More Racism…

I read a really horrible stupid illogical racist rant last night on my neighbor’s Facebook page. I got where the writing was coming from, but so much is wrong and inflammatory. I wrote a long response as a comment on my friend’s post, but I hate when people take over my Facebook with their rants, so I quickly deleted it.

I realized it might belong here. Race again… Sorry.

First of all when it comes to fundamentals, there’s no such thing as race. It’s pretty certain we all came from the same gene pool long long ago and, for us in the United States, far far away. What we call “race” is essentially skin color, though I remember as a kid in school, in social studies, we had a two page spread of the “World’s Races” and their pictures. I don’t know what was originally meant by the term “race” and the older I am the less I understand it.

Second, I think it’s probably true that a lot of white people don’t like darker skinned people. I don’t know why other than they were taught to mistrust darker skinned people or they are (as are all humans) afraid of what is unfamiliar.

OK. Here it is. I’m going to attempt to knock it down point by point. My refutation is in green (Kennedy, dontcha’ know). The “article” is in black italics.

I have often wondered about why Whites are racists, and no other race is……

Other races are equally racist. I learned this as one of the few whites in China in the early 80s. I became very familiar with the stereotypes of Americans, the images, the attitudes I was supposed to have. I experienced it every day, sometimes in expressions of surprise that I WASN’T like the stereotype. It was still there. I learned more about international racism teaching international students and hearing things like this which came out of the mouth of a Korean girl, “We don’t have racism in Korea. We all the same.” She didn’t mean “all the same” as “equal.” She meant they were all JUST LIKE HER physically, culturally, linguistically, a homogenous culture. She thought Koreans were better than Americans because Korea has no racism, but without the challenge of living with different ethnicities, how would they know?

Someone finally said it. How many are actually paying attention to this?
There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc. And then there are just Americans..

“Just Americans” are, by this implied definition, white Americans. All these other people are referred to euphemistically by their nationality. If this idiot did the same with “just Americans” he’d have to describe us as “Irish Americans, German Americans, British Americans, Scandinavian Americans, Russian Americans” etc. which is, actually, what we are. We might have white skin, but we come from different places. These terms – Asian Americans, African Americans, etc. — are ways of emphasizing that though these people look different from “just Americans” they are Americans, just the same.

You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.
You call me ‘White boy,’ ‘Cracker,’ ‘Honkey,’ ‘Whitey,’ ‘Caveman’… And that’s OK..

I have never experienced this and I lived in a ghetto, a barrio, in California for 17 years. After reading this, if I passed this guy on the street and knew it, I’d probably cross to the other side to save myself from getting into a fight. 🙂

you say that whites commit a lot of violence against you….

Which is evidenced on film and police reports.

So why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?

The problem in “ghettos” is less skin color than poverty. Please refer to the video at the bottom of this post. As I said, I lived in a ghetto as one of the few white people. I was always safe even though it was the second (or first sometimes) highest crime neighborhood in San Diego. It was a dangerous place to live FOR ALL OF US so we looked out for each other. Violence existed — too much of it — but it was perpetrated by a few and was usually related to drugs, the sale of drugs or guns, and gangs — all of which were related cause and effect to poverty. The vast majority of people in my “hood” were, like me, hard-working people trying to hold their shit together from one end of the month to the other.

There are PLENTY of white people living close to the edge, yet, we think of these neighborhoods as where minorities live. That right there is racist. My white friends and co-workers wouldn’t even come to my neighborhood to have dinner at my house. They were that afraid. White privilege might be coupled with white ignorance.

A police station was set up in our hood in the building that was once our Safeway. The cops set out immediately getting to know the people who lived there. They saw their job as law enforcement but also as becoming part of the hood. Their program worked. Violent crime went down without a single incident of “police brutality.” We residents wanted the police there. We wanted the crack houses gone. We wanted the gun violence gone. The police made a huge difference.

You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day.
You have Black History Month.
You have Cesar Chavez Day.
You have Yom Hashoah.
You have Ma’uled Al-Nabi.
You have the NAACP.
You have BET….

We “just Americans” have everything else. The United Negro College Fund was set up to provide money through donations to black kids who otherwise wouldn’t have had a chance. MLK day was established to honor an American hero who happened to have been Black. Cesar Chavez? Same deal, but a Hispanic dude. Yom Hashoah? Honestly, I was once on the fence about that, but having witnessed the reality that fascism is still alive and well in this world, I say we need MORE days remembering the Holocaust. Ma’uled Al-Nabi? For Muslims it is essentially the birthday of Mohammed, their prophet. Merry Christmas, dude.

If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we’d be racists.

This is petty. TV is nothing but a way to sell products to a market. BET is an avenue to sell stuff to Blacks, stuff that they like and use.

If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.

