Never thought I could go to *sleep* after being *woke* or… I dreamt the meritocracy was real

Coming back to the struggle was a bitter battle; I’m not a morning gal and I was “getting woke” a little roughly. I didn’t realize how far I had strayed from the truths I had known all my life. I had begun to believe some rhetoric around race relations and discrimination; that the victims needed to change. I began to think what many people from the dominant culture say: the poor need to cooperate more, participate more, be more organized, they need to calm down and they need to take more responsibility for their progress in life. That mentality completely dismisses an entrenched set of problems that can never be solved with cliche or fortune cookie wisdom, especially when it blames the victim. I can’t believe how ridiculous I was in this deep denial of truths I had personally experienced and witnessed in my life.

Somehow I had come to believe the cop-out attitudes that minimize the reality of the truly despicable acts that keep the poor down and trapped in poverty. I had begun to blame the victims, feeling that they are too desperate, too loud, too insistent, too much to bear. I had lost sight of how real this pain is, and how real the transgressions are. For some reason I had managed to forget that this is not just pain from the past that the poor carry, it is current and ongoing and entirely legitimate.

When teachers and administrators disproportionately punish the most vulnerable members of our society (children), as does the court system, when healthcare providers and employers believe and trust marginalized groups less or not at all, when agencies maintain evolving, prohibitive requirements and harsh disincentives around critical social services, when housing, food, sanitary conditions, personal safety and adequate medical care are curtailed or denied, these are acts of psychological and physical abuse, which is violence against the poor, and these are the symptoms of class warfare. This perpetuates and worsens mental health disorders and behavioral health disorders, domestic violence, crime, and dysfunction by antagonizing a class of people who are abused by the only resources they can rely on, so like many an abused person, they end up going back to the abuser and the abuse.

These acts are not done by someone incapable of self awareness, they are not even done by someone unwitting or uninformed, though those have been used as excuses before. Those are thin veils considering the wide body of evidence that proves systemic inequity is a genuine source of oppression. The acts that are so heinous in this struggle are done by individuals who have attained positions of authority and power and they are certainly capable of understanding the affects their actions have on others. Some of the people in power may not realize how much power they wield, but they end up with it and the decisions they can make include those that have ruined lives.

Wether it’s subtle or flagrant, the truth is that many people in the industries of hiring, supervision, management, public service, social service – even philanthropy – feel less comfortable around minorities or otherwise disadvantaged people, leading to further disenfranchisement of the population in the greatest need of support. Many authority figures feel that they are not discriminating, but they engage in favortism, which is essentially equivalent. When an authority figure is more likely to trust/believe/work with someone for any reason aside from their qualifications or their performance, that authority is often engaging in discrimination by favoritism. Authorities conveniently have reasons that are neutral if questioned, but they have enough policy in their favor to make it difficult to question their judgement anyway.

If it is deemed that an authority figure is qualified enough to determine wether or not someone receives assistance or support in the outset, then we can and should hold them responsible when they provide services in a way that is not equitable in the end. Appealing to the organization that the individual authority figure represents does not yield an impartial result. Also, sometimes no amount of compliance will satisfy someone in charge. Anyway, the poor are not in a position to exercise the rights they do have, let alone win those they should have.

Getting support from our own community should not be this treacherous.

Read the sister post here “Culture wars part 4…”

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Culture Wars Part 4: Discovering the white world

I grew up with disgust for classism, sexism, racism and bigotry. I was taught that the system I live in was never broken, because it was never working in the first place. I grew up knowing that I live in Babylon, home of the excess only greed can drive. I never got woke cuz I was never asleep. I am as wide awake to the struggle as anyone can be in my position.

