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.
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?
White people need to talk about race – often.
Originally posted on Musings:
In the wake of the Confederate Flag episode, I keep thinking about the analogy of a dysfunctional family and how desperately the South needs a therapist. A recent NY Times documentary shows us that there is no pill for what ails us, we need regular talk sessions. The South that blossomed post-Andrew Jacksons land grab was a rebellious teen-ager that tried to shake off its parents. The South went to war to declare its own independence, but in the end, was dragged back home and forced to remain part of the family. In order to cope, too many compromises were made. The Union was tired, distracted and so happy to be a family again, they gave the rebelious upstart way too much leeway in the post war era. So during that time, like so many Southern families, stories were born to ease the pain and the shame of the reality…
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In the wake of the Confederate Flag episode, the one wherein Bre Newsome scaled the flagpole and removed that sucker – I keep thinking about the analogy of a dysfunctional family and how desperately the South needs a therapist. I’m serious. We need to talk this all out and acknowledge some past hurts. A recent NY Times documentary shows us that there is no pill for what ails us, we need regular talk sessions. The South that blossomed post-Andrew Jackson’s land grab was a rebellious teen-ager that tried to shake off its parents. The South went to war to declare its own independence, but in the end, was dragged back home and forced to remain part of the family. This insurrection was the most bloody war ever fight on our soil – brother against brother.
Call it what you will, before the war, black-skinned people were property, dehumanized, tortured, raped, and killed at the whim of white supremacist. After the war, that was supposed to stop. Thank you inter webs and the slow march of time, we are starting to get a more clear picture of how that actually went in our “post-racial” society that elected its first black president. America is finally looking like a multi-racial nation but there is still a co-dependency of abuse and compliance happening among us.
In order to cope post Civil War, too many compromises were made. The Union was tired, distracted and so happy to be a family again, they gave the rebellious upstart South way too much leeway way too soon. So during that time, like so many Southern families, stories were born to ease the pain and the shame of the reality. No, your sister didn’t have an illegitimate baby, she got an intestinal blockage and then went to recover at Aunt Lucy’s for seven months. No, the Civil war was not about holding people in bondage and denying them any scrap of human dignity, it was about State’s Rights. Secrets and lies can remain in the closet for a long time, but eventually, for any number of reasons, the truth comes out. You suddenly get a letter from a stranger who is actually your nephew, or worse, the anger and hatred brews up into a massacre – like so many that solidified the brutal terror of Jim Crow. A family steeped in lies becomes dysfunctional in so many different and disturbing ways – just as the South has.
What started as a distorted story, invented around Southern pride and heritage to hide the awful, embarrassing truth grew into laws and customs that brutality that caused and continue to cause more pain. The Civil Rights Movement that dared to illuminate the injustices of segregation brought out the worst in Southerners. What is recorded in picture, word, and memory of the those risked everything to be free is nothing short of as we-inspritring. What was recorded in history books and newspapers owned by rich and powerful whites regarding such things as the Wilmington 10, or the Charlotte, 7, or countless others – well, to the victors go the spoils of controlling history.
But, imagine if a different story had emerged, one of love, remorse, and healing. Not one based in embarrassment, or pity but one based in empowerment. What if our forefathers had attempted to pay all those forced to work back wages, had formed large networks to reunite families, gave Freedmen part of the property they had been enslaved on, or any other ounce of human kindness? What might have happened instead? What if reconstruction had been truly rooted in truth and reconciliation and the whole nation had committed to equality? But no, like most abusers, we continued to find new ways to denigrate, marginalize, and abuse and terrorize while repeating the mantra that it was their won fault. Abuse is not pretty. It takes a whole lot of courage for the victim to step out the fear and be free.
Just imagine if the South had chosen love. America would be in a much different place today. But that is not how prejudice works. Denial is effective. Fear is powerful. Fear continues to be wielded as a weapon – over and over. So, the South chose to perpetuate the lie, to allow the hate to fester, and now I think what we really need is a therapist.
We need a therapist to talk us through understanding how our parents, grandparents and great-parents could have participated in a system so horrific that they either didn’t talk about it, or they made up lies about it. We need a therapist to help us understand ourselves and how we, the privileged white people who told who children, “Hey we might be poor, but at least we ain’t black.” could have stayed quiet and ignored the pain of others. We need a therapist to help us all form a new identify -one that recognizes that race is not scientifically based – it is a cultural construct. Many companies are making a lot of money trying to clarify for folks just how “pure” their blood is – xenophobia and eugenics go hand in hand for America’s desperate search for identity. In that identity, we all need a way to frame our history that is based on facts. The time for anger, defensiveness, blame and hate are over.
We must emerge with love in our hearts so that we can heal, focus, and move forward toward a more perfect union.
I am so damned lucky. Last June, on my 50th birthday, I woke up in a luxury hotel, ordered room service for the first time in my life, took a hot bath in a giant tub, and sat on the balcony with my best friend. That is how lucky I am. That night we walked to a five-star restaurant two blocks from our house and had dinner where we were evidently so “cute and romantic,” that the couple next to us, “picked us up.” We stated talking, laughing, and before I knew it, she asked for my phone number. Since then, we have developed a wonderful, couple friendship. Over the last year a friendship has blossomed that I feel certain will deepen and grow over the years because we have so much in common and have so much fun together. All that was in the first twenty-four hours of turning 50 years old. I am so damned lucky.
