Tuesday, September 15, 2015

You Can’t Reject Another's Race, Then Reject The R-word


As I’ve become more educated on the subject of socially institutionalized racism I have become so much more aware of it. I see it in my day-to-day, and even when I look back on past experiences.   More and more I see how institutionalized racism is like a mirror, reflecting issues that we all believed our society had moved past.
When someone finds out that I don’t always only listen to what is stereotypically “traditional” black music. That I listen to anything from classical to local punk-garage I always receive a response like the following;
“Wow! I’m blacker than you!”
“That’s for white people.”
“You’re not black”
These statements are called microaggressions. These microaggressions make it seem like my identity and the color of my skin are negotiable, like the color my skin or the people I was born from can be changed. It makes it seem like the only “requirements” to be black is to meet some stereotypical qualification rather than melanin that often receives less/no entitlement. Melanin that has “prompted” unjust and unfair treatment from non-POC (people of color). You can not reject one's identity, it is not up for debate.
Yet whenever I call someone out on their racism, they immediately throw up their hands. They know there isn’t much worse than a racist. They shake their heads in disgust to the word, they call me nasty things or try to explain how they aren’t. And yet when I describe the way their words impact me they don’t show nearly the same response.
They don’t like to think about their decisions consequences, especially if they aren’t the one paying for it. The want to believe that they live in a perfect world, where everyone receives the same rights and level of entitlement. The can’t imagine the world as anything else.This is part of the reason they reject the term racist - it destroys their view of a balanced world..
Society does not seem to understand that internalized racism is everywhere, and in everyone. We are all subject to racist and bigoted ideals that have seeped into our minds.  Why does it matter that we can all accept this?  Because those who know better can then do better.   

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Whose Lives Matter?


Texas Sheriff's Deputy Darran H. Goforth was shot and killed in what the authorities are describing as “execution-style”. When I was reading the NBC news report about the deputy's shooting I was struck by a comment the Sheriff’s department made;
"We've heard black lives matter — all lives matter," a visibly angry Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman told reporters. "Well, cops' lives matter, too."
What people don't always take into consideration, especially those coming from a perspective of entitlement, is that Black Lives Matter is not a movement against all other lives, it is a movement FOR black people, because those are the ones who are dying at an alarming rate. According to the University of Chicago's Yara Mekawi’s  study it is considerably more likely for someone to shoot a black person with a gun than a white person with a gun.
We don't look at a burning house and instead spray water on the house that’s fine, two doors down. So why do white people want to redirect attention from those in trouble, if all lives matter, then  surely they want the best for the black community as well? They shouldn’t be concerned with the name of the movement so long as it stifle the fear that mothers feel when they see their child go out in a gray hoodie, like my own mother does.
It scares me that the Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson said the following;
"There are a few bad apples in every profession. That does not mean there should be open warfare declared on law enforcement.The vast majority are here to do the right thing. They care about their community. What happened last night is an assault on the fabric of society."
When Anderson says this, she is perpetuating the idea that it is okay for just a few people to do wrong, that it’s okay that it’s “Not all Police”. I agree, it’s not all police, but it is enough. Enough to kill something like 105 people this year (at July). For there to be 1.5 million missing black men in the US.
It angers me that people who have our lives in their hands don’t understand this.While I am angered, my heart goes out to those who have lost their loved one in this awful event. I do not know this man's story, I don’t know if he was a good apple or a bad apple. I don’t know what fate he deserved, regardless of his beliefs or doings.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Damsels Not In Distress

"It's all in you head."  "You're making too big a deal of it."  "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill." "Just stop worrying about these things."

Have you been on the receiving end of these types of statements?  When you express concern or point out a potential problem, are you often treated as though you're overreacting or thinking about things that you shouldn't be thinking about?

Then you're probably a woman.

One of the primary ways women are held back in today's business world is by making them question themselves.  We're trained to question our instincts.  We're told that when we notice a potential problem, that the real problem is the fact that we noticed anything at all.

I've had this experience and it is daunting.  It's not daunting when it happens once, but it's when these types of statements become the anthem of your work life that they begin to weigh you down.

I think of myself as someone who is self-reflective.  So, when a colleague I respect tells me that my concerns are all in my head, I want to listen.  I want to step aside and think about it.  However, when the same colleague has concerns that he expresses to me, I am quick to take responsibility and to apologize.  I've noticed that this same level of respect and responsiveness is not given to me.  Instead, it's as if my colleague believes his job is to console me.

There are two stereotypes at play here men are fixers and women are worrying, damsels in distress.

My colleague isn't a bad guy, he's just unaware of his own unconscious bias.  Are you aware of yours?

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Good Folks

A few years ago, a friend and I were trying to figure out what we could do to help move the conversation along.  By conversation I mean discussion on race, class, gender, sexuality, age, religion, and more.  The topics that tend to divide us.  These issues are like fault lines running through our nation, threatening not only to further divide us, but to destroy us.  In spite of all we have in common, in light of all we've overcome, there are several areas in which Americans are consistently, undeniably divided.  

We don't have to agree on everything.  But we have to respect one another enough to not let our individual preferences lead to violence, hate, a lack of empathy, or turning our backs to the challenges of others.  

If I've learned anything over the last eight years, it's that I must have hope.  Traveling throughout the country has given me a sense and a solid belief that most people are good.  We have strong ideals, cherished values, and morals steeped in what we've learned and what we've seen.  Unfortunately, unbeknownst to many of us, every single day we make choices that don't align with who we think we are.  

That's my audience.  That's my target.  The "good" folks who abhor violence and hate, but don't realize that their unconscious choices often contribute to the very climate they revile.  

About a year ago, a friend tried to slow me down, he tried to encourage me to see the big picture and to be realistic about my goals.  He reminded me that it wasn't as if I was trying to change the world.  

To which I immediately responded, "Of course, I am."