Saturday, February 27, 2016

I asked myself

a question that I had never asked myself before...at least not in the way it popped up inside me yesterday. I'm still grappling with all that was stirred up by that question.

A little context is called for so you can get some feel for the situation in which this question came up. Yesterday I attended an all day presentation/panel discussion that was titled "Decolonize the Movement". It was an educational event presented prior to the beginning of this year's Take Root conference here in Norman on the OU campus. The facilitators were Sandra Criswell and Ashley Nicole McCray.

Standing are Ms. Criswell and Ms. McCray.
If I heard correctly, Ms. Criswell noted that she is racialized as white/Filipina and Ms. McCray is identified in this story as Lakota/Absentee Shawnee. I'm specifying how they are raced because this is seriously important in regard to the experiences of lived lives. Racial identity is important to all of us in terms of our life experiences...whether we realize and/or acknowledge that or not. This is especially true here in the U.S....even though we often like to pretend it isn't. I'm racialized as white so many of my life experiences are much different than theirs.

The main presenters were Alecia Onzahwah-Saddler (Absentee Shawnee) and Tosawi Saddler (Chippewa) who are creators of an organization named Indigenize, Inc.

Alecia Onzahwah-Saddler
Their talk was about a little known (little known to those who aren't identified as Indigenous or Native American or Indian) U.S. government program (this program also took place in Canada) that was a deliberate and calculated effort to eradicate Native American cultures. This was done by forcibly removing Indian children from their parents and making them attend boarding schools, many of which were operated by various Christian religious organizations. The first "school" was established in 1860 and at their peak there were more than 450 in operation. This practice did not totally end in the U.S. until a law was passed in 1978 that "gave" the right to American Indians to protect and preserve their traditional religions and cultural practices. 

Just in case you might not comprehend the horror of this, the definition of genocide includes instances of forcibly transferring the children of one group to another group. Just so you know....just so you understand...up until 1978 here in the U.S....genocidal acts directed against Native Americans were legal and were ongoing.

In this post, I'm not going to delve into the atrocities and suffering and deaths that occurred in these "boarding schools" but I will tell you that I'm personally acquainted with one woman who was separated from her family and was sent to one of these schools. There she was beaten if she slipped and spoke any words in her Tribal language. There she was forcibly inculcated with the "Christian" religion and taught that Native Americans and their culture were inferior and she was taught to be ashamed of being Indian. All paid for by the taxpayers of the United States. I know this woman, I have known her for many years...I write this to stress that these awfuls are not "history"...this is not the distant past.

Ok...I'm going to stop writing about that now...not because it doesn't deserve much more...but because I want to offer the question that occurred to me. My stopping in no way suggests or implies or means that boarding school atrocities don't cry for much more attention and awareness. It just means I'm changing the focus right now.

While listening to the presenters and the facilitators and the attendees at this conference...it came to me. What if this had happened to me or what if this had happened to my mother or my father or my grandmother or my grandfather or or or.

What if this were the case and some white person (understand that all of the decisions made and all of the government departments that enacted these horrors were created and controlled by white men...and white women) came to me and asked that I "go vegan" because animals were suffering and dying? What if?

And...this white person asking me to "go vegan" was oblivious to the suffering and misery that had been inflicted on me or my family by white people. And this white person had never protested or objected to how me or my family had been treated by their white government.

And this white person had no understanding or empathy or sympathy or repulsion and upset at what my family or group or tribe had been through and thought all that horror was some distant and past thing...if they even thought about it at all. And...here they are...asking me to be concerned about and worry about and to not harm innocent animals. What would I think about them and what they were presenting to me? What would I think about their compassion and their caring? What would I think about their priorities? What would I think about their comprehension of my lived life?

What would I think about some white vegan who maybe belonged to a white dominated vegan group and that group's singular effort that even faintly hinted at cognizance of these horrors was some sort of brief statement on their website or facebook page like this one: "Postings using abusive language (speciesist, racist, sexist, etc) will be deleted...".

What would I think about this kind and concerned vegan who thought that "boarding schools" were just "history" and not important now even though the victims of such crimes were still living and suffering from what happened, much less the suffering of the families of such victims?

