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attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Privilege and the Isms”

Holding Space

It’s not either-or.

We can extend ourselves to understand rather than demonize those who voted another way. We can search for connection to, for common ground with, for a way forward that is more than us vs. them.

We can do that while we circle around those most affected by this shift in politics: The undocumented. The refugees. The non-Christians. The non-cis. The non-hetero. The water protectors. The victims of abuse and rape. The people of color. The poor. The earth herself, and the plants and animals struggling to survive in our man-altered climate.

I am finding my balance in this image. Those of us with strength and privilege in a ring. Behind us, sheltered by our bodies, concentric rings with the most vulnerable at the center. We are resolute in our stance, and yet also reaching out. Holding space for a shared path.

If you’re looking for guidance, I cannot recommend highly enough the work of two brilliant lights: Starhawk and Veronica Torres.

Starhawk’s world-class novel The Fifth Sacred Thing has become increasingly, alarmingly relevant over the years since its publication. There is also a prequel and a sequel, and many many other offerings by her as well, including an amazing children’s book, The Last Wild Witch. Her thoughts on the election are an antidote to fear and hatred. Visit Starhawk’s website here.

I have the immense pleasure of being Veronica Torres’ friend. Her work as channel for Eloheim and the Council directly influences my ability to stay sane, grounded, and engaged in this crazy world. She has a zillion recordings of channeling sessions, a number of books (my favorite is A Warrior’s Tale), and various other offerings (the Levels of Creating is a revolutionary tool for self-discovery). Her Core Emotion Session is what I would give each and every one of you if I could. Visit Veronica’s website here.

You Are Invited

This election feels different. The stakes feel very, very high. Turning point in history high. Millions of lives hanging in the balance high.

On behalf of the United States of America, I would like to take a moment to issue an open invitation.

There are no better words for it than those crafted by the renowned Starhawk in her increasingly relevant novel The Fifth Sacred Thing:

“There is a place for you at our table, if you will choose to join us.”


My fellow Berning ones and assorted independents, we belong at the table. We are a sizable percentage of this country and have influenced the creation of the most progressive platform a major party in our nation has ever put forth. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Hillary diehards, you belong at the table. Your passion for Ms. Clinton comes from a good place and we look forward to hearing more of what you see in her so we can catch some of your enthusiasm. Refrain from disparaging remarks. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Moderates and apolitical types, you belong at the table. You have untapped potential to breathe fresh air into a heated room. Share your perspective, mediate, find humor in tense moments, and change the subject when truly required. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Conservatives of all stripes, you belong at the table. So many of your values are ours as well. You want to live in happiness and safety. We do, too. You want to be free to make your own way in life. We do, too. Cooperation is what this moment in time requires from all of us. Extend a welcoming hand. We may disagree some but I believe we can sit at this table together and discuss it like friends.

Whether we realize it or not, at some point we chose to consider one another enemies, chose to exaggerate and vilify and blame. We can choose to consider one another friends. Quirky friends, maybe, somewhat embarrassing friends whose eccentric ways leave us shaking our heads, but still friends.

In our splintered factions, we are not just biased against and bewildered by the opposition. We are also ineffective. If we truly want what we say we want from this life, we will sit at the table together. We will refuse to allow anger and fear and greed to run amok and devastate our imperfect but much treasured home. We will extend a welcoming hand even when it seems, as my friend Pythia says, that our only common ground is that we breathe. We will bite our tongues when necessary and speak our truth when necessary. We will disagree respectfully. We will sit and we will invite others to sit at this table and discuss it like friends even when it is not comfortable or convenient because that is the only path that honors the democracy we strive to be.

We the Privileged

Let us acknowledge today of all days that the democracy we set off fireworks to celebrate is still essentially a pipe dream. We the privileged can in no way inhabit a democracy until we fill in our own moats, open our gates, tear off our armor, drag our trunks of gold out into the courtyard and say “here, this wealth that we call ours has always belonged to you.”

