Blogging

Dissent, haters and angry white people

How many times are you gonna use “silo of privilege?” It’s about as worn out, as your using the color of your skin as an excuse for all the world’s wrongs. Maybe it’s just that you’re arrogant, and that’s why whites don’t care for you. And if you hate Maine so much, just leave and move to” black is beautiful” Boston. (BTW: If you dislike Caucasians so much, then why did you marry one? It’s hugely hypocritical.)-Jamie a blog commenter

“What about us white men who were harassed by cops or treated unfairly by cops when we were younger, do we go around saying it was because of this or it was because of that? No, income class has more bearing on how a person is treated in our country than race. I’m sick of all these people saying that I must’ve had it easy because I’m white. I’m sure Will Smith’s kids are going to have a easier life than I did, confrontations with cops included. Stop the BS”– Kevin a poster on the BGIM Facebook page

“Shay never responds to questions, or even thanks people for commenting. I guess that it’s beneath her. She can complain all she wants, but at the end of the day it’s all about “race card.”– Chris a blog commenter

“U sound like a racist…your peeps! Come on black girl dont be such a fool. But i guess its a good thing u have come here to work and not sell drugs like 80% of black folk that come here.’– Shawna a blog commenter

I am not a writer by trade, I am a non profit administrator, researcher, and consultant with a background in both non-profit management and African-American studies who spent a number of years in the trenches of social services.  One could say that my background is rather eclectic. Writing was a long lost childhood dream that I reconnected with back in 2002 when I convinced a local newspaper to let me write a column. On the strength of my early pieces for the Portland Press Herald, I convinced a local indie paper to give me a column focusing on diversity. My Diverse City column with the Portland Phoenix celebrated 10 years last year. It was a little over six years ago when I decided to throw my hat into the blog arena.

One thing I learned early on when I started writing for an audience larger than myself is that people aren’t always going to agree with you. There will be readers who really think that your ideas, your writing and you suck. The first few times you receive less than stellar feedback, it hurts like hell but you learn to brush it off. Yet there are times when it is hard to brush off criticism and times when maybe you shouldn’t brush it off and this is one of those times.

Over the years, I have had my share of haters and dissent. Civil dissent I can respect, I have no illusions that my words will resonate with all. That would be absurd, this is not circle time in kindergarten where we must all get along. I can even say that at times, I have honesty dropped the ball in this space. One of my biggest challenges with this space is that as someone who has simultaneously ran organizations as my day work that require me to go above and beyond lest my staff nor I will be compensated, while juggling my family and household I am not always great at replying to commenters. I admit that and if ever someone was offended I do offer apologies.  Though as many readers have learned direct email is often the best way to get a timely response from me.  I am a flawed human being as we all are, and I try the best that I can. If that offends, I am sorry.

However in recent weeks and months, the level of virulent emails and comments (that I often don’t approve) that I have received has reached a level that frankly scares me. I shared a few of the tame ones at the beginning of this post because I am tired. My day job is heading up an organization that organizes for racial equity, I am well aware that racism exists but to have so many actively telling me that I am wrong or attempting to silence me is also wrong.

To put ones words and thoughts out for public consumption is to invite dissent or “trolls” but personal attacks or a general lack of civility is one thing I can’t tolerate. I write about race and it is not just my personal views, the research supports my words. As a researcher I know that my opinion needs to be backed up and I can do that. To answer my critics I don’t hate white people, my life partner of almost 20 years is white but I refuse to stuff myself down to appease anyone who is uncomfortable with reality as it is.

Today I came very close to shutting this blog down and committing digital suicide because in a moment of humanity, it hurt like hell to know that as someone committed to equity and justice, this space is a source of pain for me and my family. Yet to do that is to allow ignorance to win and well…my plucky side just can’t do that.

We don’t have to agree but if you are troubled by the words that I share here, I would ask why? Why is it uncomfortable to hear a Black person saying that we are not post racial and that racism is real? Why must be my words be met with statements that I should leave the state of Maine or to cut the BS? Why am I not entitled to stand in my truth as much as you stand in your truth (at least when it is truth; some of you make assumptions about reality that aren’t backed up by facts/research)? Why do you think you have the right to silence me?

If we cannot even agree to disagree in a respectful manner, maybe we should ask ourselves why? Acknowledging reality is not painful but avoiding it sure as hell is and in the end we all lose and we truly won’t ever move ahead.

Effective immediately comments are no longer allowed on posts older than 7 days. Also, be aware that if you cannot conduct civil discussions with other commenters or myself on this blog, you will likely be barred from commenting.

 

PS: There is no race card, I tried to get this mythical card but like the Amex Black card, no one knows anyone who has this card. In reality the term race card is how we stifle uncomfortable discussions about race. 

