It has occurred to me that if I were to blog more often, I would probably spend so much less time staring at a blank page, wondering where to begin. I’d spend less time on background info and more time making my point. So, I mentioned attending a Language Exchange with members of the Worker Rights Center, and their Wage Theft Campaign. The part I kept saying I would mention later, was that I had offered to nominate the Center for my congregation’s Share the Plate program, as they’ve recently lost some funding. The feedback I got was that financial contributions were certainly welcome, but what they really wanted was opportunities for workers to share their personal stories with various faith groups as part of their Wage Theft Campaign. So I said, I’ll look into what kind of options there are to be a guest speaker for one of our lay led services, and since I figured UUCP’s sermons were probably scheduled pretty far out, I’ll ask if there’s any interest from our sister congregation. One thing led to another, and if things work as I’m hoping, the WRC will be sharing their stories as part of a “Labor Sunday” service at one of our sister congregations here in the Valley.
This isn’t a campaign I ever saw myself involved in, but I was really touched by the time I spent with WRC workers. It seemed like I could make a meaningful contribution, even if it was just knocking on doors until someone said yes. I’ve found myself volunteering to become more involved in the campaign and some other potential projects.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about my role as an ally. I’ve had to check myself a few times, ready to run full steam ahead with some fabulous idea (some of y’all know these as “Cyndi’s delusions of grandeur”), because this isn’t my party. I was invited to the party, then I volunteered to be a party planner, but the theme and the vision of the party are not mine. If I don’t keep that in mind, I am no longer an ally. So I stop and turn around, and ask for feedback and direction.
I was reading an article I came across at No More Deaths called Becoming An Ally. It’s a really good article overall, but I particularly like the How to section. I’ve crossed the borders of faith, culture, race, and language many times in one one one situations. I’ve crossed them as part of a multifaceted group in a supporting role, but never as an organizer. I’ve tried to keep these things in mind as I navigate my first effort at organizing an interfaith effort with racial, class, cultural, and language barriers.
Maybe it’s because this is so present in my mind right now, that I feel stung by comments from some of my fellow activists and members of my church family about the UniteAZ White Ribbon Campaign. These criticisms don’t seem to recognize the diverse theological and political views of our allied groups or their individual members.
I have friends who have worked tirelessly on the UniteAZ campaign and I have friends who feel it’s the wrong approach. I don’t see them often, but these are people who awe and inspire me with their passion and dedication. People who light up my heart every time I see them with the sheer force of their spirit, people that I can’t help but embrace when I see them. People I have prayed for, cried for, who have graced me with their support in my personal growth as an activist, their presence in my home, their gifts of serving as mentors and role models for my children and probably in many other ways I haven’t even begun to realize.
While the UUA at large and the Arizona congregations in particular have a special relationship with Puente, one in which we need to be accountable, we are also accountable to Somos America, Arizona Dream Act Coalition, National Council of La Raza… all of which have endorsed this campaign.
So when there is division among members of targeted communities, what is our role as allies?
The work that Puente does is critical, and I am a passionate supporter of their efforts. When push comes to shove, you will find me wherever the drums are nine times out of ten. That’s just me… in your face, ready to burn your eyelashes with the candle or slap you with a light bulb if that’s what it takes (but very gently, and with much love though… I promise).
But not everybody is comfortable in that role, and more importantly, there are people who will never be reached that way. I’ve seen people slow down and read the protest signs, seen looks of contemplation cross their faces, and I’ve prayed that they will seek out more information that will lead them, ultimately, to seek justice. But I’ve seen just as many people go out of their way to avoid coming close enough for direct eye contact. Those people might shove a flyer in their pocket, and look at it later…. and may also feel the call to justice.
I may not always agree with certain viewpoints or actions from individuals or groups, but I will always honor their path in this struggle. Who are we to say the effort of one targeted group is better than that of another in their fight for justice? We are still tripping over our own insecurities and inadequacies. It is not for us, as allies, to choose sides among our friends or tell our allies what kind of party to throw when half the time we can’t even figure out what we’re supposed to bring to the potluck.
