Hate rides again, or KKK flyers in Maine

Yesterday, a Maine-based reader informed me that a friend had woken up to a flyer from the KKK in her driveway and was aghast. I can’t say that I would blame her; if I found a flyer from the KKK in my alley, I too would be pretty damn bothered.  Between the time I received the notification and now as I write this, the story has made its way into the local news cycle. What is interesting is that the local news reports are reporting this as an isolated incident where my own sources are saying that others have informally come forward to say that they also received these flyers. But apparently it seems only one person went to the authorities.

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Today’s Portland Press Herald states that local authorities have investigated the matter and  “found no cause for alarm or concern that a crime has or will be committed,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release Sunday.

Well there ya have it kids! No cause for concern, no crime committed, keep it moving, there is nothing to see here. This incident highlights on many levels how we avoid dealing with the uncomfortable moments of life and pretty much allow bigotry a safe haven to grow, out in the wide open.

Given that we are sitting on the eve of what is most certainly a presidential election the likes of which none of us have ever seen, where hate and hostility have at times taken center stage, it seems now would be a very good time to reflect on how we reached this point. This moment in time didn’t just happen. It did not occur in a vacuum. We all played a role in getting here. We have all been complicit in creating the spaces where people with poisonous hearts have been able to thrive and find like-minded people to connect and grow ugly with.

We so wanted to reach that post-racial state of America, without doing the heavy lifting, that we allowed ourselves to believe that Obama’s election in America signaled a new day when in fact it put us on a collision course for this moment. While many of us were busy feeling good and drinking the hope juice, the disgruntled deplorables were busy retrenching and planning their next steps. In the end, they have pinned their hopes on a man so dangerous and undisciplined that he isn’t even allowed to manage his own Twitter account without veering off script, yet millions see him as their hope and savior.

Every time we are not intentional in our words and actions, we give hate a place to grow. When we choose to brush off the bigoted comments of others in our world, we allow hate to firmly plant its roots. When we cannot look critically and clearly, instead holding to immature and uninformed “hopes” because of personal discomfort, hate wins again.

The process of creating a just and equitable world requires full participation. It cannot be pinned on the hopes of our politicians, activists and others. It starts with us. Many of our own journeys with change may not be as dramatic as being called to full-time service or activism, but we can all hold space wherever we are, even if that means going to the police and calling out hate despite the lack of an official crime.

Whoever distributed the KKK flyers technically didn’t break any laws, yet given the history of the KKK in both Maine and nationally, it would be a fool’s errand to not understand that hate is feeling safe again. It feels safe enough to leave flyers in driveways because most of us won’t do anything about it. Many may not call the number; too many of us also won’t take a stand and say NO loudly in any other ways.

Regardless of who wins the presidential election, we all have a lot of work to do because what Trump unleashed is not going to quietly go away if Trump loses. Will you take a stand for what’s right or will you look the other way? Will you be intentional or will you avert your gaze and withhold your voice until it’s too late and hate threatens us all and perhaps turns into a nigh-unstoppable force?
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Go Back to Where You Came From, or Casual Racism

In big cities, warmer weather often seems to correlate to an increase in crime and in Maine, I am starting to wonder if warmer weather correlates to an increase in random and casual racism. Looking back on my years in Maine, it seems that spring and summer is the peak season for casual racist experiences. Maybe we just need a year-round chill in the weather so that people can stay chill.

My week started with me giving a keynote address on racism and having a conversation with young immigrant women about the racism they encounter living in Maine. Then a few days ago, I had my own experience that reminded of just how powerful words are and how, when they are wielded as a weapon, they can cut as deeply as the sharpest knife.

Several days ago, I was walking along Portland’s waterfront en route to the ferry terminal so that I could head back home after running a few errands. I walked past two older white men on a bench who appeared down on their luck and most likely homeless. I didn’t formulate any judgments about them personally at first; however, as I walked past them one of them yelled out “Go back to to your own country!” Given that I was the only person of color on the sidewalk at that time, it was clear that I was recipient of the comment.

Let the judgments begin, I thought…

In that moment, just a few feet away from their bench, I stopped and started to turn back around to actually give the gent on the bench a piece of my mind as I toyed with the idea of just slapping the man. I realize that even saying this sounds over the top but sometimes you get sick and tired of being sick and tired. And, let me just be honest: I am tired of white people thinking they have the right to say whatever thoughts come to mind without regard for my humanity. Or the humanity of anyone they deem to be “less than.” The man’s words weren’t as jarring as being called a nigger but make no mistake: In choosing to say those words, his implication was that I don’t belong here (even though I was born and raised in this country and descend from enslaved Africans) and his desire was to intimidate me into leaving “his” country.

Last night I found myself in a work-related conversation with a representative from a group that works with African immigrants in New Hampshire, and she shared that one of the most common comments their program participants hear is “Go back to where you came from.”

