You never know where you’ll meet a member of your tribe

The Friday Photo
July 29, 2016
IMG_1173

Wednesday afternoon I stopped to get gas after picking up some groceries in Milledgeville, the “big” city to the west of my home town of Sandersville. A small SUV pulled up at a pump diagonally to mine. The driver, a woman maybe in her mid 60s, jumped out of her car and started walking toward me, smiling as she approached me standing at the rear corner of my car.

With great enthusiasm in her voice she asked me where I got my bumper sticker. She looked so happy, like she had finally come across another kindred soul, that she gave me a high five and immediately started telling me how worried she is about Donald Trump becoming President.

I replied that the racism and hate people feel comfortable sharing is horrifying, adding that the judgmental attitudes about people who don’t look or behave like them is stunning.

She said she’s taken issue with people she knows who judge gay people as sinners, saying that her response has been, “Do you believe God made everyone, and does God make mistakes?”

From there she said friends and family had turned away from her after she came out as gay, and that others in her family have been treated similarly.

Think about that- a family shunned one of their own, not because she was a murderer or thief, but because she wanted to date women instead of men.

This woman then looked at my car tag and realized I live in a neighboring county, and she said, “You live in Washington County and you have this one your car? You are a brave woman.”

It’s not so hard to be a privileged, white, straight woman driving around rural Georgia with a Democratic pride sticker on your car. When it helps you find members of your tribe while doing the ordinary things in life, it is even easier.

Thank you Bonnie, for extending your hand, telling me your name and story, and saying We Are Stronger Together.

Baton Rouge is a microcosm of our country

The Friday Photo
July 15, 2016

I don’t have a photo this week, instead I am sharing a video circulating on the web that I made myself watch last night.

When police wearing militarized gear charge peaceful protestors on private property, I see a community consumed with racist fueled hate. Baton Rouge is a microcosm of our country.

White people like me, privileged simply by the color of our skin, cannot look away, or excuse away, what is happening. If you say nothing when someone defends militarized police actions like this, you are part of the problem too.

Changing the legacy of white violence

The Friday Photo
July 8, 2016

photo from Form Follows Function
photo from Form Follows Function

Deafening Silence: White Silence and Alton Sterling
Ryan Williams Virden, Form Follows Function

I want to start by being very specific about who I am talking to; this post is meant for people who look like me, those of us with white skin.

Many of you woke up this morning and heard the news about Alton Sterling, the 37 year old man who was shot and killed by the police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The sickening feeling in your stomach probably hit you hard as you watched the cell phone footage of a police officer charging and tackling Sterling to the ground. You knew what was coming next. And, within seconds you saw it: the police officer mounts Sterling like a UFC fighter. There is no confrontation. No struggle. Sterling is subdued and then another officer yells “Gun. Gun.” The officer on top of Sterling pulls his gun and within seconds fires multiple rounds killing Alton Sterling.

This morning my Facebook feed is full of yet another hashtag, #AltonSterling. So many of the Black and Brown people I’m connected to have no need to see the video. They say as much. They already know what happened, and, sadly, how this will play out. There is outrage; there is disgust; there will be calls for patience and to let the system work; what there won’t be is justice. And this is where I find myself this morning. Pondering my role in justice. What I’ve come to is overwhelming in its simplicity and crushing in it’s complexity. We are responsible for justice.

I don’t mean we in the vague and generalized sense that it is often used. I mean we, me and you, people with white skin. The reason this genocide against people of color continues is because far too many of us remain complicit in our silence. I thought about not writing this this morning. I thought about just retreating in my feelings of disgust, outrage, and grief. But that is not my job. Every time I, or anyone of you, retreats into silence we breath life into the killing machine. downloadEvery time we urge restraint or make apologies, or rationalize this brutality we are degrading our own spirit. And make no mistake this is a spiritual endeavor. Our souls are being crushed under the weight of whiteness. How much longer can we take it? How much longer can we acknowledge how broken our world is and ignore the weapon used to break it?

I also don’t mean justice as in jail time for the police. Though that would be something, I think. I mean justice as in creating a world that truly values the lives of Black, Brown, Asian, and Native people. I mean a justice that leaves no need for an Ethnic studies curriculum because truth-telling is already the curriculum. I mean a world where #BlackLivesMatter and Native Lives and Latinx Lives and Asian Lives. I mean a world where Donald Trump would be embarrassed to show his face, and my students wouldn’t chuckle at the idea of not having to struggle. I mean that kind of justice. We are responsible for ushering that world into existence.