We have St. Patricks Day, we have Octoberfest. Columbus Day is a big deal in Italian neighborhoods, however you might feel about it. There is a HOST of other ethnic celebrations of our various European heritages. We have the Sons of Norway, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Sons of Italy, annual festivals at the Greek Orthodox churches — and more depending on the various regional concentrations of various European nationalities. All of these are “White Pride” events. It’s ALSO important here to note that every group of Europeans who came to this continent took shit from whoever was here before them. “Irish need not apply.” “Park closed to Italians.”

If we had White History Month, we’d be racists.

Black history month was devised as a way to help schools bring the achievements of black people into a curriculum that was absolutely Euro-centered. I think it’s fair to say that we have 11 White history months.

If we had any organization for only whites to ‘advance’ OUR lives, we’d be racists.

As the dominant culture, we don’t have to organize to “advance our lives.” WE ARE that organization for ourselves. That is the definition of White Privilege.

We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.
Wonder who pays for that??

Ah, here we go. The salient point seems to be that this guy doesn’t like spending his money on this stuff.

A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but a woman of color can be in the Miss America pageant.

Again, petty. Beauty pageants are questionable at best, and the Miss Black America Pageant is a relic of black protests of the late 60s when an African American woman was very unlikely to be named Miss Anywhere.

If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships… You know we’d be racists. There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US . Yet if there were ‘White colleges’, that would be a racist college.

Black colleges emerged because Blacks were not admitted to colleges anywhere.

Ok, now the rant gets really ugly. The guy wants us to believe that we need “white pride”? I’m not even “white”. I’m pink with brown spots, but I can’t even summon up “pride” for that.

I think many of us are proud of having come from this or that nationality. I am, but I know it’s absurd. I didn’t earn my Irish, Swiss, Scot and Swedish heritage. It’s an accident of parentage. That I think they’re all cool cultures is because I was taught to and because I took the trouble to learn about them. That’s WHY we have Black History Month etc. So kids from THAT background (gruesome though it is) can learn about their roots and be proud of the courage of their ancestors.

I can’t even refute the rest of this bullshit. Everything about the conclusion to this diatribe is illogical and wrong. Essentially, when some of the people in a culture have ALL of the rights offered by that culture, and some of the people in that culture are DENIED (palpably and demonstrably) SOME of the rights offered by that culture, those people are oppressed.

I’ve seen some of my Mexican friends treated badly by some white people. I’ve seen white people say to them, “Learn English. This is America” after laughing at a mistake the Mexican made in English. It’s totally possible for those white people to learn Spanish, too, and live in a larger world, but they’re busy being white. Because I speak Spanish well enough, I got to experience so much more than would have if I were “English only.”

I taught a class that was ALL black students and my first job was combatting their suspicion of me so they could learn during those three hours a week, succeed in my class and move on with their dreams of entering a university and finding a career. In that class, I taught a black girl whose last name was O’Shea. On learning that is an Irish name, she decided to embrace her Irishness. When I said, “You know how your family got it, right? Some slave owner or overseer back in the day…”

She said, “But I’m still part Irish, right? That’s an Irish name.”

I said, “Yes,” but I had tears in my eyes. Kennedy here, right? Lots of Irish immigrants ended up overseers in the South. It’s a big part of Gone With the Wind.

“I’m proud to be part Irish, like you.” Wow. I was full on crying at that point. It occurred to me then that it meant a lot to her — and maybe my other black students? — to find a concrete bit of commonality, a link to a white person that they liked. It happened several times over the years.

She came to class the next night with a big green shamrock on the front of her notebook and wore green for St. Patrick’s day.

Maybe a lot of white people haven’t had my advantages, you know, living in a ghetto and teaching in an inner city community college or a community college on the border of Mexico, or working three or four part-time jobs to hold life together. Maybe a lot of white people haven’t had their garage filled with fatherless boys from every racial group working together on their bikes with the Good X, or of teaching a little elementary school Mexican boy to draw every Saturday, then being taken to lunch by that boy when he got to be 15 and had his first job. Maybe a lot of white people have lived white lives and haven’t been able to experience the struggle of other people, people we identify by the color of their skin, the most superficial thing there is.

Here’s the video I promised followed by the guy’s bullshit rant, with its obligatory guilt trip at the end.

