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Find the Helpers: From Outrage to Action

 by Michelle Palmer

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” 

Some weeks it’s really easy to know what to write about. There’s one thing dominating the headlines that deserves some thoughtful unpacking. Other weeks, increasingly it seems, there are so many it’s hard to even think about them all without losing hope.

So, today, I just want to remind us, like I did in the post on Syria, of what Mr. Rogers said:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

In the midst of so much tragedy, so many events that outrage and infuriate us, I want us to look for the helpers. My purpose in this is twofold.

  • First, I want to give us some hope. (There are helpers. There are people doing something to make things better.)
  • Second, I want our outrage to lead us to action. (We can be helpers too.)

Gun Control:

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The issue of gun control has come up (again) in light of the Las Vegas tragedy, as it so often does.

[SIDENOTE: If this seems like a particularly controversial issue for us to be tackling without much context, consider this: The majority of Americans are in favor of sensible gun control measures (reports here and here). And according to the CDC, there are an average of 33,880 gun deaths per year from 2011-2015, and those numbers are on the rise for 2016 and 2017.]

When I looked for organizations working for gun control, I found several lists, but there were four organizations that appeared on every list I saw. (This article from Bustle is particularly helpful.) These organizations are linked below, and each website has an action section.

I also came across an article that I found particularly interesting, “What If We Made Gun Culture Uncool Like We Did Cigarettes?” Here’s an excerpt:

“On the legislative front it seems America has made its choice and there is little chance for legal reform in the near future except at the margins deemed acceptable by the gun industry and a current generation of gun owners who believe that ‘things happen’ is an appropriate reaction to gun deaths. When lawmakers can’t lead, a social solution is certainly worth a shot.”

Puerto Rico:

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Full disclosure: My love for Lin-Manuel Miranda knows no bounds. However, I can honestly say his Twitter account is an amazing resource for finding ways to help Puerto Rico. His feed is chock-full of ways to help, donation drop-off locations, and links for donating money. Click here: https://twitter.com/lin_manuel

Lin’s twitter feed can get a little overwhelming, so here’s a more concise list from NBC:  How To Help Puerto Rico Right Now

Also, go listen to “Almost Like Praying” on your iTunes or Spotify or Amazon or wherever you listen to your music. It’s catchy, it’s beautiful, it has Gloria Estefan, and all the proceeds go to hispanicfederation.org.

And if you need a smile on your face, check out THIS VIDEO of Stephen Colbert’s #PuberMe challenge to see how much he and Nick Kroll raised for Puerto Rico.

NFL Protests:

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Despite all the arguments regarding secondary issues (respecting the flag, the right to protest), the purpose of the protests from the start has been to bring attention to “systemic oppression against people of color, police brutality and the criminal justice system.” (Source.) If you’re still unsure about the protests, this is the best thing I’ve read on the issue, “What You Might Be Missing in the Kneeling Debate” by Ed Uszynski. And if you’re unsure about the issues being protested, we have lots of information on our Resource List page, and Channon and I would be more than happy to answer your questions.

The organizations below tackle the very issues that led to the protests, and again, each one has ways to support and get involved.

 


There is so much heartbreak in our world, so much to be outraged about today. If the thing pulling at your heartstrings right now hasn’t been addressed here, and you have little hope or don’t know how to help, let us know, and we’ll do our best to point you in the right direction. You can email us at tuesdayjusticeblog@gmail.com or message us on Facebook.

Whatever you do, don’t give up hope. Let your outrage move you to action.

 

Cotton, Sugar, & the N-Word: Why History Matters

Maybe the n-word is just a word, maybe cotton is just a plant, maybe sugar mills are just historical artifacts, but when a person is keenly aware of their history, IT. MAKES. A. DIFFERENCE. We cannot ignore historical context in modern discourse.

ON THE N-WORD

by Channon Oyeniran

“When I hear the N-word, I still think about every black man who was lynched—and the N-word was the last thing he heard.” – Oprah Winfrey

As I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook a few weeks ago, an article caught my attention, “If you truly knew what the N-word meant to our ancestors, you’d NEVER use it.” I thought to myself, “That’s for sure!” I know the word is horrendous, and I have cringed every time I hear it and have been called it, but I still decided to click on the link so that I could learn a bit more about the origins of this detestable word.

