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Friends and Allies

July 14, 2011 Leave a comment

2011-07-12_18-42-33_416

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.

imageI 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.

Finding Our Humanity: Calling on my fellow Euro-Americans

December 9, 2010 25 comments

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

THIS is why I cannot, will not, comply.

Arizona in Crayola: Multicultural, I guess. Non-Toxic, debatable.

 When I asked my son what might lead an officer to suspect someone was not in the country legally and he answered, with only a little doubt in his voice…

“Their race.”

To which I countered,

“What race are Americans?”

He responded, 

White.”

With no hesitation. None whatsoever.

[snipped]

My son is only 14 years old, and already he’s picked up the subconscious message about who is American and who is not. My son is only 14 years old, it already it is imbedded somewhere in his subconscious that Americans are white.

 Read More

 
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.



consult PPR_SCRIBE’S GUIDE TO BLOGGING ABOUT RACIST CRAP

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I bookmarked this two years ago, and I can’t believe it seems more relevant now than it did then. 

 

via GUIDE TO BLOGGING ABOUT RACIST CRAP.

migrations | Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

Are you a US citizen? Fair question… what I worry won’t be fair is who gets asked, and who gets believed. When it comes to immigration, “innocent until proven guilty” no longer seems to apply.  Not only does this criminalize undocumented workers, most of whom are guilty only of the CIVIL (not criminal) crime of crossing the border, but also criminalizes US citizens & legal resident aliens.

How long does it take to prove your immigration status if you don’t have your birth certificate and/or passport with you? How long does it take when you do? There are news stories that document citizens and legal resident aliens being detained for up to three days, stories of citizens and legal resident aliens being deported.

How would you explain to your employer why you didn’t make it to work for three days? Who would care for your children?

Todos somos Arizona.

Are you a U.S. citizen?” he asks my husband.

“Yes.” What would have happened ten years ago, before my husband was naturalized?

“Are you a U.S. citizen, ma’am?” he asks, his gaze shifting to me.

“Yes.” I begin to panic. I never thought to bring our family’s passports along. For heaven’s sake, we’re trying to pass from Arizona to California.

“Are the children both U.S. citizens?”

“Yes.”

via migrations | Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix

CNN Newsroom: Blog Archive – U.S. Citizens Deported « – CNN.com Blogs

“You know what this proves to you? That in Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government, not state authorities, but the federal government, with all their technology and all their information capacity that they have, could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread,” the Chicago Democrat said.

A decision recently in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) underscores the tragic impact that current U.S. immigration policy has on families of legal U.S. residents and citizens.

In its decision (Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz et al, v. United States), the IACHR found that U.S. deportation policy violates fundamental human rights because it fails to consider evidence concerning destruction of families and the best interest of the children of deportees.

via Tragic result of immigration policy | desmoinesregister.com | The Des Moines Register

Maintaining that the U.S. government was behind a U.S. citizen’s imprisonment for more than a year in the United Arab Emirates, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking federal surveillance records.

via ACLU sues for government surveillance records of former Hawthorne man | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times

 

It’s official: white people done lost they minds

August 14, 2010 1 comment

We don’t need no stinkin’ facts. Frankly, I’m more scared of white people than Al Qaeda sometimes. The Jihadists are crazy, but some of my people are giving them a run for their money.

Rep.Gohmert, with all due respect, YOU are a terrorist. YOU are terrorizing the American public with wild speculation about some theory that might potentially happen in some wild realm of your imagination. What you did on the house floor is no better than yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. There’s a difference between credible evidence and wild speculation, and you should be able to decipher where that line is.

I have pretty much gotten used to the average Joe on the street insulting another’s patriotism in a disagreement like this, but I really expect better from an elected official, and a former judge.

 

What’s wrong with the idea of mothers sneaking into the country, giving birth, and sneaking back elsewhere to lovingly rear their children into U.S.-hating mini-Osamas? Besides the fact that there’s no evidence of such a phenomenon?

via PostPartisan – Terror babies? Really?.

Tea Parties, Coffee Parties… let’s all just have CAKE

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

In discussions about immigration and SB1070, people from both sides of the issue are prone to making sweeping statements and accusations about the other.  I had a really awesome talk with a “small government” friend this week, and we shared experiences of trying to engage people on the other side of the debate in dialogue about the ISSUE and finding ourselves on the receiving end of personal insults, both disappointed that people don’t want conversation; they are just looking for confrontation.

