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Seattle sunny days and Jenga

Dean and I have been trying to pinpoint the time frame that he and I added each other on Livejournal. He found a post from 2003 and I am still positive that it was sometime in 2001. For close to 15 years we have followed each other's lives and cheered each other on through jobs and relationships.. ups and downs. Through loss and expectations, our own and other peoples..

We are still here. We are older and we have smile lines and life under our belt. And we are here.

I remember the fantastical birthday posts that he used to write and I still remember the first one that he did for me. Seattle made me feel very alone. But Livejournal was this balm that made everything that was hard just a little easier. You had this social safety net that you could pour your heart out to and they helped get you through.

Dean was one of those people for me. I am thankful for his friendship and for his continued part in my life.

I am very thankful that I got to hug this person today that has been a part of my life for so very long.

** Note: This entry was written by theda for my blog! It's a science experiment!

Bookmark This! Ispot.tv

I used to do a few little recurring features here and one of those things was finding an interesting website I thought was worth a mention. I get to revive that today with a note about one of my new favorites: Ispot.tv

I know that on the internet, most people are trying their hardest to avoid ads. They get in the way, interrupt your reading or viewing and generally are too loud, too obnoxious and too much to handle. But Ispot.tv is about commercials, typically seen on that quaint old-fashioned device: television. This is the first time I've promoted a "designed for" commercial site since that very unusual attempt at turning the old MTV style "VJ" format was created by firebrand.com specifically for TV ads, and another failed website that was supposed to be a shopping/entertainment website: honeyshed.com.

Unlike those sites, this one has no special gimmicks. Even though it's pretty straightforward, it maybe needs a bit of explanation. Ispot is designed to give statistical info re: who is watching an ad, and other useful stats for both advertisers and broadcasters. So it's not really meant for the general public in its designed form. But regular people are encouraged to come and find ads and view them there in HD quality, of course.

I think it's worth a a bookmark because they typically have every currently running commercial from a national campaign, and the bulk of regional commercials as well. It's kind of fun to see ads for things you wouldn't normally see in your market.

Additionally, if you register, you can make comments or ask questions, find out the name of a actor or a song featured in a commercial. Or you can just read the message boards of people who have signed up, if you want to stay anon.

The site is designed nicely, laying out the commercials by product type as you browse. And I'm sure there's probably some matrix that lets advertisers see who is viewing their ads on this site as well.

Give it a try!
The 2016 Olympics, the XXXI Summer Olympiad has now reached its conclusion in Rio de Janiero. What a games it has been. Despite the initial fear of disease, we saw a really competitive, really terrific Olympics, and the United States did an amazing eighteen medals better than they did in London just four years ago.

But within these games, there were a couple of notable incidents that occurred, via social media and standard journalism, that had nothing to do with the competition.



The first involved...Collapse )
This is the Closing Ceremony for our look at Jona Olsson's Detour Spotting. The conclusion is, in fact, the beginning. Here is Ms. Olsson's final statement:

THE JOURNEY CONTINUES

Once identified, behaviors like those above are possible to change. The patterns are repeated less often. We re-educate and re-tool ourselves to take more potent anti-racist action. Each anti-racist action we take brings new challenges and learning, propels us forward smarter, more confident, better prepared and most importantly, more effective. Every experience takes us deeper into new territory and the complexities of racism, expanding our vision of the possibilities of a future without racism. Each turn brings us face to face with another set of potential detours and reversals. Like traveling unmarked roads, staying on the right track demands constant attention and intention.

Racism oppresses and exploits people of color. While it grants white people undeniable advantages and benefits, racism also robs each of us of our full humanity. We didn’t construct racism; we inherited it. But the unchallenged perpetuation of racism is our responsibility. Racism continues in the name of all white people.

People of color will continue to demand their rights, opportunities and full personhood. But racism in North America won’t end because people of color demand it. Racism will only end when a significant number of white people of conscience, the

people who can wield systemic privilege and power with integrity, find the will and take the action to dismantle it. That won’t happen until white people find racism in our daily consciousness as often as people of color do. For now we have to drag racism into our consciousness intentionally, for unlike our sisters and brothers of color, the most present daily manifestation of our white privilege is the possibility of forgetting about racism.

We cannot.

While there is nothing about racism to celebrate, there is much to celebrate in a life lived in the pursuit of justice. It is the work of a lifetime.


Here is what we need to remember always: we are all human beings. We deserve a certain level of respect when we talk with each other. We need to listen to each other, to really hear what is being said, not what we think we heard. And we need to back off of ego, to not react to the statements out of our personal desire to be right or to claim harm, but to comprehend the truth of what is said.

Racism is more than just hating someone because of how they look. We have seen how the socioeconomic elements have what could be a devastating impact on the choices people make when it comes to race in America. We always have to keep in mind that this is a lot more complex than it is usually characterized. We are all trying to live good lives. Racism clearly is having an impact on a segment of the population and has created a lot of the issues we are seeing. Justice is severely lacking.

Helping to support all of our citizens rather than criticizing them for what they do, based on the limited choices they have, is just one aspect of this. And it's through helping that we can improve things. It is reliant on those with power to step up and help those without. So, just as we shouldn't kick someone when they are down, we also shouldn't ridicule someone for not succeeding. We need to help them succeed because that benefits ourselves, our country and our world.

As we have stated, a big stumbling block are those white people who aren't economically well off. They are more likely to be the perpetrators of (or the victims of) the thoughts that People of Color are the reason why they aren't successful. As long as those beliefs are held, we will continue on the path of no progress. Breaking that mindset and helping people reach an understanding is crucial as we move forward.

But this demonstrates just how complicated this situation is. It's psychological. It's sociologicial. It's moral. It's personal. It involves the things we were taught as children to the myths we were given by the media. It incorporates all of the elements we think of as facts. We are not always so quick to release what our parents and grandparents told us was true. We aren't always willing to deny a story when it's from a news source we trust.

We need to stay focused. But we can't be too patient, not anymore. 2019 will mark the four-hundredth anniversary of slaves arriving in North America. The fact that we are still dealing with racism in America, almost four centuries after this hideous and heinous crime was perpetrated against humanity on this soil proves that patience has nearly run out. We need to resolve this before we get very far into the fifth century, for our collective sake.



Previous thinkposts in this series:


1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
24. Day 24 - Whites Only
25. Day 25 - The Accountant
26. Day 26 - Innocence
27. Day 27 - Silence
28. Day 28 - Exhaustion
It has truly been a marathon going through Jona Olsson's essay, Detour Spotting. Personally, I feel like I have learned some important elements of the circumstances we collectively have to face when looking at race in America, and I hope they will help me when I talk about these issues again, either here on this blog, or elsewhere. It's important that we stay positive, try not to personally blame people, but work to give them an understanding of racism from the perspective of people who experience it and to hope that they will care, and will help as well.

Today's topic is more than appropriate as we head towards the end of this series of thinkposts.

28) Exhaustion and Despair - Sound the Retreat

“I’m exhausted. I’m only one person. I can stop and rest for a while.” or “Racism is so pervasive and entrenched, there just isn’t any hope.”


