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a living faith

September 18, 2011 4 comments

I have felt a gulf widening between myself and the Unitarian Universalist faith over the last year. I had expected activism to change me in profound ways; I just didn’t expect part of what drew me to this faith to eventually push me away. More and more often I ask myself, “What am I doing here? What am I representing? What represents me?”

We are a faith that is very proud of our commitment to social justice. We collect donations for charitable organizations and donate the proceeds of our collection plate once a month. We participate in legislative campaigns. We buy free trade goods in our sanctuaries or from artisans we invite into our space. We attend social action luncheons and serve in soup kitchens. We show up to march in parades in decent numbers, slightly less for vigils and protests, unless there is an opportunity for us to sing or some form of “alter call” from congregational leadership. But I rarely see UU’s  when our partner groups request volunteers or hold fundraisers. We’ll invite people into our space, meet them in neutral spaces, but rarely will we meet them in theirs.

I recognize that there are exceptions… but the fact that these two communities have such a small percentage of overlap is one of my biggest frustrations. I wonder if listing an organization as a partner on our website and showing up at the occasional demonstration or community event in our matching t-shirts is all we’re capable of. Displays of solidarity, participating in visible resistance efforts is a big, and important, part of justice work. But investing enough of ourselves to build the personal relationships necessary for an allied partnership seems to be beyond us more often than not. There is a reluctance to put ourselves in spaces where we would be the minority in the room, and resistant to sacrificing any of our time or investing our emotional energy. We’re all so proud of the justice work being done, but so few of us want to do it.

I’ve spoken with other allied activists & organizers and many have experienced the same frustrations. I was talking with friend and UU seminarian and commented that I was committed to my congregation thru the end of this RE year. After that, I don’t know. Unless there is a substantial shift in culture, I just don’t know. Which was followed by a discussion of whether I thought this culture was unique to my congregation or the entire faith, and how change is slow but we’re making progress. She’s not the first person to give me some version of the “arc of the moral universe” talk. As much as I love the quote, as much comfort as I find in it when applied to the folks across the aisle, hearing it applied to my faith both frustrates and outrages me.

Rage and fury and impotence aren’t really the emotions I was searching and yearning for when I went looking for a religious home. And as much as I love many, many members of my church family, as inspiring as I find my minister in and out of the pulpit, there are just far too many times that I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. “We’re making progress.” “Change is slow.” “They’re trying… they mean well.” It sounds just like that girl, we all know her (hell, I was her), “He really loves me. He didn’t mean it. He’ll change.”

And maybe if my family looked different, if my closest friends and the vast majority of my support system looked different… if my neighborhood looked different, I might be a little more inclined to be patient. But my daughter told me last night that a classmate said to her, “You’re a black girl. Why don’t you just smack so and so?”… and it’s not the first time that kind of comment has been made. Women I love have reached out after having being hurt by someone’s unintended slur or stereotype, their colorblind ignorance… hands and voices trembling with hurt and anger. They speak of fear that speaking out will be interpreted as or strengthen certain stereotypes… or that they are most angry with themselves for having let down the wall they usually maintain with white people and being hurt because they hadn’t been on guard, hadn’t seen it coming. I have friends who have been harassed by police because of their skin color and/or accents, who get the full force of the law for minor traffic violations while we get passes for more serious infractions.

If this wasn’t my world, maybe I’d be less cynical and more magnanimous. I don’t want to be the only radical in my congregation (and that I’m considered a radical by fellow UU’s still perplexes me). But maybe I’d be willing to stick it out and be part of the catalyst for change my friends talk about. Maybe the stagnant pace of progress wouldn’t feel corrosive to my soul.

But this is my world, so forgive me, but I don’t care about your (our) good intentions anymore. I care about the impact of our individual and collective inability to live our faith and principles in meaningful and intentional allied relationships and how that effects people struggling for human dignity. I care about the people we hurt, directly or indirectly, with our good intentions.

This wasn’t easy to write. and I know that it may hurt or offend fellow UU’s, particularly those I have a personal relationship with.  But someone I love and respect asked me specifically to blog about this, and maybe she was right in that this is something that needs to be said, and heard.

Where are you on the Oppression Action Continuum? It’s not enough to educate yourself about an issue. If you are aware of an oppression and haven’t gotten involved, you are enabling that oppression. We can’t all do everything… but if we all did whatever we could instead of nothing at all, how amazing could we be? There is no small part of a justice movement; we all have our unique gifts, skills, and talents to offer even when our time or financial resources are limited.

I have found more personal fulfillment, been more deeply inspired, experienced more joy, felt more love, and seen more of God in the year I’ve been working with the activist community than I have in any church I’ve attended in all my thirty seven years.

If you haven’t invested of your self, what are you waiting for?

