Friday, April 29, 2016

Cuteness...

is sometimes problematic.

Babies are cute. But cuteness is just one of the words that are applicable to situations wherein a sanctuary or rescue steps in to provide a safe haven for a refugee from human cruelty or neglect...and...the "saved" animal is pregnant. Troubling is another word that applies too.

Especially (but not only) in those instances where the usual outcome of reproduction for an Earthling is giving birth to (or hatching) multiple babies at one time.


Is that not a picture that elicits "ooohs" and "aaaaws"? Sure it is. Babies do that, doesn't much matter which species...babies are cuties. Big heads, helpless, you name the factor...they all seem to pull strong and caring feelings out of us when we see, hear, touch and smell them.

Notice though...that's not just one baby...that's a bunch of babies...11 in all to be exact. Two shown in the photo above were unable to survive so...from an original birthing of 14 babies (3 of whom were deceased at birth) there are now 9 surviving and thriving baby bunnies at Heartland Rabbit Rescue.

That's about a 10% increase in the population at the rescue...just from one birthing event. There are now (or soon will be) needs for living areas for 9 more bunnies, medical needs (including costs for spaying or neutering), social needs (head rubs from humans, opportunities to explore outside, etc), exercise needs...and on and on.

Heartland took in a pregnant bunny who was facing death at a local municipal facility...often though...rescue one pregnant bunny and poof...a population explosion happens.

Suddenly more of everything is required of the humans who work to care for the bunnies. And...there's a decreased capacity to step in and rescue a bunny who's in a precarious situation out there away from the sanctuary...because...there's no room or ability to care new residents.

Please do your part to help out your local rescue or sanctuary. Every one of them faces situations, at times, like this. Volunteer, spay or neuter the animal who lives with you, donate your time or your money to those organizations who try to help the abandoned or the neglected.

Because those rescues never know when they're going to find themselves having a massive increase in the demands placed on them...just because of cuteness events like that group shown in the photos. If you can, contact Heartland and send them a donation...please do so...or help out your local sanctuaries/rescues. Because cuteness happens...and cuteness also means care is needed...and care can be expensive. 

Live vegan...and...do your part to help out your fellow Earthlings by supporting rescue/sanctuary organizations. And...please please spay or neuter any Earthlings you live with and help your local organizations with their costs for preventing pregnancies in their residents.


Friday, April 22, 2016

John Hope Franklin..

is a name that is probably unfamiliar to you. He was not someone I had heard of until 18 months or so ago. Even though he was born and grew up in Oklahoma. Dr. Franklin was an African American historian who was well known and respected both nationally and internationally. One of the several books he wrote was an important and influential work about American history which was titled From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. This book, first published in 1947, is now in its 9th edition and has sold over 3 million copies.

I promise you that no other historian from Oklahoma has a book that's sold over 3 million copies...and I also bet you that 97% of white people (more probably) who live in Oklahoma have never heard of John Hope Franklin.

The white bubble tends to invisiblize and/or overlook the prominence and accomplishments of people of color especially if such accomplishments challenge white supremacy. Dr. Franklin has several formal "honors" from the State of Oklahoma but he's virtually unknown to the white citizens here.

In that regard he joins another historian, a white woman named Angie Debo, who wrote an accurate, but very unflattering history of white people's dealings with Native Americans here. In her book, And Still the Waters Run, she detailed the swindling and violence that was inflicted on Native Americans and she named the names of some wealthy Oklahoma folks who acquired their riches in this manner.

The University of Oklahoma refused to publish her book but eventually it was published by Princeton University press. Like Dr. Franklin she has some formal recognition but is virtually unknown to Oklahoma citizens. We'll do the obligatory honorings...but we'll do them quietly and with no fuss...because what we really want is to completely ignore anything that points out the turds in the kiddy pool of "liberty and justice for all".


Dr. Franklin's books are well researched and well regarded academically. They're not polemical or distorting, but...white people don't come off looking too well in them. The facts of U.S. history don't support white folks looking like a terrific group and that's just not ok, for the most part, with the white supremacist ideology that operates as the most significant influence on the media and the thinking and the "common sense" of U.S. society. Violate those strictures and you'll probably find yourself becoming either demonized or minimized or ignored.


In his autobiography called "Mirror to America", published when he was 90 years old, he notes how the writing of the first edition of this history book impacted him:
In planning and writing of my work, I had witnessed more than five hundred years of human history pass before my eyes. I had seen one slave ship and another from Portugal, Spain, France, Holland, England and the United states pile black human cargo into its bowels as it would coal or even gold had either been more available and profitable at the time. I had seen them dump my ancestors at New World ports as they would a load of cattle and wait smugly for their pay for capture and transport. I had seen them beat black men until they themselves became weary and rape black women until their ecstasy was spent leaving their brutish savagery exposed. I had heard them shout, "Give us liberty or give us death," and not mean one word of it. I had seen them measure out medication or education for a sick or ignorant white child and ignore a black child similarly situated. I had seen them lynch black men and distribute their ears, fingers, and other parts as souvenirs to the ghoulish witnesses. I had seen it all, and in the seeing I had become bewildered and yet in the process lost my own innocence. (p. 127-128)
When I read this passage I thought of my recent post where I quoted the white female historian writing: "Come on...don't you get tired of the genocide crap?" in reference to her exposure to factual information about how Native Americans were harmed by white people who came to the "New World".

Her writing perfectly exemplifies one manner in which information that doesn't fit the maintenance of a white supremacist viewpoint is demeaned and/or diminished and targeted for disregarding and/or ignoring. It presents one way in which invisibling operates.

In case you might not be clear about what is meant by white supremacy, here is an article that might help. In part, the article notes:
White supremacy is comprised of habits, actions and beliefs. It is not necessarily reliant on the specific intentions of its actors, practitioners or beneficiaries. Of course, there are “active” racists whose intentions, words, and deeds are meant to advance a racist agenda. However, implicit and subconscious bias, as well as taken for granted stereotypes and “common sense,” can also serve a white supremacist order. Ultimately, intent is secondary to the unequal outcomes across the colorline that individuals benefit from and perpetuate.

Got it? You don't have to wear a white sheet and pointy hat to uphold or benefit from white supremacy. The idea that there is a good/bad binary about this stuff is one of the ways it keeps perpetuating itself. If I don't have bad intentions, if I don't do bad things...well...then I'm a "good person" and don't participate in or uphold white supremacy.

Wrong. The status quo is white supremacy, it's the water we swim in, it's the air we breathe. For instance, the U.S. capitol building and the white house (among many government buildings) were constructed, in part, using the labor and skills of enslaved human beings on land taken from Native Americans. We are surrounded by things that were created by or taken from peoples who were racialized as "the other" but we (white folks especially) ignore and/or deny this and work hard at staying oblivious to these truths.

I didn't ask to be stuck into this mess nor do I like it. I suspect you don't like it either. Given that the status quo is unnoticed white supremacy doesn't mean there aren't folks who openly embrace such an oppressive viewpoint. There are white people who either actually or in their thinking wear white sheets and pointy hats. But they're relatively small in number and they aren't the reason that everyday and "normalized" white supremacy keeps on keeping on. The biggest supporters of this ongoing horror story are the "good" people...and...that's where the power to change it lies.

It is you and I who believe that if we think good thoughts, if our intentions are pure and we don't do bad things then we're ok...it's that way of operating that keeps white supremacy in place.

