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.