What would I think about any white person who had made no effort to educate themselves or to urge that their white government acknowledge its atrocities and wrongs?

I can't help but imagine...that in many respects...I would find their request to be insulting and absurd. I can't but imagine that in some way I would think they were deranged and out of touch with reality...with truth about who they are and what people with their skin privilege have done...and continue to do to people who aren't identified as white.

Wouldn't that be like some guy whose brother beat me up a week ago coming to me and asking me to not hurt animals? And the guy doing the asking doesn't mention his brother who beat me up or the beating I took and ignores my injuries but wants me to be concerned with and worried about animals. And if I want to know what about the brother who beat me up...the guy then says...well that's history or says, I'm just concerned about the animals, or he says...well that wasn't me that beat you up, I'm not responsible. What then? What would I think? Would I think that guy was compassionate and concerned and kind even though he made no offer to help me with my injuries or to ensure his brother didn't hurt me again? (note: what we white people have done...and continue to do...to people of color is much more atrocious and vicious and devastating than a beating...I'm only using a physical attack as an example)

I guess what I'm trying (badly, my apologies for my poor communication skills) to express here is that we white people who are vegan (or aren't vegan for that matter) are way too often ignorant and oblivious to the lived realities of people who are not white. And that maybe, just maybe, we white people need to work on becoming...well...less 'stupid'. I don't mean that derogatorily (although god knows we white people are certainly deserving of derogation) so much as I mean it in the sense of being stupefied...which, I'm sorry to say, is the "normal" state for the majority of white people here in the U.S...I include me.

If I want to effectively advocate for animals, I'm obligated to be aware of the human society I live in and cognizant and conscious of the lived lives of the humans in that society. If I want to object to and protest against harm to others...I am obligated to comprehend the harm and hurt that exists both historically and as it occurs in the present. And I'm obligated to resist and object to that harm and hurt and to interrupt it whenever I can. Otherwise...I'm risking being foolish...and maybe insulting...no matter how "well intentioned" I might be. Children are expected to be unknowing and oblivious...not grown-ups.

This post exemplifies my white stupification in that yesterday was the first time I ever asked myself the question I'm writing about here...at least in the way I asked it of myself and in the way it resonated all through me when it rose up in me. I'm embarrassed and appalled that I hadn't asked it of myself before now. The devastation against Native Americans and other people of color has been going on for centuries here...and I'm just now asking this question?

I'm struggling...and it is difficult...to decolonize my mind and viewpoint and yesterday just re-affirmed that I still have much work to do. My culture and my ancestors along with my own inattention and obliviousness has done a hell of a good job of making me into an oblivious and lamentable fool...thanks Mom and Dad...thanks Grandma and Grandpa! (sarcasm) And 'thanks' to me to for being flim flammed and fooled by all of the absurdities that pass for truths in my culture.

I do request that anyone not racialized as white who sees problems with this post...please let me know. I will listen. If you're raced as white and see problems...please let me know too...but...be aware...you might be suffering from white fragility...cuz we white folks are pretty illiterate when it comes to race.

The analogy I offer is only an analogy...a guess...a speculation. I have no way of actually knowing what it would feel like to have a member of a group that inflicted vicious and unwarrented harm to me or my family over generations ask me to offer compassion to another group all the while they are evincing little or no understanding of what their group has done to me and mine. They would have to tell what that was like...I can only guess...and my guess is that it would be bizarre and disorienting...and even scarey.


Note: I'm in no way diminishing or minimizing the suffering and misery of animals...I'm just focusing on a little bit different aspect of vegan advocacy. Nor am I in any way suggesting that oppressed groups of humans who aren't Native Americans don't suffer or hurt or experience harm...one of the really really hard things about trying to write about groups of humans who suffer because of white people is that there are so many of them and their suffering is so immense and on going and long standing that there is simply no way to even try to express it all in one place at one time. Or at least I'm incapable of doing it. My apologies for my deficiencies.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Grandpa's racism?

