Important Words from Important People

Right now I am listening to the audiobook of The Source of Self Regard by Toni Morrison and narrated by Bahni Turpin. Within the collection of essays and speeches is a piece she wrote when she won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1993. There is accompanying audio of her reading this speech on the night she accepted the award, but the version I heard was the one read by Turpin. I plan to listen to Morrison speak tomorrow for right now I want to write. The piece is an extended metaphor about the power of language and of humanizing language. In a way I feel like this piece came back to me at just the right time and the right place. I have listened to some of the audiobook a few years before, but I’m not quite sure if 1. I had heard this piece and, 2. Whether it would have resonated with me then as it does now.

Language is on my mind. It’s always on my mind. Part of the reason why I don’t write as much as I used to is because I care about the language I use. It takes a lot of time and effort to carefully write out my thoughts because a lot of my thoughts are a lot more complicated than they used to be. Because I use what I consider to be elevated language, a higher diction, and I’m now consciously aware of how my speech patterns differ from others. This is why I find it important to engage in political education — to create the shared vocabulary that is essential to understanding societal problems.

Within Morrison’s speech, she says, “The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation.” Nuanced. Complex. Delivering life, birth, happiness, love. Political education is giving name to the nuance of language that is so necessary for delivering life, birth, happiness, and love. It’s complex, so discussion and dialog is a must. Within the same paragraph, she says, “Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.”

Encouraging the mutual exchange of ideas when framed with mid-wifery properties – i.e. political education – burgeons the desire to create life-giving institutions that abolitionists are striving for.

TONI MORRISON LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE UNLOCKED IN ME. Thank you.

Trying to engage in dialog where there is a lack of understanding of the nuance of language drives home the need for slowing down a conversation long enough to explain words for common meaning. We must have a shared vocabulary. A lot of abolitionist and anti-racist education requires a lot of unlearning of concepts. These concepts are taught to us through culture (family, media, music, socializing), and you can’t know a thing unless it’s pointed out to you.

James Baldwin said, “If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you don’t see.” Moving through the world with a love ethic means pointing out the dehumanization of another that we learn through the subtle nuance of language as taught via culture. The unlearning of harmful language is wrought with discomfort because we have to wrestle with our moral selves as we try to understand how we came to absorb such lessons. There has never not been a time when problematic language or imagery is being pointed out by someone — often and most likely by the people who are being hurt the most — but we are not conscious of what we cannot see.

Silencing the opposition is the only way to avoid accountability. James Baldwin said, “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.” Accountability never feels good, because those of us with a good moral conscious feel guilt and shame. We have demonized guilt and shame so much that we avoid it at all costs. Or, that’s what the rich and powerful have done and have taught us.

But I digress…

Today I also took the time to listen to a podcast interview of Mariame Kaba. Both Morrison and Kaba galvanize me to take action. During the interview, Kaba shared the importance of accepting and taking lessons from failure. More words given at the right time at the right place.

My tiredness has set in, and so I will hopefully continue these thoughts tomorrow.

Adding more Kindness to the World

When I was a teenager, I loved to build my own websites and frequently blog about my life. My blog and my website were separate entities, but sometimes I did mix the two together without any real lasting longevity. I recently registered a new domain name — and I continue to keep the one I’ve had since 2002 — but I really am not sure what it is I want to do with it. Do I have the time or desire to build something new, or should I just have it direct to a place like this blog (or a new blog?????) since web hosting is an expensive up-front investment? I think I know the answer.

The answer: I upgraded to a premium feature of wordpress and I’ll be directing my domain here. Just make it easy until I get some time to actually do more with it.

This year I have the desire to change everything about my life. I know it’ll be a slow process, and that I will inevitably fall back on old habits. I am easily distracted by a variety of things in my life, but one thing I think I must do is write more often. I say this every time I blog. “I need to write more.” YES OK LET’S DO IT.

