate with her because he feared he wouldn’t be as good a lover as a Black man. I hope all of us reading here will want to listen to this podcast to hear Milly’s response, and her thoughts about the whole experience of her White Forgiveness Project, as well as the thoughts and feelings that some Black people are having about how white people are reaching out to them at this time.

Some of us may have found ourselves saying, “damned if we do, damned if we don’t,” yet, hopefully we learned instead, that Black people are not a monolith, and do not think alike, and that most Black people would probably say they’ve lived “damned if we do, damned if we don’t” to the point of life vs. death, every single day. We hopefully learned that while one friend or acquaintance might welcome your reaching out to ask them what they need from you, and one person might say, Venmo me, and another friend might tell you they are too exhausted from experiencing racism to do the emotional labor to respond to you. They might nudge you to initiate your own self-education, and tell you to talk to other white people who may be further along on their journey in anti-racist work and action. They might tell us to figure out amongst ourselves what we should do next. After all, it is all of us white people who created and continue to uphold racism and racist systems in the first place. But, we’ll never know what to do if we don’t put ourselves out there and ask.

And as some of us are spending way too much time dealing with our own white fragility, rather than being of benefit to the movement to support Black lives, we learned of the death of Elijah McClain. Elijah was a 23 year-old massage therapist from Aurora, Colorado who was walking home from a convenience store when he was stopped by officers after a call was made to police about a suspicious person walking down the street wearing a mask. Elijah, who played violin on his lunch break to cats at animal shelters, because he believed it calmed them, was a slight, young man, with anemia, who wore the mask to keep warm. He did absolutely nothing wrong, and was wrestled to the ground by several officers, held in a carotid hold, and injected with the tranquilizer, ketamine, before being taken by ambulance to the hospital. Elijah suffered a heart attack on the way there, and was brain dead and on life support, when several days later, his family had to make the decision to take him off life support, at which time, Elijah passed away. The heartbreaking words of Elijah McClain while he was being arrested and his tiny frame being pressed on, to the point he vomited and could not breathe, have been shared widely:

“I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. My name is Elijah McClain. That’s my house. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different. That’s all. I’m so sorry. I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? I don’t even kill flies! I don’t eat meat! But I don’t judge people who do eat meat. Forgive me. All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything. Sacrifice my identity. I’ll do it. You all are so phenomenal. You are beautiful. And I love you. Try to forgive me. I am a mood gemini. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Ow, that really hurt. You all are very strong. Team work makes the dream work…(crying)..oh I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to do that. I just can’t breathe correctly (proceeds to vomit from the pressure to his chest and neck).”

– Elijah McClain

And as we ask again, what should we do, some of us are pulling out our pocketbooks and making donations to local and national Black-led organizations that promote justice, and build resources for Black communities. Some of us are educating ourselves through reading, conversation, and attending virtual panels led by Black scholars and activists. In Providence, the calls to Defund The Police rang loud and clear this week on a 9-hour Zoom call for the City’s Finance Committee meeting, where residents, Black, white and Brown, got to use their voices to speak about far better ways to address community wellness and public safety.

Yet some of us learned of another Providence meeting of the City Council members, where Black councilwoman, Nirva LaFortune, was talked over and muted during the Zoom meeting, by fellow councilman, John Igliozzi. Igliozzi announced a petition he said he created to bring to the RI General Assembly to appeal the state’s Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights. Councilwoman LaFortune stated on the call, that she had been working on a resolution to repeal the bill and it was on the agenda to present to the council. She continued to say that Igliozzi was aware of and co-signed on it, and that this petition was appropriated from LaFortune by him without speaking with her, or giving her credit for the research, and work that she had done. Igliozzi continued to erase the work and voice of the Black woman councilwoman, as he muted LaFortune several times more as she tried in vain to make her point heard and acknowledged–the final time right after the councilwoman told Igliozzi that “this is oppressive behavior.”

