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Divide and Conquer – Let me paint you a picture

Divide and Conquer – Let me paint you a picture

I wanted to paint a picture today. I bought a canvas the other day. A big one. The first of this size for me and I’ve been pretty excited to see what happens with it. I really thought, I definitely planned on painting with real paint on a real canvas, but apparently, this morning I will be painting with words again.

Last year, I was walking through the mall next to the school I worked at in Tirana, Albania with a friend of mine who had also been raised in the USA. As we walked towards the escalator, we saw 2 women with a few children walking towards the escalator from the opposite direction. The two women were covered head to toe, with nothing showing but their eyes, the black cloth flowing entirely over them. 

Picture taken from pintrist JILBAB STYLE https://www.pinterest.com/pin/160370436710598011/

My friend said to me, “Crazy how the first feeling is fear, how we were taught to be afraid”.  And it’s true. The first feeling I felt as I noticed the group was a little jump in my tummy, a little moment of fear, a quick flash of the mall getting blown up. See, I’ve been taught burka’s represent a group of people who are “out to get me”, people I should be afraid of.  I’ve been spoon-fed the belief that all Muslim people are terrorists.  

Truth is though, these were just two women with their children shopping at the mall, just like we were. They were merely women who had a different religion than me, dressed differently than me. It was me that was wrong and I almost immediately censored myself and redirected to what I know is true.  I have lived in 3 Muslim countries, as an American, as a non Muslim, and not had anyone ever try to blow me up, yet my stomach still jumped in that first second. I still had that initial flash.  20 years of propaganda worked. 

How do you automatically feel when you see someone with obvious signs of being a Muslim?

I’ve seen all kinds of Americans react the same way, thinking that all Muslims are crazy, jihadist, extremists who will happily blow themselves up to blow us up. Divide and Conquer. In America, everyone is afraid of Muslims now, because we have had almost 20 years of propaganda to ensure that reaction. 20 years of adding Muslims to the list of divide-ees worked its way into my subconscious psyche.  I live a life that proves that propaganda is not true, but I still had that initial reaction. 

So who are these, the divided, the “them” that Muslims now are among?  Well, there’s women, LGBTQ, People of Color, immigrants, apparently the Chinese have their own ‘them’ group now aside from ‘Asians’. And we’re really pushing the Democrat vs Republican us and them groups hard. No longer are those terms for parties or ideals, but rather they are very much like Sneetches, with Sylvester McMonkey McBean at the wheel of that machine.  Division.  It’s how you win over countries, start world wars, eradicate groups of people, and apparently it is how you run America.

In this crazy thought blizzard that would not let me paint this morning until I wrote, I saw a bunch of pictures. So I ask you, What are your initial responses/thoughts/gut feelings when you see each photo? What do you automatically think about before you start to censor yourself?

all above photos from stock photos at canstockphoto.com

And now to the main idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. The reason I had to write this instead of break ground on my new canvas.

Did you think of the one individual in each photo or did you think generalizations about whole groups of people? Did you name the group? Were they positive or negative thoughts?

So, what about the photos below?

all above photos taken from Google search results

Did you think of whole generalizations, or do you think of that one person in the photo? 

Did you you name the group “white men….”? Or “American men….”?

We have been taught to think of American white men as powerful, just, smart, capable, lawful, inventive, breadwinners, heroes. 

One guy messing up doesn’t mean all of them are like that. We don’t think of them as a group in the negative. We single out negative ones, group together the positives.

Yet, the generalized narratives for any other group are almost entirely negative. All powerful women are ……..    All Muslims are ……….  All young black men are ………… All Asian girls are ……….. All gay men are ……..   All blondes are ……    And the positive ones are singled out.

That conversation from last year kept coming to mind today, a flood of pictures and generalizations. All the thoughts I have been told to think about people.

And I cannot figure out why it is so easy to dismiss the wrongs of individual white men. 

Why it is so easy to group other people together and give them all the identity of the worst examples in their group and why we don’t ever do that for white, Christian, American men.

Why can white men actually shoot up places, kill many people, be a mass murderer in action and be unharmed as they are arrested? Yet a black boy playing cops and robbers can get fatally shot by an actual cop. An autistic man can get a fatal injection of ketamine as he is apologizing for walking home with a mask on. 

Why can a white man go to trial for actually raping a girl and have the spotlight be for what an athlete he is? Yet a black boy can be hung for daring to look at a white girl?

Why can white men take over a government building fully armed and have no consequences? Yet peaceful black marchers can get tear-gassed and beaten with batons for marching against brutality.