Since I’ve started working, I’ve been more social than I have been over the last nine-ish years. I’m continually learning about myself, and one of the things I’m fairly proud of is my ability to be kind. Opening one self to chat with whoever – even if they’re a bit awkward – really does make a difference in how people respond. One of the downsides of being very friendly is that some people will mistake friendliness with flirtations or as an advancement for wanting to have a romantic relationship. I’ve had to tell at least one person, and I doubt this will be the last time I’ll have to do this, that I’m just nice to everyone.

I recently read the book “All About Love” by bell hooks, and it has given me new things to consider while also recognizing where I’m already doing a pretty decent job in following what hooks calls a “love ethic.” When I speak of love, my definition of love is different from most people’s understanding. We’re socialized into believing that “love” only applies on a romantic level or a familial level. “Love” between strangers or acquaintances isn’t really a topic that is discussed on a conscious level, and for me that kind of ‘love’ really just comes down to kindness, understanding, and a willingness to listen. Affirming people’s struggles through this shitty ass life helps people feel seen and heard.

I post unedited stream-of-consciousness videos to youtube where I use my commuting time to and from work to philosophize about the world based on the things I’ve learned from a multitude of marginalized peoples. I’ll be working on a series of videos as well as written posts that detail how language and cultural values shape our worldview in ways that are detrimental to human progress and happiness/contentment. Synthesizing the information I’ve absorbed through my scholarship is something I really look forward to doing, but honestly so many other people have already written books, made podcasts, given talks, etc etc. on this. I had used the idea that “this has already been discussed” as a way to silence myself, but I’m trying to break free of that because MORE people need to be talking about this considering how obnoxiously loud the hard right is with their dehumanization.

I don’t suspect my blog will get much in the way of traffic, but that’s besides the point. One more place for people to get ideas or understanding that lead toward kindness should always be offered.

Interacting with other people has been very lovely for me in the way that I’m able to really see the progress I’ve made from who I was in and prior to 2017 to who I am now. I’m quite proud. But there’s always more to learn, always more work to be done, and so I shall continue to do my best.

America the Shameful

Nearly 8 billion people live on this planet. It’s quite foolish to think that people think the same way. No two people will completely agree on everything. And while some people are open to new ideas and allowing their minds to change when presented with new information, a major majority of people are pretty set in their ideology.

It seems very likely that Roe vs Wade will be overturned by the Supreme Court according to a leaked memo to Politico. Naturally people are freaking out and super fucking pissed — well, the people I follow on twitter anyway. Of course there’s the other side that is celebrating and feeling as if their world-view is finally coming into fruition.

It’s really fucking odd to me how obsessed some people are about taking way other people’s autonomy. This dehumanization of particular groups of people for what…? Power and greed? Like. I think about how hard people fight for pro-life yet they have zero clue or zero inkling that somewhere close or far away, someone had an abortion, and that abortion affected pro-lifer’s life in zero ways.

It makes zero sense to me how tightly conservatives want to control the lives of strangers. And I know that to them, my ideology makes zero sense to them. The polarization of world view, cronstructed in pockets carefully crafted by red-line housing, has created people who can’t relate to other people because they’re never around other people who don’t think or act like them.

And then there are the democrats, who are pretty much conservatives performing as for-the-people democrats. All talk, no action, because they have the same sort of ideology as conservatives but know how to play the game to appeal to the other side.

The rich continue to get richer, the poor continue to suffer. It’s maddening, sickening, infuriating, and nauseating. They bleed every last drop of blood from us as flames lick the world.

As Marime Kaba says, “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.”

Values, part 2.

Prior to the previous post, I just started drafting up a blog post to really spell out the values of anti-racist work. While the previous post gives the root of what my value is, this post will share the fruit of that root. Harm none is a good starting point, but there must also be action. That would be my second value.

It is not enough to harm none, not in a society that gains profit on the backs of marginalized communities. One must also be actively involved in community to help shape policy that will help the marginalized get the equity needed to live a quality life.

Those are some fancy ass words. Policy, marginalized, equity, quality. In context you can get a sense of what those all mean, but what does it mean in terms of action? I think it would be best to define those words individually so you can see how they fit together.

Policy are laws that create guidance on how a society should run. Nearly every aspect of our life has policy created around it, and if you’re part of the dominant culture, you probably benefit from those policies.

