Racism

To Belittle is to Be Little: Mansplaining & Our Words of Oppression

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So my mom was just telling me about a man she knows who sometimes talks to her like she was stupid and says sexist things from time to time. I quickly responded that he was “mansplaining” to her. She had never heard that expression. I then proceeded to explain it to her, while also being hyper-aware and vigilant about not doing the very thing I was preaching against.

I realized that this kind of hyper-vigilance is exactly what we all need to practice every day and in every circumstance. No matter who we’re talking to – friend, family, or foe. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about basic human decency and respect. We should always be able to disagree, but it’s about how we do so. 

I honestly think half the problems in this world aren’t necessarily caused by WHAT we say to each other and what we disagree about, but HOW we say it. How we talk to each other matters. It should be discourse built on an unspoken agreement of respect and civility. It’s about empathy.

The next time I talk to a woman, or a child, or a minority, or someone perhaps less formally educated- but no less intelligent, or ANYONE, I hope I remember what I learned today: words matter. Charity begins at home, and the way we talk to each other is the first step towards truly listening. And that’s where true compromise lies.

Colin Kaepernick & Captain America: Two Caps Fighting Their Own Civil Wars

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Have you ever thought about the similarities between Colin Kaepernick and Captain America, who are both referred to as Cap (Kap)? Stay with me. I know it’s a stretch, but if you’ve seen Civil War, you know that Captain America defies popular public opinion, and defends a known criminal, openly defying Congress’s call to register all superheroes and “profile” America’s defenders. His opinion is not a popular one, and this once popular superhero becomes labeled a traitor and demonized by a large portion of America. However, he does have his commited defenders, and this is why the superheroes are split, and the reason the film and comic story arc is called “Civil War.” How appropriate. 

Colin Kaepernick was once a hero of the NFL, and he has decided to stand up to police brutality by taking a knee. He has had an overwhelming majority of negative press, and people calling him a traitor and un-American, but he also has a large group of supporters, not unlike Captain America.

Whatever you may think of Colin Kaepernick or Captain America, they both represent the best of America. It just depends on what you see when you look at our nation. Do you see it as a perfect and flawless nation that we should make great “again” or a great nation in need of improvement, and the ongoing effort to “form a more perfect union” — for every American?

I think they are both superheroes, and saying I support Colin Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter does not mean I hate cops or don’t support “all lives” or “Blue Lives.” 151 years later, we are still fighting the Civil War.

 

Photo Credit: Drawing by Dave Rappoccio

The Democracy of Youth

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed many of my friends rediscovering and embracing their ethnic and cultural heritage. My Jewish friends have starting going back to temple and are exposing their children to their rich Jewish heritage, my Christian friends are doing mission trips and baptizing their children, my black friends are celebrating their shared history and struggles. I am grateful to see people taking stock of their lives and finding enrichment in their cultural legacy. However, I think back to what made us friends in high school and college, and our mutual loves of theatre, or literature, or debate, or heck, even partying and having a good time. The time we spent in the dorms together, and in plays together. It didn’t seem to matter then what anyone was, or where we came from. Rich or poor. Christian or non-Christian. Gay or straight. We were students. We were friends. We were lovers. 

I know people have to grow up. I know people mature, and perhaps become more conservative. I know priorities change, and people need to start thinking of their families, their finances, and their futures.

As we find our way into middle age, children, and spouses. As we find our way back into our cultural traditions and religious institutions, and as we isolate ourselves within our pockets of friends and families who share our same beliefs and values, we must never forget those times we had together, and the people who diversified our lives and made us stronger as individuals. As we get older, we must surely celebrate where our families came from and recapture our identities as Atheists, Christians, Jews, Gays, Blacks, Asians, etc. but never forget the rich rainbow of colors we had in our youth. As we separate, and go our separate ways, we must never forget what brought us all together in the first place. As we vote in these upcoming elections, and as we look to shape the future of this country, remember the friends you’ve made along the way, and recall that you loved them once. For a reason. Don’t ever let that love go. Stand united, my friends. Let’s truly make America great for EVERYONE.diversity forum flyer graphic_0

Trump’s Thugs: An Uglier Campaign Gets Even Uglier

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Well, we certainly are seeing the character of these Trump supporters. Yelling vulgarities, spitting racist vitriol, punching out protesters, throwing up the ‘Sieg Heil ‘ salute, and generally, just being horrible human beings. THIS is apparently the way they’d like to make ‘America Great Again.’

