Mary Beth Writes

On Wednesday I asked if you could pick out moments that set you on a path towards NOT becoming one more racist American. Most of us have lived our lives in white privilege – but most of us know what this means, see it, try to find ways to address the injustice around us.

Like I said. This is not a moment to pat ourselves on our backs.

But I am always just as curious about what went right as what went wrong. We learn from both.

If I had to explain my own life … There are degrees of compassion and conservatism in my family, but I got further to the left faster than anyone. Makes me curious, too.

1. Asking open-ended questions. During elementary school (early 60’s) there was a lot of stress in the adults around me about the Civil Rights movement. One day I heard at recess that 300 Black people were going to move to my rural area. Lord knows where that confounding rumor came from, but I heard it and it scared me. I talked about it at the supper table. My dad said it was a rumor that wouldn’t happen but then he asked me, “Would it be bad if we had neighbors that were not white like us?”

I’m sure he was bouncing off his experiences in WWII with men of other races. He was not afraid of a rumor and he was not afraid of talking about people who were different than us. Then he asked if I thought God had different heavens for Christians with different colored skin. That threw me for a loop. Of course not.

My parents asked some questions instead of telling me what to think. They didn’t always do this, but they did when helping me think about race when white people were hyperventilating about race.

2. I read a lot. Reader’s Digest often had nice stories of nice African American people. Simplistic and not explaining or calling for systemic change? You betcha! But I was reading it when I was just a youngster and it opened my eyes to tales and issues I was not going to encounter in rural Michigan.

3. In high school I started volunteering here and there. I think kids who officially “give” to others get back a sense that they have a bigger world view than some. I grew into my own aspirations, I guess. Along the way I was encountering people who were different from me and I was learning that ordinary people aren’t that scary.

  • Being asked mind-opening questions before my opinions had set to concrete.
  • Reading about people different from me.
  • Meeting people different from me.

Not rocket science, but some clues, I guess.

Michol Ford wrote about some of her experiences to me. I really like her recollections of how she became the open-minded person she is now.

“I didn’t know my father was prejudiced until I came home from college during the race riots in Milwaukee in the 1960’s. That’s when I heard him say while watching the news, “They ought to just shoot all those N.“

I was dumbfounded! My four siblings and I had all been sent to Catholic schools and I was at a Catholic college, all this was a huge cost to my parents. In Catholic schools the first and most important thing we were taught is that all people are created equal. I never really heard any race talk growing up. Thank God.                    

My sibs on the other hand, to this day, are all prejudiced and I have to think it’s because they lived at home during that time in history, so they were exposed to his feelings. (They are all Republicans too. I guess one feeling feeds the other.)

I on the other hand have never been prejudiced and in fact favor the underdog. Black, white, red, gay, Mexican, poor, whatever…….. I think maybe I was adopted??!! I said that once to my mother and she said she’d take me back (to the orphanage) if I was. Probably not the best psychological tactic on her part. Might explain some of my toughness though.

I think we are living in very sad times for humankind in so many ways. Which makes me so glad to have found the UUU Congregation and it’s amazing and caring people.

… (I asked her if I could post her story and she said yes and added this.)

There is a little more to add.

 My father came to Fort Wayne to take me out to dinner while I was in college. He said I could bring one friend. One of my friends was a black girl from Jamaica. She was a little older, maybe 30?

Anyway, while helping put my coat on my father said, “Don’t you ever do this to me again!”

I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, but I eventually figured it out. And then he spent the entire evening talking to her .. pretty much ignoring me! I kind of chuckled to myself. It just made my anti-racism even more entrenched though.

..

Michol’s son Jeff Ford is a baker at Cress Spring Bakery in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. Usually they sell at the Madison Farmers’ market, but not this year, yet. You can make arrangements with him to order and pick up the bread in Madison area, sometimes. The website is: http://cressspringbakery.com/Welcome_HSIH.html

He always includes a poem with his bread. This is this week’s poem. It works.

 

Mindfulness

 

I practice a very special

form of mindfulness

called not-minding-ness.

This has brought me peace and purified 

my soul to the point that it is almost

possible to live with me.

My sacred principles are:

Read no newspapers.

Watch no television.

Stay the hell offline.

Do not discuss religion or politics 

with anyone dumber than yourself

or smarter than yourself

for in neither instance

will there be enlightenment. 

Remain silent at all costs

unless you are being tortured nonstop 

in which case it is acceptable 

to scream occasionally.

If a spider is crawling over you 

let him crawl,

he may well be more evolved

and he comes by his poison honestly.

Above everything be still 

and know that this world 

means to kill us all

and will eventually.

Relax. The worst has already happened. 

