Category Archives: Rants

About rage

Let’s be honest – I am angry. In general. My default mood could be defined as an aggressive simmer and all it takes is one comment on Facebook, one well-placed meme to turn up the heat. I can work myself in to heart palpitations lying in my bed in the middle of the night just thinking about some of the things I read.

I’ve worked to keep a wide range of people from all aspects of my life on Facebook, including ones who hold political and social views that are different from mine. I thought it would help me understand them better, provide a point for human connection for us both. But all it has really done is reminded me every day that I share a planet with people who will “Like” the pictures of my children, but wouldn’t stop to help them if they were in a car wreck or give them the benefit of the doubt if they were lying dead and uncovered in the street for four hours. Then, I think of that little brown boy seven hundred miles away who started first grade in his white Polo and navy blue shorts. And it becomes personal. There are people in the world who will wish malice upon him because of his skin as soon as he hits puberty. And I can’t save him.

Neither could I save Joshua.

And, that pisses me off.  They’re not just stealing the life of my grandson. They’re disparaging the life of my dead son. And, I believe that rage is an appropriate response to that. And, that’s something that I’m not sure my friends who aren’t terrified for the lives of their children understand.  I get that I am not processing all that well these days. I’m not being productive. That I’m losing myself. I do. But I’ve got years of righteous anger bottled up – years of being the voice of reason and taking the high road and it it has only brought more and more opportunities to see people I love ground in to the pavement on the city streets of injustice.  And now, I’ve got grief behind it. Maybe I’m not being productive, but maybe I am. Maybe coming to terms with the fact that when my grandmother asked me thirty-odd years ago, “Why would you want to do that to a child?” she might have realized something I didn’t – the world is a despicable place to raise children of color.

And, I can’t save them.

~ D

Writing matters to race

When I first moved from the south to the midwest, I found activism to be much more prevalent. Most everyone I met had a thing that they were passionate enough about to spend their time, energy and money fighting for.

“I don’t have a “thing,” I remember saying. No bumper stickers, no buttons, no passion.

That was nine years ago – around the same time I started to notice how different racism was in the midwest from the south. Not better, mind you. Just different. And somewhere along the line, race became my thing. Since my children are biracial, I’ve always been cognizant of race and its complexity. But something changed for me when my environment changed and I saw things as an outsider. I became passionate (rabid?) about calling out racism in all its ways of being and holding myself and others accountable for the damage it causes.

And then, I started writing publicly. And I have to admit, I tried to reign it in.  Knowing that I do aspire to make a living by writing, I didn’t want to offend for fear of driving off potential readers. I bit my tongue. And I’m ashamed of that.

So here’s my public declaration: I am passionately anti-racist. And I will write about it. I’ll write about it because writing is both my way of understanding the world and my way of impacting it. I’ll write about it because writing matters and people who fancy themselves writers have to talk about things that matter.  Writing matters to racism. Art matters to racism.

Some people will go away. And that’s okay. To those people, I bid all the best.  To those who stick around, thanks. Let’s learn something from one another.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speaking of race, I’m working on a story that flashes back to 1940’s south and a farm that is sharecropped by both white and black sharecroppers.  If you – or anyone you know – has experience in that subject matter, I’d love to hear from you. I’m finding research to be particularly difficult because, well….history is written by the winners. In order to do right by the black folks in the story, I need to better understand the time period.

 

~D

A Southern White Woman’s take on Waco v. Baltimore

There has been some activity on social media about the differences in how the shoot-out coverage in Waco, TX has been different from the how the riots in Baltimore were covered earlier this spring. Observations on why in Texas, motorcycle gang members were sitting, un-cuffed on the curb using their smart phones while police in basic uniform casually strolled through the crowd while coverage of the riots in Baltimore showed police in full riot gear, gas masks and rioters sitting shirtless on the curb with their hands zip-tied behind their backs and others using bottled water to clear pepper spray from their eyes.

Others have brought up the fact that protesters in Baltimore were publicly and immediately labeled as thugs* while the people involved in the Waco shooting are being referred to by their proper club name (Banditos & Cossacks) and the super-cute acronym OMG (as in “ohmygawd, Becky, look at her butt”).

