Food for thought

I am not sure who the original author of this piece is; it came from an e-newsletter from The Micah Center in Grand Rapids, MI. But given the things that are going on around our country (and indeed, around the world), I thought it was important to share this.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
The fight by the rich and powerful against the middle class and working poor continues.  Their strategy is to blame complex economic problems on one of three scapegoats: teachers, immigrants, or government employees.  And unfortunately, it offers politicians an easy way out.  At a time when our country is in grave distress, they can pick out a select group and blame all of our problems on them. From a distance, the tactics being pursued in different states look diverse and varied.  But their three-pronged attack suggests a national strategy.

First, under the guise of targeting “lazy” and “overpaid” teachers, the rich and powerful with the help of the politicians, are working to dismantle public education.

Second, as they talk about balancing state budgets, these same folks are trying to undermine the public sector’s role in providing critically important public services.  A bill in Michigan would privatize support services to public schools.  Again, the goal is to strengthen corporations and disempower organized workers in the political realm.

Third, this same wealth/power group attempts to block the voice of immigrants in our country’s politics.  Various attempts are being made to create barriers to voting and to discourage people not yet registered from exercising their legal rights.

Now it’s up to us.  Those of us who are concerned, disgusted, and outraged that our democracy is being taken over by multi-national, big, big corporate money  need to step up.

We should not allow the wealthy, powerful, and yes, greedy to ride roughshod over the needy of our land.  In Psalm 72 we see God’s picture of a good governmental leader:  “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.”  May those types of leaders soon be raised up to save our democracy!!

Sunday blogging against racism–love your hair, but not because I said you should.

So yeah . . . of course I absolutely love this video . . . but I keep hearing people say, “Oh, this adoptive father wrote this for his daughter, who is from Ethiopia, isn’t that so nice?” Well, yeah, it’s sweet and all, blah blah blah, but how long is it going to take before black folks can like their hair just because THEY decided to like their hair, and not because we benevolent white folks have given them “permission”?

I’m glad that this white father of an African-American daughter is conscious of these issues, and cares about his daughter’s self-image. Still, I long for the day when we as white people will stop feeling like we get to be the ones to give black women ‘permission” to call the hair God gave them “beautiful” . . .

Sunday blogging against . . . myself?

It has to have been seven or eight months since this happened, but it has haunted me ever since. So much so, in fact, that I have resisted writing about it here out of my embarrassment and shame. But, delinquent blogger that I am, I have to write something, and so here goes . . .

I was in the food court at the mall, and because I was still recovering from my ankle surgery last year, I was maneuvering with the help of Speed Racer. Sara had Elijah and was getting herself settled with him, and I was trying to get Chinese food and make my way back to the table. Yes, on one leg and while trying to maneuver a tray of food.

An African-American woman at the next counter over saw me struggling and had compassion on me. She told her son (who was about 9 or 10) to come over and offer to help me, which he did.

I was not paying attention to my surroundings, as usual, and so did not notice this sweet young man coming up to me until he was right next to me. When I realized he was trying to speak to me, I jumped . . . as I was trying to get his words to translate from my ears to my brain (something I tend to have trouble with under any circumstances), I looked at him with a panicked, forced smile and shook my head while sputtering something like, “no, thank you, I’ve got it, but I appreciate the offer”. I think I then said something about how I was shaking my head “yes” while saying “no” with my mouth–something like, “I know that I’m shaking my head the opposite of what I am saying”–but I don’t know. maybe I’m not remembering that part correctly.

I know I am remembering the forced, automatic and fake smile, though. My facial muscles still ache with self-condemnation every time I think about it.

I have so many excuses for why I jumped out of my skin when he approached me. Primary among those is the fact that having both ADHD and PTSD means that I both zone out easily and startle easily. One of my coworkers, after having seem me react that way one time too many, has taken to using very deliberate footsteps when she approaches me. I hate when I am jumpy like that, because it is never in any way the fault of the person who has (unintentionally) startled me, but people quite often take it personally.

But I have no excuse. This sweet, polite young man had absolutely no  reason to interpret the look of terror in my eyes, combined with the fake, plastered smile and meaningless words, as anything other than what I fear it really was.For this young man, and for his mother, my personal history was not even a factor. I am certain that they could only assume I was reacting in that over-exaggerated way because of a fear or a distrust of black men. How could it be interpreted any other way?

I still wish to this day that I had gone back to them and said something. I sometimes fantasize that I’ll somehow run into them again and will be able to make my apology, even though I barely remember what they looked like anymore. And I don’t want to give a complicated justification for my actions–“It’s unconscious–it’s a learned response”, blah blah blah, shut up, Lorraine . . . I just want to tell him how very, very sorry I am.