Reality Check and Consequence

Despair is a real enemy of anti-racists. If our commitment is a lifelong one, we must find ways to mitigate the effects. Neither burn-out nor desertion are of any use to the struggle. We can remember men who jumped on a “Take Back the Night” bandwagon, challenging violence against women - for a while. Until the attention on them as good men waned. Until the “glamour” of the issue faded. One of the historical, repeated failures of “liberals” in social justice movements has been their short-term and inconsistent commitment to the “issue du jour.

If we quit, for any reason, we are engaging our “default option.” (5) As white people, we can rest, back off, and take a break from the frustration and despair of anti-racism work. There will be no significant consequence to us for this retreat. White people will not think less of us. Racism doesn’t allow such a respite for people of color. One of the elemental privileges of being white is my freedom to retreat from the issue of racism. If things get too tough I can always take a break. And our work against racism doesn’t get done.


Ms. Olsson raises the point that really is crucial when it comes to white anti-racists: they can just take a break. Really, white people don't have to do any work toward changing attitudes or beliefs at all. In fact some would likely think that trying to help minorities might do damage to their status and cause them to be in a worse position because of it.

This is the common problem involved in trying to eliminate the institution of racism: there is a segment of people that completely believe it is beneficial. But really, even if you are the person shooting and killing someone, I presume you have to realize that you took the life of another human being, assuming you think of black people as humans, and that might weigh on your mind occasionally. So, yes, drinking from the fountain of racism might quench your thirst, but there's obviously lead in that water.

It's tough for most people to ignore the scenario that was painted all these years. It's much more easy to fall into the established patterns and behaviors. It actually takes work to get out of this sewer we've been in all this while. And, most of the time, nobody is going to work very hard to try to break the routine. So, that leaves the heavy lifting to the people who are committed, and most of those people are brown, because they're the ones being impacted by all of this.

We really need more white anti racists who understand that preventing racism will benefit everyone in our society. We need people who are willing to work with those that don't understand these points and could benefit from a clearer explanation. We have to communicate with each other, stay in touch with each other, continue to tell our truths and demand justice.

It's tough to fight a system that is as well-established and as carefully streamlined as racism is in the United States. It's understandable that even people who are completely on board with this concept might not always be there to do that work. The situation evolves; we all have our own personal problems and life issues to deal with on a daily basis.

But the world takes its sociological cues from the USA, and we need to be the standard bearers in demonstrating that we value every person. We have to value every person. Because nobody knows who each person will become. And we want every person to become the best they can possibly be. Just imagine helping each person become their ultimate selves. What sort of country NO! What sort of planet would that be?

I firmly believe that if we ever hope to achieve world peace, this is how it will begin. Because if we cannot communicate with, listen to, and work to help everyone within the borders of our own country, there is no chance that we could do the same with people we call "foreigners." To me, that would be reason enough for all of us to start working to correct racism. We can't get tired out now.




Previous thinkposts in this series:


1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
24. Day 24 - Whites Only
25. Day 25 - The Accountant
26. Day 26 - Innocence
27. Day 27 - Silence
We're into the home stretch of exploring the many ways we have avoided discussing race in America with Jona Olsson's essay, Detour Spotting. The topics we have covered have been varied and challenging But today's topic is one of the biggest and most deafening.

27) Silence

We stay silent.


Reality Check and Consequence

Our silence may be a product our guilt or fear of making people of color or white people angry with us or disappointed in us. We may be silent because our guilt stops us from disagreeing with people of color. We may be afraid that speaking out could result in losing some of our privilege. We may be silenced by fear of violence. The reasons for our silence are many, but each time we are silent we miss an opportunity to interrupt racism, or to act as an ally or to interact genuinely with people of color or other white people. And no anti-racist action is taken as long as we are silent.


Silence is an enabler. Saying nothing is like not saying no, which, as every opportunist understands, means yes. If you say nothing, that means you are not being critical of the words and behaviors you are witnessing. And that only serves to encourage the person acting. Silence allows everything to happen. It doesn't contradict. It doesn't criticize. It doesn't stop.

As Ms. Olsson suggests, silence may allow someone stating racist thoughts or committing racist acts to continue, or it could permit a person of color who has a concept that may not sit well with your own opinion free reign. If there is any hope of understanding, of working through this, of ever resolving racism, it will rely on communication. Silence assures that we will not be talking, which is why it could be our greatest enemy in any hope of resolving this.

Ms. Olsson adds an important footnote about this topic:

[A note about silence: Silence is a complicated matter. There are times when faced with a potential intervention situation that we may choose not to interrupt - for reasons of good sense or strategy. Anti-racists need courage, but taking foolish risks makes little sense. When the choice is between intervening in this moment, alone, or gathering allies to speak out later in a more strategic way, the latter may prove more effective. Though the fact remains: the racist incident in that moment was not interrupted.]

There is a need for safety and certainly going with one or two people to a KKK Meeting in a rural area would not be a prudent move. Still, her note here states it clearly: not talking is permissive and we need to work on what we allow against our fellow humans.

How do we break the silence?

The first thing we really need is some mutual respect. Far too often, when we attempt to discuss race in America, people are emotionally charged. This is likely due to the obvious point that we don't really discuss this issue with each other until some event happens: a shooting or a protest or a riot. Why we can't discuss race when there is no horrific element on that front is part of the problem. But if we don't have a sense of decorum and kindness for the other person in this discussion, we aren't going to get very far.

We have to be willing to listen. This isn't a case of one person talking and the other just remaining quiet. We have to share information. And the fact is, the views from these perspectives are so very different, we need to really pay attention to get an understanding about our discussion.

And we should work toward the understanding that we are all humans, that we have the same needs and many of the same wants, and that helping each other can help us achieve more success than fighting or ignoring each other. We should approach this, knowing that something here is wrong, that we can start resolving those issues and that we are capable of achieving a better world if we do.

If we can approach the conversation with a positive attitude, try to keep ego out, understand that we are telling our version of the truth and find some common ground, we can at least get things started.

Let's get things started.



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
24. Day 24 - Whites Only
25. Day 25 - The Accountant
26. Day 26 - Innocence
Detour-Spotting is a challenge. Jona Olsson's essay requires everyone to face the facts that even when we intend to accomplish positive movement in the fight to end racism, we may not actually be making any progress at all. Today's topic is one I promised I would get back to examine on the very first day of this series of thinkposts.

26) The “Certificate of Innocence”

Some times we seek or expect from people of color some public or private recognition and appreciation for our anti-racism. Other times we are looking for a “certificate of innocence” telling us we are one of the good white people.


Reality Check and Consequence

If our ally commitment depends on positive reinforcement from people of color, we set ourselves up for sure failure. The first time a person of color is displeased with our actions, we could respond, “Well, if the very people I’m doing all this for don’t want my help, then why bother?” Clearly, we’re challenging racism for “them” not for us. We have not identified our self-interest, as a white person, for fighting racism. Until we do, we will not be able to sustain this lifelong journey.


When I began this examination of Ms. Olsson's essay, we had a lot of ground to cover, as we examined her personal history with racism and with the first topic of discussion. But in the midst of all that, I wanted to make one clear point. I said:

good work on avoiding racism really doesn't DESERVE praise from people who would otherwise suffer from it. This is a trap that many anti-racists fall into: the expectation of reward for not being racist.

