Okay folks. This isn’t an easy blog post to write. I’m going to be honest about my failings as a white woman in America when it comes to issues of bigotry and racism.
I was inspired to write in part by this awesome painting by my daughter, Anjanette. She created this a couple of days after the murder of George Floyd, and it has such a powerful statement.
When I saw the photo of the painting on Facebook, I cried. Just like I cried the day I saw the video of George Floyd being murdered by cops in Minneapolis. I cried, as I have almost every day since, when I see pictures and videos of the chaos and violence in so many cities across the country.
But let me go back to the beginning of my journey to those tears.
In July 1967, I lived in Detroit and clearly recall every day and every hour of the race riots there. I remember my husband slept downstairs for three days with the shotgun at his side after we heard that people were coming to the Tank Arsenal and the General Motors complex next to it. Both were frightfully close to the apartment complex where we lived.
I will be honest and admit I really didn’t understand why people were rioting. Even though I’d been active in Civil Rights efforts a few years prior, life issues had pulled me away from finding out any more about the disparity between the way I lived my life and the way black people lived their lives.
Sure, we had a shared history of poverty, and I experienced some discrimination because of where I’d lived when I was growing up. It was a poor neighborhood, but all white and we were called white trash. But as a good friend pointed out many years after 1967, while holding her brown arm next to mine. “Nobody will ever know about the discrimination of your past. Mine is indelibly marked in the color of my skin.”
Still, it took the passage of many more years and lots of reading about the black experience and racism and bigotry to gain even a smidgen of an understanding of the depth of the problems in our society. A society that has been dominated and controlled by white Americans who have stepped on the backs of black Americans to keep them down.
I even had the audacity to write a book about bigotry Coping with a Bigoted Parent, which is thankfully out of print. I say “thankfully” because I didn’t know shit about the topic back then.
More recently, I’ve listened to podcasts like Throughline and Code Switch that often tackle topics of racism, offering the listener a different perspective – that of a person of color. And I’ve watched videos on YouTube, like ones from LeRon L. Barton, and really see some of what has brought us to this point of cities burning.
It’s the pent-up anger, exhaustion, and fear experienced by black, brown, and indigenous people facing structural racism and systemic disparities between the way white and black people are treated.
A common term to describe those differences is White Privilege.
In September 2017, Lori Lakin Hutcherson, Editor in Chief of Good Black News responded to a friend who was asking for clarification of what White Privilege means. Jason, a white man, was confused about the concept, never having it pointed out to him in specifics. So, Lori did that pointing in a terrific article that was originally published in Good Black News and was reprinted later in Yes Magazine. Here are just a few of her answers to Jason:
What this past week of listening, of reading, of really paying attention to the messages of black people has taught me is that White Privilege is having the luxury of going to bed and forgetting about the problems of being black.
White Privilege is being able to move into a “nice” neighborhood and be accepted not harassed, made to feel unwelcome, or prone to acts of vandalism and hostility.
If you’ve never had a defining moment in your childhood or your life where you realize your skin color alone makes other people hate you, you have White Privilege.
If you’ve never been on the receiving end of the assumption that when you’ve achieved something it’s only because it was taken away from a white person who “deserved it,” you have White Privilege.
If no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, you have White Privilege.
Instead of forgetting, I’m going to remember what has happened in recent days and find one way that one old lady can make a difference. Enough is Enough and Black Lives Matter need to be more than just a hashtag.
First, I want to take a moment to remember and honor those who fought for the freedoms we enjoy here in the United States.
There will be few gatherings or picnics or barbecues today, and my anger toward the Corona Virus that has impacted our lives in so many ways is growing. People should be able to come together as family and friends to share memories of those they have lost to wars. That is such an important part of grieving; crying together, laughing together, and telling stories together.
My heart is sad for them.
Now for some news items that have caught my attention over the past few days.
The Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is home to a military prison that is often referred to as Gitmo. Indefinite detention without trial and torture have been the hallmarks of this prison since it was established in 2002 by President George W. Bush’s administration.
I hadn’t thought much about Gitmo in recent years, but a report on NPR’s Up First on Friday brought it to mind again. More about that later, but first some facts.
It costs $380 million a year to run the U.S. military court and prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, despite the fact that there are only 40 detainees there now. That number is down from the approximately 780 that have been arrested and taken there over the years. According to Guantanamo By The Numbers, an article on the ACLU website, 86% of those detained have been turned over to coalition forces as a result of a bounty system that has paid out millions of dollars.
The prison was established by President George W. Bush’s administration in 2002 during the War on Terror.