The commenter is offering us some insight into the way good intentioned (I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and presuming she is well meaning) folks support white supremacy all the while thinking they are being "benign" and "reasonable" and "objective" or whatever.

She doesn't deny the fact of genocide (which others sometimes do)...instead she casts this fact as "crap" and asks if we aren't "tired" of it by which I presume she means being made aware of it is debilitating or exhausting. She's saying this truth is bad or repulsive ("crap") and being exposed to it makes her weary and doesn't it make us weary too? (note too that she's implying constant bombardment with information about genocide...which is patently untrue...unless she lives in an very different environment from most white people) 

Consider her statement. Isn't she saying that some truths are demanding and hard and...such a stance implies that...untruth or fantasy is much easier and not tiring? But...she doesn't come right out and say that openly and clearly (she likely doesn't comprehend that she is saying this...she's deceiving herself as well as her audience). Grappling with and acknowledging and coming to know reality, at least in this instance, is difficult hence why not ignore it or deny it by not hearing about it? Let's move it out of our awareness...by not being exposed to it...then we can be not tired.

I've mentioned Dr. Robin DiAngelo in previous posts. She's an excellent resource for anyone wrestling with understanding whiteness and how it distorts thinking. On her website she has a page of downloadable resources. One of them is a paper called "Common Patterns of Whites". I would strongly urge you to read that paper and see if much there isn't familiar. Download all of the resources she offers and study them...they help make sense of the contortions we've all been socialized to either not grasp at all or to comprehend as "normal".

If the author of a history book that has sold over 3 million copies describes himself as "bewildered" after intensive study of the history of the U.S....is there any doubt that we who aren't historians are likely to be beyond "bewildered"?

Each of us faces the option of characterizing that which challenges our externally imposed worldview (but one that we experience as being our own) as "crap" and as "tiring" or engaging in the difficult and painful work of struggling toward a more factually grounded comprehension of our society and of the behaviors of humans in that society. Each of us has the choice of turning away and thereby supporting the status quo or we can begin the journey, hard though it is, toward some clarity of comprehension and interruption of this awfulness called "normal". 

I've previously mentioned Charles W. Mills and his writings about an epistemology of ignorance that is carefully cultivated in members of U.S. society (essentially anywhere western colonialism has imposed itself) regarding race. There is a video by Cori Wong who is a philosophy professor and she suggests that maybe there is an epistemology of ignorance that is associated with each of the "isms" (systems) of oppression...for instance sexism has its own epistemology of ignorance that helps keep it unrecognized and in place and unknowingly supported and enforced by "good" people...not just openly sexist jerks.

I think she's onto something with that. It's an intriguing way to make sense of a human society wherein the majority are presumably well-intentioned people but in that same society marginalized groups are exploited and harmed and then often blamed for the harm that's inflicted on them. And...these well-intentioned people seem helpless or inept when it comes to stopping this stuff or often even in recognizing it.

What a system! You're taught to exploit and harm marginalized group members and you're also taught to not recognize or understand how you're harming them as well as being taught that any difficulty marginalized group members are having is their own fault. You're good to go! Clean conscience...you're a "good" person while all around you folks in less powerful groups are struggling and trying to cope but since you're good well then...their problems must be their own fault, right?

It's all sort of stunning...or...as Dr. Franklin wrote...bewildering.



   

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Because I saw this article...

I wanted to put up a quick post.

Melissa Harris-Perry interviewed Anita Hill recently because of the release of a film on HBO called Confirmation about the hearings that happened 25 years ago.
Anita Hill
Back then, while these hearing were being televised, I had a conversation with a woman at my workplace and I maintained that the allegations of Anita Hill must be carefully heard and evaluated. The woman (who was white) became indignant and accused me of being "racist" because of my stance.

At the time I thought it was one of the more surreal experiences I had ever had...and...25 years later that still holds true. Solidarity (I did not know the meaning of this word at the time) among women was not very much more evident then than it is now.

When I read the interview I was transported back to the moment when that woman became angry at me for supporting Anita Hill. It was almost as bizarre and outre as what I wrote about in my previous post.

We white people are pretty whacky and if we weren't so incredibly dangerous and destructive...we could provide much hilarity for everyone.

Anita Hill asks something that is deep and profound in the interview when she says: "What if the Senate had actually taken me seriously? What if they decided that they were going to use this as an opportunity to reflect best practices in the workplace?"

What if?

Instead...watching the group of white men make fools of themselves during the hearings was an exercise in demonstrating obliviousness and destructive absurdity...all the while looking serious and pompous and concerned.

It was a sad and pitiful debacle for everyone and I still think Anita Hill exhibited tremendous courage and poise in her testimony. She offered all men and all women a chance to think deeply about how women are minimized and degraded in this society and instead it turned into a ridiculous circus...and it still amazes me...resulting in that white woman accusing me of being "racist".

That was one of the top ten "what in hell is going on?" moments in my life.

Friday, April 15, 2016

I have no words...

My last post was about the "greatest nation" rhetoric/propaganda that pretty much everyone who grows up in the U.S. is subjected to on a 24/7 basis. These sorts of notions come from the media, the institutions (schools, etc), political leaders and everyday conversations/interactions.

Everyone who lives here is subjected to them and...they're generally most influential on children (and adults) who are raced as white. The reason they influence white folks more effectively is because they (white folks)...as opposed to people of color...have few experiences or receive little information that counters this version of reality. It makes you feel taller when you're standing on the backs of others...especially when you pretend that the bodies aren't under your feet.

People of color who grow up here (and/or live here) are exposed to these same influences but they live lives wherein their day to day experiences provide them with evidence that the "liberty and justice for all" story is more hype than it is reality. Most learn quickly that the "greatest nation" fantasy often doesn't apply to them because they aren't raced as white.

The exchanges I excerpt here (below) occurred just a few days after I put up that last post. They took place on a facebook page that's associated with my local city council district (they call them "wards" here). The person identified as the original poster is a Native American woman who, along with some friends, had presented their objections at a committee that plans an annual celebratory parade that occurs here. It commemorates the "land run" that resulted in the formation of the city of Norman.


I was present at that meeting and those objecting to the parade's non-inclusivity and its insensitivity were respectful and polite and at no time did they tell anyone to not be "proud" of their ancestors (and the video that was posted also showed no indication of such talk).

Yet...notice how the commenter (assigned the number 2 on each of her comments) first claimed those who took land from the Native Americans "needed" that land and therefore they were honorable and brave, then she asserted that those objecting to the parade had no right to "tell non-indigenous people that we cannot be proud of our ancestors and our history", even though such a claim had never been made.   

