Tag: racism

Charleston AME Church Massacre

original thorn

I’ve got so many thoughts fighting for attention in my head right now, fighting to be expressed, to get the fuck OUT of my head, it’s a loud loud place in there today. And yesterday. And all week. I’ve been avoiding writing about any of it because it’s all such charged content. These are charged times.

I’m so deeply sad (and angry) about the murders of Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, The Honorable Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Rev. Sharonda Singleton, and Myra Thompson.

There are all kinds of people out there saying “This is senseless” and “Only a mentally ill person could commit such a crime” and apparently Fox News was going on and on about this being a crime against Christianity even after the terrorist said he was doing it to start a race war, not a religious war. Those Fox News people need eject buttons on their studio seats that shoot them into space every time they blatantly try to twist the narratives to fit their ridiculous agenda.

Dylan Roof is a terrorist and needs to be tried as one. He purposely killed those people to inflict terror on all the black people in this country. As if they aren’t already burdened enough with fear for themselves, their children, and their whole community. Dylan Roof is not a kid, he’s a legal adult. Remember when everyone was all “Michael Brown is no kid, he’s 18 and an adult who knows better!” Well, Dylan Roof is older than Michael so people need to stop talking like he’s just a young buck on a murderous lark. He also premeditated this crime in a fully in tact mental state. This wasn’t a frenzy killing. This wasn’t provoked. This was cold blooded calculated terrorism against black people.

I’m so sick of people practically WILLING all criminals to be found to be mentally ill. The white ones, not the black ones because when it comes to black criminals no white people ever scramble to give them any kind of “excuse”. In the whole history of heinous crimes committed in the world, very few of them are actually committed because a person is mentally ill. Very few of them are committed by people with serious enough mental illness to have had a significant effect on their actions. The idea of “madness” is compelling to those who don’t suffer from mental illness. You can blame absolutely anything on mental illness, on “insanity”, on “madness”. Because to most people these words mean “people unable to control themselves whose brains are ticking time bombs that will suddenly, for no understandable reason, explode into violent action”.

These thoughts are beside the whole issue of what happened to those innocent people gunned down in the AME church. I bring them up because allowing news people, friends, family, or anyone to let out the “mental illness!” cry whenever a heinous crime is committed by white people does a tremendous disservice to the mentally ill community as much as to the victims of such heinous crimes.

IF you allow mental illness as an excuse for this shooting then you also have to allow mental illness as an explanation for the twin tower attacks, for the ISIS attacks on American citizens in the middle east.  But you won’t, will you?

A lot of my feelings and thoughts were summed up much more brilliantly by Jon Stewart on the Daily Show. I submit a link to the segment where he talks about this awful newest mass murder:

Charleston Church Shooting

The Confederate flag and the South. This is the other super loud thing in my head. I have quite a few (many, at this point) awesome Southern friends who are creative, open minded, progressive, full hearted, amazing people. I need to say that first because nothing I can say about the South can tarnish my awareness of how many good people live there and love it. I have to admit that it’s taken me years and meeting many amazing southerners to eradicate my prejudices against it. I wasn’t raised to hate the south, there’s no family dialog that’s been passed down denigrating the south. I’ve just always been scared of it. I’m scared of it because of all the fiery religion associated with it. I’m scared of it because of all the “traditional values” that include a lot of inherent bigotry against other religions, gay people, different people, and WOMEN. Also, the KKK. The overt racism. And the fact that the south represents to me the half of the nation that fought to keep slavery legal.

Before I say another word I want to note that I’m aware that racism is rampant over every inch of our country. It’s everywhere. The north may have officially fought on the right side of a humanitarian issue but I come from a long line of racists and some of them were northerners. Though those northerners didn’t arrive until after the civil war anyway, the point is, you can believe slavery is wrong and still be racist. I’ll go further than that, though, my own grandfather’s ideas about black people were no worse than any slave-holders’ ideas about them. I fought him over words I can never un-hear and every time I remember the heinous things he said in my hearing I think of every single black person in this country who has had to hear that awful corrosive evil shit their whole lives and it fills me with shame and horror. So when I say things about the south and the racism in the south, I never do so from a place of superiority or pride. I have no family history to be proud of. My southern relatives were super poor uneducated bigoted Irish people who have nothing to be proud of just because they didn’t own slaves.

But dudes. People. Fellow Americans, all. The Confederate flag. Until this week I didn’t know that in some states you can buy a license plate with the Confederate flag on it. But more horrifying to me than that was finding out that that flag flies on government grounds over a memorial for fallen Confederate veterans.

A southern friend of mine made a case for the Confederate flag having good connotations that aren’t racist, for it standing for southern heritage. This friend is absolutely NOT a racist person. Her family is bi-racial with three races in the mix and everything I know about her is good and open hearted and open minded. I listened to her case for that flag having meaning to southerners that isn’t racist. But every way I look at it I can’t accept that a flag created by a rebel army, that flew over their camps symbolizing their fight to keep slavery legal could ever symbolize anything but pro-slavery sentiments. Southerners may be teaching their children to associate that flag with positive aspects of their heritage but it still was made by a south that wanted to keep their slaves. That south lost the war. And it seems like the south has, ever since, struggled against that fact.

I know that there’s a lot to be celebrated in the south. But it’s time the south found a new symbol to celebrate its culture with.

But dudes, I also didn’t realize that the south has named roads after Confederate generals. If you know me at all you know I don’t believe there’s such a thing as war heroes. I don’t believe any war begets heroes. I’m not sorry the north fought to end slavery, I’m so fucking happy that slavery was abolished, even if racism never was. But I can’t celebrate war in any way. And the south could have voted to end slavery, they could have gotten on board with that and avoided war but they didn’t.

War is evil. Soldiers of war pillage, torture, rape, and kill. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO NO MATTER WHAT SIDE THEY’RE ON. North or South, East or West. Doesn’t matter.

