Beyond Voting and Protesting

30 Aug
teacher mm

Moral Monday 2015

The events of these past 14 days not only re-contextualize George Floyd’s murder for us all, they highlight why voting and protesting are not enough. George Floyd was not simply restrained and accidentally killed by one bad cop acting off adrenaline. He was murdered by a system that has shifted power from spontaneously forming angry white mobs to uniformed police. State sanctioned violence against people of color has been here under various names since America was founded. However, when America watched that policeman with his hand in his pocket patiently hold his knee on George Floyd’s neck while he called for help, the reality of police brutality was undeniable. When police then tear gassed and beat protesters, we saw the brutal rule of a militarized police force. For White people who have been grappling with racism — the moment was galvanizing.

Then the DNC Convention used the protests to show their concern, their support, and plans for reform. It was inspiring, but many of us antiracist progressives watched with suspicion knowing that big donors pull the strings, knowing we will only get what we really want — equality in education, justice, employment, housing, medicine and every single sector — when corporations stop pulling the strings and power is restored to the people. Can that happen by voting? Doubtful. Most young people are very discouraged about voting because they believe what they have heard: the Electoral College rigs the election, and because of gerrymandering, down ballot races are rigged as well.

Then the RNC used to protests to foment a deep and abiding fear in White America — a fear that spontaneously forming mobs will come to their homes and threaten or kill them. The irony of featuring Mark and Patricia McCloskey was not lost on those of us who know the line of history from lynching mobs to militarized police. The idea that anti-racism is anti-White and that if Whites share or surrender any systemic power, they will be subjected to what Black America has experienced strikes a motivating chord — the convention raised Trumps approval ratings and polls show support for the protestors waning.

So, how do we restore power to the people? Do we really have to stay in the streets? To some extent, the answer to that is yes. But in addition to protesting, there must be a solid movement to building an inclusive culture — not one that separates the “deplorables” from the “enlightened,” but one that redefines “whiteness” in the entirety of its history while simultaneously bringing forth an embracement of multiculturalism.

As White Americans, the ones who hold the majority of power and resources, we have to do the hard work to break our silence about racism and its ill-effects on us all, calling every single white person we know into a culture of civility, belonging, and compassion. Yes, compassion for the people who have militarized the police and oppressed People of Color. Compassion for people who have discriminated, gentrified, and vilified. Compassion for people who have said and done racist things. Compassion for them because WE ARE THEM. We are not so separate from those conservatives who are backing Trump. We are the white people who who benefited from the structures and the systems that have led us here. Yes, us well-intended liberals.

And it is up to us to gather up our people — even and especially the ones with whom we disagree – with compassion and intention and and build an inclusive America where spaces are multicultural and celebrated as such. Where work places and government institutions are anti-racist and work for everyone. Anti-racism belongs to neither political party. Anti-racism is not a political platform . Antiracism is simply a commitment to equality — a social movement of inclusion that lies at the heart of America’s promise.

This vision of a better America is not out of our reach; however, it will never be actualized or even approached if progressives don’t start thinking strategically about power. The oligarchs have been thinking about it and planning for it for decades, as Nancy McLean shared in her book, Democracy in Chains, and the theocrats have been orchestrating for decades as Jeff Sharlett shared in his books, C Street and The Family. These two powerful forces joined in Trump and Pence.

It is going to take more than voting and protesting to save us.

#metoo

26 Feb

I was raised on sweet tea and “Good girls don’t.”  The idea that my ticket to success and happiness as an adult rested on my ability to convince a man to provide it for me was ingrained deep in my psyche. I was taught that feminism would ruin America because every child would be abandoned to day care factories – a dystopia of disconnection. It’s been hard to reconcile my fiery spirit and out-spoken nature with these expectations. I have struggled mightily to find my voice, and use it for good.

Harvey Weinstein got sentenced to prison this week.  I smiled with my whole self when I heard the news. The patriarchy is shifting – there is a reckoning coming for all this oppression – all this force to not speak truth, to be objectified and silent – to be touched and have no say. I am grateful for the brave women who stood up to him, and to those who stood to Roger Ailes, and to Donald Trump – his day is coming, too and all the women who stood up and still got knocked flat.

I am also cheering for the women who struggle to find their voices and say #metoo and #enough.

