The Willingness to Resist

I am hoping to write more in the coming weeks. I encourage you to do the same. It can be quite cathartic. We could all use a little catharsis these days.

A few weeks ago I was walking through the grocery store. Shopping has always been a weird experience for me. There are few situations in life more revealing of a person’s character than the store. There is nowhere to hide at the store. We can see what you are buying, we can see you lose patience with your children, we can see you fight with your significant other. I usually wear headphones when I am shopping, both because I love music and because I don’t want to hear what is going on around me. This avoidance of reality often causes me to daydream. I daydream a lot, a product of never being able to turn my brain off I suppose. More on shopping in a second.

My chosen profession has created a lot of anger inside of me. Anger at what I have seen, anger at the impotence I feel when I am unable to help effectively or solve the problems I see everyday. Anger that comes from seeing so much innocent suffering. Watching events unfold over the last year has caused a great deal of anger in me as well. Much of this anger comes from the same place as my professional anger; I am unable to help, to ease the pain of those being persecuted. I so often feel as if I am screaming into an abyss, a void that I cannot penetrate. Some might say (notably my saint of a wife who puts up with this) that I feel too much, I empathize too much, I internalize too much.

Circling back to my shopping analogy…daydreaming plus anger often makes for strange bedfellows. I envision myself confronting abusive parents, men being abusive towards women, etc. Lately, these daydreams have focused on the hate that is being spewed all around us towards women, people of color, Muslims, Jews, people who identify as LGBTQ…creating scenarios in my mind that see these situations play out. When the unreality fades, I find myself wondering what I am capable of.

This daydreaming has consistently brought me back to the same question: What would I be willing to do? As a teenager I was fascinated by the 60’s. The music, the protest, the idealism. I naively thought that it would have been awesome to have lived during the 60’s. My high school friends could probably tell you that I often lamented that I had been born in the wrong decade. This naivety conveniently forgot the draft, the unrest and the likelihood that I would have just been another white kid who never got involved.

I turn 36 on Saturday and find myself at the doorstep of what my teenage self always wanted. Political and social unrest, the prospect of a government that could threaten the very ideals I hold so dear. At 36 I am not excited, I am terrified. I am terrified for myself, my wife, my children, my friends, my family. But at the same time, I am a white male, my wife is white, my children are white males, my family is white…we could all hunker down in our whiteness and probably be fine. We blend in, we are the color of the people in power, we can converse in the religion of the powerful. So while it is human to be terrified for my own, I am that much more terrified for my friends who are not white, not christian, who cannot defend themselves for whatever reason. I know what I would be willing to do for my family. The real question is what would I be willing to do for a complete stranger?

Am I willing to teach my children what is right and empower them to teach others?
Am I willing to speak up when racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and islamophobic things are said?
Am I willing to speak up both to people I know and people I don’t?
Am I willing to take time out of my life to call congressmen and women as many times as is necessary?
Am I willing to use whatever monetary resources I can to aid those entities that may be crucial to the fight?
Am I willing to use my whiteness and my privilege as a political weapon for those who do not have that privilege?
Am I willing to take to the streets if need be to protest what is happening?
Am I willing to put myself between someone who is being physically threatened and the person doing the threatening?
Am I willing to register as a Muslim?
Am I willing to RESIST?
Am I willing to FIGHT?

I wish that I did not have to answer the majority of those questions. But I will, we all will. As Thomas Paine said, albeit in a different context, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” We are all about to be tried and we all must be willing to delve into the fire.

It is time to mobilize.
It is time to organize.
It is time to crystalize our fear into power.
Use that power to speak.
Use that power to act.
Use that power to resist.

It is time to be the people of the anti-government.
It is time to stand up and say this is not the America we want.

What are you willing to do?


Shrouded In the Cloak of Majority Invisibility

As Jay-Z once said, “What you about to witness is my thoughts/Just my thoughts man – right or wrong/Just what I was feeling at the time…” These are those.

I felt compelled to write something today. Lately, I often feel compelled to scream; today has also been that kind of day.

The one thing that my sisters and I have in common to a “T” is our, shall we say, cynical, um, je ne sais quoi. Snark, wit…whatever you want to call it you probably won’t be ready for it and it will certainly be blunt, offputting and probably cause awkwardness to ensue. We even do it to each other, it’s some kind of curse we all share. I say all of that to say this particular personality trait often translates badly to social media. So I thought that instead of attempting to compress my thoughts into bookface bites I would write some things out.

