Time to Confront Racism

Enough Finger-Pointing: That Kid in the MAGA Hat Is My Kid! (He’s Yours Too)

Our White youth should expect us to demand better behavior from them.
cnnscreenshot_tilted.jpg

It’s so easy to point fingers. And we shouldn’t be so quick to do so.

But in this case, despite what many media outlets are trying to tell us a week out from that Lincoln Memorial encounter, we should be pointing.

And yes, also at our own children.

It’s right to publicly repudiate that smirking, sneering White face under a red MAGA cap, planted inches from wisdom being manifest by and through Nathan Phillips. It’s right to denounce the mocking mimicry of Native dance being performed by White bodies surrounding Phillips and Nick Sandmann, and the sarcastic comments you can hear on any of the videos — “dude, what’s going on???”’ repeated not as a real question but as an invitation to more ridiculing laughter, and, yes, even the “tomahawk chop.”

So, yes, point fingers. But let’s also have a real conversation about our children’s mournful display of racist behavior.

Here’s a group of White youth clearly ignorant about the reality that Native peoples are living, breathing, diverse human beings who have inherent dignity. Here is a group of White boys walking around with an emboldened sense of being so untouchable that the thought of showing deference to an elder never seems to cross their minds. (Let us not pretend here. I don’t care who you are or how complex you think the larger context of the day’s events makes things — we all know those kids would have showed at least some deference if the man standing before them had been White.)

What’s been held up is a mirror, and what’s being reflected back is the terrifying state of our national present and plenty of good reasons to fear what this may portend. Mirrors can be haunting. The closer you peer into a mirror, the more you get drawn in to the never-ending spiral of images that fold and reflect back upon themselves, repeating over and over and over.

We White adults who bear the daunting responsibility of actually raising White youth in the United States would do well to recognize and acknowledge that those same behaviors that were on display for all the world to see were our own not so long ago.

And the White kid in the video? That’s, my kid, today. Guess what? He’s yours, too.

Those fingers we’re pointing should also be directed toward us.

Don’t miss me. I know there’s a whole ton, and more, of White caregivers who wouldn’t let their kids go anywhere near a so-called “March for Life.” I certainly wouldn’t. And I’m pretty sure a whole cadre of White kids coming up right now may as well get used to the idea they’re never going to be allowed out of the house in a red baseball hat again. Because I don’t care if it’s actually a National Honor Society logo. If there’s any chance my little blond child might be mistaken as endorsing the White nationalist agenda now ravaging this country, even from a distance or for a moment — well, it’s just not happening.

But I’m not talking about these obvious things.

Most of us responsible for raising White kids — not just White parents, but coaches, neighbors, uncles, retail clerks, grandmas, clergy people, teachers — don’t really know what we should be doing differently and, frankly, haven’t made it a priority to learn.

That’s so much scarier than what actually happened on the Mall that day. And the implications are far more devastating.

Let’s go back to the “tomahawk chop,” for one teeny, tiny example.

You’d never know it from the way some journalists are writing about White youth right now, but you know who actually can learn that the tomahawk chop is a racist, anti-Native White ritual?

Young White kids. Like, really young ones.

Kids are smart.

Meanwhile, even if yours don’t watch football, they’ve almost certainly been exposed to performances of the tomahawk chop. So, if you haven’t actively created opportunities to talk through with them what the tomahawk chop is and why it’s so racist . . . well, then, guess what? That’s your kid out there on the Mall.

Our children and youth (like us) are exposed to an infinite array of other images, rituals, cartoons, words, story lines that are also deeply anti-Native. These all nurture and sustain deformed public U.S. narratives about Native peoples. The narratives are so powerful and pervasive that lots of young non-Native U.S. children just assume Native peoples are mythical—more like “fairies” (at best) — instead of human beings who exist on this land base; many have active land rights struggles going on as we speak.

If I don’t, early and often (and over again), interrupt these narratives, if I don’t teach my White children to learn to notice the ways Native peoples are spoken of and about, if don’t show them that we who are not Native have to actively seek out different understanding, knowledge, and awareness because of the ways our collective colonial-supremacist histories continue to shape our lives in the present, if I don’t then model how to do that, then the person I should be pointing at is me.

It is time for us to point the finger at ourselves, accept the blame for this racist behavior, and stop making excuses for it.