768px-you27se_just_a_little_nigger2c_still_youse_mine2c_all_mine_28nypl_hades-610093-125607929The author of the article, Brandon Simeo Starky, said this about the n-word and why it was used: “The best explanation of what I gleaned, what social scientists called internalized oppression, describes the psychological trauma that ensues when a person from a stigmatized group believes those negative stigmas. White folk indoctrinated them into accepting their supposed inferiority. These [slave] narratives illustrate the success of this campaign of mental terrorism, and no word conveyed the depth of this internalized oppression more than ‘nigger.’” What was clear to Starky while reading these slave narratives was the self-perception that those enslaved had about themselves based on the use of the n-word. It was clear to him, and became clear to me as I read, that the primary purpose of the n-word was to dehumanize, demean and break the spirit of those hearing it. It was used every day, all day, 24/7/365 and has been around longer than the existence of the USA. For this reason, many of those who were enslaved, and their descendants, internalized the meaning of this word.

 

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Enslaved black people were called the n-word as if it was their name, and the word was found in literature, media, entertainment, comedy, marketing and advertising of products, etc. If I haven’t gotten this point across, know that this word was everywhere, used all the time to degrade the very souls of black people. Doing a slow, psychological work in them, causing deep emotional damage, passed down through generations, that will take many years and much work to undo.  

Some say that it’s okay for black people to use the word. I disagree. I get that they have tried to reclaim it and use “nigga” instead, but I just don’t think it’s necessary or warranted. Whenever I hear black people using this word, I say to myself, “Do they know all of the history behind this word, like really know….?” 10214542_1_xThis word was used as our name. Although we had names, we heard this word so much that we started to internalize it and believe that we were n*****s and nothing more, that we had no value.

To see what others had to say about the n-word, Michelle and I sent a series of six questions to black women and men of different ages. We got back four responses and many of the answers were quite similar. (Huge thanks to those who participated and sent responses back!)

  1. Is it ever okay for non-Black people to use the N word (in context, joking, repeating, etc.)?

The general consensus was a resounding, “NO!” But Subria had a great response to this question.

Subria: It is never okay for a non-Black person to use any variation of the word: nigger, nigga, or my nig. When non-Black people use it, it comes with a history of violence. If a non-Black person says it, they are demonstrating their complicity in that violence, it will never be their word to claim, no matter how many rap songs and no matter how many black friends they have. And the black friends that don’t call them out need a history lesson as to why it’s grounds to whoop that a$$. (Q: Can I say that last part?)

  1. Is it okay for Black people to use the word?

Gail: After really understanding where that word comes from, I don’t know why they would want to. I think it’s best to educate them and have them really understand the history of it. There are some great books and movies that will really hit home (12 Years a Slave, Birth of a Nation, etc). I feel like if black people really understood the weight behind it they would not use it so freely.

Subria: Yes, it is okay for Black people to use the word. It surprises me that, particularly among black academics, the choice is made to use “the n word” instead of writing out or saying the word “nigger”. It’s a hurtful word and it stings on our ears. Just like the violence of the word stung our ancestors and continues to do to their offspring. This choice to use the “the n-word” pacifies the continued reality of its violence and this upsets me tremendously. Adding an additional perspective, I’ve yet to encounter a black person who says the word nigger casually. When the word “nigger” is used by a black person [casually], it is usually in haste and a demonstration of a black person displaying anti-blackness. [Emphasis added.]

Shenaz: I am not particularly fond of black people using the N-word, although some would say that by using it as a black person it takes the power away from non-black people; however, the history behind the word never changes.

[Sidenote from Michelle: Scholars like James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates have used the n-word in its full form to great effect. Christian hip-hop artist Sho Baraka also used the word on his album, Talented Xth. I believe the word can be useful in particular circumstances, for particular purposes, by black artists, scholars, writers, etc. at their discretion.]

  1. Does it really matter? It’s just a word!

Gail: It’s not just a word because there’s a lot of history behind it. It may not mean anything to person who is ignorant of that history, but it can be hurtful to someone who does

Muna: It’s the intention behind it that matters more than the word. You can always tell when it’s ill-intention for the most part.

Subria: It certainly matters. Language shapes culture and culture creates norms.  It is still normal to inflict violence on black bodies because white supremacy and racism have deemed that black people are inherently “lazy, violent, brute, a burden, and niggers”.  Black people are loosening the noose on centuries of white-violent branding. Black people are replacing, reclaiming, and kicking racism where it hurts through languages. Shifting and rewriting the narrative through a Black perspective is liberation, and this is why language that concerns Blackness in its entirety matters.

