Weekend Worthy

Worth your time from around the web this week…

Asking the Wrong Question
Asking why Janay stays with an abusive husband is as appalling to me as asking whether or not Mike Brown stole some cigarillos.   #NotThePoint

Honestly, I had never even heard of Ray Rice before this week.  I don’t watch football and I don’t think I could name a single NFL player.  But the way we have responded to this is astounding.  Does Janay need to get her sh#* together?  Probably.  But that’s not what we should be talking about.  We should be talking about the fact that Rice punched her so hard that he knocked her out.

Do you know how hard you have to hit someone to knock them out?   I have two boys and both of them, at different times, have fallen down an entire flight of stairs, hitting their heads multiple times on the way down.  Weren’t knocked out, though.  The older one fell backwards off a stool once and landed head-first on concrete.  Wasn’t knocked out, though.   And one time I lunged to catch Isaiah before he toppled backward off the couch only to have my arm accidentally act as a hinge behind his knees causing him to flip upside down onto his head on the hardwood.  Wasn’t knocked out.

Add to this one act of violence the undoubted dozens that have gone before it, the cover ups by the higher-ups, questioning the victim in front of her abuser, the 42 million other women in our country who experience rape and physical abuse at the hands of their partners every year and how we have irrevocably indicted ourselves with our response.  It’s overwhelming.

Ravens running back Ray Rice is planning to address the media at 3 p.m. Friday for the first time since he was charged with knocking

 

Different Rules Apply
A story about the different rules that apply based on our race.   A longer one but it’s worth the read.

“I went home. The other guy didn’t.
That’s white privilege.”

 

Female Socialization
Speaks for itself.  I read this several weeks ago and it has stayed with me.

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Guy who couldn’t get a single call back changed one letter on his resume and the phone started ringing.

Oily Hair and Frazzled Nerves

I don’t know what is going on with me.  I’m sort of embarrassed to admit it but… this kindergarten sitch has been hard for me, y’all!   I’ve had two nearly sleepless nights and I’ve felt generally anxious all week.  Then this morning, after tossing and turning yet again last night, I put oil that is meant for my skin into my hair.

Part of the problem is that I can’t quite pinpoint what I’m feeling.  Am I just sad?  Am I worried about something in particular?   Am I unsettled by all the change to our daily routine?

Yes.  The answer is yes to all of the above.

I’m sad.

Jason and I are both feeling that familiar tinge of melancholy that comes when your kid crosses over some sort of threshold.  They are usually crossing over to something new and exciting (walking or talking, say) and you are left to mourn what was left behind alone.  Why would Gryffin care that he used to sling his arm around my neck, just so, when he was a baby when there is an entire world to explore now that he can run and jump and dance?

It’s an inevitable part of this gig, I guess, and we’ve made it through many, many milestones in the past.  This just feels different somehow.  It marks the beginning of a more considerable cleaving and it hurts.

This morning, day 3, Gryffin asked eagerly if we had any fun plans for the day.  It took a full minute before it dawned on him that he wouldn’t be here today; that he had to go to school again.   When he realized it, he seemed sad and happy both.  Sad to miss out on a day with his brother but happy that he got to go to school.

And that’s how I feel.  I’m so happy that he likes school thus far.  What a relief.  I know that many parents can’t say the same and I’m grateful.  But I’m still sad.  And I’m trying to just leave it at that.

I’m worried.

This is such new territory that I can barely keep up with all of the things that I’m worried about!  I know that he is fine.  I do.  Promise.  But c’mon, preschool was a classroom of 12 kids with 2 teachers.  It was all in one big room and I pulled my car up right outside the door.

Now we’ve got 20+ kids, 1 teacher, the hallway that never ends, mohawk kid, lunchtime, recess, music class, technology time, assemblies and who knows what else.  I don’t know when he eats lunch or goes outside to play.  I don’t know who this music teacher is or where they do technology time.   I stood outside the wrong door yesterday at afternoon pickup and by the time I found Gryffin, he was crying.    Sheesh, what isn’t there to worry about?

I’m unsettled.

