Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Ebony and Ivory

Bad news for those in culture wars we got 998 other problems than a simple issue over those between those who are black and those who are white. Sorry folks I have been in public education to long to realize that we got a big spinning wheel that never quite lands on that lucky seven.  And it about seven colors and identities that I can think of the top of my head that don't include the top two: Indigenous, Indian, Arabic, Latin, LGBQT, Mixed Race, Asian, Religion. Now within each of those categories are sub classifications just look at LGBQT, and now they have added a plus for some reason I am not sure, experimenting? I don't know.. then we have binary, non binary, cis and the rest  Get it? Got it? Good.  No of course you don't. By God even I am sick of all the constant hyphenated  markers we seem to need to identify ourselves.

In my morning discussion with the Concierge at my desk, one of the more annoying and oddly arrogant ones who has more hyphens than an English Lord, we were discussing race and how many confuse him as being Black in identity.  He is West Indian on his father's side and Puerto Rican on his mothers side.  His fiancĂ© is of  Philippine descent and he knows little to nothing about that side of his cultural history. And given what I know of him that makes sense as he is the most self involved individual I have ever known.  He is what my mother calls an "Eye" Specialist as everything is Me.I.Mine.  He sees everything in his world view from his own prism and that is via a Gay, West Indian, Latino male.  That is a lot going on right there.  Once we run through his indignities or beliefs on subjects that relate to him and his experiences alone we have little more to say as I doubt he has ever read a book or a newspaper that is about anything outside of himself.  And why? I also think he believes no one else knows this as he rarely moves outside a circle of people who have knowledge outside their selves either.   We call "those people" a Narcissist.  Again race and sexual identity and gender have little to do with it, it truly is a colorblind disorder!   And living in a bubble of people just like you may make you feel better but it also makes you really fucking boring and that is how I feel even after a 10 minute exchange with this young man, bored out of my skull.  Seriously folks learn to talk to people even boring ones then you can find way more ways to hate people than based on race/gender/etc.

But you see if you have this discussion today with anyone you will have a blowout. You will be promptly labeled, culture canceled and of course lose your job and be shamed on social media, which in turn mainstream media will pick up as it was a slow news day and now everyone knows your name, your fuck up and what an asshole you are.  What a great day ahead for anyone who needs to be "schooled" or simply ignored as having their own opinion and it has nothing to do with you.   Who the fuck cares about what someone whom you encounter on your day to day has to do with you and your quality of life is beyond me.  Again you can apply that to those who are racists, homophobes, conservatives, religious crackpots, etc, etc, etc. And they are to be left alone, literally left alone, as what you accomplish is well nothing and if it happened to you how would you feel.   Seriously digging up past regressions on folks does what to them? And what more importantly, for you exactly?

And this brings me to my discussion with the Concierge and race. He was at Target with his fiancee and a woman without a mask was in the store and they refused to help her or ring up her purchases.  (I am assuming it was not this bad) As it was early they only had two registers open and the line was backing up.  The woman refused, ranting about how she has health problems and the masks have Co2 and the rest, so he decides to explain to her what Co2 is and that she is wrong and just put on a mask. During this encounter the woman calls him a "Nigger" and his fiancĂ©  a Mexican and that is why Trump is building a wall to keep his people out.   Okay lets stop for a minute here.  Why are you bothering.  Just walk around her and demand to be rung up or walk away and find self check or get a Manager. The scene escalated and guess what?  He never told me the end of the story if the woman was escorted out, her shit rang up and did he get his shit and how long this all went on for an what about all the others standing through this shit.  I have no clue, as then it was about how he has only been called that name three times and that first was Fourth grade and then in some other grade at another different school and then there at Target.  Oh wait, he was called "Sand Nigger" by a Southern woman on the subway one day going to work and he was wearing scrubs so she should have known he was not a Terrorist, which is what she accused him of being.  (Don't start me on the scrubs that is farce right there and please change your clothes at work) So this story is a circle jerk at this point so, okay, point being? Oh wait this is about you.  Okay. then.  So here is your discussion on race, its a one up game where you all share your indignation and stories of shame and then who has the worst one, maybe the one where you end up being murdered on the street by a Cop sitting on you wins.  Fuck me.

When we are focusing on the singular racist history of America with regards to the indignities done to Black Americans we are neglecting the rest done to others, and done largely thanks to those who were both white and male.  (Yes women were involved but again they are largely marginalized in society as well so get over it) It is why I am not engaged with the protest when I see a sign on a store that says Black Trans Lives Matter that seems very specific and direct and what about the other folks who are Trans? Do their lives not matter?

