racism

Classism

I did it again.

I read the comments.

Again I was struck by the intensity of reaction vs the lack of vitriol. I mean, the tone was definitely combative and the “troll” was less of a troll as much and more of a “true believer.”

In grammar.

I get it. I seriously GET. IT. I really do. I mean, I couldn’t finish reading a published author’s post when there were two errors within a paragraph of each other and the second one was using “fourth” where “forth” should’ve been used.

I cringed, then moved on. I didn’t feel the need to publicly point out the misuse of the word.

As a writer, I believe that good grammar, proper spelling, and word usage matters. Of course it does.

That being said, a person’s worth and value doesn’t rest on whether they use “is” vs “are” correctly. Which is where we begin our tale.

It starred a meme on FB. What else could it have been?

Yeah. That was it. Cringe worthy, but, ultimately, not a big deal. Right?

“Disney is*”

Aaaand we’re off.

The initial discussion was whether Disney was a group (There is a legal, singular entity, The Disney Group International, Inc.) and if there was a group, should it be referred to in the plural.

Then it got interesting.

The initial person who made the comment was called classist. The debate shifted as she got defensive.

That interaction made me remember some recent conversations I’ve had with people regarding language, how it’s used and how that usage is perceived.

I have been accused of “talking down” to someone because I often use large or complicated words and phrases where clear, easily understood ones exist. For example, a much more natural way for me to have written that would have been: I have a tendency to use large, multisyllabic, and obscure words and phrases where clear, easily understood words exist.

Why? And why did the woman who had been a former foster child feel the need to publicly use her hard earned education to correct the grammar in a meme?

Because Classism.

For those of us who come from a background of poverty, education is very, very important.

It’s a way to prove to ourselves and to the world that “we’re better than that” and can “make something of ourselves” by “rising above” our origins among the underprivileged, ignorant masses.

Apparently, it’s also important to those of wealth and privilege, as well. Otherwise, several, high-profile celebrities wouldn’t have been caught buying expensive, elite educations for their offspring.

In other words, having a college or University education is, not only a key to higher income, it’s a piece of evidence that we can function on the level of a higher class of people.

Why else would some POC get accused of “acting White” for speaking in certain ways? Why else are people with proven experience and ability passed over for jobs and promotions in favor of less experienced, often younger, college graduates? Why else do all the other prejudices and “isms” exist?

Because Classism.

So, I finally felt compelled to enter the fray.

“A) The Disney Group is a collective of other corporations. It is a singular entity which encompasses other entities.

B) Classism isn’t about whether or not those of us who have worked for or earned a specific degree of education come from a position of wealth or privilege (I most certainly do not). It is an attitude and assumption of stigma toward those who aren’t educated and socialized in a specific manner which is acceptable to navigate in a classist, elitist society. It’s systemic as much as it is attached to personal privilege.

Therefore, it is possible to come from an underprivileged background and still be classist.”

I doubt there’s much to be done about Classism, other than to be aware and recognize its existence, in its various forms, then check our own assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, and language.

At least, that’s where we start.

Special Needs

Ableism is discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities or who are perceived to have disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled. ~ Wikipedia

I made the mistake of reading comments on an Instagram post in favor of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They were mostly positive. But, there was one naysayer who stood out for his initial lack of vitriol. He was just mildly snarky. But, it was like he had committed some heinous sin, instead of posting a disagreement rooted in ignorance.

He was immediately under attack. Mostly the responses remained as snarky comebacks. However, one of them made me cringe.

It sounds like your boss is good at hiring people with special needs.

I couldn’t scroll past without addressing it.

Back in the day, the insult used was, “retard,” frequently accompanied by a physically mocking action. Much like 45’s mocking actions regarding a reporter who experiences a physical disability.

Another one is, “riding the short bus.”

However you frame it, it’s showing a prejudice toward people with disabilities, especially intellectual ones.

How about how mental health challenges are referred to?

What are you, crazy?

Man, that was INSANE!

She’s so bipolar.

That one’s not right in the head.

Or the fact that so many movies and TV shows portray mental health patients as dangerous killers and all the shootings being reported as someone with mental illness, before an evaluation can be done?