Here’s the Whole Absurd Mess

I have often wondered about why Whites are racists, and no other race is……
Someone finally said it. How many are actually paying attention to this?
There are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Arab Americans, etc.
And then there are just Americans.. You pass me on the street and sneer in my direction.
You call me ‘White boy,’ ‘Cracker,’ ‘Honkey,’ ‘Whitey,’ ‘Caveman’… And that’s OK..
You say that whites commit a lot of violence against you….
So why are the ghettos the most dangerous places to live?
You have the United Negro College Fund. You have Martin Luther King Day.
You have Black History Month.
You have Cesar Chavez Day.
You have Yom Hashoah.
You have Ma’uled Al-Nabi.
You have the NAACP.
You have BET….
If we had WET (White Entertainment Television), we’d be racists.
If we had a White Pride Day, you would call us racists.
If we had White History Month, we’d be racists.
If we had any organization for only whites to ‘advance’ OUR lives, we’d be racists.
We have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Black Chamber of Commerce, and then we just have the plain Chamber of Commerce.
Wonder who pays for that??
A white woman could not be in the Miss Black American pageant, but a woman of color can be in the Miss America pageant.
If we had a college fund that only gave white students scholarships… You know we’d be racists.
There are over 60 openly proclaimed Black Colleges in the US .
Yet if there were ‘White colleges’, that would be a racist college.
In the Million Man March, you believed that you were marching for your race and rights.
If we marched for our race and rights, you would call us racists.
You are proud to be black, brown, yellow and orange, and you’re not afraid to announce it.
But when we announce our white pride, you call us racists.
You rob us, car jack us, and shoot at us.
But, when a white police officer shoots a black gang member or beats up a black drug dealer running from the law and posing a threat to society, you call him a racist.
I am proud…… But you call me a racist.
Why is it that only whites can be racists??
There is nothing improper about this post. 
Let’s see which of you are proud enough to send it on.
I sadly don’t think many will.
That’s why we have LOST most of OUR RIGHTS in this country.
We won’t stand up for ourselves!
BE PROUD TO BE WHITE!
It’s not a crime YET…. But getting very close!

Rambling Post on Exploitation

I learned a lot yesterday. Today I wonder why I didn’t know it before. So… Looking in my rearview mirror I saw why. No one can know everything and one thing I didn’t contend with a lot back in the day was the news. I shared Thoreau’s view:

I am sure that I never read any memorable news in a newspaper. If we read of one man robbed, or murdered, or killed by accident, or one house burned, or one vessel wrecked, or one steamboat blown up, or one cow run over on the Western Railroad, or one mad dog killed, or one lot of grasshoppers in the winter,—we never need read of another. One is enough. If you are acquainted with the principle, what do you care for a myriad instances and applications? To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea. Yet not a few are greedy after this gossip. 

Walden Henry David Thoreau

I wondered if EVERYONE knew this stuff and I didn’t because I’d never been interested in the news. I will never know, but throughout my life I’ve felt my first responsibility was to my life and its innumerable imperatives, not to a lot of information I couldn’t do anything about. Now we live in a time when even news is news. Anything a president says is news and this was an item of news I read yesterday, “The President tweeted 30 times in the last hour.” Nothing about what the president said. The news was that he sent 30 messages into social media. The implication was that he should have been doing something else instead.

That’s a pretty significant message. It made me think I should be doing something else instead. 😀

I’ve been puzzled by the term “systemic racism.” It seems obvious enough, I guess, racism built into “the system,” but even the term “the system” is vague. What system? WHICH system? In my little mind, racism is the way people treat each other, but yesterday I watched a video that revealed — defined — systemic racism. It brought back a lot of memories. As I watched I remembered listening to my parents and Aunt Martha back in the early 1960s talking about integrating neighborhoods. They had a LOT of opinions, one of which was that it was the right thing to do but people wouldn’t like it. I took from that the idea that segregated neighborhoods were wrong. “They don’t want to live with us any more than we want to live with them,” my mom said. “Anywhere they go will turn into a negro neighborhood.” (Negro was the preferred term in those days, so don’t jump on me about that.)

I heard a lot of things from those disputes, but since I was a little kid it didn’t mean much. Even while they were having these arguments they were raising me to take every human individually and not take skin color seriously. They were probably prejudiced (or realistic?) but their ideal was better than they were (as ideals should be).

I watched the race riots of the time on the TV news. It was hard to believe what I saw — cops clubbing people, dogs going for the throats of black people, just general inhumanity. My parents were as shocked and aghast as, I imagine others were. From the back seat, I heard Dr. Martin Luther King speak over the car radio. I remember the Black Panther movement. All of that, and all it said to me was, “Be nice to people.” I was naive enough to think that that philosophy was shared by the people in my country. When I was in my 30s, living in a poor, mixed race neighborhood in San Diego, I saw that poverty, lack of education and unemployment were the big problems. Not everyone in my neighborhood was black or Latino. There was a handful of white families living in the same struggling conditions. Equal opportunity was a myth.

I was one of the few who had an education and something like a real job, but even then, like most of the people around me, I had three jobs. Teachers were no longer being given tenure in colleges and universities. I was a part-time teacher at three schools. I didn’t know from semester to semester where I’d have classes or how much I would make. There were months I didn’t earn my house payment.

Sometimes I remembered my parents’ arguments, and someone saying, “What white person is going to move into a negro neighborhood?” Well, I had (minority neighborhood) and I liked it fine. I also believed it was right for me to be there.

