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Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

Yesterday, Bob and I had a scheduled morning meeting to learn all about cohousing in Nashville. We met lovely people of different ages, and I was schooled in the latest feminist lingo; when I asked if a woman’s husband was babysitting, she said, “Oh no, he’s Daddying.” (smile) I made a note to myself to remember that term!

But my heart wasn’t in that room. I had silenced my cell but wanted to check Twitter every few minutes. I didn’t. But I follow a young newspaper reporter, Lauren Berg @laurenbergk who writes for The Daily Progress in Cville. And I knew she was in the thick of it, the Unite the Right rally was just getting underway and I had no idea what would happen.

Now we all know the deadly consequences of hate speech writ large and accompanied by Nazi symbolism, cloaked in national pride. My friend, Lynne Goldman, owns a unique jewelry store on the Downtown Mall. She and I were Planned Parenthood bus mates over the years, and we traveled to the Women’s March together this year in sisterhood. She and her husband came to our Seder in April.

At the cohousing meeting, people spoke of building community. Of planning this in, by designing a parking lot behind the condos so you are forced to walk into a courtyard and pass your neighbors every day. No more driving into a garage and disappearing. Two families do communal dinners once a week, they pay for everything together (roof repair, utilities, etc), and they manage by “consensus” not by our typical way of voting, when the “Ayes” have it!.

Consensus 

noun, plural consensuses.
1.
majority of opinion:
The consensus of the group was that they should meet twice a month.
2.
general agreement or concord; harmony.

I couldn’t stop thinking about Lynne. Everyone else I knew back in my adopted hometown was present and accounted for, but I had seen on Twitter that somebody sprayed Lauren with a chemical and that riot police were staging near the Paramount Theatre. And then the unthinkable happened. A home-grown, white supremacist Nazi thug terrorist drove into a crowd of peaceful counter-protestors… right on the corner of Lynne’s store.

It has come to this. Racism only needs an excuse to spread its evil, twisted ideology, like tearing down a monument to General Robert E Lee. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/13/us/charlottesville-rally-protest-statue.html

In Emancipation Park, a few steps from the Bride and Groom’s first home. In my serene and peaceful burg, a blue dot that is rapidly turning the state of VA purple; at the seat of democracy itself, Monticello, built by Slaves and saved and refurbished by Jews. http://www.isjl.org/virginia-charlottesville-encyclopedia.html

Lynne and her husband Steve arrived home safe and sound last night. Lauren is busy Tweeting this morning, gathering facts about the day, reminding us that two VA State Troopers are dead as a result of this tragedy. And Mr T has no plans for the day according to his White House Communications Director, standing by his statement against violence on “many sides.”

This extreme Neo-Nazi side is not my side Mr T, in fact my Father-in-Law Hudson fought in a war so that scum of the earth would never rise again. Stop blustering about nuclear war, and study Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This may indeed be a turning point for our country, and it may be time for all of us to pray and #resist.

Here we were at one of our favorite French restaurants on the Downtown Mall for our last Wedding Anniversary in June. You can see the incomplete Tyvek hotel in the background, just as it was for the Bride’s wedding. Our democracy is incomplete, there is much left to do. Reconciliation and forgiveness will take time, but we must start now. We must listen to each other, and build consensus.

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I’ve always wondered what people mean when they differentiate “street smarts” or “common sense” from “book smarts.” Because intelligence isn’t just a number on an IQ test, and it’s not just the ability to memorize facts. Critical thinking is essential to a well-informed electorate; the ability to understand public policy and weed out an opinion from reality.

We are a nation divided, by coastline and big cities from the heartland. And if this trend toward anti-intellectualism continues we won’t just be “America First,” we’ll be “America All Alone” on the world stage. If I learned one thing from attending many Naturalization Ceremonies on July 4th at Monticello, it’s that we are a diverse nation with almost 200 religions. And that our Founding Fathers wanted a BIG wall between church and state! And men women and children are still flocking to our shores for the promise of a better life.

For the freedom to speak their mind.

Tomorrow a reprehensible group of people will gather in one of Cville’s beautiful parks to exercise their First Amendment rights. The police have installed cameras. Roads will be blocked to traffic. There’s no telling just how many will show up from other states, but this small blue dot, the home of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, will be hosting a KKK Rally.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Klan has advertised their “Unite the Right: March on Charlottesville” for months. They burned their first cross in fact, in 1921, in front of Monticello’s graveyard.