While we discussed the concept of expecting some sort of "fair trade" concept for white people who offer support to minorities in yesterday's topic, that thought is somewhat related to this concept of looking for constant praise, rewards and ego stroking to encourage anti racists to continue to move forward.

Again, that's wrong.

If you see racism as an "opportunity" to do a little self-aggrandizing, you really don't understand any of this.

But this takes us back to the point of how white people perceive racism and what they think it is, based on their own limited perspective rather than listening to what those that experience it are saying about it. If your view of racism is just something "annoying" that you can "get over" in a day or two, it would make sense that you perceive it as something like a game.

Reflecting on today's point, we should remember that our culture has been one of instant gratification for decades: that somehow there needs to be a treat for everything we do that isn't in our comfort zone. That could spell trouble because there won't always be a direct reward for every white person's selfless act against racism as we work to clear these problems. If rewards must continually be doled out for every step forward, there is going to be disappointment, at best.

Again, we must look at middle and lower class white people who are the ones who likely feel disenfranchised, afraid or even angry over any attention given to minorities when it comes to this. It really does make sense that this is the sticking point. If there is success, there is no need to view other people as a cause of failure. But if there is a struggle, if things are not as easy or as pleasant as one would hope, there is a need to place blame. So, it's within that framework that we are attempting to have a conversation about race in America, when there is a whole group of people who are perpetuating it because they feel like this is benefiting them somehow, that they are doing something right, that they are doing this for their own survival and have no choice in the matter.

So, even if poor or lower/middle class white people do step up and support minorities, their efforts could be muted by family and friends who see that as going against their best interests. But this is the continuing problem: when people are in a desperate situation, you can't use logic, common sense or reasonable arguments to help them see what's going on, and that is a big reason why we aren't making any progress. It's how superstition, tradition and standard practice work to assure that no work gets accomplished in stopping racism for that segment of our population, and that can bleed into other areas as well, where people outside of the group focused on the oppression of minorities might get caught up in the machinery too.

How do we fix that mindset, when there are so many mechanisms that are there to make sure it stays in place? That it validates and informs people of what they should be doing? That it causes people to think that they are "giving up" their "rights" when all they are doing is treating their fellow citizens like the humans that they are?





Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
24. Day 24 - Whites Only
25. Day 25 - The Accountant
If you've been following the course of this series of thinkposts re: racism, then you have seen how varied, creative, challenging and difficult the excuses in why we haven't dealt with the simple problem of treating all of our citizens equally and fairly has been. Detour-Spotting, Jona Olsson's essay, which has been the template for this series, lays out all these excuses and challenges us to do better. Here's today's topic.

25) The Accountant

We keep a tally sheet. If we perform some “feat of anti-racism,” we expect reciprocity from an individual or group of color, usually with some prestige or power that can serve our interests.


Reality Check and Consequence

“I scratch your back, you scratch mine is NOT justice seeking nor ally behavior. It serves only to reduce justice work to some kind of power brokering currency.


The problems we have when dealing with race in America stem primarily from the fact that this system is already working to support white people and oppress minorities. So, to have any white person who claims to want to help balance this ledger suggesting that there has to be some sort of return favor for them as a part of their work only adds to the legacy of injustice we have seen throughout the centuries of this issue.

The point that Ms. Olsson is making here is clearly that Quid Pro Quo is a no-go, and rightly so. Things are already so far skewed to the benefit of white people that anything expected back, short of a thank you for not being racist, really is asking too much.

Now, the problem we must consider here are the thoughts and feelings of the group that feels completely overlooked throughout all of this discussion: lower and middle class white people.

So, we have black people who are, no matter what their stature, their status, their success or income, likely to experience some form of racism which may range from being an inconvenience to being something that ends their life. That's no exaggeration. People like Oprah Winfrey, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Even The President of The United States has dealt with issues of racism in a personal way. No minority person is immune to suffering through racist behaviors.

But if you are poor and white in America, what do you do? You can't claim the system is working against you. And you probably don't want to think that you just aren't good enough to achieve.

The answer is clear! Blame the brown people!

Here's where racism is perpetuated to the highest extent and a serious reason why we can't completely root it out. If minorities are the cause of the problem, then there is a scapegoat, there is a reason why not all white people have reached the one percent! So hate groups can be formed, minorities can be killed, any number of atrocities can be done and it's accepted because that is punishment for all of the wrong.

If we could somehow get those same people, interested in trying to destroy any minorities in our society, to understand that working with them, not against them would benefit everyone (even those in the one percent, actually), maybe we could make some progress.

But is that realistic? Is that even possible?



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
24. Day 24 - Whites Only
If you intend to be an anti-racist, and I hope you do, you have to understand that we are dealing with issues that are hundreds of years old, that they are being supported by a system that conditions people to behave and react in specific ways that perpetuate that system, that even when you are trying to do the right thing, it might go wrong or it might be wrong, and that ego could sometimes cause personal embarrassment, guilt or even make you want to give up and walk away.

That's all by design.

The system of racism has so many checks and balances, it makes getting a bill through Congress seem like an Executive Order.

Nothing here is an accident. This is a system, designed to make certain that a particular group is on top and stays on top, and that there is a group or groups always beneath. While that seems beneficial to the over group, what we see happening is that there is fear, there is hatred, there is a clear lack of understanding, there is arbitrary reward and punishment for people who deserve neither, in short we see a lot of injustice. And, as Americans, I hope we can agree that we want to eliminate injustice for our citizens.

That's why I'm going through Jona Olsson's essay, Detour-Spotting point by point and looking at all the ways we have been ignoring the issue of racism. Today's topic is another one that is a bit more complex than you might imagine at first blush.

24) Whites Only

I have no connection with or accountability to people of color. I do all my anti-racism with whites only. I am accountable only to other white people.


Reality Check and Consequence

While it is vitally important for white anti-racists to work with other white people, this detour results in white people again controlling the direction and focus of anti-racism work.

Learning to follow the leadership of, and taking direction from people of color, while being accountable to them are all vital components of our ally-ship.


One of the problems we face when it comes to trying to discuss race in America is a basic concept: white people don't know about racism.

I've pointed this out before: White people have never previously, do not currently and likely will never experience racism in the United States or in any of the current "whitecentric" nations, worldwide. We've been through the false equivalent of racism, usually involving some sort of physical harm perpetrated by a minority citizen against a white person, or a series of epithets being said by a black person to a white person. That actually isn't racism. It can be prejudice, discrimination or bias, for certain. But racism, if we are looking honestly at it, is a lot more wide ranging, deeper, more insidious and much more powerful than hurt feelings over an insult. Racism harms people physically, psychologically, emotionally, politically, morally, and that's just what it does to the perpetrators of it.

The problem comes when white people want to focus on the injustices that they face, so they can claim they suffer in a similar way to those that are living with racism. It's another method of derailing the conversation we need to have about race in America.

As the USA is a White Supremacist country, white people tend to both expect to be the experts in everything and to discount the opinions of anyone else. Sadly, that holds true even when it comes to topics they know nothing about, like racism.

