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In Transition

April 22, 2016

These last couple of years have been ones of tremendous change as my parents transitioned from living with us to a care facility. My Dad fell, had surgery and never really recovered.  He died a year ago.  My 85 year old mom has been settling in to a care facility that can support her Alzheimer’s disease. Those personal impacts, along with major changes in my workplace at a university did not leave time to keep up this blog.

Such upheaval leads to clarity.  I have discerned that my racial justice work is what most urgently calls to me at this time.  I will be leaving my university job on June 3rd.  My husband and I have sold our house of 25 years and bought a travel trailer out of which we will live and work for the next year or more. I am focused on doing more training with white people to dismantle the racism we have created.  I also will be working with colleagues of color to co-facilitate dialogue on race, racism, and social justice in mixed groups.

I look forward to having the time to return to blogging.  Watch this space for updates.

Hold on to hope in the midst of all that causes despair.  I believe change can happen.

Diane

 

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Racism, betrayal and Rachel Dolezal; all live within me.

June 13, 2015

Tangled web we weave

Racism kills. People.  Common Sense.  Relationship.  Betrayal burns the heart. Trust may never arise from the ashes.

Rachel Dolezal. Spokane. Where I grew up and met one black person in my K-12 education. None in my neighborhood.  Whiteness, privilege, ignorance.  I’m steeped in it.

I want to step out of it. I know that I cannot do that independently from communities of color holding me accountable. Because I will desperately want to believe that I have gone beyond my privilege.  And the slope from there slips quickly towards delusion and magical thinking.

As Darnell Moore reminds us,

“But white privilege is a truth. And it is perhaps no more obvious than when a white woman, posing as a black woman, achieves prominence while fighting on behalf of the people she has betrayed.”

Watching the video of Rachel’s interview, I wondered how deception developed as a way of being for her. I was caught in the “how to explain how a white person could do this” mode in ways that would make me different from Rachel.  Distance myself from the “bad white person.”

More helpful is asking myself what part of Rachel lives in me and how might I rationalize deception at any level for the “greater good.” How I, as a white person, have had my decisions about the “good” affirmed at every level  of my life. That at a deep level, I am convinced I am right about most things.

Where do I betray the truth of racism because it serves me to do so?  Because the truth is painful and I have the privilege to choose to distance myself from it. As people of color do not.

The invitation to me and others who are white is to ask ourselves where our tangled webs of racism and privilege are betraying ourselves and humanity. Are we going to choose to stay caught or seek freedom?  We can refuse to get distracted from our own internal racism work by fixating on the mistakes of others. We can ask ourselves instead, “How does this live in me?”

Image from: http://hideyourarms.com/2010/03/19/tangled-web-weave-excellent-typography-tee-random-objects/

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A long pause

March 29, 2015

White people stand up for racial justice

I’ve been absent from my blog for some time while care giving for my elderly parents who were living with us. I’ve learned a lot about Alzheimer’s, aging, love, and the ever-present privilege to which I have access.  Along the way I’ve seen racism continue to kill lives, spirits, and our humanity. It’s been a time of critical reflection. I look forward to returning to my writing soon.

Diane

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How do you keep your heart open in hell?

November 25, 2014

bigstock_Blazing_heart_12992480

The morning after. The grand jury decision wasn’t just a nightmare I can shake away.  Michael Brown has not woken up. Justice is an empty word.

The temptation, for those of us who are white and have that choice, is to go back to sleep. To dream ourselves back into a reality we’ve been taught. Everything is fine. The system works. Because we want it to be so. Because our hearts have been hardened to protect a worldview that is racist.

Closed hearts sustain a hell on earth. Allow it to keep burning. We look another way. We make another excuse.

I choose to keep my heart open. To stay with the pain and not the excuses. To resist the endless lamenting that we white people often choose. To discern my part in moving forward the revolution that has started.

A revolution that says, “Enough; we are done with this hell.”

 “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Heart image from: http://www.nancybrophy.com/hellontheheart.html

 

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White mothers of white sons

November 16, 2014

Michael Brown Memorial SU

I am a white mother who is angry about racism and will not stay silent. Please join me in speaking out against the killing of black men.

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Oppressed identities, an elevator, and fear

May 26, 2014

Parking garage elevator

Early morning. The university campus parking garage I drive into is mostly empty.  Offices don’t open for an hour. I get out of my car, parked close to the elevator. I push the button as I reflect on the day ahead. I wait for the doors to open.