I came into young adulthood during the civil rights era in the U.S. Legal segregation seemed to be the single most significant obstacle to racial justice in the U.S. The photo below is of a classroom at the University of Oklahoma (where I did my undergraduate work).


The kind of reality distorting thinking by white people that created the appalling and absurd situation depicted in the photograph hasn't just evaporated. White people had to have been profoundly cognitively warped to create such a classroom configuration. It is nice to believe that such bizarre thinking can be abolished by laws. But such powerful and widespread delusional thinking doesn't just evaporate simply because of changing legalities.

I ran across an article written by Roger Wilkins that did a good job of summing up what many black citizens thought during that era.
In our naivete, we believed that the power to segregate was the greatest power that had been wielded against us. It turned out that our expectations were quite wrong. The greatest power turned out to be what it had always been: the power to define reality where blacks are concerned and to manage perceptions and therefore arrange politics and culture to reinforce those definitions. When we were segregated, we hadn’t ground into our considerations the nation’s long history of racial subordination. From the dark and cramped box of segregation, the rest of the country out there looked bright and shiny. We thought the only thing it lacked was us. We didn’t understand then how normal a part of national life racism had become.
I admit to being besotted with that same naivete he writes about. Hey...legal segregation is forbidden...things will work themselves out now...right?

Nope...they didn't. Read Jonathan Kozol's The Shame of the Nation or read this article. The problem wasn't just, as noted above, segregation...it was the power of being able to define reality by white people for people of color. It was the power of white people being able to deceive themselves, via an epistemology of ignorance, that there was no race "problem" now that civil rights legislation had been enacted.

If you believe there's no problem...you might want to read this article detailing a study that showed that white men with a criminal record were more likely to be selected for employment than a black man with no criminal record...even when job qualifications were the same.


Here in the U.S. we have a race "problem"...and...that problem is created, conceived and enacted by white people. I'm one of those white people and we victimize both the targets of our denial based delusions as well as ourselves. We corrupt our own abilities to accurately perceive and understand ourselves and reality.

I came to young adulthood in a U.S. that was devoted to (the white people anyway...and they controlled (and still do) all the major institutions that publicly define 'reality' like the media, the school systems, etc) a type of racism that's called Jim Crow racism. That's what I mean by Grandpa's racism.

Currently the most prevalent type of racism is sometimes called color-blind racism (an ablest term...my apologies) or aversive racism or symbolic racism.

Jim Crow racism, in part, is/was characterized by burning crosses, white hoods, lynchings, the common use of racial slurs and legal segregation. Other horrors were "normal".

Symbolic racism is characterized by notions like the idea that blacks no longer face much prejudice or discrimination and that any problems associated with being black have to do with the failings of blacks themselves. This stuff is closely aligned with the thinking that says: "I don't see color". Joe Feagin, a sociology professor, suggests that white racist attitudes haven't changed all that much it just that whites have learned to behave and talk one way in public and differently in private. In other words...instead of changing our ways we just became more overtly dishonest as well as more self-deceptive.

The belief that racism virtually disappeared is really sort of magical when you think about it. Establishing and enforcing a white supremacist regime for centuries and somehow making it all disappear and become not a problem as the result of changing of a few laws in the 1960s? That sounds almost like a joke...one that isn't funny.

The fact is, as noted here by Ta-Nehisi Coates, that: "white supremacy is not an invention of white people; white people are an invention of white supremacy."

Centuries of crafting attitudes and beliefs about people of color and about white people that supported and sustained unspeakable atrocities and human enslavement and zip zoop...we wiped all that out just like that?
For about 80% of the time the U.S. has existed it has been a white supremacist nation...enforced by law...but somehow we've made all that be unimportant and irrelevant to how things are now for people of color. And...we managed to do all that without formally apologizing...without any system of reconciliation and...best of all...without any compensation or reparations to the descendents of those who were subjected to slavery.

It's simply ridiculous and yet...like many of you...I didn't think about the bizarre absurdity of thinking we could recalibrate our racial mindset with the passage of a few laws...I just believed it.

