The climb

The climb
Climbing together

Friday, November 11, 2016

What exactly do you need me to do?


Yes, what I had assumed was unthinkable since this time last year has actually happened. The scenario I sincerely believed to be utterly impossible in 2015 has now come to pass. Some people are glad. I am not, so if you are yay! I am happy that you are happy, but I just need a moment. I might need several moments. I am sure that my fellow humans across the ocean in the UK are also taking moments, likely in a more understated manner than I...

I'm not with them


In a phenomenon I have observed in recent days, as much as white women hashtagged #Imwithher and wore their nasty woman t-shirts with pride, white women and wealthy white people in general were responsible for putting the current president-elect in the position that he currently enjoys. I can't even look at the first 100 days proposal, I just can't right now. I just need a moment. Self care, ya'll, self care



OK. Back. Also, some white people are vehemently distancing themselves from the demographic responsible for the current situation. Complaints include (but are not limited to):
  • I'm not with them
  • I hate the stereotyping that is going on here
  • Not all _____
  • I didn't vote for Trump but, {insert comment about how we need to be unified}
  • It's not fair to just group me with them
  • I'm not just a stereotype/statistic

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2980

People of color (POC) - and pretty much every person, loosely defined informal group, officially recognized group, community, and subculture that lack the agency, self-efficacy, or capacity to participate in their government - have been living with the consequences of being stereotypes their entire lives. Understand that the statistical formulas that define poverty are outdated and unable to measure poverty accurately, and that there are more poor people around you and among you than you are probably comfortable thinking about. I'm pleased that this experience is being shared with a group of wealthier white people. Being uncomfortable is good, experiencing the visceral and real experience of a way of life that you might intentionally distance yourself from is a good thing. This is how we build compassion.

Remember that population level statistics cannot be extrapolated to the individual because the data point of interest is the the population. Demographic groups are loosely classified together because of arbitrary points such as gender, ethnicity, race, religious beliefs, age cohort (and for the convenience of measurement and tracking, I'm sure) .

If the shoe fits, and statistically it does, then don't get defensive. Just be like, "ok cool, I know to have more conversations about smashing the patriarchy with my fellow church goers," rather than reacting and immediately trying to distance yourself a la "it's not my problem I didn't vote for him don't get that doody splash onto me".

You catch more flies with honey


You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar, as the saying goes. This may be more common in the American South, or maybe it's used in the rest of the US. Here's the thing about that. 

You can catch more flies with excrement and decaying flesh, too. Should we gently place the information in front of our friends and neighbors who voted for the person that they did because, whatever, they liked his economic policy, liked that he was an "outsider," or responded the the fear-based messages in addition to the endlessly nauseating media coverage that almost entirely centered the current president-elect? I don't think that works. I am generally frank and direct, I appreciate that. I admit a personal bias in the following, but this is an opinion piece.

We have been caring, and nice, and talked around issues, and dithered, for the past 40 years without making any actionable progress. Little concessions, sure, but obviously just band-aids over wounds that went uncleaned, hankering for debridement, and those wounds have festered for so many decades that the infection may be antibiotic resistant, or so deeply rooted that we may be too late. Sepsis may have set in. At the very least, anyone familiar with wound care knows that the whole mess needs to be unwrapped, the infection drained and the long-awaited debridement that will now also have to address removal of necrotic tissue must occur. And it will hurt. It will hurt an awful lot. But let us not shy away from the pain because there is work to be done. 

That sounds depressing, but just look at was has erupted with what is, in the span of American history in total, a schmear on the timeline, the briefest of sparks carried on an errant breeze from a sparkler that quickly extinguished. You can't tell me that spark didn't fall on a forest floor of kindling that was the perfect temperature, whittled to the perfect size and aching to be ignited by the tiniest whiff of a spark.

Uncomfortable


Personally, I have found that most people don't do a damn thing until they are persistently uncomfortable. So I have no problem making people uncomfortable. As the saying goes, addicts don't get clean until they hit bottom (which is a misnomer, from experience I can say there is no bottom, you can always go lower until you die, but you can go higher, too).

Many white Christians are addicted to the unexamined benefits they receive from the system that centers whiteness (not being white, but rather whiteness - the qualities that comprise which are mutable, constantly change, and are often attributed to the dominant cultural narrative but actually enter the narrative through intention on the part of those who have the largest amount of financial and social capital....you guessed it, the obscenely and inter-generationally wealthy whypeepoe). What if those benefits were gone? No one wants to come off their own stuff when it gets to the dirty dirty of being human.