A brief example... many years ago, there were studies that suggested that the muscle groups of black people and white people were different physically: black people were particularly good at sprinting short distances, which is why they did well in the hundred meter dash, but white people were better at the more elegant longer races like marathons. It had something to do with processing oxygen or getting rid of lactic acid or the length of tendons... some sort of "scientific proof" that "explained" this.

Not only don't you hear those sorts of comments anymore, nobody ever came along to refute them after they were proven wrong.

And, in a way, that relates back to how white people don't want to listen to black people about racism. They still want to be the experts in the situation and maintain control of the conversation. It's a method of preventing guilt. It's a way of protecting feelings. It helps assure that we never go into areas that might make white people "uncomfortable."

I hope we can agree that talking about a subject is not as "uncomfortable" as having some of your family members, friends, neighbors or fellow citizens gunned down in cold blood by someone who was sworn to protect them.

So, what we have here, with today's topic, are white people who simply won't listen to anything black people have to say on the subject of racism. And, let's face it. People like that probably haven't put "ending racism" as a top priority on their list of things they want to accomplish in life. But the good thing is we have folks like Ms. Olsson, Jane Elliott and Tim Wise specifically to help people like that.

I've mentioned Ms. Elliott and Mr. Wise in previous essays in this series, but now is obviously the time to closely examine who they are and what they do.

Jane Elliott is an important figure because she has come as close as anyone to giving white people a hint of what racism actually is about.

In 1968, after Dr. King was assassinated, Ms. Elliott wanted to give her grade school students a real sense of who that person was and what he was trying to achieve. In order to do this, she created a unique experiment. Now known the world over as the "Blue Eyes Brown Eyes Exercise," she divided her class up by eye color, then purposefully treated the blue eyed students nicely, and the other set as if they didn't belong.

The reaction brought a lot more than just learning. Fellow faculty members and parents of her students lashed out at her for this lesson.

If you have an hour to spare, the long time PBS series "Frontline" did a piece on Ms. Elliott and her exercise back in 1985. Sadly, it is just as timely today as it was during both the Reagan and Johnson administrations.

A Class Divided was the name of the episode. If you have a chance, please view this. It lays out the entire story and gives you a sense of how her class digested this lesson and where it took them as adults.

Ms. Elliott has been teaching this lesson every year since 1968, which is now approaching a half-century.

Mr. Wise is also a long time activist who began his entry into the field when he worked to get US colleges and universities to divest from South Africa during their Apartheid period, and expanded as he started to notice the injustices in the US. Active since the 1980s, he is a lecturer, a writer, and a staunch antiracist who is in constant demand to present this material and put it in context.

There are dozens of Tim Wise videos on YouTube. Just type in his name and you'll have your choice of numerous hours of his lectures. But I'm linking to one really timely one here (and it's only a bit more than three minutes):

How Trump Uses Race to Divide and Conquer

Certainly these people, along with Ms. Olsson, are great allies in the fight against racism, because we desperately need white people who know and understand these issues to speak to other white people. That's why I specifically wanted to explore Ms. Olsson's essay, as she is a white person doing exactly that. We could always use a few more knowledgeable white people when it comes to issues surrounding race and who hopefully are willing to talk about it with others.



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
23. Day 23 - Personal Work
We have been making our way through Jona Olsson's essay, Detour-Spotting, and taking a cold, hard look at how people who want to aid in the dismantling of racism may have difficulty, or how they might even serve to reinforce these racist tendencies. This isn't just a straightforward case of simple bigotry; these are deeply rooted psychological patterns that help to inform the mindsets of our country as a whole. Another good example is today's issue:

23) I Have To Do My Personal Work

“ I have to do my personal work first.” or “Ending racism is only about changing personal attitudes.”


Reality Check and Consequence

If we assume that personal reflection and interpersonal work is the end of our job as anti-racists, we will stay out of the public, institutional arenas. We will ignore cultural racist practices that don’t include us personally. We won’t take action, until we have finished ridding ourselves of all racist conditioning. And since that complete “cure” will never happen, we will never take any institutional or cultural anti-racist action.


As we should know by now, institutional racism is, more or less, the biggest part of the problem we are facing when it comes to what minorities are dealing with currently in this area. Yes, there are still individuals who think racist thoughts and do racist actions, but the element that is both most common and most horrific is institutional racism.

Here's a clearer look at what we're talking about when we discuss institutional racism. When a white cop (or really any cop) shoots and kills an unarmed minority citizen, we could view it as that individual, the police officer, acting against another individual, the citizen. But that really isn't accurate. That's because we are seeing the same actions happening over and over in different locations with different people. Officers in places all over the country have reacted in the same way to citizens, many of whom behaved in the least threatening way possible.

That tells us that this isn't a problem directly connected to "individuals." This is an example of institutional racism: this is a series of cases that have been dealt with in the same way by a lot of different people who have been conditioned or you might even say trained to react in a way that is built on racist concepts.

So, yes, individuals are acting and we can lay the blame on each one, singularly. But it's very clear that their actions are from an institutional source and even if we did blame each person who committed these acts (rarely if ever), that doesn't resolve the source from which the thoughts and beliefs in how to behave and what to do when faced with a similar situation arises for the next person in that position. That means that as more and more police officers train with these concepts, the results are interchangeable. That's how even minority police officers can and do shoot first. And that's why there is no expectation that there will not be "the next police murder of an unarmed minority citizen."

That's also why today's topic is such a bogus excuse. Of course, personal work is important, and everyone should learn as much as they can about race and racism. But I would suggest that at least some of the officers who killed black citizens in the course of their work do not believe themselves to be racist. They may have never had what one would call a racist thought or done any racist action. They may even know or be friends with minority people in their social lives. But that's how this goes. Institutional racism is bigger than any individual and it's a lot more difficult to understand, more challenging to believe, less likely to be noticed and less likely to be blamed.

But the more we focus on individual's actions, the more we ignore this more urgent and more enormous problem of how, as a society, we are allowing the standards and practices of our policies in government, in the private sector, in how the media depicts minorities to, if you will, color our collective perception of just who minority people are, what they do, how they deserve to be treated and what happens to those people who dole out those punishments.

So, yes, we all should be doing personal work, but the real threat, the things that are killing human beings in a continual and really methodical way are based on institutional racism, and until we address that, all of these "individual" cases will continue to pile up, right next to the pile of black bodies who were once living, breathing human beings.



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
22. Day 22 - Smoke and Mirrors
We have been going through Jona Olsson's essay about race in America and why we cannot seem to dismantle the issues we have between white people and many minority groups in this country. Giving it the title Detour-Spotting, she is spotting every detour we take when on the road to resolving our racist behavior.

I think the topic for today is one of the smallest fractions of the pie when it comes to issues that need to be addressed, but it certainly belongs on the list, so let's give it a look.

22) Smoke and Mirrors

We use the current politically correct language; we listen to the right music; we state the liberal line; we’re seen at the right meetings with the right people. We even interrupt racist remarks when the right people are watching and when there is no risk to us. We look like anti-racists.


