Thoughts about the ways I conspire in my own deformity...

I started to write a REALLY cranky post, but decided to practice what I sometimes preach and wait a few hours. Guess what? It works better in the delete mode - and besides Parker Palmer says it better anyway! He writes:

Most of us can make a long list of the external enemies of the soul, in the absence of which we are sure we would be better people! Because we so quickly blame our problems on forces "out there" we need to see how often we conspire in our own deformation: for every external power bent on twisting us out of shape, there is a potential collaborator within us. When our impulse to tell the truth is thwarted by threats of punishment, it is because we value security over being truthful. When our impulse to side with the weak is thwarted by threats of lost social standing, it is because we value popularity over being a pariah. The powers and principalities would hold less sway over our lives if we refused to collaborate with them.

This is NOT to excuse the genuinely systemic evil that exists in every society. Nor is it a pass on the historic wounds that sin,greed and envy have inflicted upon the innocent and powerless. It is simply a reminder that even in the most righteous struggle against oppression, we best not believe our own press releases because even the Pope has a confessor.

An old colleague from Cleveland, the Reverend Dr. Marvin McMickle, recently wrote that the current tumult in Ferguson, MO comes about

In response to encounters with police(that) is nothing new in this country. The riots in Rochester in 1964, the Watts riot in 1965, and the riots in 1967 in Cleveland, Detroit and Newark all started in the same way. In 1968 the Kerner commission concluded that the cause of all the riots and urban rebellions in the 1960s was largely a result of poverty, lack of access to quality jobs and housing, and the inevitable results of failed public schools in urban areas. Until we address the underlying issues of poverty, and the general climate of racism in the United States, what happened in Ferguson will likely continue to occur. As George Santayana observed, "People who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it."

One way those of us who are white might explore some of the ways we conspire to deform ourselves when it comes to race in America was well stated in the posting:  12 Things White People Can Do Because of Ferguson (http://qz.com/250701/12-things-white-people-can-do-now-because-ferguson/)

1. Learn about the racialized history of Ferguson and how it reflects the racialized history of America. Michael Brown’s murder is not a social anomaly or statistical outlier. It is the direct product of deadly tensions born from decades of housing discrimination, white flight, intergenerational poverty and racial profiling. The militarized police response to peaceful assembly by the people mirrors what happened in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

2. Reject the “he was a good kid” narrative and lift up the “black lives matter” narrative. Michael Brown was a good kid, by accounts of those who knew him during his short life. But that’s not why his death is tragic. His death isn’t tragic because he was a sweet kid on his way to college next week. His death is tragic because he was a human being and his life mattered. The Good Kid narrative might provoke some sympathy but what it really does is support the lie that as a rule black people, black men in particular, have a norm of violence or criminal behavior. The Good Kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was the exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die because he was a human being and black lives matter.

3. Use words that speak the truth about the disempowerment, oppression, disinvestment and racism that are rampant in our communities. Be mindful, political and socially aware with your language. Notice how the mainstream news outlets are using words like riot and looting to describe the uprising in Ferguson. What’s happening is not a riot. The people are protesting and engaging in a justified rebellion. They have a righteous anger and are revolting against the police who have terrorized them for years.

4. Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts and the prison industrial complex. We don’t enslave black people on the plantation cotton fields anymore. Now we lock them up in for profit prisons at disproportionate rates and for longer sentences for the same crimes than white people. And when they are released, they are second class citizens stripped of voting rights and denied access to housing, employment and education. Mass incarceration is The New Jim Crow.

5. Examine the interplay between poverty and racial equity. The twin pillar of racism is economic injustice but do not use class issues to trump race issues and avoid the racism conversation. While racism and class oppression are tangled together in this country, the fact remains that the number one predictor of prosperity and access to opportunity is race.

6. Diversify your media. Be intentional about looking for and paying close attention to diverse voices of color on the tv, on the internet and on the radio to help shape your awareness, understanding and thinking about political, economic and social issues. Check out ColorlinesThe Root or This Week in Blackness to get started.

7. Adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence as you resist racism and oppression. Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for nonviolent conflict reconciliation as the primary strategy of the Civil Rights Movement and the charge of His Final Marching OrdersEast Point Peace Academy offers online resources and in person training on nonviolence that is accessible to all people regardless of ability to pay.

8. Find support from fellow white allies. Challenge and encourage each other to dig deeper, even when it hurts and especially when you feel confused and angry and sad and hopeless, so that you can be more authentic in your shared journey with people of color to uphold and protect principles of antiracism and equity in our society. Go to workshops like Training for Change’s Whites Confronting Racism or European Dissent by The People’s Institute. Attend The White Privilege Conference or the Facing Race conference. Some organizations offer scholarships or reduced fees to help people attend if funding is an issue.