In all of these responses, the history of the n-word and where it came from was mentioned — How it was used to dehumanize, degrade and oppress black people from slavery to the Jim Crow era. How this word was created to differentiate and then used solely to demean people because of the colour of their skin. This word was a tool of oppression to the enslaved, to break them down and to kill their minds and spirits, especially while working in the fields cultivating things like cotton and sugar that ultimately filled the pockets of those who enslaved them and meant privilege for their descendants.

ON COTTON & SUGAR

by Michelle Palmer

Desktop7-001For most people in my circle, the reasons why using the n-word is a bad idea may go without saying. But there’s another issue that may not be so clear: cotton. A friend sent me an email about the cotton display at Hobby Lobby and asked for my opinion.

On one hand, as a white person, I personally don’t see it as racist at all. I have white relatives who are cotton farmers and did a family portrait in front a field of cotton. I just saw it on my Facebook feed a few days ago and thought, “That’s so precious!” It was beautiful, it represented who they are as a family, I loved it. My sister-in-law has a cotton bud wreath that I think is gorgeous. It’s literally just a plant. It, on its own, is neutral, at least to me, a white person.

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That being said, I was at Kent House last weekend, and I saw something that turned my stomach. The thing that bothered me most was seeing a sugar mill, with sugarcane planted around it, and the sugar kettles on display. It turned my stomach because I’m keenly aware of the effects of sugar on slaves. I think about it every time I pass a sugarcane field. Desktop7-003I’d probably think about it if I saw it at Hobby Lobby too. Harvesting and refining sugar was one of the deadliest things a slave could do. I didn’t see any reference to that. In fact, there’s an event coming in November called, “Sugar Days,” where the whole process will be demonstrated. And I’m guessing the dangerous, life-threatening parts of the process will be omitted. I’m also assuming they won’t discuss the high death rates and low fertility rates amongst slaves associated with sugar production. The sugar is neutral, the kettles are neutral, but being SO in tune and aware of the history makes me feel sick to see it being displayed in that way.

Maybe to display cotton as décor isn’t inherently racist, but if this woman was as keenly aware of the history of cotton in America as I am about the history of sugar, I can sympathize with her reaction. Since then, I’ve talked to several others who had the same reaction as this lady. Desktop7She isn’t alone. Of course, I wish she had expounded on her thoughts more to help others understand the depth of her hurt and why it upset her so much, but when someone is triggered that way, we can’t expect them to do the hard work of educating the rest of us as well.

Maybe the n-word is just a word, maybe cotton is just a plant, maybe sugar mills are just historical artifacts, but when a person is keenly aware of their history, IT. MAKES. A. DIFFERENCE. We cannot ignore historical context in modern discourse.

So, fellow white people, here’s the deal: We can probably never do away with the n-word. We can probably never do away with cotton and sugar mills and all the things that conjure painful imagery for people of color. But we can acknowledge the pain of others. We can minimize the triggers. And we can definitely do better.

I saw this comment on the post from Lipscomb University by Kaitlin Hardy Shetler, and she said so eloquently what was in my heart as I thought about the issue:

“If you can only see this as an issue of being offended by cotton, instead of a deeper systemic problem, you will never be able to meaningfully connect with our black brothers and sisters. You will continue to drive a wedge in this already tenuous relationship by refusing to acknowledge the pain, racism, and microaggressions they experience daily. […]

Reconciliation must start with white people. You may say that’s racist, but let’s be intellectually honest here. Collectively, it has been our people who have systemically oppressed, intimidated, threatened, and subjugated black people in our country. We should absolutely be trying to bridge that gap and heal deep wounds passed down from generation to generation.

Again, if you are offended by other people’s offendedness, it is not about you. […]

We may make mistakes and be clumsy in our approach, but we pray God will give us grace as we learn what true respect and reconciliation looks like.”


For more information…

Announcement: Survey Drawing Winner!!!

On August 31st, our 2017 Tuesday Justice Survey concluded with a total of 112 completed surveys! We are so thankful to all of you who gave us feedback, and we’re excited to implement as many of your suggestions as we can.

As a reward for providing an email address, we offered the chance to win a $30 donation to the charity of your choice. The winner, randomly selected by a website Michelle found via Google, was Brent Romero! And he selected Doctors Without Borders!