The stigma and prejudices against people with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities is real and insidious. Just as we need to recognize, call out, and address racism, in all its forms, sexism, genderism, and sizism, we need to call out ableism.

It isn’t about political correctness, it’s about human rights.

For more on my perspective on ableism, go here.

Untitled

In the land of the free
And the home of the brave,
Fear and greed
Create the mind slave.

In what was believed
A land of abundance,
Writhes hate unrelieved
And lost moral compass.

Not the lost you may think,
Facade’s fake appearance;
Words and deed don’t sync,
Cognitive dissonance.

Against humanity
A legal crime
Political insanity
Time after time

Right is illegal.
Wrong wears the crown.
No longer an eagle.
Now an orange clown,

Playing the people
With words of false faith.
We’re called sheeple
Considered weak wraith.

We must together,
Stop vanity’s fight
From God’s aether
Let truth take flight.

Let compassion rule.
Let empathy drive.
Make justice true.
The spirit will thrive.

Take a stand.
Walk the talk.
Be peace in our land.
Make love the bedrock.

©️ 2019 lem

Eating Myself Sick (pt. 2)

Yesterday, I started writing about my most recent downward spiral into a binge eating episode. Now, for the rest of the story.

Two days ago was “Family Fun Friday” at my daughter’s school. Her dad decided he wanted to go and would pick us up, to go as a family, at 7:30 am. Every night my daughter doesn’t go to sleep before 10 pm, no matter how hard I try. Every morning, it’s a fight to get her awake, dressed, and out the door by 8:30 in time to catch her bus. It was very stressful knowing I not only had to have her up and ready an hour earlier, but, that I would also be in his presence, with his moodiness and anger over his current circumstances and belief that I’m to blame for the situation he’s in because I left the relationship nearly two years ago.

There was no time for a healthy or filling breakfast. So, I wound up eating two half pieces of pastry and half a muffin, along with a large cup of coffee with several creamers, while we were at the school. After we left and were on our way to where I volunteer weekly, less than two miles from his place, the arguing and criticism started. Then, he expected me to use his truck to go do my volunteering at the church. That way, I would go back with him when he picked our daughter up from school. No, thank you.

I wound up at his place, but, I didn’t take his truck. So, the angry texts started coming. Emotional manipulation and empty threats of a non-violent, but psychologically traumatizing nature started coming. Intellectually, I knew that the threats were empty, that his beliefs weren’t my truths, and that I’m not responsible for making him feel better. However, it didn’t stop the PTSD sensations of severe anxiety and overwhelm from taking over. I was jittery. My emotions were in turmoil. I couldn’t stop thinking of the “what if’s” and trying to formulate plans against them.

Anxiety at that level completely shuts down my ability and desire to eat anything. This effect results in a binge later. When I left the building and took the hour long transit trip home, I was okay. As I got off the bus and started approaching my home, I could feel the tension and anxiety rising. So, I decided that I was going to go do something else with safe people for the night, and left almost as soon as I got home. Then, something happened that triggered my sense of obligation, and my fatigue was so extreme, I just went back home.

I made a healthy-ish choice for eating, which sort of satisfied the nutritional hunger. Time to relax and self-soothe. Catch up on recorded shows and try to knit a scarf for my son’s birthday, three days away.

However, as the evening went on, both a physical and mental/emotional hunger grew. Unfortunately, I happend to have a little bit of cash. I checked the balance of my SNAP benefits. I could go get something to eat at the grocery store and make a healthier choice between Popeye’s and Safeway. I got dressed and went out the door. As I got closer to the bus stop to go to the grocery store, the aching in my thighs from all the walking I’d done this week and the overwhelming fatigue washed through me. Then I saw the bus go by.

I checked to see when the next one would come. Nine minutes. Not much time at all, but too long to sit and wait in the chilly night at the bus stop. Okay. Keep moving and walk to the next bus stop. Check the time. Five more minutes. Look up. A yellow, orange, and red beacon in the night – Popeye’s. It’s just a minute’s walk, then I can sit down. When I leave, I’ll still be close enough to walk home.

$6.99 special: Two tenders and four shrimp, a side, and a drink. Sounds good. Coke, please. Yes, honey for the biscuit! Do you have butter? Oh, it’s REAL? Even better. Cajun fries for the side. Thank you for the coupons.