The first step to creating this justice is to understand how it was sidelined in the first place. We must understand the way that whiteness — fitting into the Anglo-Saxon archetype –has been valued historically via formal avenues such as legislation and school curriculum as well as informal ones such as social customs,traditions and practices. Because much of this is passed down through generations, or happens away from public scrutiny, or is largely implicit it is necessary to learn and then unlearn this sordid history and way of being. Once we can come to grips with the ways whiteness keeps us from our own humanity and strangles our souls there is no other choice then to struggle for this justice. We won’t struggle because we are trying to help anyone else, or feel bad for them; we will struggle because our own freedom, our own humanity, is tied up with everyone else’s. As we continue to bear witness to whiteness destroying communities of color while cannibalistically devouring those of us with white skin this unlearning is the only choice we have if we ever hope for peace.

This last week a petition went around calling for the firing of Jesse Williams because his speech at the BET Awards was “racist.” When Shonda Rhimes heard about it she shut it down quickly, this is positional power, and it’s a real thing. Well, white folks have positional power in society. Once we have unlearned whiteness (and even before that) we need to be using this power not to simply name our privilege and then cower behind guilt, that is about as weak as weak gets; we need to use it to stand up and demand fundamental, radical, structural changes. To fail to do this is to betray humanity, it is to betray ourselves. There must be no compromise here. There is no compromise with the humanity of our brethren. This is especially true on days like today, days when whiteness has taken another life. Left another family fatherless. Left another community in mourning trying to survive loss. These are the days when our voices need to be the loudest, they must be clarion voices calling for the dismantling of whiteness.

The silence is deafening and it must be broken. Lives, ours included, depend on it.

And the winners are…..

Current leadership in the Georgia General Assembly never fails to disappoint. This year’s session has been a catalog of hate-baiting legislation against LGBTQ citizens and people of faith (and no faith). Rape victims have been dismissed, and Georgia’s Guns Everywhere mentality threatens campuses across our state.

Creative Loafing Atlanta didn’t wait until the end of the session to announce this year’s Golden Sleaze Awards. If you want to hear keen political analysis of this year’s General Assembly session in Georgia, tune in to GPB’s Political Rewind at 3:00 this afternoon.

 

Posturing on the Right

Almost 50 percent of America’s governors are busy saying their states will ban Syrian refugees.

Except they can’t.

The Constitution reserves this part of foreign affairs to the President, and it was recently reenforced by a 2012 Supreme Court rulings, Hines v Davidowitz.

This type of posturing from the Right doesn’t solve problems,

Legalizing hate in Georgia

It only took three days before the Georgia General Assembly saw a bill filed that, if passed and signed by Governor Deal, will mark us a state that allows discrimination based on religious faith. Filed by Republican Representative Kevin Tanner of Dawsonville, HB756 allows business owners the right to deny services or the selling of goods to a “religious organization” or for a “religious or matrimonial ceremony” if the business owner says the organization or ceremony conflicts with his/her right to exercise their religious freedom.

That means HB756 legalizes discrimination by florists, bakers, bridal shops, caterers, wedding sites, and other businesses connected to the wedding industry, simply because the business owner personally opposes the marriage. That’s legislative code for opposing same-sex marriage.That also means the business owner can do the same if they don’t like the tenants of a religious organization.

In other words, if you don’t worship where I worship, I don’t have to treat you like I would the members of my church when you come into my place of business.

I used the word “church” because HB756 specifies churches for protection under this law. Temples, mosques, and other places of worship are not described at all, just churches. 

HB756 reads, “the term ‘religious organization’ means a church, a religious school, an association or convention of churches, a convention mission agency, or an integrated auxiliary of a church or convention or association of churches…”
Christians go to church, Jews attend synagogues or temples, and Hindus and Muslims worship in temples. Tanner and Hb756 co-sponsors Tom Rice, R-Norcross, Randy Nix, R-LaGrange, and Paul Battles, R-Cartersville, know this, and their choice of words is telling. They want to make sure churchgoers are afforded the right to discriminate.

Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, is only supporting Tanner’s other bill, HB757, called the “Pastor Protection Bill,” a bill that allows a minister to decline a request to perform a marriage ceremony if it conflicts with his/her beliefs.

Of course there shouldn’t be legislation allowing a person who is licensed by the state to perform legal ceremonies, to deny services to anyone, but this move to “protect” pastors pales in comparison to Tanner’s HB756.

The wedding industry is huge, and state coffers benefit greatly from them. Hotel rooms are booked, gas tanks filled, gifts sent, clothing bought, and bouquets tossed to guests. Legalizing hate in HB756 doesn’t make legal sense or good economic sense.