- Where is the justice? (curlykidz.wordpress.com)
- Recall Election Set For Arizona “Papers Please” Law Sponsor (lezgetreal.com)
- What it Means to be an Ally for Racial Equity – Rev. Sam Trumbore (timesunion.com)
- Is Arizona Finally Fed Up with Right-Wing Politics? (time.com)
Last Sunday I was stopped by a member of my congregation… someone from what I call my church family. She mentioned THIS is why I cannot, will not, comply, written after I explained to my son that I would probably (or not) be arrested on the National Day of Non-Compliance.
After confiding that she’d been thinking about that blog entry ever since, she started to talk about all the different classifications of Americans… Mexican, African, Native, Chinese etc.
I have to confess that I got a little nervous. Because the only thing harder than talking about race with people who are not white, in my experience, is talking about race with people who are. And I felt my shield go up, because I’ve heard one or two profoundly stupid things said in my church home, and I wasn’t sure what was coming. I was afraid it would be some argument about how all those prefixes should be dropped, and my mind was racing because I hadn’t been mentally prepared for a “that thing you said” conversation. But then she asked, “But what am I? Am I Caucasian or European American?” And I responded cautiously, still not sure where we were headed, “Well, there would be Italian, German, and Irish American…”
And then she asked the million dollar question. What can she do, in her day-to-day interactions, to challenge the assumption that Americans are of European descent by default, and everything else is “other.”
I wish I’d had a better answer. I’m a unusal case (in more ways than one, I know…) in that outside of work and church on Sunday, very few people who I see on a daily or weekly basis are white. I shared with her that I make it a point (with people who tend to use race or ethnicity to describe others when it is not relevant to the conversation), to mention EVERYONE’S race (aka, my “this white lady at walgreens” story), I don’t have those kinds of conversations often.
Tonight I was at a volunteer meeting for the Community Posada and someone (not white) mentioned Euro-Americans in a conversation, which was the motivation I needed to write this post and not table it until after I get all the other drafts in my head published. Most of the discussion on what I write happens in the link comments on my Facebook wall, but for the sake of centralizing feedback and hopefully providing some ideas and resources for others, I’d like to ask people to comment here and not on FB. You don’t need to sign up for an account to comment.
I want to hear from my Anglo/Euro/Caucasian American readers. Do you consciously use language to counteract the assumption that Americans are white by default? What does that sound like? How and when do you use it? What kind of reactions do you get? If you don’t, what kind of ideas do you have?
Thanks to all of you in advance, and a very special thanks to my sister. You renewed my faith last Sunday, as well as my commitment to continue witnessing, LOUDLY, about the costs of racism to white people. As proud as we may be to fight for justice, we need to acknowledge that we are also fighting for our own humanity.
A PS… This was written as a call for reflection & discussion to white/euro/anglo/gring@ people because I feel strongly we need to take more responsibility in creating equality and justice for all. People of privilege shouldn’t be looking to the people who are being oppressed to show us the light when we’re holding the matches and candles. That said, if you don’t fall into the targeted demographic and you have a suggestion about how we can do better or want to point out something we may do with the best of intentions that we really shouldn’t, jump right in.
- Own Your Beauty: On Being Multi-Racial in the Racist, Rural South (blogher.com)
- Why Racial Profiling Persists in Medical Research (time.com)
- All Are Alike Unto God: A Reaction to Margaret Blair Young and Darius Aidan Gray’s _Standing On the Promises_ Series (motleyvision.org)
Sometimes people say some shit that’s so stupid, you actually catch a case of stupidity yourself. It’s like the stupidity flowing out of their mouth infects you. There you are, in a state of shock, trying to figure out what the FUCK you can say to cure them, except you’re mouth is hanging open and you can’t speak. It’s like you’ve been hit upside the head with a stupid stick.
So here I am, with a pen in my hand, dumbly signing my charge slip, thinking that I just spent an awful fucking lot of money but I don’t remember asking the proprietress if she had a racist stereotype that she wouldn’t mind bagging up with my books. I checked my receipt after I left, but it wasn’t listed so I guess it must have been a perk that comes free with my white privilege card.
