Several years ago, I read an essay about the ways that we respond to violence.
It was pointed out that we typically will have one reaction if we are assaulted in the world by someone we don’t know or have never seen.
We respond differently when it is someone we know intimately.
Many times during the day we have options to be courageous or silently agree to not cause problems.
No where is this more common and more prevalent than in our daily discussions and energy around race and racism.
I am highly disturbed about the way racism here in California goes unaddressed.
Living in California for six 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 has spoken of the “worship of whiteness” as a strategy for cultural assimilation.
Until moving to California, I can’t say that I ‘d ever 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 based on one’s thinking and then inviting others to join was granted (bestowed upon) to anyone brave and ballsy enough to claim it.
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 (19 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 rent to black people.
I accepted and felt no need to change this particular form of violence.
When your experience has been where 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 to do things.
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”.
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 poisons enter our personal space ? These things occur because we allow them.
These things occur because many of us lack the courage and conviction to speak up and out and demand that it stop.
It is difficult to say to anyone : This type of behavior is unacceptable in my presence and in particular in my home.
Home is a place to retreat to and then emerge from ready to battle anything that tries to prevent us from being healthy and whole.
You can’t do this if your home is fed a steady diet of racist barbs passing as jokes.
When the crap looks as if it is even 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 in small amounts of it into our lives.
A small step there. A slight reprimand here.
People are taught that this (violence in all its intricate manifestations) is the way you behave and interact.
Things that are taught can be taught in new ways.
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.