Friends for Life

5 Nov

Scan11 year olds are sponges. They watch and listen and absorb everything that happens, even if they pretend to not care. At least I know that was how I was in the summer of 1975. I remember watching my dad as he navigated his role as “sponsor” of Le Dai Tuong and his young family (his wife, and two sons one 4 and one 2 years old.) The care my father took to help Tuong (Americanized as Thomas) navigate buying a car, getting a job, and finding an apartment exemplified being an advocate-insuring Tom was making the decisions with my dad as support establishing mutual respect.

I’ll never forget how outraged my dad was when a fellow church member hired Tom to do physical labor. Tom was an educated man. Dad said the guy was exploiting Tom. Tom reassured my dad.  We practiced his english by reading the daily paper. I enjoyed helping him, and he taught me to count and say the alphabet in Vietnamese.. 

When my dad realized Su, Tom’s wife, had been separated from her younger siblings when they left the refugee camp, my dad jumped into action and before we knew it, our house had 7, not just 4 extra bodies. I am still not clear how he arranged for Su’s two sisters and one brother to join them, but I wasn’t surprised he made it happen.  Seeing her cry once I knew he would “fix” whatever was wrong. He was my dad. He was Superman. 

The first time Tom and Su had us over for dinner in their new apartment, my dad was so proud. He and Tom drank beer and Su and her sisters buzzed around us serving delicious Vietnamese dishes they made from American ingredients. The boys played with their toys and ran around the table. My mother smiled. We knew we were friends for life.

Tom died unexpectedly on October 31, 2019. My dad passed in January 2010. Their love and examples live on in us.

Dear Senator Burr

8 Mar

Senator Richard Burr
217 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

March 10, 2017

Dear Senator Burr,

I grew up in the military. My dad put on a uniform and went to Vietnam for America back in the 60s. He wore that uniform for 23 years before retiring as an Officer from the US Navy. I always think of him in his ironed crisp khakis heading out the door before dawn. He was a good sailor, and he instilled in me a deep love of my country. I couldn’t be more patriotic and loyal to my homeland than I am.

My father also instilled in me a deep distrust in Russia. He talked of it incessantly. They are not to be trusted. They are anti-democracy. They are against everything we value. When I was a teen-ager and a bit rebellious, I thought I knew more than him and doubted what he said. I thought the Cold War was “unnecessary” and overblown. As I studied history in more depth and eventually became a history teacher myself, I came to know that my dad was not wrong.

He was not wrong in thinking the very foundation of Russia is corrupt. He was not wrong in thinking they hate democracy and want to destroy it. He was not wrong in believing that Russia is solely motivated by making only a few men rich and powerful and letting the rest of their country literally starve if they have to. And he was not wrong in saying we should never trust them. EVER.

I am urging you to please do the noble thing. Put this Russian conspiracy theory to bed by appointing a special investigator to get all the facts out in a non-partisan way. If there is nothing to the allegations, fine, but please do your part to restore my faith in my country – because it is slipping away.

Sincerely,

Allison Mahaley
NC resident

Coulrophobia — Fresh Eyes

18 Nov

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY: There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” […]

via Coulrophobia — Fresh Eyes

Ode to Mary

9 Oct

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for Mary Bernadette DeHarnais. I only met Mary a few years ago. It was around the time I had stopped teaching and decided to become more politically active. Mary was “older” and clearly an experienced and fiery champion for social justice. I spent a lot of time with Mary attending important events and protests. Only a couple of times did we spend time talking or visiting personally. On one of the occasions, we talked about mothering two boys. Hers are about 20 years older than mine, but still, we shared the feeling that they were not as interested as being in touch as we were. We compared notes to what we hear friends relate regarding their daughters. We concluded that our sons viewed their mothers as strong and busy women, taking for granted that we would be there whenever.

Mary’s oldest son confirmed that when he eulogized her. He was funny and poignant. He admitted he had been stupid. The younger one absolved them all. He told the story of spending time at his grandparents’ home and how dark and quiet it was. He learned later in life that his mother’s home had been violent and that she had escaped. She had escaped to a convent, then met and married his father. Together they had raised their boys in love and light and laughter.

What is remarkable about Mary is how her life was about liberation. She liberated herself from her parents. She liberated herself from that convent. She liberated herself from an oppressive religion. She liberated herself from loneliness. And finally, she liberated herself from cancer. And she did all this while being a loving, kind, giving, woman.

