Monday, September 22, 2008

photo from flickr - Obama rally.

I found a wonderful blog today written by a woman who goes by C. She's a white woman with a black husband and three small children, two from Ethiopia. Her writing is charming and smart at the same time. If you haven't been to her site before the link is:

On her site was this amazing essay by Tim Wise. I try not to post things going around the internet or other blogs but this one is so well written and so right.

If you're white and you have black children or are considering adopting you may want to think after reading this how this privilage thing will affect you and your family and what you are going to do about it, if anything.

Again, Thanks C. for posting this on your blog.

This is Your Nation on White Privilege
By Tim Wise

For those who still can't grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because "every family has challenges," even as black and Latino families with similar "challenges" are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.

White privilege is when you can call yourself a "fuckin' redneck," like Bristol Palin's boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you'll "kick their fuckin' ass," and talk about how you like to "shoot shit" for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don't all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you're "untested."

White privilege is being able to say that you support the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because "if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it's good enough for me," and not be immediately disqualified from holding office--since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the "under God" part wasn't added until the 1950s--while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.

White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.

White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was "Alaska first," and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you're black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she's being disrespectful.

White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do--like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor--and people think you're being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college--you're somehow being mean, or even sexist.

White privilege is being able to convince white women who don't even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a "second look."

White privilege is being able to fire people who didn't support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.

White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God's punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you're just a good church-going Christian, but if you're black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you're an extremist who probably hates America.

White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a "trick question," while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O'Reilly means you're dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.

White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a "light" burden.

And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren't sure about that whole "change" thing. Ya know, it's just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain…

White privilege is, in short, the problem.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Principle Two

photo by Peter Casier WFP

Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seven Days Seven Principles

Rita Willaert photo from Flikr CC

The inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunday School

This past Sunday I stood in front of our congregation with a dozen or so other people and vowed to do my very best teaching our kindergartners the essential elements of our faith. The congregation also made their own vows to us that they would support us in this endevour.

I will teach our 7 little kindergartners whom I really adore for several weeks off and on throughout the year. One child is a foster child and one a domestic adoption out of the foster system. One child is my son. Two other children are Asian. It's a wonderful little group and being there in that building for the day made me so happy and helped lift my dismal mood.

These are the very best people I know, the members of this denomination. They truly walk the walk. You basically cannot belong unless you serve the community and the world in some way. Our kindergarten class will be making a compost pile for the garden committee, planting daffodils in a couple of weeks to help our spirits in April, and selling crafts to help save money for the local dog shelter. All of these tasks to teach one of our 7 main principles: the Interconnectedness of life. I think they are going to love it. What do 4 and 5 year olds love more than helping? A couple years from now they will start to learn some of the stories but for now I believe they need to live it. Live it first, read about it later.

The funny thing is I have a feeling the vast majority of McCain supporters hate us and everything we stand for. We promote peace, welcome all (and I mean all) and believe the most important worship involves getting your hands dirty and speaking out for the poor and the downtrodden. We believe in conserving our resources. We believe this earth is on loan to us by our children. We try not to label others or ourselves. The inherent worth and dignity of all people.

Drill baby drill would not be heard in our fellowships.

Love baby love. Yes.

In any case, I am so happy to have this merry band of hard workers. They keep me grounded and uplifted at the same time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In my name

September 8, 2008. 2 children, 4 woman were killed by our missiles in a small village in Pakistan while we were looking for friends of Osama Bin Laden.

September 3, 2008. We killed 15 people in a Pakistan. This was the first time we have openly operated on Pakistan soil.

A Pakistand security official was quoted as saying "You can't keep on raising the intensity and missing out on targets and still expect to be respected as a big military power."

August 21st, We killed 90 children, women and men civilians in Afghanistan. We then lied about it. It turned out someone shot a video. We had to take back our lie. We are investigating ourselves.
My questions for myself. How many children is it OK to kill in our search for a murderer? Is it OK to drop a missile in the country side of New York, or Vermont, or New Hampshire if a known murderer lives there?
What happens to a soldiers heart when he discovers the people he has killed were civilians. How does this affect him when he get back home to his family?
I am beginning to ask myself these questions in order to hopefully have answers for my son as he get older. I do not feel it's fair or just to ask our troups to go into war, in our name, without asking ourselves if there is anything we could do to promote peace.
The Republican ticket is not showing any hope of getting out. What can I do?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001

We saw the column of smoke over Manhattan but didn't yet know. We had been out early to go and vote in the primary and were walking to the subway when we saw it. We spoke, kissed and I went down into the subway to catch my train into lower Manhattan for work. I was reading the paper standing up leaning against the doors as the train pulled out of the tunnel and made it's way up and over the Manhattan Bridge and then as the towers came into view almost all at once half the people on the train car cursed. Together just one soft under our breadth curse. The train was suddenly silent. No rustling, no conversation no movement just silence and then the soft sound of a few people crying. It was one of the trains that brought workers to the World Trade Centers and I know the people crying had to have worked in the buildings. By then both buildings had been hit. A man standing near me and listening to a radio said that two small planes had flown into the World Trade Centers. And we all looked at him and then back at the smoking buildings - what?! The train had stopped for a moment on the bridge and we remained silent and watching and then it lurched and we were pulled back into a tunnel this time on the Manhattan side. Coming out of the subway onto Broadway the crowds just stood and stared as the sirens just kept on blaring. Every police car, ambulance and fire engine screaming it's way downtown as the smoke continued to rise.

A few minutes later I stood with two other women and screamed and cried and held each other as first one and then the second building came down.