Have we brainstormed and strategized with our White 15-year-olds about how they will intervene, not if, but when they find themselves in a group of youth who start to engage in racist “play”?

Have we brainstormed and strategized with our 5-year-olds about how they will intervene, not if, but when they’re with a group of kids and one of the White ones makes fun of the skin, hair or name of one of the Black or Latino/a ones?

White kids can be raised to be anti-racist and interrupt racism even if and as they, like we White adults, remain constantly enmeshed in racist systems that seek to benefit us to secure our complicity day after day.

So, if you — like me — have found yourself among the group of White adults pointing at those kids, then you — like me — need to decide just who it is you’re pointing at and what your next move is going to be.

Nothing about the more “complex” set of encounters in anyway excuses or exonerates any of the very obvious (and common) racist group behaviors of the Covington High School youth.

Don’t fall for the whitening of this narrative. If you’re not convinced, do the research. Start with other perspectives of this event.

Our White youth deserve us expecting and demanding better of them.

This article was originally published on Medium. It has been edited for YES! Magazine.

from:    https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/enough-finger-pointing-that-kid-in-the-maga-hat-is-my-kid-hes-yours-too-20190128

Reflections on The Election

The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story


The following was originally published on The New and Ancient Story.

Normal is coming unhinged. For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that society is sound, that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress.

A Clinton Presidency would have offered four more years of that pretense. A woman President following a black President would have meant to many that things are getting better. It would have obscured the reality of continued neoliberal economics, imperial wars, and resource extraction behind a veil of faux-progressive feminism. Now that we have, in the words of my friend Kelly Brogan, rejected a wolf in sheep’s clothing in favor of a wolf in wolf’s clothing, that illusion will be impossible to maintain.

The wolf, Donald Trump (and I’m not sure he’d be offended by that moniker) will not provide the usual sugarcoating on the poison pills the policy elites have foisted on us for the last forty years. The prison-industrial complex, the endless wars, the surveillance state, the pipelines, the nuclear weapons expansion were easier for liberals to swallow when they came with a dose, albeit grudging, of LGBTQ rights under an African-American President.

I am willing to suspend my judgement of Trump and (very skeptically) hold the possibility that he will disrupt the elite policy consensus of free trade and military confrontation – major themes of his campaign. One might always hope for miracles. However, because he apparently lacks any robust political ideology of his own, it is more likely that he will fill his cabinet with neocon war hawks, Wall Street insiders, and corporate reavers, trampling the wellbeing of the working class whites who elected him while providing them their own sugar-coating of social conservatism.

The social and environmental horrors likely to be committed under President Trump are likely to incite massive civil disobedience and possibly disorder. For Clinton supporters, many of whom were halfhearted to begin with, the Trump administration could mark the end of their loyalty to our present institutions of government. For Trump supporters, the initial celebration will collide with gritty reality when Trump proves as unable or unwilling as his predecessors to challenge the entrenched systems that continually degrade their lives: global finance capital, the deep state, and their programming ideologies. Add to this the likelihood of a major economic crisis, and the public’s frayed loyalty to the existing system could snap.

We are entering a time of great uncertainty. Institutions so enduring as to seem identical to reality itself may lose their legitimacy and dissolve. It may seem that the world is falling apart. For many, that process started on election night, when Trump’s victory provoked incredulity, shock, even vertigo. “I can’t believe this is happening!”

At such moments, it is a normal response to find someone to blame, as if identifying fault could restore the lost normality, and to lash out in anger. Hate and blame are convenient ways of making meaning out of a bewildering situation. Anyone who disputes the blame narrative may receive more hostility than the opponents themselves, as in wartime when pacifists are more reviled than the enemy.

Racism and misogyny are devastatingly real in this country, but to blame bigotry and sexism for voters’ repudiation of the Establishment is to deny the validity of their deep sense of betrayal and alienation. The vast majority of Trump voters were expressing extreme dissatisfaction with the system in the way most readily available to them. (See here, here, here, here) Millions of Obama voters voted for Trump (six states who went for Obama twice switched to Trump). Did they suddenly become racists in the last four years? The blame-the-racists (the fools, the yokels…) narrative generates a clear demarcation between good (us) and evil (them), but it does violence to the truth. It also obscures an important root of racism – anger displaced away from an oppressive system and its elites and onto other victims of that system. Finally, it employs the same dehumanization of the other that is the essence of racism and the precondition for war. Such is the cost of preserving a dying story. That is one reason why paroxysms of violence so often accompany a culture-defining story’s demise.