And in all of this, still we wait for the arrest of the two officers who killed Breonna Taylor while she was sleeping in her home in Louisville, Kentucky. Breonna, 25, a beloved EMT, and her boyfriend, were asleep when the police broke into their home unannounced. Thinking it was an intruder, Breonna’s boyfriend walked toward the living room, licensed gun in his hand to defend himself and Breonna. The police upon sighting him started shooting. They fired eight shots that killed Breonna. Why did they break into her home? They were looking for someone who had a warrant out for his arrest for drug dealing. They were in the wrong home. The person they were looking for: He was already in custody.

Some of us are performing activism with expressions of outrage, and sadness, followed up with lackluster, or absent action. Many corporations have made statements in support of Black Lives Mattering, along with proclamations of intention to make their workplace “inclusive” and “equitable.” Some have even already instituted a policy to now make Juneteenth an official holiday. Some of us are seeing media outlets scramble to feature stories on race, and even hire Black writers and photographers and journalists to tell them. We are seeing art museums and arts organizations all of a sudden featuring the works of Black artists on their sites, like the Poem-a-day series I subscribe to that for the last month has featured daily poems by contemporary, as well as, 19th and 20th century Black poets.

Some of us are so worried about how dangerous the world feels “because of all the rioting and looting and Chicago and Black on Black crime, and nobody wanting to be a police officer anymore because of how dangerous it is for them, with everyone being against them now…” Many of our inner Karens have been exposed.

Some of us, a lot of us, say we really care, and we really do, and all of us, have to really do. I heard a Black woman artist at the George Floyd protest, who said in conversation with a friend of hers, another Black woman, that at this point, the only way white people can show they are supporting Black people, is to do one or more of these three things:

Give money

Share resources

Put your body on the line

Some of us see ourselves in some of this here, or all of this here, or none of this here. Trust me, my own white fragility guilt and shame level has been on ultra-high, too. Now is the time to rid ourselves of the guilt and shame that does nothing but absolve us in our own minds from doing anything, keeps us uncomfortable about ourselves only. Keeps us stuck and inert. With this focusing on ourselves and how bad we feel, we cannot see beyond ourselves, or be strong enough to do anything to break down racism. All of us have to be willing to be in discomfort outside of ourselves, whether it is in conversation with other white people about race, whether it is asking a question to a Black person that we are worried is going to make us seem racist, or whether it is digging into figuring out what actions we can take in our communities to break down systemic racism.All of us need to decide which ones of us we see here, and which one of us we are going to become.

When White Fragility Comes Knocking

1 Oct

daughter, Leni, and me

My daughter Leni is in her second year in college. Snce she’s been ten years old, she’s wanted to become a dentist, and that is the path she is on with her studies. But even before age ten, Leni, like me, paid attention to race. She has been the muse for a number of my blog posts, like my favorite, Is Poppy A Black American?, inspired by Leni, when she was five, asking if my father was Black. She also wrote two posts of her own here: We White People Think White Culture is Cultureless and Proud Mama: My Daughter Leni Writes Her First Post for Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake.

Leni is currently taking a class in college, called Race and Power. Of course I was glad about that, even though a week before she started back to school, she made some comments to me during a discussion about race, something to the effect of, “you’re an older generation..us younger people, we all get along. You think differently because you’re thinking of the civil rights era, and it’s not like that anymore,…we all are more accepting of one another, it’s just normal for us to get along..”

I countered, “Well, I wonder if your friends, and peers of color, would feel the same way because while I understand what you’re saying about ease of getting along and acceptance for everyone across race, ethnicity, and gender identity, what about the microaggressions and racism that young Black people and people of color still experience on a daily basis, that you don’t?”

“Yes, I know that happens..but I don’t want to be the white person who thinks they know everything about race, and I won’t speak on that because that is not my experience,…and I’ll listen when a Black person or person of color explains something to me, but I’m not going to listen to a white person, explaining to me about race and racism.”

I know my Leni, so while there was much more we could enter into conversation about, I knew she wouldn’t hear it right then, so I let it go.

Fast forward to the second week of Leni’s Race and Power class. I get a phone call from her. Most of the time she calls me while walking from one class to another, or when she’s washing her face, or some other task or downtime thing. That Mom call to fill the void. But Leni also calls when she needs her mama for support. In this call, she shared how one of the Black students, a young woman in the class, mentioned she noticed the white students in the class were not commenting. Leni explained she felt bad about that, but that in that session there wasn’t anything she wanted to say, or if she had, it was already said by another student, and she didn’t want to repeat it.