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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international non-profit organization, founded in Paris in 1971. They are doctors and medical professionals who provide medical services to those who need it most. Check out this 5-minute video to find out more about them: How We Work

“MSF provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters, and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed, or political convictions.”

 

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 Congratulations, Brent!

Resources for Understanding DACA

by Michelle Palmer

Neither Channon nor I were quite qualified to tackle the DACA issue without lots and lots of prior research, and due to time constraints on us both, that wasn’t really an option this week. However, I wanted to provide something for folks who, like me, want to understand the issue a bit more. So I did some legwork to gather and organize what information I could. The following is the result of that endeavor, and I hope it proves useful to someone!

What is DACA?

  • Deferred Action for Child Arrivals
  • “The program has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country. Applicants cannot have serious criminal histories, and must have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, when they were under the age of 16. DACA recipients can live and work legally in the U.S. for renewable two-year periods.” –  from a short summary of DACA from NBC.
  • The application process is lengthy and complex.

Who are Dreamers?

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What happens if DACA is rescinded?

“On DACA, the [U.S. Commission on Civil Rights] called Trump’s move to stop allowing new applicants to the program and to let permits begin expiring in six months ‘a step backward for our country.’

The statement cited both the economic arguments for DACA, including 700,000 jobs that would be lost and the billions in tax revenue, as well as the humanitarian argument for the program’s participants.

‘They now face a reality where they are at risk of being exploited in the workplace and deported and prevented from fully contributing to and supporting their families, communities, and country,’ the panel wrote.”

Who supports DACA?

…and many, many, many more.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART

How do we help Dreamers?

And if all that wasn’t quite enough, this is a lengthy, but very informative, piece on the issue: Trump Ends DACA Program, No New Applications Accepted by Adam Edelman for NBC News

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Wearing Justice: Confronting the Problems of Fast Fashion  

Back in May, I began working on a post about slavery in supply chains. I hoped to cover three big offenders, chocolate, phones, and fashion, and quickly realized I had been overly ambitious in that hope. (The resulting post can be found here, covering only chocolate.) In preparation for that post, before throwing in the towel on phones and fashion, I was able to gather a number of resources from a single source: Whole Cloth. It dawned on me that there was someone much better suited to tackle fashion justice. Our guest author is “radical homemaker, renegade Ph.D.” Bethany Hebbard. She began the Whole Cloth project (a blog and a community) to explore “the relationship between cloth, craft, and justice.” I’m so thankful that she was willing to share with our Tuesday Justice community about the injustices within the industry and steps to fight for justice in our own closets. – MP – 

Guest Post by Dr. Bethany Hebbard

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“I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe…”

(Job 29:14 ESV)

What does it mean to wear justice? This question is as old as the Book of Job, one of the most ancient poems in the Hebrew Scriptures. Today, our relationship to clothing is entangled in the most significant questions of justice in our time: poverty, sustainability, race, slavery, and the meaning of work.

It can be overwhelming to discern where to begin in a conversation about clothing and justice. The most obvious starting point might be the prevalence of “fast fashion” in the global marketplace. “Fast fashion” refers to clothing that is sold at rock-bottom prices, encouraging consumers to purchase, wear, and dispose of clothing at staggering rates. The 2015 film The True Cost offers a highly-engaging introduction to this phenomenon, with a particular focus on the environmental and human rights problems it creates. If you’re interested in the history of fast fashion, Fashionista offers a helpful timeline here. Other resources focus on the environmental and social problems caused by consumer obsession with cheap clothing.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.50.23 PM.png.jpgHowever, fast fashion has only accelerated the ethical concerns already at play in global textile systems. Since the development of synthetic dyes in the 1850s, textile dyes have become a major source of water pollution. Fibers such as cotton raise concerns for their water usage and pesticides. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and “microfiber,” shed millions of tons of plastic particles into our water systems each year. And industrial textile production has always been notorious for poor labor conditions, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 to the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013.

