Racism roadmap, or Let’s talk about it

I’ve been online a lot recently. Too much, really. I’m not gonna lie, this means I’ve been losing my temper a lot. We got a racist governor up here in Maine, we got the “president” and his whole klan. Oh, and until recently we had a Nazi as the town manager of Jackman, Maine. He was fired, so at least there’s that.

Still, when I start to think about how often the morally weakest among us are activating each other, my face gets hot. I’m gonna try to keep cool on this because I like to write concisely, but, you know, my face is hot.

Here we go.

Racism isn’t measured. It’s not even defined, nationally. When an attempt is made, it’s often by those who can’t actually experience it. Race itself is designed only to designate power. White on top, everyone else in a big pile on the very distant the bottom. This makes racism an incredibly complex system that includes us as individuals as well as our institutions. And since we as Americans are not great at learning from our history, it only gets more complex over time. 

As a Black person, I wince when I hear someone call me “colored.” It’s not that the person is racist, necessarily. It’s that the use of that word shows that the person’s understanding of race is so out of date, the amount of work needed to understand the current complexity of the issue is unlikely to get done. And, honestly, there’s probably a reason the work wasn’t done in the first place.

Understanding of race is like a map. It needs to be up to date. A map of your town from the 1800s would not help you find a thing today. Everything would be unrecognizable. Sure, the map is valuable in that it’s important to learn about where the roads were back then. They’re the basis for the roads we have now, but that old map would still leave you lost as hell the second you stepped out your door. And it wouldn’t matter how much you loved the map or the good ol’ days from whence it came. We all gotta live right now.

Now, more or less, we operate under the presumption that we all want to be on the right path. Even though we live that way, we know it’s not true. We know that some people want the path to themselves, or just don’t care where they’re going at all, but we carry out our day-to-day as though we all agree.

The problems come when we’re all in the car together and we start to get the feeling the driver isn’t really looking at the GPS.

Yeah, we can ask him if he’s lost, but if he says no, that’s kinda where the conversation ends.  

Luckily, our understanding of the situation is not reliant on his admission. Like, if you’re on hour-three of a trip that only was supposed to last 10 minutes, you don’t really have to ask to know the truth.

The driver should to pull over and ask for directions. He needs to find someone familiar with the area and ask what to do. In other words, he needs to find someone who’s been down this road before. In other words, he needs to defer to someone with experience that he does not have…I think you see where I’m going here.

Unfortunately, in a moment like this, the driver probably doesn’t really care about being on the right path. The important thing for the driver is to never admit that he’s a racist—um, I mean lost. The driver must never admit that he’s lost. He may not even know he’s lost, even if everyone else around him knows. But it doesn’t really matter if he knows or not. Everyone else is trying to get on the right path, so he’s either gotta get in the back and let someone else drive or get the right directions! Ain’t no one got time to wait for some damn fool to figure out how to use his moral compass!

In fact, no! You ain’t gonna get in the back! You gonna get out of the car and figure out your shit all by yourself. If and when you do figure out how not to be lost, you can catch a ride with the next car going this way. They pass by all the time.

OK. While those of us who have been down this racist-ass road before can easily recognize just how lost you are, maybe you aren’t sure. Maybe you really don’t know whether or not you are lost. If that’s the case, please consult the list below. Do you use any or all of the following phrases?

1: I’m not a racist, but…

2: You’re too sensitive.

3: You’re probably hearing/seeing/feeling/understanding it wrong.

4: I’m sure they didn’t mean it like that.

5: Black people are racist, too.

6: I have a Black friend.

7: You call each other that word.

8: I’ve been called honky.

9: That’s not real racism.

10: I’ve been pulled over, too.

11: All you have to do is obey the law.

12: You destroy your own neighborhoods.

13: I agree with you in theory.

14: That’s not how you get your point across.

15: Black-on-Black violence.

16: Slavery was a long time ago.

17: The Irish were slaves, too.

18: I never owned a slave.

19: Stop complaining.

20: I don’t know why there’s no white history month.

If so, you’re as lost as this motherfucker right here and you need a map. Luckily, many are available. Here, here and here are great places to begin your quest.

Good luck finding the place. We’ll leave the light on for you.

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Media is feeding the toxicity; this needs to stop

I recently posted online about a toxic experience I had during a presentation in Kittery, Maine, on encouraging conversations about race and racism. Also recently, a story was run about the incident, and while me and my co-presenter and friend Debby Irving were quoted (in terms of our comments from the talk), I find it interesting neither of us was interviewed regarding the man who disrupted the event and worked very hard to remain menacing to me up until the end of the event and past it. He was given voice; I, the person who was made to feel under literal threat of harm, was not.

The problem with interviews like these with people who feel threatened by talk of racism (or feminism or LGBTQIA rights or Islamophobia or whatever)—which have become so commonplace now on cable news, in magazines, at online media venues and more—is that it gives space to people with abhorrent viewpoints that are manifestly unjust.

Now, am I saying one should never write about people like this and never interview them? No. There are times and places. But so-called “journalism” (and a lot of the journalism nowadays seems to be more and more about generating page clicks and viewers and boy does controversy and bile help that along, which is part of the circular problem we have now) is not just covering the white supremacists. Media is elevating them. Giving them forums and a voice, often entirely unchallenged. Empowering them and making them seem reasonable.

Richard Spencer dresses well and doesn’t scream at the top of his voice and avoids racial epithets on-air, and so he seems “well-meaning.” And yet he espouses white supremacy and racist policies. He see non-whites as inferior. What is well-meaning about that?