Remnants of this Reconstruction-era white supremacist terrorist group have crawled out from under their rock to demonstrate against Charlottesville’s effort to remove its Jim Crow-era Confederate monument to General Lee. Historical preservationist organizations which support maintaining such Lost Cause relics have scrambled to voice their disavowals. One local white nationalist organizer has sputtered a feverish conspiracy theory: leftist activists must have put the Klan up to holding this July 8 event, a month prior to his own planned August 12 “alt-right” gathering at the General Lee statue, in order to tar his “legitimate conservatives” and Confederate devotees with the same ugly KKK brush. https://medium.com/@JalaneSchmidt/excuse-me-america-your-house-is-on-fire-lessons-from-charlottesville-on-the-kkk-and-alt-right-84aafddca685

And so we are to see another “Alt-Right” group come to town in August for this Summer of Hate. I must admit, I’m worried for this college town, a bright blue light of the Resistance. Our Mayor proudly calls us a Sanctuary City. And Indivisible Charlottesville has deployed many progressive activists around Albermarle County this past year. You may have read about some of my exploits here: https://mountainmornings.net/2017/01/31/busy-morning/

When the Rocker was in middle school, I was into the PTA in a big way. One day I found myself serving Chinese food to students in the cafeteria to help celebrate the Chinese New Year. I’ll never forget the look of hate on one boy’s face when he told me he didn’t want any. I coaxed a little, not wanting him to starve, and he followed up by telling me, “I’m NOT Chinese,” in a venomous voice. By 12 and 13 a world-view can be set in stone; children are taught to hate and fear “the other,” but it is possible to teach compassion instead.

Curiosity is essential to our growth and development as a people. What if Jefferson didn’t wonder what was beyond the Blue Ridge? What if Kennedy didn’t wonder if we could go to the moon? Today our President meets with Putin. What if Trump tells him what a great golfer he (Trump) is and how much money he’s making on this Presidential thing?

What if we’ve learned nothing from history?   IMG_0929

 

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Beware what you put out there on social media. Through my jet lag fog I witnessed a battle royal last night on Facebook, one my sweet LA niece had no reason to be embroiled in, and I thought how a Shakespearian tragedy can unfold in real time with absolutely no effort. This semantic sparring had something to do, well everything really, with our President Elect (who shall forever be named Mr T to me). Just as our local political news is indirectly related to a newly discovered free/for/all/climate of intimidation and fear in the wake of last month’s election.

A young Black man, an activist who moved to Cville about the same time we did, is being vilified in the local press over some Twitter comments he made years ago. Wes Bellamy was a high school history teacher and the Vice Mayor of the Cville City Council – two positions I just learned he either voluntarily left or was asked to leave yesterday. I first met him at the Paramount when he was introducing a petition to remove General Robert E Lee’s statue from Lee Park. It was before the Confederate Flag issue had raised its ugly head in parts of the South. He struck me as sincere, and fired up about social justice.

But because a local blogger found a few 8 year old Tweets where Bellamy said some repugnant things, statements others have concluded were racist and sexist including, wait for it, “…beanpole body white women in these sundresses”…thank you for that sir since my beanpole days are far behind me, Bellamy issued this apology on Facebook:

“In the course of trying to mature and find my way I came to some false conclusions about the world around me and made them known,” Bellamy wrote. “Since then, I’ve furthered my education and gotten married. I’m raising daughters. I have and continue to strive to be a better man, community leader, educator, public servant and overall person. I work every day to become a better version of myself.” 

What surprises me is that Mr T has gotten away with saying and Twittering much worse. But I guess this is what male White privilege is all about. Cville Weekly calls our attention to an Albemarle County Supervisor, Chris Dumler, who was accused of raping a woman and continued to do his job while in jail and he had no intention of leaving his position! I was always loathe to use the term ” high tech lynching for uppity Blacks,” a la Clarence Thomas for you young’uns, but in this case it would actually seem to fit the bill. http://www.c-ville.com/tweetstorm-bellamy-apologizes-inappropriate-posts/#.WEBfjRRaHlI

So in the spirit of the season let me call your attention to an article my friend’s son ironically posted on Facebook from the NY Times, an essay on why social media may not just be an uncivilized wasteland and vortex of your precious time, but may also be detrimental to your overall health and career:  “There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/jobs/quit-social-media-your-career-may-depend-on-it.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

As my dear late Sister-in-Law Anita would say, this is all “STUPID!” She had a way of seeing through the fog of problems, and getting directly to a point. She would tell our lovely niece to cut all ties with people who hate people and spread nasty comments all over her Facebook feed. I’ve lost a few friends and family myself this past year, and I’m honored to be in her company.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” or woman.  the Bard   This is the long view from our LA AirBnB. img_5664

 

 

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Yesterday we went out to a favorite Cville bagel joint for brunch. You can’t order steak and eggs with a Bloody Mary while reading the Sunday NY Times a la my good ole days – before marriage, before children, before leaving the NY metropolitan area – but you can get a good approximation of a NY bagel. I ordered smoked turkey on an everything bagel, with vegetable cream cheese and sprouts. It was always the Bride’s go-to choice, if it wasn’t going to be lox.