Mary was also critical and gripping and opinionated and difficult. I remember the first time I crossed her, I thought about choosing to avoid her after that, but thought better of it. Mary had too much to teach me about the good fight. I made the right decision.

One of the first things Mary had gotten me to do was to drive Marie Torain to the Pauli Murray kick-off in Durham. On the way over, Mary kept trying to pry Marie into telling me her story. How her parents were from Hillsborough but fled in 1904. She returned in the 40s after falling for a Southern man. She rode the train South and was forced to change seats to a “Negro” car when they stopped in Maryland. That was as far as we got between Hillsborough and Durham – the trip was too short to hear more.  Mary finally said, “Allison, you have to write Marie’s biography. There is just no one else to do it.”

I made sure to get Marie Torain’s phone number after the service.

What’s Good About Githens?

25 Aug

What’s Good About Githens?. Bryan Proffit, the newly elected president of the Durham Association of Educators, is crowing about the great things happening in public schools all over Durham. Contrary to the message that public schools are failing – here is proof of the good things happening.

Please consider this – teachers and administrators and parents are having to fight harder and harder to get wha they need to provide a quality education to every student. Would it not be easier of the elected officials in Raleigh to just fall out prioritize education? And consider this – Durham and Wilmington and Raleigh – these places are chocked full of people with the resources to prop up what the legislature won’t do. Imagine the difficulties of districts with few affluent citizens. The state legislature has a duty to provide adequate funding. Let’s hold them to it.

Cultural Christianity – A series of posts from a Southern WASP Girl

10 Aug

Since #Charleston, my life has been over-shadowed with grief, with searching, and finally with hope.

Ex-teacher on a Crusade

(I have been struggling to articulate my vey complex history and journey with regard to being Southern and not main stream. I am working on a series of posts with regard to my contextual sense of urgency around deconstructing institutional racism)

A commentary about racism and religion by Allison Mahaley, a Southerner

I spent 12 years teaching in public schools in Alamance and Durham Counties and three years as an administrator in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools in North Carolina. In ALamance, I have to admit, I understood the unspoken, insidious oppression of black children – unless they were star athletes. I felt from outside the school, though. Inside the school, we knew we were fighting for those kids’ very lives. In Chapel Hill, I bumped up against a very different kind of racism. There it was an angry undercurrent of privilege and permission. In Durham, it was just flat out…

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It’s Time to Go to WAR (Warring Against Racism)

19 Jul

It’s Time to Go to WAR (Warring Against Racism). I just learned that the #blacklivesmatter movement is not coming from the black churches, it is grassroots, ground swell of strong African-Americans demanding justice, telling the truth amplifying black voices. When people push back with #alllivesmatter, the black story gets muffled again – and that is a disservice to us all. The Wilmington 10 is a perfect example of how the narrative was stolen and used against blacks and whites to prevent them from trusting one another to come together to dismantle institutional racism, The truth will set us all free.

It’s Time to Go to WAR (Warring Against Racism)

19 Jul

AU-July 13This is WAR (Warring Against Racism)

I spent the middle of this week in Wilmington visiting with and doing the bidding of my 81 year-old mother. My mother, the daughter of Charles Aycock Warwick. Warwick as in the UNC-W Warwick Center and Maus Warwick Matthews real-esteate moguls in Wilmington. I know that these names link my family all the way back to king’s grants and large swatches of land in Southeastern NC, and back to slavery. I know I grew up with the narrative of how the Civil Rights movement was anti-American because my father was fighting in Vietnam and you could not hold both truths at once: that the US was both a country righteous and just in fighting a foreign war and wrongful and unjust in how it treated it owns citizens.

In 1970, my elementary school was integrated – one black child was forced to sit in each classroom and we were warned to stay from him. I was warned he had nothing but ill-will towards white girls. We could not be safe around him and we certainly were not allowed to attend school on the last day because of the threat of race riots. I was six – but my siblings were much older and they witnessed first hand the anger and violence of those first years.