The dissolution of the old order that is now officially in progress is going to intensify. That presents a tremendous opportunity and danger, because when normal falls apart the ensuing vacuum draws in formerly unthinkable ideas from the margins. Unthinkable ideas range from rounding up the Muslims in concentration camps, to dismantling the military-industrial complex and closing down overseas military bases. They range from nationwide stop-and-frisk to replacing criminal punishment with restorative justice. Anything becomes possible with the collapse of dominant institutions. When the animating force behind these new ideas is hate or fear, all manner of fascistic and totalitarian nightmares can ensue, whether enacted by existing powers or those that arise in revolution against them.

That is why, as we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force to animate the structures that might appear after the old ones crumble. I would call it love if it weren’t for the risk of triggering your New Age bullshit detector, and besides, how does one practically bring love into the world in the realm of politics? So let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in this together. In what together? For starters, we are in the uncertainty together.

We are exiting an old story that explained to us the way of the world and our place in it. Some may cling to it all the more desperately as it dissolves, looking perhaps to Donald Trump to restore it, but their savior has not the power to bring back the dead. Neither would Clinton have been able to preserve America as we’d known it for too much longer. We as a society are entering a space between stories, in which everything that had seemed so real, true, right, and permanent comes into doubt. For a while, segments of society have remained insulated from this breakdown (whether by fortune, talent, or privilege), living in a bubble as the containing economic and ecological systems deteriorate. But not for much longer. Not even the elites are immune to this doubt. They grasp at straws of past glories and obsolete strategies; they create perfunctory and unconvincing shibboleths (Putin!), wandering aimlessly from “doctrine” to “doctrine” – and they have no idea what to do. Their haplessness and half-heartedness was plain to see in this election, their disbelief in their own propaganda, their cynicism. When even the custodians of the story no longer believe the story, you know its days are numbered. It is a shell with no engine, running on habit and momentum.

We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?

It is time now to bring this question and the empathy it arouses into our political discourse as a new animating force. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature of misogynist and bigot to find the real person.

Even if the person you face IS a misogynist or bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible behind a caricature of evil.

We’ve got to stop acting out hate. I see no less of it in the liberal media than I do in the right-wing. It is just better disguised, hiding beneath pseudo-psychological epithets and dehumanizing ideological labels. Exercising it, we create more of it. What is beneath the hate? My acupuncturist Sarah Fields wrote to me, “Hate is just a bodyguard for grief. When people lose the hate, they are forced to deal with the pain beneath.”

I think the pain beneath is fundamentally the same pain that animates misogyny and racism – hate in a different form. Please stop thinking you are better than these people! We are all victims of the same world-dominating machine, suffering different mutations of the same wound of separation. Something hurts in there. We live in a civilization that has robbed nearly all of us of deep community, intimate connection with nature, unconditional love, freedom to explore the kingdom of childhood, and so much more. The acute trauma endured by the incarcerated, the abused, the raped, the trafficked, the starved, the murdered, and the dispossessed does not exempt the perpetrators. They feel it in mirror image, adding damage to their souls atop the damage that compels them to violence. Thus it is that suicide is the leading cause of death in the U.S. military. Thus it is that addiction is rampant among the police. Thus it is that depression is epidemic in the upper middle class. We are all in this together.

Something hurts in there. Can you feel it? We are all in this together. One earth, one tribe, one people.

We have entertained teachings like these long enough in our spiritual retreats, meditations, and prayers. Can we take them now into the political world and create an eye of compassion inside the political hate vortex? It is time to do it, time to up our game. It is time to stop feeding hate. Next time you post on line, check your words to see if they smuggle in some form of hate: dehumanization, snark, belittling, derision.., some invitation to us versus them. Notice how it feels kind of good to do that, like getting a fix. And notice what hurts underneath, and how it doesn’t feel good, not really. Maybe it is time to stop.