Dominant culture means white people. White people are dominant because they make up most of the bodies that create policy in government, schools, hospitals, housing authority, etc. etc.

If you’re within the marginalized community, you fit within one or more of the following identities:

woman, BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), trans, disabled, queer, immigrant (i.e. non-US born citizen)

Equity means that resources are redistributed so that those within the marginalized communities get what they need to be on equal footing with the dominant culture.

To spell it out differently, people of color are given the opportunity to get resources that would give them the same quality of life as white people. That means they receive resources for well-funded schools, hospitals, mental health services, housing and food security, safety, etc.

Quality means the lack of struggle. No one should have to struggle to live. No. One.

Now that those are somewhat better defined, what would action look like? To be honest, I’m still learning. But here is what I have learned so far:

Action = involvement. Showing up. Being active. Helping to formulate ideas. LISTENING. Being available for the follow-through. Talking to other people and bouncing ideas around. LISTENING. Keeping in mind those who will benefit the most as you create new policy ideas. Possibly running for office yourself. LISTENING to the marginalized. Uplifting the marginalized. Allowing the marginalized to SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES and SUPPORTING THEIR IDEAS.

These are great things to speak of in the general, but what do the specifics look like? That I am still learning as well, and I haven’t yet seen it in practice. Luckily I’m on the edge, waiting for that crest to fall. I will report back once I see the results of action in action.

People whom I don’t hate

I like using whom, not because I’m trying to be a prescriptivist, but because I learned the prescriptivist grammar rule, and I know it, and I kind of like it, so I like using it. How’s that for defending myself for using ‘whom’ as a self-described linguist?

I received this comment a while ago, and I remember getting a notification for it but then quickly forgot. I read it tonight.

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After reading through almost every entry you’ve written here….. I don’t hate you. If you knew me personally you wouldn’t hate me either, then if I explained my worldview and shared some opinions you would hate me quite a bit. I don’t hate you at all though, I might even love you in a way for being a good wife and mother. Even though I think much of your outlook is wrong and harmful so far it seems like your major decisions in life are good. You’re married, you have children, you love them all quite a bit and do your best for them. And as long as you stay committed to your family the hate in this is all on your side, I have no negative feelings towards you. I’m happy you’re doing things right in life, outside of your family everything else is just useless noise. I’m going to stick around for now, maybe I’ll move on and forget you eventually but I’m still interested in seeing how your intellectual journey goes from here. Cheers -M

Allow me to address you directly, MW.

Your comment has a lot of projection going on within it. Do you believe that your values are worthy of hating? Maybe you should change your values.

My values are pretty simple. And I’m a fairly forgiving person because I know that learning to be antiracist requires a tremendous amount of self-reflection that many people are unwilling to do. Or, at the very least, they don’t realize that they need to do any self-reflection at all. Self-reflection requires critical thinking skills, something that is hard to teach unless you know how to teach effectively, which in and of itself is a skill. Skill on top of skill on top of skill… it’s hard all around. From my observation of the world, these skills are neither encouraged nor well developed. Few people acquire them, few people realize the value, and few people want to put in the work to get good at it.

What are my values? Harm none. That’s pretty much it. You do you, live your life, and let people live their lives as long as they’re harming none: not people, not environment, not animals. Beyond that, I don’t care what you do. Be whoever you want to be. Live the life that makes you happy.

But don’t live a life that actively seeks to put people into some box that is arbitrarily decided upon. You don’t have to like how other people live. It’s not your life and it’s not your decision. And their decisions don’t affect your life, if you’re following the harm none value.

There are a lot of strange and different ways of living in the world. I’m not about to list the lifestyles I find not to my liking because it doesn’t really matter. If they’re harming none, they can do whatever the fuck they like. Doesn’t matter to me cuz it doesn’t affect me.

But once people start putting their values onto others that causes harm to their lifestyle, that’s when I start having problems.

