The dawn greeted our hermit
Cool it was
Wind swam through the thorny vines
and tall tree shadow lines
I dreamed of the absentee’s return
The whisper of the path which led to me
The window held my vision
As my eyes drifted
Sand crept into my shoes this morning
On my trek away from isolation
In the dark
The Star illuminated
Though still dim, they tasted￼
Of potent potions, salt, fantasy oceans
The chapter I began today
Spoke of caution, beware
Of self-neglect – dear hermit –
Let that light be your guide
I am the gift to which I bestow
To you my love
Feeding your inner glow
Only when you re-member
The missing pieces
Can affirmations be upheld
Love increases and releases
Bless you my sprite,
I’ll hold you in the dark
And foster you
It’s OK to need a nightlight
For those of us who fear darkness
There is no need to feel shame
We simply need a light to say yes
A blackout robs even perfect vision
Disorients, distorts reality
We feel deeply, everyone and everything
But inside it is murky, so to the light we flee
Violent hands have stolen Me
My sense of peace and security
Through a keyhole I peer
Into a luminous world, perceived normalcy￼
When you are silent, to one like me
It lets the monster out from under the bed
From the closet, from under the covers
In through the windows, crazy fantasies of dread
When you give the gift of some notion
Musical notes from your far off song
When you sing the chorus after my verse
Somehow the star shows me where I belong
Until I can learn the uncrossing spell
Which lights me from my inside￼
Please give me something, a match, a blaze
To quell this Jekyll and Hyde
Written in 2018, this author’s posit reminded me of a book I have been reading by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Kendi’s explains that racism, at it’s heart, is a form of self-interest. (Get a copy How To Be An Anti-Racist: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780525509288 )
Elad Nehorai, the author of The Philosophy of Selfishness is Destroying America, discusses selfishness in a (mostly) objective tone. “…in order to get what we want, someone else must pay a cost. And vice versa: if anyone else gets what they want, it comes at a cost to us. …This is the philosophy of selfishness. A person gaining in society must inevitably mean the fall of another. The gain of women will, must, come at the cost of men. There is no other outcome, for this is the way the world works: there are winners and there are losers, and if you are not the one winning, then you’re a loser.”
In his book, How To Be An Anti-Racist, Dr. Kendi explains that it is not ignorance and hate that give rise to racism, it is rather, the opposite. Self-interest fuels racism which gives rise to ignorance and hate.
Racism was constructed and is maintained to perform a purpose, that purpose: a tool to maintain power. Therefore, self-interest, at the heart of racism “sparks ignorance and hate” and we must combat it with hope and to treat it like the cancer it is.
Nehorai goes on to explain, “Obama’s election, and the subsequent cultural and economic rise of blacks in America (think: Black Lives Matter, and the backlash), sent a message: minorities are rising, and so white people will soon suffer. Whatever negative economic effects were happening in the white, rural and suburban worlds had to be because of the rise of another group. It could not be structural issues like education, it could not be issues of their own, it could not be their lack of diversity. It had to be the rise of others.
This is the philosophy of selfishness. And it’s one that has been bred in Americans since its creation. To build the country, it had to be on the back of slaves. A philosophy so deeply ingrained that it took the deadliest war in American history to simply begin to break the idea that whites could only prosper when they treated others like animals. Worse than animals.
And so those committed to the opposite.. of enhancement of what makes humans great: our interconnected nature, our ability to do great things when we work together… either don’t realize or don’t care that they’re actually hurting themselves. To them, it’s impossible to imagine a world where others’ success also means their success.”
This article was written in 2018. The next excerpt, I am wondering, if we have seen the beginning… what do you think?
“…And so, at some point, be it now or later, there will be a reckoning. One where the sufferers rise up and take back their dignity, or one where today’s “winners” become tomorrow’s losers.