This does not mean to withdraw from political conversation, but to rewrite its vocabulary. It is to speak hard truths with love. It is to offer acute political analysis that doesn’t carry the implicit message of “Aren’t those people horrible?” Such analysis is rare. Usually, those evangelizing compassion do not write about politics, and sometimes they veer into passivity. We need to confront an unjust, ecocidal system. Each time we do we will receive an invitation to give in to the dark side and hate “the deplorables.” We must not shy away from those confrontations. Instead, we can engage them empowered by the inner mantra that my friend Pancho Ramos-Stierle uses in confrontations with his jailers: “Brother, your soul is too beautiful to be doing this work.” If we can stare hate in the face and never waver from that knowledge, we will access inexhaustible tools of creative engagement, and hold a compelling invitation to the haters to fulfill their beauty.

Image: Creative Commons – picture by Abhi Ryan

from:    http://realitysandwich.com/320959/the-election-of-hate-grief-and-a-new-story/

Reflecting on Tomorrow

A moving and powerful statement from my daughter, Emilie Clasgens Wilson, in regard to standing up for WHO we are in the midst of uncertainty and fear:

I’m not one to post my personal feelings and opinions on Facebook. I appreciate and tend to guard my privacy. But I woke up this morning after a restless night of sleep to memories of Trump onstage, standing next to his young son who looked like a forgotten boy, unsupported by adults, and I remembered echoes of his hollow acceptance speech.

I jumped on my phone, on Facebook, to try to connect with people who might feel as I do, to commiserate as conscientious objectors in mourning.

I see sorrow, anger, and disbelief.

I see genuine hopefulness, too.

I’ll cling to that, because it’s all I’ve got right now.

I see people who are afraid that we’ll slide back into a time of outright racism, homophobia, sexism, a time when you and your loved ones can be physically, verbally, emotionally assaulted for practicing a particular religion or identifying as a particular gender or being born on the other side of invisible lines for just being anything other than a white man born in America.

I made myself a promise this morning:

I will not take my position in this country, or in this world, for granted.
I will NOT participate in subtle or overt racism, sexism, homophobia, or in anything that implies or states the inherent “betterness” of one group of people.
I will stand up for my rights and for the rights of my fellow Americans to be exactly who we are, and to fight the fear that we may be entering a time when we could once again be penalized for this.

Because I have to do something: I promise I won’t do nothing.

You can contact Emilie Clasgens Wilson @ http://www.mindbodycenterforintegrativemedicine.com/

Desmond Tutu On Healing After Ferguson

Can America Heal After Ferguson? We Asked Desmond Tutu and His Daughter

South Africans surprised everyone by transitioning to a relatively peaceful post-apartheid society. Here’s what Americans can learn.
desmond-tutu-zuckerman-primary.jpg

The Rev. Mpho Tutu and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Photo by Andrew Zuckerman.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is perhaps the closest thing the world has to an expert on forgiveness. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he led the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was charged with healing the wounds inflicted by generations of institutionalized racism.

“What you do to me lives in you.”

His work helped South Africa transition from an apartheid state to a multiracial democracy. In the process, Tutu and the Commission considered more than 7,000 applications for amnesty, acting on the idea that everyone deserves the chance to walk the road of redemption.

Tutu remains widely sought after for his wisdom, particularly as countries around the world attempt to use the process of truth and reconciliation to heal from their own legacies of conflict and hurt. He and his daughter the Rev. Mpho Tutu recently released their Book of Forgiving, a guide for both perpetrators and victims of violence to embrace their mutual humanity and learn how to forgive, and how to be forgiven.

For the Summer 2015 issue of YES! Magazine, titled “Make It Right,” Desmond and Mpho Tutu were interviewed by YES! Editor in Chief Sarah van Gelder and contributor Fania Davis, a civil rights attorney and executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth.

We wanted to know how the United States could recover from a legacy of slavery, lynchings, disenfranchisement, and mass incarceration. What is the process of forgiving on such a scale, and could a truth and reconciliation process work in an America currently boiling over with racial tensions?

The Tutus responded in an audio recording. An edited version of the interview appears in the Summer 2015 issue, but the full interview, featuring the voices of both father and daughter, is presented here.

On Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an ancient southern African belief that suggests individuals exist only in relationship with other living beings. As all living things are relatives, it is our responsibility to take care of one another. Desmond and Mpho Tutu begin by speaking about Ubuntu, and how its basic precept of interdependence informs the cycle of forgiveness by emphasizing that, as Mpho says, “what you do to me lives in you.”