1. Original post on facebook
(accompanied by a brief video not included here):
This is only a brief snippet of footage from the meeting we attended with the 89er Day Parade Committee. The Norman City Council will potentially fund this "celebration" of indigenous genocide and displacement using $5,000 of YOUR tax payer monies. The incumbent for Ward 6, Jerry Lang, stated that he "loves the covered wagons and horses" (not in this video, but at an oversight meeting). As a woman of color & especially as a native woman, it is terrifying to know that a person who promotes this degree of racial violence might be elected to represent me. We need this parade stopped, we need to make sure we don't support/elect folks like Jerry, & we definitely need to spend that $5k on something that promotes inclusivity and community. This parade certainly doesn't and we've been shouting it out for a decade so the time to listen and act is now!
2. Someone commenting wrote this: (name xed out)
xxx xxxxx: ….it is something to celebrate. This land was poor and many of the people who came here did so because they were desperately looking for a better home for their families. Those poor desperate people were not pathetic, they were brave and made what Norman is today.
1a. The person originally posting replied:
You do realize there were actual living breathing human beings here before the land runs, right? Just curious.
2.a First commenter responded:
xxx xxxxx: Yes, I'm familiar with the history, I have a PhD. in western history. A dissertation on the Montana tribes. All your points are well taken. My point is that you are not the only one who has a history. And, you do not have a right to tell non-indigenous people that we can not be proud of our ancestors and our history.
3. I commented with this:
Jeez...a Ph.D. in western history and you don't believe the victims of invasion and dispossession have a right to point out the behavior of non-indigenous people and their history? Wow xxx xxxxx...that's quite a viewpoint you've got going there. Being "proud" of folks who did such stuff and/or profited from heinous actions is a very very strange and sad position. Good grief.
2b. First commenter replied to my comment with this:
Come on...don't you get tired of the genocide crap? Did your people do this? Mine didn't. What do you think should happen next? Give all the land back? Bring back 1000s of Buffalo? Send the horse back to Mexico? take back the guns, the pots and pans? Send the invaders back to England?
Each time I revisit the writings of this white woman I'm stunned anew. "Come on...don't you get tired of the genocide crap?"...this coming from someone who claims to have studied history...suggesting that since this aspect of the past is unpleasant then it should be ignored. 

The callousness and the denial of suffering implicit in what she wrote staggers me...and I'm not a member of the targeted group. She's denying the horror of what was done by white people to a descendant of the victims. I can't to begin to fathom how crushing and painful that must feel for the relatives of those who were dispossessed and/or harmed.

If you're having difficulty comprehending the magnitude of how unfeeling this is...imagine that Germans were planning a parade to celebrate the anniversary of the stealing of homes and land and lives from Jewish people and relatives of the victimized Jewish folks voiced their concerns and oppositions to this. And...a German citizen responded with: "Come on...don't you get tired of the genocide crap?"

If you think that's not a good way of getting another perspective on what we white people did to Native Americans then I'll offer you the opportunity of becoming better informed. Here you can read about how Hitler was inspired in his approaches to genocide by the ways the white Americans had exterminated Native Americans and taken their land.
Wounded Knee victims and murderers, 1890

The "land run" in question occurred in April of 1889...the very next year...some 500 U.S. military soldiers slaughtered (by one estimate, other estimates place the number of dead at 300) some 150 children, women and men belonging to the Lakota Tribe at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Native Americans did not "give" the land to white people. It was taken from them by violence or threat of violence. And this white woman's response to these events is: "don't you get tired of the genocide crap?"

Two very common reactions to being faced with complicity in awful behavior...whether at the individual level or group level is to either deny its occurrence or to plead ignorance.

This woman is offering some additional reactions...she's not denying the atrocities or the theft nor pleading ignorance...indeed...she touts her extensive education regarding Native Americans. Instead she first says that some people benefited from the theft/atrocities: "Those poor desperate people were not pathetic, they were brave and made what Norman is today." Implying somehow that since someone gained that ameliorates or counters the horror of what was done to obtain those benefits.

Then secondly she signals her exhaustion over being reminded of the horrors by writing: "don't you get tired of the genocide crap?". She knows what happened, she is aware...but she's implying she's tired of hearing about it and asks whether others aren't tired too . Her 'people' aren't responsible (however she fails to identify who is responsible) and then she offers some extreme examples of remediation with the implication that attempts at atonement are too far fetched or impossible to even be considered.

Each time I revisit her statements I'm flabbergasted and at a loss as to how to think about them. Often when i return to trying to write this post I find that I don't know what to say because I can't wrap my comprehension around it. And that's just me...to even try to consider what her statements might feel like to Native Americans who are objecting to this "celebration" is beyond me. I cannot know what that might feel like...I do not comprehend...it is too much.

I'll have to sit with this longer and maybe then some greater clarity will be available. There's something about such brazenness that squelches my being able to even meagerly cope with it or coherently grapple with it in some fashion or form. I do know that her reactions frighten and sadden me terribly. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Greatest Nation?

I grew up in the United States. I heard, all those years of growing, how I lived in the greatest Nation ever. I heard how we were "special", how we were dedicated to "liberty and justice for all". I heard all that...over and over and over. How the "settlers" came and built a "great" nation. How we were the "envy of the world" and on and on. I saluted the flag, I even teared up sometimes when the national anthem was played. It's both terrific and simultaneously sad how children will believe, with all their hearts, most anything adults tell them.
This is the version I was taught as a child.
I've been reading a book by Lee Mun Wah titled: "Let's Get Real: What People of Color Can't Say and What Whites Won't Ask About Racism." You can read a brief synopsis about the book here.

The first three words of the book title are exquisitely appropriate to write immediately after the title of this post. The Greatest Nation? Let's Get Real.

I read something recently that sort of smacked me in the face. The content of book which I was reading pointed out that...of all the current "first world" nations, countries like England or Denmark or France and so on, the only one of them which was founded on and had human slavery written into its constitution (although the word "slavery" itself was avoided) was the United States.

Ever notice that it is rarely pointed out that the iconic "Declaration of Independence" described Native Americans as "merciless Indian savages". Nope...nobody mentioned that.

The "savages" thing is written in this declaration.
In all those years of my youth (or even later) never did anyone point these things out when they were telling me what a great nation the United States was. Not once. Hmmm...

I did hear hints though that maybe things weren't as rosy as they were presented. When I was in high school I discovered Bob Dylan and his music. One song that had lyrics that suggested some problems with the "greatest nation" meme was one called "With God on Our Side". You can read the lyrics here. That song stuck with me and it still does.

Lee Mun Wah's book consists of observations and thoughts about racism from various people. One of them is Indigo Violet, a feminist thinker.

In response to the question of why she thinks it is so hard for whites to hear the truth about racism, she wrote:

Hearing the truth exposes so many of the lies of U.S. history, that the nation is good, that the process of making it was righteous, that the blood and brutality were not all that bad, that for the most part America is good. As part of white supremacy, whites have internalized a powerful idea that they are good people, nice people, generous people, well-intentioned people. While there definitely good-hearted white folks out there, the attachment to the idea of goodness is profound. It is profound partly because it is linked to the historical ideas (both overt and covert) that Africans, American Indians, Asians, Mexican, etc., were/are bad, problematic, inferior. Goodness - in the present implicit/embedded racist system - is not simply a neutral idea; it is attached to the long-standing ideas of white supremacy. The idea of white goodness constructed in contrast to the Other.

So, to tell a modern-day, liberal-minded, do-good white person that all of people of color don't think white people are very good people, that white people have not always been good, that in fact they've been really horrid and that even when they are nice and well-intentioned the impact of their power, privilege, and oblivion is not good - this upsets a very deep construct and psychological anchor for whites.

That response by Indigo Violet really resonates with me, partially because of the incredible disorientation I felt as a result of the revision of my conception of the U.S. that was prompted by struggling to look at it from differing perspectives.