What’s truly mind boggling about this is that I had actually been attempting to compliment the woman on the diversity of reading materials I’d found at the annual book fair was at. In addition to the standard book fair items you expect to see (cookbooks, you’re the best kid/parent/teacher ever, box sets of all occasion greeting cards) and the racy looking novels with black women I’d noticed the year before, there were several books for teens with African American protagonists; of the three I selected as potential gifts, two were teenage boys. I’d have to read all three first to screen for content that may be too mature or stereotypes I’d want to discuss, but considering how rarely I see books with diverse characters (protagonist or otherwise) for children over the age of eight and/or that aren’t a self esteem message on steroids, not to mention how hard it can be to find books that will interest a young man, I was thrilled to see these and three others for tween/teen readers.
So it was as I was trying to tell the woman how pleased I’d been to see books with diverse racial and religious characters, she interrupts me to warn me that some of “those” books can be a little risqué. I responded that I planned to pre-read them, and again tried to express that it’s not easy to find diverse literature for my kids so it was nice that they had a selection, limited as it was… but once again I was interrupted.
Black women like their books trashy,
she tells me, voice lowered. She doesn’t want to be overheard… but because I’m white, she assumes I’ll welcome being taken into her confidence.
I struggled for a minute. I wanted so badly to insult this woman the way she had just insulted and offended me. I wanted to scream at her,
WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE TALKING TO? I’m not in your fucking club. THOSE ARE MY DAUGHTERS you’re talking about. MY BEST FRIEND. MY OTHER BEST FRIEND. MY EX FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW (ok, so she’s Tyler’s grandmamma but I loved her first). My son’s second grade teacher, who was also my older daughter’s first Big. Her kindergarten teacher. My baby girl’s “Nani.” Three of my kids’ best friend’s mothers. Two moms I met thru volleyball that I consider good friends and among the few people of any color that I’d trust my children with.
But alienating her wasn’t going change her thinking. I didn’t know what, if anything, that I could say in that moment that would. I still don’t know the answer to that question, so all I could do was my best to tell the truth.
“I’d have to say that’s a pretty broad stereotype. I know that several of the black women I know wouldn’t consider reading those,” as I gestured to the handful of racy novels with Jezebels on the cover.
She started to backpedal with, “Well, ours beg us to get these books… they just love them.”
Ours? Really? OURS? They BEG you to sell them books they identify with, for whatever reason? ARE YOU SHITTING ME? I was about to lose my job for slugging a vendor in the cafeteria at work.
I took a big breath, and as I gathered my purchases, I said that I didn’t know if she’d noticed, but it isn’t always easy to find books with Black characters in stores, and that I know this because I am always on the lookout for books that will appeal to my own multiracial children who don’t always want to read about little white heroes & heroines, but most of the books that we have were bought online, thru Scholastic Book orders, or out of state. I pointed out that if her Black customers were excited to see the few books she carried on the bottom shelf, it might have more to do with the overall lack of availability than the taste of the individual reader.
And I walked away. I don’t know how well received my final comments were, but at least I knew that I’d made it crystal clear that she if she wanted someone to support the BS she was spewing, she was talking to the wrong one.
Hindsight is always 20/20… and looking back, I wish I had pointed out specifically how asinine it is to assume that ALL Black women like their books trashy based on the requests of a few… even if ALL the Black women in the Phoenix Metro area loved these books, simple demographics should tell you that number is not representative of ALL Black women. I also wish I had pointed out that just because SOME Black women enjoy racy novels or that particular line of books, that doesn’t mean that is the ONLY genre that they enjoy. I still wonder if I should have told her to reverse the charge and shove the books up her… never mind.
The only thing I know is that we are so not post racial. Not even close.
Cathleen Falsani: Anam Cara: Praying for Our Kids and Their ‘Soul Friends’ via Religion on HuffingtonPost.com by Cathleen Falsani on 9/13/10
Cathleen Falsani is journalist, blogger and author of several nonfiction books, including the memoir Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace, and the forthcoming The Thread: Faith, Friendship and Facebook.
An Anam Cara is someone with whom you share your deepest loves, fears, dreams, doubts, joys and sorrows. That soul friend will know him and love him for exactly who he is. He or she is a friend who will uplift him, reflect God’s love for him, and draw him toward his Creator, not away or astray.
I prayed that, in the words of William Shakespeare, my son would take his soul friends into his heart and “grapple them to [his] soul with hoops of steel.”