Sit by myself, put my headphones on, and start watching a recorded show on my phone. A text from the ex. An update on our daughter and her complaining of a headache and upset tummy. More criticism for not updating him during the week or having her call him.

Mmmm. That honey and butter on that biscuit sure is good. The rest though, meh, but I eat it anyway.

In comes a group of women. Loud laughter and conversation. Friends having a night in on a food run. On the outside, looking in. Thoughts and emotions swirling on the inside. Calm and still on the outside. I look down and see the coupons I’ll never use.

“Do you guys eat here a lot?”

“Mmmhmm,” head nods.

“Do you want my coupons? I’ll never use them. Oh, sorry, they’re sticky from the honey.”

Home again. Anxious again. Minor relationonal skirmish. Isolation. Knit and watch t.v.

Knock, knock, knock. “Come in.”

“Here. I ordered late night pizza,” two slices of pizza and a hunk of cheese filled bread in a small, long Domino’s box.

Gone.

5:00 a.m. nausea.

When self-soothing turns into self-abuse, it’s time to admit there’s a problem…again.

“Hi. My name is Lillian. I’m a food addict.”

Now, to figure out how to unravel and disconnect the eating from the PTSD and my relationships before I kill myself with food.

Eating myself sick (pt. 1)

I guess it’s time to get back to recovery basics, when it comes to my eating.

Yesterday was hard. It was the perfect storm of hormonal cycles, PTSD triggers, and physical exhaustion. Truthfully, the eating spiral started while I was working on my food plan and trying to figure out how to make it work.

The rationalizations and justifications of, “I’m starting tomorrow, so I’ll enjoy this bacon, egg, potato burrito with country gravy and a Coke for breakfast, now,” and, “After all, you’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach, right?” were the first steps on the slippery slope of my binge eating disorder.

Eating has been my consistent “go to” for self-soothing/self-medicating ever since I was a pre-adolescent. It started after I told my mom about my step-dad having molested me for the previous two years and we wound up going and living with my grandmother.

Dolly Madison Donut Gems in the morning for breakfast before school. Extra chocolate milk at school for lunch. Burger King on the way home from school with my mom. Snack or dinner while visiting grandma at the cafeteria she worked evenings at, during her lunch break. KFC when grandma got home after 9 p.m. from her job. Neither mom or grandma knew how much or how often I was eating. It was offered and I accepted. It replaced the “love and affection” I’d lost when my step-dad stopped paying attention to me  – which was the whole, warped reason I told my mom in the first place.

Getting fed was the way I felt like I was cared about and mattered…at home. At school, it was definitely self-soothing to drink that second chocolate milk. We’d moved several times during that year and I wound up in an inner city school in Houston. There was a large Latino population, a slightly smaller Black population, and a small White population. I didn’t fit into any of them. I talked White, was obviously a “half-breed” Latina, and obviously not Black. it was 1980, in Texas. Mixing races was very much frowned upon. Add into it that I was the “new kid” in sixth grade. I was either ignored or shunned, depending on which group of students I tried to interact with. So, I ate alone. That second chocolate milk and seconds on food, if it was available, filled in the interminable time between the end of one class and the beginning of the next, otherwise known as lunch and recess.

If I focused on how good the food tasted and how it filled me up, then I didn’t have to pay attention to the taunting or the isolation.

After school, mom would meet me in front and we would walk home, just talking about our days. These are vague memories, at best. However, I know that I enjoyed that time with her. Whenever, she could, she’d take me to the Burger King that was between the school and the apartment we shared with my grandma. Sitting there and eating my Whopper Jr. with fries and soda, extended my time with her. Time that was easy and uncomplicated. Time when I felt like she saw me and that I was loved.

Snack/dinner at Picadilly Cafeteria, where grandma worked, was usually an obligation kind of thing. Mom didn’t want grandma to know she’d fed me at BK. So, on those days, I’d have a snack – usally fried okra. I love the taste and texture of fried okra done right. Other days, when we hadn’t stopped at BK, I’d get a full meal. Mom and grandma, sitting with me while I ate, having quiet and easy conversation. Those were our family time meals.