What does human enslavement and racism and white supremacy have to do with veganism? Go read Syl Ko's writings. Or go watch Aph Ko's video for some insights into the mutually reinforcing aspects of these superficially unrelated ways of oppressing.

If you are just beginning your journey toward comprehending/interrupting the absurdities of racism...it might be helpful for you to read this.

Grandpa's racism was just one version of white supremacy. As soon as it became unacceptable and not "normal" it morphed. It didn't disappear...it only became more adept at hiding itself in plain sight.

Outsiders (like the United Nations working group referenced in an earlier post) easily comprehend it...many who are victims understand it but those of us who are immersed in it and are beneficiaries of it...well...that's a different story. Maybe the biggest obstacle for we who are raced as white is overcoming the falsehood that we think we know or understand this stuff. The first step to learning about something is to know that you don't know.


Most white people think they "know" all they need to know about race and racism. Last year I took the risk of trying to talk to my younger sister about what I was learning and coming to understand about racism. She listened (or appeared to) and said she would read the resources I had provided her and think about it. Some weeks later she emailed and said that while she appreciated what I was presenting to her that she just didn't think it was true and then she went on to allow as to how that all that "stuff" was in the past and that she thought President Obama was just making it worse by even mentioning it.

I had not entertained much hope that she would be able to hear/understand me...but I felt the obligation to try...she is my sister after all. I did wish, that even though she was adverse to admitting ignorance, she would have avoided the remark about President Obama. It was equivalent to hearing someone say that the victim of an unwarranted attack had made the assault "worse" because they said something about what had happened. Her mindset of denial and victim blaming, sadly, exemplifies aspects of the current version of white supremacist worldview.

When we believe absurdities...we are going to make absurd remarks. I love my sister...and she's probably what would be considered to be a "good" white person...but she is effectively clueless about race and is firmly convinced she knows all that is necessary. She wouldn't wear a white hood...but she is a firm pillar in terms of obliviously supporting the white supremacist mindset via denial of its existence.

And that firm conviction of hers is a strong and enduring aspect of why racism is a white people's problem. And that firm conviction of hers is an aspect of white obliviousness. And that firm conviction of hers is part of why this nation...and all of us in it...are in deep doo doo. I say all of us because while people of color aren't the creators of or the maintainers of this mess...they are the targets of it hence the deep derangement of we who are white people harms everyone.

This stuff is heavy and hard and depressing...but...like many delusional horrors...it is so divorced from reality that it becomes almost zany at times. Go read Abagond's post about the "Barbara Bush Award for Deluded Whiteness" and then you can read Chris Rock's article about racism...both provide a little (in a sad way) levity about a really really unfunny thing.

If you're designated as being 'white' and you believe in fairness, if you believe in justice, if you believe in equality then you are obligated to put in the effort and the time and the study to learn about race and racism. If you think you can get by through just being a "good" white person who lives vegan and avoids overt racist acts...you can't. The system is so pervasive and so entrenched that unless you are pushing back against it...knowledgeably...then you are...whether you want to or not...upholding and being complicit in it. It's a mess and it's a pain in the kabooka...but...it's a mess we white people created and it is our job...our obligation...to eradicate the whole unconscionable thing.

My parents and my grandparents and my great grandparents and for generations further back all helped uphold and maintain this ugly and awful system of white supremacy. And so did yours...if you're white. And what they made...we must unmake.




Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The United Nations says

...and I'm paraphrasing..."hey U.S., you suck in terms of how you treat your citizens that are identified as African Americans...knock it off...and while you're at it you need to do some making up for your horrid behavior".

You can read about the report (issued on January 29th, 2016) in this article on the Colorlines site.


Here's the full report decrying the racism here in the U. S. It calls for this country to pay reparations to our black citizens. In part, the report says:
The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism, and racial inequality in the US remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to truth and reconciliation for people of African descent. Despite substantial changes since the end of the enforcement of Jim Crow and the fight for civil rights, ideology ensuring the domination of one group over another, continues to negatively impact the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of African Americans today. The dangerous ideology of white supremacy inhibits social cohesion amongst the US population. Lynching was a form of racial terrorism that has contributed to a legacy of racial inequality that the US must address. Thousands of people of African descent were killed in violent public acts of racial control and domination and the perpetrators were never held accountable.