The version that was presented to me as "objective" truth was all the good stuff...old glory and "liberty and justice for all" and and and. When...in truth...that version was crafted by and for wealthy white men. Yeah...it's all wonderful for them (yes, I'm a white man, but wealthy I'm not, nor do I think that if life is terrific for one group but awful for other groups that that is a good thing).

It was not such a terrific thing for the groups outside of wealthy white men...and...I don't really think it is such a good thing for wealthy white men. I think it deeply erodes and harms our humanity to exist in environments where there are big power differences between groups...especially when compounded by being untruthful about it. I suspect that's how you can create mental illness and hallucinations and incredible distortions and awful behavior.

(for this post I'm deliberately ignoring sex...but...do not forget that white women could not vote until 1920 and women of color were not protected in their ability to vote until the 1960s...and all women suffer from the patriarchal ideology that has always dominated the U.S.)

If you think about the U.S. from the perspective of Native Americans...then it becomes a totally different thing. The U.S. means death and dispossession of your home and concentration camps called "reservations".



If you think about it from the perspective of the enslaved African Americans, then the U.S. means kidnapping from your home and losing your family and your freedom.

It's really pretty powerful to try to stand in a different position and work at wrapping your mind/feelings around a comprehension of the U.S. that way.

It looks very very different than that which was presented to me when I was a child. It looks very different than the way most white citizens here think about or conceptualize the U.S. What I was taught...and what I thought was "good" sort of evaporates.

James Loewen is a history teacher. If you would like to start moving toward a viewpoint of U.S. history that is more grounded in truth...his book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me is a good place to start. He begins the book by writing about his survey of a whole bunch of U.S. history books that are used in public schools. Just that first part of his book is astonishing because of the inaccuracies and untruths that he points out which are routinely taught to children here in the U.S. We know much much more truth that we teach our children.

Asking the question good for whom? is required in order to move to a position where the idea of "good" can be more accurately comprehended. Jeez.

For those of you who live vegan...just remember that probably at one time you maybe thought you "loved" animals and wouldn't harm them. Oops. If you were eating their dead bodies...then...you were complicit in harm. Maybe we don't clearly comprehend things...even when we think we do. Maybe we have to work really hard at shifting perspectives to better understand things.

At least I do.

And it is hard and painful. It's a pain in the a**. But...if I want to let go of soothing (and erroneous) illusions...I have to work at it. It would have been a lot easier to not have been immersed in fantasy...but I wasn't...and it is likely (especially if you are white) that you were immersed in fantasy about the U.S. too.

We white people are much more at risk of being captured by the fantasy because that fantasy benefits us. People of color may benefit sometimes...but...people of color are also victimized by that fantasy and those instances of victimization signal that something bad is going on. And...those signals can offer the opportunity for a different take on the fantasy of "USA number 1".

It is hard to struggle to get out of fantasyville...but...I must always remember that the "hardness" of the struggle of getting out of the fantasy viewpoint is minimal compared to the "hardness" of the horror of being victimized by the fantasy. It is akin to the difference between feeling bad about realizing you harmed someone versus being harmed by someone. Both might feel bad...but they're very very different in really really important ways.

(note: additional marginalized groups have been and are treated terribly by the white version of the U.S. too, I'm aware of that but didn't touch on those realities and histories deliberately for brevity...not because I think they are unimportant.) 

 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Silence and justice...

I recently heard a question that is staying with me. During a discussion of instances wherein something hurtful, based on derogatory stereotypes, was said or done...the question was asked: "Can silence ever be just?" (I'm equating silence here to mean both not saying anything and/or not doing anything when witnessing injustice)
Can this be just?
One definition of just is: "consistent with with what is morally right...". I admit that get a little nervous around the word "moral" since I grew up being indoctrinated with the southern baptist brand of religion and "moral" tended to be wielded like a battle axe...it was used mostly to wound or shame or control...way more often than it was used to soothe or elevate or inspire. And...most of the people who got all excited about being "morally upright" were folks I didn't much care for. Usually they were uptight and judgmental types who were just itching to point a finger at somebody and invoke the fires of hell and such.

I tend to equate the word just with fairness or absence of harm rather than "morally right". I like those notions because they usually compel me to think more extensively about a situation rather than jumping into a right/wrong binary and, in the process, accidentally activating southern baptist scripts from the bad old days.
 
Sometimes, speaking out against injustice (unfairness) or acting to interrupt injustice is complicated...perhaps by numerous factors. But...if we fail to speak out...or to interrupt hurtful or negative instances...can that failure to speak or act ever be just?

Someone I know recently talked about a family gathering for a funeral where many family members were experiencing grief and loss and during that time a derogatory statement (heteronormative stereotyping), was made by a family member regarding the minister who was conducting the funeral service. This wasn't said where the minister could hear it...but...it was said.

The person telling this story noted that she was conflicted about speaking out because of the event (a funeral) and because of the emotional state of the person who made the statement (a grieving family member). So, she said nothing. Yet...her silence has haunted her ever since. Maybe in that haunting there is a message.

Can silence ever be just?

That question resonated with me and still does.

Thinking about that leads me to wonder whether silence is the same thing as complicity? If I don't object or say anything...is that agreeing with something?

That's not the messaging I heard when I was growing up. Keeping your mouth shut was presented as staying uninvolved...of being neutral...of minding your own business if what was said or done had nothing to do with you. As I wrote that last sentence about minding your own business, it occurred to me that those notions of "minding your own business" are part of how individualism is promoted to us as we learn the ways of U.S. society. And, there are serious problems with this individualism stuff, but that's a topic for another post. Also...when I think about it...maybe this "mind your own business" stuff is part of how invisibling occurs.

I'm making a distinction here between stuff that isn't harmful or derogatory or demeaning or reality denying toward others and that which is.

If there's nothing negative or harmful or hurtful...then hey...being quiet...even if it means you're complicit is no biggee. But...if there is bad stuff being said or done...that's a different thing. I think maybe "minding your own business" in those instances puts you in a situation where you're (whether inadvertently or undesirably or not) effectively on the side of harm. Jeez...it's complicated.

But...opting out of being complicit by speaking...often carries a price.

"Free" speech is a little misleading because all that means is that there theoretically aren't any governmental or official restrictions on speech...that doesn't mean there aren't social or personal costs for speaking. Maybe that's where the notion of sacrifice comes in. Interrupting injustice or unfairness by speaking out (or doing something) rarely can be done without some sort of price or cost.

If you want to "stand up for justice" or "speak out against harm" (whatever form that harm takes) it might be new to you to realize that it rarely is easy and it rarely is without negative consequences. Everyone reading this knows that, you might not have thought much about it...but you know it. Because, just like me, every one of you (I betcha) have been in a situation where something harmful or derogatory was done or said...and you didn't interrupt it or speak out against it. Just like I've failed to do...way too often. 

But...and this is the part where I have much more work on me to do...not speaking also carries a price. Remember before when I wrote that the woman who didn't speak has been haunted by it ever since? That's the price she's paying for not speaking up. She felt uncomfortable and bothered by the derogatory remark and then she added to that discomfort by failing to speak.

Maybe a good way to think about it is that there's no free ride...we'll pay one way or the other.

When I think about it like that it sort of gets clarified...hey...when I'm in the presence of harmful sayings or doings...I'm going to pay a price. I don't have a choice...my only choice is about which price I want to pay and what am I getting for my cost.