You all know that I like to be in control.   With this new school schedule, a new work situation for me, Isaiah going back to preschool on Monday meaning 2 drop offs and 2 pick ups a day, it’s bound to ruffle my feathers a little.  We’ll settle in here soon enough.  In the meantime, would you all please excuse my oily hair?  It looks like it’s gonna take a girl a few weeks to get things back on track!

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Gryffin discovering some doughnuts in his backpack on the first morning — hidden there by Jason

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We made Gryffin a Rust Family Membership Card, with what it means to be a Rust on the back.

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And he’s off!

 

Weekend Worthy

Worth your time from around the web this week…

 

Give Us New Eyes
Shane Claiborne and a friend visit #Ferguson

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Don’t Talk about Ferguson or Mike Brown
A school district in Illinois orders teachers to ignore any and all discussions/comments/questions about Ferguson and Mike Brown.  This is why systemic racism continues to fester in our country.

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12  Ways to Be a White Ally to Black People
Looking for ways to take some action?  Want to educate yourself?  This is a good place to start.

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This Doesn’t Happen to White People
I was really moved by Norwood’s story and hearing what it’s been like to be in her skin for 54 years.

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St. Paul Police Tase and Arrest Man for Sitting in Skyway
This is a story from earlier this year.  The sound of this guy’s voice is devastating, especially around minute 2.  This would never have happened to Jason -I’m sure of that.

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Other posts related to #Ferguson

Mordecai’s Call
Langston Hughes on #Ferguson
Misplaced Imagining
A Song of Lament

 

Looking Backward, Looking Forward

Yesterday was Gryffin’s Kindergarten Open House.  We went to his school, got his class assignment and then walked down what has to be the longest hallway in the world  to his room.   He walked between me and Jason, holding our hands.  I kept trying to catch Jason’s eye over Gryffin’s head but he stared resolutely ahead.   They both seemed anxious.

Earlier this week we had gone to a “kindergarten play date” for incoming kindergarteners at the school and it was… well, it was kinda bad, y’all.

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There was a row of maybe 10-12 adults standing in the shade when we pulled up, kids running back and forth to the play structure.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Approaching the row of parents I looked around for the person in charge.  Who was running this shindig?  Was somebody making introductions, making connections, getting folks settled?  I saw a large cooler near one mom.  Were there drinks inside?  Popsicles, maybe?

But nobody said hello.  Not one person.  Nobody even made eye contact.  They all just kept talking with one another while we stood there.  I looked around, trying to make eye contact with someone, anyone, looking to find a way to break into a conversation but no dice.  Finally I said to the boys,

“Well… you want to go play?”

Gryffin, ever timid in new situations, asked if I would come over to the play structure with him.

So the three of us walked over to the playground together.  I was the only parent in the raised bed of bark but no big deal.  I figured I’d get them settled and then bravely walk my poor introverted heart back to the group of adults who were apparently hellbent on recreating my Junior High lunch period from 1991.

Just when I thought they were ready to venture out to play, though, a kid with a mohawk – an actual mohawk, not a faux hawk – ran over next to Isaiah and said,

“Move!  I want to jump there!  You’re in my way!”

And of course, that was that.

Isaiah jumped swiftly aside and announced that he wanted to go home.

“Me, too,” said Gryff.

“Swell,” I said.

I walked them back over to the row of parents, determined to make some sort of inroad, but I just couldn’t do it.  I didn’t have the energy to force my way into a conversation with both boys hanging on me.  I suddenly felt exhausted.   I suggested, instead, that we walk over to the main building and check things out.  I figured I could work on my nerve while we took a little walk and then maybe we’d come back and try again.  But Gryffin begged me to take him home and by the time we pulled up at the house, he was in tears.

We had built up to that playdate for so long.  Gryffin had been so eager to check out his new school and meet some of his “new friends.”  I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed him somehow.

So when the Open House rolled around later in the week, we were feeling fiercely protective of him.    We wanted so much for him to walk away from that Open House excited about his classroom and his teacher and ready for this new world awaiting him.  And I’m happy to report that he did.  He met his teacher, explored his classroom at length and came home keen for the first day.  Mission accomplished.

But by bedtime last night, was in tears.  I know, I know, I know.  Countless parents have walked this road before me and lived to tell the tale.  He’ll be fine.  He’s going to love it.  He’s ready.  How sad we would be if he weren’t able to go to school and blah blah blah.  I know.  