Sit with the discomfort. Hold it in your hand like you would extend compassion to those who voted for Trump.
Image result for holding an uncomfortable white person
http://verysmartbrothas.com/dear-white-people-heres-10-ways-to-tell-if-a-black-person-actually-likes-you/


I don't think that certain folks are ignoring the protests against the president-elect because of the tone of the protesters, so much as the context. Look at how little attention has been given to the vital work of the first nations water protectors in Standing Rock, who are hunkering down for a long and bitter winter on the Plains to continue to protect the water supply not only for themselves but for all of the white communities dependent on the interconnected veins that are the lifeblood of our Mother Earth.

I think it's important to talk to other white folks, to start those conversations, because the spaces for POC are sacred.

I was at a conference whose title centered racial equity this summer; there was a breakout session for the indigenous and first nations representatives...and a small cadre of white ladies, with very positive intentions, came in there and  smiled and just totally invaded the space. These are nice white ladies that work hard in their own communities to support mothers - and they demonstrated their privilege in their unspoken assumption that that space was somehow theirs to enter as their pleased.

Many white people are now asking their friends, family members, even strangers on the internet or bloggers, who they kinda sorta know vicariously, "What can I do? I want to do something!" They are turning to POC in their family and social circles for answers, support, a way to help, what to do.

That's like asking a traumatized person that you've just pulled from danger, "OK, what do you need from me, I need you to clearly articulate and use specifics and also recommend the particular approaches that would be most effective for you."...like, not gonna happen. Talk amongst yourselves.

I know the whole thing about how people do not like to broach uncomfortable topics in their social circles and risk making people uncomfortable or alienating them...especially in America. That is, depending on what circles you move in; I am obviously frank and I appreciate that in my friends. Hi friends, who comprise 99% of my blog readership!

And yet that is where these conversations needs to happen: awkwardly at family reunions and PTA meetings and with your coworkers. We have to make everyone feel the discomfort, because that is how human beings work. We react to discomfort and try to alleviate it. We shift our weight when standing, unconsciously, we breathe, cough, sneeze, sigh, yawn.

The only way out is through

In Gestalt therapy there is a saying, "the only way out is through." We have to pass through a dark place of defensive anger, shame, resentment. Sometimes people get stuck along the way. You can only wait for them to find their way back to a place where they can hear you again. That's meeting people where they are at, and I think that is a way to respect that individual's ability to provide consent. If a person who has racialized beliefs, or is an outright racist, and they do not consent to being convinced of the benefit of alternative approaches, respect that. They will eventually find a way.

More than convincing, I think the process more about chipping through the fear that is at the heart of most of many Americans, and among many citizens internationally, reflected in popularly supported (but not necessarily well thought out or wise) actions to dramatically alter the political landscape of their nation. This is not simply fear of the "browning" of America (or in the UK), but also fear of the changes that the economy is going through, the people the tech boom left behind, the widening gap between the wealthy and the poor, the disappearing middle class.

So....to that end, here are some resources. Read them, watch them, or not. It's up to you. I provide them for your perusal and I encourage readers to offer their own suggestions.

There is a three part documentary you can rent I think on Vimeo but probably also pirated on YouTube called "Race: The Power of an Illusion" - I would start there.

The African American Intellectual History Society curates #Lemonade: A Black Feminist Resource List, also rich with resources if you have the time and willingness to delve deeper.

A primer on the racist foundations of higher education - Craig Wilder's "Ebony and Ivy"

The MTV documentary "White People" is actually interesting to me because it shows young people who are able to be led into different ways of thinking in a very clear way (hooray for the montage), and there have been some nuanced analyses of the backlash to the documentary itself that are also valuable.

The work of KimberlĂ© Crenshaw, the law researcher who introduced the Critical Race Theory framework. Her written work in Mapping the Margins is an old school primer that serves as a foundation to understanding the disparities evident in various domains in American experience, from the civil and criminal legal spheres to health disparities and representation in governance or leadership roles in business and commerce.

I also love this exploration by The Daily Racist, "Why Poverty and Racism Affecting White People is Statistically the Best Kind" - the pics are awesome, the tone somewhat confrontational, and the piece is rich with links that can be used for further fodder if you want to delve even deeper down the rabbit hole.

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