Sounds From Mexico’s Bicentennial via NPR Programs: Tell Me More on 9/16/10
Alfonso Andre, drummer for the Mexican band Jaugares, talks about the band’s remake of the song La Martiniana for a new album that commemorates the Mexican Bicentennial. Andre also talks about his conflicted feelings about celebrating Mexico’s history.
A good sex education might delay sexual activity. In fact, a good sex education will ideally delay sexual activity. But that’s not the main purpose of good sex education. The main purpose of sex education is to support lifelong healthy sexuality. We must take the long view here. Sex education should not be designed to keep a student from having sex in high school – that is far too short sighted.
Sex education must be designed to address individuals across their lifespans – to give them tools, skills, knowledge, and strength to understand their bodies, to be both introspective and appropriately communicative about their own desires, respectful about other people’s desires, and both safer and reverent about the entire process.
White Feminists and Me: a Fable of Solidarity via Womanist Musings by Renee on 9/14/10
I’m a 23 year old Sinhalese woman in Minnesota by way of Dubai by way of Sri Lanka. I am a Womanist, and part of my womanism is figuring out how to be in solidarity with my transnational sisters worldwide. I’m a daughter, a sister, a partner and a writer. I’m a brown girl who knows Shakespeare by heart and devours anything Toni Morrison. I believe in radical, revolutionary
A report from the Massachusetts-based Schott Foundation paints a bleak picture of how young black men fare in school: fewer than half graduate from high school. And in some states, like New York, the graduation rate is as low as one in four. The foundation’s John Jackson and David Sciarra of the Education Law Center discuss what’s needed to improve educational attainment among African American children.
Middle Schools Are Disciplining Kids by Throwing Them Away via Colorlines by Michelle Chen on 9/14/10
Talk all you want about improving our nation’s schools, but the fact is, students can’t close the “achievement gap” when they’re not allowed into the classroom. Yet school suspension rates are climbing and potentially stifling educational opportunity for disadvantaged middle-schoolers, according to a study by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Activists have long warned of the school-to-prison pipeline–sort of the opposite of the honors track, steering poor kids of color into troubled adolescence and eventually the criminal justice system. The SPLC explains, “Disciplinary tactics that respond to typical adolescent behavior by removing students from school do not better prepare students for adulthood. Instead, they increase their risk of educational failure and dropout.”
Conflating “Ethnic” and “Curvy” via Sociological Images by gwen on 9/15/10
(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages)
We’ve noted the fetishization of Black women’s butts before, and the conflation of non-White and curvy (also here). Yes, some non-White women have large butts and cleavage. So do lots of White women. And lots of women in all groups don’t have either, or have just one or the other, or have them but don’t still somehow manage to be very thin and toned overall. But having this body type is, in this case and many others, so identified as “ethnic” that White women who have boobs and hips become examples of “ethnic” beauty, not simply a version of female beauty. Notice that Scarlett Johansson’s body isn’t described as having “European curves” or, I don’t know, “British-American curves” or whatever her ethnic background might be in the way that Jennifer Lopez’s curves are perceived as an ethnic marker. It’s a great example of selective perception: women of all racial/ethnic backgrounds share body shapes, but certain physical features, such as hips, are seen as a group characteristic only for some women.
‘Values Voter Summit’ Will Likely Be Missing Jewish Voters: Conservative Conference Coincides With Yom Kippur via Religion on HuffingtonPost.com by Amanda Terkel on 9/15/10
Yet it’s unlikely observant Jews will be able to attend the event, since it’s being held on Yom Kippur — the holiest Jewish holiday — which begins at sundown on Friday, Sept. 17 and ends at sundown on Saturday, Sept. 18 — right when the majority of the action at the conference is happening (including the Israel panel). In 2009, the Values Voter Summit took place during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. “Does the FRC think Jews don’t have values?” wondered Salon’s Washington Correspondent Mike Madden last year. “Or was this just the only fall weekend they could get into the Omni Shoreham hotel?”