Through a child’s eye

The Friday Photo
December 18, 2015

12369182_10208375557452912_3859738501300737842_n
photo by Ella Cummings, 8 years old

Last weekend my granddaughter used an old iPhone to take
pictures during our overnight trip to Atlanta. She took this
picture in the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

And the world took note

The Friday Photo
November 6, 2015

photo credit 350.org
photo credit 350.org

Keystone XL has been cancelled, at last. I was lucky enough to be at Forward on Climate, which, until a year ago, was the largest climate action in the United States. My story of that incredible event almost three years ago is here.

Update on today’s “Anonymous” list

The content below  the photo was posted on Rural and Progressive just before noon today (EST). Several news outlets had the same link and list attributed to the activitist/hacktivist group Anonymous, which claims to identify elected officials who are members of the KKK.(I have removed the links and video so they no longer work).

Senator Johnny Isakson and his wife were included in a list purported to out elected officials who are members of the KKK. I called Senator Isaskson’s office to get an official statement from them, which was a s firm “No,” neither of the Iskasons are affiliated with the KKK.

Late this afternoon Anonymous announced that in fact the list is not theirs. It is widely anticipated that the list they have drawn up will be posted this Thursday, November 5th.

Major news outlets such as Huffington Post have not updated their site about the denials from @OperationKKK,  the project name for the list of names expected to be revealed on Thursday. During the 6:30-7:00 state news update from Georgia Public Broadcasting, GPB also reported the same answer from Isakson that I got from my call earlier today.

I don’t know who will be on the Anonymous list on Thursday if it comes out that day. What I do know is that if I am especially interested in someone who is on that list, I will certainly give that person an opportunity to address their inclusion on it,  just as I did today.

I stand behind my last two sentences from earlier today: “The issue of racism, and who is hiding under white hoods, is very real in our country. This issue isn’t going away.”

nonanymous KKK
Anonymous has begun releasing names of elected officials who are members of the KKK, according to their research. Anonymous, an international group of activisits/hacktivists, includes Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, and his wife, Dianne Davison, on today’s list (internet reports have put the total number to be released at upwards of 1,000 names).

A video released this morning states that the Isaksons are affiliated with the Original Knight Riders Chapter of the KKK.

Betsy Dietz, an Isakson staffer in his Washington, DC office, denied the Iskason’s memberships when I called. I’d like to believe her, but exposure by Anonymous isn’t something to take lightly.

The issue of racism, and who is hiding under white hoods, is very real in our country. This issue isn’t going away.

 

Update on the Anonymous list

The content below  the photo was posted on Rural and Progressive just before noon today (EST). Several news outlets had the same link and list attributed to the activitist/hacktivist group Anonymous, which claims to identify elected officials who are members of the KKK.(I have removed the links and video so they no longer work).

Senator Johnny Isakson and his wife were included in a list purported to out elected officials who are members of the KKK. I called Senator Isaskson’s office to get an official statement from them, which was a s firm “No,” neither of the Iskasons are affiliated with the KKK.

Late this afternoon Anonymous announced that in fact the list is not theirs. It is widely anticipated that the list they have drawn up will be posted this Thursday, November 5th.

Major news outlets such as Huffington Post have not updated their site about the denials from @OperationKKK,  the project name for the list of names expected to be revealed on Thursday. During the 6:30-7:00 state news update from Georgia Public Broadcasting, GPB also reported the same answer from Isakson that I got from my call earlier today.

I don’t know who will be on the Anonymous list on Thursday if it comes out that day. What I do know is that if I am especially interested in someone who is on that list, I will certainly give that person an opportunity to address their inclusion on it,  just as I did today.

I stand behind my last two sentences from earlier today: “The issue of racism, and who is hiding under white hoods, is very real in our country. This issue isn’t going away.”

nonanymous KKK
Anonymous has begun releasing names of elected officials who are members of the KKK, according to their research. Anonymous, an international group of activisits/hacktivists, includes Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, and his wife, Dianne Davison, on today’s list (internet reports have put the total number to be released at upwards of 1,000 names).

A video released this morning states that the Isaksons are affiliated with the Original Knight Riders Chapter of the KKK.

Betsy Dietz, an Isakson staffer in his Washington, DC office, denied the Iskason’s memberships when I called. I’d like to believe her, but exposure by Anonymous isn’t something to take lightly.

The issue of racism, and who is hiding under white hoods, is very real in our country. This issue isn’t going away.