 

-Kurt Luchs

 

What are you thinking about George Floyd and the Twin Cities and where you live and yourself? What are you doing? What are you afraid of? What are you sure of?

 

 

 

Comments

As a POC it sickened me to hear about George Floyd's loss of life by a police officer, but i'm not surprised by it and that is the truly sad part of this whole thing... It's come to be expected because we've seen and heard it all before... Hopefully this time something will happen to the police involved in the murder but I'm NOT holding my breath... I've waited for the right outcome time and time again to no avail, it's as if the police involved in the killings are worth more to society than the POC who lose their lives... Only one of the officer's has been charged with third degree manslaughter. ( The LOWEST possible charge ) ¿How is pressing your knee onto the neck of a handcuffed black man for 8min & 46sec. NOT 1st degree murder? And to continue to do so for another 2min after he was unresponsive... ¿And why is it if I'm with someone who commits a crime resulting in someone's death I would also be changed in that death because I was there... ¿Why are they not charging the other officers who could have stopped it as they listened to Mr. Floyd pleading that he couldn't breathe, and while bystanders begging the police to let him breath went unheeded?.. All this for a supposedly counterfeit ten dollar bill... ¿Is MY life and those of my fellow POC really NOT worth anymore than ten dollars? ¿Why can we be murdered with impunity on the streets of America and in our home's and nothing happens to the police involved? Thousands of men and women of color rot in jail for lesser crimes than these or none at all... White cops seem to get an automatic get out of jail free card because "They are just doing their jobs" ¿WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Can somebody PLEASE tell me ¿Why this is so? I was pulled over driving home one night by a huge white cop who screamed at me for no reason and then let me go... ¿If his anger over a bad day was that bad why am I NOT another statistic? My mind want's to explode...

I feel profound sadness and anger that the police nationwide seem to feel entitled to use aggressive intimidation and violence against people they choose to target. Intentionally escalate tense situations, or themselves create tense situations, or escalate them rather than deescalate. They use SWAT team like tactics with the intention of terrorizing their targets. When police kill their targets, they always claim self-defense when in fact their victims are unarmed. They claim that they thought the victim had a gun when in fact it is only the police who had a gun, and shoot to kill before determining that their victim was only brandishing a cell phone. Police routinely fabricate stories that the victims lunged toward them putting them in imminent danger, when in fact the forensics frequently show that the victim was running away from them. Then the police cover up for one another. They stand by while the abuse, harassment, and violence is initiated by their colleagues. As such, they are enablers of violence and perpetuators of impunity. They collaborate to file false police reports, and collude to coordinate their coverup stories. The victims are dead, so they cannot tell their account of what happened. Police are believed instead of witnesses. The police always get away with it. That is until Laquan McDonald. After the release of the video. The shooter was prosecuted and jailed, though those who participated in the false police report and coverup were not. Without the video, police would have totally gotten away with their lies and coverup. White entitlement enables white people to snuff out valuable black lives without consequences: Philander Castillo, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbury, Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Amadou Diallo – all murders I remember taking place. All shades of the same sorry story. I feel profound sadness and inner anger that white elites including, usually the local elected officials and appointed prosecutors, continue to fail to hold police accountable. Instead the “blue wall” of impunity prevails over and over again. This is why the places that experience this impunity erupt in demonstrations and rioting. I feel so angry, I want to join them.
Mary Beth's picture

I've said this other times and places. Often when i worked with guys incarcerated for not paying their child support. they would explain this to me. When the cop arrested them the cop would throw, beat, physically harass the guy. Then bring them in and say the guy was resisting and that's a misdemeanor. Now, even if the guy's family pays money to get him out on the child support - he either has to plead guilty to that misdemeanor or sit out his time on it, which is generally several weeks to several months. Most plead guilty and get "time served" and go home. To fight that misdemeanor they either have to pay a big bond amount or sit time. And each time he "pleas" to a misdemeanor, the time to serve increases. I think it is at the 3rd misdemeanor it becomes a felony. So anyways, jaded, crooked, exhausted, cheating cops abuse and misuse the "justice" system to keep guys in jail that "they" the cops, think ought to be in jail. Sometimes they are right. Mostly not. Screws any and all belief that the justice system is fair.

I had just turned 8 when our family moved from Denmark to the USA. Within weeks I was sent to a school where I was different (sent in pants! OMG...) , did not speak nor understand the language and was far ahead in math skills and could read more Danish than the American kids could read English. Every evening, for at least the first year, my sister and I met our father at the door, begging him to take us home. My first friend was a Inuit girl from Alaska. We outsiders fit well. Then she moved away. (Funny, have not thought of her for years, until writing this.) Prejudice comes in many forms. My third grade classmates called me a Russian commie...they had never heard of Denmark. Life is certainly different now.

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