While the 5-0 birthday itself did not freak me out, something inside of me did certainly shift. I became convinced that I had to “broaden my circle of influence.” That is not an easy task, it is not something I take lightly, and it certainly does not pay well. Within a few weeks of my birthday, I felt my desire for a major change overtake me, overrule reason, and lead me to resigning my job. It is not the first time I have left a job, but it is certainly the first time I have done it without a plan. I was stepping off into nothing. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time.
I jumped in with gusto to volunteering, reading, learning, networking, organizing, and fretting. There is a lot to be worried about. I have built up a bit of a following on social media, or atlas people tell me they read what I post – and I am sure some people have dropped me and blocked me because of my out-spoken, and sometimes radical views. But here is the thing – I am not stupid – I am a lot of things, but thoughtless and stupid are not among them. I am well-read, analytical and smart. But what people might not realize is that I am also deeply spiritual. While many, many of my friends are out-spoken atheist, pagans, and adamant non-beievers, I am not. I have a deep faith, one that steadies me in times of distress, one that comforts me in times of mourning, and one that speaks to my heart like a good religion should. While I am neither Christian, nor Jew, nor Muslim, nor Hindi, nor Buddhist, I am a person of faith. I know that this is confusing for people who do readily identify as one of the major religious beliefs. I have found that Christians are the ones who are the most confused and even offended by my beliefs. It’s okay – my beliefs are not in conflict with yours, I will not declare jihad on you, nor do i believe that my religion is superior to yours. I just need you to know that just because I don’t proselytize doesn’t mean I don’t have a deep and abiding faith – because I do,
I am a Unitarian Universalist. I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings. I believe in compassion and fairness. I believe in acceptance. I believe that each person is responsible for their own search for truth. I will work for democracy, peace and social justice. I believe in the interconnected web of life. Simply put, I believe we as individuals, and collectively as a society can always improve, grow and become better if we follow the path of love. The best thing about my 51st year has been coming back to this idealism, to this community, and to this faith. It is because of my faith, that I work so hard for everyone’s freedom. Thanks for paying attention.
We have played all of these games in our family. Now that the kids are older, we include adult beverages in game night, making it all the more fun and amusing. I love to play Words with Friends and its a good thing I can find willing partners because my family will not play Scrabble with me anymore. xi and xu are so words!
Originally posted on Friend For The Ride:
A post by blogger George Schalter:
As a father and an admirer of technology, I love the time I spend with my kids – putting a gadget together, racing cars (toys, of course), and playing online games (educational, of course). But these times, splendid though they are, take me back to my own boyhood and how our family bonded when we were younger. Rest assured, you wouldn’t have seen my father bellowing while swiping his finger madly around a rectangular piece of screen. No, sir. Those were the days when we sat at the kitchen table with steaming hot cocoa mulling over a game of Monopoly or Clue. Whoa! That makes me a living testament of changing times.
Of course, I was delighted when I discovered that they had digitized some of those old classic board games. While it is a rather addictive experience, it is not the same. It…
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Three years ago, Steve and I rented out our house in NC and moved to London. His company has an office there and he accepted a two year assignment. We went over in August to secure a flat and set up our bank accounts. HSBC had a branch office just below Steve’s company and so we popped in to get the accounts set up.
We arrived, looking like two American tourists – blue jeans, sneakers, no name brand nothing. After a few minutes, we were escorted back to a a very nice woman’s desk. We explained why we were there and what we needed. She handed us some papers, then asked for Steve’s contract letter as proof of employment. He handed it over, she glanced at it, and she started on a profuse apology rant as she nearly climbed over her desk to retrieve the papers she had handed us.
“I’m so very sorry, I should have looked first. Of course, you will be a premier customer.” She produced a gift box from under desk. The lid featured two beautiful people with dark skin and hair wearing designer clothes, expensive jewelry, and dining by candlelight. Steve and I cut our eyes at each other and snorted. We are neither dark-skinned, nor mysterious, nor used to Premiere status treatment. HIs salary was barely enough to support the four of us (who lived in three cities, one paying Central London rent and still carrying an NC mortgage), Then, she went on to offer to set up our off-shore accounts “for tax purposes.” Let that sink in – an off-shore account to hide our money from taxes.
Steve and I have often referred to that encounter as “what is wrong” with the banking industry and people in general. The anti-tax mentality goes beyond the US border and banks are complicit in helping people hide their wealth from the governments that provide those very people with the safety, security, and most importantly, here in the US- the opportunity to even have that wealth.
My heart soared just a bit today when I read the headline about HSBC being raided. I hope the officials are quite successful in finding each and every entity that has illegally evaded paying their fair share, but moreover, I wish regulation would forbid off-shore accounts all together. It is time for international business laws to favor international governments and cooperation and not individuals.