For a few years, the neighborhood was violent with lots of gang action and drugs. From time to time a meth house exploded. Finally a police station was built where the grocery store had been, and all of our lives improved.

The cops were awesome. They made it their mission to get to know who should and who should not be in the neighborhood. They went door-to-door introducing themselves. A white Wiccan couple moved in and adopted a little black boy. Come the winter solstice, the Wiccans had a ceremony in their front yard. Essentially, it was a bunch of white people wearing white robes, holding the hand of little black kid. People called the cops to say there was a KKK meeting going on and seven police cars showed up at their house. The next day the cops went door-to-door with a handout about alternative faiths and invitations from the family for everyone in the hood to come for a tea party the following Saturday. People went.

My particular experiences related to minorities and police are relevant to me, but they didn’t change the world. I particularly hate it when someone stands up and says “Well, when I lived in a black neighborhood, WE…” as if it were a universal experience that should define beliefs and actions for everyone everywhere. I know mine is NOT a universal experience, but it all really did happen.

A few days ago I wrote on this in my post, “Life and Learn, Dammit!” and a new reader commented. He has an interesting blog that is well worth checking out, Robert Matthew Goldstein. I have sincerely been seeking answers to my questions and he offered one that, I think, hits the nail on the head. In our conversation he said that the South never accepted defeat.

This guy grew up in Charleston, SC… He added a link to the text he mentions and it was fascinating reading. https://archive.org/stream/reflectionsoccas00acha/reflectionsoccas00acha_djvu.txt

What struck me was the idea of “cheap labor.” As a part-time college teacher I was cheap labor. So all of us in my hood were somebody’s cheap labor and it was in their interest to keep us down, to keep us insecure and struggling. I fought against the part-time teacher thing as much as I could which wasn’t much since it took a minimum of six (writing!) classes a semester for me to hold my life together. My mentality — and that of everyone I knew in the same boat was, 1) someday I’ll get tenure, 2) if I fight against this, I won’t have work. THAT is an infinite loop. If things were to be made fair, tenured faculty via teachers unions would have to fight FOR us and that wasn’t going to happen. Tenured teachers said of us adjunct faculty, “If they were any good, they’d HAVE tenure.”

I could see that the football coach at the university where I taught had a contract that paid him $4,000,000/year and I had a three year contract on which I had to teach 5 classes/semester (tenured faculty taught a 3/2 schedule — 5 classes/year) and was paid $24,000/year. I did get “benefits” including excellent health insurance and retirement. But IF I had not scored that particular part time job?

Then, yesterday, I watched a video (below) that explained how racism is built into the American system as a way to ensure the availability of cheap labor. Cheap labor depends on diminishing educational opportunities, for one thing, but also making it impossible for people to acquire wealth — wealth being, essentially, home ownership. In this I was lucky that my Good X and I had bought a house, my house in the “hood.”

Because it was a minority, high-crime neighborhood (which we did not know when we bought) the house was cheap, especially for San Diego. It was also a mess. It was a two bedroom house built after WW II. In and of itself, it was a pretty little house with lots of light, two large bedrooms, a large kitchen. Because we bought that house, I have a house now.

The people who’d rented it from my X’s friend had trashed it. They had sold drugs from it, had repaired? stolen? cars and the yard was littered with automobiles. It looked like a crack-house/junk-yard. There was a VW beetle literally hanging from the palm tree in the front yard. There was drug paraphernalia all through the trashed house. We went in, cleaned it up, and lived there. During the cleaning process, a guy came by to buy drugs…

We were always afraid that the notorious “William” would return seeking revenge. William was white. The neighborhood at that time was also an enclave of the Hell’s Angels.

We got this wonder for $68,000. I loved living there and those 17 years were among the greatest in my life, but it had its challenges…

This is the house, roughly a decade after I sold it. No work had been done on it since I’d moved out though now it looks very different. A Vietnamese family lives there now.

Everyone in the hood was struggling along with me. I didn’t realize the bigger picture of WHY everyone in the hood was struggling.

Here is the video I watched yesterday. It explains how the system built racism into it to ensure that minorities would find it so hard to prosper that a supply of cheap labor would always be there. It explains what my blog reader meant by the south never surrendering. It illustrates how a system (university, college, factory, government) could benefit by making it very difficult for people to prosper. I got from it — though it doesn’t say it outright — how creating tension between races can keep the struggle alive to the benefit the “elite.” It showed me in no uncertain terms how money is the the whole point of everything in the system. Greed. This means that people like me — who are not motivated by money — are easily exploited. I now understand what is meant by the term “systemic racism” and I’m disgusted.