I could relate. Whenever I go to a public event where there is a dialogue or Q & A involved, my fear of public speaking kicks in and these sentences loop through my brain, over and over:

“Wendy, you’re shy, so you should practice getting out of your comfort zone and say something, ask a question,” then, “I can’t think of anything to say or ask,” or, “I can’t think of how to phrase it so it doesn’t come out awkward,” or “you’re not that important, so don’t put all that pressure on yourself thinking it matters if you ask a question..”

Still, I encouraged Leni to contribute to the conversation in her class, and to not be afraid to share her opinion.

The following week I got another call from Leni. She told me she felt uncomfortable at times in the Race and Power class that day. She said that when a white person was sharing their opinion on the day’s topic, a Black student, kept shutting her down, saying, “no, no, you’re wrong. That’s not how it is..” I said, “okay, she is speaking her mind,” and then I asked her if the professor is intervening at all, directing the conversation happening in class. She said, “No, she doesn’t say anything. She lets the class talk.”

Leni continued to say that she was worried about saying “the wrong thing,” or students of color shutting her down, or thinking she doesn’t understand, or that she’s racist. I brought up the matter of white fragility and how those thoughts and worries are a part of white fragility, and talking about race for white people> I added that being uncomfortable is a part of it, too, because we worry about being seen as racist, or worry if a Black person becomes angry. But I always remember the question I heard about having conversations on race for white people that asks, “are you more worried about being called racist than you are about breaking down racism and structures of white supremacy?”

Again, I encouraged her to get uncomfortable. That it was okay to be uncomfortable. That it should be something white people allow themselves to be. That it’s necessary if we want to be able to have honest conversations, and take any steps in breaking down racism, and the structures of racism.

“Yeah, there’s like only four white people in the class…,” Leni continued.

“Well, now you know what it feels like for Black people to be, and speak, in majority white spaces they most always find themselves in. It’s good for you to experience that situation,” I said.

“I know what it’s like,” I could feel her eye roll over the phone, “…I was a minority in my high school, and well I wish it was like that. “..In my Multicultural Studies class, I was in the minority, but we all got along, and we could talk about things…I just wish we could talk about things in this class without getting angry.”

I brought up the need to be careful about tone policing, or the telling of Black and Brown people to not get angry when talking about race. She knew what I meant, but I suppose was having a hard time feeling it in practice.

I understood Leni, because I have felt all of the feelings she is now experiencing, on my journey to educate myself, and learn from others, about the construct of race, the history of racism, and most important, to make cross-racial connections to discuss race, without the fear of being thought of as racist, or just another white person who doesn’t get it.

I am still not good at making my voice heard about anything within a group setting, and it’s been years since I’ve been in a classroom setting, so I asked my friend Diana, an Anthropology Professor, with a focus on Carribbean culture, for her advice on how Leni might be able to share her perspective in class. Diana’s advice was for Leni to preface what she says with something like, “…what I share is from my perspective, which is shaped by my lived experience and who I am, being a white, Eastern European Jewish woman, with a small percentage of Native American heritage…I know it is different from other people’s experiences, and I appreciate being able to listen to, and learn from other people’s perspectives…”

I offered that to Leni, which she seemed to think could help, but she still worried about things “coming out wrong,” and being thought of as ignorant and racist. “Well, you just have to say what you mean to say. You may stumble. You are human, and what you say may not come out perfect, and you may say something that someone in the class finds offensive, and you will have to hear from them, how what you said made them feel..It’s all a part of learning and growing and understanding one another. I think people will see that you care enough to be a part of the dialogue. It’s important to not withhold. It’s important to be a part of the conversation.”

If only I always practiced what I just preached to my daughter.

Last week I had an awesome day in Boston. I really did. I went up to attend the National Organization For Arts and Health (NOAH) Conference, saw Leni afterward and had pizza with her, and then went solo to the Lizzo concert!