We had an 8 inch black and white tv til I was 13, I have never owned a video game and I am a child of the 80’s. It was mind blowing to order a drink besides water in a restaurant or go eat at one besides a very special occasion. I had never had cotton candy or eaten a corn dog, didn’t go shopping in malls or use paper towels to dry my hands in the bathroom. I didn’t get a car, or school money when I graduated. I was just glad to be a stat on the side that said Natives can graduate – no really. We were too poor to afford all those things, but we also didn’t want them. Material possessions and product consumption is all avarice; self indulgent, inwardly and outwardly destructive at its core.

I was raised to relate with people who don’t relate with me; other Natives can’t always tell that i am too unless I tell them. I don’t look quite like them, and I have more education than most. I don’t live where they live or do the things they do, I don’t talk like them or even dream like they do. Like white people, I have never lived on a reservation, and I have never lived in my people’s homeland.

I was raised to be unable to relate with the people who look like me. Those ones feel like they relate with me, not knowing I have no shared experience with them. I had always considered white people to be “them” and brown people to be “us”. When white people include me and I don’t join in they can’t tell why. It’s especially trying when they view their world through lenses that they don’t know about.

When I left the bosom of my family at 19, I was set adrift in a white world I had lived between, but not within… a world I did not understand. I thought I knew a little about the dominant culture since I am an urban individual, had discovered Monty Python, Sci-Fi and come on, some of my ancestors come from France. This new white world was, for me, a paradise I had always loathed – never desired. Except, marketers have found the way to make a fish bite even when he’s not hungry. Like a jolt of electricity can make a muscle contract, advertisements are made to work. I was like Pinocchio in the beginning, fighting temptation. But it was so easy to fall into pleasure when there are so many flavors in Babylon and then I reveled for far too long.

I had to find out if the rumors were true. The stories I heard were like those immigrants hearing that Americans eat cheeseburgers for every meal and there is money everywhere, and everyone is so nice and they tip so well and and and and and it was all true. And people are nice, and polite, and easy going and friendly when you’re white and your money spends, or you’re lucky. I look white, so I get the nice treatment. Capitalism is so lulling in its monotonous predictability that I fell back asleep. I woke back up again one day but I had had to see why that disgust for excess dripped so sourly from my grandmother’s lips. Why my mother did not decorate with items that had no use, no purpose.

It was all so terribly horribly true. And somehow it was worse than I had imagined because these people, if you could call some of them that it would be generous, these people were so shallow, self absorbed, aggressively ignorant, oblivious yet aware. They were inhumane to their unseen victims as they wallowed in their own self-maintained captivity. All I could hear when I woke back up was how wildly dissonant this soundtrack is. The background music is ominous and eerie. The melody is conspicuously innocent and lighthearted, bright and chipper. The movie somehow illustrates the plight while marginalizing it and then insistently moves on to fluff, despite the music cues indicating there’s more to the story. The final scene ends with nothing resolved, set to Bob Marley singing “…think you’re in heaven but you’re living in hell.”

Read the sister post here “Never thought…”

Culture Wars Part 3: Cherry Picking Culture

Everyone cherry picks culture. They look at the historical actions that they approve of and repeat those actions in current times. They are never completely or holistically adhering to ancient cultural practices.

Many people firmly and convincingly espouse to be fully “traditional” in their ways, but they are not. They adhere to the parts of the culture that appeal to them, that are fun, that hold fond memories. They disavow or conveniently forget the parts they don’t want to associate with.

Cultures and traditions evolve and change, and do not remain the same – it’s fallacy to believe that we even can reproduce ancient traditions with complete accuracy. Whether we’ve lost certain techniques or resources, been influenced by new connections with other cultures, or have new values that conflict with the old ones, culture is fluid. Even our representations of the past are heavily influenced by our standards today.

It’s great to say we should wear traditional garb, but which tradition? the one from 10,000 years ago, 1,000 years ago, or 100? the truth is they are all traditional and yet wildly different from each other. the truth is the ultimate “traditional” is to eschew everything but stalking prey and making our own clothes out of their skin. The truth is all traditions have had their place and may again, but there is no true definition of “traditional”.