I highly recommend you take a moment today to read the full article from which the excerpt below was taken. Consider it your patriotic duty.
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From Letter to my Son (in The Atlantic)

“There is no them without you, and without the right to break you they must necessarily fall from the mountain, lose their divinity, and tumble out of the Dream. And then they would have to determine how to build their suburbs on something other than human bones, how to angle their jails toward something other than a human stockyard, how to erect a democracy independent of cannibalism.”

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“As part of the healing process, please talk about how you processed the events of Ferguson.”

Yeah. Um.

No past tense here yet. Definitely still processing living in a world where this shit happens routinely.

Here’s my typical routine, though:

– learn of atrocious event
– turn inward, grapple with initial shock, find time as soon as possible to just feel this terrible sadness
– turn outward, devour and share whatever quality media comes my way
– feel overwhelmed and turn back in
– stumble across new info or insight and turn back out
– perhaps eventually work my way toward expression in words or music

… And repeat as long as necessary.

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White Timidity

Why is it so difficult for people to talk about race?

Fear. It’s all down to fear.

For those who have racism tattooed prominently across their chests or emblazoned on their white hoods, it is a violent fear-channeled-into-hatred rejection of any who differ from them, usually drilled in from birth. That’s a no-brainer.

For many people, however, it is a different sort of fear altogether. Fear of saying the wrong thing. Fear of attracting negative attention. Fear of being unable to back up statements in the face of opposition. Fear of creating an argument or of offending or alienating others.

All twitchy little fears that pale ludicrously in comparison to the real fears of racism. The life or death fears. Like going along minding your own business only to suddenly find you are the “wrong” color in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where even holding your empty hands up in a globally recognized symbol of surrender may do you no good.

So get over your timidity and talk about it, already.

(Do plenty of reading and listening as well, especially if you are new at this, and do not hesitate to share the words spoken or written by those who know more on the subject than you instead of always coming up with your own from scratch.)

The American Plague

“… the rate of police killings of black Americans is nearly the same as the rate of lynchings in the early decades of the 20th century.”

There have been a number of insightful, outraged, brilliant articles written in Ferguson’s wake. But when I think back on all I have read recently, the quote above looms ominously out in front.

It is grotesque. Go back and read it again. It doesn’t say total murders of black Americans. Not by a long shot. Just those committed by officers of the peace. Are you horrified enough yet?

Getting there, you say?

Well, don’t get comfortable there just yet. Here’s how often those unfathomable deaths occur:

“About twice a week, or every three or four days.”

What. The. Fuck.

Here’s the article. Well worth reading.

Pride

I’m stealing just the first sentence of Victoria’s recent Facebook post because it is perfect:

“Before Pride month is over, I just want to make sure everyone knows that I’m not straight.”

What am I, then?

Because obviously I am married to a man and I love him and we have kids.

Which is kind of like being inadvertently closeted. Because while I am not ashamed of who I am, it just doesn’t come up in conversation now as often as it did in college.

So what am I?

All my life, I have been attracted to individual people.

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(This is from a sticker you can buy here.)

Many would label a statement like this bisexual. Some call it pansexual to make sure all possible gender identifications are included.

Personally, I think it should be everyone’s default assumption about others. Because it sort of covers all the bases.

Not to mention it covers that tricky concept that one is NOT attracted to all members of a particular gender, no matter what one’s declared orientation may be. Put me in a room of 100 people and I’m only going to be even remotely attracted to a handful. Let me actually have a conversation with each of those few and the odds I would even consider a first date with one of them are slim.

Not to mention the additional crucial fact of fidelity. Bi/pansexuality sometimes gets a bad rap because people assume it means you are sleeping with “everyone.” People are entitled to make their own rules about monogamy vs. polygamy, but for me, when I am with someone, I am with them exclusively. That means that since I am married to a man I am indistinguishable from a married straight woman who shares my views on fidelity.

Until I post about it on my blog, that is. Haha.

Beyond

Beyond juries
Beyond bridges
Beyond buses
Beyond laws

Beyond hoodies
Beyond candy
Beyond loud music
Beyond cars

Is a child
Is a child
Is a child
Done no wrong

And a cold
Abomination
With a gun.