How can we ever hope to clothe ourselves in justice, when the facts of global textile production are so bleak? One possible answer lies in the popularity of the phrase “ethical fashion,” which often pops up in articles about the best response to “fast fashion.” There are definitely some exciting developments in the realm of ethical fashion, but I’m reluctant to point to it as the solution for a few reasons. First, “ethical fashion” suggests that it is a subset of the larger “fashion industry.” This link limits its audience to people who are interested in fashion, trends, and style. People who aren’t interested in fashion per se may ignore the conversation, thinking it has more to do with design aesthetics than with basic consumer concerns. However, everyone (a few nudists excluded!) wears clothing, meaning that the ethical questions at hand are far larger than what happens during Fashion Week or on the cover of Vogue.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.48.26 PM.png

More importantly, “ethical fashion” implies that there is a shared, global ethic of clothing, which simply isn’t true. “Ethical” means action rooted in a coherent set of moral principles. These principles usually come from our understanding of how the world works: what “the good life” looks like; who or what determines right from wrong; and how our personal desires intersect with our responsibilities toward others. To speak of “ethical fashion” as though everyone in the world (or even in the US) shares a common ethic simply isn’t accurate. For some people, environmental concerns might be most important. For others, labor conditions or domestic jobs might be paramount. For others, religious convictions come first. Particular concerns such as these tend to get lost in large-scale public discussions of ethics. This is a problem because an ethic that is vaguely defined and impersonal is unlikely to provoke meaningful action.

In my experience, the most effective answer to the enormous problems of clothing justice come through personal conviction and local action. Here are some ways to begin:

  • Reflect upon and articulate your ethic of clothing.
    • How does your understanding of personhood, morality, and work intersect with concerns about clothing? What sources or figures from your tradition offer guidance on this subject? What concerns do you share with others, and what are distinctively yours? For example, as a Christian, my own ethic of clothing is rooted in the beautiful and prophetic imagery of the Bible. I call it my “Whole Cloth Manifesto,” and it is a living document, constantly undergoing revision as I share and discuss it with members of my faith community.  
  • Make a plan for translating your ethic into action.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.53.12 PM.png
    • Personally, this has meant strengthening my sewing skills, avoiding all synthetic fabrics, and supporting my local fiber economy (Fibershed is a stellar resource for this) by purchasing Texas cotton and domestically produced clothing whenever possible. It is, sadly, nearly impossible to find an article of clothing that is completely free from the problems described above. For that reason, it is important to have a sense of priority when it comes to your values for clothing. If you have to choose, does your ethic guide you to purchase a shirt made with organic cotton–mitigating significant environmental concerns–or one made with conventional cotton, but grown and sewn in the USA–allowing greater confidence in fair labor conditions?
  • Practice solidarity with those who make your clothes.
    • Learning at least one hands-on skill related to clothing will help you value your clothing more, and also build empathy for those who create our clothing. You might try mending, sewing, dyeing, or something more in-depth, such as weaving. Learning these skills can also empower you to take steps out of the industrial supply chain, whether by prolonging the wear of your clothes through mending, or crafting your own goods in ways that accord with your values.
  • Begin public action within your own community and people.
    • While there is a time for large-scale industry regulations, the most significant problems in the clothing industry are fed directly by consumer demand. By working within your own community–with people who know and trust you–you have an incredible opportunity to change the hearts and habits of people with buying power. By beginning your activism among those with whom you share a worldview and economic background, you will be able to present a specific and compelling ethic of clothing. Within my faith community, this has meant trying to expand the Christian preoccupation with “modesty” to a larger concern with issues of pride, conspicuous consumption, and environmental stewardship as they relate to clothing.

In the spirit of “Tuesday Justice,” it is important to remember that everyday decisions can add up to a lifetime of profound witness and change. If we begin by challenging our own assumptions and practices, we will soon find ourselves speaking (or dressing!) prophetically, mobilizing our own communities and challenging systemic problems. Whether that means wearing organic cotton or “shopping” from your grandma’s closet, you’ll soon find yourself wearing justice like a robe — and that never goes out of fashion.


For more information:

All photos taken by Bethany and stolen (with permission) from her blog, Whole Cloth.

Responding to Charlottesville

by Michelle Palmer

 

“The greatest indicator of whether we’d have marched or stayed home, spoken out or remained silent, been brave or safe in the last civil right movement is whether we’re marching, speaking up, and being brave in THIS civil rights movement. Who you are is not about what you believe or how you feel. Who you are is about what you do or do not do.” – Glennon Doyle

“Sickened.” “Disgusted.” “Devastated.”

Those are some of the words I saw flash across my timeline after last weekend. (If you are not one of the 30 million people who have already seen the VICE News video about Charlottesville, please do. I’m confident you will be sickened, disgusted, and devastated. WARNING: It’s graphic. It’s painful. It’s vulgar. But it’s important.)