Contemporary police killings and the trauma it creates are reminiscent of the racial terror lynching of the past. Impunity for state violence has resulted in the current human rights crisis and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.


Racial bias and disparities in the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the tough on crime policies has disproportionately impacted African Americans. Mandatory minimum sentencing, disproportionate punishment of African Americans including the death penalty are of grave concern.
Uh...if you're someone reading this...and you wear the white racial uniform like I do and you're not extremely concerned and upset about past and present oppression that's directed toward U.S. citizens of color then you're deceiving yourself in a serious and troubling way.

You're either upset or you're ignorantly oblivious or you're malevolent...there aren't any other positions that a living human can occupy.  (sorry...but there it is)

The other nations of the world tend to comprehend us much more accurately than we white citizens of the U.S. understand ourselves.

Many African American citizens (and other citizens of color) of the U.S. also apprehend this nation with great acuity. One of my favorite authors wrote these excellent words: "while my country may need to lie to itself, it can no longer effectively lie to me."

I don't want to believe falsehoods anymore. I hope you don't either. (actually I never did want to believe untruths...I was just too bamboozled by white obliviousness to realize that the dream wasn't real...sad but true)

If you're trying to figure out how racism and veganism are related...you can start doing some learning by reading this post by Sistah Vegan.

My thanks to the United Nations working group for speaking truth.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Forty Seven Years Ago

On January 29th of this year, there was, in the evening, a symposium that took place on the Oklahoma University campus. It featured presentations from a number of student activist organizations.

These various student led organizations are all focused on advancing the needs and visions of people (students) who are identified by the dominant white culture (and also by the predominantly white university) as belonging to groups designated as a minority. Minority, here, is referencing power differences, not population variances.


The graphic above was circulated as the invitation to this event. There were 5 time slots scheduled and 6 presentations were given during each time slot for a total of 30 different learning opportunities. Since there's only one of me...I did not get to attend but a sampling of the offerings by the groups. They were all stimulating and interesting....and...in one an observation by a young woman that made me want to weep.

She noted this true...but dismal...fact during the presentation by a group called Unheard. A researching of the history of activism by black students on the OU campus indicated that a group had formed some 40 years ago (it was 1969) and that the various demands for changes they presented were essentially the same demands that OU Unheard is presenting now.

That's 47 years ago that the university was put on notice that things needed to change. And here we are...with the exception of some cosmetic dabs...still dealing with the same old face of indifference...if not hostility...toward the college experience of black students at Oklahoma University. What happened?

In this post by Alph Ko over on the Aphro-ism blog she writes this phrase: "...de-contextualized and re-framed through a narrative that makes the dominant class comfortable." These processes of de-contexting and re-framing (among others) are so profoundly insidious and powerful in the patriarchal white supremacist culture (the dominant social culture here in the U.S.)  and are both efficient and potent in terms of supporting the status quo. 

The practices of de-contexting and re-framing are aspects of something Dr. Charles W. Mills references in his book, The Racial Contract. He writes:

on matters related to race, the Racial Contract prescribes for its signatories an inverted epistemology, an epistemology of ignorance, a particular pattern of localized and global cognitive dysfunctions (which are psychologically and socially functional), producing the ironic outcome that whites will in general be unable to understand the world they themselves have made”. p 18.

When I read this quote I am reminded of Audre Lorde's often repeated observation that the master's tools will not be able to dismantle the master's house. One meaning I take from this is that we (mainly white people) will not be able to neither understand/comprehend the society we've created nor will we be able to fundamentally change it using the approaches associated with the epistemology of ignorance we white people invoke when thinking about race and racial oppressions. De-contexting and re-framing exemplify "the master's tools" regarding the maintenance of the racial contract's epistemology of ignorance...so does invisibling.