Throughout the conference, I noticed something I’ve not unseen since childhood, though admittedly it’s on a much more consistent, conscious basis now. That thing is noticing how white a setting is. From the thousands of attendees of this merged conference of Arts and Health and Healthcare Facilities personnel–to the introduction of a Board of Directors introduced by the lead Conference organizer, a sea of maybe thirty, mostly white men and a smattering of white women, to the break-out session presenters–people of color were a true minority.

I remember the words of Nina Sanchez, Director of Enrich Chicago a collaborative of 30 Chicagoland arts and philanthropic organizations committed to ending racism and systemic oppression in the arts sector, who said at a lecture here in Providence, “once you see it, you can’t unsee it”–the pervasiveness of whiteness, and how it shows up in spaces, not just in skin color itself, but in how the centering of whiteness shows itself in whose perspective gets shared, whose voices are included in decision-making in institutions, and who is left out, who feels safe, and comfortable, and who doesn’t.

It’s the latter I need to focus on and share right now. Of course I thought about how the make-up of the Board of NOAH is homogeneous and white, and as I knew already, the field of Art Therapy, and what is considered the main stream art world, is overwhelmingly filled with white people, because, like many fields, it links back generations to inequities in education, and who is supported to pursue what education and career goals, and who is not, which links back to redlining, bigotry and discrimination, which links back to Jim Crow laws, which links further back to slavery.

At the Conference breakfast keynote, I sat down at one of those big round tables with a few other strangers, and shortly afterward, a woman, who was Black, sat down next to me. I introduced myself to her, and somehow we got on the subject of how I had recently attended the University of Florida Arts and Medicine Summer Intensive, a two-week professional development program focusing on Artistic Practice and Arts Administration for utilizing the arts in health and community settings. I shared with the woman, who was there representing a youth arts organization based in Chicago, that I found the Intensive both inspiring and useful, and she gave me her card, as she was interested in hearing more about the work I do in a psychiatric hospital setting. I was also interested in hearing more about her work, and shared that I thought I had even heard of her organization somehow. We went our separate ways after the breakfast, but I found myself sitting next to her in an afternoon break-out session which focused on case studies where arts engagement practices either went right, or went wrong.

After hearing a touching anecdote about a pianist in a hospital playing a song for a man grieving his wife, which happened to be the last song they sang together right before she passed, to the counter, wrong case scenario of a contracted musician who got into a spat with a patient in the common area of a hospital, this next case study was shared.

The scenario, shared by an Art Therapist at a children’s hospital, was that an outside yoga practitioner was hired to facilitate some yoga groups on the children’s behavioral inpatient unit. The Art Therapist did not know of the work of the facilitator, as she was an outside person contracted by the Director of the program. On the day of the yoga group, the Art Therapist was called by a concerned nurse manager on the children’s unit. She said the young patients were becoming “disregulated,” or not in control of their behavior, and that the Art Therapist should come to the unit and observe what was going on. When the Art Therapist arrived, she said that “loud, rap music was playing,” and she emphasized the word “rap,” and continued “that the kids were using the yoga mats as light-sabers,” and that basically, the unit was out of control. There were some chuckles in the audience of about fifty attendees.

She went on to say how the music was inappropriate for this group of young patients, because of its language and subject matter. There was also some discussion about the yoga instructor not having experience working in this kind of setting. When I looked at the presentation slide that shared the names of the various scenarios presented, this one was called Yoga Rap.

Now, you might read this and not see anything out of the ordinary about it. And, part of that might be I’m feeling challenged to describe the tone of delivery of this scenario. But, what I do know, is I became really uncomfortable as this scenario was shared. As soon as the presenter mentioned rap music was playing during the yoga group, the tone was perhaps not incredulous, but close to it. I’ve heard this tone before, though. I’ve heard the implication that comes when rap music is mentioned in anecdotes like this one. It usually goes something to the effect of this genre of music being deemed negative, problematic, a promoter of violence, or is something to be made fun of, like, “yeah, imagine leading a meditative painting group, and playing some crazy, rap music for it..” or in this presentation, the inferred, “can you believe it, they played rap music in a yoga class?”