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As thankful as I was to see so many denounce white supremacy publicly, including several who often steer clear of controversial issues, I am left, the week after, hoping their words aren’t empty. Hoping that their disgust will lead them to action. I’ve seen it stated in a variety of ways over the last week: If you think you would have marched with Martin Luther King in the 60s, you should be marching now. For folks who are just waking up to the severe racial divides and inequality in America, and indeed the world, I wanted to provide a resource that answers, “What do I do now?” I freely admit that I have stolen these lists from various sources for your convenience, but each source is linked and I encourage you to read them in full, if at all possible!  

I. Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide (This resource from Southern Poverty Law Center is the best I’ve seen thus far. If you’re sickened or disgusted or devastated, please click through to the full guide and find a way to get plugged in.)

  1. Act. “Do something. In the face of hatred, apathy will be interpreted as acceptance by the perpetrators, the public and — worse — the victims. Community members must take action; if we don’t, hate persists.”
  2. Join Forces. “Reach out to allies from churches, schools, clubs, and other civic groups. Create a diverse coalition. Include children, police, and the media. Gather ideas from everyone, and get everyone involved.”
  3. Support the Victims. “Hate crime victims are especially vulnerable.”
  4. Speak Up. “Hate must be exposed and denounced. Help news organizations achieve balance and depth.”
  5. Educate Yourself. “An informed campaign improves its effectiveness. Determine if a hate group is involved, and research its symbols and agenda. Understand the difference between a hate crime and a bias incident.”
  6. Create an Alternative. “Do not attend a hate rally. Find another outlet for anger and frustration and for people’s desire to do something. Hold a unity rally or parade to draw media attention away from hate.”
  7. Pressure Leaders. “Elected officials and other community leaders can be important allies.”
  8. Stay Engaged. “Promote acceptance and address bias before another hate crime can occur.”
  9. Teach Acceptance. “Bias is learned early, often at home. Schools can offer lessons of tolerance and acceptance.”
  10. Dig Deeper. “Look inside yourself for biases and stereotypes.”


II. “How to ‘Love Anyway’ After Charlottesville” – Courtney Christenson

  • recognize that racism is woven into the very fabric of our society
  • stand by our black and brown brothers and sisters and make sure that they know their well-being is more important to us than the feelings of their oppressors.
  • by pointing out the ways racism infiltrates our everyday language, culture, media, and government—rather than pretending that the extremists who showed up in Charlottesville are the only perpetrators.
  • advocate for the rights and fair treatment of people of color by law enforcement.
  • challenge white privilege when we see it in the relatively gentle response of law enforcement and government officials to white supremacist marching in Charlottesville, compared to their response to protests largely made up of people of color.
  • seek justice and reconciliation, instead of victory and domination.
  • use every nonviolent tactic we can think of to destroy hate and unmake violence, but we distinguish between destroying ideologies and destroying the people who hold them.
  • respect the humanity of the people in these groups by refusing to injure or kill or dehumanize them, even though they don’t show the same respect to others.
  • advocate for the healing and rehabilitation of white supremacists whenever possible. Because real peace is healing for everyone involved.
  • refuse to lose sight of the humanity of the oppressor… while remembering that our hearts belong to the oppressed.

III. “White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville” – Erynn Brook (which I feel obliged to tell you has NSFW language, but I highly recommend anyway)

Amplify. Speak out. Follow the voices on the ground. Denounce white supremacy. Denounce white supremacy publicly, on all your social media accounts. Donate here (Solidarity Cville Anti-Racist Legal Fund). Donate here, Black Women Being will provide funds to individuals on the ground. Donate here, Nice White Ladies has an emergency fund that is directly available to community organizers. Get on Twitter and Facebook and ask your friends to donate as well. Donate to BLM Charlottesville, they are on the ground. If you feel like you need more education on anti-black racism, sign up for Safety Pin Box. Contact your local Black Lives Matter chapter and follow them. Just be present, do something, do anything. If you’ve done nothing because you’re worried about being the best, then you’re a bigger problem than someone who’s trying but messing up.

I know, I know: Many of these are pretty daunting. I get that. To quote my old pastor, Crispin, “Condemning racism is easy. Making space in one’s life for relationship with folks who are different from you is work, hard work, holy work.” Doing the hard, holy work of ending white supremacy and fighting for racial reconciliation requires time and energy and other resources. If you have the time and energy for this stuff, keep going. Keep working. It’s so worth it!  

