Archive | November 2017

Anne McCarty Braden: An Influential Female, White, Anti-Racist Woman

Anne Braden, one of the most powerful white allies in the south, was born on July 25, 1924, and died March 6, 2006. Her life saw so many of the important changes that happened in the U.S. during this important century. Braden was one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most forceful activists, who lived into the new day of Civil Rights in our nation. Together, with her husband, Carl Braden, they fought Civil Right’s injustices in the social arena for sixty years.

She spent her youth growing up in Anniston, Alabama; later, after she graduated from college, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, and was a journalist covering the “court house” beat in that area.

She’d grown up in a traditional, white, southern home, and breathed in all the racist conventions & Jim Crow laws-like most of us, as we’re growing up, we’ve been so brainwashed by stereotypical images & metaphors in our heads, of non-white people, it’s as if we have a thin covering of gray glue over our eyes.

Braden’s understanding of racism intersected many other injustices and “isms” prevalent in society at the time. A couple of such intersections were class, sexism, etc.
But Anne saw things differently and wanted to live her life in a different world than the one she was raised in; she struggled in the “struggle” in the Social Justice field, facing many challenges, upsets, reverses as well as open doors for more change to exert itself on the psyches of white people in America.

Early in her activist life, she realized the integral connection between race & class. She wrote, “I was in a prison and life builds prisons around people and I had the prison that I was born white in a racist society. I was born privileged in a classist society. The hardest thing was class. I didn’t think that I could ever have broken out of what I call the race prison, if I hadn’t dealt with class” (p. 2, Notes on the Documentary called Anne Braden:Southern Patriot [2012]).

She was a radical subversive, in many white’s eyes, for the cause of dismantling racism; her life was spent in writing, professorship at colleges, communicating fiercely her feelings within the framework of advocacy, activism, and on occasion was arrested and jailed, as a result of her engagement in social actions for equality & egalitarianism.
She alludes to the consequences of race in the lives of white, southern women-when she wrote in 1972:

I believe that no white woman reared in the south-or perhaps anywhere in this racist country can find freedom as a woman until she deals in her own consciousness with the question of race. We grow up little white girls-absorbing a hundred stereotypes about ourselves and our role in life, our secondary position, our destiny to be a helpmeet to a man or men. But we also grow up white-absorbing the stereotypes of race, the picture of ourselves as somehow privileged because of the color of our skin. The two mythologies become intertwined, and there’s no way to free ourselves from one without dealing with the other (Ibid.).

Most of us who are white, anti-racists have wrestled with our feelings of guilt over colluding with the White-Supremacist-Structural-System, ‘going along to get along,’ making sure we don’t rock someone’s boat, keeping up the playing nice & conventional in relation to society surrounding us. If systems can keep us silent or indifferent, they’ve already won; however, expressing our opinions, dissenting towards values & policies that are abusive & unjust, speaking our truths to power, and our engagement in the anti-racism struggle, as well as continuing to maintain our advocacy & activism-even in the onslaught of opposition-especially with blatant & openly oppressive measures used against our brothers & sisters, to keep them down, in so many ways, as a means to keep us up, as was obviously extant during the Civil Rights Era.

Anne Braden felt guilt was overrated, and she felt it was of no particular value. “She didn’t feel guilt. She felt motivated to change the world” (Ibid., p. 2). Concerning “white guilt” she wrote in another place,

I had to really cope with the conclusion that everything about society I’d grown up in had been wrong, and I went through I guess a lot of guilt things, like you do if you’re white and if you come from a privileged sort of background. I’m glad I didn’t get hung up in that for too long, because I don’t think guilt is very useful, but I felt I had to get away from everything in my background, and start life over….(p. 87, Cynthia Stokes Brown. (2002). Refusing Racism: White Allies and the Struggle for Civil Rights. New York: Teachers College Press).

