Archive | October 2017

Privileged Ground: It’s Black, Red, Yellow, White Privilege (WP) and Brown

How do I know about WP? I’ve experienced it in myself,
in relationship with others, have observed its symptoms in
groups, have studied it, journaled about it, analysed it,
thought about it, and used rituals to broaden my
comprehension of it.
________________________________________________________
A small group had gathered around a vending machine in the
belly of a hospital parking garage-strange things can happen
within these structures. Sometimes, truth is stranger than
fiction.

Having Diabetes, I needed a snack-I’d forgotten one at home,
so I was waiting to buy something; as I waited, I inched ever
closer to the machine. I could feel this small throng’s irritation
at having to wait on someone else, when they had an
appointment to go to, etc.

When I was close enough to see the action, I noticed a bent-
over, disabled, elderly, woman-of-color, dressed in somewhat
shabby clothing; I felt the group of spectators anger that she
was taking so long at the machine.

I knew that moment, I mean, I knew WP in that present
moment, when one of the spectator-bosses looked
over at me, with her emotions registered through her non-
verbal communication, as if to convey to me, without words,
“This old gimp is making us all wait on her. Some of these
disabled folks are just all about themselves, me, I & us. I’m so
fucking pissed, I could scream!” (I thought, oh, no, please
don’t!)

Her signaled look to me was a tactic to get me (as another
white person) to be her ally in ignorance, but I wasn’t
buying it.

I walked to the machine & asked the elderly woman if she
needed any help. Yes, she said, I can’t mash down the button
for what I want. She told me what she wanted, and I “mashed”
down the right button. Kerplunk! Her item fell into the bottom
tray with a metallic thump. I reached in and grabbed it, and
gave it to her. Then she walked away, and I didn’t say
anything. She was gone.

WP, it seems to me, almost inherently filed in my cranial
computer. Indeed, an image may be worth a thousand words!

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam October 26, 2017

Dr. Kendi presents “How to be an Anti-Racist” at Bates College

By
Christopher Bear-Beam

Dr. Abarim X. Kendi, professor & author, spoke October 23, 2017, at Bates College; I had the opportunity to attend, and wrote this blog.  The blog is divided into two parts-part I. describes the connection between Racilized policies, and racialized ideas, and the many aspects that lead to their positive reception by some people.  Part II. offers steps on how to be an anti-racist human being and in the process of growth in this mind-set.

I.

President Clayton Spenser of Bates College & Christopher Petrella, Bates College Diversity Council, introduced the highly-acclaimed Dr. Abarim X. Kendi with many affirmations for his work & scholarship, and authorship. President Spenser has been a key player in bringing speakers to the college that give us a more accurate view of racism, particularly coming from persons-of-color who’re astute observors of the world around them.

Professor Kendi has authored two books about racism in our culture: Black Campus Movements & Stamped from the Beginning. His topic tonight flowed from his second book, a highly informative look at historical racialized policies & ideas through the changing eras of the U.S.’s racism.

Dr. Kendi received his Ph.D. at Temple University, and is a professor at the American International University, and lectures in Cultural Studies. He’s also the winner of the National Book Award for Non-Fiction, as well as the Roy Rosensweig Award from the American Digital Historical Society.

Later, when this writer returned home from the lecture, I realized how in so many ways, Dr. Kendi had sort of flipped the whole notion of racism in my mind. At first the title of the lecture seemed somewhat understated, like, “how to be an efficient skate boarder,” or “how to be a good person” (wow, I don’t know if there’s any hope there for me on this one).

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Dr. Kendi speak about how racist ideas were applied, and the racist policies from which they stemmed. Racist ideas come after racialized policies. Yes, some of these ideas have always been with us, but they’ve been “costumed” differently at various historical times; when old policies or ideologies seemed unworkable (to the creators), newer, racist ideas and policies had to be designed.

He added that it appears that racialized policies & ideas, in this Modern Racism (A term coined by Valerie Batts) Era, have multiplied and amplified. They’ve de-volved into a kind of “high-end” collection of complexity-this may offer one reason as to why racism is so crazy-making in our lives & culture. Thus, these practical ideologies are often not easily understood, making it difficult for Anti-Racists to comprehend and use. We may consider all of them like huge vines that choke the life out of a tree.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam October 24, 2017

(Stay tuned-Part II. will be posted next week)

Beyond the Rainbow

Now, yes, now/I know the reason the elderly African-American gentleman threw an empty booze bottle at my car that was doing a “U” turn to flee this old man, madder than hell, who probably hated my guts, and if he could’ve caught me, he’d do me in for sure.
I did getaway-thank God!