Why can white men steal millions of dollars, billions of dollars through corporate crime and bailouts, yet every day black people were denied the ability to get a loan or buy a home, or even rent in some areas.

I do not understand why white men can DO the things people conjecture a black man could do, and have no bodily harm done to them.  Yet black men can be killed, black children can be killed, black women can be killed in their sleep having not actually committed any crime at all.  

I do not understand why white men get a trial, where they are seen as innocent until proven guilty, but black people seem to have the proof of their guilt automatically built into their skin, so cop’s think they can just kill without a trial. 

I see people posting, being so dismissive saying, “The government is trying to control you by telling you to wear a mask”! “The governor’s are infringing on your rights by putting the state in lock-down!”. “Don’t let the government tell you what to do! Vote them out!”

But the US government is openly, systematically, removing your rights, the checks and balances that hold our democracy together. Even as the parts they are doing behind closed doors get brought out into the open, it is ignored.

The government has been dividing us and telling us how to think about each group for centuries to keep themselves in power. You want to talk about control. Read up on the United Daughters of the Confederacy and their little side project the Children of the Confederacy. Or read more about the American Housing Project its purposeful prohibition of African-Americans from buying homes. Read up on why it was so sadistically meaningful to have a rally in Tulsa. It is not the mask that is controlling us, it these divisions being pushed on us through text books, commercials, training programs, signs on walls, in courtrooms, on newspapers.

I wanted to paint this morning, but I had to write this. I had to say this. I had to raise my voice to the injustice of propaganda. I had to raise my voice to state that saying Black Lives Matter IS saying all lives matter and saying all lives matter is removing the call to create justice for lives that do not currently enjoy the privilege of justice. 

And saying Black Lives Matter lays the foundation for equalizing all the Them groups, but saying all lives matter is an Us distraction that actually perpetuates the divisions. Once there is equality, then it will be okay to say all lives matter, it will be the most appropriate thing to say then. But until there is equality, we have to raise the voices of those unequal. 

We have to challenge ourselves to see individuals and stop believing the US and THEM talking points. Notice initial reactions and thoughts and challenge their validity.

Most Muslims aren’t out to blow you up.

Most black men are not out to harm you.

Most Asian …..   aren’t…….. 

Most …… aren’t ………

……..

I want to keep erasing that record, or CD, or whatever you want to call the loop that is playing in my background. It is okay to stop right here and realize it is time to change.  No one needs you or me or anyone to have a breakdown over the past, but we need to stop letting ourselves be divided, stop thinking in divisive terms. We should not be in a competition for our lives to matter. There is no harm in bringing others up. It does not diminish our star to have other stars around us. We are stronger together.

And we have to start SEEING the crime and terrible, awful things that white, American men are actually doing. Call it out, name it, and make an example of their crimes being punished. They cannot keep hiding behind the whiteness, especially as people are getting killed having done nothing wrong.

I will keep standing.

Love and Light everyone. Now I am going to go paint something on my canvas.

 

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An open letter to my biracial son from a white mother who did not see color.

An open letter to my biracial son from a white mother who did not see color.

Dear Son,

I did not know then, but as Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” I want to accept my shortcomings and failings, my ignorance, and even those things I chose not to see even though they were visible. You know I try so hard to be a voice against racism and have since either of us can remember. This year I have spent many hours trying to learn more, listen more, and think more about my path and how I can be the best advocate/ally I can be. I know that it is in continuous work that we unpack the nontruths we are raised with. In all of this, one day about a month ago, I was given another moment of enlightenment, of realness I had not known with this kind of clarity before that moment. I was given a glimpse into your world and it has taken me this month since that moment, to open that vision more and look around inside it before I could write this letter to you.

This ‘vision’ gave me a fuller understanding of the difference between racism and white privilege and why white privilege is what holds racism together. I thought they were the same thing, even as I understood more and more about white privilege; even as I knew and you knew and everyone that knows me knew that I am not racist, what I didn’t know is how pervasive white privilege is in that even if you are not racist, racist crap is done in the ignorance of white privilege. I chose to walk around inside that moment and realized, understood some of my part in your pain. It helped me separate racism and white privilege so that I can examine them independently. And it is from this new understanding that I offer my apologies.

I am sorry that I raised you with the “I don’t see color” brand of racism.  It was not fair. I did not even realize it was racism. I thought it expressly wasn’t. But because I chose not to see your color, I did not prepare you for being a black man. I did not understand that you would not be seen in the world as my loved son, but you would be seen by all the world, except me, as a black man. I did not see color, I saw my son, and as beautiful as it is to have you as my son, I should have seen your skin. I raised you with white privilege, not just my own but I unknowingly bathed you in it as well. Your ability to see the world with open eyes was blanketed by my white privilege.  I did not learn the difference between non-racist and anti-racist when you were young. I fought for nonracism. I thought by not seeing color I was doing the right thing. I am sorry.