On reconciliation

“Truth and reconciliation” has become part of the lexicon since the end of apartheid, but what do those words actually mean? The Tutus explain how the act of truth-telling plays a vital role in facilitating the process of reconciliation, and why the ability to reconcile and forgive is a sign of courage rather than weakness.

On history and human nature

One major obstacle to reconciliation is the lack of a shared perspective between perpetrator and victim, and in the case of healing racial trauma, the divergent experiences of whites and blacks. Desmond and Mpho Tutu argue that while there can be no truly common narrative, reconciliation relies on each side telling their version of truth while maintaining respect for the other’s story. And Archbishop Tutu talks about his realization that all human beings carry within them the best and worst of human nature

On truth and reconciliation in the United States

In the wake of the storm of police violence against black people raging across the United States, the Tutus consider the question of whether a truth and reconciliation process is needed in America, and if it could help heal the still-bleeding wounds of racism.

On forgiveness, family, and inner peace

In the final part of the interview, Desmond and Mpho Tutu reflect on the power of apologies, the need for material reparations, and the importance of forgiveness in dictating the world’s future. They also speak about truth and reconciliation within their own family, and how they are able to maintain their own inner peace.

Sarah van Gelder, Fania Davis, and Miles Schneiderman conducted this interview for Make It Right, the Summer 2015 issue of YES! Magazine. Sarah is editor in chief of YES!Fania is a civil rights attorney and co-founder and executive director of RJOY, Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth.Miles is an editorial intern.
from:    http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/desmond-mpho-tutu-interview

Job Discrimination Based on Zodiac Signs

Scorpios Need Not Apply: Zodiac Signs Inspire Job Bias

Benjamin Radford, Life’s Little Mysteries Contributor
Date: 02 December 2011 Time: 03:33 PM ET
Figure 2. If you were born between March 21 and April 19, your astrological sign is said to be Aries. But this was only true for a while, back when the system was set up in 600 BC. Today, the Sun is no longer within the constellation of Aries during much of that period. From March 11 to April 18, the Sun is actually in the constellation of Pisces!

Everyone knows (or should know) that it’s illegal for businesses to discriminate against people because of their gender, race, religion and other things, at least in the United States. But what about rejecting an applicant based on their astrological sign?

According to a job listing in the Chutian Metropolis Daily newspaper in Wuhan, China, a language training company there is seeking qualified applicants — as along as they’re not Scorpios or Virgos. The Toronto Sun reported that Xia, a spokeswoman for the company, said that in her experience Scorpios and Virgos are often “feisty and critical.” Xia said, “I hired people with those two star signs before, and they either liked quarrelling with colleagues or they could not do the job for long.”

She preferred potential applicants who were born under certain constellations, such as Capricorns, Libras and Pisces. To some it may seem like a bad joke, but it’s not funny to qualified applicants desperate for a job who get turned away because of the company’s credence in astrology.

It’s not the first time an employer has come under fire for zodiac sign discrimination. In 2009 an Austrian insurance company advertised, “‘We are looking for people over 20 for part-time jobs in sales and management with the following star signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Aquarius, Aries and Leo.”

That advertisement prompted an investigation by authorities. Remarkably, they concluded that the company’s stated preference for certain astrological signs was not illegal: not because there was any validity to astrology or because the practice was not discriminatory, but because at the time, Austrian laws regulating equal opportunity in hiring only applied to discrimination by gender, age and race. In other words, it was legal because the law was not specifically written to include applicants being denied jobs because of their astrological sign.

There are very strong similarities between astrology and racism. The idea behind astrology is that people born at certain times and places share specific, distinguishing personality characteristics (in the Chinese case, that Scorpios and Virgos are hard to get along with and that Libras and Pisces are not). The idea behind racism is that people who were born with a certain skin color or with certain racial features share specific, distinguishing personality characteristics (for example that African-Americans are lazy, or that Chinese are bad drivers).

Astrology and racism are rooted in the same basic worldview: That people can be categorized and judged based not on their individual merits, talents or abilities but instead by their skin color or when they were born. One other similarity between the two: Neither should disqualify a person from getting a job.

from:    http://www.livescience.com/17291-astrology-job-discrimination-china.html