Frankly, by the time I entered high school at New Hanover High in Wilmington, none of this was on my mind. I was deeply involved in student government, I had a couple of black friends, I knew some black and whites were always ready to fight each other, but those people were easily avoided and high school was so much fun. I loved New Hanover High School and the fact that my siblings attended there, and then my nieces and nephews. I was often reminded that my class was the first class to attend straight through integrated schools. Rejoice – we were liberated from racism because we had done it.

In 1999, I went to work in Alamance County. I started at Western Middle School where I had about 5 African-American children in each of my classes. These kids were awesome, so well-behaved and respectful, not at all the disruptive surly kids I had gone to school with in Wilmington. While earning my degree at UNC-CH, I had taken AfAm studies, I had seen Spike Lees movies, I had an opinion about the achievement gap – I was a good liberal committed to the premise that all children could learn. The problem was, after my first year, my black students failed. All my good intentions and my students and still – the achievement gap.

Fast forward 15 years during which time I attended every training possible to understand African-American underachievement, attended conferences on the gap, committed myself to closing it. I earned a Masters In School Administration and I worked in Chapel Hill as an administrator – only to bump right up against the worst kind of racism – an institutional racism that not only wants to draw attention to the children who suffer from its effects, but wants to dole out the permission to fix it incrementally to whites who are not truly trusted to help. This dynamic is molded and supported by rich affluent white parents who demand protection from unruly children of color and white parents who sympathetically want to help, but really can’t get their heads around why “some people don’t value education.”

I spent the final four years of my career in public education in Title One schools where almost no one wants to talk openly about race. We are too busy trying to get kids to pass tests. People want to broad brush it, avoid it, exonerate or condemn others, but never have an honest inter-racial conversation about the facts. Institutional racism exists – it defines our post-integrated schools, our courts, our society, our narrative in dominant white culture to blame and shame people of color for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and engaging in the American dream. And then I had enough – it got too hard, too crazy, too demoralizing that I felt I was the only one beating the drum and my colleagues seemed to accept that the segregated schools in Alamance County were what the black and white communities both wanted. I had it all wrong – race was not the problem, No Child Left Behind – federal regulations were the problem.

So I quit my job and stepped out of it – how could we allow NCLB to destroy our public schools? After all, disaggregating data was meant to insure a quality education for all children – I can still hear the words dripping off George W. Bush’s lips. I don’t believe it anymore. NCLB is the biggest sham to galvanize institutional racism and re-segregate schools that were once desegregated.

And now this…

1500 people come out in downtown Graham to rally around a Confederate memorial, and a white minister has the luxury of deciding not to participate in a counterdemonstration. He commits to thinking about it. He blogs on the internet and gives himself the option. And here we go again.

I heard the news and read the article about Graham as I drove back home to Hillsborough to watch a special screening of Cash Michael’s “Pardons of Innocence – The Wilmington 10.” As I watched the counter-narrative of the racial tension that I grew up in unfold – I felt like I would throw up. Everything I was told about the days of the New Hanover and Hoggard boycotts, the response by school officials, the fire that burned a grocery store, the violence – the trial, the time served, Jim Hunt’s refusal to pardon…by the time the two hours were over, I was sobbing. Now I am the one who can’t breathe. I am suffocating under the blanket of white washed lies.

Black parents don’t value education – I can’t breathe.

Ben Chavis was an outside agitator – I can’t breathe.

Stay away from those black kids, they want to hurt you – I can’t breathe.

Black kids just aren’t willing to work as hard – I can’t beathe.

The Blacks don’t want integration either – I can’ breathe.

Black mothers just want to collect a welfare check – I can’t breathe.

When my classmates boast about the “harmony of our graduating class and the exceptional friendships we forged.” – I can’t breathe. I have worked so hard to confront this narrative and move against it – and yet…public schools are being dismantled.

I can’t breathe, but I can march. I can come out in larger numbers and cause a necessary interruption. It is time to interrupt the narrative that perpetuates the bondage. If you are not willing to stand up and declare WAR against the policies that are being codified to suppress voting rights, dismantle public education, keep people sick and poor and disproportionately taxed– then you are now part of the problem. If you are not willing to take a stand, to step out of the shadow of fear and say enough is enough, then you too are racists simply by continuing to participate in the system and not interrupt it. If you can’t march with your legs, protest with your dollars and support those doing the work. The NAACP is calling for non-violent resistance, as they always have. Reverend Barber has said and I echo him, “This is a moral movement.” What do your morals call on you to do?