Learning and Unlearning, and Thoughts on Black Out Tuesday.

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Photo by Tom Fisk on Pexels.com

Hello everyone. It is with heavy heart that I climb back onto the blog here and try to make sense of all the noise. I am tired and weary and I know there are people out there who would respond with ” You are tired? Imagine how we feel? We are exhausted!” Rightfully so, their is anguish here that goes beyond anything I can fathom. Outrage is justified.

I have no soapbox to stand on that will strike at the heart of oppression and racism. I feel the best that I can do right now is to let those who are oppressed and marginalized speak and listen to what they have to say.  I feel the best thing I can do with any platform I have no matter how small, is to guide others to these voices. I don’t even know how to even channel that properly.

I don’t know how things are going in your neck of the woods. In my neck of the woods, protests escalated on Saturday. A cop car was tipped over, burned, and destroyed. Their was footage of an elderly person with a cane being knocked down by an officer who was later removed from patrol duties. Then another man tried to shoot at some protestors with a compound bow. He was quickly called out, overpowered, tackled and his car was also destroyed and burned. The man was allowed to go free and do interviews, Fox news even gave him a platform, but he has now been arrested and charged.

Some of the angry teens who destroyed a cop car while a black woman was on a megaphone telling them to stop, have also turned themselves in. There was a clean-up day after that, and several people participated. Curfews have been instigated. Our Governor did not drag his feet in calling out the National Guard. Our Corona cases are spiking, going up by over 200 hundred a day, approaching 10,000 and I’m surprised that anybody is surprised. We opened with the caveat that people would be responsible with social distancing and mask wearing and well…that just has not been happening.

On this same day, the City that I live in (a suburb of Salt Lake City) did a free firework show for those effected by Covid-19 but nobody could go to the park. So people mostly sat on their roofs, sidewalks, or in their backyards, listened to their radios, and you could hear little spurts of enthusiastic clapping from the neighbors when it was all over. It was a brilliant unforeseen plan to give those non-protestors in my City something to do for the night while chaos was breaking loose downtown and you know that sh*t was getting real when officials were telling people to stay away from the vicinity of the City Library.

I was a little stunned and even proud that these protests for George Floyd made it to Mormondom like they did. I must also add that Utah has a very low population of black people. I am not at all proud of this lack of diversity in this State and I’ve had to do some deep inward reflection about how being so far removed from the black experience has made me ignorant, when I think I am not, and so completely un-woke when I thought I was woke.

I really thought I was doing good being raised by a mother with hippy loyalties for the Civil rights movement, where the N word was not tolerated at our house EVER. I felt I was doing good with choosing to take courses in Black history and literature and studying the effects of colonialism for marginalized people. It wasn’t a bad jumping off point for myself, but these last few days have really made me realize that I have A LOT of work to do. For example, I really have to unlearn stereotyping and profiling, I’ve not got a complete awareness of my white privilege and what that all means, and there are too many times I’ve been complacent for my own comfort when I should have spoken out.

Also, I don’t have a strong leg to stand on when it comes to talking to others about racism because I have not lived it. So, I must talk less, listen more, and not allow my voice to upstage the voices of those who have been marginalized or that need representation to be heard. I should just shut this whole blog post down right now.

So really, all I have to offer are a few links to resources by those that are more equipped to educate others on this than I am. I hope that these links will become the highlight of this post. I also realize that just reading about racism is not the same as those who are out on the streets right now fighting for the lives of their brothers and sisters. I was tempted to protest, but had too many fears about safety as a mom (which weren’t unwarranted, 2 men were apprehended for trying to bring weapons to the Salt Lake City protest).There you have it- White privilege. So many women are doing this because they don’t have the luxury of staying at home because their children are dying and they are afraid.

I am especially ashamed of myself because I’ve had some level of satisfaction with the negative repercussions these protests have had for the President, who apparently had to bunker down by who knows which group exactly, but the President thinks he knows, or has announced who these groups are without full proof. It’s a mixed bag, and everyone has become an opportunist and I don’t really want to use the BLM movement or these rallies against these recent deaths to fulfill any kind of political agenda I may have. What kind of an ally would I be if I benefited off of the pain of others for my own fulfillment? I should allow the BLM movement to define what their mission is, what they intend to accomplish, and what it is they are fighting for.

I am terrified of these threats of military force by the President. I see lack of diplomacy, leadership, white authoritarianism, and complete dominion in everything. I see pouring gasoline onto a fire. I feel disgust that a country could burn to the ground like this, dead, injured, wounded, just so a few police officers could escape justice and the doors to criminal justice reform can remain vaulted. I am tired of the rhetoric of getting “back to normal.” It feels like America is an empire that is imploding.

The Corona virus has amplified disparities and our unemployment rates are off the charts. My own financial security has come under fire with this and I see the deflated look on my spouse’s face every time he walks through the door after coming home from work.  Also, I might just remind again that my children are military. The thought of any of our military being mobilized to fire on our own citizens, makes me absolutely sick.

