As a white folk in the midst of the next wave of Black liberation, it can be confusing where our place in the fight against racism lies. First of all let recognize that ending racism is not the job of solely those who experience it, it’s going to take the action of folks who hold power and privilege because of being white. Right now, our job as white folks is to use that power to support folks who experience oppression, despite the fact that we don’t personally experience: racism. But one does not just all the sudden “be” an ally, ally ship is a verb- an action we need to be constantly enacting. “Ally” as a verb is something Franchesca Ramsey speaks about in her short and informative video “5 tips to be an ally” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dg86g-QlM0
Some other things to think about as a white ally is being careful not to develop a “pat on the back” mentality about fighting racism. It totally is super duper to be an ally fighting racism, the work you do it super important- however its more common decency to fight for everyone’s rights rather than self-congratulatory.
Brit Bennett states in her article I don’t know what to do with good white people, “Over the past two weeks, I’ve seen good white people congratulate themselves for deleting racist friends or debating family members or performing small acts of kindness to Black people. Sometimes I think I’d prefer racist trolling to this grade of self-aggrandizement. A racist troll is easy to dismiss. He does not think decency is enough. Sometimes I think good white people expect to be rewarded for the decency. We are not like those other white people. See how enlightened and aware we are? See how we are good? Over the past two weeks, I have fluctuated between anger and grief. I feel surrounded by black death. What a privilege, to concern yourself with seeming good while the rest of us want to seem worthy of life.” This may seem harsh or angry in a way that makes you react as a white person. But I would invite you to pause – take a moment to remember that racism is a built on a system of oppression, not solely you as a person. Thinking about your own privilege as a white person can be overwhelming and lead to guilt, but I would challenge you to push past those feelings and recognize your privilege as an opportunity to leverage your power to support folks of color.
With that in mind, lets keep thinking about what it means to actually embody being an ally. A huge and often overlooked point that Jamie Utt makes “Part of being an ally means giving credit where credit is due and never taking credit for the anti-oppressive thinking, writing, theorizing, and action of the marginalized and oppressed.” Ideas around-oppression may be new to you, but they aren’t new –they come from folks that have been experiencing oppression- so its important to recognize that.
Here is a link to Jamie Utt’s article “10 things every ‘ally’ needs to remember” that references ideas Mia McKenzie of Black Girl Dangerous talks about. http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/11/things-allies-need-to-know/
Intersectionality is an idea that recognizes that humans hold myriad identities that have the potential to overlap and inform each other to result in a complex experience. It considers that each complex part of an identity plays a role in the overall combined experience of a single person. It recognizes that people can be privileged in some ways, and certainly not in others. Intersectionality allows us to examine these varying dimensions and degrees of discrimination while raising awareness of the result of multiple systems of oppression at work. Individuals have unique and simultaneous engagements with race, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation and citizenship.
Oppression and domination do not exist with neat boundaries around where one system ends and another begins, there tends to be overlaps that can and inform and even exacerbate the experience of one another. Of course this is not the oppression Olympics of who is the most oppressed, moreover highlighting the importance of approaching systems of oppression in a holistic manner that recognizes and creates space for the complexities of identity. Interlocking oppression is not a new concept, but one that women of color have particularly been talking about in terms of overlapping domination in racism and sexism. You can hardly address racism without addressing sexism, and you can’t really fight sexism without an anti-racism agenda. Or considering classism, sexual orientation, trans phobia, ability, and citizenship.
Once you start to consider how linked forms of oppression are with one another, it can seem overwhelming, like you can’t take on fighting ALL forms of oppression. However in what some call a specific target to fight oppression, like only taking on racism, or only taking on feminism, such a narrow focus denies individuals from a whole vision of themselves and their experience. In denying someone’s whole experience to inform our fights against oppression, I think we become complicit in enforcing other systems of oppression. A specific example is in white power feminism working to challenge sexism, without creating space to talk about feminism in the context of racism. Or Classism. What you end up with is an idea of feminism that becomes complicit in white privilege dominating and enforcing systems of oppression like racism and classism rather than opposing.
Bell Hooks write in her essay The Integrity of Back Womanhood, “Challenging and changing devaluation of black womanhood in this society is central to any effort to end racism.”
From the website Black Girl Dangerous,
Glimpse into the mind of Christal, an 18-year-old Black queerling, who ponders events and ideas pertaining to race, queerness, gender, feminism, awkwardness, etc., while making crafts.
An excerpt from Barbara Amolade – It’s a Family Affair – talks specifically how systems of oppression around race, gender, and class intertwine in the US.
“Black women who do need welfare are subjected to a system whose implicit assumption is that it’s a crime for men not to support women and children and women not to force men to support them. That system blames black women for ‘allowing’ men to impregnate them without the benefit of marriage or money. Welfare policies confuse the economic issue of how to support a family with the personal issues of sexuality and procreation, and this confusion shapes the perception of black female headed households as lacking men rather than money.”
An in depth view of Black Feminism and Intersectionality can be found here
Author Sharon Smith starts with Black legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw coining the term “Intersectionality” in 1989, and finishes calling for black feminism as a politics of inclusion “that provides a strategy for combating all forms of oppression within a common struggle.”