Unphotographed Moments – Catchup Round (Days Twenty-Two Through Twenty-Six)

(This post is part of a series for August 2013 entitled “Unphotographed Moments.” Read the intro to the series here.)

Thursday’s Unphotographed Moment:

Without forewarning or fanfare I schlepped my cello over to my beloved friends’ house for a planned gathering, answered queries with a vague “yes, I am going to play something later,” and parked it against a divider wall between living room and kitchen. A few glasses of wine later, my hosts’ curiosity finally got the better of them, and they asked more specifically, what? And when? I love a good surprise, but this was not the time for one, and I awkwardly admitted to having written a piece for solo cello in honor of, in memory of, in mourning for the brilliant light that was their three year old son, diagnosed with JMML a year ago, lost nearly seven months ago, who ought to be turning four years old next week.

I warmed up with a piece I’d been meaning to share with them for awhile: “Mashed Marley,” a Bob Marley medley written by request of one of my students, written around the time they lost their Marley-loving son. A piece easily memorized by proxy during lessons, and quite fun to play, if I do say so myself.

Then my piece. Their piece. Written for their son, and them, and the tremendous jagged boy-shaped hole in their lives. A piece I do not yet have completely memorized, and thus Rapunzel volunteered herself as human music stand. And I began to play. And my music stand began to cry. And it was horrible and lovely and I didn’t do a terrible job, despite the wine.

I know their hearts felt my intent. In the hand clasping, the eye welling, the glistening silence after the last percussive tap on my cello’s resonant surface.

I treasure these friends, who do not need to recapture the momentum of conversation, who can allow a moment to be uncomfortably beautiful and sad, who do not mind the restlessness of my post-performance hands entwining fabric in purposeless loops, like rosary beads or daisy chains.

Friday’s Unphotographed Moment:

Sharing a playground with a horde of teenagers, approximately freshmen in high school. To my surprise, the boys were the most considerate (rebuking “Don’t swear! There’s a little kid over there!”) while the girls were heedless — one even stole the tire swing from Owlet while I was catching a wandering Platypup and declined to see us standing five feet away until I said, “excuse me,” in my best stern mama voice.

Saturday’s Unphotographed Moment:

Tricycling home from a solo-parent dinner out with my little ones, a warm-turning-cool breeze ruffling our hair, a cloud-smeared sunset glossing our cheeks. Feeling the essence of “unphotographed moments” ringing deep within me.

Sunday’s Unphotographed Moments:

Driving a preteen child whose parent is ill to UU. Listening to her bright alto sing to my poopy-fussy Platypup the whole way there. Wanting and not wanting to share my knowledge of our shared experience having a parent with cancer, seeing as mine turned out so devastatingly. Hoping her story is brighter, preparing myself to be a pillar of empathy if it is not.

Taking hopefully our last trip in the Jetta as a family on the way to meet my sister to pick up her car (we are “car-sitting” while she is in Shanghai and lending the Jetta to friends). There is nothing like a car without AC to make you wish you had just stayed home, but getting out into the delicious bay air and promptly to a nearby playground went a long way toward erasing the painful memory of sweltering stop-and-go traffic. As did the sushi we inhaled for dinner before rochambeauing to see who got to drive two exhausted grumpy kids home in the old car and who got to zip off solo in the new car. I won the first round and we tied the next several rounds so I declared myself the winner in light of the increasing impatience to be on the road from the younger set, got only token protest from Thor, and enjoyed a blissful 45-minute silence only slightly tinged with unfamiliar car anxiety.

Monday’s Unphotographed Moments:

Turning on our solar system! Enjoying guilt-free AC, refrigeration, computing, and all the rest, not to mention the singular joy of charging the electric company for supplying them with power. Yes, friends, our meter is running backward.

Admittedly, we did photograph the inauguration of our solar system:

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(Platypup assisted Thor in figuring out which switches needed turning when.)

Bile-inducing shock and disgust upon learning that some white members of my favorite online breastfeeding support group The Leaky Boob were bizarrely opposed to the first annual Black Breastfeeding Week. One member wrote an excellent rebuttal to their bigoted hate-explosion entitled “Dear White Women: Top Five Reasons Why We Need a Black Breastfeeding Week” which I encourage everyone to read.