But still.  The anticipation of a thing is always harder than the thing itself.  And right now I’m anticipating Gryffin being gone for over 6 hours every day.  I’m anticipating him walking down that endless hallway.  I’m anticipating mohawk kid.  I’m anticipating my tiny boy with a huge backpack trying to fit in, trying to make friends, looking around the lunch room for somewhere to sit (lord have mercy), and figuring out part of who he is in the world without us.

Mostly though?

Mostly, I’m going to miss him.

I’m going to miss my boy.  Because ultimately, I don’t know what lies ahead.  I don’t know what this new chapter of our lives is going to look like.  Not yet.  All I know is what’s behind me.  And it was pretty grand.

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Race/Off

Oh, Jon Stewart.  How you make me laugh.  But you know, you’ve also absolutely  nailed it on the points that matter.

Yes, yes, he takes his usual jabs at Fox News, Sean Hannity and the like, but here are few of Stewart’s more serious lines from this Daily Show excerpt…

“Imagine…on a pretty consistent basis that you cannot get a $#@-ing cab, even though you’re a neurosurgeon, because you’re black.”

“I guarantee you that every person of color in this country has faced an indignity, from the ridiculous to the grotesque to the sometimes fatal at some point in their… I’m gonna say last couple of hours”

And his closing story about the white producer and the black correspondent walking into a building in NYC for an interview.  The white guy was dressed like a “homeless elf” with a scraggly 5 o’clock shadow while the black guy was dressed in a tailored suit.  Guess who was stopped?

“Race is there.  It’s a constant.  You’re tired of hearing about it?  Imagine how f#@-ing exhausting it is living it?

Nicely done, Jon Stewart.  And thanks for the laugh, too.

Other posts related to #Ferguson

Mordecai’s Call
Langston Hughes on #Ferguson
Misplaced Imagining
A Song of Lament

#LastWords

Shirin Barghi is a journalist, filmmaker, and the founder of Humans of Tehran.  She created these images following the shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson and I find them gripping.  Heartbreaking.

Do you know that from 2006-2012, two black people died at the hands of white police every week.  Isn’t that staggering?

I know that some of my white friends (particularly from my past) are worried that I’ve “gone liberal” over the years and jumped on the bandwagon and possibly even lost my faith.  I want you to know, though, that my thoughts and opinions on the issue of race* in the U.S. stem directly from my faith, not simply from so-called liberal media or the influence of Seattle and NPR.

All those things do influence me, as they influence you, but it’s my faith that informs me most.  It’s the call to love mercy and to do justly that sets the rhythms and the patterns of my life.  I share them here on my blog and elsewhere so that we can dialogue a little, walk together, sharpen one another and inspire each other.   It’s probably a pipe dream but I also write so that someday Shirin Barghi won’t have further inspiration for her #lastwords art.  Take a look…

 

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Other posts related to #Ferguson

Mordecai’s Call
Langston Hughes on #Ferguson
Misplaced Imagining
A Song of Lament

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*And those other pesky topics, like, you know, guns and women and men and what not.

Mordecai’s Call

You all know that I’ve been thinking about Missouri and it’s encircling issues virtually non-stop the past couple weeks.  Are you tired of my incessant writing about it?  I’m weary with it today myself.  I’m feeling weighted down and fatigued.  There are so many narratives involved and so many voices to hear; so much history brought to bear and an overwhelming amount of anguish and grief.  There’s one thread, in particular, though, that continues to press in on me this afternoon and I find that I must write still more.

 

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I’ve been so proud of my local church family for talking about it and praying about it and challenging ourselves to step up and to speak out and to take risks.  But I’m starting to feel like our church is in some sort of echo chamber of our own making.  Where are the other voices?  Where are the voices of the people of my past?  My childhood friends?  My college friends?  I grew up in almost exclusively Christian circles and I attended a Christian college.  Where is the voice of the collective  church?   How can we not speak out about the injustices we’re seeing in Missouri and throughout the US?

Do you remember the story of Esther in the Old Testament?   It takes place in Persia in the fifth century.  Esther becomes the Queen after catching the King’s eye.  But not long after taking her seat on the throne, a genocide is planned.   It is declared that on the 13th of the month anyone in the empire is free to massacre the Jews and take their property.