Reality Check and Consequence

This is the “Avon Ally,” the cosmetic approach. People of color and other white anti-racists see through this pretense quickly. This pseudo-anti-racist posturing only serves to collude with racism and weakens the credibility of sincere white anti-racists.



The people Ms. Olsson is describing in today's topic fall into a very specific category. These are people who don't understand the stakes of what minority citizens face when it comes to racism, who don't have the empathy needed to view and fully comprehend the circumstances their fellow Americans are protesting. In short, we are talking about those who find the discussion of racism as something that can get them likes on social media or accolades from friends, family and neighbors, but think it's just a game to play.

That sort of thinking is still rooted in the concept of minorities not quite being human. It's a level of thoughtlessness that people protesting the death of an animal at the hands of an abuser would not allow. Yet, that same respect and dignity is not offered here.


Though, I have to say, I would prefer someone at least pretending to be an anti-racist to someone who isn't even putting any effort into it. There's always the chance that some of those actions could sink in and make an impact!








Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
21. Day 21 - White on White
We need to have a national conversation about race in America. If the constant barrage of issues of the deaths of minority citizens at the hands of white police officers hasn't informed you, certainly the rhetoric being spewed during this Presidential Election cycle should cause you to take some notice.

How difficult is it to understand that human beings are deserving of a modicum of respect and at least a whiff of empathy? Pretty difficult if you read through Jona Olsson's essay, Detour-Spotting, which we have meticulously been surveying these past three weeks. The continuing reasons for why we not only haven't renounced racism, but haven't even gotten to have a proper conversation about it is an issue worthy of exploration and understanding. There must be a gap between what minorities see and what white people see when they look at this issue. And that's what we're here to check.

Today's topic is yet another that relates to that oft-misinterpreted phrase, "White Privilege."

21) White On White, and Righteously So

“What is wrong with those white people? Can’t they see how racist they’re being?” or “I just can’t stand to be around white people who act so racist anymore.” And


You’re preaching to the choir

“You’re wasting your time with us, we’re not the people who need this training.”


Reality Check and Consequence

We distance ourselves from “other” white people. We see only unapologetic bigots, card-carrying white supremacists and white people outside our own circle as “real racists.” We put other white people down, trash their work or behavior, or otherwise dismiss them. We righteously consider ourselves white people who have evolved beyond our racist conditioning.

This is another level of denial. There are no “exceptional white people.” (4) We may have attended many anti-racism workshops; we may not be shouting racist epithets or actively discriminating against people of color, but we still experience privilege based on our white skin. We benefit from this system of oppression and advantage no matter what our intentions are. This distancing serves only to divide us from potential allies and limit our own learning.


In most cases, racism is, especially in these long past slavery and Jim Crow days of the 21st Century, institutional. We've already discussed this form of racism and how it manifests, meaning it's frequently not an individual who is responsible for racist acts, it's the systematic elements of racist thought and behavior that creates circumstances where either white people are favored, black people are oppressed or both.

Under this system of institutional racism, nobody has a clean record in handling these issues. White people still are treated with privilege. That isn't just or fair. And even the most supportive white anti-racists are still beneficiaries of that privilege. If a group of white people marched in a Black Lives Matter protest, it's less likely that they would be the first people arrested, tear gassed or shot with rubber bullets by police, even if they were the most disruptive part of the protest.

But that's what we mean by Institutional Racism. This is the systemic method of favor based on skin color that has characterized at least one part of our racist society for decades.

While it's great that some white people are critical of other white people for their lack of understanding and lack of empathy when it comes to dealing with these racial issues, those are the people who need to stop being critical and start helping out. Rather than just issuing a tsk tsk and shaking their heads, those who have reached a better level of understanding should be helping to inform and educate those who have not so that they can learn, change and grow as well. Being "the best anti-racist" really shouldn't be anyone's goal. It's really about ending racism entirely, and that can't happen as long as people continue to hold these racist beliefs, either purposely or subconsciously.

Truth is, it's those that aren't even aware of their racist tendencies that are the most difficult to reach and need the most support and explanation to help them through it. It takes particular care and sensitivity to reach someone like that, and there are, maybe hundreds of thousands of people like that who must be reached.

It takes time. It takes a lot of time.

That's part of the reason why this essay by Ms. Olsson is so useful and important. We have to go through and root out every excuse we have for not taking on racism, come to terms with all of that and then dismantle this system that is holding back not just minorities in this country, but pretty much everyone who isn't in the One Percent.

We all need to work on these issues and if we see someone who isn't getting it, laughing at them, cursing at them under your breath or simply staying silent will not accomplish anything. Granted, there is a time and place to share such lessons, and there is the issue of safety when it comes to stepping up to support minorities, so this is not about putting your life at risk if the situation is not safe for teaching. But ultimately, we need white allies to help inform other white people about all of these points.

Despite the common belief that this is a problem for minorities only, racism truly is everyone's issue, and we need everyone to start doing some positive things to end it, so we can send all of the energy, the time spent, the focus (as an example: the fact that I could have been writing about something, ANYTHING else in this journal for these past twenty-two days) toward things that can help improve our cities, our states, our country and our world.

We're only here for a little while. Let's use that time to make things better for others, not worse.



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
20. Day 20 - Teach Me
I think there are a couple of really crucial points to keep in mind, as we go through Jona Olsson's essay, Detour-Spotting. The first is that racism isn't something that any white people who are currently living created. So, this isn't exactly a litany against them. Rather, we are examining their willingness to listen to what is being said to them, and how they react to it.

But we do need to look at the elements of those reactions, which is what we are gauging when we go through this list of reasons we haven't properly dealt with the long-standing issue of racism. Today's topic is one that is all too familiar.

20) Teach Me or Help Me, I’m Stuck

“I want to stop acting like a racist, so please tell me when I do something you think is racist.” (Spoken to a person of color.)


Reality Check and Consequence

White people often assume that they can learn about racism only from people of color. We further assume that people of color have the energy and/or desire to do this teaching. My understanding is that most people of color are weary of educating white people about racism.

We will get stuck. We’ll get frustrated and impatient with ourselves and other white people in this struggle. We’ll stay stuck if we don’t seek help from other white anti-racists. Our inclination in the past has been to ask people of color to help us. We should seek out other white people BEFORE we go to people of color. Perhaps, as we become more trustworthy as allies, we will build genuine relationships with a few people of color who will offer their reflections for us when we get stuck. But this is at their discretion, not ours. We can’t assume or act as though people of color should be so grateful for our attempts at anti-racism, that they will be willing to guide us whenever we are ready to be guided.


You know, teaching has been severely undervalued in this nation. We hear it frequently: it's tough to find good teachers. And, when it comes to racism, asking for a teacher may well serve as another method of derailing the conversation.

Here's what I see. If you constantly have to ask if you're doing something wrong, you don't have to bear the responsibility of actually knowing what is and is not appropriate. So, you can just do whatever you want and check in later about whether or not it was racist with someone you trust to tell you. That's about as lazy and uncaring as can be.

Waiting to be told by some instructor how to avoid being racist is not an appropriate way to handle the circumstance and could create twice as many issues, as the annoyance of a bad comment or action gives way to needing an explanation of just how and why it was offensive.