These are scary times. These are scary as F times. I only have 2 things to say and I may lose readership and I don’t care. It will be a cold day in hell before I would be okay with my children shooting our own citizens or to fight as mercenaries for any other world despos (ha-hum, Saudi Arabia) I am so over it.

I went to Hobby Lobby and there was red, white, and blue were everywhere and I was not feeling it. I bought into it once. I believed in this land. I felt like I had been punched in the gut and the throat. Seeing our flag now only brings me pain and sadness because I was invested in “the dream” of this country once. My children were invested with their lives. The American Flag flies at half mast most of the time now anyway.

I am mourning the loss of something. A dream perhaps that was deceiving. My rose colored glasses have been tarnished. All I know is that something momentous is shifting. This polarization and civil unrest makes me fearful of assassinations, militant uprisings, or even civil war. I am so tired of these struggles with the South that have lasted decades. That beast must die. It can not rise again.

A few days later…(yes, my blogging is erratic and I am sorry).

I apologize if I over generalized an entire region or offended anyone in the South who doesn’t identify with racism or white supremacy. I could just edit, but I need my readers to know that I’m human. My eyes were really opened when I had to write a paper on the the New York City Draft riots for a history course that required first hand sources. I went through many old newspapers from all over the nation, and read what they had to say about Lincoln, and quite Frankly I was surprised. There was confederate sympathy in the North, and a lot of Lincoln haters all over the nation who did not like his stance on abolishing slavery.

My eyes were opened with an article I read on telephone poles. One that happened by accident, because someone who was researching telephone poles could not get past all the many lynchings that were mentioned in correlation with what was perceived to be a simple search about telephone poles.

I feel unfortunately fortunate that I have taken some upper level history courses. Otherwise, I might not have known about the Tulsa race massacre, Jim Crowe laws, some of the nuances of the Civil rights movement and again I was humbled to find out that Martin Luther King Jr. was not popular at the time of his death, and that many of his former allies abandoned him. Like, I seriously had to ask myself would I have put him on a pedestal back then, in the same way that I do now? If revering him at the time was deemed unpopular? I’d like to think so, but it really made me question the pull of the masses when it comes to showing up and being accountable.

It has also made me think a lot about how it is one thing to speak out when it’s highly popular and deemed “more socially acceptable” but it is quite another to speak up when nobody else is speaking. I also want to mention, that I don’t think that I deserve a cookie for doing any homework on racism or a certificate saying I’ve arrived, because I know I haven’t. I’ve still go a lot of learning and unlearning to do.

There was a popular “trend” going around with blacking out squares on social media. I did not do the black out square, but really, I had a really, really, hard time with deciding to participate or not. On the one hand, I felt if I did not get on board with it than people might think I was being racist by being complicit.

At the same time, “trend” is the key word that I was wanting to avoid. I felt that the cause deserved better then this bandwagon approach to racism, as well meaning as it seemed. The next day there was social media backlash for those who did or did not do either, and the whole thing made me feel sad really, like really, are we reducing the entire cause to a square? I later ran across an article that put the whole thing into greater perspective for me.

In the end, I decided I was damned if I did, and damned if I didn’t and I did not need to post the square to offer any kind of validation to anyone. I know my own heart, and my own intentions. I opted instead to post a political forum of our governor candidates and what their thoughts were regarding the protests, police brutality, and the death of George Floyd. How this was perceived by others was their deal. I will say, for whatever reason, that the well intentioned goal to black out white voices and magnify melanin voices worked on my end. I listened to a lot of voices by black women and I did learn a few things.

  1. I can honestly say, that my Insta feed did have some diversity before, but not nearly enough. Not nearly enough at all. Black women were even a minority on my Instagram account and I was not even fully mindful of this before. Like, why hadn’t I sought out these women? Most of the women on my feed that were not white were generally women I had stumbled upon and not women I had sought out. Why was that?
  2. Of the accounts that I was following before, many of them just recently pushed many, many followers and a lot of them quite frankly seem overwhelmed. Like, are you being genuine? Are you willing to show up and do the work? Do you realize this is a commitment?
  3.  Many of these women were saying, “It is not my job to congratulate you for being here, or to give you a cookie, or any kind of reward for showing up, and maybe a lot of people need to be asking themselves, “Why am I just showing up now?”
  4. I am getting that these women are too tired, even too tired to educate people about racism. Like really people, you need to put that responsibility on yourself.
  5. I know many of these women have platforms and are business oriented, art or aesthetic oriented or whatever and now all of the sudden they are feeling like they have to meet expectations and demands, even changing their platform because people are flocking to them saying “teach me, teach me.” Okay, these women can’t just stop the previous sh*t they had going on to accommodate educating white folks.
  6. Another comment was made calling out women influencers on Instagram, who are not speaking out because they fear losing followers. The question put forth was: “If you are losing followers, readerships, accounts, business, whatever, because you are speaking out against racism then you need to ask yourself what was so off about your “brand” that was attracting so many racists in the first place? (I totally wish I knew who had said this, so I could credit them).
  7. I realized that I knew little about the racial views of some of the accounts, or businesses that I had been interacting with on social media. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of them were on board with anti-racism but later, when I thought about it, I thought “not so fast.” This was when I was introduced to the concept of performative allyship.
  8. Yes, I’ve learned a few terms I did not know before, like White Fragility, and performative Allyship. I also learned a lot more about why “All Lives Matter” is pretty much an offensive statement and gaslights or undermines someone else’s experience. I learned about the “buts” that are placed on top of statements that emphasize the wrong side of someone else’s experience in a way that demeans human life.
  9. I  ran across an article in The New Yorker that defined white fragility as “the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. “