What the King does not know is that his Queen is also Jewish.  Esther had kept it a secret.  Sneaky gal.

When he heard the news, Ether’s uncle, Mordecai, begged her to intercede on behalf of her people.   This is what he said:

If you keep quiet at a time like this,
deliverance and relief for the Jews
will arise from some other place,
but you and your relatives will die.
Who knows if perhaps you were made queen
for just such a time as this?”

Mordecai called her out.  Esther was in a position of immense power and privilege as Queen and Mordecai challenged her.  He challenged her to raise her voice on behalf of those whose voices weren’t being heard.   She was probably tempted to say nothing so that she, too, would not be executed.  Who wouldn’t be?  She was probably afraid.  Again, who wouldn’t be?  But Mordecai called on his niece to be brave.  He called on her to use her position and her power as Queen to agitate for justice and to cry out for mercy for the Jews.

We, too, have to answer the call of Mordecai.  We, too, are in a position of power and boundless advantage as the dominant culture.  And if you are like me, you are probably tempted to keep silent.  To say nothing.

But Mordecai’s call is for us.  If we keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the African American people of the United States will arise from some other place, but we will die in the process.  Metaphorically or literally, I don’t know.   Let’s be brave like Esther.   Let’s be brave and raise our voices together.  Perhaps we were put here, in this time and in this country, for just such a time as this.

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Looking for some helpful articles to read this weekend as you ponder all this?
This might be helpful.
And this.
And this.
Plus this.
Oh, and this, too.

 

 

 

Whom Shall I Fear?

I found this song a couple days ago and it has been my prayer this week.  The artist is David Wesley and he does all of the recording in his basement.  He rearranges a song, does each part himself and then puts it all together.  He just released a CD called Basement Praise: A Capella Worship.  

With everything going on in Ferguson right now, not to mention elsewhere in the world and in my personal life, I needed this song this week.

Check it out…

 

Langston Hughes on #Ferguson

I took my kids for a bike ride yesterday around the pond by our house.  I needed to get out of the house and off my computer. I couldn’t read any  more tweets, articles, blogs, Facebook posts or newscasts about Ferguson.   I needed a break.

So the boys rode and I walked along behind them and we stopped often to toss pebbles in the water, climb on the rocks and run in the grass.  About halfway around, Gryffin noticed what looked to be a behemoth birdhouse tucked just out of view.  When we got closer, he yelled, “mama!!  there are BOOKS in there!”

Turns out it was a Little Free Library.   That’s an actual thing, apparently.  People put them up in their front yard or in a public space and then folks just put books in or take books out when they pass by.  I read the little notice inside of ours detailing how it works and then we eagerly started digging through the books.  The boys were disappointed that there weren’t any books for them but I couldn’t believe my luck.  I walked away with 4 books!

I was most excited about Farewell to Manzanar  and Black Voices: An Anthology of African-American Literature.  I plopped down in the grass while the boys ran around and opened it to the poems of Langston Hughes.  If you aren’t familiar with Langston Hughes, he was an American poet, social activist, novelist and playwright.  He was a leader in the Harlem Renaissance and one of his most famous pieces is his poem, A Negro Speaks in Rivers.  

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As I read through his poems in Black Voices, I realized that I hadn’t escaped the frenzy of Ferguson after all.  It’s not possible to escape it.  It’s all around me.  It’s in the black boy playing with his baby brother in the grass behind me.  It’s in my neighbors ambling along the path.  It’s in the squad car slowly rolling down the street.  It’s in my kids and my family, my church and my community center, my sons’ school and the Y down the street.   And it was right there in my new book.

While he didn’t grow up there, Langston Hughes was born in Missouri in 1902 and his poetry is prescient for the people of his home state.   It’s like he’s marching alongside them.   In his poetry I feel the longing and the frustration and the anger and the weary resilience that I’m seeing in Ferguson.

Dream Variations

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
       Dark like me —–
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance!  Whirl!  Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night comes tenderly
       Black like me.

As I Grew Older

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright as a sun –
My dream.

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
between me and my dream.
Rose slowly, slowly,
Dimming,
Hiding,
The light of my dream.
rose until it touched the sky –
The wall.