My ignorance of the south is why I didn’t realize how much it openly celebrates its soldiers and generals and its heritage that was built on the blood of slaves and whose economy was driven by slave ownership. So it never occurred to me that black southerners would have to see the army that fought to keep them in shackles celebrated in their faces every day of their lives.

No matter how many southerners have been taught by their parents to see the Confederate flag as a benevolent symbol of their heritage, that flag will always represent pro-slavery to the rest of us and as long as that flag is allowed to fly on state or federal property it’s spitting in the faces of the people who are here because their ancestors were kidnapped, raped, and sold to white people. As long as the south holds onto that symbol they’re still fighting the civil war.

I feel like my eyes are just seeing the south for real for the first time. How the wounds of the civil war are still gaping open. It’s weird to have come so far from my early prejudices of the south only to end up face to face with the darkness there that I have always feared.

If the south wants to be celebrated for all the wonderful things it does and creates and IS, then it needs to ditch the civil war and the hero worship of people who were fighting to keep slavery legal and find a new symbol for a new south.

My heart is so heavy. Having said all that about the south I now return to the beginning where I said that this whole country is racist. This whole country’s history is as dark as it comes. People whose relatives first landed here on the Mayflower, who are so fucking proud of being the first people who came here to slaughter Native Americans and steal their land – WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU SO FUCKING PROUD OF?!  Those who came west slaughtered and stole MORE. Those who went south slaughtered and stole too. Before we all got ourselves slaves. Fucking hell.

My last thought is that pride is bad shit and I can’t get with it in any way. I can get with being proud when you accomplish something you’ve struggled to accomplish like finishing running a marathon or learning a new trade or standing up to a bully. But humans are too flawed, each and every one of us, to be fueled by any kind of big pride. National pride, state pride, racial pride, or familial pride. Fuck all that. We’ve collectively got nothing to be proud of as a species.

I’d like to see individuals take pride in small good things and ditch all the epic pride. Doesn’t God have stuff to say about not being too proud? I don’t know, I’m not religious but I feel like religious people all my life have been dishing out homilies about being wary of pride while they cherish huge pride in their faith, their family history, and country – not allowing anyone to ever tarnish their pride with suggestions of imperfection in anything they worship. Pride makes people blind and it makes them complacent. It also makes assholes out of otherwise good people.

As an atheist who wants to cultivate the best qualities I can in myself I think pride is dangerous and promotes myopothy of mind, spirit, and body.

What everyone in this country needs more of is humility.

Simple One-Shoe Sue Loves Every Color but Stupidity

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People enjoy a lot of satisfaction in making things harder and more complicated than they need to be. If things are complicated but you understand them then you can congratulate yourself on being smart. Most of the congratulation is for thinking you’re smarter than others. Which is stupid, really, since everyone is smarter than someone right down to a single celled organism. Way to corner the market, hoomins!

There are plenty of things that truly are complicated in this world like quantum theory, psychology, anatomy, and the formulation of fast food recipes.  But I would like to posit that a lot of things we pretend are complicated are actually breathtakingly simple. In positing this I can already hear a thousand argumentarians sharpening the knives of their acid wit and flexing their muscles throwing the javelins that will pierce my stupidity and win them medals of – I don’t know – a stale bag of Jolly Ranchers?

I think making things complicated assuages our conscience’s shortcomings and our natural emotional responses to things.

To say that problems like racism, sexism, all forms of bigotry, and colonialism are simple isn’t the same as saying they’re easy. Please investigate the nuance of that difference before objecting to it.

Racism is not a complicated issue. People all across the world have developed insidious and harmful hatred of people of other races than themselves. Every race is guilty of this. It’s that simple. But in my own country the worst and most corrosive racism is the systemic racism that has blossomed out of white people settling on a vast piece of land that didn’t belong to them, stealing it, committing genocide against the native (brown) people who lived here already, and then importing predominately African slaves and building a nation on the backs of those slaves and  building an infrastructure that disproportionately benefits the needs and wants of white people over those of the free black and brown people “sharing” the country with them. That is a simple outline of what happened and led to the awful racial tensions that started the civil rights movement which is still going on today. The facts are simple. White people want to pollute it by throwing out a million examples meant to excuse their behavior. Meant to support the infrastructure that protects them against having to share opportunity and neighborhoods and schools and resources with their free and contributing black fellow Americans.

There is no defense for racism. None. zip. Zilch. There is no race that is intrinsically superior to any other race. There are no facts that support such fucked up beliefs and I don’t care if you’re black and trying to show that white people are intrinsically inferior or if you’re white and trying to show that black people are intrinsically inferior to white people or Asians trying to show that Mexicans are intrinsically inferior.

It’s all a huge steaming wet pile of fucking BULL SHIT full of maggots and covered in flies. I don’t give a fuck what race you are – there is no defense for racism. It’s that simple.

But in my country the worst offenders by far are white Americans and right now there’s a growing number of black and brown Americans rising up in a refreshed civil rights movement – outraged by disproportionate police violence against their communities, outraged by the insidiously common inequities they experience every fucking day of their lives that white Americans don’t experience.

As a white person it’s hard to listen to sometimes because I have a super pale skin and I come from a family of racist northerners (not my mom or step dad, but the rest of them to some degree) and I find the racism of my forebears shameful. But I’ve been listening a lot in the last couple of years because if change is going to happen, if racism is going to  be eradicated, you have to LISTEN. EVERY GODDAMNED ONE OF US HAS TO LISTEN. You have to listen if you’re black because you need to stand up and be counted and shout out and say no to the oppression and unwarranted violence. You have to listen if you’re white because you have to understand what non-white compatriots are experiencing. You have to HEAR THEIR STORIES. And you have to do it with an open heart.  Sometimes it hurts because I know that what’s in my heart isn’t this racist cancer I’m hearing about. The stories about white oppression of non-whites is painful because oppression sucks. Oppression more than sucks, it rots beautiful lives.

None of that is complicated. It’s simple.

The same is true of gender issues, religious issues, and class issues.