Or writing human-interest pieces on people running Nazi websites. Let’s talk about how this person who hates Black, Jews, gays and/or a heap of other “non-mainstream” folks shops at Whole Foods and loves his kids and is warm and friendly. He hates large portions of the American population for being different from him. That is not humane; why are we humanizing that kind of person with a feel-good piece?

Media stories keep justifying the views of people who literally want to oppress other people or keep them from gaining equality in life. What is justifiable about that? To do so only makes such people feel more empowered. Making them seem reasonable when they hold unreasonable views only helps make it easier for such people to insidiously sway more people toward white supremacy and making America more racist.

And people like the guy who tried to disrupt the talk I was part of in Kittery who say they are “pushing back.” Pushing back against what? I am pushing for people to be treated according to their abilities and the content of their character rather than to be judged and held back (or shoved away) because of the color of their skin or their gender or their sexuality.

White straight Christian men have long held most of the cards in the deck and still do. For them to “push back” against people like me calling for equality means they are pushing back against people being treated the same no matter what their color or gender or sexuality. To push back against equality is to push FOR supremacy. White supremacy. Male supremacy. Cis supremacy. Christian supremacy.

And when has pushing to be supreme over other people and control their lives ever been something we should cheer for—or even give the time of day in the average news story? Supremacy and control are something we are supposed to fight against as a matter of basic decency.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Once in a blue moon: A manifestation and affirmation of Blackness

On January 31 there will be a Super Blood Blue Moon. For the kids at home, a Blue Moon is when two full moons occur within the same month; this is very rare. A blood moon is when the moon is eclipsed and is reflected red by filtered sunlight. The “super” part is the moon being at its closest point in its orbit to the Earth. I aim to take advantage of this wealth of energy and set a clear intention.

This is a calling in. Things are shifting; we can all feel it. On the whole, our country is coming into slow alignment with an understanding of where the cards truly lie. White people are learning what we as people of color (POC) living in this silo of whiteness already knew: this country is built on a crumbling foundation. Old systems are breaking, creating space for us to clear out the wreckage, set our own intentions and move forward with our collective healing, liberation being our single focus.

For the past two months I have been immersed in pools melanin and count myself as supremely blessed. I owe this to being cast in Theater Ensemble of Color’s play, “Rachel” (which boasts an all-black cast). Also, experiencing a life-altering Shambhala Cultivating Dignity meditation retreat. Historic, as this was the first POC Shambhala residential retreat in the country. (Shambhala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition which centers around the truth that all beings are basically good.) The experience was transformative and I am still processing.

Finally, I recently made a firm, though at times complicated (as is the world of whiteness)—but always rewarding—decision to focus on, center, and manifest with people of color. This commitment is the best thing that I have ever done (within living memory) for my soul. Committing to people of color has led me to the feeling of belonging and oneness that I have always looked for but never found in white spaces. Much may be said for being with people who reflect the beauty that POC are so often told doesn’t exist.

People of color revel in a richness which comes in large part from our struggle. Comprised of different (yet all-too-similar) experiences with a depth and sorrow which echoes far in our ancestral bones, driving us forward. When I am in POC spaces, my heart can barely contain the love being felt. When we are together, people are so vibrant and full in all of our brilliant iterations. Our comfort allows us to wear our stories on our skin. Within POC spaces comes the freedom to converse about anything and everything without fear intrusion or a demand of explanation.

The feeling of simply beingI mean really just beingand doing the most mundane things is incredible. Eating toast! Eating toast is one of my favorite things to do with people of color. It’s fascinating to see the ways we all eat. Unconcerned with who might think what. Some eat slowly, others quickly, a few go back for seconds. I’m talking about ease though. The fluid ease with which the toast is consumed. You may laugh but if you do, that might be because you don’t hear what I am saying.

There is a video going around related to the movie “Black Panther” coming out in February. Because it is going to be lit and I am the MOST hype, there are these Black humans standing looking at a poster. These dudes are freaking out because the poster is epic (obviously). They’re all yelling about the poster like, “Is this how white people feel all the time?! ALL THE TIME YO?!?! Shoot, I’d wanna feel like that too. I wouldn’t wanna give that up too!”

I have to tell you, that shit hit home. Watching that 30-second video struck me all of the different ways we as POC get left behind.

Waking up in this America is difficult. I sit in my room and think about all of the injustices that never stop coming. Al Jazeera pops onto my phone and tells me the latest headlines: more bombings, more government corruption. I hop online and hear of another Black body, another Black girl done wrong, another law being unwritten and it just is all so heavy.

I want Black people to heal. I want Black people to sit in rooms with Black people and non-Black POC (NBPOC) and just be. I want Black people to feel at ease. I want Black people to look at themselves in the mirror and know without the shadow of a doubt that they are beautiful. I want Black people to walk down the street and have no one cross the street for fear of them and their hoodie and their fuzzy purple mittens. I want Black people to make eye contact with each other. I want Black people to take yoga classes together, attend poetry readings together, ceramics classes, mindfulness courses, tea-making classes together.

I want Black people to breathe. To be at home in their skin. I want Black people to experience a life free of anxiety. Free of fear. Free of shame. I want Black people to have a reset, to get back to how our bodies are meant to feel. In our natural state of ease, openness and expansiveness. I want us to learn how our bodies would feel all the time if we were able to exist in the world without racism and without oppression.

I want Black to experience liberation. I want NBPOC to experience liberation. If only for an hour, so we may all know liberation is possible. So we may all know what to strive for and dream of. I want us to understand that dreams are tangible. Stars shine within us, not beyond us. We must only reach inside ourselves and dream.

If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.