What I didn’t order up was a side of racism.

Because our local news had a story about how some of Bodo’s Bagels customers had been openly hostile this post-election week. Granted, we’ve been hearing reports about an increase in bullying all over the country; but when I read that someone didn’t want one of “those people” making their bagel, well I have to admit I did get a little pissed!

A popular Charlottesville restaurant chain claims its employees have become the targets of prejudice-related harassment following Tuesday’s election. Bodo’s Bagels is taking to social media to tell people who promote hate to stay away from its shops.

Scott Smith wants Bodo’s to be an inclusive place

“The business is conceived as being inclusive really from the ground up both on the customer and employee side,” Smith said.                        http://www.nbc29.com/story/33695338/bodos-owner-speaks-out-following-harassment-toward-workers

Bodo’s is the kind of place Democrats love. You have to stand in line to order, in fact the lines are often long. You can weave around the front of the store and feel like you’re in a Disney line for Space Mountain. When you finally get to a cashier to place and pay for your order, you are standing right in front of the kitchen and you can see everything that’s going on. You are given a ticket with a number on it. No names like Panera or Starbucks, just a number.

Then you mingle with a hungry crowd waiting for their number to be called. Chances are you meet somebody you know or make a new friend on the spot!

Yesterday the line went out the door, and stayed out there the whole time we were eating brunch. The parking lot was every man and woman for themselves…all colors, all ages, we all knew why we came there yesterday, some of us after church, some before heading out to a matinee. I wondered aloud if the owner would hit the best Sunday sales record ever, if they would run out of food.

Hate is a fascinating subject, it feeds on prejudice. After moving South, I remember distinctly the first time I heard a woman tell me she went to a smaller hospital in the area because she didn’t want “those darkies” taking care of her. I remember a friend telling me her mother would not go to Red Lobster for the same reason. Every time I drive into town, I have to pass a big Confederate flag waving at me, as if it’s saying, “Look at me, you will never be rid of me.”

I asked Bob if there was a way to tally up how many fender benders there were last week, because I’m not the only one feeling like I’m sleep-walking through this post-election apocalypse. Can we keep a tally of the number of hate crimes? Is saying aloud you don’t want to walk up to “that” cash register a crime? Is hate speech saying you don’t want “that” person making your bagel? Has this President Elect unleashed the underlying hate and angst of the blue-collar White population and made it OK for them to voice their disdain for the “Others.” Since when did the party of the worker, of the underdog, of the Unions, become the party of elites?

I can’t listen to the pundits anymore, they are obviously clueless. And I’d like the few Republican friends I have left on Facebook to give it a rest. I know you are not racist, and I know you care, it is the extreme Right of your party that has prevailed. We are protesting because it’s our God-given-RIGHT to protest! People are telling me they feel like they did after Kennedy was shot. They feel like they did after 9/11. One person is moving so he can build a bomb shelter! WTF

Maybe I will wake up tomorrow and feel better? More determined to fight another day? To march in the Million Women’s March on Washington January 21st, the day after the Inauguration. Great Grandma Ada wants to go, and so does my niece Lucia from California who accompanied me on another similar march years ago.  http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/12/politics/womens-march-on-washington-planned/

Until then, let’s give to the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee, to Planned Parenthood. Let’s open our hands and our hearts to our fellow Americans, whatever color their skin or sexual identity they have, or head gear they choose to wear. Let’s say something when we hear hate speech, it is not acceptable. Let’s all order everything bagels at Bodo’s! And wear a safety pin like the Bride has been wearing, because #LoveTrumpsHate.   15094843_10210220151522257_1749270517854516976_n

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“We are now so interdependent that it is in our own interest to take the whole of humanity into account.” Dalai Lama

This week was enough to make all of us cry. First in Baton Rouge, a man selling CDs on a sidewalk named Alton Sterling was thrown to the ground and shot point blank by a policeman. His crime? Carrying a gun while Black. It is all on YouTube thanks to a cell phone video. Then in my brothers’ home state of MN, another Black man was killed by a cop, and another cell phone video went live, so people on Facebook could watch Philandro Castile take his last breath while his girlfriend tells the officer, “You shot four bullets into him sir!” His crime was a broken tail light, and the audacity to tell the police he was licensed to carry a gun, while reaching for his wallet.

