I am thinking about the news. One commentator said she wasn’t sure what news will be like post-Trump. She was joking, but I thought it worthy of some thought.
First of all, I anticipate hearing more world news or broader news. We have been so anal as a country the last four years. How are people doing in other places in the world? We hear a few things, like what is happening in the middle east right now. But what about the third world countries? I used to know where people were suffering from drought or flooding. I know I knew because I remember praying for them. I miss hearing about inspirational leaders in the world who are doing great things for their countries. What about global warming? Are we the only country having fires, floods and storms? I remember Americans stepping up to help people suffering from earth quakes and tsunamis.
I would like the news stations to do more teaching of history. This is happening on CNN and MSNBC right now. I hope they don’t stop. Yesterday I saw a discussion between three presidential historians about the current election process and how past presidents managed the shift between leadership. It was fascinating. I learned that history tends to repeat itself because, while times change, people tend to be fighting the same battles over and over again. It seemed dire, but also hopeful. I hope this continues.
I would also like to see more civic teaching. I don’t even know if civics is even being taught in the schools today. I took civics, but I was quite young and am not sure I really got hold of the ideas. I wish I’d had a teacher who not only taught me how government works, but how it was being played out in current affairs. I have learned more about civics in the last four years than I have ever known before. George Washington suggested that a democracy will only work with an educated citizenry.
We watch public television where we have seen some great specials like the lives of past presidents and the stories of American wars. Unfortunately, most people don’t choose to watch this kind of programming. I think presenting info in bits and pieces tucked into other programs that the greater number of people watch might be one way of getting information out.
Having said this, my husband pointed out to me that people choose the news media that corresponds with what they believe. History and civics could be part of any news media but it is possible that not all will tell the same story. We live in a new age when facts are not always accepted as the truth and there are even voices that suggest that information being presented is part of some deep state, some master deceiver.
I don’t feel very hopeful. But I can choose to be an educated person. At 76, there are still more history books to read, more documentaries to watch. I don’t know what to do with the information. I will always only have one vote. But maybe, just maybe, some truth will come out in a conversation that will enlighten another just a little.
I am watching President Elect Biden select his leadership team and my heart is starting to heal. He chose Alejendro Mayarkas to be head of Homeland Security. The Cuban American lawyer will have his hands full from day one with the first order of business to begin reuniting the last 500 children separated from their parents at the border. I don’t know if there has been another action by President Trump that has been worse for America than this one. It was during this time of separation that I recalled hearing people comparing Trump to Hitler and the actions he took akin to the Holocaust. Thank God, this is over.
This is one crazy time, isn’t it? The American people have chosen a new president but the present one is trying to find a way to stay in office. Every time I turn on the TV, I hear the potential problems caused by Trump not allowing the President Elect and his team to come into the White House to get info on what is current in the nation and international affairs. I feel I am watching a two-year-old hanging onto his mother’s leg when she tries to drop him off at day-care. I have seen that drama a lot in my work and it is pretty pathetic. Interestingly, when mom finally breaks away and gets out the door, the two-year-old usually stops screaming and settles down to play with the toys. Teachers watching are pretty attune to what the kid is doing. As long as he can get Mom to feel sorry for him, he has a chance to not be left behind. I have only seen it work once. All it accomplished was to postpone the separation to another day.
I hope we get through this smoothly. The president-elect seems to think all will be well in the end. His calm demeanor sure feels good after the last four years.
I turned on the TV this morning only to catch the last five minutes of Justice Ginsburg’s memorial service. I decided I would catch it later on U-tube, which I finally did just a short time ago. I have watched many funerals and memorial services over the past few years. Only those of leaders or significant people are televised. George Floyd’s service was televised and I watched it as my way of supporting Black Lives Matter and listening to the inspirational speeches.
I want to focus in this blog on three because I am struck by something similar between them that people who loved and respected them made a point to highlight. The three are Senator John McCain, Representative John Lewis, and Justice Ginsburg. One thing that is striking is the numbers of people who showed up to expressed the loss of these great leaders. There are hundreds of people serving our country in Washington, some not even known to their own constituents. But these three were known for more than their jobs.
I could list the individual accomplishments of McCain, Lewis and Ginsburg but I don’t think that is what made people want to come forth in droves to honor them. I think what brought people out was love. At each of their memorial services, I heard about their ability to respect the humanity of each person they represented and those they worked with. Not only was McCain honored by President Bush of his own party, but by Obama and Clinton. He knew how to respect an individual who had opinions different than his own. The brief encounter he had with a supporter who spoke nasty words about his opponent Barrak Obama is classic. He corrected the woman. “Obama is a fine American who loves his country. He just has a different way of solving problems than I do.”*
At Lewis’ funeral I heard people talk about how he showed love and respect for each person he met. He was known as the Conscience of the Congress. It was said that when he would speak to you, you could feel the love.
Today, the same kind of thoughts were expressed about Ruth Bade Ginsburg. I heard over and over about the friendship she had with conservative Judge Scalia. She was known for her respect for all, no matter their differences in political opinion.
I would call these Heroes. They were of a higher kind of mind and soul than those who seek to tear down others who disagree with them. There are so few among us, especially those who are in leadership positions. I believe that power tends to corrupt. I don’t say that it always does, but it takes saints like these three to gain power and to use it only for good.
The title of my blog is “My Thoughts on Peace”and Peace Pilgrim is one of my peace-making heroes. I want to share these words with you today which if found tucked in my journal in 2002:
On predictions about the futures, she wrote: “Dwell only on the good things you want to see happen…through thought you create your inner conditions and help to create the conditions around you. We are all helping to make a great decision…the darkest hour is just before the dawn…everything out of harmony is on the way out. The darkness we see is disintegration of out-of-harmony things…eventually God will prevail…it is only how soon that is up to us.”