Again, this is a simple case of not feeling the need to do the leg work. It apparently is not something that matters deeply to some white people to find that research on their own, so, rather than knowing, they just go ahead and take a chance that the joke they think is so funny won't be heard the wrong way, or that they just absolutely must use a stereotype to reference how a person looks in the course of their commentary.

Ms. Olsson is correct. There has been a never-ending amount of teaching that has occurred, certainly since the Civil Rights Act became law. And the problem is that the learning somehow never seems to stick, so the lessons are remedial, we go over the same issues week after week, year after year, generation after generation, It never ends. There doesn't seem to be any way to get to a point where minorities aren't handing out instructions on how to treat a fellow human being.

If we constantly have to stop and explain, that's time taken from our lives to correct a mistake you should have learned on your own. We all are working with a limited amount of time, so it's not fair to make a minority person that has been offended by a so-called ignorant white person spend part of their life correcting that. If it's important enough, you can do the research and figure it out.

It should be important enough.



Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
19. Day 19 - Blackwards
Going through Detour-Spotting, Jona Olsson's well-crafted listing of issues to do with race in America, and why we have avoided accomplishing anything but the cursory elements related to it, many of these points could apply to any white person in the country. After all, these are just US citizens who are simply living life, but then could find themselves put in a position or face a circumstance that might test his or her humanity and choices when it comes to racism.

Today's topic isn't like that. It's actually one that specifically challenges those white people who are active anti-racists and who are trying very hard to help the process of dismantling these issues.

19) “Bending Over Blackwards” (3)

“Of course, I agree with you.” (Said to a person of color even when I disagree) or “I have to side with Jerome on this. (Even when Jerome, a man of color, represents opinions counter to mine.)


Reality Check and Consequence

Our white guilt shows up here as we defer to the person of color. The person of color is always right, or we never criticize or challenge her or him. We try not to notice that we notice they are Black or Native American or Latina or Asian or Middle Eastern. We don’t disagree, challenge or question a person of color the way we would a white person. And if we do disagree, we don’t do it with the same conviction or passion that we would display with a white person. Our racism plays out as a different standard for people of color than for white people.


If this is our pattern, we can never have a genuine relationship with a person of color. People of color know when we are doing this. Our sincerity, commitment and courage will be rightly questioned. We cannot grow to a deeper level of trust and intimacy with people of color we treat this way.


I can't help but notice that this series of nineteen thinkposts has generated a total of four comments collectively. I know that it's not because people aren't seeing these posts; I can look at my LJ stats and know that my views are very high. So, it might be something else.

If we are going to have a discussion of race in America, it can't be a monologue. People need to be able to have a real conversation. People should be asking questions and listening to answers. People must talk with one another about this topic. For far too long, Americans have simply sat on their hands and done nothing, ignored the situation as it is, or believed that they fully understood it when they did not and let Status Quo continue, unquestioned.

Placating the issue by simply agreeing with or not challenging any of the notions mentioned really doesn't accomplish anything. The idea is to actually learn about what is happening and why it is happening, not simply accept the dose of medicine that many white folks view any talk about racism to be.

It's important to learn about racism, about minority people, about humanity, about how everything is interrelated and about how our American Family, like everything on this planet, relies on everything else. It's through learning, listening, understanding that we can come to a place where people aren't taking actions out of obligation, but because they know this is the right thing to do and understand why. And it's so crucial to getting that understanding because these are lessons that need to be taught to every ensuing generation.

Not learning these lessons will create a feeling of confusion about why people simply blindly agree with a minority person, even if they don't believe in what's being said. It could even foster a feeling of resentment, making this another sure way to get to more racist thoughts and behaviors.

So, we should agree that when it comes to racism, we need to talk through the thoughts and the feelings, we need to ask about something we don't understand. We have to work together to make sure we all comprehend these issues, where they come from and how to stop them.

We need to do this for our very lives.


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
18. Day 18 - The Isolationist
The reason racism is so difficult to deal with for minorities who are on the receiving end, is painfully obvious. But why it's challenging for white people to understand is really what this series is about. Jona Olsson's important Detour-Spotting essay is a comprehensive listing of the excuses our society has collectively offered up for why we have made no significant movement in the age-old issue of race in America.

While yesterday's topic was a pretty easy one to understand, today's issue is a much more complex one.

18) The Isolationist

“I thought we resolved this issue (racism) when it came up on the board last year.” or “We need to deal with this specific incident. Let’s not complicate it by bringing other irrelevant issues into it.” or “This incident only happened today because the TV news last night showed police beating that Black kid.”


Reality Check and Consequence

Attempts are made to isolate a particular incident of racism from of the larger context. We blame a publicized incident of racism outside our organization to rationalize an internal incident and to avoid facing the reality of racism within. When trying to resolve an accusation of racism within an institution, we often see the incident in a vacuum, or as an aberration, in isolation from an historic pattern of racism in this institution and nation. Racism has been institutionalized so that every “incident” is another symptom of the pattern. When we continue to react incident-to-incident, crisis-to-crisis, as though they are unconnected, we will find genuine resolution only further from our reach.


When white people discuss racism, there are several problems that occur. The first, of course, is they have never experienced racism, so they have no real context for what it is. Because of that missing context, their view of what racism is, how it works and what it does is also skewed. And because they don't have any real sense of the elements that racism creates, they view any issues of racism as singular cases, as anomalies, or possibly as not being racism at all.

This is what we're talking about with Ms. Olsson's point for today. If you don't believe racism exists, you aren't going to view any case of racism as what it actually is. That's another reason why discussing race in America is so incredibly challenging. It's like attempting to communicate meaning to the people we must speak with in a language they do not comprehend.

We, as a society, have to understand some basic things. One of these would be: if someone is unfamiliar with a topic, they should yield their opinions to those who are familiar. Certainly a patient wouldn't advise a doctor on how to treat their illness. Same thing here. Minorities are the ones who are expert at what racism is. But, all too frequently, white people give their opinion on what they believe racism to be, which can then dissolve into the argument about "reverse racism" or other points we have previously discussed in this series.

Additionally, white people may take any accusations of racism as a personal attack, meaning that they feel they are the ones being blamed, when, what needs to be examined are the institutionalized elements that have been causing the problem. You can begin to see how various elements of the points on Ms. Olsson's essay, work in concert to block many of our chances of discussing racism in any useful way.

If you take each incident as a separate issue, unrelated to any other trend or system, it's much easier to characterize them as being something other than racism. That is what is desired by many white people, who are either simply tired of discussing race (even if they haven't actually had that conversation), want to deflect any blame or feelings of guilt in the circumstances of others, or perhaps want to make examples of the people who were victimized, as a method of justifying their beliefs.

This is where we have that communications gap. How do we get beyond these issues?

It will take work - energy and thought and a serious step back from ego. We have to listen to the experts and not attempt to drown them out when they tell their truths. We have to look at the overall picture, not at any one individual case, and understand how it fits into the concept of the narrative of racism overall.

But will we?