In so many ways I was born ancient. I’m an old soul. I’m a curmudgeon, a snappish old turtle, a rock that’s weathered the earth in one too many bodies. Yet there’s a part of me that has retained a child-like quality. My friend R has noticed and commented on this a couple of times and she is, I believe, the only person who has ever called attention to my child-like qualities without being destroyed by my laser-gaze of disdain. It’s because I know she has seen a part of me that’s irrepressible but invisible to many. I call it my “spaz”. This relates to what I have been talking about in a fundamental and important way.

If I could speak unfiltered, if I could express myself freely, truly freely, in all company, I would show you all a pretty blinding “inappropriate” level of enthusiasm. It’s peeled free of crust, of careful thought, of concern for gentle respect.

I would see everyone’s color and gender and background and education and origin and nationality and musical tastes and passions and celebrate the fuck out of it all. Fuck pretending race and gender and nationality don’t exist – let’s celebrate all that stuff that makes us intrinsically WHO WE ARE.

I LOVE BROWN SKIN THAT SHOUTS SONNETS TO THE SUN, THAT EXUDES WARMTH AND SPICE. I THINK THE DARKEST OF DARK SKIN IS LUMINESCENT AND IT TRANSFIXES ME WITH ITS DEPTH. I THINK PALE SKIN LIKE LANTERNS IN THE NIGHT, WHETHER LIGHTING PATHS THROUGH TRAILER PARKS OR THROUGH WET DARK FORESTS ARE ENCHANTING. I SEE OLIVE COMPLEXIONS AND IT MAKES ME TASTE THE NECTAR OF DESERT FLOWERS AND ANCIENT RESINS. SALLOW COMPLEXIONS ARE LIT FROM INSIDE WITH COLD PURE SPRING WATER, SHINING WITH MINERALS AND BLUSH WITH PEACH IN CONTRAST.

I would say these things, shout these things the moment they enter my head if I wasn’t afraid of reprisals. If I wasn’t afraid of giving offense by noticing people’s differences.

Maybe it’s childish but I see beauty everywhere and I love so many strangers for what little I know of them. I have a special love for transgender people. To say it sounds asinine. I can’t explain it. I feel protective of people whose bodies don’t match their identity. I don’t always have the proper words to discuss it, I’m not always up on the right and constantly evolving terminology, but I feel love there I can’t explain and don’t know that I should have to. Sometimes you understand something with your soul that your words are always trying to catch up with and never do. It’s not complicated.

Love is only as complicated as you make it.

I don’t always say the right things. I’m a fallible human being always in the process of personal evolution. But my motives are simple and full of a desire to always choose love.

 

I get angry sometimes and lash out unreasonably against people or institutions. I say regrettable things sometimes. I misunderstand people and have rough interactions. I’m an introvert who isn’t really rooting for the human race as a whole but who geeks out constantly on amazing human individuals. I WANT to be inspired. I WANT to choose love.

Doesn’t mean I’m a fucking imbecile.

But often I meet people and I want to say things like “YOU’RE GAY? THAT’S SO FUCKING AWESOME!” and “YOU HAVE BREASTS AND A PENIS AND A GREAT SINGING VOICE? I FUCKING LOVE THE CRAP OUT OF YOU!” and “YOUR BROWN SKIN IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FUCKING COLOR I’VE EVER SEEN!” and “YOU’RE THE OLDEST WOMAN ON EARTH WHOSE BOOBS ARE HANGING AT YOUR ANKLES AND YOU HAVE THE BEST SMILE I’VE EVER SEEN AND I WANT TO BE YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE SO FUCKING GORGEOUS!”

That’s how simple it is. Not just for me but – PERIOD.

The Importance Of Skin

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This is one part of my fashion and beauty inspiration doors. The more diversity of skin the magazines include, the more you will see on my boards. I see beauty in all shades of skin. Missing: Asian models are the least represented in the magazines within my reach. I will need to get actual Chinese and Japanese fashion mags to see more Asian beauty!

I have been thinking a lot about skin in the last few days.

A twitter friend, Em Davey (@KromBoomEm), tweeted about seeing skin-lightening products all over the world but was particularly surprised to see them in Hawaii. My first thought was “Why would anyone want to lighten their skin?” and the next thought was the racist angle concerning white standards of beauty. But immediately following that I thought about the millions of white skinned women who spend tons of time and sometimes tons of money trying to make their skin darker through tanning. It was impossible to express all this without sounding either dismissive, racist, or annoyingly simplistic.

But for me, it really is simple: I think everyone should embrace the skin they’re born with. I think skin is beautiful in all the shades it comes in from so dusky it has an almost iridescent cast to it, to the palest that also has an almost iridescent cast to it. All of it. Every shade of natural skin, even my own occasionally annoying ruddy version of pale skin (moonlight skipped my skin, sadly), looks good on the person who was born with it.

To me, artificially changing one’s skin on purpose is a kind of self mutilation. White women working so hard to have darker skin weird me out. First of all, I don’t think it looks good, and second of all, it seems like an unhealthy obsession.

What I don’t understand at all is that in my country, where being a white person is supposedly such a huge privilege and whiteness of communities is something white people have been willing to protect with violence, why are so many white women working so damn hard to be LESS WHITE?

I don’t get it. I will never get it. If being white is so fucking superior, why do so many women work hard to get brown or orange skin?

I’ve thought about white women hating having actual white skin but I have rarely (probably because I’ve always lived in predominantly white communities) thought about women with brown skin trying to become lighter skinned. I didn’t know that was truly a thing outside of the rare Michael Jackson kind of – I don’t know if there’s a name for what he had – extreme whitening of his skin.

People: the skin you were born with, the shade it is when you use at least moderate protection to care for it, the shade it is when you go about living your life – that’s the shade that you’re meant to be. It’s the shade that goes best with the rest of you. Embrace the skin your in while also embracing the skin every one else is in.

I’m not saying I’m against enhancing or playing with one’s looks. I happen to very much enjoy make up and it’s fun to play with skin like a canvas. But make-up is superficial and you wash it off at the end of the day. I used to wear rice powder to be Kabuki-white. It was theatrical and fun, but not permanent. Make-up allows you to play dress-up but it doesn’t alter who you are on a cellular level.