I was sent to go out and get water and food staples. On the street I saw people praying with their hands together and their eyes closed. I saw an Orthodox Jewish Man standing and swaying mumbling his prayers. I saw a Muslim man stop on the street put down a small mat and bow to say his prayers. We all prayed, silently or out loud, we all prayed. And worried.

We had no idea if those were the last planes or if it was just the beginning. We couldn't get the television reception. The trains had stopped. If you wanted to walk over the bridges home you could but it would and did take many thousands of people hours and hours of walking. I decided to stay in Manhattan. Sometime in the afternoon the phone lines opened up a little bit and I was able to talk to my husband.

A little girl in the very long line at the store told me she went to school near the towers and she had been evacuated. She said she wasn't sure if she was going to go to school tomorrow. Her mother and I looked at each other but we didn't say anything to her.

The next day the fliers started going up. Fliers of missing friends, husbands, daughters, cousins. Always the best photo of the person, smiling, happy, sitting on lawn chairs or at kitchen tables, laughing and always always looking out at you. Every single available space was pasted with these fliers. "If you see ...Please call her Mom." Her Mom. I thought at the time -'re supposed to put your name down. Your name. Mary, or Sue or Lisa. Not mom. But of course, what else could she do? Her daughter, who looked so young sitting at the table laughing, her daughter was missing. Maybe she couldn't remember her own name. For weeks I walked to work looking at my feet, unable to look up at all those faces. The fliers stayed up for months after we all knew no one was coming back.

Union Square became an outdoor living memorial space with the fences shrouded with the fliers and people singing, playing music, praying. Buddhist, Christians, Muslims, Hindu's the world, everyone there praying and singing and walking slowly past the fliers.

And what have we done since then? Invaded a country that had nothing to do with these murders (but does have a lot of oil.) We have murdered more than 100,000 people in the name of what? Revenge? Is that who we've become?

And now all these years later, as neglect our own schools, and homeless and sick. As we send so much of our money to go and murder more in my name. In my name. As children are blown apart. Children blown up a dozen or two at a time while we are looking for the one or two terrorists in their midst. Now, we are about to vote to keep in another warrior. A man who thinks that war is the answer. A man gunned down during one illegal war that we started - that if we had not started he wouldn't have been a prisoner - why does no one say that - WE started the Vietnam War. It was OUR fault. The Vietnamese never attached us. And still we are doing it again. In our name. And children are watching us kill their friends and family and they are making vows of revenge.

I am so tired and so sad and so angry.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

First Day of Kindergarten

Two years ago we spent six months visiting all the schools within forty miles of our home.  We chose a beautiful little school that went from preschool through fourth grade and thought to ourselves "great, that's done."  It was a long drive - 25 minutes away but we really liked it. Liked the director, the teachers, the other families.  And they liked us, asked us to join the board.  More importantly they loved him.  Everyone just loved him.    The only problem was, he didn't like it.  He liked the other children and loved the director and the teachers but he was the only one in his class with brown skin and he talked about that all the time.  It was also very quiet, controlled you might say.  I loved that.  Seemed very nice to me.  Not to him.   His favorite activity is going to China Town in New York City and just walking through the crowd on Canal Street with all the noise and car exhaust and thousands of tourists pushing past us to get to fake purses.

And so last week he started kindergarten at the large, somewhat chaotic but very wonderful magnet public school a short walk from our house.  The director is wonderful and has done really great things with a school that a few years ago was failing.  Now there's free violin and cello starting in kindergarten (not that my led zeplin lovin' drumming crazy guy is going for either - but I like the idea that someone's kindergartner is taking cello.)  there's environmental science and a TV station run by the fourth and fifth graders.  

First day of school he said while eating his cereal "I am a mix of anticipation and anxiety." He really is too much sometimes.  A few minutes later his father took this photo and yes there it is the anxiety and anticipation.   And the verdict after his first full week;  he loves it!  He actually can't wait to get to school.  His classmates are a lovely mix of children from many different cultures and he seems to feel finally comfortable in his own skin.  So we've learned a lesson.  All the research in the world won't make up for sitting down and listening to your own child.  And sometimes test scores are not the most important factor in whether or not the school will be the right learning environment for a child.

It's been such a lovely week.  We feel so blessed. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

30 feet in the air this August.  The choices family night at camp were; fishing, crafts, kick-ball or making your mother crazy by climbing to the top of a 30 foot wall.  Witness his choice. Granted he wasn't trying to make my heart stop he was just doing what he does.  He was going for the heights. I am in awe of his reach.  I wonder at his ability to overcome his fears.  "I was terrified!"  He told me.  But the next day he asked to go back up.   They had to call Y to ask if it was OK.  The preschoolers are not ordinarily allowed up the wall.  Family night was an exception and only a couple chose to climb the wall.  Of course, Y had to sign a release.  A release!  The next day they called back.  It was his last day at camp and Q had asked the wonderful director if he could have one more turn up the wall.  The director was kind enough to call us.  I can't keep him safe.  I can't hold him to me any longer and ask others "have you washed your hands?"  Gone are the days I check on him in his crib; is he too warm?  too cold?  all squished into the side of the crib?"  I'm brought to tears at times remember how sweet and how short those days were.  And yet I don't want those days back.  He's too extraordinary to stop or even slow down.  The world is waiting for him.

Yesterday was the first day of kindergarten.  Again, he said he was scared.  He cried outside on the sidewalk.  But when the teacher said it was time to go in he took a little boys hand and walked quietly and with purpose forward without looking back. 

Keep on reaching baby boy.  I am in awe and it is such a pleasure watching you grow.