The featured photo is a cartoon I drew back then depicting life on my street… I am the moose. Next to me is my Venus flytrap that I put outside on a slice of bologna because I needed to draw a fly for my magnum opus sculpture, “Barbie’s Battle of the Bands.” The dog and puppies in the sky are my neighbor’s. Daisy, a little pit bull, wanted to be my dog and would climb the cinder block wall to come to my house. When she had a litter of puppies, she taught them to do the same. If I left the front door open, Daisy and the puppies would come in. The feet to the side belong to my neighbor who had advanced senile dementia and would run away whenever he could to go to a restaurant 5 miles away called “Heidi’s.” We had to watch out for him all the time. The little man across the street is one of the few whites in the hood. He is standing by his little dog. He loved having garage sales, and called the garage the “go-raj.” It was a very strange place to live but absolutely NEVERE boring. Our hood was a family.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/18/ragtag-daily-prompt-thursday-rear-view-mirror/

Live and Learn, Dammit

My Summaryllis is Blooming

“Say uncle, say it, say uncle and I’ll let you up.”

My cousin sat on top of me holding my wrists to the ground. I’m 5 or 6 or 7 or something. Uncle WHO?? and WHY???

“Martha Ann, it’s just a word that tells the person beating up on you you’ve had enough. That’s all.” Thank goodness my dad could explain things…

I’m so there right now.

Yesterday I wrote (and deleted) a blog post that made the point that if Offal is NOT re-elected, Biden will have a big job unifying this horrific mess in which we live. I stand by that, but…

My opening argument was that the Confederate Heroes in the nation’s capitol should be left there, that history shouldn’t be sanitized (notice how I didn’t say white washed. I’m SO getting this…). Thanks to Rebecca at Wild Sensibility, I did a little research in a direction I never had and learned that those statues were not left over from the “olden days.” I was laboring under the misapprehension that they were put up as part of the reconciliation at the end of the Civil War. I only knew who a couple of them were (Robert E. Lee), but I learned that, like many of the statues in public spaces, parks, throughout the South, they were built during Jim Crow times and were really nasty people.

Thanks to segregationist Southern state legislatures in the early 20th century, eight statues of Confederate leaders currently reside in the National Statuary Hall Collection on Capitol Hill. They include Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Vice President Alexander Stephens, and Lee, whose Charlottesville monument was the focal point of this weekend’s strife. These bronze and marble figures, standing in the center of American democracy, pay tribute to the same authoritarian forces that congressional leaders eagerly denounced.

The Atlantic

I was upset and ashamed at my own know-it-all arrogance.

When I was a little kid, we went in the 1957 Chevy from Denver to the very tip of Florida. All along the way, my dad was giving lectures to universities about using computers. In one southern city we toured the house of a slave-owner (to the best of my recollection) and I saw an attic where slaves were chained. I’ve known most of my life that these were pretty terrible people.

How could ANYONE not see that? I have always — on some level — assumed everyone could see that. Yesterday I realized that I have been wrong for the past 63 years.

Another shocking revelation about the world in which I live, something that probably every single person has seen and I haven’t. I congratulated myself a little for being so innocent and naive at this point in my life, but…


“UNCLE!!!!!”

Yesterday was watering day. My next-door neighbor, Monica, whom I seldom see, has the same watering schedule and we chatted for a while. She’s fun to talk to. We both decided we’re tired. We’re tired of the virus, of the social upheaval of the past two weeks and the past 3+ years. Her son used to be the grounds keeper at the golf course. We talked about golf. We talked about how depressing and stressful the mask thing is. She said, “If you don’t wear your mask, people in masks give you the evil eye. If you do wear your mask, anti-mask people give you the evil eye.”

She’s a nurse. Her opinion is that the virus is not as horrific as we’re told it is. I said that my theory is that we don’t know how it’s going to affect this person or that. “I have to wear a mask all day,” she said. “It’s really awful. Are you staying active?” She knew about my long dog walks long before she knew me because her son used to live in the house where the kids live now.

“Yeah. I’ve been taking the dogs to the Refuge because it’s no fun walking around here right now. You can’t really talk to people.”

“I know!!!”

“I liked that, hearing peoples’ life stories.”

“It’s wonderful just to visit. Yeah, and no, we can’t now.”

“No.” Small town. Family, neighbors, neighborhood, town. It’s like the circles that spread from a stone thrown in a pond.

“Out at the Refuge it’s funny. Once in a while a car goes by and the people inside wave like…” I waved as if it I were seeing the greatest movie star.

She laughed. “I see that. It’s all ‘A human! A real human! Look! A woman with a dog! A trained, domestic dog! Wave!!! Eagles? Elk? Who cares! There’s a HUMAN BEING. Get a picture!’.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/12/rdp-friday-uncle/

Intensity

The protests against the police brutality that killed George Floyd have gone on for 9 days? 10 days? Yesterday I found myself wondering what the goal is. When will protestors know they are finished or is it a thing now that will go on and on and on and on?

Last night is the first night I’ve slept since the protests started. If their goal was to make white people think about things they haven’t thought about before, it worked here. I wrote one blog post about (now set to private) and a letter to Obama (never sent).

