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.