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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.

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Where is the justice?

June 24, 2011 1 comment

To borrow from my fellow blogger Barb.…

So the thing is…. there’s a lot that I haven’t had time to blog about for the last six plus months, but if we’re Facebook friends  you know I’m taking a six week class called “Spanish for Social Justice Summer Intensive.” I’ll tell you more about that later, but for now…. just know that it’s awesome and you should find one in your community. If you can’t find one, beg and plead and campaign until you can get one started.  But more on all that later.

But that’s something we’ll have to talk about later, because I only have a quick minute and something(s) on my mind.

Earlier in the week I received a letter from the Maricopa County prosecutor’s office, informing me that the man who attempted to steal Tyler’s bike and an empty propane tank is being charged with a class 4 felony. According to the officers at the scene, it was obvious the man was mentally disabled (though lucid enough to know he shouldn’t be stealing).

I asked myself, when am I going to stop thinking like a white girl when it comes to law enforcement? But more on this too, another time.

Last night I attended a Spanish-En​glish Language Exchange at the Worker’s Rights Center with fellow classmates who are learning Spanish and workers that have either sought services for a workplace violation or joined a leadership course for their personal interest in social justice issues (mainly worker and immigrant rights). WRC has been preparing for a “wage theft” campaign, and this was an opportunity for Spanish learners and English learners to help each other practice speaking and listening skills.

I was familiar with the wage theft issue from a macro level, but not some of the details…. like how Arizona state law only allows wage claims up to $2500 for wages not paid in a year. In the last three years, the helped manage cases consisting of nearly a million dollars in wage theft. They’ve been able to get back less than 20% of el robo de sueldos. Or how wage theft is not even a misdemeanor in Arizona… if I remember correctly, it’s a civil offense. I didn’t know there was a surge in wage theft in our state after the passing of SB1070. Once again, our broken policies have created a perfect storm for exploitation.

So you might be thinking this is a random update on what I’ve been up to lately, and I guess it is. But this is my point….

It’s surreal to me that a mentally disabled man can be charged with a felony for stealing property that probably is valued at less than $100, but there are no consequences worth speaking of when you intentionally steal someone’s wages.

I wonder again, what kind of people we have become.

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.

I’m no Sister Souljah

August 23, 2010 2 comments

A couple weeks ago I was given two compliments that warmed my heart and troubled my soul at the same time.

A friend asked me to comment on what it’s like to live in Arizona under 287(g) and SB1070. I shared our experience in “Ground Zero” and he replied that I was a real American Superhero.

Later that evening, I was chatting with another friend, mentioned how tired I was of summer, which of course prompted the suggestion that I move. Quoting Dexter from the Ruckus Society, I responded,

I’m living in ground zero for racism in America. Too much to be done here.

And among several lovely things that were said, was the comment,

When Sister Souljah grows up, she wants to be like you 🙂

This couldn’t be further from the truth, and not just because I had to Wiki her. Both these comments came from friends who each experience discrimination on ltwo different levels that I will never personally experience, so their positive feedback, particularly conaidering the relative oxymoron of “white allyship”, meant the world to me. But I’m no hero, and I’m certainly no Sistah Souljah. I’m just trying to be in right relationships with my black, brown, gold and rainbow brothers and sisters. While it’s always admiraable to do the right thing, and even more so in the face of resistance or even just against popular opinion, my witness is no great personal sacrifice, carries no inherent risk. Read more…

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

 

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…

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