To those who have brought up these issues, I say: I see where you’re coming from. And…

I wonder if we’re examining the issue critically enough. A photograph in public media is subjective to what the photographer thought was relevant to that moment. Words like thug can be buzzwords – someone, somewhere used it and suddenly everyone is using the same word to describe the incident. We are, after all, sheep. Some people are just too sensitive.

I’d like to dive a little deeper (buzzword!) and offer the following on why the coverage of the Baltimore Riots is systematically and inherently racist in ways that we (white folk) don’t even realize.

First, I’d like to offer the definition that I use for racism. It’s based on an academic definition used in multicultural counseling. Others will have different definitions and that’s fine.

Here is my working definition of racism:

Racism is an act that disproportionately damages members of an ethnic or racial group whether intentional or unintentional.

Accepting that definition for the purposes of this post, you can see how the pictures of the Baltimore Riots would damage (though unintentionally) black people by perpetuating them as inherently dangerous people impacting job prospects, the likelihood of interaction with police not to mention the physiological impacts of racism on people of color. Just evaluate positive media images of black people in general media coverage and you’ll see that we haven’t come very far since the early twentieth century portrayed black men in film as minstrels, “happy Negros” or murderers of white men and rapists white women.

But let’s dig even deeper.

In response to the Waco shooting, I’ve heard four separate stories (I heard one story twice) about the history of motorcycle gangs in America this week. If I’ve got the facts right, the very first Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs** (OMGs) started when veterans from World War II came home. The stories I’ve heard suggest that PTSD may have played a role, as well as a need to regain the brotherhood that they had in the service.

Wait.

What?

How many stories did we hear giving an eighty-year history explaining the Baltimore Riots?Many consider the Ferguson and Baltimore Riots symptoms of the unfinished business of racism. Put in the larger context of racism in the US, might we have viewed the riots differently?

And did anyone – politician, media outlet, anyone. – work so hard to differentiate between the people who were exercising their rights to peaceably assemble from the people who were looting? Or include the military and mental health histories of anyone running with a television.

I’d like to introduce a term that I did not coin, but wish I had. White ‘splaining.  Isn’t this coverage just a patronizing pat on the hand to the American public on why we shouldn’t worry too much about biker gangs? They are just misunderstood, war-damaged fellas just looking for a place to fit in.

Those thugs in Baltimore, though…

* Some suggest that thug is the new n-word. Next time you hear the word, make a mental note of the race of the subject.

** OMGs are thought to constitute about 1% of people in motorcycle culture. 

Stranger Danger

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he had gotten cussed out for smiling and waving at a little girl in a grocery store.  I commented on his status that I was sorry that men sometimes were looked at as dangerous without reason. “I’m sorry,” I said, “that this is the world we live in.”

Something happened this weekend that has me digging deeper into that thought. There was an incident and one of the possible explanations for the incident was that a man was sexually violating a young woman (under age slightly). Within 10 minutes, I was ready to tie him to the bed and burn his house down. There were four other women involved in the conversation, and we all agreed. The only logical explanation was that he was a perpetrator.

It occurred to me this morning three of the five women discussing the incident had been sexually violated by someone they trusted and the other two were closely tied to women who had been. And I wonder whether the angry mother in the grocery store had been as well.

For someone with PTSD, the response to danger is immediate and intense. Sometimes flashbacks occur. There’s no convincing us that the danger we perceive isn’t real. And that’s what happened to me when I thought a young woman wasn’t safe. Fight and flight all at once.

And, so, I sort of retract my apology to the man who was cussed out in a grocery store because I think men are the only ones who can fix this problem. Men must no longer tolerate that sexual violence against women is okay. They’ve got to call one another on it when it happens. When we, as women, call it out, we’re being sensitive and whiney. Men, you have to step up to the plate.

When a friend posts a picture of his gun and ammo on Facebook with a caption of, “Let’s go hunting women.” It’s not funny. Tell them it’s not.

When a beer company puts a slogan on its beer that says, “Consuming this product may remove “no” from your vocabulary,” men have to object. Loudly.

When you’re in a bar and your friends are commenting about a woman’s suggestive dress, you have to remind them that even if she were naked, that is not consent to be jeered at, followed or touched.

That commenting on a woman’s body at all and using derogatory terms that refer to her sexuality is contributing to the culture that implies women’s bodies are public domain.
When that stops, we can start to talk about unfairness toward men.

~Dee