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When truth hurts or the painful blending of the public and private self

As a novice yogi looking to move beyond the poses (asana) and looking for the deeper connection and integration of body, mind and spirit, I have been reading The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and studying the 8 limbs of yoga. One of those limbs is yama (moral restraint) and breaks down into  ahimsā (non-harming), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), bramacharya (directing one’s energy towards the Divine), aparigraha (greedlessness, non-hoarding). Now that you have your yoga lesson, I must confess that I am struggling with truthfulness (satya).

Speaking my truth has been something I have been intentional about doing both in this space and in all areas of my life; but it seems merely speaking my truth is no longer good enough. Back in 2008, when I started this blog as I have said before, it was my corner to speak my truth and having few readers made it pretty easy. After all, I didn’t have to worry about upsetting anyone.

However the only constant in life is change and even in blog land, things change. As more and more people are online it means I have picked up more readers than I used to have. I once thought that was a good thing but honestly, I am not too sure anymore. Long story short, there are many people in my offline life who are now reading this space and to be honest, it isn’t comfortable.

Living in a small state, means the degrees of separation between people isn’t six at all; it’s more like two or maybe three degrees of separation. My professional life here in Maine is pretty public due to the nature of what I do and as a result, keeping my private life private is harder than it is for most and I fear this blog isn’t helping things. Closer to home, it’s clear that there are people who the Man Unit and I thought were good acquaintances, maybe even friends who after reading this space or following me via social media channels have clearly had second thoughts about us.

I won’t lie, it hurts to know that being myself and speaking my truth is starting to backfire on us personally. I have thought about calling it a wrap on the blog but this space has given me a way to make professional connections for my other passions such as writing. I was asked to be a contributor in an anthology on mothering that is being released in winter 2014. It’s not my own book, but as someone who has dreamed of being in print, it is a damn good start. After putting my heart into this space for 5 years, the idea of shutting it down because of other people hurts more than I care to admit. As a truth seeker though, I know that intentionally creating discomfort for others is also a problem. In short, I don’t know what to do. Professionally the people who employ me are fine with this space; several of my board members follow the BGIM fan page on Facebook and read here. Yet when donors bring up my disclosures and question why I am basically opening myself up online, I admit it gets sticky. Granted I have always tried to balance what I share publicly with making sure I keep private things private.

Yet in a world that is increasingly open and connected, I wonder if my worries are for naught? I don’t know but I do know that it feels like a problem that needs to be solved and as someone who values’ being able to solve problems, not having the answers is hard to stomach.

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Cheap laughs and the loss of courtesy

The internet and more specifically social media are literally changing the way we interact with one another. Information that used to take days, if not weeks to make the rounds can now be disseminated in a matter of hours. Thoughts and ways of being that used to be considered private are now routinely discussed with any and all. There are strangers who I have never met, yet I know more about their peccadilloes than I know of some of my oldest friends.  In some ways, it is the best of times and the worst of times. In moments of crisis, social media is a thing of beauty. Yet too many times in our excitement of embracing these new ways of being, we forget that common courtesy and respect never go out of style.

In many ways it is easy to forget when we blog, Facebook, tweet, and so on that at the end of the day we are real people dealing with other real people. When we forget that we are dealing with fellow travelers on this journey called life, it becomes easy to other and de-humanize one another. Most of us don’t start off that way but there have been times when I have been caught up in the moment and made a flippant comment not aware that my words are being read by someone else and that those words hold power. That a quick and dirty laugh is being made at the expense of someone else.

A few weeks ago, a blogger I admire deeply wrote a blog post that many took offense with. In the end I believe she spoke her truth, yet many were bothered by her post which is their right. However rather than deal with her as a fellow human, many resulted to slandering her character and making assumptions and attacks on her. People were so caught up in the moment that rather than take a step back to breathe and attempt respectful discourse, shallow and simple attacks became the rule. Behaviors like this are more and more common online it seems. Personally when I read anything online that riles me up, I take it as sign that I need to step back, unplug and plug into the people right next to me.

Today I came across a blog post from a blogger that I am not overly familiar with and while I understand that the post was written in a style that the blogger is known for, it broke my heart. Once upon a time as a society we knew instinctively that using children for cheap laughs and conversational fodder was simply not acceptable. That taking pictures of children that we have no connection to and posting them on our blogs or Instagram accounts even with their faces blacked out is simply not acceptable. To judge a child that we don’t know speaks to a certain level of depravity within ourselves.

In the course of our daily lives we encounter and see many things, some good and some bad. As someone who has spent years working with people in need, pretty much every day in my professional life brings an eyebrow raising moment. There have been many times I have wanted to crack wise online about a situation but I don’t. For starters, it is unprofessional. More importantly, what is the point? What do I get out of turning someone else into a punch line or talking point?  Nothing but a temporary buzz and if I need that buzz so much so that I will harm another, it is a sign that I am not healthy.

I am all for  sharing, but there is a time and a place and sometimes, some things are simply not meant for public consumption on a large scale.

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