Anti-Defamation League spokesman Todd Gutnick said his organization didn’t see much of a problem with the conflict in timing. “Since these are all Christian groups involved, Jews wouldn’t be attending anyway,” he told the Huffington Post. Some conservative groups, however, are trying to make inroads with the Jewish community, recognizing that although some on the right consistently accuse progressives of being anti-Israel or even “anti-Jew”, Jews still overwhelmingly vote Democratic. On Monday, FreedomWorks, which helps organize many of the Tea Party gatherings around the country, told reporters that it was launching “a new initiative to reach out to racial, ethnic and religious minorities” — beginning with Jews, to coincide with the High Holidays.
The Huffington Post contacted FRC Action for comment but did not receive a response.
This Week in Blackness: White People and Black People Are So Different via Womanist Musings by Renee on 9/17/10
Elon James has come up with a new This Week in Blackness, and of course I absolutely had to share it with you. This week, Elon talked about the fact that Blacks and Whites experience the same event differently because of racism. Whiteness has been taught to ignore this because it has been normalized therefore; it is quite easy to believe in a universal perspective. There is a large difference
Angela Himsel: Excuse Me, Are You…? via Religion on HuffingtonPost.com by Angela Himsel on 9/17/10
On Yom Kippur, when I stand in synagogue for hours and recite the prayers, striking my fist against my chest to atone for my sins, and as I become more and more tired with the lack of food, water and more importantly, caffeine, it’s then that I feel a kind of certainty that God sees and loves each one of us in all of our totality, even the parts that we hide from one another and from ourselves. Wherever we are, whoever we’re with, God recognizes us and never needs to ask, on Yom Kippur or any other day, “Excuse me, are you Angela?”
Off and Running Toward My Own Identity [Racialigious] via Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture on 9/7/10
by Guest Contributor Collier Meyerson, originally published at Be’Chol Lashon
At 13 years old, in the planning stages of my Bat Mitzvah, my Hebrew School teacher called a meeting at his home to discuss details. He opened his door to see me, my father who is an Ashkenazi Jew and my black mother. Upon seeing my family, without asking, he regrettably informed us that the synagogue, would not allow me to perform the right of passage in their temple because my mother wasn’t a Jew. My wily mother, coyly and smarmily responded “oh, but her mother is Jewish.”
Yes, it turns out my biological mother is a white Ashkenazi Jew.
And with these words, my Hebrew school teacher, as though I was caught in the Woody Allen version of my own life as a film, threw his hands into the air and exclaimed “it’s Bashert [it’s destiny] then! You’ll have your Bat Mitzvah in the Temple!” In that moment I felt a definitive rage. I wanted desperately to be a part of the Upper West Side’s most exclusive and popular clique, Judaism, but felt what would prove to be an indelible stake in this idea of blackness, something pitted against Jewishness. And so there it was, in the home of my Hebrew School teacher that the two were separated, like oil and water.
I was Black and Jewish but I couldn’t be both, I couldn’t be a Black Jew.
Preparing My Kids To Be Able To Run Through Walls via Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture on 9/7/10
by Guest Contributor Paula, originally published at Heart, Mind, and Seoul
I think about the walls that threatened to thwart my growth when I was younger and how completely ill-prepared I was to handle them. If I’m being completely honest with myself, I realize that perhaps I’ve been far too generous in assessing how well equipped I was to deal with the very real walls of racism, prejudice and discrimination throughout my life. I have no doubt that my parents love and concern imparted upon me the knowledge that they were always there for me – and yes, that is huge in it’s own right – but as an Asian girl/adolescent/young adult, I recognize now just how unprepared I was in terms of not having the right language or effective strategies to be my own best advocate in my racially isolated world.
Bloggers Unite – International Literacy Day: Reducing Illiteracy in the Prison Population Benefits ALL of Us! via THE INTERSECTION | MADNESS & REALITY by Joanna on 9/8/10
An estimated 20 percent of the adult population in the US is functionally illiterate. That figure SKYROCKETS to over 60 percent when you examine the literacy rates of the inmate population in jails and prisons across the country. And even more appalling is the fact that over 85 percent of juvenile offenders have literacy issues.
Considering that illiteracy commonly leads to lengthy and repeated bouts of unemployment (over 75 percent of unemployed adults have some problems with reading and writing) the low rate of literacy among the inmate population is a recipe for explosive recidivism rates. After all, if an ex-prisoner is unable to find or keep a job due to literacy issues, where else can he turn but back to the behaviors that landed him in jail in the first place?