There are things related to it that I haven’t thought of for decades, one of which is Louis Farrakhan. It’s a fact that not all white people are racist and not all black people are NOT racist. Farrakhan, who is an extremely angry man — has claimed that it’s impossible for black people to be racists. Any anger they feel toward the white oppressor is justified and any action taken against whites is legitimate. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies Farrakhan — and his organization — as black nationalist and black supremacist.

He spoke once at the university where I was teaching. It was a hate fueled speech. It made the work of ordinary people — I’ll say ordinary white people — seem hopeless. The next day, when I got to school, I found the ground littered with 4 x 5 inch black and white flyers, printed with swastikas and the words, “White men built this country.”

One extreme brought out the other.

I picked up a couple of those flyers and took them home and stuck them in a drawer imagining a future collage that never happened. “It’s never going to work,” I remember thinking, “as long as entire groups of people categorically hate each other.”

~~~

In other news, the hike I’d planned with my friends yesterday didn’t happen. I texted everyone at 5 am yesterday and said, “I haven’t been sleeping. I’m going to keep trying.” or something. I finally went to sleep and woke up at 8:30 to see their texts. They answered immediately planning between them an alternative way that we could get together. It turned out to be a “Bring your own cuppa'” tea party in Elizabeth’s beautiful back yard.

The other thing on my phone when I woke up was a voicemail from the Good-X. I listened and then I screamed. He’d had a major heart attack and was in the hospital but he said, “They fixed me up.” I called him back after I’d had some coffee and got the whole story and answered some questions he had for me. As we were saying goodbye, I had to hold myself back from saying, “I love you.” How would he understand those words? Two people can have a terrible marriage and yet form a functional and mostly happy life together. We did for 12 years. His younger son is “my” son and between his family and me all the “I love you’s” are said often. In the “I love you” that I did not say are all the experiences we shared — China being one of them. Part of it, also, is “I get who you are now.” Instead of “I love you,” I said, “Come back and visit me. That was fun last time.” He and his step-grandson came through Monte Vista a few years ago on their way to Durango to meet his wife who was at a dahlia conference.

“I will. That was fun,” he said.

I told my friends about it at the tea party later. When I told them about wanting to tell my ex “I love you,” they understood. We talked about C-19, our encounters with people during this time, the weirdness, the beauty.. We laughed and did all the things that make friendships and, I think, for all of us, it was an incredible relief. None of us has been sleeping and as we talked about it, it seemed that our sleep was taking the same trajectory. Going to sleep, waking up thinking and then either getting up ungodly early or going to sleep a few hours later. I asked if they’d like to go on a evening hike to the Refuge with me when the skies and light are beautiful and the breeze is calm and fresh. Now we sort of have a plan.

Elizabeth’s husband, Bob, came out of the garage where he’s building a 1957 T-bird. I like talking to Bob and he likes telling me stories, so as my friends went off to cut rhubarb (some for me) Bob told me stories about airplanes. I don’t know that he always has a willing listener and the words just poured out of him. Later he came over and installed a new pneumatic spring on my storm door.

The day went on with curious intensity, culminating in a 1 1/2 hour phone call with my formerly lost cousin, Linda. We’re catching up on each others entire adult lives. She wanted to know about how my brother’s death affected me. That’s a long story. We talked about the deaths of the people we loved, a strange coda to my morning.

I was struck again that all we really have in this life are dreams, memories and the love we bear for others. That’s it.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/rdp-friday-protest/

I’m Not “Woke”

Yesterday I imagine most people saw the video of the woman in Central Park who refused to leash her dog even though it was clearly posted that, entering that area, an area called “The Ramble,” dogs must be leashed.

And why? A little research showed me why. It’s a refuge. In that immense and convoluted canyon of humanity there is a bird refuge. According to the guy who made the video, Christian Cooper, one of the most elegantly articulate people I’ve ever heard (he used the word “scofflaw”. Who uses that? The English teacher heart in me soared a little), 230 different bird species have been seen in that part of Central Park. When the event happened Cooper was birdwatching. It was 7:30ish in the morning.

Personally, I couldn’t spend more than 24 hours in New York City without feeling claustrophobic. I’ve tried. It’s the opposite of “my” landscape. It’s the “Big Filled.” So, my heart reached out in sympathy for the 230 bird species and the man who was there to see them. First point.

Second point. I believe in leashing dogs where there is signage. I walk my dogs in a bird refuge. I don’t want them going after the birds (and they would. They’re dogs). I don’t want them defecating there, either, so I carry poop bags. Dog poop is NOT the same to the natural environment as wild animal poop. There’s a reason the fox population has suffered from dog Parvo leading to an overpopulation of rabbits, etc… Nature knows how to work. We don’t.

When I go to my places and a person has an unleashed dog I’m furious. Bear is a power, a force of nature, and she doesn’t like other dogs. By keeping her leashed, I am protecting other dogs. She won’t hurt them, but I still don’t want her to chase them and throw them down. I also want to be responsible for my dog’s behavior where other animals live. Dogs are predators. I’ve had dogs who stayed with me on a trail, but neither Bear nor Teddy will. I’ve also let my dogs run where there is nothing at stake.