Grandma LOVED Kentucky Fried Chicken, Original Recipe! My memory tells me she came home with a bucket nearly every night. My adult reasoning says it couldn’t have been nearly that often. Anyway, I was usually still awake, despite it being close to 10 p.m. If I was awake, the smell of the chicken was so good and grandma was so sure I hadn’t had enough to eat. So, I would eat…again.

So, food was how I knew I was loved. Food was how I received comfort and suffered through rejection and isolation. Eating was a deception and obligation for emotional safety. It was never about nourishment or health. It was always about emotion and relationships.

I suppose not much has changed on that front. On Thursday night, despite having eaten two very healthy and sustaining meals, one of which I stopped eating when I was satiated, that good ‘ole Southern comfort food got brought into my Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model group and I filled my plate. I overfilled it! Homemade mac ‘n cheese, homemade potato salad, greens & ham, and fried fish were irristable.

This was the fourth time I’d been in this room with these women, many of whom are African American, all of whom have experienced significant DV trauma. Some are recovering from substance addictions. None of whom did I feel a connection to. I was always uncomfortable in this room, with these women. All I could see was why I didn’t fit with them and the reasons why they wouldn’t feel like I should be there with them. I guess I was mentally back in that sixth-grade school yard in Houston.

But, that food! It was common ground. I was sitting at a table with a Latina and a White girl, surrounded by Black women. All of these women are so strong and so inspiring and I’d been so intimidated and unsure that I could be accepted by them. I ate, everything, after stating I’d gotten way too much and that I probably couldn’t finish it all.

Well, I finished it after a particular topic came up while we were eating and I got triggered into sharing a very painful memory of loss from five and a half years ago. Then, I ate a piece of homemade apple pie for desert.

Sorry this is so long. If you’re still reading, thanks for hanging in there. To be continued tomorrow.

The Magnificence of Lifting Our Voices Together

I’m not into sports. I have cheered my kids along in the sports they’ve participated in and I can be interested in the games which are of interest to my friends, family, and associates, but I will probably never be a fan or truly “get” what it means to be passionate about and have allegiance to a specific sports team, say, like the Seattle Seahawks, the new NFC champions who are heading to the Super Bowl on February 2, 2014 for only the second time in their franchise history.

Why do I know this collection of sports trivia? Because of all the voices around me, figuratively speaking, who are speaking up in passionate support and pride of this team. As a matter of fact, the “12th (wo)man” fans of the Seattle Seahawks have raised their voices and joined their enthusiasm together twice since 2011 to cause seismic events to register on the Richter scale.

There is power in lifting our voices together, especially when those voices are in agreement. Have you ever attended a concert, conference, or some other stadium event where the people in the audience were invited to sing the words to a song or anthem they had in common together?

When voices are raised in unison and harmony, it doesn’t matter if each individual voice is pitch perfect. The combined power of shared emotion, meaning, and experience unifies and transforms the disparate, individual voices into a singular, powerful, and magnificent voice that lifts and carries the hearts, minds, and imaginations of all who are participating.

The combination of unified action merged with unified voices can tear walls down according to the Old Testament tale of the Conquest of Jericho found in Joshua 6:1-5 – Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

An army marches around the fortified walls, steps falling in unison, sending powerful vibrations from their steps into the ground, day after day for seven days. On the seventh day, that same army marches seven times around while the sound vibrations from seven ram’s horns are continuously being played. Then, a prolonged blast of the horns and the combined voices of every member of the nomadic nation of Israel in a mighty shout causes the walls to crumble and fall.

So often that story is relegated to myth. However, after seeing how rowdy football fans can cause a minor earthquake, it seems less mythological and more plausible to me.

Today, in the USA, we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. A flawed and human man who had a dream to end the prejudice and stigma separating and oppressing people because of the differences in the color of their skin and their genetic origins. There is still a very long way to go in achieving that dream. Fifty-one years ago, he raised his voice to share his dream for us to not walk alone but to march ahead in unity to overcome oppression, prejudice, and injustice.

