Wednesday, June 10, 2020

thoughts for white people from a white female US ex-pat boomer on a hill in New Zealand

As I sit on top of a grass-green hill overlooking a view my dear family who have gone before me called paradise, it's a time of coming to terms with what we don't know–– and that is everything. 

Just released from "lockdown" in New Zealand, my husband and I exchanged gazes at dinner last night. 

I think I feel more tense than I did when we were on level 4 (the highest).

Me too–– he agrees.

Shocked, time and time again, hearing from people we spoke with about how much they'd enjoyed "lockdown," that feeling was waning. 

That sense of okay-ness was privilege speaking of course, but rightly or wrongly, a great many people seemed to be getting in touch with a simplicity or inner-ticking they had all but forgotten. 

And coming home to those sensations was the pleasant surprise of being put in a lengthy and imposing time-out.

Now when we gaze at our beautiful New Zealand views, while we viscerally exhale at the thought of that spikey virus possibly being eliminated from our midst, we clench from the inside out in the awareness of the unnecessary killings and mass unrest in the US. 

Maybe it was the false sense of security lockdown gave us that we were doing our best because our abilities were so limited. Now with the veranda furled open the world asks of us, again, what is within your power to make this better?

Historically, "we the people" are put in the position to assume all responsibility for social and cultural change while the top 1% are playing political duck-duck-goose with all of our lives at the highfalutin' country club on the other side of town– that none of us could ever get a pass to enter.

If only we worked harder, were smarter, would have made better choices, weren't so weak or mentally ill, they tell us, while also slinging judgments on current affairs: 

Blame the sports person on their knee.

Blame the person who committed a petty theft (and was then killed by law enforcement).

Blame the people who deal drugs for the shooting of an innocent up and coming young woman.

Blame each other– you can't trust your neighbor. 

Blame the gun toting, tattooed, swastika'd and, while we are at it, blame the peace-loving protesters, calling them all hoodlums. 

Keep that infighting going amongst the worker bees–the wannabes–who just want to be in a life that has a hint of the privilege others seem born into. 

Throw people off the scent of voting for the right reasons. 

Don't remind them that a vote for your presidential candidate also loads the Supreme Court and Senate and Congress who have the power to continue the status quo or burn it to the ground. (even our most liberal candidates shy away from the torch, but the only hope is to get behind them in mass so as not to dilute down the vote and give the conservatives the power to keep building their separatist empire)

Keep the infighting going so there's no energy left to get politically and economically literate enough to see that yes, race disparity is historical and unacceptable and so is socioeconomic disparity. 

Keeping people impoverished is what keeps the powers that be empowered.

Enough is enough.

Let's teach our children the truth, at home and in the school systems, and break these patterns of systemic oppression.

Interrupt the narrative that allows poor white folk to align with the Republican party because they get a psychological boost and sense of power from the transient feeling of being in the club with the top 1%–– when in actuality they wouldn't be allowed to clean the chicken coop at their high falutin' country club.

The Make America White Again messages aren't lost on a soul and those who are in poverty, and the well-off alike, who are afraid of people different from themselves, stand in line and eat that shit up like they've just reopened a Chick-fil-A that's been closed a decade. That kool aid of subversive brainwashing is what elected the current president. He preached to the right choir.

Unpack the one-line, one-dimensional, idiotic messages the president gives-- I'm so excellent or that is very very bad and find ways to educate the sheep about just how badly they are being skewered and roasted. Blind sheep pie is on special in the rural and economically deprived areas of the US and the ruling party cannot get enough of it; it was Trump's success.

My origins were from a rural red geographic area and some of my southern family line-dance to this president's drum. The same family that swore me off when I told them to take me off their racist email chain when President Obama was running. 

I'm always blown away at the demonization that can come from standing up for justice issues while people are okay to hurl racial slurs ad nauseam. "Good" Christian folk included.

I know for us well-meaning white folk, it feels paralyzing to consider what we may be able to do anything to actually help. Might I suggest rather than nothing, at the very least, we take micro-steps:

  • Teach our children how to not behave in a racist or elitist manner. Teach compassion. Modeling behavior is the most effective way to teach children.
  • Check our language. Even with being very mindful about non-classist or racist messages there are subtleties that seep through the cracks. For instance, how infrequently when President Obama was in office did we hear "president" before his name. Obama this and Obama that. Implicit racist disregard, even from the newsrooms; it so easily became the norm.
  • Let's not be afraid to see our errors and commit to change them. We all have the common denominator of being imperfect humans.
  • Unpack our implicit racism. Racism is a spectrum disorder. We all have it. Until we step out of the closet of denial and understand the messages we were given,   we cannot fully step into positive change. And, at the same time, we must check our classism. There is no room for superiority mentality in this climate of moving forward in togetherness and fighting systemic oppression.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. To people that are in the throes of oppression. Just like the premise of The Death Dialogues Project–– we learn more from each others' stories than listening to lectures on the topics. 

Even micro-steps in the right direction by a large proportion of a well-meaning crowd wanting to see racial and economic equality will shift the movement forward.
And let me remind people that are aware of their cultural heritage about an elephant in the living room: We white folk are a lost breed of mutts.  

Remember the old Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer movie? The US is the island of the misfit toys. 

With early migration, most of our people were met by the Men in Black guys who shot us with the erase-your-memory-guns at the border. 

So many white folk have no idea about their heritage, what their family and cultural views and practices were, hence the current popularity of the dna testing companies.

There's an inherent jealousy that exists because most marginalized cultures may be economically-poor but there is an overwhelming richness in identity and connection with ancestors. 

You cannot put a dollar amount on that sense of identity. 

Granted, that white amnesia may have occurred because of the atrocities committed by the hands of our people, but it does not negate that many of us are missing a piece of our story. 

And those stories that most of us are missing are the stories that rock many of our marginalized brothers and sisters to sleep at night, holding them in a deep knowing of who their people were and where they came from.  

The disconnection with our white cultural roots and escape from our mother-countries provided fertile ground for extremist patriotism that easily aligns with frightening racist extremist mentality. Seeing Black people as slaves and sub-human is part of the US’s cultural foundation that many white folk have yet to mindfully evict from their collective consciousness.

And if there is a hell— there will be a special room for those that wrap their racism up in Christian or religious doctrine. Love. Just love like you are meant to, please. 

Since our arrival in New Zealand in 2011, people have been blown away when I give them an honest answer to their questions about racial discrimination in the US. 

Never again will I be met with the same disbelief.

When I was a little girl, it was the views on the backroads of rural America, occasionally similar to the one I see out my window right now, that spoke to my child-heart. The same wee heart that broke watching the civil rights marches on the television.

No matter the view from any room, throughout my life, my heart has continued to hurt for the divide in the US and the world. 

Maybe, just maybe, a momentum towards progress has formed that will not be severed. 

And for the record as I echo back to an American telling me how hated I was and good thing I'm in NZ and should stay there, when I expressed a much milder and shorter opinion: I'm still a US citizen and pay my taxes every year, and even if I didn't? I'd still have a right to share my voice– freedom of speech and all. 

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