So, here’s this selfish woman letting her dog run in one of the only places in NYC where there are birds and birders and the whole nature thing that sustains life and the human soul. Grrrrrrrrr…..

Then the man, whom I couldn’t see but who was taking video, asked her to stay back from him. C-19 right? She kept approaching, yelling at him, spraying (through her mask) particles and rage. As she screamed, she held her little dog by the collar, choking him until he cried out in pain.

Still she did not leash him. Instead she called the police on 911 (the emergency number) and demanded (yes) they come and rescue her from an African American man who was attacking her.

That was it. I suddenly understood something I’ve never understood before. She actually BELIEVED that the cops would come and save her from the African American man. She said nothing about what was going on, only that an African American man was after her. She BELIEVED that was enough to summon the cops.

And that, I saw, clearly and sorrowfully, is White Privilege.

Why didn’t I see it before?

I never taught a class that was predominantly white. Most of my classes were Latino, white and African American — literally AFRICAN American very often. What I HAVE seen in my own life are African American students believing that when I asked them to do something difficult I was setting them up for failure because of White Privilege. That was never the case. Yesterday I understood the angry and paranoid assumptions many of these students brought with them to my classes, their inability to look at a white teacher as an individual person.

How did that all work out back in the day? Well, invariably I stood my ground. I knew where those students wanted to go and I knew my job was to get them there, even if I had to fight with them. It always worked out but it was never easy. They stood in their own way most of the time. I think I was terrifying to them.

A few years after teaching one particularly challenging community college class with a student who would angrily disrupt a lecture or discussion every single class period, until the other students were fed up with HER, I was sitting outside my office at San Diego State in a plaza area with picnic tables. I saw that student at another table tutoring (Equal Opportunity Tutoring) another African American student. I was happy to see that she’d succeeded in transferring (in spite of herself) and that she was helping someone else.

Later, immersed in grading papers, I felt a tap on my shoulder, “Professor?” said a meek voice. I turned around and it was that girl. “Can I sit with you a minute?”

“Sure,” I said. “I saw you tutoring over there. Awesome.”

“I owe you a big apology. You weren’t trying to make me fail back there in that class. You knew what was ahead of me because you teach here, too. You knew what I’d be expected to do. That wasn’t no ‘Whiteman’s book’ either.”

She was speaking of Brave New World. “No, it’s everybody’s book.”

“I get that now. Anyway, I’m sorry and thank you for teaching me.” She gave me a hug and went away.

I saw that whole experience watching that video yesterday. The African American man in the video was pure class and intelligence. The woman was hysterical way beyond the scope of the situation. I don’t know what was going on in her head but it seems to have had little or nothing to do with reality. In many ways it reminded me of the tirades this particular student had leveled at me during class time. Accusations of racism, threats to report me to the department (that she carried out, resulting in my being observed a couple of times that semester and leading to my being asked not to teach Brave New World any longer as it was too difficult for the students [fucking college juniors for the love of God]), and attempts to create “sides” among the students. That didn’t work. That student assumed that the leadership of the college would agree with her. I don’t know if they did or not, but she was right in the bias; they expected a white teacher to be unable to relate to students of color. I was lectured about this. Students in the class were interviewed, too, resulting in the administration deciding that I was fine, the class was fine, it was that this student just had a problem with me. They offered to put her in another class, but she didn’t want to go.

SO…the woman in the video lost her job, had her dog taken from her and can no longer go to Central Park. The man in question said in an interview,

“It’s a little bit of a frenzy, and I am uncomfortable with that,” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “If our goal is to change the underlying factors, I am not sure that this young woman having her life completely torn apart serves that goal.”

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/christian-cooper-amy-cooper-central-park-video-uncomfortable-hate-received/

I wrote something on Twitter yesterday in response to a comment made by a friend. I got this this morning.

I am not “woke.” I’m the same person I have always been. I was disgusted by more things in that encounter than the racism. The woman in the video demonstrated the lack of respect for nature I abhor. She mistreated her animal. She acted as if she was above the law. All those things disgust me. That she believed the cops would come to her aid “against” an African American man was just the cherry on the sundae.

I believe that as human beings we need to respect our world and all that is in it. What IF she’d leashed her dog? What IF she’d asked the man what he was doing there so early? What IF he’d introduced her to the idea of birding? What if she had been stunned to learn that there are 230 different species of birds frequenting that area? What if she had an inkling of life beyond herself, some curiosity, some optimism? She’s (to me) the same person demonstrating because the governor says the County of Alamosa has to wait 10 more days to open because it’s had a sudden up-tick in C-19 cases and it’s a good idea to wait and see. She’s the person that made me leave the classroom. “You can’t give me a B! I’ve never had a grade lower than an A!”