To recap and expand on my facebook post:

Another white man alleged to have murdered multiple people was apprehended safely by the police. This has happened multiple times in recent months from James Holmes, Dylann Roof and Robert Dear (who also murdered police officers). All of these men are mass murderers, all are alive.

This is starkly contrasted by the black men and women who are being murdered by the police at an alarming rate. These murders are committed while such varied crimes as nothing (Tamir Rice) to selling loose cigarettes (Eric Garner) are being perpetrated. These murders combined with Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown and so many others were the basis for my post. These are crystal clear examples of the systemic racism inherent in the American police system. The fact that none of the officers involved in any of the deaths of these men and boy were even charged should further cement the obvious disparity in treatment.

The #BlackLivesMatter movement has come to symbolize this cry that Black Lives Matter TOO! The idea that Black Lives need to matter to all citizens of this country, to all politicians tasked with representing ALL of the people’s will and to those tasked with serving and protecting ALL of the citizens. It is not as much accusatory as it is desperate and scared. A cry of “stop killing me and people that look like me.”

This post, one that was meant to highlight this disparity and the fear and desperation it caused was met with something that I wasn’t expecting; a comment about white privilege. This caught me off guard as I didn’t feel that my post has really touched on white privilege directly. Obviously, white privilege was at play in the dynamics of the overarching situation but my post had been focused on the specific police culture of systemic racism.

The way white privilege was presented in the comment caused me to delve deeper into the dynamics of white privilege and why it evokes the feelings that it does. As per usual, it comes down to language. It could be argued that one of the problems with getting white people to fully buy into the concept of white privilege is the term white privilege.

White – I am white, you are probably white, there are a lot of us. Pretty much all our ancestors did some pretty fucked up shit to lots of different people at some point in their history. It’s kinda what white people have been doing for a long time. This causes us as white people to have some built in defense mechanisms. If you aren’t a total piece of crap you probably feel guilty for what went down to whichever group of people your ancestors decided to mess up. You have these feelings because, chances are, you’re a good person. Unfortunately, defensiveness is also a very human emotion. When the things that your ancestors did get brought up or maybe even when some dumbass current white people do stupid things it stands to reason that you would want to be defensive so as not to be lumped in with the rest of the idiots.

Privilege – what do you have? I have a nice house, I have a shack. I have a nice car, I have a daily bus pass. I have things, I have nothing, Privilege in this country is tied to material possessions and whether or not you have them. Secondarily, privilege can be attached to exclusive access to possessions or experiences but this exclusivity is always predicated on wealth.

The concept of white privilege does not jive with the topical definitions of the words that make it up. This is most evident with “privilege.” White privilege has nothing to do with an individual’s life experience. To experience this privilege it does not matter if a white person has a materially privileged or materially disadvantaged upbringing. Only that the color of their skin is white.

White privilege is a macro, systemic concept. This is not to minimize individual people’s experiences. It is a macro concept that affects people in very acute, very micro, very ugly ways. White privilege as a systemic concept means that if you take two men, one white and one black but otherwise identical, the black man will have to deal with an entirely different set of challenges in his life than the white person simply because he is black. A set of challenges that, as a white person, I cannot comprehend. I can think I comprehend them but I don’t. This is not a fault of mine it is simply the reality. The important thing is to understand that this idea is true and acknowledge that the problem exists. This is not an indictment of me or you. To paraphrase a wise man, none of us created the system we all operate in but we must strive to make that system a better place for all.

This is what white privilege has come to mean to me. Perhaps we should call it something else…Not white privilege but “Shrouded In the Cloak of Majority Invisibility.” That sounds just about white enough to work.

This brings us back to my original post and what it means in terms of white privilege. The overt answer is that white people who murder lots of people get different treatment when interacting with the police than non violent black men and that this different treatment ends with dead black bodies. The harder to see ways white privilege seeps into people’s lives is arguably even more jarring as it smacks you in the face.
As I was talking with my best friend Amanda tonight she, as always, pushed my own thinking. She had shown our 9 year old a video about white privilege. My immediate reaction was sadness that we as parents have to expose him to this reality of our world. I was not upset that he had seen the video, we never want to shield him from what the world is, just sad. Third grade has started his slide into awareness and this was just one more hard to process reality. I lamented this to my wife and she replied “that’s white privilege.” She is right. We have the luxury of not explaining these realities to our children until we feel they can handle it.

Tamir Rice’s mother likely did not have that luxury. She likely warned her son of the perils that lay before him much earlier than his young mind was ready to process them. Not because she wanted to but because it was necessary for survival.