Throughout his terms of office, President Obama tried to get the prison closed and prisoners released to their own country, or brought to the U.S. to stand trial. Although his efforts to get the prison closed failed, due to strong bipartisan opposition from Congress, the number of detainees was reduced to 41.
In January 2018, President Trump signed an executive order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely, and the following May a prisoner was transferred out of the prison, reducing the number to 40. The ones remaining are people rounded up after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
After so many years and so many scandals, I wonder why we are still in the same place, just with fewer detainees. And still costing the taxpayers millions of dollars that could go elsewhere, especially now with the pandemic creating such havoc.
The NPR news segment was about the fact that the 9/11 trial which was to start next January has been postponed indefinitely.
Why has it taken so long to bring detainees to trial? I know the wheels of justice grind slowly, but this slowly? Are they rolling backwards?
Military spending is the highest yearly budget item, and the President’s budget request of $705.4 billion for fiscal year 2021 is $1 billion higher than last year. If Gitmo was closed, that would eliminate the need for a third of that extra billion.
On another note, I had an interesting exchange with a friend on Facebook about how tired we are of all things political. It seems the recent primary has lasted for years and we are still months away from the election. My friend pointed out that the campaigning did start earlier this time around, and Trump started campaigning right after he was elected in 2016.
That made me wonder who controls the election cycles? Who determines when candidates can make their campaigns official?
There’s lots of information on elections and voting available on the internet, but I didn’t find anything specific as to when a candidate can announce, prior to the first primary, that he or she is running for office and start the campaign ball rolling.
Party leadership has the authority to determine According to Article I, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the authority to regulate the time, place, and manner of federal elections is up to each State, unless Congress legislates otherwise.
Just for fun, here are a few of the winning entries in the Washington Post’s annual neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
The Post’s Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
A few of the winners are:
Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
I encourage you to click on this blogpost at Bytes to read all the winning entries. Quite a clever and fun list.
That’s all for me for today folks. Whatever you’re doing this Memorial Day, be safe. Be well. Be happy.
Today, I’m thinking about the Jimmy Buffett song “Come Monday.”
“Come Monday It’ll be all right,
Come Monday I’ll be holding you tight.
I spent four lonely days in a brown L.A. haze
And I just want you back by my side.”
I used to be able to do a fair rendition of the song when I was jamming with some friends. Of course, my talent improved with every glass of wine I drank, and by the time we finished a bottle or two we all thought we were ready to cut a record. 🙂
Anyway, the first line of that song drifts through my mind most Monday mornings. There’s something so hopeful, so encouraging, so true in the words, and the melody underscores the message with determination.
So, every Monday morning the idealist in me wants to believe that everything will indeed be all right.
Despite the fact that the corona virus is far from being under control, states across the country are opening up, some with a better plan than others. There’s a comprehensive article in The Washington Post giving state-by-state information on what is open in each. The report is compiled by the Post staff, and it’s actually quite interesting if you like research as much as I do.
I found this paragraph particularly alarming:
Cases continue to rise in some of the states where governors have been most aggressive in opening public spaces and businesses that rely on close personal contact, such as salons and gyms. None have met the federal government’s core recommendation of a two-week decline in reported cases.
On May 16 there were 1801 new cases of the virus in Texas, the highest one-day figure since the pandemic started. That is hardly encouraging me to go out, even though I feel the pull of Spring, beckoning me to be out and about – meeting and greeting people and sharing the excitement of earth being reborn and spirits being reborn.
I’ll have to content myself with waving to my neighbor across the street and not going much closer.
Now for something to lift our spirits. On Saturday, President Obama gave a 2020 Commencement address that was full of hope and encouragement that “It’ll be all right.”
Obama spoke at “Graduate Together: High School Class of 2020 Commencement,” an event organized by XQ Institute, a think tank that works with schools, in partnership with LeBron James’s foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.
You can read the full transcript at the New York Times, but here’s an excerpt that made me smile.
With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you “no, you’re too young to understand” or “this is how it’s always been done.” Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.
Obama’s three pieces of advice for the graduates started with, “Don’t be afraid.” He pointed out how Americans have faced great challenges in the past and came out stronger, mainly because young people “figured out how to make things better.”
He then encouraged the graduates to do what they think is right. “Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think.”
The final piece of advice was “Build a community.” Obama pointed out the importance of working together for the greater good. “So be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights. Leave behind all the old ways of thinking that divide us — sexism, racial prejudice, status, greed — and set the world on a different path.”
That’s all for today, folks. I do hope your week begins on a good note, and you are able to stay safe and stay well.