Shadow.
I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this sahdow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

 And finally, this one.   This is an excerpt from Hughes’ poem Theme for English B.  

Theme for English B

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age.  But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me — we two — you, me, talk on this page
(I hear New York, too.)   Me — who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records — Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white –
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me –
although you’re older — and white –
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

——

So I can’t escape it and I don’t want to.  It’s good for me to be disquieted and discomfited.  I’m supposed to be uncomfortable right now.  But I think today I’ll sit with these poems instead of so much Twitter and Facebook.   The message stays the same but sometimes it helps to change the medium.

Misplaced Imagining

I can’t stop thinking about Ferguson, Missouri.  Last night my dreams were full of Ferguson hashtags and anger and people protesting.   As I sat in lament last week, I kept thinking about Mike Brown’s mom and grandma.  You know how it is.   You use your  imagination to picture yourself in someone else’s circumstances and you attempt to feel what they are feeling.   Empathy 101.

And that’s what I was doing.  I was imagining what it would be like to see my son lying dead in the street, uncovered.  I was imagining what I would feel like if Gryffin or Isaiah was shot more than six times in the street in broad daylight.   I was imagining what it would feel like to have complete strangers pick and choose which photos to show the world of my boy; to pick and choose which of the millions of threads that made up his life and who he was to put on display for the world to see.  I could scarcely breathe just imagining it.

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Mike Brown at 16 with his brother.

But you know what?

I was imagining the wrong mother.  I was imagining the wrong grandmother.  Don’t misunderstand.  It’s good to empathize with Mike Brown’s family and friends. It’s good to imagine what it would be like to step into someone else’s skin.  But if I’m really willing to step inside this narrative?  If I’m really  willing to see what I ought to be seeing and feel what I ought to be feeling, I shouldn’t be picturing Mike Brown’s mama.

I should be imagining myself as Darren Wilson’s mother.

Because if our country continues along its current trajectory, the likelihood that one of my boys will wind up unarmed & dead at the hands of the police is slim to none.  It’s almost laughable, really.   It’s much more likely that one of my boys will end up as the white cop holding a smoking gun.  And the thought of that  is equally, if not more, unbearable.

Was Darren Wilson thinking, “oh, look, a black kid… my white skin is superior to his black skin so I’m going to gun him down?”  I don’t know.  I highly doubt it.  It’s seems more likely that he, like you and like me, like white folks and brown folks and black folks, had been socialized in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways to see black men as criminals.  To see white skin as normal and safe and dark skin as dangerous, unknown and scary.  I know I have been socialized to think that way.   And it takes time and concerted effort to change the way that one has been socialized.

Need examples?  Want to see how this socializing plays out?

  • Do you know that 5x more white folks use illicit drugs than black folks?  Yet there are ten times more blacks than whites sent to jail for drug use.  WHY?
  • Do you know that study after study after study has shown that “giftedness” occurs at exactly the same rate across all racial groups?  Exactly the same rate.  Yet White kids & Asian American kids routinely outnumber the Black & Latino kids in our schools’ gifted & talented programs.  WHY?
  • Do you know that White people have better access to and quality of  healthcare than all other racial groups in our country?  We win again.  WHY?
  • Do you know that almost half of all preschool children who are suspended more than once are black students?  But black students make up less than 20% of the US preschool population.  WHY?
  • Last week ALONE, 4 unarmed black men were killed by police.  And from 2006-2012, a black person died at the hands of white police twice a week. WHY?

I could keep going and going and going.  It’s everywhere.  When will we learn?  When are we going to take our heads out of the sand and take notice of what is going on all around us?   When are we going to stop denying our role and start seeing our socializing?  It’s time, folks.  The people of Ferguson, Missouri are serving us notice and it’s time to look up.

Let’s look up and speak out together.

Do you need some ideas on where to start?

Then figure out what would make sense for your current season of life and take action.  Speak up.  Sign petitions.  Call your Senator.  Fly to Ferguson. Attend a rally, a moment of silence, a march or a protest.  Look for the racial disparities in your kids’ schools or your school or your workplace and take some action.  Be an agent of change, an agitator for justice.

Time is up.  Our notice has been served.  So let’s do something before our kids grow up and start shooting.