Another 'tool' is historical amnesia...which...interestingly enough has no specific entry on Wikipedia. I didn't realize that until I started looking for a linkable definition. There are multiple entries that use the historical amnesia phrase...but no specific entry titled historical amnesia. That's just an accident...right? Gore Vidal wrote a book with that phrase in the title which is focused on imperialism but Wikipedia, so far anyway, has yet to tackle writing about the meaning of the phrase. Maybe they forgot to do so.

I ran across a brief (around 13 minutes) but excellent video by Dr. Cori Wong talking about the epistemology of ignorance that informs the racial contract. In it she wonders/suggests that maybe there are epistemologies of ignorance not only associated with race/racism but also structures of deliberate and cultivated ignorances associated with other practices of oppression and dominance (e.g. sexism, homophobia, etc.). Each set of awful behaviors has its own customized methods of getting you to believe they aren't awful or that they don't exist or to cause/maintain confusion when attempting to comprehend them.

Multiple epistemologies of ignorance that are in place that serve to assist in implementing and supporting the practices of various oppressions and dominances? That support and maintain...for instance...the invisibility of privileges, the spooky and ubiquitous obliviousness of white people to the racism that permeates U.S. society? That participating in an epistemology of ignorance is part of the racial contract and...if you dare to attempt to opt out of this ignorance you will be seen...if you're racialized as white...as betraying whiteness? Hmmm....

Let me make some suggestions for you. You might tackle Dr Mills' book but if you do you may, as I do, find it to be hard going because he is an academic and professor of philosophy and his writing is rich and dense and erudite. The content is terrific but getting to it requires (at least it did/does for me) looking up lots of words and re-reading many passages. If that seems not quite right...you might want to read this entry about bell hooks and then get one (or more) of her books. Her first would be a good one. She's also an academic and a professor but her writing style is (for me anyway) more accessible and engaging.

If you prefer not to wade into a book...there are a myriad of videos available with various people expounding on these matters. I have thoroughly enjoyed videos of bell hooks and Robin DiAngelo and Joy DeGruy and those videos address the issues I've written about in this post. You can also watch this video by Robert Jensen.

If you want...you can watch this brief video of Professor Mills offering a quick summary of the popular conceptualizations of U.S. social and economic history. In fact, definitely watch the video by Dr. Mills. It is both amusing and horrifying. The horror is that he summarizes the version of the racial and economic history of the U.S. that was presented to me in grades 1 through 12...and he does this in just 3 minutes and it is pure nonsense. it's a wonderful example of how promoting and teaching ignorance dresses itself up as presenting 'knowledge'.

Forty seven years ago students were asking for changes at the University of Oklahoma...and, except for superficial efforts, those changes have yet to occur. What a terrible and abysmal statement that is about we here in the U.S. who are racialized as white people. Shame on us.




 







Friday, February 5, 2016

Yesterday

morning I reluctantly went to the Project Implicit website to repeat the Implicit Association Test on race. I say reluctantly because I truly dreaded taking that test again. I made reference to this test in a post I wrote just about one year ago. I had taken the test and found that...in contradistinction to every conscious belief and position that I held (and hold) that I had a moderate preference for European Americans ... and by implication ... a bias against African Americans. When I got the results of that test it stunned me.

I was devastated and disgusted. Devastated that I held such biases and disgusted that I had been influenced and manipulated...without my permission or desire or awareness...by my culture (including the media, the omissions and distortions of the institutions of my nation and by my upbringing and my family and my friends) to have, to hold and to be influenced by these out of awareness preferences and biases. David Shih wrote beautifully about aspects of these distortions in a blog post aptly titled "White Happened to You".

The presence of such leanings in me angered and repulsed me...it still does. I was already well embarked on a quest to educate myself about those ugly and monstrous distortions called colonialism and racism and whiteness and white privilege so I used those strong feelings of revulsion to provide energy and motivation for continuing to work at expanding and increasing my comprehension and understanding. I was very upset and...in many ways...I still am.

And yet that distress and upset is somewhat tempered at the results I obtained when I re-took the test yesterday. Lo and behold...the results showed that my preferences now were moderately tilted toward African Americans...and by implication...moderately biased against European Americans. I have to say...I was shocked and elated. My efforts had worked...my out of awareness leanings...as measured by the test were now consistent and in line with where my conscious thinkings and comprehensions and orientations have come to be located.