Skin protects us. It holds our innards in. It filters junk before it can pollute our blood. It defends us, it also brings nutrients to us through light and air.

I can’t stand that skin color is used by so many (and no, not just white people) to judge other people’s character and worth. I hate that skin has become (or always has been) a political and personal tool for demoralizing and tearing other people down. It isn’t even just skin color but skin reveals things like who’s been working harder with their hands doing physical labor – something that in the past at least, was an actual barrier in society. Rough hands could keep you from taking any place of prominence in society.

What the ever-loving-goddamn-idiotic-fuck?

Humans can be so adamantly stupid.

I am declaring this the year of SKIN. What I would like is for everyone to take better care of the skin they’re in. Stop trying to significantly darken or lighten it. Don’t accept standards of beauty you can’t naturally fit into. Ruddy skis is NEVER going to be IN as far as beauty standards go, but this year, more than ever before, I will not only embrace my own skin but endeavor to take better care of it. Incidentally, most pictures of me don’t reveal my ruddiness. That comes and goes depending on temperature and lighting and exertion levels. I go red very easily and it isn’t generally with embarrassment. When I’m not flushed I’m medium pale with so many freckles that some people* claim I’m not even freckled.

I would like everyone to embrace the skin they’re born with. Care for it like the incredible organ it is. Care for it and love it and nurture it. If it’s naturally really dry, moisturize it. If it’s naturally really oily, wash it with gentle cleansers that offer more balance. Use sunscreen. Take care of your skin like it takes care of YOU.

Don’t bake in the sun like you’re a fucking pastry.

Don’t bleach your skin like it’s a fucking bathtub.

Love the skin you’re in and then love the skin everyone else is in too. This isn’t going to fix the world. It won’t make wars end. But seeing and appreciating everyone’s skin in all its shades is the first step to appreciating the precious spirits and hearts skin works so hard to protect.

*YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE

The Thing That Is Most True To Me

colorful grave lichen

I’m going to tell you the thing that is most true to me in the entire world:

It does not matter to me what color your skin is, how much money or opportunity you’ve grown up with, how fancy your language is, what faiths and weird beliefs you cherish because they nourish you and make you strive to be your best, whether you like vaginas or penises or both or neither or all of the above, how many kids you have or don’t have, what genitals you were born with or ended up with, what style of clothes you wear, or what nation you come from or fled to.

What matters to me is who you ARE. What matters to me even more than who you are is how you treat other people. Me, the people around us, the people who are different than you. What matters to me is how you treat animals and the earth that feeds you. What matters to me is action.

I may only get to know you for a few minutes and if in that few minutes you are cruel then that is how I will know you. That is what you will be to me.

None of us are perfect beings. I’m far from perfect. I’m the first to see this, to acknowledge it and embrace the fact that perfection isn’t a human condition. You aren’t perfect. I know this and this is why I believe in forgiveness and embrasure.

The thing that is most true to me is that how you act, how you treat others, the earth, animals – this tells me who you really are more than anything else. More than your badges and family names and affiliations and political tribe. Your actions are all I need to know who you are. What and who you stand up for.

What’s most true is that I believe in peace, in inclusion, in education, in love, in science, in nature, in empathy, in sharing, in exploring, in creativity, in authenticity.

I was called antisemitic last night in an ugly online discourse because I questioned how the Israeli government is treating the Palestinians. Because I do not approve of the oppression of any people by any other people. Don’t care what your global history is, don’t care what your race is, don’t care about your goddamn religion. It is never okay with me for one people to enslave or oppress in any way another people.

Period.

Full Stop.

It was wrong for my country to invade Iraq and then occupy it and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Believing it was wrong for us to do that doesn’t mean I hate my countrymen/women or that I hate the individual soldiers who enlisted. I hate the military and political complex that decided to take wrongful and offensive action against another people.

It doesn’t make me anti-American. It makes me anti-violence. It makes me anti-war. It makes me anti-bigoted.

When I was called antisemitic I explained that I’m far from that. That I love many many Jewish people personally ending by saying that I have many Jewish relatives.

The person who was attacking me ridiculed this saying “that’s worse than saying you have ‘one black friend'” This felt like such a deeply personal blow. It felt like this person was suggesting I was making up “relatives” in order to sound like I have a legitimate opinion. I got angry while I was hurt. Because my (step)dad, the man who raised me from the time I was five, is Jewish. I have grown up with a strong appreciation and love for Judaism and a feeling of familial connection giving me ownership of belonging with and among a Jewish community of people.

He ridiculed me and said more hateful things.

As though loving my own dad, a man who has stood by me most of my life, more than my own fucking biological father did, is nothing. I am some white person with no right to an opinion or a point of view even though this shouldn’t even be a racial fucking issue. He wiped me out with his comments.

Then another person joined in. A white (I guess Jewish?) girl. And they ganged up on me assuming I have read nothing, assuming I haven’t been to Israel myself, suggesting that if I question what Israel is doing that I hate all Jews. Assuming, even, that I am not aware that not all Israelis are Jewish.

I kept trying to rally for some reason even as I felt gut punched.

I can’t explain the feeling in precise terms, only approximations.

It felt like I’d been drained of personhood.

How black people must feel when white people wipe them out as though they aren’t quite human and not qualified to have an opinion based on their own experiences and studies. As though they are incapable of making educated decisions because of the color of their skin.

How I felt when that asswipe chauvinist tenant of ours wouldn’t talk to me because I wasn’t the “man of the house”.

How Jewish people must have felt when the Nazis started sweeping them out of the way because they don’t matter and aren’t quite human or worthy of note, but before the mass slaughtering.

How Palestinians felt when the Jews kicked them out of their homes in Palestine and renamed it Israel.

How gay people feel when someone hurls hatred and bile on them because of how they love and play sexually and it hits them in the solar plexis of personal pain because it gets them in their personhood and then dismisses it as trash.

