Browsing Category "Racism"
19 Jul
2018
Posted in: Activism, Books, Racism
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There Will Come a Time

This is what I have learned from working with my dharma friends on Waking Up to Whiteness: It’s necessary to recognize the reality of racism; it’s important to want racism to end.

But it won’t end until: “I’m not a racist,” turns into: “I’m antiracist. Antiracism is one of my core values. My actions in the world are based on that.”

In support of which, I offer this except from Stamped from the BeginningThe Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi:

An antiracist America can only be guaranteed if principled antiracists are in power, and then antiracist policies become the law of the land, and then antiracist ideas become the common sense of the people, and then the antiracist common sense of the people holds those antiracist leaders and policies accountable.

“And that day is sure to come. No power lasts forever. There will come a time when Americans will realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people.

“There will come a time when racist ideas will no longer obstruct us from seeing the complete and utter abnormality of racial disparities. There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves.

“There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.” 

***

I am committed to that.

12 Jun
2018
Posted in: Books, Racism
By    Comments Off on Preceded by Mind

Preceded by Mind

I’ve started reading the book my CDL White Awake buddies will be discussing next month — Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi — and I just want to say, in case anyone is confused about why I keep posting stuff about racism on this site: This is Dharma.

What do I mean?

Here is Gil Fronsdal’s translation of the first line of the Dhammapada:

“All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind.”

And here’s an excerpt from the preface of Stamped from the Beginning:

“Racist ideas have done their job on us. We have a hard time recognizing that racial discrimination is the sole cause of racial disparities in this country and in the world at large.

“I write we for a reason. When I began this book, with a heavy heart for Trayvon Martin and Rekia Boyd, I must confess that I held quite a few racist ideas. Even though I am an Africana studies historian and have tutored all my life in egalitarian space, I held racist notions of Black inferiority before researching and writing this book.

“Racist ideas are ideas. Anyone can produce them or consume them, as Stamped from the Beginning‘s interracial cast of producers and consumers show. Anyone–Whites, Latina/os, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans–anyone can express the idea that Black people are inferior, that something is wrong with Black people. Anyone can believe both racist and antiracist ideas, that certain things are wrong with Black people and other things are equal.

“Fooled by racist ideas, I did not fully realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that we think something is wrong with Black people. I did not fully realize that the only thing extraordinary about White people is that they think something is extraordinary about White people.

“I am not saying all individuals who happen to identify as Black (or White or Latina/o or Asian or Native American) are equal in all ways. I am saying that there is nothing wrong with Black people as a group, or with any racial group. That is what it truly means to think as an antiracist: to think there is nothing wrong with Black people, to think that racial groups are equal.”

***

Read the book. And think about it.

5 Apr
2018
Posted in: Books, Dharma Friends, Racism
By    Comments Off on At the Threshold

At the Threshold

From In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, by Mitch Landrieu, which my CDL “White Awake” group will be discussing next month:

“Unlike the cursing anonymous voice on a telephone, or the menacing face, or the billy club that split John Lewis’s head in Selma, Alabama at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, implicit bias is hard to see; implicit bias is a silent snake that slinks around in ways we don’t notice.

“Questions gather at the threshold of transformative awareness. Whom do we sit with at lunch? Who are the kids we invite to our children’s parties? Or look at for honors programs at school? Who do we think of as smart, with good moral fiber, God-loving and patriotic? To whom do we give the benefit of the doubt, and why? Who are the people we condemn most quickly?

“As questions multiply about the consequences of race, it forces you to look in the mirror and see yourself as you really are, not who you’ve been told you are, not who society has made you to be, and not the image you want others to perceive.

“That’s when you start noticing things about yourself you never thought about before. The sight is not always pretty.”

26 Mar
2018
Posted in: Racism
By    Comments Off on The Adventure Continues

The Adventure Continues

Last Monday, I posted about making a conscious effort to expand my reading habits to include more books written by and/or primarily about people of color. Then on Tuesday I had coffee with a group of friends who were talking about recent movies they’d seen and I realized how few of the movies I go to are about the world of anyone other than white people.