During a recent interview that surfaced this week, President Obama answered a question about whether Americans were overreacting to terrorism. He said: “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
Later, at a briefing this week, press secretary John Earnest told reporters: “The adverb that the president chose was used to indicate that the individuals who were killed in that terrible, tragic incident were killed not because of who they were but because of where they randomly happened to be.”
Contrast those statements to what Mr. Obama had to say when protests occurred after multiple African Americans were killed by the police over the past year. At that time, Mr. Obama was not afraid to label the underlying issue of racism in the United States, calling it “deeply rooted.” When a human life is cut short through violence, it is a heinous crime, a tragedy beyond words. However, when a person is targeted specifically because of their identity, it is our duty not only to mourn, but to speak up against bigotry.
Calling the kosher supermarket attack “random” is akin to saying that the Birmingham church bombing tragically killed a bunch of random churchgoers. Leaving out that the chosen target was a predominantly African American church and a stronghold for the civil rights movement would be racism by omission. As would be the failure to mention the underlying culture of racism that fueled that particular terrorist attack. It was a culture that was, and in many ways still is, pervasive. It is the deep, sick soil on which “violent, vicious zealots” grow.
We have learned from recent events over the past year: pretending that racism does not exist does not make it disappear. Neither will pretending that radical Islamist anti-Semitism does not exist make it go away. The only possibility for ridding our world of these scourges is to see them, to label them, and to eradicate them through the power of education and the pursuit of justice.
Every individual should have the right to express his or her complex identity without fear of being a victim of a hate crime. We cannot pick and choose which groups we defend— hate is hate. And it is only if we actively stamp out this hate, wherever it exists, can we say with certitude that “we shall overcome.”
Mr. President, please take responsibility for your remarks. In your Nobel Peace Prize address, you said: “We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not when it’s easy, but when it is hard.” As the leader of the free world, your words are powerful and have a profound effect on the world. Clarify your choice of words and speak out against radical Islamist anti-Semitism and the targeted killing of Jews at the Paris Hyper Casher market.”
Authors: Roni Bat Lavi and Yerusalem Work
In Ireland, the Great Famine was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It is sometimes referred to, mostly outside Ireland, as the Irish Potato Famine because one-third of the population was then solely reliant on this cheap crop for a number of historical reasons. During the famine approximately 1 million people died and a million more emigrated from Ireland, causing the island’s population to fall by between 20% and 25%. The proximate cause of famine was a potato disease commonly known as potato blight.
Although the potato crop failed, the country was still producing and exporting more than enough grain crops to feed the population. Records show during the period Ireland was exporting approximately thirty to fifty shiploads per day of food produce. As a consequence of these exports and a number of other factors such as land acquisition, absentee landlords and the effect of the 1690 penal laws, the Great Famine today is viewed by a number of historical academics as a form of either direct or indirect genocide.
The famine was a watershed in the history of Ireland. Its effects permanently changed the island’s demographic, political and cultural landscape. For both the native Irish and those in the resulting diaspora, the famine entered folk memory and became a rallying point for various Home rule and United Ireland movements, as the whole island was then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
The massive famine soured the already strained relations between many of the Irish people and the British Crown, heightening Irish republicanism, which eventually led to Irish independence in the next century. Modern historians regard it as a dividing line in the Irish historical narrative, referring to the preceding period of Irish history as “pre-Famine”.
Below is one of our online exhibits with more information on the Irish Famine. Click to watch and please comment and share it with others…
Source/More Information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Famine_(Ireland)
As February 2014 comes to a close, so does another Black History Month. Black History Month, often focuses on important people, places and events in our American history related to the origins, struggles and achievements of African Americans. As its been often expressed those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. What then have we learned about the value of having one month a year be identified as “Black History” month?
When I looked at a few of the arguments put forth on debate.Org, I found these:
“ Yes there should be a Black history month considering schools make it mandatory to learn about white history I totally agree with the person who said we should just consider it apart of American history and but unfortunately none of my history textbooks mention much about blacks contributions. If you all are educated about black history so much in school, care to tell me who Mifflin Wistar Gibbs, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Jean Baptise P. Du Sable are? I can definitely tell you I have never learned about them in school and I have to do my own research outside of school. Another thing I don’t understand is why are people so uptight about us blacks having BHM?
“No, Combine all history. I don’t think we need to celebrate an entire month for a single race of people. Combine black history with every other history and teach American history, not race history. I support black history, but we as Americans need to unify our history and stop trying to show everyone else that each race has more challenges than the next.”
What do you think?
I like to think of how many people Martin Luther King would have reached directly if he were alive today and able to share his message with the world via FB,Twitter ect. So this MLK Day, help keep the dream alive and become a contributor to a ‘wikki’ effort to build a talking / ai powered Dr. King and visit www.lifenaut.com today.
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.
My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.
All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.
One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.
The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.
Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.
One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.
One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.
We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together.
Ten years before the Civil War, the city of Rochester, NY asked Frederick Douglass to speak for its July 4, 1852 celebration. Douglass accepted, but rather than join in the ‘celebration,’ Douglass took it in an unexpected direction. In this clip, Danny Glover performs part of that speech (hat tip to the Zinn Education Project and MoveOn.org)
Thinking about the future, we should be ever vigilant (esp on 4th of July) about America’s history of being slow to accept the rights of all people because of some “difference”. Race,Ethnicity,Disability, and Sexual Orientation to name a few. How will people who choose to continue their consciousness with technology be recieved e.g. Transbeman’s?