I will not hate black men or white women because of these two hateful people slinging shit on me at 2am on a sleepless night. I will not hate Jews because of this either.

I was up because I was already having trouble sleeping. I choked back a lot of tears, the kind I couldn’t let loose and still haven’t truly – though they keep threatening to- because once that kind start they get ugly and ragged and I hate crying even for grief.

I blocked them both. I tried to delete all trace of the conversation it was in my power to delete. To clean my heart.

I got in bed at 3am. I kept having to choke back that vile horrible feeling of someone having tried to rip away your right to think, to express, to speak, to BE. I wanted to wake Philip up to tell him but he was already having a restless night and I also knew if I woke him up my dam would break and I would hate myself later for giving in to it. I couldn’t get the hateful words out of my head. They kept washing over me reaffirming that I’m a piece of shit human being, if I’m even human.

But mostly I just felt so awful because I care about Palestinians as much as I care about Jews as much as I care about Christians and Buddhists and Atheists and Mormons and YES EVEN FUCKING SCIENTOLOGISTS* – and to be told you can’t care about one person without hating another goes against my absolute truth as a human being.

Then I got palpitations so bad that if I didn’t know what they were I would have thought I was having a heart attack. Even knowing it was just anxiety – it still scared me.

So today I’ve just been heart sick.

Fucking stupid-ass self – even writing this is making me feel it all again.

Friends have held me up today. My family is awesome. I am surrounded by a lot of love from people of different faiths, races, backgrounds, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and musical tastes.

Especially people of different musical tastes.

That’s where all my love goes. To people who are interested in honest discourse, acceptance that strives for total human INCLUSION.

I will never pledge my allegiance to a country or tribe of any kind where that allegiance is expected to overlook actions and ethics. I love my country but I will never be blind to the actions of our leaders or our military or our citizens.

Actions speak louder than anything else.

That is the thing that is most true.

It is for all of us to become better than our worst experiences and our worst enemies.

I’m heart sick but stapling and taping my paper-thin hope back together again as I always do every single time it’s ripped apart.

You are your actions and you are the actions you support more than anything else that defines you.

You can’t love peace while clamoring for violent action.

Act accordingly.

I leave you with this short film that sums up the conflict in Israel beautifully and succinctly, please click the link and watch it:

THIS LAND IS MINE

 *I mean, c’mon, it was made up by a science fiction writer – not sure it’s officially left cult status – but I care about the people who follow this weird religion just as much as I do everyone else.

Sunday Thoughts, Mostly About Racism

a hopeful volunteer

I lost another pound.  7 down.  106 to go.  That’s all I’m going to say about it today.

I want to live in a country where there is no such thing as “white privilege”.  I don’t want privilege if it isn’t shared by everyone of every color and ethnicity.  I didn’t get to pick my skin color but I have to carry the weight of this legacy of oppression and slave driving and violence even if I did not personally take part in any of it.  I read about the experiences that Americans who aren’t white are having and it makes me want to rip my own skin off.  I hear the hideous racist things that white people say and the shame I feel for my race is scalding hot.

That’s not me feeling sorry for my poor white ass.  That’s me screaming for all this racist shit to STOP.  Because it is not okay.  I have ended friendships because of friends being racist.  I argued with my racist grandfather and told him to shut the hell up.  I disowned my biological father because of his bigotry that is both religious and racial.  I will not be complicit with racism when it’s in front of me.  The only other thing I can do is to listen to everyone who is experiencing racism in this country, in this world, and keep connecting on common ground.

And not take righteous anger personally.  That is the hardest thing.  When white people are castigated as an entire race as though every last white person is filled with hate for people of color.  I have to remember that when you’re feeling raw with pain and injustice and you are shouting to be heard where people are trying to silence you – it isn’t important that you speak carefully – it’s just important that you speak until you are heard.

I know my own heart.  I love people of all colors, of every stripe, of all beliefs, and of all backgrounds – it’s what makes this world (and especially this country) the incredible vibrant place it is.  I judge individuals as I meet them.  Good and evil come in all skins.  Most of us are neither good nor evil but are complicated combinations of experiences, motives, and reactions.

I know my own heart and I have to trust that when people get to know me they will know my heart too.  If they don’t, then they aren’t listening to me.

Check out this incredible poem on: Extraordinary Machine

Our drought continues to go strong.  We might get rain this coming week.  We might not.  I’m turning into one of those hideous dried apple dolls that looks like mummified people dressed in quaint Kuntry Garb.  I NEED RAIN AS MUCH AS THE LANDSCAPE DOES.

I’d like to get some fiction writing done today but I need to work on Max’s application to the ArtQuest program and he’s having a couple of friends over and I will be hanging with my friend Chelsea.  I suppose tomorrow will be good enough.  I also have to track down some decaf PG Tips because I have only one bag left.

I’m off now.  I hope you are all having a great Sunday!

Common Ground is Where the Healing Lives

van ness stoplight

This is day 4 of my news fast.  I can’t say it’s easy to not click on everyone’s news links on Face Book or take part in the discussions about them all.  I can’t avoid seeing snippets of what people are talking about and the titles of the links they share so it gets my thoughts going and I can feel my body tensing up and I want to jump in and SAY STUFF –

I just stopped myself from engaging in a discussion about race and the Tsarnaev brothers.  Apparently people are trying to categorize their race and there are some suggestions that they might not be white.  It seems that some white people will feel better if they can think of the Tsarnaev brothers as “not white” to uphold their tenderly held belief that white people don’t do bad stuff.  Really?!  Man, people sure do have short memories when it suits them.

Timothy McVeigh. White American terrorist killing other Americans.

So fuck everyone who thinks terrorists don’t come in white and Christian.  Terrorists come in a full range of colors and backgrounds and religions.

