Guest Post: Guilt Isn’t the Point

The words that follow aren’t mine. I am at a loss for how to sound eloquent and worthy a read lately. So once again, as I did yesterday, I’ll turn to someone else’s words. Today my husband posted something on Facebook in response to others’ reactions on social media following the Ferguson verdict. I asked his permission to re-post it here because it’s insightful, thoughtful, and honest.

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A few friends in my timeline are (understandably) feeling put on the spot, called out for the mere fact of their whiteness. I can understand the emotional response—the sense that one is being “labeled” as racist when one feels that one is no such thing. Believe me, I can understand it.

But. But.

Really, “labeling” is the least of our problems. When a cultural disposition is baked in, all the way down, what does this quibbling about “labels” amount to? Nada. Nothing. It’s a side issue. It makes this about *me*, rather than about the people who are desperately pleading with me (and all other well-meaning white people) to get over myself and help them change a system that is inherently unfair.

malesincThe color of my skin means (objectively) that I can waltz through my life without worrying that my skin color marks me as worthy of suspicion or worse by law enforcement and others. Sure, I may not be overtly “racist”, which is what most white people who protest that they’re not racist mean when they say this. But that doesn’t magically excuse me from being implicated in the institutional apparatus of racism that results in black men being incarcerated at dramatically higher rates than white men (1), black people being shot by police at a higher rate than whites (2), and black children being deprived of the educational opportunities and resources that might provide some sliver of hope for them to find a place at the cultural table (3).

If we look at the sociological data in this country objectively, we cannot avoid the conclusion that the U.S. is still functioning with an inherently *structural* racism. Those of us who are white, who clearly aren’t harmed by that structure, and who can even be said to benefit from it, needn’t flagellate our individual selves when we see this (i.e., feeling *guilt* isn’t the point), but we really should open our eyes, be *honest* with ourselves about the advantages that we enjoy that are not enjoyed by our black and brown neighbors, and support those who are working to make this ostensible “nation of laws” a more just and equal society.

(Data referred to above: (1) Incarceration: http://bit.ly/1vluzkf ; (2) Police shootings: http://bit.ly/1CV3fML ; (3) Unequal educational opportunities: http://wapo.st/1viEFBd)

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To Kill a Mockingbird is Apropos Again. And Again.

To Kill a MockingbirdIt is about justice for Michael Brown. Even more, for many, it’s also about preventing future Darren Wilsons. And I believe that in order to do that, we have to work hard. Everyday. To confront our own biases (yes, you) and to demand that our institutions do so as well. And we need to ask, as Jem does in To Kill a Mockingbird, “How could they do it, how could they?” again and again even as we try to work it out.

I find solace through information, and by trying to dig down to the humanity and empathy, I will hopefully discover there. Here is a start: Grand Jury Document analysis. I found this link via Yamiche Alcindor’s Twitter stream. And NPR is analyzing the documents in real time.

There can be understanding without acceptance. And through understanding HOW or WHY and injustice, an abuse, has occurred, we can start to prevent it. Because it will happen again. It’s happening right now.

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Glad I Saw It: Dresses for Dancing

photo 3

Yesterday, as my daughter and I walked around Nutley waiting for a birthday party to finish, we came across Shall We Dance. My daughter was entranced by the sparkle and fringe in the window, so we went in. It was busy with customers, and a dance program was playing on a television, and we wondered aloud about the many colors and styles and the tiny finger ties to keep sleeves in place during performances. It was a lot of fun! I highly recommend stopping in — and the sale rack has some great options for a fancy New Year’s Eve (or WTF, I’m wearing this!) outing.

Have a few minutes to spare for glam? Take a look at the Facebook photos!

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If you haven’t voted yet, get to it!

VOTE!

Find your polling place here.

For more reticent voters: Find your f***ing polling place. (Language NSFW!)

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Have a Punny Halloween!

Grammarly is an English teacher’s dream. And it’s perfect for the wickedly corny folks as well. And so, Happy Halloween!photo

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Bearing Witness, Declaring Support for Domestic Violence Awareness

10675623_302816956578972_2493514775744459775_nAttending a vigil is to be a witness. We listen, we nod, we speak names aloud, we stand in remembrance of those lost. Attending a vigil is to be an advocate. We show support, solidarity, unity with those who survive. Attending a vigil is to be an activist. We demand attention, action, change in honor of those who are suffering. A vigil is more than a memorial. It is an act of rebellion against the status quo.

Most importantly, especially when domestic violence is concerned, attending a vigil is to show vigilance and support for those suffering. With our presence, we tell those who may be close to losing hope and drive and the will to keep on that we know. We care. We are here and ready to bear witness. We are here and ready to be advocates. We are here and ready to activate change. Unified and connected, the web is ready to give support.

Domestic violence is affecting someone you know right now. Be vigilant. Be an advocate. Be there.

SOFIA was in Montclair’s Crane Park on Monday, October 27, 2014 for a Domestic Violence Awareness Candlelight Vigil. See images of the event here: OUTlooks by OUTthere.

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Still in the Room

elephant in the room

Don’t worry. The anger takes between three to five minutes to recede, disappear. No matter how hateful or damaging the unspoken, seething subjects are, we can count on everyone else turning away, pretending all is well. Out of sight, out of mind.

Like micro stories like this one? Go check out the wicked fun challenges at yeah write!

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Glad I Saw It: Work

Dug and loaded by hand.

Work Detail.

Two kind, diligent, humble men have been working at my house for the last week. They started out jackhammering concrete, then loading and stacking concrete, then digging and digging and digging. Today they are loading and sorting concrete. Then they’ll dig some more. I bring them Cokes and Sprites, and yesterday blueberry scones pilfered from a meeting. And they are truly working harder than I’ve seen anyone work. Continue reading

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Empathy: You Have It In You

My daughter sobbed bitterlyBye Bye Butterfree at the end of a Pokemon episode called “Bye Bye Butterfree.” The butterfly (with poisoning abilities?) left Ash to, as my five-year-old explained it, “go and have babies.” She was crying because of the friendship lost and because the characters on the television were so, so sad. It happens often with her; she has deep empathy when she sees others in distress. Even low-quality cartoon others.

More of us could use some of that. A lot more of that. Continue reading

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Living Like Luna Lovegood

Luna LovegoodI have long loved the Harry Potter series. And thankfully, it’s a love that both of my children have absorbed and made their own. Of course I love Hermione and Ron and Harry for their wonderful personalities and growth and just plain awesomeness. But my favorite character (other than my deep appreciation for Snape) is Luna Lovegood.

I’ve been reminded, of late, of why I appreciate her character so much. And despite what my sisters and close friends might think, it’s not just her keen fashion sense. Continue reading

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