But ultimately, like Pharaoh, it is up to them to decide how it goes. Because no matter how many times we repeat this story, the ending is always the same. And always will be until the final ending: the day all men and women are free.” by Elad Nehorai
The world is in upheaval (COVID, police brutality, White silence, literal lynchings in the streets…) more than I have ever seen in my lifetime and I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. Some days it’s all I can do to make coffee, feed the cat and scoop the litter box. The rest of the time, my eyes are tired from staring into a screen abyss of politics, activism, hatred, inspirational, revolutionary moments in time for us social justice warriors. My teaching job is exclusively online now also. The screen is the new daily norm. I’m also heartbreakingly bearing witness to those who are clinging to the banks of the river of change and they seem like dogs who have also been chained, but by their own illusions of superiority. I believe deep down they know the difference between right and wrong – humanity from hatred – but they’ve never been able to access it for a vast many number of oppressive reasons.
White supremacy and power is an imposed bigotry system. It gives poor White people the notion and perpetuates the belief that they are in some way superior to people of color, regardless of how poor they may be. People of color were perceived to have been (or deserve to be) dominated and defeated, enslaved and incarcerated. White people in poverty do not have the slightest clue that they too are incarcerated in an insidious way, by their own ignorance and subsequent hatred, by a system which benefits by feeding them White supremacist lies.
Poor White people are fragile because deep down, they know the experiences of all Black, Brown and Indigenous people of color are indications of grave sins committed by White power. Even if they haven’t consciously tapped into that notion, they are fighting to save what little they have in an effort to maintain a sense of their own right to exist. They have been convinced, over time, that their lives mean something more than Black and Brown people, because they aren’t “getting into trouble”. They are kept from the truth of the thin line which keeps them safe, but only in the moment – until they can’t pay for their cancer treatments, they lack the money to buy their children what they need, their car breaks down and can’t be fixed, addiction kills a family member, they lack true protection from police even if there is sexual abuse or other atrocities in the home, they lack the ability to save their children from dying of diseases which could be treated with access to money. They have no idea that the color of their skin makes all of this heartbreaking reality just a little bit (if not a lot) better for them. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” Poor White people are, in all senses of the term, appeased. They are complacent and comfortable enough to swallow the messages of their racist and bigoted churches, their right-wing news commentators, they’re whispering racist coworkers or military regiment brothers and sisters, their parents’ or grandparents’ “generational” ideas about race and gender inequality…
“By most accounts, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 couldn’t have become law when it did had not LBJ personally wheedled, cajoled, and shamed his former colleagues in the House and Senate into voting for it. One of the secrets of his success was the ability to speak the racially insensitive language of his fellow Southerners. (For two decades in Congress he was a reliable member of the Southern bloc, helping to stonewall civil rights legislation. As [biographer Robert] Caro recalls, Johnson spent the late 1940s railing against the “hordes of barbaric yellow dwarves” in East Asia. Buying into the stereotype that blacks were afraid of snakes (who isn’t afraid of snakes?) he’d drive to gas stations with one in his trunk and try to trick black attendants into opening it. Once, Caro writes, the stunt nearly ended with him being beaten with a tire iron.) He (Johnson) understood them (Southerners). He understood their reluctance and in some cases downright refusal to tear down the walls of racial segregation. He knew racism from the inside, and he knew well the role the rich and powerful played in promulgating it.” (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/lbj-convince-the-lowest-white-man/)
My point in all of this is in attempt to say this: those poor White people who believe themselves to be superior to Black and Brown people of color are imprisoned by their ignorance and inherent privilege. This is poor White people everywhere – Southerners are not alone in this. They are blinded by the imposed class structure so much so that their struggles, financial and otherwise, are not seen. Therefore, their reality is not shared with minorities who have similar experiences, but theirs are even worse comparatively and statistically. Poor White people can’t imagine giving up anything in order to allow for Black and Brown people to come forward because they don’t have anything to give – that they can see. This is why the argument of privilege is so unpalatable. They do not see their own struggle in those to whom they subjugate. They are systematically prevented from feeling empathy or understanding. It is impossible for a White person to understand what it is like to be a person of color. I struggled with this specific concept in my own experience in developing an anti-racist praxis coming from a working-class, poor White family. At one time, when I was around 2-3, my mother, father and I lived in the back of a beat up Grand Torino. I was sexually abused and physically abused as a kid and young adult. I knew hunger, neglect and I hated/feared police because they never saved me; they didn’t put my abusers in jail… if all this is part of my identity, then what do I have to give? I had (and continue to have) a lot to learn is all I can say.