Your “knowledge” of what white and black “are” was dipped in that invisible white privilege tub. I was not ‘there for you’ the moment you realized you were black, because I did not get it. I understand now, but that moment is gone. It is part of the past that makes you who you are today, and it happened without my love for you as even capable of being part of it; because I did not see color when I should have. My lack of color-vision, my lack of intentional choice for you to see good black role models, my ignorance and the pervasiveness of racism told you that your being black made you all the negative connotations white privilege puts on black people.

I did not raise you white or black or brown. I raised you as my son. I thought that was right. I loved you from second one. I raised you in love, you know that. I supported you every way I knew how. But there was one especially important way I did not give you what you needed; I did not give you the knowledge of how to maneuver in the world as a black man, how to be proud of yourself as a black man. And now I can see how incredibly difficult it must have been for you to identify, articulate, or even really understand what and where that lacking was and came from.

You could not have said to me, no one could for that matter, that I was racist or that I did not love you, or that I wasn’t trying my best to overcome racism all around me. So how could you explain to me the deep injustice you felt, the injustice I did? The injustice I served out as love. I still do not fully understand and honestly never can. But I can apologize and hope that we can come to a mutual understanding of where to go from here.

I apologize for not being a strong enough advocate for you against the racism that permeates the family of the man I was married to. I chose not to see it because I thought I could love you enough for all of us. That was not fair to you. You had to grow up not aware of why you were seen as so different, treated so differently. To be honest, though my ‘not seeing’ was partially in ignorance, and thinking that mistreatment was due to how you were conceived, not that you were black, it was also partially from wanting to not have to see it.

I was 16, married almost a year when I was raped. Then as a stupid 16-year-old with no support system, I went on the only kind of spiral I knew. The kind of spiral that screams Help Me but is only ever seen as “what a stupid girl”. But when I discovered I was having you, that spiral came to a screaming halt. Nothing in the world could stop me from giving you the best mother I could be, in every circumstance life threw at me. So, when I say I raised you to be my son, it was with all the love I had. I tell you on your birthdays, “You’re the first …. year-old I’ve ever had. You’re my guinea pig, I’m probably going to screw it up, but I’ll try my best and we’ll love each other through it.”  I never saw you as black, or white, only ever as my son. I was trying my best. But not seeing, not identifying, not allowing you to own your skin was not fair, and it was not enough. I see that now. It was all I had and all I understood. I do not berate myself for this. I cannot feel guilty about it either. I did not know any better then. But I do now, and I can apologize for what I did in my ignorance, and for what I did not do. I can apologize from now and where I am now and what I know now.

I am sorry for thinking that trying to explain away your blackness, because that was “on me” and my circumstance, rather than try to help you accept who you were no matter what, was enough. It is not that I did not accept your being black, I just did not understand that accepting your blackness, seeing your skin, went beyond the shame I felt for my circumstance. I spent decades trying to understand how to release my shame. Part of my healing is to speak out and not hide, and that remains true, but I did not see that I projected that shame on to you whenever I talked about it. I did not understand that not only was I not protecting you from that shame, I was creating it for you. I did not see how the rest of the family’s underlying racism deepened that shame and that my not speaking out for you hurt you.

I thought my love for you automatically removed the shame for you. But it did not. I thought every time I told you how much I loved you I was creating a safe harbor. Instead I gave my shame to you as an undercurrent, something you could not speak of, or see, or name because my words forbade it with every proclamation of how much I loved you. I am sorry. I didn’t know.

YOU have nothing, NOTHING to be ashamed of.  I am sorry that I created that in you. I have nothing to be ashamed of, but my lesson, my healing should not have caused you pain. I am sorry. The part of my life that was before you, was erased because of you. You brought me life; your life brought me to life. You taught me how to love. Do not ever feel ashamed of that.

You are allowed to feel all the feelings associated with the complicated mess of being black in America, of the only father you’ve known being racist and having a mother that did not understand how to navigate raising a mixed child in that environment. I wish that shame was not part of it, but I understand now that it is, I put it there. I am sorry, I did not mean to.

Son, be a proud black man. Be the strong black man that you are. You have love, strength, compassion, empathy, tenderness, and intelligence. You are talented, brave, and work hard. I am sorry I did not tell you before this that you are all those things as a black man. That you are worthy as a black man. YOU ARE WORTHY just because you exist, regardless of any misdoings, and in spite of anyone’s words or actions that say otherwise. You are worthy of the love you were denied because of your skin color. You are worthy, you are enough.