If you’re not quite there yet, but still want to do something, there’s a (relatively) easy way to get involved that only requires one resource, CASH! Donating funds to the people on the ground is important, necessary work. (Erynn gave four great places to donate to up there ^.) Another organization to support, both financially and otherwise, is the Southern Poverty Law Center. I love the work this organization does! They are on the forefront of research on hate groups in America, and they use their research to fuel the fight against white supremacy.

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The SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

FIGHTING HATE

We monitor hate groups and other extremists throughout the United States and expose their activities to the public, the media and law enforcement.

TEACHING TOLERANCE

We’re dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.

SEEKING JUSTICE

We’re seeking justice for the most vulnerable people in society.

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(Also, I am donating my birthday to these guys on Facebook, and I would LOVE for you join my campaign. Click here!!!)

But it’s not just about financial support. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and share their work with your family and friends.

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I know this was a lot. If you’re feeling super overwhelmed right now, bookmark this post, come back to it, and in the meantime, do this:

“Tell your family you love them. Tell your friends you love them. Tell strangers you see them. Tell the marginalized you will stand alongside them. Tell children you see their potential. Whatever you do, don’t be silent.” – Matthew Huard

 


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The Day I Became a White Man Was the Day I Became a Black Man: A Story About Race

Michelle here! Just a quick note about today’s post. No, it’s not the 5th Tuesday of the month, but we’ve got a guest post! We are so thankful to publish this piece by Vershal Hogan while we’re a week into our 2017 Tuesday Justice Survey campaign. We have already seen several requests for more ways to get involved and to tangibly work towards freedom, equality, and justice. That is coming, I promise. But this post isn’t it. With that being said, I fully believe that some of the most important work we can do is in our own hearts and minds. Vershal’s story has encouraged me to come to terms with my own whiteness and how that affects my interactions and relationships. As a person passionate about these issues, it’s mandatory that I regularly confront this in my own life. I hope this story helps you do just that, like it did for me. 

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Vershal and his son quite a few years back, closer to the time of the story than today.

by Vershal Hogan

At the time, I was in my first year of working for a newspaper in southern Mississippi, in a city renowned for its preservation of antebellum homes and — to some extent even now — culture. Any discussion of race in the city inevitably mentions its historic tableaux, which was originally known as the Confederate Pageant and wasn’t rebranded until the early 2000s, but even outside the spring and fall pilgrimage seasons — in which the city’s garden clubs open their historic homes for tours — the historic realities of the Civil War, slavery and Jim Crow are a part of a complicated history and present. Some embrace that history with unquestioning enthusiasm, waving the banner Lost Cause, while others wrestle with being the inheritors of estates that were built and paid for by human chattel. Many members of the black community are descendants of those slaves, growing up in the shadows of homes that were raised by the blood and sweat of their kin but never gaining any social capital from it. Couple that with Jim Crow and civil rights eras that were as violent as the worst parts of the country, and race becomes an issue that almost always simmers just below the surface.

I met David one day while I was out doing an assignment for the newspaper, a weekly feature in which we threw a dart at a map and then went and wrote a story about whatever we found. It was usually an innocuous, inconsequential story, usually something about a grandmother spending time with her grandchildren or about friends who worked on antique cars together – typically, it was something very middle-class.

That day was different, however. The dart had landed on a street in a historically black neighborhood that had once been renowned for its success, but had drifted into decay in recent years. My editor had given us a rule that you were allowed to go only as far as one street over from where the dart landed to find a story, and normally that worked. In that town, one street over from shacks leaning in on each other could very easily be gentrified, or just as likely, bourgeoisie. Economic degeneration and revitalization in southwest Mississippi is a strange thing.

The street the dart landed on was by far the better of the three choices we had using the one-street-over rule, and even then there was a gang of Bloods standing at the corner eyeballing me and the photographer, Frank.

The first couple of houses we approached had “Keep Out” and “Beware of Dog” signs, and when we saw David sitting on a porch, he was working on a neighbor’s kerosene heater, tinkering and trying to get it to fire up. He had a plastic cup and a bottle of cheap whiskey on the porch next to him, whiskey I smelled before I ever saw it. It looked like a lazy afternoon, and he would be someone we could speak with and get a story quickly.

“Hey, Mr. Frank,” he called out, recognizing the photographer, who seemed to know everyone in that town, “What are you doing with that Jew in this neighborhood?”