The insidious nature of racism cannot be understood by someone in terms of privilege if one does not see their own yet, it can only be taught relationally, the process and idea of imagining oneself in someone else’s shoes. The sacred concept of critical thinking isn’t bestowed upon people who go to public schools. “You may have experienced all those things, but you’ve never been Black.” says a White, anti-racist advocate Alice Sarti. What an amazing way to put it, how simple, how understandable! Knowing deep down that Black and Brown people have had no stick at all, instead of the short end, that’s the part Poor white people got. This concept is simply and finally understandable. Poor White people can only understand the privilege of their existence through the example of relationships. Somehow, honoring Life (not just White lives) has escaped the awareness of hateful, White supremacists. That a Black person’s life has value, or a Lakota has the right to this land or the Guatemalan or Mexican person is a human being has been intentionally manufactured as unrecognizable realities.
I see a way to begin this conversation with someone. It starts by making a relational statement, as I did with my grandmother on Sunday. “Put yourself in the shoes of George Floyd’s mother, his grandmother. How would you feel to watch that happen to him? What if he was your grandson? Imagine little Kevi (my nephew, her oldest grandson) under the knee of that police officer and even worse, remembering intrinsically that your entire family knows it could’ve been one of them on the ground that day. That’s how prevalent this kind of violence and police brutality is for the Black and Brown community. Imagine seeing little Joey’s face (our youngest nephew/grandson) sticking out from under the police officers knee and recognize that it happens all the time. If this had not been filmed – there would not yet be people of all colors outraged in the streets.”
White people had to see it to believe it. Even though we’ve seen it before, somehow, thank God, there has been a breaking point, emblazoned by technology and the Black and Brown community saying “We will take no more. Our lives matter too”. Imagine that Maw Maw… Then I read to her statistics about disproportionate numbers of Black and Brown people in prison and she asks “So they’re not just getting into more trouble, they’re being met by racist system?” “The system which teaches cops”, I added, “by design or inadvertently, explicitly and implicitly, that Black and Brown people are more dangerous and therefore deserve to be targeted.”
Yes. I had this conversation with my grandmother after she said this: “Please don’t misunderstand me and think that I am intentionally being prejudiced (or something like that), but shouldn’t all colors be included? They (Black Lives Matter) should change their slogan to ‘all lives matter.'” Our conversation was civil and respectful. My grandfather, sitting to my right, seemed a bit less enthused about my perspective and was quiet for much of the conversation. However, when I told them about the White professor asking her mostly White class to raise their hands if they would want to be treated like Black people in the United States. I explained that no one in the class raised their hand. Then I shared that the professor then asked, “What are you all doing about that?” My grandfather retorted, “Sounds like she’s just an agitator.” Sorry Paw Paw, looks like you’ve got an agitator for your granddaughter… I love you.
In the end, I think my grandmother began to see what I was explaining. I asked her several times, like the teacher I am (she was also, for 32 years), “Does that make sense about George Floyd’s grandmother and the prevalence of police targeting, brutality and institutionalized racism?” “Yes, it does.” she said.
“Silence is betrayal We affirm the voice of each human, that within each person is endowed these rights and recognitions. Racism is the virus that tears at our humanity.”
Please give some time from your day today. Sit and listen. Please listen. Please join us.
“…racism infects out systems and festers within the great democratic experiment that is America. …we won’t be silenced anymore…. by racist capitalism… BEFORE the virus.”
“There is enough for everyone to live free but there is not enough for corporate greed. Somebody is hurting our people and we won’t be silent anymore.”
Please give some time from your day today. Sit and listen. Please listen. Please join. Love you. Do more than just vote. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
“We lament because we love. We advocate for justice because we love. We speak difficult truth because we love.”