*heavy sigh* We can all do better than this.

I come from a military family… my mother, father, stepfather, grandfather and great grandfather all served in the military, so I grew up “everywhere.” I’ve lived in at least eight states… both coasts, the south and the midwest. I’ve lived overseas twice, and had the opportunity to visit several other countries as a result. I know, as one of my favorite hymns goes, that other hearts are beating in other lands, all just as beautiful as mine.

This is my song, oh God of all the nations
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine
a song of peace for their land and for mine.
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
This is my song, oh God of all the nations;

Read more…

going to a party… a tea party, that is…

August 12, 2010 8 comments

If you’re wondering if the title of this entry is a joke or a vie for your attention, it’s not. Well, definitely not the former, maybe a little bit the latter. This isn’t what I had planned for today, and even though this entry might make more sense if I publish the other one first, seeing as it is a detailed explanation of my personal views on SB1070, the article I have in draft will wait for another day, because right now I feel a need to “Witness.”

So, it happened like this… it was almost time to leave work, and I was well past done with stupid (I’ve been known to announce to the department, “Ok, that’s it… I’m done with stupid!”), and when I got up to put some docs I’d just reviewed in the next person’s inbox, and decided to visit a friend’s desk to insist that the happy hour we’ve been talking about for approximately two months needed to happen soon. He tortured me by listing all the weekends he’ll be out of town (damn single people), mentioned something about a rally he was planning on attending in DC, and then commented that he’d been planning on making me go to happy hour with him anyway.

Is it a tea party rally?

Well, no, but there’s nothing wrong with that. And a brief conversation about media coverage of tea party rally’s ensued… then,

How are you planning to “make” me go do something we’ve been talking about for two months?

Well, I know you and I agree on a LOT of stuff but we don’t believe the same things. And I know you’re not a wagon jumper… I know that you don’t just jump on the bandwagon, you have solid reasons behind it.

That boy couldn’t have melted my heart faster if it had been butter & he’d been holding a blowtorch. But I figured this had probably come up as a result of me wearing my Standing on the Side of Love shirt to work on July 30th, the day after the protests, which I realized in retrospect probably fueled a lot of speculation as to whether I’d spent the night in jail (alas, but no…).

So we got into a conversation about SB1070, and I explained my views on border security, the immigration system, and SB1070… what I think the problems are, what I think would fix them, etc. He listened, nodded frequently, and at the end of my monologue, said basically that my arguments are really solid, and when he’s tried to have conversations with people, all they can say is that it’s racist. To which I replied, “I agree that it’s racist, and this is why…” and as I spoke, he nodded, cracked a few grins cuz you all know I have no filters, and then said, “That totally makes sense, but nobody else that I have talked to has explained it that way.” And I talked a little bit about race relations, that in my experience, on one side you have a group of people who are very uncomfortable talking about race in mixed company because on the other hand, you have white people who are very uncomfortable hearing about race in mixed company. We as a whole are not very good at differentiating between personal racism and institutional racism, and white people are especially bad at it, and tend to assume that anytime someone says this law is racist, that they personally are being called racist and they immediately get defensive. The wall goes up and the communication goes down the toilet. More agreement from him, and he lamented that because he has favored the law, he’s been immediately being labeled a racist. I lamented that because I oppose it, because I actually believe in what we printed on the fucking Statue of Liberty, I get to be called anti American.

So as I’m preparing to go, he says, So do you want to go to a tea party rally with me? I thought about being in close quarters with that many white people (and yes, I have looked in a mirror lately)… “No, not really.” “C’mon, why? I’m serious, I’ve been to several and I’ve never seen anything like what hits the news. They’ve always been the nicest people, they just believe in small government like I do.”

And so I had to ask myself, OK Cyndi… WHY? You talked yourself hoarse two weeks ago about media bias and how deeply imbedded in our subconscious these racialized images are. Do you really believe that, and if you do, then you know that your reluctance to go anywhere with this friend who you admire and respect is based solely on a media stereotype. You’ve been all about the first principle… do you really affirm and promote the inherent dignity of all people? How many times have you commented wryly that you’re always preaching to the damn choir? You’re always talking about being the change you want to see in the world. Are you really open minded, or is that just CYNDI”S spin? Is this an opportunity for you to learn something and hopefully teach something?

So as I walked out I said over my shoulder, “I’ll go to a tea party rally with you if you go to an event with me.”

He said, Done deal.

I hope he likes yellow.

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