“Your emotions, make you a monster…”



Perspective

When I first started teaching critical thinking from Vincent Ryan Ruggiero’s book, Beyond Feelings, I was stunned by the chapters about what we think we know (but don’t). Basically, chapters about how incomplete information, partial truth, fake news and biases pollute knowledge. One point Ruggiero makes — and I think we need it now — is about slavery. He says something to the effect that there is nothing special about there having been slaves in the American colonies and, later, states. What is notable (he said) is that people STOPPED owning slaves because other people were willing to die for their freedom. His perspective looked back throughout human history and there was never a moment when someone wasn’t enslaving someone else.

We don’t think about the time before motors when people and animals did everything. Humans were most valuable for their labor.

Anyway, what I took away from this burst of insight is that we’ve got it all wrong. We should be happy that we were able to progress both mechanically and in the more important humane sense we were able regard owning other people as morally wrong. We should think, “Wow. At a certain point in time it became an almost universal idea that slavery is wrong. Humans did that. Awakened to that reality. We’re amazing.”

But that’s not how we work.

Last night I read a question posed on a site that exists to stimulate respectful debate. The question was whether or not the word “Nigger” should be expunged from Huckleberry Finn. The actual word itself was not used. The euphemism, “the ‘N’ word” was used instead. I don’t like euphemisms. The thing they represent is still there. Why pretend to hide it?

I read through the thread of responses to this question and was surprised at how many people did not understand the novel, how many people thought Huckleberry Finn is a book for children, how many people thought “the ‘N’ word” should be expunged, how many people faulted Twain for not “taking a stand against racism.”

I’m not even convinced that every use of “the ‘N’ word” in the 19th century was a racial slur. I’m relatively certain it was the word people used as we use African American or Black. I think WHO used it and HOW might be the problem. Still and all, it was the word in use at the time, whatever miserable connotations it has today.

I kept thinking of a passage from Fahrenheit 451 where Bradbury (in the voice of Beatty, the Captain) writes about how people had gone through all the literature of the past and expunged things that offended them.

“Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog?lovers, the cat?lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second?generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, so the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic ?books survive. And the three dimensional sex magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals.”

The result of this is depicted beautifully in the film of the novel staring Michael York. Passengers on a bus have nothing to do but feel their own faces and look into mirrors. Books are pictures, only, no words.

Anyhoo…

Anyone with half a brain reading Huckleberry Finn will get the satire, will see what’s going on, will understand that in their attempt to free the slave, Jim, Huck and Tom are on very different journeys. That the idea is to FREE Jim is, right there, pretty important.

Twain somehow saw his world from a rather high elevation and made fun of it in nearly everything he wrote. As someone who loves — and studies — history I value very highly an authentic voice from a past time. I don’t have the illusion (any more) that “now” has more right answers than did “back then.” We forget knowledge at least as fast as we create it, learn it.

I do not believe racism can be fought on a social level. It can be concealed. The rule of law is there to mandate justice and it’s a good thing it is. It’s all we have. But racism, at its core, must be confronted by individuals.

One of the saddest moments in my white, privileged (I don’t buy that, by the way) little life was when I met my next-door neighbor in Descanso, Andy. Andy is Mexican. I already knew the kids. His oldest daughter and I were pals. She was in 3rd grade, an outgoing little girl, who wanted to know me and the dogs. I knew his wife, who didn’t speak English. But I did not know Andy. When we met, Andy addressed me with the formality a Hispanic man uses to an older woman (which I expected) but also with a certain deference to my being a white lady who taught college. I saw in his approach to me a lot of what he’d experienced in his life and it made me really sad because I am not and never have been those women. Andy learned that over time and all was well.

I later learned, also, why Blanca didn’t try to speak English, even though she could, a little, at least as well as I spoke Spanish. She told me a story about meeting the wife of one of Andy’s bosses at a party and speaking English. She made a mistake; there are a lot of false cognates between English and Spanish and she got tangled up in one. The woman laughed at her and retold the story to everyone around.

To me, that’s racism, unless, of course, Blanca had been able to laugh, too, but that isn’t how she is made. She was also much younger and wanted very hard to impress her husband’s boss’ wife. The woman was uncaring and unimaginative — and she didn’t speak Spanish.

I don’t think censoring masterworks of literature written in the past is the answer to racism. I think each individual person (of all colors) learning humility and compassion is the answer to racism. I don’t think a person with a half-way decent mind and human feelings can maintain a blanket prejudice against a group of people because of something as superficial and stupid as skin color. It amazes me this lingers in our world. It’s a problem we could easily solve just by changing ourselves.