Are White People Part of Black History Month?

0625101121bBlack History Month is upon us, as it comes around every February. This year I am taking a new approach on this celebration of a part of our nation’s history. This month I am taking guest posts from writers who wish to explore thoughts and feelings about race that have affected their lives. I am targeting white authors, although, I have asked for some posts from black authors as well and I am open to any person of any race/skin color who wishes to author a piece.

My Take On Black History

Growing up in Texas, my education on Black History never  got much past Martin Luther King Jr. and the very basics of the Civil Rights Movement. For years I knew that MLK Jr. made it “all better.” I truly never realized that there was still racism in the United States until I made a black friend while living in Okinawa, Japan on a U.S. Air Base as a young woman, married to an airman.

Anyone who knows me now or has read my blog for some time would probably be astonished to find out just how naive I was once upon a time. But I was.

It was the O.J. Simpson trial that brought some of our discussions to light. I met my friend in a creative writing class one summer and I liked her instantly. It was because of her that I began to open my eyes to the fact that there were still racial problems in the United States.

She was not my first black friend, but she was the first one who blatantly argued with me that racism still existed and spent many hours determinedly sticking to her guns when I naively held my own opinion that it was no longer a problem.

She was the first person who challenged me to rearrange my thinking about racism in our country. She was, by no means, the only friend, but the first in a long string of loving and intelligent friends of color who answered my questions and patiently allowed me to struggle with my thinking.

A few years after meeting that friend, I moved to Detroit where I was confronted by the very uncomfortable divide in the blacks and whites at work. I noticed that we got along great until there was a conflict with a white and black person, then suddenly the ranks would close around each side, strictly divided along race lines. I found that interesting and it was due to those experiences that I began to seek out more opportunities to find out more about racism.

And so with that, I realize there is a need for white people to have space to think through their feelings and thoughts. Black History Month may seem a strange time to choose to give a platform for white people to think about their naive, uneducated thoughts about racism.

I am prepared to take some criticism for choosing this month for this topic. However, I think it makes a lot of sense.

Black History is part of American history and African Americans are not the only people affected by our history. We are all in this together.

I believe that our histories as well as our futures are completely intertwined and we must all partake in this discussion. I agree with black authors who say that white people should stop talking for black people when it comes to racism. I want to make that clear.

I do not want posts from white people discussing how black people feel.

I want them to talk about their own skin color, their own experiences and their own questions about racism.

So with that, I leave open the opportunity for guest posters who may wish to write about their own thoughts on race, racism, skin color and other thoughts along those lines.

Please see my last two posts and the page on guest posting for more information and guidelines.

Growing Up as a Dot Rat

I Support Breastfeeding, So I Support Black Breastfeeding Week

Submit Guest Posts

Christmas Christians, It’s the Wrong Time of Year

Cheers!
Cheers!

When I was a kid, I listened to my mom bitch, every year, about the Christmas Christians. It bugged her that during the year we faithfully went to church three times a week and then when we’d have our Christmas service, the church would be so packed the regular congregants couldn’t find a decent seat in our sanctuary. To be clear, she wasn’t complaining that we couldn’t find a seat. She is a good and charitable Christian.

What bothered her was that she knew these people weren’t actually Christians. She wanted them to come all year round and if I know my mom (and I do) I’m guessing that she trapped several of them after those services and did her damnedest to convince them to come back the next week. I don’t know if she was ever successful at it, but I bet that didn’t stop her, year after year.

At the time, when I’d listen to her complain about the Christmas Christians, I thought to myself, “Well, at least it’s something.”

And now, as an adult, I know what that something is. These are the kind of Christians that have run our political system into the ground. Oh, I know that there are many other kinds of Christians who have ruined it for everyone. But the Christmas Christians are the masses. They are the ones who, as one of my favorite adages goes, “know just enough to be dangerous.”

In other words, these are the type of people who think of themselves as Christians. They hold a handful of beliefs and judge people who don’t behave the way they do. But these people are dangerous. They are the one-issue voters. They are ignorant and foolish. They don’t understand the spirit of the law, only the letter. (And I’m guessing they don’t understand what that last sentence means.)

Christmas Christians ruin it for everyone. They are dangerous and foolish. This year in particular I think we have all felt the effects of the Christmas Christians. They are, in part, who help vote in the crazy politicians under the guise that these politicians are Christians. When many real Christians understand that those politicians are evil and will do more harm than good. Christmas Christians vote in people like Rick Perry, who attack women’s healthcare under the auspices that he considers abortion murder.

But the clinics and organizations who they are attacking also do cervical cancer screening, find funding for mammograms, provide pre-natal care, birth control, and test for STDs. (I know, I know, MORE SINNERS!)

But wait, perhaps in some cases it’s not sinning. What about women who find out their spouses have been cheating on them and suddenly need to flee their homes with no money? They need to get tested. What about women who find themselves single mothers in an instant and are struggling financially and can’t afford insurance? What about a teenager who thought the boy she loved, loved her back and suddenly found out that he didn’t? Or perhaps, he’s just too immature to take care of her and he runs. But she doesn’t want to have an abortion, so she needs prenatal care.

I know that if you put a face on the real people, most decent people, even the Christmas Christians, would say that they deserve help and we should not deny healthcare for them. Well you know, here’s my face. I’m one of those people. And in visiting those clinics, I’ve seen their faces. And they are every color, every age, and every walk of life. I don’t know their past histories. But I do know that they are grateful, as I am, to be receiving the kind of healthcare that we all need.