Do I want to speak out or interrupt the harm...and get the satisfaction of knowing I made an effort (and pay a price...but I did get the benefit of trying) or do I keep quiet or still and get nothing (and pay the price of being haunted or bothered by my not trying).

Either they're going to get me or I'm going to get me...and since I have to be with me all the time...probably...it's less of a cost for them to get me than it is for me to get me. If I don't speak out or interrupt the harmful stuff...I'll feel bad about my failure. If I do speak out, I might feel scared or uncomfortable about speaking out and...I might experience rejection or retaliation by those who originated the harmful words or deeds.

Maybe I can think about this as a sharing experience. Someone says or does something derogatory or harmful that makes me uncomfortable...if I object or interrupt that stuff then I'm sharing my discomfort with others instead of keeping all to myself. Sharing is good, right?

Maybe I'm actually helping the perpetrator...for them to be willing to say or do harmful things...maybe they don't perceive the hurtfulness of their speech or actions and my sharing my discomfort is my way of increasing their awareness. That sounds sort of nifty...except...I know and you know that people usually don't pass out cookies when someone points out that they're harming others. 

Hmmm...it's interesting to think of silence and justice in these ways.

I'll end this post with an image of MLK and a saying attributed to him that grows in power for me as I go along life's journey. It's becoming one of my favorite sayings as I continue to struggle to extract myself from the awful lies that my culture, with a smiling and kindly and cheerful face, taught me. 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Discombobulate...

is defined here as an "Americanism" that originated sometime in the early 1800s. It is a word described as a; "fanciful alteration of discompose or discomfort."

Note...I'm writing this entry mainly directed at readers who are raced as white. I've become painfully aware that most of us white people are woefully in need of consciousness raising when it comes to racial matters. White people who haven't spent quite a bit of time and study are only superficially acquainted with race. Hence, this post might seem pretty elementary and obvious to anyone who has a fair degree of racial literacy...which...because of lived experience would probably include most people of color. Also, I'm white and grappling with all this so my degree of comprehension about race and racial matters is limited and flawed.

For those who seek to make sense of our world and society through vegan comprehendings...you may have ongoing instances of being discombobulated as you encounter the routinized "normal" destructive absurdities served up to you by we humans and our treatment of our sister/brother Earthlings. Situations where someone tells you they "love" animals while they are eating a hamburger made from the flesh of a dead cow. And...these absurd juxtapositions of contradictory behaviors and/or thinkings are accepted as both "normal"...as "common sense".

It 'discombobulates' me to consider just how much horrible suffering and harm we routinely can engage in, be complicit in, unknowingly support with our consumption habits, with our everyday patterns of living and at the same time firmly believe we are "good" people doing little or no harm. Even when we know everything we need to know to comprehend what we're really doing. It's way too easy and convenient to be unknowing and oblivious.



The ease and the automaticity of complicity scares me. I spent many years as a non-vegan and believing all the while that I was behaving kindly and even compassionately toward beings not identified as human. When I first began to comprehend these contradictions I was (and still am to some degree) having experiences like those depicted in the image above.

That vegan discombobulation began some years ago, I've lived with it for some time now so it's not new...it's not any less unsettling...but it is familiar.

Here's the thing though...if I can be lulled into thinking I'm a "good" person in terms of my behavior toward animals...while actually engaging in harmful practices and upholding a system that exploits them...if I can be oblivious there...then I have to wonder whether there are other aspects of how I live and think and comprehend that promotes and upholds harm to other victims. I have to wonder about that, don't I? What if I'm being an "accidental a**hole" elsewhere?

Fast forward to now...once again...a feeling of disorientation is scrambling my being. This time it isn't associated with human dealings with Earthlings who aren't identified as human...it's associated with that strange and bizarre stuff called race (which isn't unconnected to how we think about and behave toward animals). And...race, racism, racial literacy...these things are quite complex and difficult to comprehend. Partially because our system of socialization culture devotes much energy and ingenuity to keeping this stuff hidden or invisible.

One of the difficulties (among many) with getting some measure of comprehension has to do with the fact that the white dominated cultural conditioning that we're all influenced by encourages us to believe that race isn't a problem. Or...if it is a problem it's just because of a few "bad" white people...you know...those goobers who might wear sheets and pointy hats. All you have to have is "good" intentions and you're good to go if you're white. Right? Nope...sorry...it's much much trickier than that.

An example, I recently visited a website wherein a young person (African-American) had written something to the effect that the current racist and anti-immigration stances being openly promoted by presidential candidates weren't something new in these United States but were rather exemplifications of what has been a core organizing principle for this nation from its beginning.

One response to this, by a man raced as white, was something to the effect that the person writing this piece obviously had a fundamental misunderstanding of racism and that the problem had to do with economic class. I read that response...and then read it again...and my head started to feel as if it might disintegrate or something. I had to go away from the computer and later come back to see if maybe I had hallucinated the response. I hadn't.


The way this young woman above looks approximates how I felt when I read that response. Hell, I still feel that way. I'm off balance and can't seem to find any place to stand mentally that doesn't feel distorted or unsteady. This happened several weeks ago and I'm still struggling with it.

Part of what contributed to my befuddlement is that I was reading a book by the historian David Roediger titled Black on White. The book is a compilation of writings by black authors on the nature and manifestations of white consciousness and white behaviors about race. Some of these authors are still alive and working, others are from earlier periods dating as far back as 1830.

One of the repeated themes that occurs is that white people often like to "explain" race and racism to black people. As if black people...who are the targets of racism and racist actions perpetrated by white people just don't "understand" the nature of racism or what race is or what are racist behaviors.

This is very much similar (not identical, I know, but similar) to a man explaining to a woman that she doesn't know what sexism is nor does she understand what is meant by the concept or nature of sexist behaviors. Can the perpetrator of harm (or a member of the perpetrating group) explain the "fundamental nature" of that harm to the victim? Even the idea of such a thing points to a bizarre disconnect from reality. 

I have no idea of how to express...in words...my experience of astonishment and discombobulation. I don't. I'm flailing around here but I'm in no way able to express this in words that even approach how unsettling this was...and is.

Chris Rock is quoted in this piece of writing as saying that white people are maybe a little less "crazy" now than before. By his use of that ableist term "crazy", I think he is meaning that white people are absent strong contact with actual lived experience or are lacking adequate comprehension of reality...and maybe now they're a little less disconnected. I suspect that, in many ways, we white people are still just as disconnected and clueless...but we're not as overt and obvious about it. The social messaging that maintains our disconnectedness has morphed and evolved to fit current society.

I fumbled around for a few days after seeing the comment about "misunderstanding" racism and then I couldn't help myself...i replied by saying something to the effect that maybe his perspective as a white man sort of disqualified or precluded or at the very least made it problematic for him to make an assertion that the author "misunderstood" racism...given that the author would have had a lived experience of being targeted by racism and he, the commenter, since he was a white man, would not have had such an experience...indeed...he would have been the recipient of privileges because of his race. 

Predictably (duh)...he was offended and incensed and allowed as to how his "personhood" had nothing to do with it (see the paragraph about a man explaining sexism to a woman) and that I was just being condescending and immature and I should shut up. I generally avoid further engagement with people who opt for anger and belligerence when they're challenged. I haven't had much luck with such undertakings so I took his advice and didn't respond.