His speech was specific to the experiences of “The Negro.” However, I have little doubt that if he were alive today, he would be fighting against the stigma and prejudice that oppresses and marginalizes those who are neurodiverse and experience a spectrum of “disorders and illnesses” of the brain, as well. Especially, considering the increasing numbers of mentally ill overrepresented in the prisons, jails, and caseloads of probation officers. The National Institute for Corrections reports:

In a 2006 Special Report, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) estimated that 705,600 mentally ill adults were incarcerated in State prisons, 78,800 in Federal prisons and 479,900 in local jails. In addition, research suggests that “people with mental illnesses are overrepresented in probation and parole populations at estimated rates ranging from two to four time the general population” (Prins and Draper, 2009). Growing numbers of mentally ill offenders have strained correctional systems.

An NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet identifies Racial Disparities in Incarceration:

  • African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population
  • African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
  • Together, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population

A report on Gender, Race, and Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System by Melissa Thompson, published through the National Institute of Corrections in the Corrections & Mental Health indicates that there is an inequality and disparity in psychiatric evaluations and mental health services received by African-American men who are incarcerated or supervised in the criminal justice system.

Using federal and local statistics on the hospitalization and/ or incarceration of mentally ill persons, this article finds that psychiatric need is not the only factor criminal justice decision-makers take into account when seeking psychiatric explanations for criminal behavior. Instead, demographic, family, economic, and criminal factors are all important in predicting which defendants will be the recipients of psychiatric evaluations in the justice system. In this context, gender and race are important considerations. Violent women, for example, are more likely to be evaluated for psychiatric conditions, while African-American men are less likely to receive psychiatric evaluation.

I can’t stress the importance of using our voices to share our experiences enough. I don’t know what the true statistics are, but for generations people have been taught to suppress the “crazy,” ignore the “down,” to hide the “different,” and to be ashamed of being weak and wounded. We are increasingly criminalizing and marginalizing those who are experiencing cognitive, developmental, and psychological impairments and damage, criticizing them for not being able to pick up and put together their broken pieces. For every individual who speaks up and shares his or her story, hope, strength, courage, and truth is shared with others who do not yet have a voice. If we raise our voices of experience together, we can drown out the voices of stigma, ignorance, and hate.

Please visit The Official Blog For Mental Health Project

Blog For Mental Health 2014

For more stories of Magnificence, join the Creative Buzz Hop #34, hosted by Michelle Liew from Muses from the Deep and Tamara Wood from PenPaperPad.

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Outraged and sad. We’ve GOT to be better than this! An appeal to my co-citizen’s of the USA who claim the name of Jesus

I feel absolutely sick with outrage and grief! A dear, sweet friend of mine just shared something that was such complete, racist, political propaganda. It made me think of all the various things that have been perpetuated in the name of nationalism and religion which have combined to separate, segregate, distract, destroy, and manipulate us throughout our country’s short and volatile history; especially since the beginning of the 20th century and advancements in media technology.

The United States of America is the only nation on our planet whose political, religious, and ideological foundations were established with human equality, religious freedom, and social justice at the core. Any person whose genetic material is anything other than 100% Native American, is the product of immigration – forced or voluntary. The economic and material infrastructure from the founding of the colonies to the Declaration of Independence through the Western Expansion on forward, has come from the industry, innovation, and inspiration of people who originated from other continents and countries with varied and diverse religious beliefs and political ideologies.

The propaganda machines have always been hard at work, from before the onset of the printing press and have yet to stop.

WW I & WW II brought the vilification and demonization of Germanic, Eastern European, and Asiatic people. All of these prejudices pre-dated those “Great Wars” and have never gone away. Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War were evidence of that. We expanded our prejudices into the Middle East nations and peoples through the Iran Hostage Crisis through Iran-Contra into the Gulf Wars on up to this present day.

Now, on the basis of land of origin, the shades of skin melatonin, and linguistic differences in names we have become like a rabid animal turning on itself and we perpetuate prejudice without rational thought or reason based in actual facts.

The following list of people is being passed around and being called “foxes in the henhouse” because of their political positions and affiliations with the Obama Administration and the facts of their national and religious heritage and systems being “other” than North American, Western Judeo-Christian.