I’m supposed to understand that my opinion, as a white person, is not valid in discussions about racial discrimination because I can’t know what non-white people go through, because I can’t know what it’s like to deal with institutionalized prejudice.  I’m supposed to feel guilty for my privilege or at least need to understand that my whole life has been easier than those of non-white people and therefore I need to stop shitting down on people who don’t live on my heavenly cloud of ease.  At the same time there is plenty of racial prejudice in these same discussions about race against white people since they are the only perpetrators of racism in the world.*

Which is NOT true.  Racism is endemic the world over.  Black people hating Mexicans.  Mexicans hating Asians.  Chinese people hating Japanese people.  White people hating black people.  English people hating the Romani.  Racism is engaged in by every fucking race on the planet.

Everyone is participating in putting up walls between people with different skin colors than their own.  Everyone.

But the thing that bothers me most is the assumption that no one can understand anyone else’s experience of persecution.

It’s as though all people believe that whatever it is they’ve experienced can’t possibly be understood by people who are different than they are – there is an assumption I dislike (that most people are guilty of regardless of the color of their skin) that we have to be exactly alike to understand each other, to know what abuse is like, to have experienced discrimination, or to have been shoved under a rock by other people’s privilege.

I’m a woman.  I’m a mentally ill woman.  I was a suicidal teen.  I was a “death rocker” and considered by most people to be a “freak”.  I had a prominent lisp.  As a middle aged person I became obese.

You want to know what I experienced being all these things?  I have experienced systemic gender prejudice.  I have experienced societal rejection for a number of reasons at different times in my life and experienced great pain with that rejection.  As a mentally ill person I get hit with people’s bigotry and ignorance on a frequent basis.  People are constantly posting ignorant false shite about mental illness and when I read it and hear it it’s hurtful and dangerous misinformation.  Racism may be the most prominent form of bigotry in this country but mentally ill people experience bigotry, abuse, marginalization, and are blamed for all kinds of problems in the world.  A favorite being that whenever an unspeakable act of violence occurs the first assumption made isn’t that it must have been perpetrated by a particular race but that it must have been done by a crazy person “a madman obviously did this” or “only a mentally ill person could do this”, or “it was probably a mental patient off their meds”.  You know who participates in this fear and bigotry against mentally ill people?

PEOPLE OF EVERY RACE, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, NATIONALITY and RELIGION.

So it pisses me off when people use my whiteness as a reason I can’t possibly understand the racial persecution they’ve experienced.  I am smart enough to use my own experiences of persecution and relate them to yours.

So let’s start over.

People come in all shades of skin.  I love all shades of skin.  I see beauty in every racial combination on earth.  We can’t avoid talking about race because it is a problem that permeates our lives.  There are cultural divides that need crossing.  There are many levels of understanding that need to be reached.  COMMON GROUND.  Our conversations should be leading us to common ground because it’s there – it’s always there and anyone not looking for common ground between all of us humans is not trying to solve anything.

I can’t know what you experience unless you talk to me and I can’t hear what you say if you start telling me how I can’t know what you’ve gone through because that’s the sound of you slamming a door in my face.  That’s the sound of you making assumptions about ME.

I’m interested in race.  But not in fights about race.  I want to feel that I can talk to people who look different than me with curiosity that comes from a deep desire to find common ground and to KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOU.  That’s what I want to fix.  Our ability to talk to each other without all this racial baggage.

But racial baggage, like that of sexual abuse, has a very long life.

I don’t accept racism.  Not anyone’s.  I may be white but don’t for a second think that means that white racists speak for me.  When I see someone whose skin is a different shade than mine I do not make immediate assumptions about them based on their skin.  I am more likely to make assumptions (that may later be proved wrong) based on the way they’re walking, the way they’re interacting with others around them, and how they interact with me.  I make a million snap judgements about people every single day.  It’s how I stay alive.  My ability to avert danger relies on my ability to see an aggressive person approaching.  But those judgements are never based on someone’s religion (only known in strangers if they are wearing something that gives their religious affiliation away), their skin color, or their physical form or visible disability, or their gender.  That’s something I can tell you for absolute certain.

So I’m tired of talking about what divides us all.  I’m tired of assumptions being made about what I can and cannot know or relate to or understand.  What I want is to hear people’s stories and I want to cross the divides between us.  This world is full of rich and diverse cultural experiences and I want to know your stories and I want you to hear mine.  I want to know why you believe as you do – not so I can ridicule and isolate and separate us – but so I can understand and find those threads of commonality running between us.

Those threads of commonality between us all is what can heal us all.

 

*I want to be perfectly plain here: it is mostly white people who have, in discussions about race, worked hard at the pump of white guilt and suggested that my opinion doesn’t count and that my being white precludes me from having any idea what black people go through in this country.  I have listened to the occasional rant from black people about how white people can’t know what they’re going through, and that always bothers me, but they don’t work the white guilt pump which I find useless and insulting.  I do not feel guilty being white.  I had as much choice in my skin color as everyone else.  What matters is my actions.  What matters is what kind of person I am inside.  That’s what matters about everyone.  Everyone.

Racism, Cops, Words, Obnoxious Patterns on Fat Ladies, and the Great Recession

bandw pippa catching rays

Things on my mind yesterday morning:

People dismissing other people’s opinions because of their race with special emphasis on white people dismissing the opinions or experiences of other white people because of their “privilege”.  Being white means I don’t experience life as a black or Latino or Asian person but I have eyes in my head, I have the ability to listen to – and learn from –  the experiences of non-white people.  More than that – the assumption that all black people are having the same experience as each other is ludicrous.  Dismissing anyone’s point of view based on their race is RACIST.

Cop hating.  This has been a pet peeve of mine for as long as I can remember.  There is no question that there are evil cops out there because if you take any group of people – grouped by any criteria you like – you will find evil in that group if the criteria includes “human beings”.  What bothers me is that most of the people I’ve known in my life who think all cops are bad are people who have had reason to fear them – people who routinely do things like BUY OR SELL DRUGS.  Either that or they are people who have bought into the idea that all people in positions of authority are bad and that level of paranoia is something I have ZERO patience for.  Policemen/women have the toughest and most dangerous job in this country* and they deal with people who are in crisis or who might be committing crimes.  We charge them with the dirtiest most dangerous job and then expect them to not be human?  That’s bullshit.  Imagine the stress of being the person no one wants to see every single day?