9. If you are a person of faith, look to your scriptures or holy texts for guidance. Seek out faith based organizations like Sojourners and follow faith leaders that incorporate social justice into their ministry. Ask your clergy person to address antiracism in their sermons and teachings. If you are not a person of faith, learn how the world’s religions view social justice issues so that when you have opportunity to invite people of faith to also become white allies, you can talk with them meaningfully about why being a white ally is supported by their spiritual beliefs.

10. Don’t be afraid to be unpopular. Let’s be realistic. If you start calling out all the racism you witness (and it will be a lot once you know what you’re looking at) some people might not want to hang out with you as much. That’s a risk you’ll need to accept. But think about it like this: staying silent when you witness oppression is the same as supporting oppression. So you can be the popular person who stands with the oppressor or you can be the (maybe) unpopular person who stands for equality and dignity for all people. Which person would you prefer to be? And honestly, if some people don’t want to hang out with you anymore once you show yourself as a white ally then why would you even want to be friends with them anyway? They’re probably racists.
DA

11. Be proactive in your own community. As a white ally, you are not limited to being reactionary and only rising up to stand on the side of justice when black people are being subjected to violence very visibly and publicly. Moments of crisis do not need to be the catalyst because taking action against systemic racism is always appropriate because systemic racism permeates nearly every institution and community in this country. Some ideas for action: organize a community conversation about the state of police-community relations* in your neighborhood, support leaders of color by donating your time or money to their campaigns or causes, ask the local library to host a showing and discussion group about the documentary RACE – The Power of an Illusion, attend workshops to learn how to transform conflict into opportunity for dialogue. Gather together diverse white allies that represent the diversity of backgrounds in your community. Antiracism is not a liberals only cause. Antiracism is a movement for all people, whether they be conservative, progressive, rich, poor, urban or rural.

12. Don’t give up. We’re 400 years into this racist system and it’s going to take a long, long, long time to dismantle these atrocities. The antiracism movement is a struggle for generations, not simply the hot button issue of the moment. Transformation of a broken system doesn’t happen quickly or easily. You may not see or feel the positive impact of your white allyship in the next month, the next year, the next decade or even your lifetime. But don’t ever stop. Being a white ally matters because your thoughts, deeds and actions will be part of what turns the tide someday. Change starts with the individual.

This is a list of just 12 ways to be an ally. There are many more ways and I invite you to consider what else you can do to become a strong and loyal white ally. People of color, black people especially, cannot and should not shoulder the burden for dismantling the racist, white supremacist system that devalues and criminalizes black life without the all in support, blood, sweat and tears of white people. If you are not already a white ally, now is the time to become one.
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People are literally dying. Black people are dying and it’s not your personal fault that black people are dying because you’re white but if you don’t make a purposeful choice to become a white ally and actively work to dismantle the racist system running America for the benefit of white people then it becomes your shame because you are white and black lives matter. And if you live your whole life and then die without making a purposeful choice to become a white ally then American racism becomes your legacy. The choice is yours.

Let me push the envelope a bit more as we grieve yet another tragic execution of an innocent at the hands of Muslim extremists: let's not give in to our tendency to deceive ourselves or deform ourselves in this realm either. Let's be honest: most of us know almost nothing of Islam. So here's an excellent primer called:  7 Questions to Ask Before Asking if Muslims Condemn Terrorism. (You can read the whole article here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/ hindtrospectives/ 2014/08/7-questions-to-ask-before-asking-if-muslims-condemn-terrorism/)

1) Do I know any Muslims in real life that I can ask?

2) Am I actually following any Muslim activists, scholars or leaders on social media outlets?

3) Am I assuming that if Muslims are not condemning violence done by other Muslims 24/7 in the medium that I personally follow, so that I can see it when I check into FB or Twitter at a time convenient for me, then that means Muslims support terrorism and are inherently violent people because of their religion?

4) When I meet a person of a different faith is my immediate assumption, “This person is Catholic, he must be a child molester” or “This Jewish woman hates all Muslim children and wants them to be bombed” or “This person is a Christian, he must want to steal the money of gullible old white ladies who think the Rapture is imminent?” Or is my assumption when I meet people is that they believe all these things are abhorrent and that we share these basic values?

5) If some people of a faith tradition have committed criminal acts, even if they claim it’s done in God’s name, does it automatically mean that every person of that faith tradition supports crime?

6) This Hindtrospectives blogger sure sounds mad. She claims that Muslims have been condemning all kinds of Muslim terrorism for over at least over a decade on every medium available to them. Is it up to me to find these condemnations, or is it up to them to make sure I see the thousands of condemnations they’ve issued in the past?

7) Do I know what a search engine is? If so, I wonder what will come up when I type “Muslims condemning terrorism?”Was that too snarky? Oops, sorry. Here’s a make-up present for you – Sunni and Shia British imams denouncing ISIS together. That clip has less than 40,000 views – can we work together to change that?

Also, a suggestion to my readers: if you want to change reality on the ground, one way to do it is to support Islamic Relief’s efforts to aid Christians and those displaced by ISIS in Mosul.

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