I hear something and turn to see a man. I have heard no car arrive. I don’t know where he has suddenly come from on this third floor level. No student backpack.  No briefcase or roller bag. He carries nothing. I don’t recognize staff or faculty I have met in my 15-year work experience here.  No visitor events start this early. Blue jacket; right hand in pocket. He appears to be a Latino identity. I am white. I look directly at him (as fear builds) and say, “hello.”  He acknowledges but does not smile back.

The elevator doors begin to open. The moment of decision has arrived. His hand is still in his pocket. I wonder if there is a gun in there.  Campus safety reports about assaults in the area have increased.

Do I get in an elevator with a man I’m not sure about? Is this only my racist conditioning about people who are not white? Would I do the same if he was white? His jacket is high quality; my learned social class framing says that probably means he’s okay.  But, no one is around if I should need help.

I am a woman. I always am on guard around men when I am alone. I’m carrying a vase of roses for an event. I am scared. I spread my keys out in my hand; a self defense move I’ve been taught. There is no time to reach for the pepper spray in my purse.  Earlier that morning I was recalling the time I was carjacked at gunpoint. The fears come flooding in; the ptsd is triggered. Warring with my desire to not act out of misplaced fears because of the color of someone’s skin.

Five seconds for the doors to open as all of these thoughts rush through my head.  He begins to walk in.  “Darn!” I say as I back away and walk around to the back of my hatchback car – putting space and the bulk of the vehicle between us. Loudly enough for him to hear, I say, “I forgot something” and with shaky hands insert my key into the latch as I live into my lie.

The elevator closes and he is gone. I go to the drivers’ side and quickly get in. I drive to the other end of the parking lot – near the exit doors. I call my husband. I am still shaky. I am still in despair. Have I once again caused cumulative impact by demonstrating fear around a man of color that is unwarranted? Is his elevator ride full of anger and frustration of the daily experiences of racism?

I am angry and frustrated that as a woman, I have to always wonder if I am safe around men. No matter what the color of their skin. Yet, I know I am more on guard with men of color because I have bombarded with false storytelling all my life that says they are to be feared. Racism. Sexism. Misogeny. Violence. Objectification.  Human beings boxed in by fear of “the other” and the realities of not being able to walk in the world in safety.

After a bit, I walked back to the elevator and made my way to my office. I never saw the man again. Did he shudder in the elevator thinking a white women was going to call the police because she was threatened by the color of his skin? I will never know all that was really happening that morning. But, I do know oppressed identities met and brought with them a legacy of fear and pain.

P.S. The man who previously carjacked me at gunpoint? He was white.

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Choking in Seattle racial smog

March 14, 2014

Seattle smog

I am an angry white person in Seattle, having trouble breathing. Thick racist smog is in the air, choking life out of espoused ideals for equality. Diversity is a catch phrase for empty gestures. Justice is ridiculed by inaction and apathy. Racial smoke distorts truth and hides complicity.

A predominantly white basketball team hurls racist slurs at the winning team with darker skin. Cognitive dissonance. White is supposed to win. It gets ugly when it doesn’t.

News editors craft a headline about a community college: “Whites unwelcome at diversity ‘Happy Hour.” Their clouded vision fails to include documented stories of how people of color are often treated on a predominantly white campus. Valid reasons why they might want to talk to each other. Alone.

White has might. It determines how the story shall be framed.

The white racialized frame is too narrow for a headline that says, “White people threatened by people of color having private dialogue about their daily experiences of racism.” The Master is still fighting for total control. Every day. Inflicting great harm.

Where are the angry white voices calling out for authentic racial justice? Lost within the strident whining of white supremacy about reverse racism? Or simply silent.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. still ring true today. The silence creates a vacuum that continues to be filled with racist behaviors in our streets, schools, workplaces, churches, courts and government.

Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change (Audre Lorde in The Uses of Anger).

If you are white, I hope you are angry. Angry enough to take action to balance out the white chorus of ignorance that thickens the smog (207 mostly racist and hateful comments in response to the news article above). What letter can you write, what conversation can you have with other white people, what action can you challenge?

Good intentions are not enough. I have a wealth of good intentions.  They are a safe place in which to hide. Meanwhile, the racial smog builds. Breathing is threatened.

Anger has positive power when channeled effectively. We need more angry white people actively challenging the pervasive system of whiteness that is choking the life out of all of us.

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