Things I’m thinking about this morning:

Censorship in social media.  I can’t say any more than that on the subject.

Having people in positions of power over you exert that power while pretending not to exert it is a mind-fuck.  People asking things of you they have no legal right to ask of you and pretending it’s just a “suggestion” while knowing you will understand that it’s an order is very uncomfortable.  It certainly underlines one’s powerlessness.  I think there are millions of people feeling this way in this country right now.  This is not an economical climate in which the little man has any power – the only economic period worse than the one we’re in right now was the Great Depression.  Most of us have jobs that can easily be done by others and our expendability makes us vulnerable in ways that we wouldn’t be if opportunities weren’t so thin on the ground.  I don’t like this feeling that if I were to lose my job there isn’t much out there that I am qualified for and those jobs I’m qualified for pay next to nothing and you have to work grueling hours just to make a tiny amount of money and most positions out there are just under full time so that employers don’t have to pay you benefits – it’s a really nice way to be milked for all your sweat while leaving you hanging out there with zero safety net.  This all depresses me so much.

So if I do anything to fuck up my employment we will be up shit creak in a leaky raft.  If there’s one thing I am an expert at – it’s fucking things up.

This is on my mind as friends look for employment and don’t find it.  This is on my mind when Philip has a bad week at work and starts feeling anxious about his job and I feel the dark vast emptiness of the cliff at my feet which is how close we are standing to complete devastation and ruin.  We’re finally doing okay – we’re paying the IRS back, we’ve almost paid back the Oregon Revenue Service, we have actual dollars in our savings for the first time in years.  Yet one false move and there’s nothing to catch us.  This feeling of powerlessness and weakness of position is deeply uncomfortable.  I miss the days when I was employed at Mulberry Neckwear and I not only did my job really well – I did it better than anyone else at the company.  Had I not walked away just so I could take a bunch of math and French classes and then had a baby and left the work force for five years to be home with my kid and then been self employed but not making it for a couple years before our complete ruination – I would be in a much better position today.

Except that Mulberry Neckwear eventually went under as so many companies have.

The point is – I do not like living in fear.  I have been endeavoring not to – to take each day and each month that we’re doing better as a good sign, as a move towards a more secure position in life.

Then every now and then I am made to realize just how fragile our situation really is.  And it should comfort me to know that so much of the work-force in this country is just as vulnerable as I am.  But it doesn’t.  So I’ve been thinking about that.  I can’t regret having left my job to learn math and to stay home with my baby so all I can do is dream big and hold steady.   But right now I feel very very small.

I’m also thinking about how the context in which we use words is powerfully important.  Thinking about the words “crazy” and “mental” and how some mentally ill people find those words offensive because they are rarely used in a positive way, but I don’t mind.  My message to the world is that mental illness often comes with gifts even if not everyone with mental illness can access those gifts of perspective and vision.  When someone hurls the word “crazy” around I say “Yes.  What of it?  JEALOUS?!”.  But in a perfectly literal way the word crazy is meant to imply that something is over the top or disordered and wild or not of this reality – and in a perfectly literal sense that is a just description of a person with mental illness.  Mental illness IS about minds being disordered in some way or another.  Mentally ill people often stand out because their behaviors and reactions to things tend to be over the top.  Furthermore – mentally ill people can often tap into things going on in the world and with other people that non-mentally ill people can’t see or understand and when we express these observations those who don’t have our gifts think we’re talking crazy-ass shit.  Right.  So to my way of thinking, in every way possible – calling me crazy is:

a) a compliment because I wouldn’t choose to be other than I am

b) it’s a fairly accurate (though exaggerated) word for my mental environment

c) exposing your own mind’s limitations and I feel a little sorry for you

However, I do try not to call other mentally ill people “crazy” or “mental” if I don’t know them well enough to know if it would offend them.  In my general language I reserve the right to call things “crazy” if they seem over-the-top and if someone’s behavior seems irrational and/or disordered I will, if I choose, describe them as “mental”.

I actually call people crazy all the time.  It is a compliment even if they don’t know it.  It means I think you fit well into my tribe and while that may not seem like a good thing – it’s where most of the brilliance, creativity, innovation, and progress of the world come from.  You don’t have to be mentally ill to have these gifts but chances are good that if you have them you are, to some degree at least, blessed with a mind that operates differently than the average mind and chances are good that you suffer from the challenges these gifts impose as well.  Which means that even if you aren’t deeply touched in the upper works – you have a foot in my camp.  Don’t be scared – you are in excellent company.

I am about to sew two over-shirts in obnoxious patterns.  I have been wearing mostly black and brown for years now.  I miss color and patterns.  But I am as huge as my hugest and it seems unwise to cloak myself in a shirt of cabbage roses, but I’m going to do it.  Let’s just say that I’m continuing to try to embrace what I am now instead of punishing myself constantly for what is not entirely my own fault anyway and what part of it IS my fault is so understandable that I need to stop hating myself for it.  Obviously I’ve been working on this for years now and just as obviously haven’t made much progress.  However, this is my gesture of love – that I will go out in public wearing a shirt covered in a retro print of cannibalistic hot dogs with a constrast print of green with white polka dots.  The hot dog print is weird and wonderful and makes me laugh.  So I’m going to be the large lady rocking the outrageous prints.  (This is some bravado on my part and the veneer of bravery is papery thin so please do not poke at it)

Last night in my dream my mom was making gin out of grape juice.  And someone was trying to sell me cans of pumpkin juice.  It was not nice.  My cats got out.  I helped watch someone’s newborn baby.

This morning my cats actually got outside.

I have asked Philip to resume working on the cover art for Cricket and Grey.  I will resume efforts to get it published in e-book format as well as print on demand.

I hope none of us get skewered on the forked tongue of this Wednesday.