When a Black sniper in Dallas, an Army veteran,  decided to take vengeance into his own hands, we all thought this is it. Something has got to give, we cannot sustain our country by buying guns and living behind gates, by living in fear of the “Other.” And for a split second it did seem as if the Red and Blue was weaving itself back together again. But it didn’t last.

When I met a woman from Dallas at a memorial service on Friday, we touched on the troubles. I was truly grieving, so much senseless loss. And she said, “What about Black on Black crime?” and her daughter took her elbow, cautioning her to be careful what she said….I wasn’t sure where she was going. But from the younger woman’s reaction I knew it would be bad.

When White people talk about “Black on Black crime,” it’s like saying all Mexicans are rapists. It’s code for an underlying bigotry; don’t trust them, they’re gangsta. When I taught Head Start in the projects of Jersey City, I remember people calling it a ghetto. The word ghetto actually comes from the pogroms in Russia – it is Yiddish and means: an organized persecution or extermination of an ethnic group, esp of Jews.

When White people say, “Castile was doing everything right,” what that means is he was licensed to carry a gun, he had a good job, he wasn’t selling cigarettes or CDs on the street. He bought the American Dream, he didn’t have to hustle, he worked at a Montessori school for f-sake. And he had a fiancee and a baby girl in the back seat. He lived in a fairly progressive part of the country, but that couldn’t save him from a terrified cop with a gun. And the underlying message?

Since Castile was doing right, all those other unarmed Black men must have been doing something wrong!

safe_image.phpWhen the President compared the Black Dallas shooter to the Neo-Nazi White shooter in Charleston he was making a valid point. There is not much we can do to predict which mentally ill young man will wake up one day and decide to take out a number of people based on race or ridiculous ideology. Why is the gunman of one crime a lone wolf, while another morphs into a terrorist?

Today, social media is turning the tide around these issues. We can no longer ignore a militarized police force. We must witness the mass murder of police in the middle of a non-violent protest march. We are teaching our children to shelter in closets in our schools, because the right to bear arms is so precious to us.

We will always have a few bad cops. And we will always have the mentally ill. The flint to this combustible mixture is the gun, and God help us, if our legislators cannot regulate guns in this country, we may run out of hope. Because racism can be cured; racism needs to be taught, and we as a people can decide to stop teaching hate to our children.

The whole world is watching.IMG_4812

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Don’t talk to me about your religious freedom. Mississippi and North Carolina, you will not get my vote, my money, or my sympathy. In fact, I can’t believe I must still fly into Charlotte in order to get anywhere from Central VA. I will purposely book flights through Atlanta in the future; at least Georgia’s governor had the decency to reject yet another “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.”

Let’s start with the whole public restroom issue. You want to be able to pee in a private stall? Great. You don’t want your daughter in the same bathroom with a transgender woman, what?

Believe me, a person who is born male, and feels like God played a trick on them because inside, in their soul, they feel female, that person is not going to violate your daughter’s bathroom stall. Remember, even in the men’s room there are separate stalls, with locks, so we can ostensibly sit on the pot. She (or he if you prefer, though whether or not they have gone through any surgery will hopefully NOT be a prerequisite for choosing a bathroom) will have spent most of their life being harassed and humiliated – unless it’s Caitlyn Jenner.

Wait, is that what you want at the women’s bathroom doors of Charlotte Airport – morality police? Like Iran, someone to make sure we women are acting and dressing accordingly; that we were born women? How will you check our femaleness? Maybe we should make transgender women wear a big “T” on their chest?

I have a revolutionary idea. Why not do what the rest of Europe has been doing for ages – put a big “WC” on every bathroom, short for “water closet,” and let the chips fall where they may! If you grew up female in the NY/NJ metro area, you never let a “Men’s Room” sign stop you from using it, since there was always a line to the Ladies! Yes, we Northeners are infidels aren’t we.