So I decided to break out of that habit and on Thursday, I went to see Black Panther! This is actually WAY outside my habit pattern, since I almost never watch sci-fi or adventure movies.

But I went because I’d already read quite a lot about the Black Panther movie — something I would not have done before waking up to my reading habits. Interestingly, even after reading all the great articles about what an important change this film represents, and what an impact it’s already having on the African-Amerian community, it never occurred to me to actually go SEE it. (This is what happens when habits are so deeply embedded!)

Anyway, I did go to see it. And I enjoyed it. Not the “action-packed-adventure-super-hero” part particularly, but I did love the costumes and the hairdos and the face-paint! And I loved the strong female characters (especially those awesome palace guards!!!) But mostly I loved that I was spending time in a world that wasn’t build around the way I see it.

Which was quite refreshing. I highly recommend it!

19 Mar
2018
Posted in: Books, Racism
By    1 Comment

Reading Outside the (Color) Line

One of the (many) things that has changed in my life since participating in the Waking Up to Whiteness program (which I posted about here) is that I’ve started to notice how much of what I read is written by white people, about white people. Which is understandable — since I’m white. But so limiting!

Now I’m really making a conscious effort to break out of that pattern. To which end: I just started reading Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I picked it because the New York Times recently listed it as one of “15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century.”

(Asymmetry, by Lisa Halliday, which I just finished reading and posted about here, was also listed. Click here for the compete Times listing.)

In the past, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed this novel. Which would have been a shame, because it’s TERRIFIC!!!

Here’s a sample from the first few pages:

The man standing closest to her was eating an ice cream cone; she had always found it a little irresponsible, the eating of ice cream cones by grown-up American men, especially the eating of ice cream cones by grown-up American men in public. He turned to her and said, ‘About time,’ when the train finally creaked in, with the familiarity strangers adopt with each other after sharing in the disappointment of a public service. She smiled at him. The graying hair on the back of his head was swept forward, a comical arrangement to disguise his bald spot. He had to be an academic, but not in the humanities or he would be more self-conscious. A firm science like chemistry, maybe. Before, she would have said, ‘I know,’ that peculiar American expression that professed agreement rather than knowledge, and then she would have started a conversation with him, to see if he would say something she could use in her blog.

“People were flattered to be asked about themselves and if she said nothing after they spoke, it made them say more. They were conditioned to fill silences. If they asked what she did, she would say vaguely, ‘I write a life-style blog,’ because saying, ‘I write an anonymous  blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black’ would make them uncomfortable.

“She had said it, though, a few times. Once to a dreadlocked white man who sat next to her on the train, his hair like old twine ropes that ended in a blond fuzz, his tattered shirt worn with enough piety to convince her that he was a social warrior and might make a good guest blogger. ‘Race is totally overhyped these days, black people need to get over themselves, it’s all about class now, the haves and the have-nots,’ he told her evenly, and she used it as the opening sentence of a post titled ‘Not All Dreadlocked White American Guys Are Down.'”

11 Oct
2017
Posted in: Practice, Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on There is Suffering

There is Suffering

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
— James Baldwin

6 Oct
2017
Posted in: Books, Racism
By    2 Comments

On Choosing

This month, I suggested the novel Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson, for my CDL White Awake group to read. I chose it because although I’ve read almost every book he’s written — and LOVED all of them — I have avoided reading this one.

Even though it won the National Book Award (1990) and even though it’s his most famous book.

The problem: It’s about SLAVERY. And I’m white. So of course I don’t want to read it.

I’m serious. I really have NOT wanted to read this book. Even though I was mesmerized when he spoke to us at the CDL retreat, and even though he is THE MOST FABULOUS WRITER I’ve come across in a very long time — I have just not been able to get myself to read this book.