We live in the richest country in the world, and yet rich and powerful people are working against the poor and the struggling. That’s not Christianity.  That doesn’t sound like a Christian country to me. It sounds like the devil is at work in the hearts of the politicians who would use the passions to ignite fierce anger against people who are just like you, struggling to keep afloat and doing the best they can with the hand life dealt to them.

I know I’m setting myself up to get a lot of shite from my (handful of) Christians readers who also like these policies and politicians and who also go to church every week. But I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about the masses who help vote in the crazy because of one or two small issues that they feel so passionate about, and can’t see the forest for the trees. Anyone who understands Christianity knows that there are a lot of gray areas in the bible. The bible gives a lot of specific direction and then veers off in another direction. There are lots of Christians out there who prefer to follow the gray areas, allowing love and compassion to rule, rather than going around setting down judgment on people with whom they disagree.

Affluenza, A Disease of White Privilege, Can It Help the Disenfranchised?

ethancouchLast week this story of 16-year-old Ethan Couch who received the cushy 10-year probation sentence for killing four people hit the press, my immediate reaction was probably the same as the majority of people who read the story, pure unadulterated disgust.

My thoughts then quickly jumped to how this would be viewed from the opposing side. Imagine this, if a young, black, extremely poor teenage boy from a broken, abusive, drug-infested home/neighborhood were to do the exact same thing, and gave defense that he was so broken that he didn’t know any better, would that defense work?

Probably not, as evidenced by the massive prison population filled with offenders who have such lousy backgrounds but don’t have the means to hire such creative lawyers.

As outlined in this blog post by Jessica Ann Mitchell of OurLegaci.com, Please Excuse Davontaye, He Suffers From Povertenza,

“…There are millions of under-privileged youth across America, that have lived under the worst conditions imaginable. They’ve witnessed murders, endured hunger, and survived sexual abuse. However, upon committing a crime, they are handed down the harshest prison sentences imaginable.”

I’ve long thought that in an ideal world we could rehabilitate the majority of our offenders, rather than locking them up. And that includes someone like Ethan Couch. Although not broken in the same ways as poor urban youth, he is also a victim of a tragically divisive society, he’s just on the other end.

I realize that idea may anger a lot of people. After all, he’s going to be housed in a rehabilitation center costing about $450,000 a year paid for by his parents (jeebus, I cannot even imagine having that kind of expendable income!) and will certainly be enjoying his daily life way, WAY more than the average prison inmate. And for sure, this is an unfair advantage. And maybe he will even become rehabbed, maybe he will learn to feel remorse for his actions and come to understand his failings. Is he just lucky? Or is he just ridiculously privileged?

Is that fair? Is it preferable to send him to prison along with all the other violent offenders and let him suffer along with them?

I’d say, in the current state of our legal system, yes that would be the most fair thing to do.

However, if we are talking about an ideal world, maybe we could use Ethan Couch to serve as an example of what should be done for ALL violent offenders.

If Ethan Couch deserves leniency for his parents failing to teach him the difference between right and wrong, then don’t children from poor, urban settings where violence, drugs, and sexual abuse run rampant also deserve some leniency?

Prisons are a huge machine, churning out more offenders every time they are released. As a society, we need to examine the idea that prisons are not working. They are NOT keeping people from re-offending. They are just buying us time until the offenders get out, more hardened, unprepared to deal with life on the outside and then commit more crimes, as part of a harsh, non-working system that has continued to fail us.

The only problem is that rehabilitation will cost us money, rather than making money, as prisons do. Instead of valuing life, we value money, and so we will never put the violent offenders lives as a top priority, unless they look like Ethan Couch.

Even though Ethan Couch, who looks like the nice white boy next door, got a break for being a rich white boy, rather than continue to be disgusted that he got a break and insist that he be locked up, perhaps we should consider that his type of punishment should be more widespread.

Practically speaking, I know that won’t happen. But wouldn’t it be nice? Imagine the world we could live in if we viewed people who are broken as those who need help rather than punishment.

 

 

Premature Baby Family Needs Help

20131205_11480620131205_114806felixSo, I have a new nephew. He’s adorable. I haven’t gotten to hold him yet and my daughter hasn’t met him, because he’s in the NICU. He was born prematurely at 33 weeks. BUT he’s doing well! He was born at 4.7 pounds and when I did visit him, he was all wiggly and adorable.

My brother and sister-in-law are so happy and excited. But as many of you may know, with a premature baby, comes extra expenses that crop up.

We created a Go Fund Me account for them to help out with additional expenses like eating at the hospital, my SIL is spending her days there, just after having had a C-section. She can’t drive, so she has to be driven up there, which means either someone stays with her or they have to drive back and forth, expending a lot of money on gas and more food.

As of now, the account has technically exceeded its original goal of $1,000 (woo hoo!). But that was really just an arbitrary number based on what seemed potentially viable. In reality, they will likely need every penny they have already gotten and then some.

So, if you’re in the giving spirit this season, please know that any funds you contribute to my brother and sister-in-law and my sweet, sweet little nephew will be very much appreciated and definitely going directly to  a good cause!

Happy Holidays! Hope everyone is enjoying this time of year.

Feeling charitable? Donate to my adorable nephew’s little family right here.