America is a nation built on the stolen land of indigenous people and built with the labor of enslaved people; those stolen people were my ancestors and if a white American feels that this is their home, well it’s my home too. America is a country of immigrants and newcomers of all hues and stripes. Unless said people have a far darker hue and then, no matter what our background, we are are seen as outsiders by much of white America, perhaps even most of it.

I have lived 43 years in this body called Black and female, and I recognize that racism is one of the many illness that America the nation suffers from. While it never gets easier to deal with racism, there is a place where, for self preservation, you just don’t allow every incident to touch your inner spirit. That man on the bench annoyed me and while I wanted to say something, I decided to walk away and trust that the ugliness he chose to dole out will be repaid to him a thousandfold. I believe that what we put into the universe does come back to us in one form or another and if hate is what we hold in our hearts, we will have to face that at some point in our lives.

As an adult, I have the ability to manage dealing with hate. What concerns me is the impact of racism and bigotry on developing minds. I know that last year when my daughter first heard that ugly word of nigger, the experience affected for months quite intensely, to the point she feared going into any part of Portland. Even now her anxiety around young white men comes up. What about young people whose families have braved things that Americans can’t even begin to imagine who are hearing words of “Go back” on a regular basis? How do you make a home in a place that is legally your home yet people insist that you don’t belong? How do you find peace when the simple act of walking down the street and dodging the stares and the comments is simply another act of warfare being done against your person?

We know now that verbal abuse harms children and yet too few of us will do anything against the casual racism that is meted out against people who are different than us.

Racism is abuse and yet we expect the people who are most affected by racism to save the collective us from racism; it’s not unlike asking abused spouses/partners/children to fix abusive behavior against them. Just another toxic byproduct of America’s longstanding and deeply ingrained racism and white supremacy; it is interwoven into the fabric of almost everything and it help give more weight and power to racism and racist acts.

We can do better. So let’s, shall we?
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Our truths and intolerance…oh and buy cookies!

Winter decided to make a better late than never appearance in my neck of the woods thus throwing my Thursday off track. Nothing like a snow day meaning no school for the kiddo when you have a shit ton of work to do with a 3.5 day weekend on the horizon, needless to say writing blog posts wasn’t an agenda item yesterday. However while playing the role of mistress of entertainment yesterday and banging out some work, I did get a chance to do some reading yesterday and stumbled upon this gem.

It seems that the Girl Scouts of the Colorado has allowed transgender children to participate and some are none too pleased about it. One young lady going so far as to make and release a video encouraging us to boycott the annual Girl Scout sales until the Girl Scouts reverse their decision. As you can imagine both sides are heated and passionate about this issue; even in my own personal online circle, tensions are running high on this issue.

Frankly can I just say that any type of bigotry sucks, too often bigotry is rooted in a fixed value system often handed down to us by our parents and others. Of course we have those who use their faith and religious beliefs as a reason to mistreat others. Having spent a fair number of years as an Evangelical Christian, I know in my early years I had a lot of so-called beliefs that I believed in until a number of years ago when I asked myself why I believed those things.

Speaking from a Christian perspective, there is nothing Jesus ever said that tells us to hate anyone…period. In fact Jesus spoke words of love, from a Christian perspective the whole premise for the existence of Jesus even coming to be is that we are all sinners and none of us can meet the gold standards of the 613 Mosaic laws and that Jesus was the one who could. Faith in him and belief that he is the Son of God who died on the cross and rose again and now sits at the right hand of God is the foundation of modern Christianity. Jesus though never told us to do much of anything but to love and be helpful and yes I am summarizing. It was Paul formerly Saul who did much of the church building and rule writing and while he may have been inspired by God, fact is Paul was a human who may or may not have had an agenda.

In these modern times we have a lot of folks who take their truth and use it as a tool to mistreat others. It wasn’t that long ago the bible was a tool used to justify mistreatment of people who looked like me. Now we have folks using it as a tool to tell others who they should or should not marry and of course telling people what is right or wrong. Frankly I am a big believer that if Jesus came down and walked in our midst he’d be none too happy about all the things done in his name.

Back to the Colorado situation, frankly I think we are scared by what we don’t understand and when we don’t understand it and it doesn’t square with our reality we fear it. Until a few years ago, I never knew many trans people but I actually made the acquaintance of a trans woman who did school me and gave me some food for thought. At the end of the day, she is woman just as I am a woman. I recently read Chaz Bono’s book talking about his journey to manhood and it gave me pause. To know who you are but to not be accepted because of another’s “truth” is not something anyone should have to go through. As for the Girl Scouts I applaud them for their stance. Frankly none of us should play the genital police and if a girl wants to join the Girl Scouts I say let her, her path and journey to girlhood is none of my business nor is it yours. As for me, I will buy a few more boxes of thin mints this year and hope my waistline doesn’t expand too much.