But-I was left with the big “why” question: why’d he do it? What made him so angry that he couldn’t stop himself? to do it? to do it? to do it?

It wasn’t until much older, that I learned that racism=a systemic morass, multi-generational, socially & environmentally-learned, and the inferential meaning of all of this, is that if it can be learned, then it can be un-learned.

This gives me the quiet contentment for the happiness this may give to our children, and children beyond…and beyond…that racism breeds something like PTSD, only this would be called Post Traumatic Slavery Disorder. Add to this a naturally new consciousness of anti-racism way of living.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam October 11, 2017

Privileged Manchild

Twenty years ago, a soulmate taught me about the privilege of whiteness, you know, how it goes?-I rescind that remark-many, many, many people on whose shoulders I stand, helped me to understand this crooked dis-ease that most whites never acknowledge.
If the sun comes up each morning, without a hitch, even if I don’t see it ascending, dudes, it’s a reality, in the structural life of this planet on which we live, dudes, it’s a reality, not a specialty; it’s a fact, Jack!

Think of all the institutions that form a patch-work quilt of Institutional Racism, and at the center of this bizarre spider-webbing-juggling cells of systemic racism & privilege, it be crazy-making dudes, I want to jump off a ledge.

But I’ll give you my pledge
not to rock the boat-speaking of White Privilege,
like creosote toothpaste, just ain’t gonna stay afloat.
Born into the elitist clouds,
better position, more access, more connections to benefit us whites,
than any non-white crowd, shout it loud! Hey, privilege suits me
fine, feels comfy and assures me of never having to be found
on the bottom shelf;

But this niggling in my spirit’s brain, a new consciousness gonna raise some cane, if I know what I know, and it’s true-to-facts, like to lickitty-split make my micro-attacks, nervously at first, growth in anti-racism whiteness as a solemn witness to the fact, that I can unlearn white racism, it’s just true that!

Gives me some hope to go on,
seeing my white-body-mind
changing from gross to sublime,
in the long, long day of what’s unkind,
doing my part, helping bear the load,
watching for the light of truth to shine,
where we may catch that internal oneness ray,
this is the prize we must find!

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam September 8, 2017

How to talk to your children about race: a community conversation

Tuesday night, October 17th at 7:00 pm, the South Berwick Library hosted a facilitated-guided discussion.

Residents, and particularly parents, are invited to discuss racial incidents in New Hampshire and Maine, including the local report of a boy shouting a racial slur on a school bus in South Berwick, as well as recent events on the national stage.
The discussion will be facilitated by Will Lusenhop, a clinical social worker and professor at University of New Hampshire, and Chair of the Diversity Committee in the UNH Department of Social Work, who is involved in racial justice issues at the university. Will is a resident of South Berwick and a Marshwood School System parent.

A small group of South Berwick residents began planning programs on race two years ago after national attention was drawn to police shootings of black citizens across the country, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Fred Gray. This simmering issue on the national stage has been brought to the boiling point with incidents in Charlottesville and in the NFL and with recent incidents in northern New England.

Earlier this month a Claremont boy was taken to the hospital after a teenager allegedly pushed him off a picnic table with a rope around his neck. In Kittery, teens at a soccer game have taken a knee during the national anthem to draw attention to racial injustices, garnering regional and national attention.

This event is co-sponsored by the South Berwick Library & the Central School PTO. The PTO provided a chaperone for children in the Community Room for people who are unable to attend without their children.

Lusenhop, who will lead the discussion, is chair , is a member of the Diversity Task Force in the College of Health and Human Services, teaches on race and diversity to undergraduates and graduate students and provides in-service training on diversity to the NH Department of Children, Youth and Families.

Stay tuned for other anti-racism presentations in your community.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam October 18, 2017

Waking Up White: An Interview With Author Debby Irving

Both Pamela-Mahraiah and I had been very excited as we neared the time that we were going to interview Debby Irving.

Debby has very naturally, sometimes with difficulty, and uniquely written about her journey “out of” White Privilege (WP), in her book Waking Up White [(2014). Cambridge: Elephant Room Press].

Written in a flowing style, the lessons about WP that’s she’s recognized in herself and the culture; my read of her book, made me feel much better (when what I was reading about was my own WP); you don’t unlearn in a two-week course on Racism, all you need to know & jettison about WP, at least for many of us whites (I’m a white-male-heterosexual), who’ve been learning the dynamics of racism over a long time.

