I might look suspicious– if not for white privilege.

Racism is a white problem. Preferences and prejudices are universal. An ‘-ism’ needs power and privilege to make it real.

When I say racism is a white problem, I mean white people belong to a majority group, a dominant group, we have the power to enforce our prejudices. I think most white people do this in very subtle ways and would be horrified to realize they are doing it that all.

When I say racism is a white problem, I do not intend to dismiss or minimize the impact it has on people of color. Instead, I would liken it to a disease that afflicts the privileged. Unlike a disease, it can only be changed by those who are afflicted.

In an article published in the Atlantic, Teju Cole  talks about the White Savior Industrial Complex. The theme I took away from the article was about well-intentioned white people trying to do good in short spurts. Meanwhile, the slow and steady support of oppressive regimes, inequitable trade relations, discrimination, racial profiling and everyday microaggressions continues.

This is, all at once, too large and complex a problem to even think about and also so small we can’t NOT address it. We can confront our prejudice and privilege every day, one incident at a time.

Carl Jung talked about the importance of embracing our shadow-side. It’s not easy. Who wants to think of themselves as racist? But pretending racism is a thing of the past or limited to fringe supremist groups doesn’t make it go away. Only by acknowledging white privilege and the racist climate we live in, can we begin to see what we are doing to perpetuate the problem.

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Pressing Your Advantage

Years ago, when a coworker kept talking to me about the importance of not sacrificing one’s children to public school, my mentor suggested to me that men who do things like this do them for a reason.

Let me offer a little background, so you can see where I’m going. I was married at the time, and my husband worked in the same division. Our children were 6 and 8 years old. My coworker was a single man and a recent immigrant from Uzbekistan. We talked about faith as we were each discovering our own.

In a very real way, his faith had set him free. Christian missions from the United States lobbied his government to allow Jews to emigrate. Through 2 generations of communist rule, his family only knew they were Jewish because it was considered an ethnicity and it was documented on his papers. When he arrived in the United States, he began an earnest exploration of what it means to be Jewish.

His concern about public education was grounded in his own public education. For him, school was chiefly about political indoctrination and he was not allowed to talk about questions of faith. I agree with him at some level, and we both agree with Marx, at some level. Marx suggested that public schools are a tool to shape workers. But I don’t think my coworker was actually interested in my children or their education.

I think he was interested in having less competition in the workplace. I say this because he never had this conversation with my husband, who was also a collegue. Also, when I asked him to stop he did not. When other male colleagues pointed out to him that I felt hurt by his attack on my place at work, he did not stop. I think my mentor was right. When people in positions of social advantage talk about that advantage or press the point they do so to enhance their advantage.

Silence is the Voice of Complicity

I’m a huge fan of free speech. It doesn’t mean I like everything that other people say. It doesn’t mean I’ll stand around and listen. But it is important enough to me that I gave seven years of my youth in military service to support free speech. It’s important enough to me that I continue to try to encourage people to speak.

Have you seen the bumper sticker that says, “Silence is the Voice of Complicity”? I think it’s true. I also think it is often easier to ignore a problem than to confront it. It sometimes works with children and with puppies. When they don’t get the response they are hoping for they often stop the behavior. You probably know this doesn’t work with teenagers. If your new driver borrows your car without asking and you say nothing your new driver learns they don’t have to ask for the car.

When your coworker makes an offensive remark and you ignore it, they learn, and the people around you learn, it’s okay to make those kinds of remarks. It’s not easy to make an appropriate response to an inappropriate comment. It makes everyone uncomfortable. But inappropriate comments also make people uncomfortable. If you’re going to be uncomfortable anyway, why not venture an appropriate response?

What is so terrifying about openly gay relationships?

“Nigeria is pushing forward a law that would make it a punishable offense – of up to 14-years in prison – for anybody to go to a gay bar,  to work for or be involved with LGBT organizations, or to be in an openly gay relationship.”

http://www.allout.org/en/actions/nigeria

Is this not a form of thought control? Would this not make it illegal to talk about  human rights with regard to sexual orientation?

I have to wonder what is so terrifying about openly gay relationships.

Here in the United States, I think the political noise around homosexuality is a distraction from the real issues of governance. A smokescreen. It’s like the Wizard of Oz telling Dorothy to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

I have read, but don’t have sources for, articles suggesting the religious right here in the United States is supporting movements like this in Nigeria. I just don’t understand why.

