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)
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)
I’d like to point out a few things… first of all, it’s a community center, not a mosque. There’s a difference. Kinda like the 92nd St Y offers services to the entire community AS WELL AS a synagogue. I’m guessing a good many people who are up in arms about this community center don’t live near it and probably have never been to Ground Zero… don’t know who lives and/or works in the area or what that community needs now, nearly ten years later.
Second: American Muslims lost their lives on 9/11 too. Nost only did the American Islamic community experience loss, they’ve been subject to increased discrimination, racial profiling, and hate crimes. Do non-Muslim Americans think they corner the market on pain and suffering?
Third: Masjid Manhattan, the mosque (as in, MOSQUE, not community or cultural center) that has been four blocks away from Ground Zero since 1970. Why, might you ask? BECAUSE PEOPLE OF ISLAMIC FAITH HAVE LIVED AND WORKED IN THAT COMMUNITY FOR AS LONG AS THE WORLD TRADE CENTER WAS THERE, BEFORE IT WAS THERE, AND HAVE CONTINUED TO DO SO SINCE IT’S BEEN GONE.
Did you think all these “radicals” up and moved or got jobs near Ground Zero to rub salt in your wounds?
Moses was radical.
Jesus Christ was radical.
The signers of our Declaration of Independence? RADICAL!
Abraham Lincoln was radical.
Alice Paul and Lucy Burns were radical.
Martin Luther King Jr. was radical.
Mahatma Ghandi was radical.
Siddhārtha Gautama was radical.
Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama? Radical.
Stop saying it like it’s a bad thing… because every Freedom Fighter who ever fought for justice in this world was called a radical by their detractors. And if you don’t live in that community, butt out of it. If it’s not Obama’s business, what makes it yours?via Ground Zero Mosque Imam Helped FBI With Counterterrorism Efforts.
- 9/11 Protests Over Proposed Islamic Center (VIDEO REPORT) (huffingtonpost.com)
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?
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.