Arif Alikhan – Assistant Secretary for Policy Development
for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Mohammed Elibiary – Homeland Security Adviser
Rashad Hussain – Special Envoy to the
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
Salam al-Marayati – Obama Adviser and
founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Council
and is its current executive director
Imam Mohamed Magid – Obama’s Sharia Czar from
the Islamic Society of North America
Eboo Patel – Advisory Council on Faith-Based
Neighborhood Partnerships

I don’t know that none of these people are without hidden agendas to eradicate and subsume The American Way. However, the propaganda document containing the list fails to offer any facts or evidence of wrong doing and sinister intention beyond names, titles, and affiliations. It rings of 21st Century McCarthyism. Furthermore, it uses language which objectifies and dismisses anyone not in immediate agreement in judgmentally broad strokes by characterizing them as uncaring, unconcerned, and unconscious idiots.

It is essentially a call to action for us villagers to storm Frankenstein’s castle in fury based in fear to do away with the monster and his creator. It is an appeal designed to bypass the rational mind of reasoned thought and activate the animalistic fight or flight instinct of fear-based action.

The worse problem, in my estimation, is that the very people who promote and pass this along are the same people who profess to believe in an empathetic and compassionate God of grace, mercy, and sacrificial love. They share inspirational images, quotes, and words espousing the fruits, gifts, and virtues of the spirit in the our Christian belief system:

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FRUITS
Love
Joy
Peace
Forbearance
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
Self-control

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GIFTS
Wisdom
Understanding
Counsel (right judgment)
Fortitude (courage)
Knowledge
Piety (reverence)
Fear (wonder and awe) of The Lord

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VIRTUES
Chastity
Temperance
Charity
Diligence
Patience
Kindness
Humility

These messages are negated and diminished when interspersed with propaganda spreading fear, mistrust, prejudice, and hate.

It saddens me to see good-hearted, sincere, caring, and loving people who whole-heartedly believe in and desire to live according to these beliefs and values unwittingly allow themselves to be used to do what they consider the work of the enemy of God and goodness.

We didn’t start the fire, but we sure know how to keep it burning

When are we ever going to understand that we are all in this thing together?

Regardless of skin color, country of origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, country of residence, religion (or lack thereof), language, political party, favorite music, or any other factor we use to individuate, separate, segregate, or identify ourselves differently from others, we are ALL human, we ALL share this planet, we ALL bleed, sweat, cry, dream, hope, and aspire toward something better.

Fighting fire with fire only works in actual firefighting and has to be done in a strategic, planned, controlled and skilled way that requires the ones setting the control fire to be well trained, working as a team, and is still very dangerous.

Combatting racism, real or perceived, can never effectively happen by using racist tactics, rhetoric, propaganda, and fostering racist attitudes.

I have a very dear friend who’s heart is bigger than the state of Texas. She’s experienced poverty, conflicted family relationships, health and disability issues. I honestly don’t believe she would ever consider excluding or judging anyone based on race.

Yet, I just saw that she posted something that had come through in an email that supposedly addresses the issue of reverse racism. I considered posting that content here, then decided that I didn’t want to give any space to propaganda and rhetoric designed to incite emotional reaction, disguised as information utilizing faulty comparison and blanket categorization, leading the reader to jump on another “us vs them” bandwagon.

I understand why she posted it. In the wake of the outcome of the Zimmerman/Martin case, there has been A LOT of racist rhetoric and accusation floating around. There have been many counterproductive and destructive responses in different areas.

I have another friend who has experienced a lot of similar things. She’s younger, has young children, and lives the daily reality of what it means to have dark skin and have that singular physical characteristic inform and impact just about every aspect of her life.

So much so that I don’t think she sees or understands how much of what she says and does now seems to perpetuate the very thing she claims to be fighting, racism.

I don’t think either of these women would consider herself racist. However, based on my observation, at the very least, they propagate it.

I exist in a racially confused limbo land. Often people, regardless of race, relate to me as if I’m white. This, despite the fact someone is continually asking me to tell them if I’m part this race or from that region. PI’m half Mexican and have some of the expected physical characteristics. However, I grew up completely disconnected from the culture and without familial or community ties. I was raised by undereducated, lower-class, blue-collar/service industry workers where literacy and academic performance was emphasized and somewhat prioritized. That means I’m more of what’s perceived and identified as a middle class communicator.

I’ve experienced the effects of racist attitudes and perceptions from all sides: black, white, brown and all shades in between. Yet, the barriers I deal with, ultimately have little to nothing to do with the color of my skin or anyone else’s attitude or perception about my race. It is my own attitudes and perceptions that have held me back and kept me stuck.