I wondered if the woman who sat beside me, or the one other person of color I spotted in the room, felt uncomfortable. I know I’m projecting here, because I cannot claim to know whether they were offended or felt unsafe in this room full of white people laughing about a yoga group paired with a music genre that, while appropriated by white Americans, and cultures all over the globe, originated, and is rooted in Black American culture. While I understood that this group example given did not work out well for the unit and population being served that day, I worried about the implication of this anecdote.

I thought, I needed to say something about this. All those voices that I mentioned earlier about what to say, how to say it, should I say it, kicked in. White fragility came knocking, and I worried about sucking the energy out of the room, and being met with silence. I worried about it coming off as attacking the presenters, and in essence, the NOAH organization.

During the Q & A session that followed the presentation, there were questions brewing about what kind of music is appropriate to use in what settings, and I imagined myself going up to the mic, and using humor as an icebreaker to talk about what was on my mind. To start off with something like, “well, before I make my statement, I just want to be sure we don’t give rap a bad rap…I mean, I know it was not the intention of this presentation to do so, and that clearly things did not go right that afternoon on the children’s unit during the yoga group, but I feel we have to be careful about how we talk about the different genres of music we use, so that all of the people we work with feel their culture matters and is respected. I for one, use hip hop and rap music often in the groups I facilitate on the psychiatric Adult Inpatient Intensive Treatment Unit where I work. And, yes, we do have some ground rules about music played. We say we must avoid music that has overtly violent or sexual lyrics, has profanity in it, or glorifies drug use because we do not want to trigger anyone, knowing those we work with have experienced a good deal of trauma, and are in a state of crisis, and in a fragile emotional state.

I was going to share, again with the thought to interject some humor, but also some insight into how music preference and impact is so personal and subjective, and would have apologized in advance for anyone who was a fan of Screamo music, about a recent group experience of mine. Just the other day when I facilitated a gentle stretch group on the unit, I asked a female patient what kind of music she wanted me to play. We had only two people in the group at that point. She said she liked rock. “What kind of rock, I asked?” “Heavy metal,” she said. Internally, I was thinking, oh, great. I do not like heavy metal, and. from my perspective, it doesn’t really go with doing the stretch group, just like it seemed the presenter didn’t think rap music paired well with yoga. I usually choose softer folk or r & b, or some relaxing instrumental music for stretching. But, I asked the question, so heavy metal it was. I asked what band, or if there was a particular song she wanted me to play. She said, “Lambs of God,” and named the song. I found it on Youtube, and pressed Play.

To me the music was hardcore yelling. Much like the yoga group example given, I felt like I was going to “disregulate” my own behavior, and found the music highly irritating. The patient who chose it seemed happy to be hearing her tune. When I looked at the other patient in the room, and a third that had since entered, they both seemed not to be bothered, but when the song finally ended, I was relieved to say to another patient, “would you like to choose the next song, so we all get a turn to hear something we’ve chosen?”

And, I don’t know. Maybe this anecdote would be offensive to someone that really likes heavy metal. But what matters even more is that I let my white fragility take over, and I never made it up to the mic to say what I ruminated about in my mind, and before I knew it the presentation session was over, and I had wimped out, and became, what I felt, was complicit in perpetuating the rhetoric of putting down a genre of music associated with Black culture in a predominately white space.

Ironic, given each week my daughter Leni is calling me about her Race and Power class, and I’m telling her to overcome her own white fragility and speak up, and say the things she wants to, and feels she needs to say. That afternoon, I did not practice what I’ve been preaching.

Yet, it is a goal of mine to do so. And I do sometimes. Most of the time. I call it my “wondering aloud.” Like when I was at the Arts In Medicine Summer Intensive and we were talking about Art and Aesthetics and presentation slides slipped by with words like Inclusion and Equity on them as bullet points, but weren’t discussed, I wondered aloud in our group of eighteen cohorts and program staff, “when we define what art is and what aesthetics is, the talk and education is typically centered mostly on white, European art history and aesthetics, and so I wonder things like who gets to define what art is, and who is included in that, and while I appreciated all the online modules we were asked to complete on Cultural Competence, I wondered how this program and how the field addresses this”…and I remember I didn’t want to go there and bring up this example because I didn’t want to sound like I was calling the host’s program out, but it just came out, and I continued…”earlier two of the truly wonderful musicians that the hospital employs to do bedside visits, spoke of their difficulty connecting with a Spanish speaking patient, and so we know that representation matters, and so how does the field, and how do we think about and put into practice these culturally competent practices so that we see from a variety of perspectives, and everyone is included?”