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Today’s one-shot photo:

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The beginnings of our tomato deluge, accented by our ongoing cucumber onslaught.

Explaining Privilege (Unphotographed Moments – Days Sixteen, Seventeen, and Eighteen)

(This post is part of a series for August 2013 entitled “Unphotographed Moments.” Read the intro to the series here.)

I have been fixated upon privilege and discrimination for more than half my life. Lately, in the Zimmerman verdict’s aftermath, I have been disheartened by the deluge of evidence, ranging from reposted Facebook memes to articles that read (at first glance) as well-reasoned, that shows how little the concept of privilege is even addressed let alone understood in this country. To that end, this “weekend edition” of my unphotographed moments series will be devoted to tracking privilege. This is what it is like to live in my head, in my heart, in my privileged skin.

I will add that this is by no means an exhaustive list of the ways my privilege has influenced my experience of the past three days; that would be impossible.

Friday’s Unphotographed Moments:

This morning I was fortunate that I have a husband, that he did not have to work early in the morning, and that he was able and willing to wake up with our kids so I could sleep in. I rolled over onto my stomach, stretched my limbs out gratefully, and dozed off easily.

Today I was lucky to have a portion of my job (teaching my Little Uncaged Musicians classes) be one where my children are welcome so I don’t need to find childcare. I was fortunate to have one class member barter her clarinet abilities as well as her delicious cooking skills for participation in the class, another babysitting hours since my husband’s job and mine sometimes overlap and the rest of my lessons which are almost all not ones I can bring my kids to, and another dress up items for my little ones. These are all luxuries one would normally have to pay for, but I have the skills to teach a class that is worth something to these students’ parents. I have those skills because my parents valued early music education beginning with singing to me as a baby and piano lessons starting at age 3, because they supported my freedom to follow my interests both financially and emotionally, because their parenting style and the educational philosophy of my first school (a private Montessori school) encouraged creativity and problem-solving, because they funded much of my college tuition, and because while I still needed to find a part-time job to help support myself as a student I had an implicit safety net allowing me to take a risk like running my own home teaching studio. I likely have had a number of students over the years who chose me (or even who chose to learn one of the instruments I teach) because we shared a race, whether or not they were aware of it. I have certainly been able to attract more students by living in middle class neighborhoods, where I have never had to worry about racism preventing me from getting an apartment or house.

Today while I was piling children into the car a woman walking wearing earbuds stopped, paused her music, said hello, and then offered me a gallon of organic milk her departing houseguests were leaving behind. I was lucky to share her race or she might not have considered me a worthy recipient. If she had still offered, it might have felt uncomfortably condescending. Further, I was fortunate to not be in a state of poverty forced to choose between getting to work on time (i.e., leaving rather than waiting for her to go home and get it) and having free milk for my kids. I was also privileged to be able to decline gracefully, something that might have been less well-received had I been a POC and she still white.

Today I was privileged to have an electric car (or a car at all) in which to drive my children to Rapunzel’s house for babysitting (so lucky to have someone I trust utterly and completely with my kids) and then myself a half-hour north to teach a family of three students who otherwise might not have chosen to take lessons with me due to the driving time involved. I was lucky to have taken a good driver’s ed program offered in the summer at my high school, patient parents to take me out and a car in which to learn, rather than either me or my parents having work prevent me from attending, such that I eventually cultivated a calm and safe driving demeanor as well as a meditative approach to unexpected delays allowing me to worry very little about whether I might be late when navigating stop-and-go traffic as a result of an accident (5 min late, and I was lucky my students don’t mind just running five minutes over on the rare occasions when that happens). The meditative approach is from my gentle and introspective mother, my constantly-self-improving father, many many other people, and piles and piles of books I have been lucky to encounter. (Not to mention the literacy required to glean their wisdom.) Had I been involved in the accident, I of course would have automatic advantage over any POC involved, especially if the justice system were involved. And had their been no accident at all, I would’ve arrived a few minutes early to my lesson and sat in my parked car listening to the radio without “threatening” passersby in the process.

