Friday, March 13, 2009
It might be true that I've been trying to be part of a fellowship that revolves around contempt for everything the House of Justice is promoting. I'll be considering that possibility and what to do about it. It might mean backing away from that fellowship somehow.
I do not imagine that it means backing away from my friendships with some of the people in that fellowship.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Off line, I'm working mostly on three lines of action:
1. Learning Chinese, to improve my capacity to develop friendships.
2. Memorizing verses about hearts possessed by God, and doing things in the right spirit.
2. Improving my practice of continual attention to doing things in the right spirit, and responding favorably to other people doing that.
Friday, March 6, 2009
For White Folks: How To Become An Ally
In a comment:
Today POC face the institution of slavery.Exactly. Slavery is alive and well today in America, complete with dogs, guns and ropes. I've seen it close up with my own eyes. One thing that's missing in the above outline is the work that inmates do for a few cents a day. and where they do it. They are obviously not in prison because of being considered dangerous criminals.
Ame13: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction
Now, considering the amount of drug convictions.
Considering the amount of people in prison.
Considering that most dealers and users are white…. but the people who get arrested for drugs are not.
I see some discussion here about the hazards of working with white allies. This is very unfamiliar territory to me. I have a vague idea of what that means, but if it's what I'm imagining, then I have very little experience with it. As far as I know I've never been involved in the kinds of activism that use white allies. That isn't at all what I've ever tried to be or wanted to be, and even if I did, I wouldn't know where to start.
I have seen firsthand some of the things I see people complaining about here, in myself and in others.
I keep thinking of Angela Davis's book Women, Race and Class.
As I see it, no amount of discussion, by itself, can bring someone who doesn't live under a non-white race label, to see what people are up against who do, and how people living under a white label benefit from that and help perpetuate it. I don't see that awakening happening without certain kinds of experiences.
I can see how tempting it might be to just exclude "white people" altogether from collective efforts to end oppression and/or counteract its effects. I can see that it might even be a good idea, some of the time, in some circumstances. It might not be possible for anyone living under a white label to avoid ruining everything if we're allowed to go wherever we want to, whenever we want to. I imagine it would needlessly impede progress to exclude all of us altogether, all the time, from what other people are doing.
Now I'm thinking of Davis's book again, and Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a woman?" speech.
For example, thinking and talking about oppression and what to do about it, using the exact same race classification system that is being used to excuse and camouflage it, with all the fire and smoke and red herrings that come with it, drawing the exact same lines, might do more to help perpetuate it than to help stop it.
I see the classification system itself, with its effects on people's ideas and feelings towards each other, and on their reactions to other people's adversities, as part of what helps perpetuate the oppression. I see much better ways to think and talk about oppression and what to do about it, without using that classification system.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
The link to this post from RVCBard's blog puts this post in a context which might misrepresent and stigmatize me, so I want to fill in some things that are missing from that context.
Some time ago I started studying Bard's blog because my son said he thought we might have some interests in common. It seemed so to me, after I read some of her posts. It had nothing to do with trying to be a white ally.
In all of my personal relationships, I'm trying to learn to be a better friend and companion, and to offer the kind of encouragement and support that really helps. That includes my relationship with Bard.
Over a period of several months I've worked my way through her blog from the beginning, trying to learn what it's all about, trying to do the exercises she proposes, trying to learn what I can from her and to find ways to serve her interests. I've been imagining that some of my responses were helpful because she has explicitly told me so. All along, I've commented in her blog, responded to her comments in mine, and devoted some posts here to subjects she has brought up. I've tried to respond completely and transparently to all of her questions. I've studied everything she has said about what kind of help she's looking for, and tried to learn to offer that kind of help.
I was thrilled by the implications of her post about her play as a black play, and I said so. I wrote a post linking to it because I would like other people to see it. She posted a question in a comment to that post, and in response I poured out my heart, just saying everything that came to mind, without trying to organize it, and without considering what false implications anyone might draw from it. It was a very personal answer to a very personal question from someone who seemed to me to have friendly intentions. I'm reproducing that post and the comments here, because they're an important part of the context of this post.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009Here is the original content of this post:
A New Reality
"This piece I'm working on now is thoroughly Black yet creates a world rooted in myth, religion, and art - expressions drawn from the depths of human existence - and White people are not at the center or at the root of it."
RVCBard, My Play as a Black Play
Posted by Jim Habegger at 6:18 AM
What was it about that post that connected with you so much?
March 1, 2009 9:15 AM
Jim Habegger said...