During this time I also saw something written on the Addicting Info website that noted that the creator of the Dilbert cartoon strip (a white man) had written something to the effect that it was wrong (and racist, for god's sake) to compare Trump to Hitler. And he said...that Hitler wasn't such a bad guy and that Hitler could accurately be compared to Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. Holy smoke!

It is painful and disturbing (and depressing) to acknowledge that many/most or maybe all of us who are raced as white (and we are all exposed to these teachings of ignorance since they permeate our media and public discourse and education) are lacking some fundamental grounding in reality. As a result of this, when we do attempt to write or talk about race or racial issues we sound buffoonish or we're unintentionally offensive or we otherwise generally make fools of ourselves. (and who knows how else these distortions preclude our being able to think and feel and comprehend accurately and fully...about various aspects of ourselves and others and mother Earth...about everything really)

We've been socialized to be racially illiterate and and that learning is deeply embedded in most white folks. But...remarkably...in the depths of that illiteracy we all seem to have developed strong opinions about race. That's a potent (and dangerous) combination...being ignorant but having strong opinions about those areas of ignorance. 

I referenced a conceptualization by Charles Mills in another post that he termed the "epistemology of ignorance". In that he notes that this sort of operation of comprehension (or absence of comprehension) includes "patterns of localized and global patterns of cognitive dysfunctions" regarding race.

The statement by the commenter I noted above and the notions expressed by the creator of the Dilbert comic strip very well exemplify "cognitive dysfunction" from what I can comprehend. Differing forms of it maybe...I think the Dilbert creator's statements are more easily seen as absurd by most humans...but the notion that a white man is going to "explain" racism to a black person who has a lived life experience of being targeted by racism is also devoid of reality or accurate meaning.

This all scares the hell out of me and is troubling, for many reasons, but one of the primary ones is that I'm just as susceptible to such deranged stuff and as influenced by it as any other white person when it comes to race. (and who knows what else?)

One thing I know is true right now...2 or 3 years ago I might have seen the comment explaining racism to an African-American person by a white man and not been struck by the distorted quality of it (I'm not sure what i would have thought then...I don't think it would have struck me as absurd though)...now it stuns me with its arrogance and patent ridiculousness.

I think that's an improvement...I hope that suggests that I'm successfully interrupting some of my cognitive dysfunctions. But...it also leaves me terribly sad and upset...not only at my own distortings and failings of comprehension...but also at what passes for "normal" in terms of most white people's 'thinking' about race.

I've reached a place where I realize that most humans hold contradictory beliefs and comprehensions toward animals. Not many of us have taken the unsettling step of realizing how horribly we behave toward them. That realization makes me a little uneasy about humans...especially in anything having to do with animals.

Now...I find I'm moving into a place where I glimpse that most (me included) white people are seriously and deeply confused and ignorant about race and racism...while concurrently thinking that we aren't. White people are starting to make me nervous (and yes, I make myself nervous sometimes). I've begun to notice that I feel more comfortable around groups that don't have many white people in them.

All living white people in the U.S. were stuck into a system that teaches (and it often will punish us for not "learning" this obliviousness) us to be racially illiterate. We had no choice about that. But...we have a choice about whether we remain ignorant and unknowing. We have a choice about whether we continue to live and behave as "accidental a**holes".  I'm not going to kid you though...grappling with this stuff is hard...really hard. It is probably the most difficult thing I've ever struggled with. And it just goes on and on. But...there are benefits, not the least of which is that you'll be working toward decreasing your participation in a culturally sanctioned and maintained horror story. And that's a good thing, a desirable thing.


Chris Rock may think white people are a little less deranged than previously...I hope so. As my perspective shifts...I'm just beginning to glimpse just how profoundly deranged we white people have been and are...and it is...well...discombobulating.

Note: any omissions or errors or "accidental a**holiness" in this post is a function of my own lack of comprehension and/or my inadequate ability to clearly express myself. I apologize for them and ask anyone noting such stuff to please let me know and I will endeavor both to listen and and to understand and to modify/correct this post, if needed. Thank you. 

   
 

Friday, March 18, 2016

"Reverse" racism?

Just a little tip for my readers who are racialized as being 'white'. Or...anyone who wants to divest themselves of a fantasy that's often presented as if it were reality. That fantasy is called "reverse" racism.



See...racism cannot be enacted by a group that isn't dominant in the society where they live. Folks who are positioned in subordinated groups can be prejudiced, they can not like people in other groups, they can avoid people in other groups, they can be angry toward individuals not in their group...but...they cannot enact racism toward others because they don't have access to the social power that goes along with being a member of a dominant group.

"Ism" refers to an ideology and ideologies are systems implemented by groups and/or institutions...not individuals.

There's no such thing as "reverse" racism anymore than there's such a thing as "reverse" sexism or "reverse" ableism. The oppressive ideologies represented by the "isms" reference a dominant group targeting a subordinate group and hence...they can't be reversed unless you also reverse the dominant and subordinate groups.

While it might be an interesting sociological experiment if, for instance, every other month people of color controlled all the major institutions in the country or if every other month people not gendered as male controlled all the major institutions in the country...that doesn't happen. Actually, I sort of wish it did...it would make for a very stimulating and fascinating society.

Racism = race prejudice + social power. Sexism = gender prejudice + social power. Got it? You can be prejudiced without social power...but you can't "do" racism or sexism without social power.

Mr. Rahman explains very clearly what would have to occur for "reverse" racism to be possible.

Why write about this here? Well...you can go over to the excellent Aphro-ism blog and read this post that grapples with theorizing about structures of oppression. There Aph Ko writes that: "...animal liberation can't happen until we change the way we understand animal oppression."

I firmly believe that to be true.

And...to grapple with changing that understanding requires being able to somewhat clearly conceptualize and comprehend race and racism as it is enacted in this Eurocentric society. To grapple with understanding race and racism demands some degree of racial literacy...and...whoops...we (white people especially...but everyone is subjected to inaccurate and inadequate information) are socialized to be racially illiterate.

Dr. Breeze Harper very accurately writes: "We are all racialized subjects with racialized consciousnesses that have been born out of a white supremacist racial caste system;...". There's no escaping this...to believe you escape it means you believe you aren't influenced by the society/culture that you were born into and live in. And that's not possible.

We are carefully taught to think and behave in certain ways but we are also taught to be ignorant and illiterate in terms of being able to think about and talk about racial issues. That's why someone can utter the phrase "reverse racism" and believe they are saying something that makes sense. 

That ignorance or illiteracy is one of the principle ways in which the oppressive system known as racism maintains its power. If you can't somewhat accurately conceptualize it and coherently talk about it...it's unlikely that you're going to be able to effectively challenge it, or interrupt it or change it.

No one here in the U.S. had a choice about the teachings of racial illiteracy and ignorance they received from this culture. But...each of us does have a choice about whether we do the work necessary to attempt to overcome that systemic ignorance. We've all been given a mishmash of ignorance and distortions and outright lies about race and racism...and we were told that such was all we needed to understand what was going on around us. Nope...what we were given were tools designed to keep white supremacy and racial illiteracy in place.

So next time you encounter someone who uses the phrase "reverse racism" seriously...realize you're dealing with someone who is evincing racial illiteracy. Maybe you will want to share this video with them.

Here's another resource that provides some good information about "reverse racism". (Note: if you spot any errors or important omissions in this post, let me know please.)