So, MW, are you the type of person who wants to force your values onto others in a way that causes them harm? If you understand your values to be framed like that, then why is that your value? Do you really actively seek to harm people? You should ask yourself why. Why do you want to harm others? Why is it okay that you are the person who gets to decide that someone else’s life is worth harming? I don’t want to know the answer. But think about it. Journal it. I dare say, self-reflect on it. Develop that skill, and maybe you won’t have to project your feelings in the comment section on a stranger’s blog.

Never, Ever Say/Allude/Infer “Not all ___” in an Argument. EVER.

It’s interesting to me how quickly people respond with “But I don’t do that” whenever a generalization is made. The compulsion to constantly reiterate “Not All ____” is strong in many people. There is a natural need to refute negative opinions, especially if you fall within a group that is being targeted.

Here’s the thing though – no one is targeting you specifically. And if the generalization doesn’t apply to you, then be grateful and move on. You do not need to defend yourself if you’re not guilty of the act, and you especially do not need to go out of your way to make it known.

“White people are racists.”
“Not me! No one I know is. #notallwhitepeople !!”

“Men are rapists.”
“I never raped anyone. #notallmen !!”

Congrat-u-fucking-lations! Consider yourself a decent human being and know that you aren’t the one being talked about. But there are millions of other people who fall into the category of “men” and “rapist”, “white” and “racist” that the generlizations are true. Overwhelmingly so.

If you have a problem with generalizations, there is something you can do about it: attack it. But don’t attack the people MAKING the generalizations — attack the people who CAUSE it. Are you a man and don’t want to be associated with rapists? Then talk about rape culture with other MEN so as to lessen the number of assaults. Are you white and tired of being lumped with racists? Well guess what — you can learn about critical race theory and work toward dismantling white supremacy by teaching other WHITE people about it. Call out racists when they’re being racists. Call out sexual harassment when you see someone (man or woman!) being inappropriate.

If it makes you uncomfortable that you can’t seem to disassociate yourself with these generalizations, then you’re in the right spot. You SHOULD be angry that there are a lot of scumbag men and a lot of racist white people in the world. But what are you going to DO about it?

The answer isn’t, and should never be, to argue against the people who are telling you that they have been hurt – multiple times and in multiple ways – by those particular groups. Because then all you’re doing is shifting the blame to the victim. It shows you’re not really interested solving the problem. Your “woe is me, boohoo, I hate these generalizations” don’t do anyone any good.  Hold the OFFENDERS RESPONSIBLE. Don’t sweep it under the rug because it’s easier to say or do nothing. That’s how we got into this mess.

 

I am a White Woman, and FUCK RACISM

I am a white woman. I just now deleted several paragraphs of rambling bullshit because I realize that I was digging myself into a hole. Who am I, having never experienced racism, to talk about racism?

I am a white woman, and I know racism exists in America. I am not so foolish to think or believe that it ever went away. There have been times, a lot of times, in my life where racism wasn’t on the forefront of my mind because I am typically surrounded by people who are also white.

I am a white woman, and racism has never affected my life. I have had many friends of other ethnicities flow throughout my life. But while I was with them, we did not encounter any sort of overt racism. At least not from my white point of view, which obviously could be wrong.

When I was in 5th grade, I lived in Kansas City, KS and was a minority in a primarily black school. There were a few times where I was mildly bullied, and maybe race played a part of it, but I never thought anyone making fun of me was doing so because I was white. It wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I figured they were making fun of me because I was new, and new is an easy target. Being 9-10 years old and never experiencing racism, I don’t think I would know what it looked or felt like even if it was happening. But I digress…

I am a white woman, but I am not shocked or surprised by what happened today. I look and hear and read the news of the bullshit that POC experience. I know it happens, and I know there is a lot more happening that isn’t being reported on. It happens every day to a lot of people.

I’m an overly empathetic white woman. I can imagine myself in other people’s shoes and feel their sorrows. I cry very easily and at everything. And while I know my imagination couldn’t possibly match the realism of those situations, it is not lost on me that I don’t know how it feels and I will probably never know how it feels.

When I see these messages, I know they are 100% correct.

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It saddens me to the core to think about all the people out there who are not being treated as people. It completely baffles me that there are assholes out there who can look at a POC and think of them as subhuman. It blows my fucking mind.