Pretty much everything. What you're saying about your play, and your thoughts and feelings about it. The way you seem to feel about it is as thrilling to me as what you're saying about it.
". . . a play that is by and about Black people without it being about Being Black [in America]."
". . . thoroughly Black yet creates a world rooted in myth, religion, and art - expressions drawn from the depths of human existence - and White people are not at the center or at the root of it."
"My Play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not define Blackness as the fucked up shit White people do to us, but as our stories, our songs, our beliefs, and our rituals as they are passed across generations through words, through blood, and through spirit.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman about Black people, does not express its Blackness as tragic, ridiculous, enraged, pathetic, or simplistic but as creative, enchanting, fluid, complex, and heroic.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not reflect Blackness as shown in mass media, but as it is lived on an individual and collective level.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not recreate history or document life as it is today, but creates the world anew through a lens colored by the deeper currents of the human experience.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not downplay its Blackness to make it more palatable, more 'universal,' but assumes universality from the start.
"My play, a play written by a Black woman and about Black people, does not set out to make a statement about The Black Experience, but to invite you - all of you - into a new reality."
"Do you have any idea how fucking rare that is?"
"Do you have any idea what this means?"
March 2, 2009 12:28 PM
I find your response very interesting in light of the fact that, in the status quo, White people are deeply uncomfortable with the world not revolving around them. So how does that influence or change your connection to this piece?
March 3, 2009 6:10 AM
In a comment to the post before this one, RVCBard wrote:
"I find your response very interesting in light of the fact that, in the status quo, White people are deeply uncomfortable with the world not revolving around them. So how does that influence or change your connection to this piece?"
I decided to respond to that in a new post.
The first thought that comes to my mind is two lines from a poem that I wrote for the Just Poetry Slam in Richmond:
"You could call me White, but it's not cut and dried. It doesn't quite match all my feelings inside."
"That isn't it. I'm not ashamed of my face, but who I am can't be reduced to one race."
Another thought that comes to mind is about the time when I asked around, trying to find out what makes a person black, and I thought about doing some research to try to find one of my black ancestors, looking for some substantiation I could use to call myself black. I even went to the NAACP, to see if anyone there could tell me what makes a person black.
On another topic, but not totally unrelated, I did some research once to find out if I could reasonably call myself bisexual, so I could come out as bisexual in my Baha'i community.
Another thought is about the bio that I wrote for Bridges Across the Divide. Bridges Across the Divide is about divisions over gays and homosexuality (two entirely different subjects in my mind), but there was a lot in my bio about racial issues. Besides, I see a lot of overlap between gay issues and racial issues. And gender issues.
Here's an extract from the bio:
"We're going to live in a black neighborhood."
That was my then 21-year old daughter, in the plane, in August 1997. The white suburbanite family I belong to was on the way to live in the U.S. after 14 years in Martinique as pioneers for the Baha'i Faith. My then 19-year-old son, my wife, and I pondered a few seconds, and said "Yes, of course."
One of our central concerns, in trying to make ourselves useful in God's plan, is helping to bring together people who have been divided from each other by racism. None of us knew what good it might do for us to move into a black neighborhood, but we all felt called to do it.
My feeling at the time was, "Somebody gotta do something besides talk." After we were there for a while, I found some ways to explain what we were doing there. One is that one of my responses when I see people being abused, is to try to put myself in the line of fire, try to make myself a target for the abuse.
Some years ago I noticed that putting White People at the center of the universe is popular not only among white people, but also among their detractors. As I see it, making White People the source of all evil, and treating racism as exclusively a White problem, helps perpetuate the evils. I started thinking about how to get White People away from the center of everything. One of my ideas was, in order for White People to move away from the center, they need to have someplace else to go. I started practicing and promoting interest in our European cultural heritages. As I see it, that would also help respond to the problem of White People not getting it when they see other people affirming their cultural heritages. It's like "Why do you want to accentuate our differences like that?"
That brings up another insight that I learned, of all places, from a White supremacist. I see some well-intentioned White people imagining that all the people of the world are really White People inside. That seems to me to explain some things about well-intentioned White People, that often baffle other people.
Another thought that comes to mind is that it wasn't enough to try to integrate people from other cultures into White society. We also need to integrate White people into other cultures. It looks to me like that idea makes people in other cultures just as uncomfortable as it makes White People, with good reason: a fear of White People taking over.
Another thought is that racism is not only between White People and other people, and discounting the racism between other people is another way of perpetuating the problems.