Everyone knows I’m a liberal Democrat, but I have many conservative friends and family. I try and respect everyones’ point of view, and really don’t like the idea of invalidating another person’s opinion or censoring their freedom of speech. I’m also not a huge fan of political correctness, but for very different reasons, and I certainly find this kind of anti-P.C. crap revolting. I try to be open-minded.

And yet, I struggle to see any worth or value in these Trump supporters. I am ashamed to share a country with them. And I’m sorry, I know it’s insensitive of me, but I can’t help but wishing people like this couldn’t vote. Naturally, the democratic idealist in me believes everyone deserves a vote, but the human in me rejects all the hatred and violence they stand for AND that their collective vote could potentially destroy all the progress we’ve genuinely made in this country.

I know many of my friends are writing on their walls: “If you’re a Trump supporter, please unfriend me immediately.” I have really tried to reject saying such things, and giving such ultimatums. I think we should all have a mixture of friends, of various cultures and political beliefs. But man, it’s getting harder and harder for me to resist making the same declaration. How can I condone such hatred and violence? All I can say is, if you’re a Trump fan, we clearly have VERY different values and principles, and I pity anyone who has so much anger in their hearts.

How Liberal White America May Be the Most Complicit in Perpetuating Racism & Deflecting Its Own Ugly Role

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“This is the country we live in. Millions of Black lives are valued less than a single White person’s hurt feelings.”

When I was teaching my first year in the inner city, I was like the only white teacher, and in fact, one of only a handful of white employees of this school for at-risk kids, where all the students were black. One week, we were told we’d all be receiving racial sensitivity training — presumably directed at us white teachers, who needed to learn how to navigate a very different culture than the one we knew. I was very receptive, and welcomed any help I could get. It was a very rigorous two days, and very emotional, and it was the first time I had ever heard the words ‘Institutional Racism’ or ‘White privilege’ before. It was all so overwhelming, and a bit disorienting. Everything I thought I knew about how the world worked had been upended quite shockingly. After all, I was a proud liberal Yankee, and felt very strongly about racism and equality for all Americans. I deplored racism, and couldn’t possibly see that I had any role in its existence. Near the end of day two, we were all so exhausted and frazzled, and were asked to pair up. I got matched with this grumpy and miserable black secretary, whom I had always tried to be nice to, but just never got anywhere. In an epic and climactic finish, we all sort of extemporaneously aired our dirty laundry, and by this time, I was crying and fragile, and I just came out and admitted that I too, was a racist, and as much a part of the problem as I was the solution. I had broken down, and confessed this horrifying secret, and rather than compassion or understanding, this woman shook her head in disgust, and muttered epithets under her breath. I felt betrayed, and she made me feel like the worst person on the planet for doing something I thought was rather brave and honest.

What did I want a medal for most valuable white guy hurt feelings?

In the days that followed, and the years that have since passed, I recognize how valuable that lesson was for me. Although it was painful and humiliating to put myself out there like that, and get so harshly rebuked, I think we all need to break a few eggs before we can make an omelet we all can enjoy. I don’t hate all black people because that ONE misanthropic black woman showed me no mercy when I needed it the most, just as I would hope I don’t represent the whole of my race.

I don’t have to have personally owned slaves or trafficked in the contemptible institution, but I do benefit from it. Over 150 years later, and I still operate freely in a world built for ME! The laws we abide by, the narrative we choose to spin, the iconography of black (evil) and white (good) that permeates our story, the very way our city blocks are laid out, public transportation is organized, the schools teach to a white learner, and perhaps the most insidious of all….the very language that we use in everyday parlance. ALL of it is skewed towards white privilege. Institutional racism is not the evil confederate flag waving, cross-burning hillbillies from Dixie. We know about them. They’ve never been shy to express their vitriol. It”s ironically the very kindness of friends which often hurts the most. These are the nice and respectable husband and wife academics from Westchester, who annually donate to the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund, while holding onto their college days at Berkley, and their many Civil Rights marches. It’s the most well-intentioned of us, who often don’t even realize our own culpability in perpetuating the system.

That’s not meant to demonize white males or give a free pass to all unguided black youth. It’s just to recognize that there is an unseen system at work, reliably stacking the deck for the hegemony, while covertly or overtly suppressing the hopes and aspirations of the people of color in this country. It doesn’t mean that the good old ‘American Dream’ can’t work for people of their stature, it just means that we’re not all taking off from the same starting line. White males have already made three full laps, and minorities are just warming up. Have no illusions: this race was rigged for just ONE race.