I follow sociologist Dr. Tressie Mc, and I saw she wrote this, and I wanted to cry too…

Can you imagine having to defend yourself, every fucking day, that you’re worthy of being treated as an intelligent human being? I am a woman, so I kind of get it. But I know it is much, much worse for POC, especially WOC.

 

I replied to the first of the above tweets that I am actively teaching my children about race. Having rejoined twitter recently, I have found so many POC expressing how white people have a responsibility to stop avoiding racism as a topic of discussion. By never talking about race and race issues, we are being complicit and compounding the problem. I don’t want to be that person. I will admit that I am not at all an expert on racism. But I’m learning. I want to learn, and I want to be better, and I want to raise children who will stand up for anyone and everyone who is being bullied. My girls will speak up and stand up. And I’ll start teaching them by showing them how.

Good Rhetoric

Let’s talk about rhetoric.

The thing that drives me crazy about the internet is its overuse of hyperbole. You often see articles that say things like quotation marks so-and-so destroyed blah blah with such and such. Words like destroy, decimate, epic, hero are all being over used in an incorrect way. It creates a society that doesn’t know the proper definition of words and so when we start using phrases like “fake news”, people just jump on it to use on anything that they don’t agree with. 

—–

Oddly enough a good example of Rhetoric came to light this evening. I had began the previous paragraph earlier in the day, so I find it a pleasant surprise.

I wrote it on Facebook, but I’ll copy it here.
Rhetoric matters. And this is how you do it…

“I’ve been pursuing this issue because the ethics program starts at the top. The signals a President sends set the tone for ethics across the executive branch. Tone from the top matters.  

… 

“It’s important to understand that the President is now entering the world of public service. He’s going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So, no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the President of the United States of America.”
The link is a statement from the director Of the Office of Government Ethics regarding President-Elect’s and his appointees’ need to resolve conflicts of interests. 

He not only shows why it’s important, but also gives an example of one of Trump’s appointees successfully clearing the ethics process. 

While he says that Trump’s current plan to let his kids run his business will not work with government ethics, he adds, “Now, before anyone is too critical of the plan the President-elect announced, let’s all remember there’s still time to build on that plan and come up with something that will resolve his conflicts of interest. In developing the current plan, the President-elect did not have the benefit of OGE’s guidance. So, to be clear, OGE’s primary recommendation is that he divest his conflicting financial interests. Nothing short of divestiture will resolve these conflicts. ” 

He sums up his remarks with “It’s plain to see that none of this reflects any partisan motivation. All you have to do is imagine what

will happen if the President-elect takes this advice and divests. He’ll be stronger. He’ll have a better chance of succeeding. So will the ethics program and the government as a whole. And, in turn, America will have a better chance of succeeding. We should all want that. I know I want that.”
And while I think he says many great things and is overall very positive about his expectations, I will not at all be surprised when Trump gets on Twitter to start spewing more propaganda bullshit that he likes to do.

Right Wing, Help Me Understand

Research. I want to do so much of it right now.

The current political landscape is dividing the American people further and further. The propaganda spewing from the president-elect perpetuates this divide, and unless the “liberal elite” stop name-calling the other side, our world is doomed.

We need understanding and compassion. We need to be willing to talk and discuss ideas and theories without resorting to personal attacks. I know a lot of people are so unwilling to even listen to the other side, and it’s because each side has a huge amount of elitism and entitlement. 

Is it too late to stop this? Is it possible for people to learn humility, to be OK with how the other lives even if it isn’t how you would choose to live personally? 

I want to learn what people who support the president-elect hope for him to achieve. If it is for America to become less inclusive, to oppress rights of any group, or to help the rich get richer, then I really want nothing to do with you.

However, if you’re concerned with how things have been going, that there is something that hasn’t worked for you in the last 8 years because of policy, I want to know what it is. I think most people are concerned with just living their lives, and maybe some of the leftist policies interfered with the rights’ ideal life. But what? I really want to know.
It’s hard to write these posts while the kids are awake. I’ll edit and write another later.