I am sorry I did not prepare you for things like shaving the right way, putting your hands on the dash, having people follow you around a store, or the understanding that you were given the worst ‘end of the stick’ in so many situations because people thought the black in you made you naturally ‘bad’.  That is not true. You are only inherently awesome. Nothing about your skin color determines the kind of person you are. I should have advocated that more for you.

I am sorry that your white privileged upbringing set you up for the belief that ‘black’ means violent, untrustworthy, and prone to criminal behavior. It does not. That is a white privilege talking point, a way for uninformed white people to categorize and maintain a level of ‘fear’ and therefore keep power. It is an unspoken belief that underlies the family you know. The truth is, for you, the violence you know came from watching and being part of abuse at home. That abuse came from a white man, so do not chalk that up to some inherent blackness. But also, do not allow it to be part of your life. You are better than that.

I am sorry I did not see color when you were young. I am grateful I do now. I have always been grateful you were given to me. From your first flutter, you have taught me how to more fully love everyone. Being your mother taught me to SEE COLOR in that moment when I learned what I should have taught you about shaving. That was my first understanding that you are black; and you were 19 or 20. That sucks.

I am grateful that you are my son and for the many ways you have helped me see the very different experiences people have in life, simply because of their skin color. I have understood through 30 years of being your mom, I need to remove the white privilege blanket that covers everything. To step out of that bath. I keep growing, being your mom helps me know that seeing color is the only way to create change, to see the disparity, the real world as it is. I am grateful that because you are my son, I had that moment of clarity a month ago. Without you, maybe I would have kept on in my invisible privileged life, but I am not because I have you. It’s a long process, but with each new layer I can uncover, each new thing I can pull out, I learn how to love better, how to be a better human. You are the reason I choose to keep looking for those layers. I am grateful that maybe I can help others see too. I am, have always been, and will always be proud to be your mother. I love your skin.

White privilege is a crap sandwich. It is known as invisible because, it’s like the people who have never been fired unjustly and cannot see why that person is so upset. Or like people who do not have children yet, make all kinds of judgments on parents who do things differently than they think they would. White privilege lives in the ignorance of not having been through a thing. It’s subtitle should be white ignorance, but that would probably go over less well than white privilege….

Just like people who haven’t been catcalled, whistled at, hollered at through a passing window, followed, and know to hold their keys a certain way, don’t understand why women do that; white people do not see the complexity of being not-white. I did not see the complexity of your not being white.

 Just like people who have been raped, see the world more clearly and try to survive in it anyway, black people, people of color do see. They live and survive in the world they can see better, more clearly. They see it and I did not give you that sight when I should have. There is this world in which you live that I did not prepare you for but put you out in it thinking I had.

Healing requires us to speak about the wrongs done, put it in the light and examine it. My recognizing each piece of white privilege as I see it does not induce disgrace, but spurs the choice to move ahead doing better because I know better. White privilege is a not-knowing. And where racism can be examined, seen, explained, and criticized, white privilege is unseen, unfelt, misunderstood, and hidden. It is all the ways we do not know we cannot see.

So, I apologize for what I did not know, what I did not see, what I did not do. I apologize for what I did in my ignorance. I apologize for those things I pushed to the side, so I did not have to confront them. I apologize for not standing up within my home the way I stood up outside of it. I apologize for not giving you what you needed to be a proud black man. You know I love you. You know I have always given you everything I could. But I can see that everything I could was not always enough, and I am sorry.  

Sincerely,

Your ‘thought she was woke but realized she’s still waking up’ mother

Is “White Privilege” a useful concept in the current UK context ...
Trying to pull out what I can every time I see something in there.

#inspiration #motherhoodrising #honestlymothering #doingthebestican #onceyouknowbetterdobetter #blacklivesmatter #iamnotcolorblind #seecolor #unpackingwhiteprivilege

 

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What Makes You Beautiful Season 2 Episode 2 Kate

Here’s my second person for the 2020 round of What Makes You Beautiful, my amazing friend Kate Watson.

 

Check out YourNexStage the amazing  organization she founded for women veteran’s.