Tonight my husband put sound equipment away dressed all in black in a state park outdoor music venue without serious concern for his safety. No one thought he was stealing, or drug dealing, or even loitering. I know this without asking.

Tonight I was privileged to have the luxury of contacting my husband three different ways (phone message, text message, and email) to ask him to bring home an emergency pack of paper diapers because not only had I failed to do any laundry so we were out of cloth ones, but we had also run out of the disposables Owlet uses at night as well. I was privileged that he was in a car to make such a side trip easy and of course quite fortunate to live near a relatively safe fully-stocked grocery store open 24 hours. He was lucky to have on his pale skin and therefore not looked at askance for shopping at such a late hour, and dressed in black clothing to boot. I was lucky to have learned of E.C., had an easy time implementing it, and therefore was in a place to hope that our underwear-clad child wouldn’t soak the bed before diapers arrived (and, in fact, she got up to use the loo in the middle of the night and was dry in the morning for the first time in ages!) and that our little guy wouldn’t overflow his diaper before those reinforcements were here.

Tonight when I fall asleep I will not worry that my son could grow up to be Treyvon Martin.

Saturday’s Unphotographed Moments:

This morning I was fortunate that I have a husband, that he did not have to work early in the morning, and that he was able and willing to wake up with our kids so I could sleep in. I rolled over onto my stomach, stretched my limbs out gratefully, and dozed off easily.

Today I was privileged not to need to work. I have weekends entirely off most of the time.

Today I read a book to my daughter in which all three of the characters were white and neither of us noticed at the time. However, the characters were a family with two moms and a child, which did at some point drift to my attention.

Today my husband and daughter were able to go shopping as white people. That means no one looked at him with suspicion, no one tried to touch her adorable hair, and they were both surrounded at every moment with people who share their race. Furthermore, they are the same race, so no one wondered whether he might have kidnapped her. No one looked at his purchases for confirmation of stereotypes they might have about his race.

Tonight my daughter and I watched the first half of The Sound of Music (her first time!) and neither of us noticed at the time that all the actors were white and all the characters heterosexual.

Tonight my husband put sound equipment away dressed all in black in a state park outdoor music venue without serious concern for his safety. No one thought he was stealing, or drug dealing, or even loitering. I know this without asking.

Tonight when I fall asleep I will not worry that my son could grow up to be Treyvon Martin.

Sunday’s Unphotographed Moments:

Today I was privileged not to need to work. I have weekends entirely off most of the time.

This morning I got in my car (discussed at length above) and took my children out to breakfast with that disposable income I have where we ate in the company of our own race. The cashier gave Owlet a free bread turtle (for the second time in our two visits to this place); I wonder if he would have done the same for a POC. I hope so. I did not ever feel the behavior of my kids was interpreted by onlookers as a positive or negative reflection on my entire race.

After breakfast we drove to the Unitarians, arriving nearly an hour early to play at the little playground there. No one looked at us as interlopers or wondered to themselves if perhaps we were a homeless family because we were dressed well enough and white. We dropped Platypup off in the preschool room and finally (whew!) encountered our first POC of the day. Still, the congregation is very middle class white overall, and so I cringed a little to see that the topic of the service was racism.

As eager as I am for us privileged folks to do some serious talking on the subject, I am always a little squeamish for fear it might be bungled. It was not bungled, but the chosen method for topic introduction was to ask us to pair up sitting there in our pews and each tell a true story about a time we had been discriminated against. The man next to me relayed his experience having a disability and being bussed to a special school to the mockery of the neighborhood children.

My mind went completely blank. Having spent the past couple days hunting down my privilege with vigor, I was incapable of rewiring my brain in search of the opposite. I stuttered something out about having lived a very privileged life and being unable to think of a thing. He looked at me with unreadable eyes and soon the regular service order resumed.

It was three hours before I remembered a single experience of discrimination.

Tonight when I fall asleep I will not worry that my son could grow up to be Treyvon Martin.

That, my friends, is privilege.

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Today’s one-shot photo:

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The little rugs my Little Uncaged Musicians sit on in class.

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