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
17. Day 17 - Straightening Up
If you've been with me this long, I want to say thank you for reading this series of posts. Racism is a touchy subject and even just reading about it can be difficult. But if we intend to actually end racism, and I hope, like me, you agree we should end it, this is the first baby step. Jona Olsson has given us a road map with her essay Detour-Spotting, with every point a milestone toward the eventual destination of understanding the elements that have helped us avoid the discussion we need to have about race in America.

Today's topic is one of the shortest to analyze.

17) Straightening Up or Boys Will Be Boys

The white heterosexual who says, “we can’t talk about AIDS or homophobia because we’re trying to work in coalition with a Latino group.” White organizations, in which women are unheard, disrespected or prevented from assuming leadership. “We’ll deal with any gender inequities or sexism after we solidify this coalition with the NAACP.”


Reality Check and Consequence

When white people with privilege in some other aspect of their life (gender, sexual orientation, lack of disability, class, etc.) use their focus on racism as an excuse to not challenge and therefore perpetuate other forms of oppression, the consequence is a disingenuous and unsustainable commitment to justice.


Ms. Olsson's point with this element is that we somehow think we can only solve one issue at a time. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia are sometimes interrelated and as such, could be worked through at once. To deny that we can move forward on all of these issues simultaneously suggests a simple-minded or lazy approach at best, or an agenda to hold back on advancing all of these causes, if we want to take a more sinister tack.

Part of the reason "mainstream" America sees gay people, minorities, transgender or even differently abled people as "odd" or "out of place" is simply because they have been pushed out of sight, or worse, ridiculed into remaining on the fringes of our society. That's really how a "mainstream" is formed: by overlooking everything that doesn't fit into how you want the world to be.

When you think about it in those terms, it's blatantly obvious how all of these issues are related: people want to ignore them.

Ignoring someone is not a passive thing. You have to choose to do it. That's why this is especially painful for people in these groups. In at least one way, ignoring can be worse than bullying, simply because you aren't being acknowledged at all. Not to encourage bullying, mind you, but simply to say that human beings are not invisible, no matter how much some people would like them to be.

We have to hark back to that much demeaned phrase: "Political Correctness." Really, it's the people who wish to maintain everything as it is who stand against treating everyone equally and with the same level of respect. Again, when it's put in those terms, being politically correct is just a simple case of being thoughtful and kind to your fellow human beings.

We have to remember, it's the atmosphere that permits people who are "politically incorrect" less criticism for what is a self interested and unkind stance. Why are we fine with accepting insults or an attitude that suggests that some people are not as good as others? It's through enabling that kind of commentary that we allow those thoughts to be acceptable, when they clearly should not be.

Not only can we work on all of these issues at the same time, we need to do that, for the sake of all of our fellow humans.


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission

16. Day Sixteen - Former Life
We have been examining each and every listed point from Jona Olsson's brilliant commentary about how we avoid discussing racism in the United States in her essay: Detour-Spotting, a piece I continue to hope people are digesting. My role here is just in aiding it a bit by breaking it into smaller doses and helping it slightly by rooting out a bit more about each topic as we go.

We have what I think it the most inane of the topics to deal with today, but one that is no less valid than the others:

16) I Was An Indian In a Former Life (2)

“After that sweat lodge I really know what it feels like to be an Indian. I have found my true spiritual path.”


Reality Check and Consequence

This is spiritual or cultural appropriation and poses a serious threat to the integrity and survival of Native cultures. To fill a void in their own spiritual core, some white people are drawn into the New Age garden to pick from a variety of Native spiritual practices usually offered for sale. (White writers, such as Lynn Andrews and others, garner high profits from fictitious “Indian” writing and teaching, while many Native writers can’t find publishers.) Since Native spiritual practice is inseparable from history and current community, it cannot be disconnected from that context to service white people searching for life’s meaning. Appropriating selected parts of Native cultures romanticizes the lives of Native peoples while denying their struggles. Their land and livelihoods stolen, indigenous peoples now see white people trying to steal their spirituality. Rather than escape our white racism by finding a spiritual path, we instead collude in one more way with the genocidal attacks on Native cultures.


I can't help but think of the 1990 Academy Award Best Picture winner, "Dances With Wolves," which told a fictional tale about a Union soldier during the US Civil War (played by the film's director, Kevin Costner) who becomes acquainted with the local Lakota Indians. Eventually, he chooses to become a part of their tribe and during this process, meets and falls in love with another white person living with them, played by Mary McDonnell. No spoilers but I always thought the most bizarre element of it was that here were two white people, seemingly convinced that they had somehow become "natives."

When we speak about "Cultural Appropriation," people sometimes shrug it off, say things like "so, if I'm not Mexican, I can't eat tacos anymore?" or other misguided commentary. Let's see if we can unpack this in a way that makes some sense.

When dealing with racism, the elements of who these people in our society are diminished, their humanity, overlooked or removed. Yes, genocide was committed against the natives of this land, but they had some cool headdresses to wear and applied their war paint in a way that was totes amazeballs.

What's happening is people are willing to pick and choose the elements they like from a culture other than their own, and incorporate it into their own lives, yet they are not willing to acknowledge that the people who created those things are considered unfit to be incorporated into our society.

I hope it's clear why that's a problem.

Additionally, it's often claimed that the elements created by the people of these differing cultures were somehow "invented" by the white majority observers. In that way, the audience of white people looking for something new and interesting, are willing to pay the "creator" of those stolen concepts, making this not just an insult but a monetary attack.

Often, the copied elements neglect some very basic things, for example, the feelings of the people they portray. As we all know, in Washington DC, there is a National Football League team with a name that many Native Americans find offensive. The white majority claim that they aren't trying to be insulting and are, in fact, paying tribute to their history. Yet we know that the name of the team was, in fact, a racial slur.

Despite numerous calls to have the team name changed (in the same town, the NBA's Washington Bullets changed their name to the Wizards - imagine the fact that 2nd Amendment supporters were offended about that name - so this request didn't set a precedent), there has been no movement on this issue.

Cultural Appropriation says that I'm willing to take bits and pieces of your life and use the ones I like, reducing you to far less than human. You're just a fix-it kit designed only for the pleasure of the majority, who will take those things, disregard their actual meaning and attach their own meaning to it, no matter what you might think about it. It's how humans get worn as a fashion statement or to liven up the boredom of an otherwise dull life.

Though Ms. Olsson has focused on Native American elements, certainly there have been no end of other cultures mined for their contributions and then tossed away - certainly when it comes to the black community, rap music, twerking and hair weaves are merely three elements that have been taken by the so-called mainstream market who then repackage it for their audiences, with no royalties in sight. Don't get me started on blackface performing.

That's the other issue that people don't seem to understand. The people that appropriate never bother to learn anything about those they are taking from; they are just using what they like and the people who created it can just vanish because we don't care about them.

We don't care: a three word summation of racism. And as we dehumanize people, we silently are stating that they are not worthy of equal rights. That is a very dangerous place to be.


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here

XX. Intermission
Like any epic staged performance, I felt we really do need a bit of a break here, to reflect on everything so far and to incorporate the points that need a little extra reinforcement. So, here's an intermission, just after the halfway point of our list. During this exploration of race, headed by an observant and willing to challenge herself white woman, Jona Olsson, we need to keep some things in mind.