Friday, March 11, 2016

On being creeped out.

I ran across a blog post over on Lee Hall's Vegan Place about Michael Pollan. It triggered a series of thinkings about something I noticed in me when I was a fairly young child. Sometimes I would encounter a human in person or be exposed to them via some electronic medium that let me see them moving and talking...motion pictures or video or live television and I would instantly be creeped out.

What I mean by 'creeped out' is that often I could feel the hair on the back of my neck start to rise and I would experience a strong sense of revulsion, sometimes tinged with fear. It would happen quickly and it would occur before I could assign much meaning to the content of what they might be saying.

Later in this post I'll share some photos of some of these folks who produce that reaction in me. All of these people are some sort of "celebrity" or politician or some sort of "newsmaker" so you might be familiar with one or more of them.

I won't share names or photos of anyone I've met personally  or who aren't "famous" but there have been a few of those too. I never knew quite how to make sense of my reaction until I was well into my late 20s and working at a mental health center where part of our professional tasks was to provide emergency mental health evaluations for the court system.

One day a young white man was brought in for an evaluation and my creep out detector activated as soon as I heard him utter a few sentences. I didn't conduct the evaluation but the clinic director did and later I spent some time talking with him about my reactions because this director was a well experienced psychotherapist who taught me a lot while I worked with him. I trusted him and wanted to know what he thought about my 'creep out' reaction. He said his evaluation of the fellow in question was that he was someone who exhibited psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies or features.  The director said he, himself, had a set of responses that were sometimes activated in him around such folks and he had learned to trust them as a guide and that I was fortunate to be aware of such an alarm system and I shouldn't discount it.

Of course if it was needed and/or important such a reaction must be followed up by the gathering of behavioral history and/or other "evidence" but just in general...in everyday life...I learned trust the reaction and go from there.

The first time I remember having such a strange and strong feeling was when I was a youngster and saw an old timey character actor named Lyle Bettger in some movie. The fellow scared me and I couldn't figure out what in heck was going on. He wasn't doing anything or saying anything in the movie to prompt such a revulsion..but there it was.
Lyle Bettger
You may not recognize him but he played small roles in a number of movies in the 1950s and...whenever I saw him in a movie...ding ding ding went my creep out detector. I had no idea why though. Weird, eh? For whatever reason...Lyle spooked me. Another actor from movies I saw when I was a kid who repulsed me was Ronald Reagan. I was 'creeped out' by him from the first time I saw him in a movie. It was sort of like a nightmare coming to life when he got into politics and ended up being the president.

Here are some images of folks, who, over the years have elicited the same sort of immediate spooked repulsion in me that I mean by the phrase "creeped out". This reaction always happens immediately in me...I've never had the experience of it coming up after lengthy exposure to anyone even though I have had a few experiences of being around someone who eventually did or said things that made me be very leery of them.

Tom Cruise

Oliver North

Michael Pollan

Ronald Reagan

Margaret Thatcher
Notice that one of the images is of the subject of the blog post I linked to at the beginning...Michael Pollan. I clearly remember seeing him being interviewed on TV some years ago and having my creep detector activate...I didn't know who he was or what he was touting...I just knew that he sort of spooked me. If you are unfamiliar with him, read the post about him. He's a creepy yucko who says that if you treat them sort of kindly...it's not a bad thing to kill a living being...as long as you've been nice to them. Retch.

What to make of my 'creep out' reaction...heck if I know. It's my own personal thingee...maybe you have something like that too. Let me know if you do.

Looking at these images I notice that most of them are white men...I rarely have that sort of thing happen regarding women or men who aren't raced as white. What does that mean? I dunno...one of my speculations is that white men maybe have a greater frequency of sicko/creepos in them than do other groups. That's only a guess though.Well...a guess but one I have a fair amount of confidence in.

And...this is the part that is seriously significant to me...I've never had that sort of reaction to a living being that wasn't a human. No animal (excepting the human ones) has ever weirded me out like that. I've been afraid or fearful of some animals but not creeped out and repulsed by them. I'm prone to suspect that most (maybe all) of the sicko/creepos on mother Earth are of the human type...mostly white men type. Again, just a guess (but, a good one I betcha).

The actor Tom Cruise was responsible for some mild arguing back and forth for a time between my wife and myself. He used to be a big favorite of hers and when she would go on about how much she liked him I would say that I thought he was a creep...which would bother her and she would endeavor to change my mind. All those efforts on her part stopped when he acted like a fool on the Oprah Winfrey show way back in 2005. I never did have to listen to any stories about what a hot shot he was after that. It's nice to have your intuitions confirmed.

The biggest confirmation for my creep detector came from Ronald Reagan...and...that's also the most bothersome incidence of it. A lot of people virtually worshiped him as a "leader" and president. Anyone who gives a speech in support of his desire to be president in the county in Mississippi where 3 civil rights activists were murdered and...in the speech indicates his support for "state's rights" is using code words to tell you he is a white supremacist. He was a trashy white man who caused a lot of harm...all the while smiling like a buffoon.

Obviously my drummer and the drummer a lot of other people pay attention to are quite different. 

I suspect all beings have some sort of detector like this in them...I don't "know" that, I just suspect it. It might be akin to something Fritz Perls once wrote. He said that everyone had a built in crap detector and that the biggest difference among humans regarding this detector was whether they paid attention to it or not. Who knows...but I always have liked that he said that. If you don't know who Fritz Perls is...he was a psychotherapist who was both seriously gifted and also pretty zany and unusual.

He was one of my "heroes" when I was learning the art/craft of psychotherapy. He...truth be known...was probably something of an a**hole in person...but...he could dang sure do some effective psychotherapy from time to time. He wasn't much prone to suffer fools gladly and had several rather infamous incidents where he punctured what he perceived as pomposity in some well known psychology type of folks. He probably harmed his own 'career' because of this...but that was one of the things I liked about him.

Anyway...I've always wanted to write something about Lyle Bettger (what a name, eh?) and when I read the post about Michael Pollan it all sort of came together. It connects nicely too with veganism in that, as far as I can tell, most or maybe all of the creeps on this planet happen to be human. More reason to not hurt our sister/brother Earthlings who aren't human...they don't do creep. 

(please note that I don't know anything at all about Mr. Bettger as an individual...he may have been a really nice guy...and please note that I firmly believe everyone else whose image is in this post is or was...a genuine creep)

 

Friday, March 4, 2016

My feelings were hurt...

and I was upset...but...I came to see my rejection and banishment from a vegan group as a gift and as motivation for more learning. Hey...when you get knocked down it's ok to lay there for awhile...yet eventually you have to get back up. But that hasn't come easy...it hasn't been a stroll in the park on a sunny day and I sure haven't whistled a happy tune during the process. 

It was just about one year ago that I objected to a member's facebook posting on the page of the vegan organization I co-founded. The post linked to a video ostensibly advocating for veganism...but it was done using racist performances by white people that "humorously" caricatured and mocked a false media created version of a small subgroup of African Americans.

My objection was seen by my four white female co-founders as problematical and unwarranted and not correct...and...while they didn't say it out loud...it was apparent they thought I was a whack job.


What played out next was not pretty...or fun. My stance was that since some African American vegans found the video offensive then that settled the question. Nope, according to the other founders they could make the call as to whether the performance was racist or not...even though they were not members of the targeted group, even though they were members of the offending group and even though members of the targeted group had identified the video as offensive and racist. That sort of arrogance is rather stunning when you run into it.