Well, it wasn’t quite that eloquent when it came out that day. But I said pretty much the gist of all that. Right afterward, as is typical with me, I worried that I had said something that sounded like a put-down, a call out, an attack. I was raised to be a nice girl, to be respectful, to not hurt other people’s feelings. Saying anything that I feel is negative or criticism is really hard for me.

I had to ask my peers during break if what I said was okay. Several I had become closer to, including one man, who is Native American, said they felt it was not offensive, that it was good to make the statement, even though they felt it wasn’t directly answered.

I try my best to make statements like that more and more where I feel there is a lack of inclusion, when white-centering has taken over, and there is an obliviousness as to its impact. I know I have my own blind spots, and I know in this white-dominated culture in our country, white-centering is happening all the time. It is my mission to be a part of actively breaking that down, and that means speaking up is really important, so, I can’t help to be highly disappointed in myself still, for not speaking up that day in Boston.

But, I carry on, and will do better next time, and the time after that. I don’t share this to have anyone read this, and then tell me, “but Wendy, you do so much good, or you do speak up, or take action a lot of the time, so don’t beat yourself up about this.” I am not writing this for that response. I am writing to lay bare my imperfections, my moments of failure, to ask all of us white people to do better, to do your own “wondering aloud” when you know it is necessary. We white people can feel very comfortable when denouncing white supremacy, and highly overt racist acts, but we need to get better when it comes to the every day exclusions, the every day white-centering, the every day microaggressions, the every day inferences that makes someone from another culture or race feel theirs is inferior.

I asked Leni if I could write a post about both of our struggles to speak up and not give in to our own white fragility, and I was glad, and proud of her when she said, yes. It made me feel like we are in this fight together. And, if we are to be accountable to one another in this fight, I, as her mother, want to set a good example.

And…that’s a rap.

What Are You Gonna Stand For: Donuts or Freedom?

13 Oct

gourmet-donutsI knew it wasn’t cool to, in my texting conversation with my friend Marco, to right after I asked him if he saw Birth Of A Nation the night before, ask if he wanted to meet me in line outside the new gourmet donut shop in our neighborhood. From slave rebellion film to over-priced trendy sweets in one text bubble to the next? […]

Re:post from The Root: Coulter on ‘Freedom Riders’ and ‘Black Gals’

25 Sep

I will let Ann Coulter speak for herself here in this re-posted article from The Root.  She just left me kind of speechless.  Be sure to watch the video, and then leave your comments below.

Coulter on ‘Freedom Riders’ and ‘Black Gals’

Coulter on 'Freedom Riders' and 'Black Gals'

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

Ann Coulter, who is evidently living in some year way before 2012 (and quite possibly the Jim Crow era), joked in commentary on Fox & Friends on Tuesday that television hosts Lawrence O’Donnell and Bill Maher think of themselves as “freedom riders” because they date “black gals.”

No, really. That’s not out of context. Here’s the exact quote: “These are not people who have black friends, who know black people. Oh, sorry, except, you know, Lawrence O’Donnell and Bill Maher, who date black gals. So they think they’re freedom riders.” It goes without saying that the joke said more about her thinking than it does about theirs, whomever they may be involved with romantically.

Oh, and Coulter made the remark in the process of accusing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow of being too complimentary of African-American program guests (not something we would put among the top racial-justice issues of our time, but she’s entitled to her opinion).

Nice, Ann. Nothing like making fun of someone for dating interracially to simultaneously invalidate everything you’ve just said and cement your place as the nonexpert of the century on racial bias.

P.S. If you do ever decide to join the rest of us in the modern age of race relations (where people don’t actually think that loving someone of another race transforms them into a civil rights activist), update the outdated vocabulary along with the outdated thinking: No one says “gals.”


SOURCE:  www.theroot.com, Coulter On “Freedom Riders” and “Black Gals”, by Jenee Desmond-Harris, September 25, 2012