The one thing we do share is a state of being and that is being a Human.  I have long identified as Humanist when asked about my religion, versus saying Atheist, as that seems less hostile. Although in Nashville I felt enough of the hiding, it was like being Gay in the 50s, I needed to come out and be open but I still think humanism is a point made clear.  It takes my age, my gender and my color out of the equation for a minute.

In my years of teaching I have met many kids of many backgrounds from many cultures and lives unlike my own and that has taught me compassion, empathy, understanding, and more importantly acceptance and tolerance.  True kids are really annoying but that again is colorblind.  My great fear is that kids now will see me and immediately presume I am an enemy just by the color of my skin,  and test that in ways that normal hazing of subs will be magnified.  It is already bad as a Substitute Teacher and this summer of unrest will fuel that confusion and rage as they have already been out of school for six months when September comes so I don't see this being a great year right off the top.   This is where I do the Nashville way where I don't write my name on the board, just the instructions, make them do self attendance and speak as little as possible.  Good times folks.  But my days of engaging kids in free thinking discussion and open dialog I am afraid is over.  And when I hear repeatedly that I am of white privilege it diminishes me and my personal narrative; This is the concept most important in activism, that of the personal story or history that lends to engagement and connection.  Yes judge me lest be judged.

I share this opinion piece from The Daily News and note that one of the author's is Robin Quivers who has been the sidekick of Howard Stern for decades now.  And again during all the strum and drang of Howard's own role if perpetuating some seriously disturbing issues around gender, sex and identity including racism I think it is telling that they have been work partners through this all and managed to resolve any conflicts to maintain that partnership.  It is one we could all learn from.

The trouble with our talk about race: Maybe obsession over racism is the problem
By Naomi Aeon and Robin Quivers
New York Daily News
Jun 22, 2020

The racial mess we’re in is bigger than we realize. Versions of terror and brutality, for generations, have been wielded against black people, from slavery to segregation to lynching to the KKK, to all manner of prejudices, biases and micro-aggressions.

We have never properly reckoned with the problem. As a result, overt and covert forms of racism — against black, mixed, indigenous and other people of color — pervade American culture to this day.

Then along came this latest spate of police killings, each of them an outrage, and an assault on the collective human soul. It’s become all too repetitive, this vicious circle of “incident, protest, riot, calm.”

What’s promising is that the response in the larger society feels different this time. It’s dynamic. As if there’s finally a true awakening to the magnitude of a problem many are in denial about. It’s exciting to consider the possibility of race relations improving.

There’s reason for hope and optimism. And yet, looking closer, we find ourselves skeptical and more than a little concerned. A question looms in our minds: Could it be that the conversation on race in the U.S., as it’s emerged in these past few weeks, is creating as many problems as it’s attempting to resolve?

For all the earnest attempts to school the masses on race, we still so often talk about blacks and whites as though they are two clear, binary categories, and the only two that matter. It’s an oversimplification of the facts.

To truly move forward, we need to understand that blackness and whiteness — like all racial categories — are complicated, layered and paradoxical. Both labels contain within them all the diverse range of human experiences, in the U.S. and across the planet.

We suspect that, because it largely ignores this reality, the current conversation on race may do as much to reinforce race-based thinking as it does to address racism. The way we are “educating people” about racial problems is doubling as a form of social conditioning.

Here everyone, read this particular handful of books, watch these videos, say these approved phrases, repeat these words. Here everyone, gesture and posture appropriately. It’s surely unintentional, but it winds up reinscribing a narrow strand of race-thinking.

It’s an inadvertent mass brain-washing rather than an opportunity for genuine, deep, transformative education that touches the heart and mind.

We thought about this as we watched the “Sesame Street” CNN Town Hall for children and families.

It sounds so sensible to learn how to teach your young kids how to be anti-racist. The show shared an inspiring message. Excellent questions were asked, including: How can we grow the circle of who we care about and expand our hearts? How can we improve how we treat each other and how we perceive of each other? We found this instructive and wise.

The overriding theme of the show was, “we can do better,” and who could argue with that? Yet even as we were moved, we couldn’t help but give pause. Does it really make sense for a young child to have the seed planted within them to “do better”? Are they doing badly? Are they guilty of something?

Are we inadvertently planting shame and guilt in our kids by reflexively repeating certain mantras? Are we telling black viewers — planting within them a seed — that they are somehow inferior? Are we underlining their victim status, rendering it official?

Are we limiting the way young people see the world by demanding they think of themselves, first and foremost, as members of a race rather than, first and foremost, as human beings?

Race-based thinking will never solve the problem of racism. Strident race-based thinking only adds to the problem. It’s turning out that racism has a kissing cousin in this sudden rise of rigid race-thinking. It’s a pollution in the air with a suffocating effect. All of us must learn to think more nimbly. All of us must breathe.

Aeon is a consultant and teacher. Quivers is a broadcaster.

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