The World We Live In

Mostly written July 8, finished and posted later

I was ruminating about doing a post on how arts fundraisers are done differently here in Waco than they are in NYC. Then, there was news of a man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana being shot and killed, on video. Discussing with a fellow board member of Cultural Arts of Waco, I said, “I don’t watch the videos.” I read about outrage, I read people’s accounts of the incidents but as much as I watch murder mysteries and action adventure movies with lots of fighting and shooting, I cannot bring myself to watch someone die in real life. And it is so unfortunate that I have a personal policy on this, because people kill people, and that we are in a place technologically to document everything. Then, Philando Castile was shot in his car in Minnesota. Now, there has been a mass shooting at a rally in Dallas. I am numb. I have a lot of things to do that have little to do with extrajudicial killings around the country, but it’s all I can think about.

Disproportionately, police officers kill black people. In numbers that don’t even close to match the numbers of white people killed by police. It is time for white people, especially white people in power  to admit that they have been conditioned to think of black people as scarier, more dangerous than white people. Or any race, if you think about it.

As Waco has recently commemorated 100 years since one of the most visible, documented lynchings in the area in history, I think about how far our society still needs to come. No, we don’t have regular hanging/burning/mutilations in public squares watched by half the city, but black people are regularly killed by police for seeming the slightest bit scary after doing a simple little thing that white people get away with all the time. Not that our justice system is exactly fair, but for fuck’s sake, give people the opportunity to go through it before just up and shooting them.

One thing I can and will do is put my body in addition to my voice out there to say that #blacklivesmatter. I will do as my friend Abbey suggests and observe any police interactions with people of color that I come across, especially men of color. I will support artists like Dread Scott who engage with issues of race and brutality, as with his “A Black Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday.”

The world we live in is one where I, a white, middle class hetero, cisgender woman, don’t have to engage in issues of prejudice very often. But I must, and I hope you will too, no matter who is reading. I have so many privileges based on where, when, how, and to whom I was born, that many others do not have based on the same factors – none of our own choosing. Right now, I am poor. My husband is in school and I am working with a wonderful organization that pays me when it can, which is not always. I am so privileged to have this luxury, to work at a place that I love as mostly a volunteer and be able to survive. Why? Because we’ve got two sets of generous, loving, middle-class parents. My in-laws have housed us for nearly a year now and are now rearranging their entire house to make room for our son to have his own room. We buy groceries sometimes, pay our own phone & insurance bills (thanks Obama for the ACA!), and have the grandparents to babysit. My parents will be paying for part-time daycare in the fall so that our young son can have some time with other kids. This is all because of our privilege, most of it unearned. We are nice, honest hardworking people, but so are many people from other socioeconomic classes and skin colors who do not get the benefit of the doubt that kept us out of serious trouble when we were young and reckless. Rather than deny my privilege, I will use it as best I can to get basic human rights for other people too.


An Anti-Racist Lens over a Background of Privilege

I’ve spent a lot of time in my adult life thinking about privilege, gender, race, power, and prejudice. I always felt “not racist” coming from a liberal middle-class white family and I had the good fortune to grow up in a place where not everybody looked like me. It didn’t quite feel like good fortune when I was in middle school and getting treated like an “other” for being white and not wearing all the fashions of the day. But I say wholeheartedly that it was good to have diversity in my neighborhood and schools.

I read Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” when I was high school aged (after we’d moved from Houston to more-segregated Arlington). I got the message to a degree but didn’t internalize the the term “white privilege” until after college, when I attended a Unitarian Universalist conference for young adults in 2003 (as of this writing, 12 years ago. It comes into play later in the post). At the conference, during Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression workshops when white privilege was brought up, my visceral internal reaction was “But I’m a woman! Sexism!” It weirdly helped my understanding of intersecting oppressions / privileges that during the same workshop, a white man who grew up poor had a similarly visceral, and much more vocal, reaction to the idea of having privilege. Without realizing it at the moment, I used my white privilege to get him to simmer down. Hearing that he had white-skin privilege (even if he’d been marginalized for being poor) from a woman of color made him react as though she was saying directly to him “you are a bad person for being white, you are oppressing me.” From me, someone also being “accused” of racism, it was easier for him to understand. (I realize now that him taking up a lot of the group’s time and energy with *his* discomfort is itself an often-unrealized-by-privileged-people symptom of privilege.)

Anyway, I’ve spent a lot more time in workshops and conferences about racism and privilege since then, and I wanted to write today to give some example of how I still do some racist shit (gratuitous use of scare quotes ahead):

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