All I know is that in that moment, I wounded the heart of that little boy, and somehow sent the message that, no matter how many kind things he might do in his life, that there are always going to be white women reacting in unfounded fear at the very sight of him. And as I sat down for dinner with my own precious brown-skinned godson Elijah sitting next to me, my heart broke at the thought that he too will grow up in a world where people will instinctively and automatically jump in fear when they see him coming . . . even if he is the sweetest little boy in the world, and even if he comes with the most altruistic of motives . . . because at the end of the day, the inheritance we’ve all carried down through the years is one of mistrust, of irrational fear, and of unconscious, yet immediate judgments based on appearance.

I do not want Elijah to have to face the reality that I subjected this boy to . . . this young man who only wanted to be helpful, but who got only disdain and disrespect in return.

I can’t go back to that day and change my actions . . . all I can do is to continue to fight this monster of racism that rears its ugly head so often. I owe it to that young man to do so. I owe it to Elijah. And I owe it to myself, because this below-the-surface racism is a poison that needs to be eliminated from my body, mind and soul.

I’m so sorry, young man, wherever you may be. I’m sorry that you have to face a world filled with people like me. But I have to thank you as well, because your kind gesture taught me so much more than you will ever know.

Sunday blogging against racism–Haiti, again.

This hits very close to home for me. As a white adoptee, I have found my voice in the voices of transracial/transcultural adoptees, even as I have had to acknowledge how much more difficult their journeys have been than my own.

This blog post captures so much of how I feel about international adoption, even though I have considered it myself. If I do ever pursue adoption, I pray that I will have the courage to ask myself the questions that this writer poses, and to look honestly at the answers. I KNOW that I would surround myself with people who could hold me accountable to respecting my child’s original culture.

You should read the whole post, but if you don’t, here’s an excerpt:

Let me try another analogy. Let’s say you live with your child in a house that burns down. You’re dazed, confused, and burned. Your neighbor says, “I think I should take care of your child”. You say, “Thanks for your offer. But my child really needs me now, and I think they wouldn’t sleep well in a strange house. If you could just give us a tent and some food and some bandages so we can camp out while I get better and look into rebuilding, we’ll be OK.” Your neighbor says, “that’s too logistically complicated and I’m concerned about the security situation. I just want your child.” You say, “Thanks again for your concern and I’m grateful for any help you can give me. If you’re so worried about my child, maybe you could let both of us stay in your guestroom for a while? That way my child could be safe and would sleep well too.” Your neighbor says, “No, we have an interdiction-at-sea policy and visa restrictions will not be relaxed. Just give me your child. Actually, nevermind. I don’t even need your permission anymore. I’ll just take them.”

Think about  it . . .

Sunday blogging against racism–wrestling with the Haiti question.

Like the rest of you, my heart has been heavy in the past few days with the news of the disaster in Haiti. The immediate gut reaction of most has been, “We just have to help them”. And yes, we do . . . but I have not been able to shake a vague sense that there is something that “we” (particularly the United States) have been doing that left Haiti so vulnerable to such a disaster.

I already knew some of the history of how Haiti came to be. I also knew that the country has struggled mightily ever since. And while my local “Christian” radio station opined that the  DR has prospered where Haiti has failed because the former is a “Christian” country, I was more inclined to believe that the difference in skin color had much to do with it. I also couldn’t shake a nagging sense that there has been a “get back in your place, boy!” kind of attitude on the part of the white, Western world towards a black people that would dare assert that justice and freedom ought to be their birthright.

So I had to do some reading . . . and I found this article.

The part that took my breath away was this paragraph:

Haiti’s vulnerability to natural disasters, its food shortages, poverty, deforestation and lack of infrastructure, are not accidental. To say that it is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere is to miss the point; Haiti was made poor–by France, the United States, Great Britain, other Western powers and by the IMF and the World Bank.

I want to read more . . . I want to educate myself further. Yes, please give to relief efforts, choosing wisely as you do . . . but stop and ask yourself just how we got here . . . not the earthquake itself (which was NOT God’s judgment on anyone!), but the tenuous infrastructure of a nation ill-equipped to face such a disaster.

We cry at pictures now . . . we whip out our cell phones and send ten dollars their way . . . but are we looking at ourselves? At our nation, and its role in paralyzing Haiti up until this point?

Not easy questions . . . but I will continue to wrestle with them, and I hope you will join me.