 
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Posted by on 26/04/2020 in living

 

This is why I stand against Police Brutality

This is why I stand against Police Brutality
It’s going to take me some time to fully form how to respond to the issue of police brutality and still maintain enough presence to get through my day to day job in this crazy time.
But, just in case you don’t know or don’t remember, my brother was killed by the police. He was shot trying to show all he had was a phone. He was shot in the belly, in the arm, and not given any life saving or even respectful treatment as he died. They didn’t call an ambulance until after he was dead. They killed him.
He died because the police are trained to kill, because his looks take after our native heritage, because cops know they can get away with murder. So I will keep standing up against police brutality, against abuses of power, standing up for the absolute need for police to be retrained and for other services to take the calls force is not needed for.
People of color are also brave men and women, who walk around every day in their uniform of color, branded by society as threatening, by their mere existence. As a person of color, simple traffic stops are life threatening, sleeping in your own bed is life threatening, being a child and playing is life threatening. Because people can still hold their head up and say that police are brave but African Americans aren’t, because people can say I’ll call the cops and tell them you’re threatening my life when clearly they aren’t.
While people can still say I wasn’t born rich so that means I don’t have privilege, those of us who can see truth need to keep standing up. I will stand up for my brother. I will stand up for my son. I will keep standing up and being a voice. Police brutality must stop. All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter.
 

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This is where 48 days of quarantine finds me.

In order to counteract the news,  this is the level of not news I am currently at.

Sesame Street characters doing impressions of Sesame Street characters.

 

My review:

Elmo is slaying, Abbey has a skill set,  The Count is trying,  Cookie Monster has no game.

 

 
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Posted by on 19/04/2020 in living

 

What Makes You Beautiful Season 2 Episode 1

What Makes You Beautiful Season 2 Episode 1

I thought is would be funny to start counting my ‘I stopped doing this but now I want to do it again’ as seasons and episodes.  So, 4 years later, here is Season 2 of What Makes You Beautiful and I get to introduce my lovely friend Lexi.

What Makes You Beautiful – Lexi

You can also learn more about her at

Alexandra Lewis🇦🇺 –> 🇦🇱
🎬 Host of @alien_rtvora
📺 News presenter on @rtvora
🍽 Food blogger @hapitiranayoutu.be/rqqTOteSdoY

 

 

One Month of Quarantine

One Month of Quarantine

A video on my one-month-a-versary

 

A friend asked me to make a video about a day in the life which I will do next week sometime.  I think a day in the life on the weekend won’t be nearly as much fun because I won’t have any classes to teach.  Just prep work, long arduous, sitting in front of a computer all day.  So, I’ll wait until there’s something to break up the monotony.  But until then, enjoy the ramblings of the video I made this evening.  Sorry about the squeaking….  I have no idea what it’s about or how to get rid of it.

 
 

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Do not let the wound close dry

To sing many songs of happiness

Fill your heart with joy

oppose hate

do not challenge it

to challenge hate, you must hate

give it no energy

walk in the other direction

Oppose the darkness with your light

sun daughter

sister

grieve

walk tall; walk proud

not to ‘ward off evil’

but because you are a daughter of the Almighty

a mother of spirits

a sister of the sun, cousin to the stars

walk in dignity giving your light

remember that the sun is still shining at night

wei ho ein cha lo wei ma

cry many tears to wash clean

do not let the wound close dry

cry

to sing many songs of happiness

 

 
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Posted by on 22/02/2020 in living

 

Long time no see

Hi!

So I got caught in the ‘I’m going to do this thing’ trap of not doing the thing and then being too worried about what to say to get back on here.  And for lack of a better reason, it’s a new year, so here I am again.

Oddly, in looking up information about John Dewey for my Master’s course, (yup I’m working towards my Masters! )  I ran across a scary website that is all kinds of  hate wrapped up in a university for statecraft with a little bow of nationalism.  I nosed around because at first I couldn’t quite tell, but I’ll be danged if there isn’t a whole university offering Master’s degrees in coercion as a peace method.  Really.  And they really, really don’t like John Dewey there.

I was so disturbed it got me past my need to avoid this space and write something. So I did.   Now back to writing my paper.

 
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Posted by on 02/02/2020 in living

 

We’re talking about social issues in class

It’s been an interesting week in class this week.  My students have the assignment of creating a Public Service Announcement video.  We’ve been talking about social issues.

Kids are amazing.  They have so much insight sometimes.  If I throw a little fuel on the fire, “what about this?  what about that?  did you think of this part?”  BOOM, they can come up with some incredible connections.

This is my favorite part of being a teacher,  helping them discover that they can change the world.

Sometimes, it is so difficult to help them see that they can better understand the world, see the world, change the world, if they would disconnect from it for a bit; use their own minds, instead of searching for what everyone else has written, looking at what everyone else posted, needing to have everyone else reach them.

But when you can manage it, the brilliance begins to shine in them.

 

Peace and Love my friends!

 
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Posted by on 14/11/2018 in living

 
 
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