The problem with the beliefs of the average disinterested white person on why they refuse to pay attention to racism is that they hold a world view which doesn't incorporate the actual facts of what is happening - things that they cannot see, hear or know about are constantly happening and since they aren't aware, those things don't factor in to how they view the situation. Just as importantly: our examination of the issues that we have been going through, here. It comes back to a large group of people who apparently are unwilling to consider that what they believe about race in America might not be all that there is and not knowing that the excuses they so frequently offer are a contributing factor in the process. It's a situation similar to the young Siddartha living within the walls of his castle home, completely unaware of what is beyond. From that perspective, everything is lovely. But that's only because the rest remains hidden.

Typically when we attempt to have a discussion about racism, it never actually happens. It gets sidetracked or dissolves into ad hominem attacks on either side, or we deal with any number of the excuses that Ms. Olsson has listed in her essay. Let's state the fact that just talking about racism is "uncomfortable." It's a chore. It's tedious at best and a disgusting mess at worst. It's thankless for white people to do because the immediate assumption is they will be ridiculed and criticized - and they probably haven't actively done anything "bad" to anyone, so there is resentment in the perception of needing to "defend" their race. And they probably are feeling like they aren't as successful as they wish to be (less successful than some of the top successful black people) so they maybe feel a little angry or possibly even confused about that as well. And this isn't their problem. It's the disease that no one in their family has. They have their own issues. Why throw any attention at this?

It's so much easier for white people (and particular minorities who have had success and who want to avoid rocking this boat) to simply say something like: THOSE black people don't share the same values. It becomes a "morality" issue. Or point out the success stories of black people who did better than others. Use examples of minorities who achieved. Point at that, tell them to improve their values and behavior, wipe your hands and walk away.

All of that misses the point. What is the point?

The point we have to always keep in mind is that racism is an oppressive SYSTEM, that it creates or contributes a vast amount to the bulk of the issues that critics continually suggest are the problems that black people need to overcome, and that it is, for the most part, arbitrary, meaning some black people suffer more racism than others for no valid reason. (Ultimately, anyone who suffers racism is getting treated that way for no valid reason.)

Until we get rid of this mindset and this system that favors white people to the detriment of black people and other minorities so that everyone has a fair chance to live their lives in this country, (and we must do that if we care about freedom, justice and what's right) we will never completely shake this unease that exists among all our fellow citizens. We have to fix this now, as we see how the country as a whole is becoming a target for the derision of terrorist groups that want to harm most everyone here. If we cannot stand together, to paraphrase Ben Franklin, we will surely fall separately.

But here's the other element that white people don't seem to understand. If racism goes away, then black people won't need to be on government subsidies nearly as much. When black people become more successful, the economy will grow. Black businesses start booming, more employment starts happening. Less crime means less fear, less need for guns, and less violent clashes with police. All of this is possible when racism ends. So, many of the complaints of tax issues and programs to benefit minorities will be less needed, which is, we're told, one of the more vocal complaints coming from the white community. (We could also discuss how the wealthy have chosen to send their money to Panama or the Cayman Islands or any number of shelter locations so that they don't pay their share of taxes which would relieve the burden of charging more to middle and lower class citizens, but that would take more than an intermission to cover.)

We're all just human beings here, living our finite time on this planet, trying to do the best we can with what we are given. The problem is when racism is given to you, that goes beyond "life is not fair," and really creates a circumstance where everyone suffers needlessly, not just black people.

I hope you grabbed a cold drink and a snack. The break has concluded.


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash
15. Day Fifteen - Not Here
Having seen the Opening Ceremonies of the Rio Olympics, it's a great reminder that people from all over the world can come together in the spirit of friendship and competition and co-exist with an understanding that we truly are the same. Why we can't do this on a daily basis, not just for two weeks once every two years, is part of the reason we need to examine the issues of race and how they impact all of us.

Jona Olsson's essay, titled "Detour-Spotting" is the template for my examination of the issues that are particular to our discussion of racism and how we avoid talking about it. Today's topic relates right back to our Olympics concept:

15) Not Here In Lake Wobegon

“We don’t have a racism problem here at this (school, organization, community)” or “We didn’t have a racism problem in this town until that Mexican family moved here.”

Reality Check and Consequence

As white people we do not have to think about racism when our school, organization or community is all white. Racism does not usually become apparent TO US until there are people of color in our frame of reference.


This is kind of a no-brainer. Without any minority people in the community, in the state, in the country, everything is "fine."

This is reflected in a popular sentiment suggested by some of the legislators at that time: once the Emancipation Proclamation passed into law, many wanted to send former slaves back to Africa, this even though America was the only country most of these people knew, being born in and growing up here. Of course, some did take the offer, and the country of Liberia was formed as a home in Africa for former US slaves and their descendants. Point being, once black people no longer served the purpose desired, the first thought, for at least some government officials, was to send them somewhere else. Out of sight, out of mind.

That relates to the old wheeze "why don't you go back where you came from?" comment that still gets used even today by racists that don't want to see someone other than themselves in their line of vision.

The unspoken issue that this particular topic touches upon is one that cuts to the heart of the matter: it reflects in all of the elements we have seen on newscasts and in social media regarding racism. It is simply that there is a desire by some to simply wish minorities out of the picture. All of the points in Ms. Olsson's essay we are talking about would be moot if there were only white people here.

Again, this is an element that speaks to the thought that any minorities are not as human as white people and that they can and should be shuttled or shifted away whenever possible, for the convenience of white folks. The "white flight" of the 1960s and 1970s out of cities and into suburban areas was a variation on this theme. If they won't leave, we will.

Even though Jim Crow had outlawed segregation in 1964, there was no desire to have black people living side by side with whites even after the laws changed. And, as we all know, it's through living with someone that we can come to know and understand them. So, really, this was an opportunity to get to the truth of everyone's humanity, lost. And through that choice, we still are dealing with a lot of the thoughts that we are so different and so afraid of each other that we still aren't able to face these issues.

I should take a pause here and point out something obvious. Part of the reason racism is still so rampant is that we are still viewing this as a black v. white issue. It really isn't that, as there are many white people who are aware that we are all humans and that we need to start acting that way. But, even within the description - black people and white people, the minority and the majority, part of the element that creates this challenge is that we are separating these two camps when what we're trying to achieve is that understanding that there really is just one race: the human race.

Most every issue we have, when it comes to human interaction, is a communication issue. Certainly, racism can be boiled down to that as well. And let's face it. If you are ready to send away someone without knowing any substantive element of who they are, aren't you the problem?


Previous thinkposts in this series:

1. Day One - I'm Colorblind
2. Day Two - Bootstrap Theory
3. Day Three - Reverse Racism
4. Day Four - Blame The Victim
5. Day Five - The White Knight
6. Day Six - Lighten Up
7. Day Seven - Don't Blame Me
8. Day Eight - BWAME
9. Day Nine - We Have Overcome
10. Day Ten - The End Run
11. Day Eleven - Due Process
12. Day Twelve - By Association
13. Day Thirteen - The Penitent
14. Day Fourteen - White Wash

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