There were a few other things that I came across that I can’t get into too extensively that I’m only just scratching the surface on and trying to understand myself. For example, some of Malcolm X’s views, and how some have actually “white washed” many of the things that Martin Luther King jr. said and what he was about. Yes, racially ignorant people will quote Martin Luther King extensively and I’ve even heard some of them quoting Malcolm X. Particularly this comment: “Blacks’ biggest enemy is a white liberal.” I’m still participating in an extended discussion about this with another history professor. I’ve also realized that whether I think I am or not, I am still racially ignorant. I am on that spectrum somewhere.

This week has been humbling for me, educational for sure, and the work is not done and this is not just something you dive into and dive back out of at one’s convenience, and whether or not I think I have a platform or not, I do. My platform may be my daily interactions no matter how small, or the people I sit with in my home. It could be this blog.

I’ve learned that if you are not uncomfortable with how you are approaching racism you are probably doing it wrong, if one is not sacrificing something for the sake of this fight, then they are doing it wrong. It may be accounts, clients, friends, family, followers, popularity, or whatever.

I also want to say that in the midst of this learning and unlearning and this crazy week, a local police officer was shot in my vicinity. He was responding to a domestic violence call. Her husband was threatening her life, and that of her children. As a domestic violence survivor myself this really struck me in the heart. I would have loved to have had that officer on my side. I won’t get into it but I’ve had my own negative experiences with “crooked cops” and the good old boys club. Let’s just say my ex spouse was arrested by one of his own (he worked with law enforcement) and it was a nightmare.

I don’t want to upstage what is happening here, but I do want to say I have a bias and I know this. I have a really hard time with authority figures. I’ve resisted authority in the past and I know if I had been a black woman my experience might have been totally different, maybe even deadly. I also know that my outcome in my specific scenario was a toss up on a day completely determined by which cops arrived at the scene at the time. I’m so humbled by this.

I never thought for the life of me I’d be calling 911 and pleading with the dispatcher to please not send this officer or that officer (friends of my ex in whom he was doing favors for who had previously harassed me) or that I’d be involved with anything where I had to file a complaint against a police department and determine that my only way out, was to move from a community that was just too small, their police department having a too many rotten apples for my taste. This is my story, and one that I seldom share with anyone. This is a success story for the most part. I’m just so sorry, so completely sorry, that it isn’t always someone else’s.

I don’t want pity. I just want justice, justice for those seeking justice and peace. Recent events have been so triggering for people of color. My heart is with you. This is absolutely systemic trauma that could not continue any further and should have never occurred at all. We can’t go back to the “normal” way of doing things. That normal was not working out for a lot of people. We need a new normal.

My heart is with the oppressed but I know they don’t need my heart, thoughts and prayers, or any of that bullsh*t.  I have a responsibility to step up and do better. This is not my declaration to anyone who is tired and weary and does not need it. This is my affirmation to myself. The last thing anyone needs is for someone to unload their shortcomings onto them to make themselves feel better. Anyway, this is my personal reflection and I hope that many are also doing some inner reflection at this time, turning it into action, and that those who are especially tired with this burden they have carried for too long can find some respite and peace somewhere. God knows they could use some.

Until next post!

Rachelle Whiting

P. S. Here are some resources I have found. Other voices that should amplify mine.

Courtney, Ariel. “For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies.” Sojourners. 16, August 2017. https://sojo.net/articles/our-white-friends-desiring-be-allies

Ganser, Hahn Laurie. “A Reading List in the Wake of the Killing of George Floyd.” The Open Bookshelf. 27, May 2020. https://medium.com/the-open-bookshelf/a-reading-list-in-the-wake-of-thef44eb7630763-killing-of-george-floyd-

From the Courtney article these resources were suggested:

Greenberg, Jon. “Curriculum for White Americans to Educate Themselves on Race and Racism-From Ferguson to Charleston.” Citizenship and Social Justice. 10, July 2015. http://citizenshipandsocialjustice.com/2015/07/10/curriculum-for-white-americans-to-educate-themselves-on-race-and-racism/?fbclid=IwAR1B4YwUofTYY9HFRK99ABUwwgM9up5MhQYHfGXxzohFm3rCYnNBUhzMfO

Tiwutanond, Noomie. “10 Unapologetic Books About Race in America.” Early Bird Books. https://earlybirdbooks.com/10-books-bravely-address-race-america?fbclid=IwAR3UdIhnsxkrH_uhKQU9xUzUvLUnbNgJcsdlzaLH2B7R5BrKB6Yhw4Vtr5M

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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