Friday, June 19, 2015

Weekend Reading: The I Won't Give Up Edition

This week's post is going to go out early, because today is Petunia's preschool graduation. I know that many people view these events with disdain, but she has been at that school since she was 5 months old, and her older sister was at that school from when she was 5 months old... so I'm going to go and unabashedly love it. Also, I will cry. Pumpkin is coming, too, to see the teachers who have literally known her since she was a baby. We'll all miss that place.

I had planned on just posting a bunch of lighthearted things this week, but sadly, that is not how the week went.

As I tweeted on my Tungsten Hippo account, I am heartbroken and angry about the racist shooting in Charleston. I am also heartbroken and angry that so many of my fellow white people are having a hard time saying that it was a racist attack, despite the fact that the accused killer has said that he hates black people and wanted to kill them and start a new civil war.

People, if you can't acknowledge this attack as racist, then you are living in an alternate reality. You certainly shouldn't get to be the President of the United States, where the rest of us live in the actual reality and work to make it better. I'm looking at you, Jeb Bush and a whole slew of other Republican candidates.

Also, if you're tempted to blame it on "mental illness," read Arthur Chu's piece on that topic first.

I have seen a lot of despair in response to this event, namely despair that nothing will make us actually fix the problems that led to it: easily available guns and unbridled racism.

Jon Stewart expressed this really well, and if you haven't watched his opening monologue to Thursday's show, here it is.

I certainly understand that sentiment. I have moments- long moments- when I share it. There were so many beautiful, powerful, important things written by Black writers in response to this attack.

Carvell Wallace's letter to his mother.
Ta-Nehisi Coates' plea to take down the Confederate flag.
Jamelle Bouie's history lessons on the importance Emmanuel AME church and the use of the the fear of rape to justify deadly racism.

And there are no doubt many more, but I am having a hard time reading them, not because the things being written aren't eloquent, but because they are unbelievably eloquent.

Time and again, these talented writers have to try to craft their words in a way that will convince white people that they are just as human as we are, that the suffering in their communities matters as much as suffering in ours. This should not be necessary. That it is still necessary is a profound failure on our part.

We shouldn't need to be persuaded to call an obviously racist attack racist. We shouldn't need to be persuaded to take down a flag that symbolizes slavery and segregation and treason.

And then I saw people arguing that it was "cultural appropriation" for the rest of us to say what that flag represents. THE FOUNDERS OF THE CONFEDERACY SAID WHAT THAT FLAG MEANT. If that isn't enough for us, the fact that it started flying at the South Carolina capital in response to the Civil Rights movement in the 60s gives us another pretty solid clue.

Find another symbol of Southern heritage, OK? Face the actual racism in your past and move on so that we can work on a less racist future.

And those of us who aren't Southerners don't necessarily get a pass here. There is plenty of what Jon Stewart called "racial wallpaper" all over the country. We could, for instance, stop clinging to insulting, racist names for our sports teams.

So anyway. I get why so many people think we can never change this. Having had my heartbroken by the shooting at Sandy Hook and then stomped on by my politicians' inability to even pass the most watered down gun control legislation in the aftermath, having then gone and tried to engage with gun enthusiasts to find some middle ground and having had to walk away before I lost all faith in humanity, I can also see why the issue of guns seems unfixable.

But I don't want to give up.

Nothing ever changes until some people are determined enough to make it change. So far, I'm still determined.

How do we change things? I don't know. Here are some things I'm trying:

I introduced Pumpkin to the Juneteenth holiday last night. It was a glimmer of hope for both of us to hold onto after I told her why I was so sad. Here's the post I wrote about this, and the book we read to start the conversation.

I think trying to raise my children to understand and reject racism is the bare minimum of what I can do. It may sometimes be the hardest part of my response, but it is the least optional.

I'm going to look at our budget and see if we can spare some money for the Southern Poverty Law Center. They do good work.

I made a promise to myself that I would speak up more about implicit bias, and about intersectionality when I am talking about gender issues, and I've been holding myself to that promise.

I support Americans for Responsible Solutions and Moms Demand Action as two groups that I think have a chance of overcoming the power of the NRA. I support them with my money. I need to support them more with my voice, both online and off.

I write to my elected officials whenever gun legislation is up for a vote, to balance out the gun enthusiasts who will also be writing. (Granted, this would matter more if I lived somewhere less liberal, but my congressional district is not a safe Democratic district, so I like to think my voice matters.)

I vote. Always, without fail.

I can certainly do more. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this great post, it reassures me that not everyone thinks the same way. As a black person who lives in the UK, my experience of racism is very different from African American's experiences. I suspect that my experiences are less acute and deadly. The heavy of weight of racism and slavery coupled with the unbelievable love affair that Americans have with guns reminds is heartrending and sad. I sometimes despair when I look across the pond but your post has heartened me; there is hope! Thanks

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