“Leftists are those who want to push social change faster than can it can naturally go. Rightists are those who want to keep things as they are or turn back the hands of the clock. Both believe in the false philosophy that the end justifies the means…the war philosophy. I believe that the means you use will determine the end you receive. This is the peace philosophy.”
“There is a magic formula for resolving conflicts. It is this: Have as your objective the resolving of the conflict – not the gaining of advantage.”
“Be concerned that you do not offend – not that you are not offended.”
“If you fear nothing and expect good, good will come.”
In her ninth chapter, “White Fragility in Action”, Robin DiAngelo lists feelings white people experience when it is pointed out to them that something they said or did is racist. She also lists behaviors, claims they typically make that will tend to exempt them personally and finally, assumptions. DiAngelo has been presenting the facts about racism to white audiences for years and I would guess she has seen and heard everything. I am going to mention just a couple of ideas that I relate to here, as we might if you and I were participating in a book club discussion.
If I were at a workshop on racism and the leader suggested that something I said was racist, I would feel singled out, first of all. I consider myself a pretty open and educated person when it comes to race, so I guess I would also feel humiliated. I would get defensive and try to figure out if this person was right or if she was mislabeling me. I might even agree with her that my words were racist but inside myself I would probably think, “I am not really racist. That was just a slip of the tongue.”
Typical behaviors of those feeling attacked or accused might be withdrawal, denying, or focusing on intentions. I think I would probably withdraw or cover-up. I might go overboard a bit in trying to sound more open. I wouldn’t likely say, “Wow, that stung!” I am capable of being honest but usually, honesty with myself comes after the fact.
DiAngelo listed many of the claims people make in her previous chapters and I have addressed these. I am in a different place today than I was years ago. I know that I am privileged, I know that my experience with people of different races is limited. I am not likely to make any claims to being considered non-racist. I am likely to work on my behaviors as I go about my life. I shared in a past blog my decision to fight my fears when walking in a primarily black neighborhood. I can’t do much about my feelings but can do something about my behaviors.
DiAngelo has a long list of assumptions behind reactions. The one that stands out for me is, “Racism is a conscious bias. I have none, so I am not a racist.” I have been dealing with the idea of biases for years. It is an important concept for a writer. I am convinced that there is no such thing as being unbiased. Bias, to me is simply how you look at a problem. What part of the elephant are you looking at? Bias has a lot to do with what we were taught and what we experienced as children. We usually hold on to our biases until some new truth comes along and pokes a hole in our bias. This is happening for me right now in regards to racism. I hope that it will keep happening throughout my life. It is the life of a learner.
DiAngelo, in chapter 8, “The Result: White Fragility”, extends her discussion on how whites will get defensive when it is pointed out to them that they are using discriminatory language or action. It felt a little redundant to me as she shared more stories.
I am part of a spiritual path that nudges me to look deeply at my own behaviors and attitudes. The phrase, “It is all about me” is one I and my friends will use, usually joking about ourselves, when we realize that we are making someone else’s pain be about us, as though we are victims. The thing is, once you face this tendency in yourself to make everything about you, it begins to loosen its grip.
This is exactly what DiAngelo is promoting when she says that white reluctance to take a look at their racist behaviors stops progress in its tracks. It stops one individual from progressing, but it also stops dialogue between people of different races and social change that reflects equality and justice for all. Have you ever tried to talk to someone about how they’d hurt you and been dismissed as being oversensitive? I have. I came to the conclusion that talking to this person is like talking to a brick wall. So, what is left is to deal with one’s own hurt and resentments with no satisfaction and no solution. It is crippling to a relationship. In the case of racism in a white dominated society, the problem is that one is not alone with their feelings. For the black community, parents watch their brothers and sister and children suffer discrimination and live in fear daily. Small, innocent children get to grow up with this. Imagine the woundedness to their little souls.
I have seen the videos of George Floyd taken from police body-cams and the phones of bystanders. The man was terrified. He had every reason to believe from the moment he was singled out by the police that he was about to die. His panic as they tried to get him into the police car was absolutely understandable. It seemed to me like a man being pushed to the edge of a cliff and being asked to submit to the people who were pushing him. I can also imagine that white people watching might say, “Why didn’t he just do what they wanted him to do? This wouldn’t have happened if he’d only done what he was told.” That is white privilege! We don’t have to be afraid when police officers pull us over or stop us for questioning, other than getting a ticket or being arrested. But odds are really high that for whites that death is not likely imminent. White Privilege – the privilege of not having to be afraid.
But now DiAngelo is talking about White Fragility. This is the stop-gap. When whites put themselves into the role as victim, there is no need for change. The person of color becomes the bully because they made me feel bad when I am a good person. What they, the black people, have been experience is not the issue…the attack against me is the issue.
Just a couple of interesting pieces from this chapter that I want to mention:
- “More than half of whites – 55% – survey sat that, generally speaking, they believe there is discrimination against white people in America today. Notable, however, is that though a majority of whites in the poll say discrimination against them exists, a much smaller percentage say they have actually experienced it.” (Sounds like those who claim immigrants are taking their jobs but have not actually had their jobs taken away by an immigrant.)
- In situations in which the author was called upon as a consultant, she was cautioned that employees who had been to diversity training workshops had experienced trauma and she was cautioned to “proceed slowly and to be careful”. (Would you call this PTSD?) She adds that by employing terms that connote physical abuse, whites tap into the classic story that people of color (particularly African Americans) are dangerous and violent. Thus not only is there no progress, but stereotypes are being reinforced and the situation is made worse.