My Tlingit people love to keep to their traditions, but we don’t arrange marriages or keep slaves or hunt witches or raid other villages anymore. We love our button robes but those came from white people’s blankets and we decorated them to make them our own. We could be rid of button robes but it turns out our traditional Chilkat robes started with a neighboring tribe, the Haida. We could wear traditional tunics (from before Chilkat) except that the little dogs we cultivated to collect their hair for weaving have gone extinct. We could wear cedar bark or leather clothing but it turns out that’s very difficult to make and uncomfortable to wear when you still need to run to the grocery store for toilet paper.

Or are you SO traditional that you wipe your ass with leaves, bury the mess, and don’t use soap to wash up after?

 

Culture Wars Part 2: Flattery or, “the good hair”

Humans have been arranging their hair since the dawn of humanity, and have probably been doing so together for just as long.

We see each other’s styles and if we like them, we emulate them, because all human behavior is initially emulation (*all of it) and because that is the highest form of flattery – everyone does it, that’s how we learn anything new at all, hairstyles are no exception.

All humans have come to use braids in their hairstyles.

All humans have come to use beads of some kind in their cultures.

 

My little girl asked for beads in her hair, because she thought they look pretty – to her that is “the good hair”.

She saw other little girls with braids in their hair, that had beads on the ends, and she wanted to look pretty like that too.

Little girls like to talk like each other, act like each other, dress like each other, and, wear their hair like each other. That’s just a few of the many things little girls do to discover and become themselves.

Yes, those other little girls are black, and yes, my daughter is not.

She is human, just like all those other little girls.

No one has any right to tell a little girl that she can’t think something is pretty and then emulate it.

But the next time you feel like you do have that right: don’t tell me about it. Look into that little girl’s eyes and tell her she can’t look like those girls she likes. Go ahead. I’ll wait while you realize how ridiculous these adult social notions have become.

P.s., thanks for nothing. It took less than the blink of an eye for you fuckers to poison my little girl’s dreams.

 

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let your love shine bright

If you’re so woke, so progressive, so enlightened, so transcendent…
then you would know what it’s like
(to be asleep)

you would know how long the tunnel is before the light
you would feel the pain that holds them back and down and out
you would cuddle them with all the love there is to have

they have already felt enough rage, enough sorrow, of their own and from above
they have already paid time and again for privileges they never gained
they are us before we were us, before we knew we were not alone

before you knew you didn’t know and when you didn’t know you couldn’t grow

your woke-ness, enlightenment, transcendence, is (in itself) a privilege
it is yours to know and keep and grow, yours to share or hide and glare

don’t hoard it and keep it at your side
let your love shine bright and when they wake they will thank

you and our lucky stars are all we have
to hope for a better life

click here to read the sister post

My 2nd grade teacher always said “Sorry don’t pay the bills.”

Culturally speaking so many people have been taught that their remorse, guilt and shame are in-and-of themselves the price to be paid for their privilege and gain

But the truth is that the price is dear, and the feelings are only collateral damage

But the truth is that they are not prepared to pay the price

So instead they offer their feelings as some kind of sacrifice

Because they cannot bring themselves to do the right thing

Knowing the price comes from their benefit – the excess they are enjoying

White guilt is deep and wide and unabiding in its overwhelming intensity

It traps and holds down any meaningful change in a quagmire of excess energy

The guilt and the shame don’t get the bills paid

Someday we may claw our way out of this day

But not until we get those feelings out of the way

click here to read the sister post

My race, gender, size and style are so mixed up…

I have never been considered feminine enough

Certainly not brown enough

Not quite white enough either

Never been thin, quiet, forgiving, or flexible enough
I have always been too insistent, too volatile…  too much
I know that many have their reasons for why I don’t seem to match up

But they don’t see that that makes me with nobody

Who are ‘we‘ when I am such a big mix of not quite anybody?

Who can I be that is me and still be part of we?

I come from the oppressed and the oppressor

My ancestors grew and changed

I know there can and will be one day

A place for us all at the table