The grappling and reading and thinking and feeling (including agonizing and despairing) that I have done (and continue to experience) over these past months (years even) have brought me to the understanding that, in general, we white people are dramatically and profoundly flawed and deficient in our apprehension and comprehension of our created society here in the United States. And...that this here society we all swim in is, in general, more accurately and insightfully perceived and understood by people of color...especially women of color.  We do not understand or comprehend ourselves (we white people) and we definitely do not understand or comprehend the experiences and insights of those citizens here who are people of color.

It's impossible for me to adequately express my gratitude to those writers of articles and books and creators of videos that I've read and watched. I've downloaded and printed and read and marked up innumerable articles and essays and blog posts. I've purchased or obtained from the library book after book after book...and read them...and copied pages from many of them. I've made myself seek out people of color and pestered them to talk with me and reflect with me. Making myself interact with people was the hardest because I'm not a particularly social person. But...I have to say...that's been maybe the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of this journey. And I'm infinitely grateful to those who took the time and had the patience to put up with me.

I recently had the most wonderful compliment from a terrific friend I have, who is socially positioned as a woman and as a Native American tribal member, she told me (and she's over 40 years old) that she had never heard a white person talk like me in her whole life. I felt incredibly honored by what she said and also I felt horribly sad and depressed. How can this be?

I've gotten off my butt and attended workshops and lectures and presentations about diversity and racism and justice and sexism. I joined a local group that worked toward getting local city codes revised to exclude discrimination by landlords (and others) against folks because of their sexual orientation. I attended a panel discussion at the OKC campus of Langston University regarding justice for thirteen women of color who had been raped by a police officer.

In this process of seeking, I've come to be uncomfortable whenever I'm in meetings where there are only white people. I look for the faces of people of color wherever I go...because seeing them is comforting and desirable for me. I've attended presentations about activism for Native Americans and presentations about activism for African Americans and been warmed by being one of the few white faces in the meetings.

Look...if you are raced as white and you're reading this then you have one of the biggest and bestest tools of all...access to the incredible wealth of information and media that's available on the internet. I don't know whether I could have made this shift in my comprehension without it. I'm in awe of those who did it before this phenomenal resource was available.

If you're raced as white and don't struggle and grapple with this flim-flamming that's been crammed into your comprehension and outlook...you don't know what you're missing. There's a richness and depth of awareness that is hidden from you that you would not...and cannot...believe unless you struggle with perceiving it. And...that struggle is not fun...it hurts and it is scarey and uncomfortable. But...the discomfort is a guidepost too...it lets you know you're on what's probably a true path.

What surprised and pleased me this morning about writing this post is that two...not one but two excellent and informative blog posts were just written by two terrific writers that I follow. The first, over on the Sistah Vegan blog, is a mind blower. She included in her post a video of Judge Vonda Evans exemplifying exactly what I'm attempting to communicate here.

People of color...especially women of color...have so much to teach we white people. So very much and yet...as Dr. Harper notes in her writing...we mostly meet those gifts with disdain and ugliness and hatred and ignoring.  And I think her diagnosis of why is exactly correct...we turn away from what is offered because it scares the bejesus out of us. To accept the gifts means coming to comprehend our deficiencies and our warpings...and...yes...our culpability for perpetuating and participating in a horrid and destructive system. One that harms us as well as our victims. And that is hard and uncomfortable and painful...so we all too often turn away.

The second blog post that melds so well with what I'm trying to express is posted over on the Aphro-ism blog. There, Syl Ko, writes a superlative piece about aspects of the deficiencies of the contemporary animal rights movement. It's a humdinger...but...for me anyway...it's one that I will have to read and then read again and then even again to begin to grasp it's meanings. It's always worth the struggle though. Always.

We white people have lots and lots and lots of work to do...but...I'm extremely pleased to be able to tell you that it does pay off...you can influence your own biases...even the hidden ones. Happy Black Women's History Month!