But the fact that I haven’t wanted to read it is exactly the reason that I really DO want to read it. Not as some kind of penance. Or because I feel like I “should” read it. Or that it would be “good for me” to read it.

But because I keep feeling drawn to it.

Even as I’m fighting against whatever it is that draws me, I know that there is something in this book that I want. Not something I want to have. Something I want to inhabit.

I’m not exactly sure what I mean by that.

I just know that even though I’m the one who chose this book for us to read — the truth is: this book has chosen me.

18 Sep
2017
Posted in: Activism, Racism, Social Justice
By    Comments Off on Peace is the Way

Peace is the Way

This is one of the (many) boarded-up windows of the shops and restaurants in the Loop that were smashed on Saturday night, after the peaceful protests officially ended and the acts of anger, frustration and violence began. It’s depressing to see such senseless destruction, but uplifting to see that so many of the repairs are painted with messages like this one.

***

Note: One of my nephews-in-law is a cop (white), who lives in St. Louis and who was injured (not seriously) during the protests on Friday night.

Another nephew-in-law is a physician (who was born in India), who also lives in St. Louis and who, every day, must negotiate the very real danger of being a person of color in this country. This is my family.

It is also the HUMAN family.

We are all suffering. We must find a way to live with each other, without doing harm to each other. Violence only leads to more violence. Peace is the only way.

7 Sep
2017
Posted in: Books, Racism
By    Comments Off on But Not All of Us

But Not All of Us

Three of my CDL buddies and I are continuing our “Waking Up to Whiteness” study group by assigning ourselves books to read (ones that we most likely would never have read in the past) and then talking about them together once a month. The book we’re reading now is Deep Denial: The Persistence of White Supremacy in United States History and Life, by David Billings.

Here’s a passage that has really stayed with me:

The dominant culture in the US has always lifted up the nation’s ‘rugged individualism’ as key to understanding ourselves as a people.

But not all of us have been allowed to be individuals. People of color have always been lumped together as part of a group even when the grouping made no sense (Hispanic), was ahistorical (American Indians), or culturally insulting (Asian).

Only white people are allowed to be individuals, first and foremost.

28 Aug
2017
Posted in: CDL, Racism, Study
By    Comments Off on What We Imagine Ourselves to Be

What We Imagine Ourselves to Be

Another one of the readings that’s part of the first session of the “Waking Up to Whiteness” program I posted about yesterday is an article written by Bhikkhu Bodhi, titled: Taking Stock of Oneself.

Here is an excerpt:
“Normally, in subservience to our need to confirm to ourselves our uniqueness and irreplaceable importance, we proceed to construct mental pictures–indeed, a picture gallery–of what we imagine ourselves to be.

“The self-image that emerges from these pictures becomes simultaneously a mainstay which we cling to in order to maintain our self-esteem and a standpoint from which we orient ourselves toward others and launch our projects in the world. To secure its tenuous status. the mind employed a variety of tactics ‘behind the back’ of our conscious awareness.

“It throws up blinders which keep out disturbing information; it flatters us with fantasied projections; it drives us to manipulate people and situation in ways that will seem to validate our tacit assumptions about our virtues and identity.

“All these projects born of the quest to substantiate our sense of identity only increase our suffering. The more we lock ourselves into the images we form of ourselves, the more we alienate ourselves from others and close off our access to liberating truth. Thence release from suffering requires that we gradually discard our delusive self-images through rigorous examinations of our minds.

“The venerable Sariputta, in the Discourse on No Blemishes (MN5), stresses the role of honest self-assessment as a prerequisite of spiritual growth. He points out that just as a dirty bronze bowl, deposited in a dusty place and utterly neglected, only becomes dirtier and dustier, so if we fail to recognize the blemishes in our minds we will not make any effort to eliminate them, but will continue to harbor greed, hatred and delusion and will die with a corrupted mind….

The task of self-knowledge is always a difficult one, but it is only by knowing our minds that we will be able to shape them, and it is only by shaping our minds that we can liberate them.”

***

And so we begin.