What’s at stake?

If you agree that the proposed law will do more harm than good, please click on the link above and sign the petition. If you disagree, or can help me understand what this is about, please comment.

Harassing the Homeless: A hidden facet of corporate wealthfare

OccupyMN.org reports “County Commissioners and Sheriff Stanek have threatened to close down the occupation of the People’s Plaza in Minneapolis.” And reference an article in downtownjournal.com describing the situation.

Margaret Hastings of Minneapolis, a self-described advocate for the homeless, said she supported the resolution and called it reasonable. She said the county has been practicing a double standard by allowing the protesters to sleep on the plaza.

“Homeless persons are not allowed to sleep out on the plaza,” she said. “The very inequality they talk about, they themselves are practicing.”

http://www.downtownjournal.com/index.php?&story=17633&page=65&category=92

One can only hope this comment was taken out of context. People supporting OccupyMN are not preventing homeless people from sleeping out in the plaza, the county is.

Homelessness is one of the issues that needs to be addressed in our country. It is shameful that anyone be abandoned to the elements in the richest country in the world.

It is not only shameful, it is absurd. Solving the problem is far less expensive for society than harassing the homeless on a daily basis then jailing or hospitalizing them during their times of extreme need.

In his collection of essays What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell includes a discussion of ” ’Million-Dollar Murray’ [which] explores the problem of homelessness — how to solve it, and whether solving it for the most extreme and costly cases makes sense as policy.”

http://www.gladwell.com/dog/index.html

The problem is that solving homelessness offends our sense of fairness. Why must I work so hard when they get everything for free? We worry that everyone will stop working and then there won’t be any money to provide for the needy or anything else.

The truth of the matter is that we already generate more wealth than we as individuals need. We generate more wealth than we as individuals ever see. It’s not that our taxes are artifically high to support welfare programs, our incomes are artificially low because we are paid at capitalist rates, which support wealthfare. Unless you are one of the rare few employee-owners practicing true profit sharing, you probably have no idea how much wealth you generate.

The deeper problem is that solving homelessness takes away the element of fear that keeps many of us working so hard for so little in return.

Apologize, Make Amends, Move On

It’s not surprising that Herman Cain has been accused of sexual harassment. It would be surprising if he never harassed a women. It would be so gay. Men and women perceive sex differently. Men and women approach sex differently. I think men typically make the first move because they would be waiting a long time otherwise. Unwanted advances are inevitable. Inevitable, but not harassment. It’s not harassment until he refuses to accept that she isn’t interested and tries to leverage a power advantage to get what he wants.
I can’t imagine there is a man on the planet who has never made an unwanted advance or been perceived to have made an unwanted advance. I can’t imagine there is a man on the planet who hasn’t tried to leverage his maleness to some advantage. These things aren’t harassment until the threat of sexual coercion or economic exclusion emerge.
I have heard that men who view themselves as successful also tend to over-estimate their sexual attractiveness. Successful men make more unwanted advances because they can’t imagine their advances would be unwanted. Perhaps they are more often accused of harassment because the power differential makes the threat of coercion or exclusion stronger than ever they intended.
None of this matters. Human beings make mistakes. What matters is how we respond to them. A man who appears to request sex and accepts a woman’s refusal — even if he didn’t intend to request sex — this man does not get charged with harassment; this man does not settle out of court because it’s cheaper; this man doesn’t need to discredit that woman because nothing happened. People of integrity apologize when they offend and they seek outside themselves to ensure they continue to act with integrity.
Herman Cain probably did cross a line at some time in his past with one or more women. He is a heterosexual male. What matters is how he and other men are responding to this ‘news’. Personally, I don’t think any of the Republican candidates are credible and I don’t think Cain is a frontrunner. Allegations of sexual harassment do make great smoke screens though. The disturbing response from some extreme voices — that women accuse men of sexual harassment because they can’t succeed in the normal way — aren’t even germane.
We know Cain is not a man of integrity because he can’t handle a simple allegation of misconduct. Great, but what do we know about any of the other candidates? Will they continue to funnel money to the wealthy? Will they continue to use the military and paramilitary forces to protect the financial interests of large corporations? Will they continue the war on poverty-stricken families? Will they continue to belittle GLBT people in order to intimidate heterosexual men? Do any of them actually know how to govern?

Curious