We all three live in the same metro area. We all three experience health issues, we all three have young ones in our lives whom we want to offer better and different than what we had. We all three share spiritual beliefs and identify ourselves as Christians. The issues we face are not separated by race. The solutions we need to work toward don’t have anything to do with race. Perhaps, once upon a time, paler skin was an advantage. No longer.

As educational costs have risen, as manual and unskilled labor jobs have been outsourced and automated, as snake oil salesmen disguised as bankers and people with opportunities to get rich have played into and taken advantage of fears and character flaws, poverty has spread. Economic hardship has become the great leveler. Violence against women, many of whom are mothers, continues to run rampant and the extended family supports that used to exist are diminished and non-existent.

These are things being experienced regardless of skin color. Perhaps it’s still affecting more people of color than not, but from where I’m sitting, all the different places I’ve lived and worked, I can say I’ve seen people of all races doing better than me and most people I know, economically speaking. I’ve also seen people of all races more economically disadvantaged than I am.

Until we stop looking to blame others for the societal ills in our world and in our nation and until we start taking whatever action we can as individuals to find solutions and spread hope instead of hate we will just continue burning ourselves, our country, and our world by setting fires that only add to what’s already burning, instead of suppressing the wildfire that’s destroying everyone and everything in its path.

As Billy Joel sang so eloquently, We Didn’t Start the Fire.

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Fear, Acceptance, and Happiness

One of the greatest things about having a child long after you are done raising your other kids is that you get to rediscover the movies and stories that were good and wonderful when the others were younger, that you’ve forgotten about. Honestly, having a preschooler in the home is the best possible excuse to watch animated musicals and live action talking animals. Which brings me to Babe, a 1995 movie about a pig who gets saved from holiday slaughter and goes on to become a champion sheep pig.

This movie is absolutely full of wonderful messages about overcoming stereotypes and what kind of harm comes from being unwilling to acknowledge that another species has value and merit even though it doesn’t look the same as that of your species. Besides, talking barnyard animals, who can turn that down? That’s right, NOBODY!

One of the more anxiety-ridden and ridiculous animals is Ferdinand the duck. When the Farmer opted not to serve Babe up for the holiday feast, the duck was next in line. As the family is wondering and discussing the merits of Duck L’Orange for holiday dinner, Babe, the Cow, and Ma the sheepdog are looking on in the window in sorrow because they believe Ferdinand is no more and has been glazed to a beautiful brown sheen and is about to nourish the family.

Suddenly, Ferdinand pops up, surprising them all and it is revealed the unfortunate duck was a paramour of Ferdinand’s.

I wasn’t really paying a whole lot of attention. Let’s face it I was BLOGGING! I just had the show on so Luna would have something to divert her attention to between her independent play with her multitude of molded plastic horses and unicorns and her attempts to velcro herself to my lap. Suddenly I hear the following three lines and I was struck dumb and numb for a few moments.

Ferdinand: The fear’s too much for a duck. It – it eats away at the soul! There must be kinder dispositions in far-off gentler lands.

Cow: The only way you’ll find happiness is to accept that the way things are is the way things are.

Ferdinand: ‘The way things are’ stinks! I’m not gonna be a goner, I’m gone! I wish all of you the best of luck.

The absolute profundity in those three lines are completely ridiculous to discover in a kid’s movie, but I’m so happy I was receptive enough to hear them and my mind porous enough to soak them in.

Living in fear is no way to live. It eats away at the soul and you will die if you continue to live in the land of fear. So find a new land to reside in.

Happiness isn’t something that comes from the outside and futilely striving to change everything and everyone to conform to your idea of happiness only makes everyone miserable. Happiness will only come once you accept that things are the way things are and stop expecting happiness when things change.

If you don’t like the way things are going for you, then you have to be the one to make the change.

Of course, none of this is new information. There are all kinds of memes and quotes floating around in cyberspace and virulent in social media, to the point these messages have become somewhat flippant and trite. Funny thing about truth? Flippancy and triteness doesn’t make it less true, people just tend to believe it and trust it less.

The fact that these truths are managing to delve their way into my consciousness and sink into my inner being is a very, very new and interesting thing. It proves that the inner dam walls that have kept me from enjoying, experiencing, and moving forward in my life are cracking and breaking down. The hold that depression and dysfunction have had on me and my life for so, very long are no longer the Goliath-sized demons in my psyche. The David-sized angel called Hope is slaying them down.

