Musings

The Virus

White Supremacy is an ancient and virulent virus that has infected this country since its founding. It began with a “Manifest Destiny” that wiped out any humans that stood in the way of the European conquest of the New World and continued with an “all men [sic] are created equal” that didn’t recognize all the humans as human, ignoring the inhumanity of brutally enslaving thousands of African people.

White people, we are all infected to some degree. We have absorbed it in the images we have seen, the media we have consumed, the education we have received, and even the sermons we have heard in our churches. It’s everywhere. It’s no longer slavery or wholesale slaughter of the First Nations. It’s no longer explicitly codified in apartheid-style laws. It’s subtler, more insidious.

Oh, it’s also obvious. The woman on the video spewing the n-word and saying she’d say it again. The white people calling the police on black and brown people for simply existing in public spaces. The police officers who shoot first, shoot pre-emptively, and walk free of the murders they commit. And the epidemic (yes) of white men slaughtering people with their weapons of mass destruction–we have reached the point when it’s no surprise to discover that the madman with the AK-47 is a self-avowed White Supremacist.

And while we have been searching for ways to combat the virus within ourselves and our communities, the president and his cronies in the halls of power in this country are feeding the virus, adding to its virulence and strength. From his tweets to their shrugs and tepid explanations, the virus is being fortified and given room to bloom. When frat boys pose in celebration in front of a memorial to a black boy killed for the color of his skin, when people sworn to defend and protect all people are serving up vileness and hatred on the internet, when our nation is caging brown children and people of faith say they deserved it, when a raging and disaffected youth posts a manifesto about race and then picks up a gun to kill as many people as he can before he goes down in a blaze of non-glory, it’s not only the virus itself that is to blame. It is those who spread and nourish it.

I call out the president of the United States for spreading the virus of white supremacy, for normalizing it, for egging on his weak-minded followers to vile and horrendous acts. He and his enablers must be held accountable for their words and actions.

I’m not letting myself off the hook. I’m not letting you off the hook. All of us whose skin gives us privilege have a responsibility to deal with the virus within ourselves, within our communities, within this nation.

If you are white, I urge you to join me in several actions. First, let’s look inside and keep opening doors of awareness. It’s never enough to simply call out the racists out there. We need to look at the racists inside ourselves. When we feel defensive or self-righteous, those are clues that we are holding on to our own privilege in unhealthy ways. Examine. Repent. Let go. Grow. Move on. Repeat.

And then, let’s find one thing, or two, or twenty, that we can use to identify white supremacy in clear and articulate ways. Let’s call it out. Post it on our social media. Speak out. Open conversations. Teach our children. Spread the word. We need to kill this virus.

Musings

Tear Them Down

It’s an image that we armchair philosophers have been discussing for several days now, this picture of a crowd of anti-racism protesters in Durham NC pulling down a statue. Yes, many of us agree, it is time and past time for these statues to come down. They were so often placed in public places specifically as a show of white supremacy. Yes, they must come down. But, we tell ourselves and each other, there’s order and decorum to be considered. We don’t want to become vandals. And so on.

I think it’s crucial that we who are standing against racism in these days maintain the high ground, that we don’t let ourselves become mindless mobs, that we avoid violence.

But the more I think about this image, the more it fills my soul. Here is the metaphor we need for dismantling racism. We are pulling down the monuments to our slave-holding past. Not erasing our history, by any means, by giving ourselves a visual image for destroying its continuing power within our social structures.

I am speaking to my white Friends: May we take this image inside us, find the edifices to white supremacy that linger in the streets and plazas of our souls, and pull them down, in acts of defiant and revolutionary love.

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Silence, My Soul

“If we are to teach peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children; and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won’t have to struggle; we won’t have to pass fruitless ideal resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which consciously or unconsciously the whole world is hungering.”
―Gandhi
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“We must call evil by its name–call white supremacy a sin from the pulpit, and call white America to repentance.” ―Jim Wallis
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“I think ultimately people become extremists not necessarily because of the ideology. I think that the ideology is simply a vehicle to be violent. I believe that people become radicalized, or extremist, because they’re searching for three very fundamental human needs: identity, community and a sense of purpose.

“If, underneath that fundamental search is something that’s broken — I call them potholes — is there abuse or trauma or mental illness or addiction? … [T]here are so many marginalized young people, so many disenfranchised young people today with not a lot to believe in, with not a lot of hope, they tend to search for very simple black and white answers.” ―Christian Picciolini, former skinhead
*
“Nazis are a lot like cats: If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.” ―John Oliver
*
“Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons…
We who believe in freedom cannot rest,
we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
―Sweet Honey in the Rock
*
In Starhawk’s novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, Maya tells her beloved community to approach the invading soldiers with these words: “There’s a place set for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”
*
“The future, good or ill, was not forgotten,
but ceased to have any power over the present.
Health and hope grew strong in them,
and they were content with each good day as it came,
taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien (The Fellowship of the Ring)
*
“There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.”
― Linda Hogan
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“Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.” ―Rabindranath Tagore
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“Whoever you are,
now I place my hand upon you,
that you be my poem,
I whisper with my lips close to your ear.
I have loved many women and men,
but I love none better than you.”
—Walt Whitman, “To You”
*
Let it flow.
Let what may come, come.
Let what must go, go.
But we,
we will put our feet
in the icy waters of now
and know
how all will pass
around us–
through us,
between us–
how everything changes
and everything stays the same. —Beth Weaver-Kreider
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“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
―Eleanor Roosevelt
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“Shaped language is strangely immortal, living in a meadowy freshness outside of time.

But it also lives in the moment, in us. Emotion, intellect, and physiology are inseparably connected in the links of a poem’s sound. It is difficult to feel intimacy while shouting, to rage in a low whisper, to skip and weep at the same time.” ―Jane Hirshfield


Gratitude List:
1. The way this boy turns everything into a song. When I told them I didn’t know if the party was going to include swimming, he started singing from the back seat, in a lovely melody, “Call and check. Call and check. Call and check.” When he found a Lego he’d been searching for: “Here it is. Here it is, Here it is!” Often, throughout the day, I’ll hear him singing to himself in the other room. He takes after his dad.
2. One of my deeply compassionate colleagues, in the wake of the weekend’s violence, offered this solution: To love all our students more–to show it more. All of them. That’s our work. That’s the work of healing. That’s a solution I can implement.
3. Instars. I love that word. Instars are the developmental metamorphic stages of insects in which they shed a skin and a new body emerges with new powers and abilities. That’s a bit of a whimsical way to say it, perhaps, but I think my children are both approaching new instar phases of their development.
4. Voices calling for change. Coming out of this weekend’s terrorist attack, I see people looking inward, trying to understand at deeper levels what white privilege means, what it means to live in a white supremacist society. Perhaps good will rise out of evil.
5. Bruschetta and toast.

May we walk in Beauty!