And marriage equality, still? Extreme religious groups are trying to pass bills in every state to chip away at the HUMAN rights of the LGBT community. Like the right to have an abortion if we so choose; first we saw TRAP laws to limit access to health care clinics that provide abortions, then “personhood bills.” Well guess what, the Supreme Court answered   that sticky question about abortion years ago, and the one about marriage equality? That happened last summer.

But hey, now it’s your religious right to not hire a gay person in MS because of HB1523, or sell condoms in your gas station, or use a bathroom without worrying who’s peeping through the stall! “Churches, religious charities and private business can use the law to legally not serve people whose lifestyles they disagree with. Governments must still provide services, but individual government employees can use the law to opt out.”  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35971038

Yes it is, only it’s not OK to pass a law saying we ALL have to agree with your religious beliefs, because in fact we don’t. The Law of the Land says we don’t!! You see your freedom is just another word for bigotry.

Once upon a time, women didn’t have the vote, and Black folk couldn’t sit wherever they wanted in theaters, buses, or public parks. Let’s remember that our country was founded on religious freedom – the freedom to NOT have any one specific religion make public policy – that is worth repeating since even Thomas Jefferson got this part, he built a LIBRARY in the middle of his academical village, and not a church!

We Americans have the freedom to NOT have any one specific religion make public policy ie we like to keep our church and state separate. Some of us don’t even go to church! This is not the New South I’ve come to love. Here is a picture I took at Cville’s Lee Park after the bill to relocate General Robert E Lee’s statue and rename the park was introduced. It’s time to pick sides America. IMG_4143

 

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Last night, as part of the VA Festival of the Book, Bob and I attended a program at the Paramount Theatre; a gorgeous art-deco building that once had African Americans sitting in the balcony, a la To Kill a Mockingbird. We were there to hear Bryan Stevenson speak about his book, Just Mercy, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/just-mercy-by-bryan-stevenson.html?_r=0 …and about the injustice of the criminal justice system in our country.

Stevenson graduated from Harvard Law, lives modestly, and runs the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama. He has been called America’s Nelson Mandela, and last night I was a witness in a very spiritual way to his testimony.

The statistics tell only a fraction of the story, but they are a good place to start. In 1970 America imprisoned 300,000 of its citizens. Now it imprisons 2.3 million people. A quarter of a million children have been sent to adult American jails in that time, including 3,000 sentenced to life without parole. One in every three black male babies born today can expect to be incarcerated (for the white population it is one in 15). In some states, including Alabama, a criminal record means disenfranchisement for life. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/01/bryan-stevenson-americas-mandela

He said some pretty provocative things. For instance, he told us that today Germany is placing memorial stones at the places where Jews once lived; Stevenson would like to see us place stones under the trees where Blacks were lynched. The problem is that we have erased, or denied so much of our Jim Crow history, we just don’t even know where all these killings happened.

Did you know that in Alabama MLK day is officially recognized – probably because it is now a national holiday, mandated by law – and called  “Martin Luther King/Robert E Lee Day?” What if Germany decided to have a holiday and call it “Dietrich Bonhoeffer/Joseph Goebbels Day?” Think about that – a dissenting theologian and a Nazi general.

I have likened our privatized prison system to apartheid before, but Stevenson thinks we can actually change things. By changing our war on drug policy to a public health model, by not privatizing our prisons, by ending capital punishment and appointing, not electing judges…and more. I wasn’t taking notes like a good journalist, because I was actually listening to every word.

As a country, he said, we haven’t gone through a Civil Rights era “truth and reconciliation” period, like Rwanda and South Africa, as evidenced by the fight over the Confederate flag. Many Southern White people see that flag as a symbol of their heritage. All Black and Brown people see it as sign of bigotry and hate. We need to confront the awful truth of enslavement and institutionalized segregation and racism in order to heal as a country.

Listen carefully next week while the Charlottesville City Council fights to remove the statue of Robert E Lee in one of our most beautiful parks, Lee Park. “Robert E Lee never came to Charlottesville and was never part of our local history. This statue was erected for the sole purpose of celebrating the Confederacy and establishing the supremacy of its cause. It has no place in our community.”

Stevenson has gone into the belly of the beast in Alabama, and he is still fighting for social justice. How can we treat children as adults in our courts? He has to be “brave, brave, brave,” as King’s widow once told him.

“We will ultimately not be judged by our technology, we won’t be judged by our design, we won’t be judged by our intellect and reason. Ultimately, you judge the character of a society . . . by how they treat the poor, the condemned, the incarcerated.”   Photo: Caleb Chancey-Tireless-advocate--Bryan-010

 

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