It’s been a long time coming.

The 4th of U Lie…say what?

Ten days ago was the celebration of America’s fight for independence from British rule.  A lot of people did their darndest to make it about a whole bunch of other things, and were successful . . . a bit like the celebration of Christmas has become, politically speaking.

Luna and I were by ourselves, without plans, a place to go or people to go with. Honestly, I was pretty ok with that. I don’t like crowds and neither Luna or I do well with loud noise. The day before, I’d had an encounter with a fellow human, which seemed to be a God ordained appointment and a reason to expand my thinking and concerns to be about more than just me getting though and getting by.  So, I’d set a meeting with his daughter for about 1 pm at a local park where I could let Luna run and play.  I figured if something happened and the meeting fell through, at least Luna and I would be out of doors and away from the television.

Upon arriving, I was confronted with facts I had failed to consider: 4th of July + public park = people gathering and eating food and hanging out with family and friends.  I’d been under some misguided assumption that everyone would be celebrating at their homes or various destinations where they could settle in and prepare for fireworks to be seen.  Without really ever thinking about it, an expectation of relative solitude and isolation had been formed. So, I was caught a bit off-guard to see a large (to me at least) gathering of people in the main picnic area and salivating a bit at the smell of the meat grilling off to the side.  There were smatterings of other groups throughout the park and a significant number of children and their parents utilizing the playground.  It wasn’t crowded by any means and it was nice that Luna had other children to engage with. It was a good thing.

It turned out that I had made a good choice in planning the meeting to happen there, since the person I had arranged to meet was a no show.  I had considered that would happen, so it was no big deal.  I did what I tend to do and struck up conversation with various other parents.  I may have difficulty forming lasting and significant relationships and struggle against myself to be around folks who have known me a while, but I’ve seldom ever met a person I couldn’t strike up conversation with and establish rapport and common ground with. I enjoy meeting and learning about new people and their lives.  I just have difficulty dealing with people after they get to know me well and I them, go figure.

One couple was from the other side of the city and had come to this park because a family member would be performing at an event happening in another part of the park.  They invited Luna and me, along with  another family to come over to hear the vocal and creative talents of their loved one and their reason for us having met them in this place, at this time.  Sure, why not?

It turned out that it was a kind of rally.  An alternative event for those who have experienced social injustice throughout the generations due to things like racism, sexism, and the oppression of and by the powers that be . . . typically white men of money and means.  American Independence and Liberation cannot be celebrated by those who are still experiencing the generational effects of injustices visited on their forebears by America’s forefathers, especially when it is clear and apparent that while progress has been made in significant and constructive ways, there are trends and patterns which indicate the oppression has become more subtle and subjective and much less obvious to the naked eye.

Initially, I was smirking inside of myself; internally shaking my head and thinking to myself, “Seriously? Whatever.” The speaker was powerful: Assured, Assertive, and Absolute in his certainty and mission.  The rhetoric was questionable, but plausible and more than possible.  I began to listen and hear. The message that came through to me, loud and clear was:

  1. If even one person in our community is experiencing social injustice, then we are all experiencing it.
  2. If we allow our personal distaste for style of presentation or disagreement on one or two points to be our excuse for not seeking solutions and engaging within our communities for growth and change, we are perpetuating the problems.
  3. We can agree to disagree on some of the details and still find ways to effectively work together for the good of all.
  4. Everyone has something, regardless of how big or small, to contribute and offer: time, talent, influence, encouragement it’s just a matter of willingness to believe what we have to offer can make a difference.
  5. We need to be open to the reality that regardless of politics, agendas, beliefs, and traditions, we may have come a long way as a country, but there is still farther to go in making the ideals of Life, Liberty, and Justice for ALL a possibility for future generations.

Hearing all of this, affirmed the initial reason why I wound up at this rally and I realized that even if the reason I thought I was there didn’t happen, there was still a reason for me being in that place, at that time.  I have mixed feelings about what I heard that day, but I’m certain of one thing, even when my plans and purpose seem to go awry, there is a plan and a purpose beyond what I believe it to be.