Identifying or perceiving racism is often difficult for people, especially white people. We have all been trained and taught diligently from birth to not notice...to be oblivious or to ignore to such harms...and...we white people don't experience it. In addition, we've been exposed to countless images and narratives normalizing derogatory notions about people of color...and that support and reinforce "goodness" of whiteness.

We see these fake and false and misleading tropes in all forms of national media and discourse, in movies and magazines and social media...all on a 24/7 basis. They seem "normal" and commonsensical to us instead of being clearly identified as distortions of reality which are supportive of a white supremacist worldview. We are taught, carefully and painstakingly, to take in and believe the messages and to act on them and at the same time we are taught to behave and think as if the messages themselves did not exist. The content of the messages are promoted as "reality" and the messages themselves are made invisible.

It's insidiously effective. We are told that untruths are truth, unreality is reality and that the messages selling us these distortions do not exist. We swim in and are immersed in a sea and we are told that we are not wet...and most white people believe this and even some people of color succumb to these delusions. Don't believe it? Go take an Implicit Association Test and find out for yourself. Many of the minoritized (and denigrated) groups that are targeted by these invisible messages are represented in these tests. Go learn what you've been learning but didn't realize you had learned.

For most white people, unless someone is wearing a white robe and burning a cross or unless someone uses an obvious racial slur...racism often escapes conscious notice. If it is clearly and unequivocally racist...then "good" white people and people of color condemn such doings...but if it is ambiguous or subtle...then it can get...well...ugly. Conflict can arise because people who are targeted by racist images or actions are generally much more aware of and sensitive to such awful stuff. White people tend to be much more oblivious to it or tolerant toward this crap.

The remarkable thing is that most of us white people here in North America are virtually racially illiterate...but...that doesn't stop us from thinking we know what is going on nor does our ignorance prevent our having strong opinions about race and racist behaviors. Mostly ignorant, harmful and erroneous ones.

As I watched the four of them message back and forth regarding their thinkings on this situation...I sort of felt like the cat looks in this image.

I was stunned and amazed at some of the things that were being said. The process was depressing and educational and awful all at the same time.

A decision point for me was prompted when one of the women said she thought anything but "blatant" racist postings should allowed as long as the post advocated for animals. When I saw that statement...and I saw none of the others objecting to or condemning such a stance...I sort of felt like Don Knotts looks in the photo below.

That ugly sentence with its despicable meaning, along with some others...for instance that I was too sensitive or "passionate" about racist behaviors...made me decide that I really didn't want to continue my association with these white people if this was how they were proposing to think and behave.

I wanted to sever my connection with them but I also wanted to advise all of the group members that I was leaving and why I was leaving. I wasn't interested in pointing fingers or putting anyone down (well, maybe a little) ...but I wanted the members to be advised about the difference of opinion between myself and the rest of the founders and why I was leaving the group. (Since there is only one of me and there were four of them...I figured there was little chance of their deciding to leave the group...although that would have been probably ok with me.) It seemed only fair to me for the group members to be made aware of the unspoken orientation of their group "leaders" and my disagreement with that orientation.

How to present this to the group without being divisive? My suggestion was that we craft a statement about my leaving and why but that all of us would agree to the wording of the statement before presenting it to the group. That way I figured it would be something that didn't demonize anyone or slant the situation in anyway that was objected to by the five of us...and it would be informative for the group members.


The image above, while a little dramatic, essentially captures their response to my suggestion about a mutually agreed upon statement. That absolutely was not something they were willing to do...and...they decided that I might say or do something that would subvert their stance of silence so they removed me from an administrator position in the group and then removed me from the group altogether.

Wow...talk about "white fragility" in action. Few better examples can be found. I can only presume they were so fearful and reluctant to openly expose their viewpoints that silencing me seemed prudent to them.

It's just this kind of bizarre obliviousness that led a number of black vegans to start up the excellent website called Black Vegans Rock. It's just this kind of avoidance and silencing that websites (among others) like The Sistah Vegan Project and Aphro-ism and The Funcrunch Files and Striving with Systems work at overcoming among the community of vegan advocates.

If you step outside the sources of online vegan activism to sites that seek specifically to interrupt racism, the options expand exponentially for accessing the voices of those who strive to avoid being enclosed and defined by the destructive mentally and emotionally debilitating vacuum of whiteness.

White dominated vegan groups tend to mirror of white dominated culture...and such culture here in the U.S. is structurally white supremacist in nature. Both U.S. culture and white dominated vegan groups usually overtly disavow racist imagery, actions, stereotypes and beliefs...and also routinely invoke and make use of racist imagery, actions, stereotypes and beliefs. Welcome to denial and distortion and disconnection.

But...if you think about it...what else would you expect in a nation that declared its desire for independence with the powerful (but sexist) and eloquent statement"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..." all the while enslaving human beings and continuing to do so for centuries while excusing that enslavement by maintaining the "inferiority" of those who were enslaved. We began as a nation that talked one thing while doing another. And...we haven't stopped yet.

It is confusing and misleading and damned complex and difficult to sort out...especially if you've lived in a bubble of whiteness most of your life. The problem of racism in the U.S. is a problem created by and maintained by white people...and white people have the responsibility to fix it.



Yup, being disbelieved and ejected from the group was hurtful and upsetting. But...it served to signal me that I was onto something of significance. If bringing attention to the problematical aspects of a type of "animal advocacy" could so easily result in rejection and silencing...well...that's strongly suggestive that something is going on that many (white people) do not want to investigate and delve into. Doing so would violate some of the most powerful and ubiquitous rules that enable this white supremacist society...thou shalt not talk about it or investigate it or attempt to interrupt it. If you do you will be rejected, ejected and silenced.


So...I gotta give thanks for the gift of rejection. It has helped me to grasp that being in solidarity with all Earthlings requires struggling to recognize and to opt out of capitalistic patriarchal white supremacy in my thinking and my doing and to resist and interrupt it where and when I can.

I have to listen to the voices of people of color, of people in all marginalized groups and center their knowings and perceptions because they are the rightful experts on recognizing elements of this massive deception. Because otherwise...whether I want to or not...I will recreate oppression. And...I'm sorry to say...so will you unless you do the hard and painful work of opting out. It is, however, definitely better that I feel discomfort or even pain trying to understand and stop this system than to be someone who causes unwarranted pain to others.

There is another benefit to this effort...besides that of becoming less hurtful/harmful...and it is a phenomenal one. Becoming acquainted with the writings and thinkings and perceptions and art and poetry of people of color and people assigned to other marginalized groups has been and continues to be an incredible and enriching experience. We white people routinely are shunted away from and aren't exposed to (or avoid) these sorts of sources...excepting celebrities and superstars. I'll write more about this later, for now I just want to alert you to the fact that, for example, there are authors who are raced as African American and Native American and Asian American and Latina/o American and and and who are phenomenally talented and excellent that...if you are white and straight and cisgendered...you may well never have heard of. Their insights are much richer and deeper and more comprehensive than most "mainstream" white authors...partially because they usually are not laboring under the edicts to avoid noticing structural racism or capitalistic patriarchal white supremacy. It is genuinely amazing and staggering to encounter their knowings and wisdoms. Wow and double wow.