Although a lot of people take the “lock them up and throw away the key” attitude toward prisoners, and would rather REDUCE the services available to prisoners, there is PROOF that literacy programs in prison CAN and DO help reduce the rates of recidivism, and can lead to an overall reduction in incarceration rates.
Us (Moms) vs. Them (Teens) via I am the Glue by Laura on 9/11/10
This will be an 18 year round/fight.
Keep it clean…your language…your room…etc.
At the end of the match, the winner will be decided by who is left standing, or not in jail, or rehab.
I am taking bets now.
I got some insider information…shhh…this is on the down low.
Us moms are the best bet because we have been there and done that.
Got a teenager to show for it.
What I Did On My Summer Vacation…or Why Water Communion Makes Me Uncomfortable via East Of Midnight by Kim on 9/14/10
Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D.: Overturning the Texas School Board Madness? It’s Possible via Religion on HuffingtonPost.com by Michael Zimmerman, Ph.D. on 9/14/10
Voters in Texas’s 5th District have the opportunity to put an end to the embarrassing and anti-intellectual actions that have diminished education across the state, and that’s an opportunity that will likely impact text book choices around the rest of the United States. I, for one, hope that they opt to do just that by replacing Ken Mercer’s madness with Rebecca Bell-Metereau’s thoughtfulness.
Charges That a Civil Rights Hero Was an FBI Spy Shouldn’t Shock Us via Colorlines by Barbara Ransby on 9/17/10
These stories remind us not only that our government has routinely violated the basic civil liberties of so many black activists over several generations, but it reminds us of the complexities and limitations of presumed racial loyalty. The Black Press was given access to movement events and meetings in the 1960s that white reporters were not. Why? It was assumed that a level of racial solidarity and loyalty existed. Maybe that was true. But maybe it wasn’t. We continue to project false expectations onto politicians and self-appointed race leaders because of phenotype rather than politics, ideas and other more tangible markers of “loyalty” to oppressed people. Everyone who looks like “us” is not a friend, and everyone who looks different is not automatically the enemy. This is a simple lesson that some of us still have to learn.
Promise of a better life leads to the nightmare of sexual slavery – CNN via articles.cnn.com on 9/18/10
Many people associate prostitution with women walking the streets in shady areas and being picked up by johns. But Claudia says the prostitution ring for which she was forced to work had a long list of clients who knew the price they had to pay, who to call and where to go. It’s a well-organized and lucrative underground industry. Luis CdeBaca monitors human trafficking at the U.S. State Department. He says there are no reliable figures on the scale of the problem, but forced prostitution from Mexico and Central America is a big part of it.
- Teens report high exposure to sex education (washingtontimes.com)
- Most Teens Receive Formal Sex Ed (webmd.com)
- A Bleak Picture For Young Black Male Students (npr.org)
- CDC: One-third of sex ed omits birth control (msnbc.msn.com)
There’s not a whole lot more I can say that hasn’t already been said by Macon, so I won’t recreate the wheel, except to say this: any time you are tempted to ask someone whether they’re being hypersensitive about race (which is code for accusing them of playing the race card), ask yourself FIRST whether you’re being INsensitive about race (and put away your white privilege card).
So far, I would say it’s something like this — white people don’t have to think much about race; however, given the ongoing reality of racism, most non-white people do have to think about it, and analyze it, and figure out how it works. As a result, most white people know less about racism than most non-white people do. Nevertheless, a great, sad, and even tragic irony is that when non-white people take the time and effort to explain examples of racism, white people often doubt what they’re hearing, they often think they know more about a phenomenon with which they’ve had less direct experience, and they often want to talk about something else instead. They also commonly fail to understand how dismissive they’re being when they do those things.
- Dr. Laura Reveals 15 Ways to Pretend You’re Not Racist (race.change.org)
- You won’t have Dr. Laura to kick around anymore (pinkbananaworld.com)
- Dr. Laura’s N-bomb meltdown (salon.com)
- Dr. Laura’s Rhetoric More Offensive than her Words (psychologytoday.com)
- Dr. Laura’s n-word rant the latest in string of slurs (thegrio.com)
- 5 Ways White People Should Continue to Seek Justice for Oscar Grant (race.change.org)