When I think back over the last twenty years of my own personal trek out of WP, I can still see some of the mountain top, and low valley experiences. Making the commitment to do this kind of work, often hard and emotionally-draining, as well as often a lonely place to be while working on one’s Anti-Racism all by one’s self.

In Debby’s transformation and my own, I found a similarity when I learned about my Unaware Racism, I wasn’t searching for what I came to learn about myself and the many faces of racism. This sounds a bit like Debby Irving’s experience. In my case it was a little more like a sneak attack! I wasn’t prepared for it, so it blew me away. But when I got my psychological wind back, I was ready to begin my own work that was often slow and hard to get my head around.

I feel it’s important for any of us doing the work of transformation in racial consciousness, that we need to do our own work first, for genuine understanding of ourselves and the aptitude of assisting others in their journeys. We can only change ourselves at the end of the day. It’s really only after we’ve done this internal work, gaining a clear-eyed comprehension of it, that we should do any kind of facilitation or presenting with others.

Debby Irving’s book is a very cogent one for this small region of the world in the northeast United States; she grew up in Massachusetts, and she invites us into her own New England culture; for us, this is a fairly well-known locale, living among WP (the belly of the beast?) in the Puritan northeast.

Paradoxically, I, grew up on the affluent North Shore, north of Chicago, Illinois. This helped me to continually be drawn into Debby’s story; James Madison, one of the architects of our country, the Founding Fathers used as their poster child for Fundamentalists, Religious Groups, and those on the Religious Right, was reputed to have said of the wealthy, slave-owning landowners who founded the nation, were the “opulent minority.”

Our goal in Anti-Racism would be to access accurate, historical information, instead of inaccurate information, found, spread & scattered like butter in Alfredo sauce, throughout so many textbooks. There’s a plethora of it all around us, and forms our contemporary educational institutions; yet, Debby asserts that’s she has talked with many younger people, many of whom really “get” the concept of WP, and other correlated topics to racism, and to keep it moving forward.

The Youth Culture, it seems, is far out ahead in understanding oppression, colonialization, privilege, removal of Civil Rights protection, multiculturalism, xenophobia, etc. This is an encouraging sign on the horizon for keeping the conversation on race on the front burner.

In her book, Debby recounts a story about how much she loved her Indian doll when she was a young girl. She had many questions: where did they all go? Why were so many lies told about Native Americans? Why were there so many omissions, myths, and distortions about Indigenous Peoples?” Much of the reason for this can be related to the use of stereotypical images of Native Americans; these images plant the distortions about other groups deep in our minds.

When you think about it, there aren’t too many places or gatherings in our culture, where whites can talk freely about race or racism, Debby observes, and there are two requirements in order for an atmosphere/environment to be created where this may be accomplished: time & space.

This kind of conversation is more of a dialogue than a discussion; it’s an attempt for participants to “bracket” (put up on the shelf for a while) one’s views, opinions and feelings, prior to rushing into an impulsive judgment or bias. It’s more about listening with empathic compassion, sort of in neutral gear, to hear how a person feels, rather than only listening for “facts.”

Thirdly, this kind of setting gives everyone who needs it, “air time” and a time to vent feelings without always hearing people’s responses to the feelings.
Finally, Debby would like to see more whites avoiding controlling behaviors, and have more of an ‘ignorance worldview.’ An individual who has this kind of perspective of the world, i.e., there’s a lot more I don’t know about the world than what I do know about the world, there’s no need to fear what we don’t know, so what we need to initiate it is employing our “seeking minds and listening ears.”

When Pamela-Mahraiah and I asked Debby what was next for her on her “to do” list, she replied she would like to write another book, and is playing with some ideas for it.
At this point in her life, she’s traveling a lot to do presentations, workshops, trainings, etc., and she loves this part of her job, especially meeting cool white people who want to be more effective anti-racists.

As a member of Southeast Maine Step Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), we’re looking forward to seeing Debby and Shay Stewart Boulet (her blog is “Black Girl in Maine”) when they come to Kittery, ME on January 28, 2018. More information will follow on this event.

Debby has several ways to contact her, and to look at all of the fine resources she’s provided on her sites. Check out: http://www.debbyirving.com; also go to her Facebook Page at Debby Irving.

For BOOKING ENGAGEMENTS please complete the Intake Form at http://debbyirving.com/intake-form/

For MEDIA ENGAGEMENTS please contact Martha Kiley, marthakiley1@gmail.com.

For BULK SALES or DESK COPIES please contact Jennifer Simpson, jennifer@debbyirving.com

Copyright: Pamela Marie Brouker & Christopher Bear-Beam October 6, 2017