Oppression Action Continuum from Heeding the Call Justice Makers Curriculum

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CURLYKIDZ SUMMER READING LIST 2011

May 3, 2011 1 comment

So it’s been quite a while since I’ve put an appearance around here. Volleyball took over my life a little more than usual this year, and while that was truly a moving and transformational and profound experience, I’m really looking forward to the end of the regular season this weekend. The rest of May is focused on fundraising for our trip to the National Starlings Volleyball Tournament in June and helping Tyler wrap up his requirements for his Coming of Age program, the Aerospace Awards Ceremony, and COA “promotion” and his semester finals. I should be around more then, but in the meantime I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve added to our reading list. While I did quit TV more than a year ago, we still tend to veg on movies & Netflix in our downtime. I’ve got what I think is a really awesome lineup of books I wish I’d read as a kid and books I wish had been published when I was a kid (there’s only one that I’ve read), which the kids and I will be reading together for whatever part of the summer whoever is home. I got all but the last two books, I think, used from Amazon for less than $5 each (and got super saver shipping on the entire order to boot). I’m thinking of blogging some book reviews & sharing our impressions and thoughts of the books. If you join us in reading any of these, I hope you’ll chime in as we go on.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Riding Freedom
Calico Captive
Amos Fortune, Free Man (Newbery Library, Puffin)
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Esperanza Rising
Where the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker
Becoming Naomi Leon
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison
The Devil’s Arithmetic
The Witch of Blackbird Pond Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company
The Dreamer (Ala Notable Children’s Books. Older Readers)
Freedom Summer

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.



Fun Friday

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment

 Don’t need a trip to the beauty shop. ‘Cause I love what I got on top. It’s curly and it’s brown and it’s right up there! You know what I love? That’s right, my hair! I really love my hair!

Spiral Piggy-Back Braid & Three Strand Twists

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Daija is spending the week with Biker Grandma & Grandpa… this is the hairstyle she went with. From what I hear, it’s holding up really well and has been very popular around town. We’ll see how it looks when I pick her up on Saturday! Fingers crossed… you know we’ve had trouble when Daija went to visit family in years past!

IMG00627-20101010-2045  IMG00629-20101010-2045 IMG00631-20101010-2046 IMG00632-20101010-2046 IMG00633-20101010-2047IMG00634-20101010-2048

Saturday Share from Cyndi’s Google Reader

September 18, 2010 Leave a comment

 

Cathleen Falsani: Anam Cara: Praying for Our Kids and Their ‘Soul Friends’ via Religion on HuffingtonPost.com by Cathleen Falsani on 9/13/10

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.” 

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. 

 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. 

What is the purpose of (sex) education via Adolescent Sexuality by Dr. Karen Rayne on 9/15/10 

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 Bleak Picture For Young Black Male Students via NPR Programs: Talk of the Nation on 9/13/10 

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 

Middle Schools Are Disciplining Kids by Throwing Them Away

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 

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. 

(View original at http://thesocietypages.org/socimages

‘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 

Collier, thinking 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 

PhotobucketAn 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 

Can anybody explain Water Communion to me in a way that doesn’t make it seem like it’s a glorified Show-and-Tell and another example of how classist UUism can be?  

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 

Charges That a Civil Rights Hero Was an FBI Spy Shouldn't Shock Us 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.

The sexualization of multiracial youth

September 1, 2010 6 comments

 

As we move out of the early years, through the middle years, into the teen and young adult years, I wonder how the objectification I wrote about years ago will impact my children. As they move from hearing stereotypes like “Mixed kids/babies are SOOO cute!” (I’m sorry, but they’re not all cute) to “Mixed guys/girls are so HOT” (or exotic or striking), I wonder how to prepare them for the harsh reality of interracial dating, which will be much different for them than it was for me. I think it’s obvious in  “Post Racial America” how deeply stereotypes are imbedded in our subconscious; when you couple that with a pop culture that objectifies women in general, particularly women of color, and romanticizes abusive relationships (from cliques to intimate partner abuse to domestic violence), I find myself worrying more about teen dating violence than teen pregnancy.  

As our children grow older, and going beyond the social interactions of elementary school, what do relationships look like from junior high through adulthood, if our children don’t feel comfortable setting boundaries?

 Thinking specifically about my children’s African ancestry, I’m reminded of an article I read titled Trying to Break A ‘Culture of Silence’ on Rape: Group Part of Movement Tailoring Recovery Efforts to Minority Women where psychologist Carolyn West explains,  

There was that belief that black women were unrapable,” West said. “Legally, it wasn’t a crime to rape black women, literally for hundreds of years.  

Going back to Does Anybody Else Look Like Me?, author Donna Nakazawa writes,  

Biracial girls are often considered beautiful objects of curiosity because of their exotic looks, this attention does not necessarily translate into dating partners.  

Read more…

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