*Obviously firemen also have an extremely dangerous job but I would say that since their job doesn’t involve people actually trying to hurt them – it’s not on the same level of stress and danger.  Plus – everyone worships firemen/women as heroes.  The only time anyone thinks of cops as heroes is AFTER they’ve died in the line of duty.

Don’t Use the Word “Negro” Unless You Are 167 Years Old

I wish I felt as shiny as the crosses on The Church of Saint Rachel.  I seem to have caught myself a cold.  Or just a cough.  I can’t tell yet.  My chest is congested but my head is fairly clear.  I think people aren’t covering their mouths when they cough in front of their computers and I’ve gotten sick digitally.

(I’m sure I couldn’t have gotten it from my mom who’s had a wicked bad cough for over a week and a half now.)

This week was punctuated by a conversation I started on facebook about the word “titties”.  I dislike the word.  I stated that I think it’s one of the worst words in the world.  I didn’t think deeply about it – I heard a food blogger say “titties” in a post and I was much struck with how awful it sounds.  This is the power words have – to have an immediate impact on the person reading or hearing them.  But talking about words is interesting because when you start digging for explanations for your strong reactions to them – there’s often an underlying rational reason for disliking or loving a word or expression.  So a conversation was launched which organically evolved into a debate about whether words can actually be “bad” which withered into a discussion about political correctness and how an acquaintance of mine thinks “negro” is a perfectly acceptable way to refer to a black person.

I know what you’re thinking “Maybe he ‘s a hundred and sixty seven year old civil war veteran.”

I assure you this is a man younger than me who apparently hasn’t gotten the memo yet that words are powerful and white people should never call black people “negros” because it brings up a whole emotional cocktail of cultural memories of tar and feathering and burning crosses and slavery and – so much disregard for the rights and the feelings and the humanity of the black people in this country.  This young man argued that “negro” is simply the Spanish word for “black” and words are just words and are just a means of communication.

He said he feels totally comfortable using the word “negro” to refer to black people.  I wish I had asked him if he actually DOES this but I won’t because I had to shut down the conversation and block him from seeing any more of my posts so I won’t yell at him.  He claims to have no patience with all this political correctness crap and refuses to play along with it.

I have to tell you that this whole conversation upset me so much that I got knots in my stomach.  I promise I did listen to his point of view and I did remain respectful while trying to impress on him the gut wrenchingly awful insensitivity of his words.  He’s right – words are a means of communication and his words communicated a hell of a lot to me about his disregard for the feelings of those around him.  It’s more than that though.  Any person who knows how charged the word “negro” is and uses it anyway is, in fact, racist.  Racism has two main components at its core: fear and disrespect.  To know that “negro” is a disrespectful way to refer to a person of color and use it anyway IS TO DISRESPECT THEM.  I recognize that there are degrees to everything and to disrespect a person or a group of people doesn’t automatically mean you hate them – but to know you might be shoving an emotional knife in someone’s gut and do it anyway is a hateful thing to do.

I am not always politically correct myself.  I get it.  We need to hold onto the power of words.  We can’t go around insisting that words not be used just because they might have negative connotations.  Life is full of negative situations and we need a way to communicate that effectively.  I happen to love the word whore.  It’s not the kind of word you can just fling around though.  I would never actually call a promiscuous woman a whore because being sexually liberated is not a moral failing and the word whore implies fallen “virtue”.  I also wouldn’t call a prostitute a whore.  I would much rather call a John a whore.

I DO call myself a ketchup whore.

But there are a few words in our language that have such a powerful link to heinous events in history and periods of time when men and women behaved shamefully towards other humans and to use those words is to conger up a world of hate and pain for those you use them on.  “Nigger” is one of them and though “Negro” might seem less harmful – the only people who ever referred to black Americans as negros were people who were born long before the civil rights movement of the 1960’s during which it was made plain that black people do not ever want to hear white people refer to them using those words again.

So to be a white person and use those words to describe a black person is to knowingly disrespect them and is racist behavior. No one who was alive after the civil rights movement can claim not to have known how charged those words are.

I’m sharing this because I can’t believe I had this conversation with a peer.  I hear white people complain about black people (and liberal people of all colors) using the “race card” as they stupidly like to call it.  I hear people complaining about how people are always trying to make everything about race.  They’re so tired of having to have this conversation over and over again.  Boo hoo, buttheads.  I use the word “buttheads” completely aware of it’s negative connotations.

Here’s a rule of thumb when choosing words to describe people: avoid using any kind of condemnation that attacks things about a person that they do not have the power to change.  Skin color.  Origin of birth.  Their sexual orientation.  How many limbs they have or don’t have.  Whether they can walk or not.  The brain they were born with.  What gender they are.  Where they were born.

What you can question and condemn: people’s behaviors towards other people.  Assholes can be called out because assholes can stop being assholes if they choose to.  Chauvinists can change their attitude about women.  Racists can choose to change their attitudes about other races.

So I call out all the assholes who think race is such a tired conversation.  So boring.  Those assholes who say “What racism?  There’s no racism anymore.  You’re just puffing smoke out your asses because you don’t want to admit that it’s suspicious that our president is black and wasn’t born in the contiguous United States.  Hawaii barely counts.”

There is racism all over the world.  On every continent.  In every country.  And every race has racists.  We all know about the white people who hate black people.  Did you know about the black people who hate Latino people?  Did you know about the Asian people who hate black people?  How about the white people who hate Asian people.  Or about the Latino people who hate white people.  And yes, there are black people who hate white people.  Haters come in every race.

So until there is no racism left – it will always be part of the conversation.  So get over it.  This isn’t a political game.  It’s about humans evolving enough to stop attaching value judgements based on skin pigment.

We are not born racists.  We learn that hate.  We have the choice to lose that hate or perpetuate it.  We may not get to choose who we are when we’re born but we all get to choose who we become.

My unsolicited advice to you today is: unless you want to sound like a 167 year old civil war veteran or are actually racist don’t fucking use the word “negro”.