After Frank and I both laughed at the comment (I’d been mistaken for being Jewish a number of times, several of them while with Frank in black neighborhoods), we explained what we were doing, and David agreed to talk to us. He talked about the history of his neighborhood (he alleged, among other things, that a nun had been hanged in his house in the 1880s), about his personal doubts about organized religion even though he occasionally attended a church, about how he wanted to help people and how he gathered and distributed information around his neighborhood about how to get back into school, start a business or get corporate grants. He talked a lot about race relations, how they had gotten better and how, in some cases, they had gotten worse.

He had a master’s degree in agriculture production and had been part of a program that had the goal of teaching young black men how to be commercial farmers and catfish producers. That had been going well until his work in the field got the best of him, leaving him out of commission for a long time, he said.

“Sunstroke is a hell of a thing to happen to a man,” he said. “Especially to a black man.”

Through all of this, he would occasionally give me a strange look.

Finally, he came out with it: “You look white, but I know you’re not all white.”

Like many people in the South, I’ve got some Chickasaw-Choctaw Nation genes, but I’ve never considered myself to be anything but white and have certainly never been bold enough to try to identify otherwise.

“You know how I know you’re not all white?” David said, his eyes intense. “I know that because you look me in the eyes. White people don’t look me in the eyes.”

Here was a man who — while a little rough around the edges — was educated and articulate (yes, I said it), but conditioned by a dynamic that expected me not to treat him as an equal. His bringing up what he perceived to be my own ethno-racial identity was predicated on the safety of the neighborhood.

I don’t remember what I said after that. Back then, making eye contact in conversation wasn’t so much a professional or human courtesy as it was a compulsion because I had a teacher who berated me for not doing so when I talked to her when I was 15. I was just trying to be polite to an adult who was much older than I was, and for a brief moment, I felt a pointless pang of corporate white guilt even though he had praised me for doing what he didn’t expect me to do.

I had already come to the conclusion that in the South race problems were rooted in more than just a hatred or disdain for that which is different, that it was a social construct that conflated socio-economics with melanin. The city was the location anthropologists chose to study in the 1941 (at the time) groundbreaking anthropological study, “Deep South,” and though at the time I hadn’t read it, I’d noticed similar dynamics to what the authors published — that racial boundaries are often about maintaining a caste system, which is why, for example, it’s often considered shameful for a rich white girl to date a black boy (even a rich black boy) but not for a white girl from one of the poorer trailer parks.

But David then did something that made me realize that everything we do, consciously or unconsciously, reinforces those caste systems.

He reached over, put his hands on my shoulder, and said, “Because you look me in the eyes, I now adopt you as my black brother. You are now one of us.”

That was the day I really grasped how my own race could import an unspoken dynamic into a conversation, especially with someone who has the living memory of some of our shared culture’s uglier moments. Here I was, a kid just out of school interacting with a man three times my age and with twice the education, and he was socially conditioned to assume I wouldn’t grant him a basic courtesy, whether out of a sense of superiority or fear. Until that point, my general beliefs about racism had been facile, the thought that if one does not speak or think with overt hatred they’ve covered their bases, and a few years later, when talk of non-verbal racism became mainstream, I thought back to that occasion.

The story I wrote from that afternoon, like many dart features, wasn’t very long or memorable. I’m sure that if David even read it, he laughed at it, as he would laugh at this writing.

But I remember it, and sometimes I still think about it. Since then, I’ve had opportunity to attend sessions where black people — especially older people — talked about the conditioning that was drilled into them from a young age, how they weren’t to look certain people directly in the eyes, how deferential language was non-negotiable and even how where one positioned themselves in a room or a public space were important considerations. While most of the overt behavior codes of the bad old days are now gone, the complexity of our interactions continue; in fact, it may be more difficult to root out now because most people will affirm that racism is bad, and thus don’t want to admit their own shortcomings.

(And if you don’t see how that doesn’t sometimes translate into frustration or even rage…)

I am fortunate in that I don’t get to qualify my own failings with the old social crutch of “That’s how I was raised;” our home was pretty open. But the culture around me being what it was, there were a lot of unconscious cues that I absorbed, and I’ll admit that there are still things I have to work on.

But I’ll give this: If I have to be called out for something, I’ll at least be looking you in the eye.

 



For more on battling racism, check out our other posts on the subject: