Several years ago, I read an essay about the ways that we respond to violence.
We typically will have one reaction if we are assaulted by someone we don’t know or have never seen. We respond differently when it is someone we know intimately.
Our most significant relationships either foster courage or wither away by our silent agreement to not cause problems.
In our interaction with others, we are invited to become more or become complicit with our silence in ways that harm ourselves, damage our self esteem and annihilate our relationships.
No where is this more prevalent than in our discussions or avoidance around Race and Racism.
I am disturbed about the way Racism here in California goes unaddressed.
Living in California for ten years now, I have had the opportunity to meet several people and a number of black folks who behave in some truly bizarre ways.
bell hooks speaks of the “worship of whiteness” as a strategy for cultural upheaval and assimilation.
Until moving to California, I ‘d never seen this phenomenon in my day to day existence.
Moving from the East Coast (NYC), I had become accustomed to and taken for granted that people of color (mainly black folks) were able and expected to take on positions of leadership.
My understanding of creating a platform was simple. It was based on one’s thinking and granted to anyone brave and ballsy enough to claim it.
When your experience has been that black folks and gays have been the ones in power and dictating the course of action for large groups, it is strange to see people ask for permission for what they rightfully deserve.
It never occurred to me that there where things that could not be addressed or stated.
When I think of my initial introduction to straight shooting talk that NYC is famous for, I recall a conversation between myself and a friend that I still have today (23 years later).
My first friend that I made in NYC was an Italian who explained to me that looking for an apartment in a Greek section of Queens would be pointless because they don’t like/rent to black people.
Not that I am ok with racism. I just like to know where I stand and with whom I am dealing with so that I can plan accordingly.
I have a friend who is Mexican American who plans to co-dominate the world with me at some point. We are working on a film that is full of racial/sexual and economic stereotypes. During one meeting, we discussed the stereotypes that people feel free to share when they are among their “own”.
This usually takes place in the home or social gatherings.
It is not uncommon for people to share racially charged thinking and humor when a person of the targeted group is not within earshot.
It is equally troubling when “jokes” and amusing “anecdotes” are served up with the punchline being someone’s racial makeup or social condition and the target (of what is supposed to be funny) is in the room and a part of the conversation.
How do these things infect our homes and make them into places of bigotry and unpleasantness.
These things occur because we allow them.
It is difficult to say to anyone this is not allowed and this type of behavior is unacceptable in my presence and in particular in my home.
Home is a place to retreat then emerge from ready for battle with whatever shit will be thrown in your path as you move towards being healthy and whole.
You can’t do this if your home is infected.
You can’t do this if your home is fed a steady diet of Racist barbs passing as jokes.
When the crap begins making an attempt at entering your home, you must remove the welcome mat that is silent complicity and replace it with a dollop of courage.
Dr. Maya Angelou reminds us that courage is acquired gradually.
She tells us that we build large bastions of courage by first cultivating and inviting small amounts of it into our lives.
A small step there. A slight reprimand here.
No one is born a coward or a racist.
People are taught that this is the way you behave and interact. Things that are taught can be taught in new ways and restructured in ways that support not deny the humanity of any group.
Brene Brown has instituted a “no name calling” policy in her home. I now have one in my home.
All of my charges know that they will never hear myself or my husband call each other anything that is so vile it can never be taken back.