White privilege is, in it’s most basic terms, the truth that lives deep down in a place you may not be comfortable acknowledging exists. The Truth that if it had been your 12 year old white son playing with a fake gun in the park he would not have been executed by the police and left to bleed out in the snow. That is white privilege. It is many more things on many different levels but that is it’s most primal form. A black boy dying in the snow.

We Do Not Live In a Theocracy People

If you think your religion has anything to do with the laws of our county…IT DOESN’T!
If your religious beliefs make it ok for you to discriminate or deny someone equal rights…YOUR RELIGION SUCKS!
If you think Jesus would want you to discriminate against other people and deny them equal rights…YOUR INTERPRETATION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IS WRONG (and maybe you just didn’t read the new testament??)!
We are a country born of religious freedom, not a country beholden to your discriminatory interpretation of Christianity. 
How would people view myself or any of those who provide direct service to people in need if we refused to help you based on how you lived your life. We are taught as social workers to leave our personal beliefs at home when we work with clients because OUR PERSONAL BELIEFS ARE OF NO CONSEQUENCE TO HELPING OTHERS OR PERFORMING OUR JOB DUTIES. 
When the KY Clerks lose this idiotic attempt to deny people equal rights, and they will, I hope they either decide to perform their job duties or are fired for cause. 
There is no place in America for you if you think like this.
Those that wish for a better America will not be silenced, the work will continue.
Get on board or go live in a theocracy somewhere else.

Levitical Law and You!

To all of my Christian friends who have been hee hawing that the SCOTUS decision is soooo horrible cause the bible blah, blah, blah. Let’s remember a few things. First of all, if you consider the bible to be the word of god then you must follow all of the teachings/rules in the bible. If you don’t follow all of the rules and teachings you certainly cannot pick and choose which to follow. To pick and choose what part of “God’s Word” you want to obey is quite an arrogant position to take. Let’s then remind ourselves of some of the other rules included in Levitical law.

Eating fat (3:17)
Carelessly making an oath (5:4)
Letting your hair become unkempt (10:6)
Tearing your clothes (10:6)
Eating an animal which doesnt both chew cud and has a divided hoof (camel, rabbit, pig) (11:4-7)
Eating any seafood without fins or scales (11:10-12)
Going to church within 33 days of giving birth to a boy (12:4)
Lying (19:12)
Mixing fabrics in clothing (19:19)
Trimming your beard (19:27)
Getting tattoos (19:28)
Mistreating foreigners – “the foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native born” (19:33-34)
Working on the sabbath (23:3)
Selling land permanently (25:23)

For my African American friends, this passage in Leviticus should resonate as well:
“However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)”
That lovely Levitical teaching was used to justify American slavery for a long time.

If you are against marriage between gay and lesbian couples then don’t get one. Otherwise your rights have not been impinged at all. To think that this is some sort of crusade against Christianity is a ridiculous notion put forth by idiots with an agenda.

If you are a Christian and you pray in Jesus’ name, as I know many of you do, think to yourself, what would Jesus do about this situation? If you think the answer is anything other than to love and accept then you should go read the New Testament again.


Make no mistake the #AMEShooting was an act of domestic terrorism. White terrorism.  A politician was assassinated. Assasinated in a church. A church that has stood as a beacon of hope for the African-American community for many, many years.  White supremacists are like any other terrorist group, they act to make other’s fear them and use that fear as control. This is how the dialogue surrounding this tragedy should start. The dialogue should include the word terrorism because that is what it is. The dialogue should talk about systemic racism and how that systemic racism trickles down to all people, affecting them in different ways. This may have been the act of a lone individual but it was fostered and nurtured by a society that seeks to marginalize that systemic racism and pretend as if it does not exist. This occurred in South Carolina, a state that continues to fly the flag that represents to most people a legacy of racist violence and the subjugation of an entire people. The government of South Carolina has in effect endorsed this racist legacy by not removing this flag and (as of this morning) continuing to fly the flag today. It isn’t even at half-mast (again as of this morning). The message that this sends to white and black people alike should be fairly clear to all and should provide an even more illuminating look at this tragedy. For as outraged as people get about foreign terrorism you should be THAT MUCH MORE outraged about this tragedy. This happened in our backyard and was perpetrated by an American citizen. So talk to people, argue with people if you have to but DO NOT let this just get swept under the rug and chalked up to “another white crazy person.” Get angry, use that anger to do something. Change will only come if we become that change. Things must change. This is our America.