One historical classicly intersecting the Civil Rights Movement, was the anti-communist sentiments of many segregationalists in the south, in addition to elected officials from the south. For instance, the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, had on its committee, many segregationalist politicians. The African-American resistance during this period was stereotypically linked in these folk’s minds with communist agitation of the Anti-Racism Movement, especially based on fires stoked in the south.

Another reflection, of course, of the anti-communist zealotry was found in McCarthyism, that spread across the nation in its grip of fear, isolationism and push-back from communist sympathizers; this “witch hunt” fanaticism destroyed many lives & careers as it ripped through society, leaving in its wake, more hate, fear, stigma, and bias in its place.

Labeling the Civil Rights Movement as subversive had more of a chilling effect on whites than blacks, in Braden’s mind. She wrote, “Perhaps this is because their families and friends are likely to believe the communist charges, whereas it’s pretty hard to convince Negroes that the freedom movement is a communist plot. So the net result has been to keep whites out of action, leave Negroes alone on the front lines, and sometimes to encourage them to suspect the motives of the few whites who are active. Thus the gap has been widened between black & white (Ibid., p. 100 citing Braden, 1964, p. 2).

In her younger years, Anne attended the Episcopal Church where she lived. “In Anne’s world, people thought they were in their privileged position because they actually were better than others, and that God had willed it so” (Ibid., p. 82).

Braden had heard about the Scottsboro case, where some African-Americans were illegally being tried for raping a white teenager; she heard people talking about how outside agitators had caused and stirred up trouble in that area. There was also a rumor that Eleanor Roosevelt was agitating people, due perhaps (just a hunch) due to her supreme passion for Human Rights; perhaps, too, she may have thought that communists knew they had to “smoke screen” their real motives, in order to come up clean on Human Rights. But who really knows?

In terms of the direction and the “how to’s” for a white, southern, female activist, she got some special advice from William L. Patterson who wrote a letter to Braden, counseling her that her role was to talk with whites\he went on to say that she could choose not to be a part of the lynchers, but to join the world of ‘the Civil Rights America,’ or’the ‘Just America,’ or any other kind of healthy America.

She wrote, “….I’ve got this sense that I’m part of this long movement that’s like a chain back into the past and will go on after I’m gone” (Ibid., p. 89).

What is there in Anne Braden’s life that we can use as a model of Social Justice Activism for us as white allies who’re also anti-racists?

Braden often cited insights she had about southern white supremacy; in short, she kept raising her own consciousness on the issues and the topic.

When I use the term “raising her own consciousness” I mean that she educated and elevated her mind to new ways of living and new ways of thinking, other than her past social conditioning.

Experientially, she saw that by dismantling racism, it would provide a way of life that would benefit all the people-black or white-as they understood the more human practice of respect & equality for all people; when we experience anything, it often effects all dimensions of our common humanity and ourselves-all the diverse genetic, environmental, physiological, psychological and spiritual dimensions are in the process of transformation, by an act of elevation of thought & action. It’s been said that ‘happiness is an inside job,’ and changing into a different kind of person-an egalitarian one-is also an ‘inside job.’ Once this change has been made, we may enter into the outgoing conversation with society at large.

As she matured, and as we mature, too, past habitual ways of ‘acting racist’ are seen in stark comparison to this new consciousness, this new brain, this new body-mind, of ingrained, practiced and internalized elements of genuine and transparent justice.
Anne would think about how segregation & white supremacy were a part of her southern conditioning, perhaps why this was so, or why these two values seemed conflictive, or the age-old, mysterious question of why people do what they do.

When we’re children, we see people & events around us filtered through emotive feelings we have about how others around us are mistreated or treated with respect & love; we don’t yet have the ability to edit what we hear, or the capability of conceptualizing or digesting abstract concepts, that flow from cognitive & critical-thinking-reasoning. Our brain’s frontal lobes haven’t developed to the point of being able to articulate meanings and to produce language, and so we see life from more of an emotional reaction vantage point to society’s stimuli of injustice, discrimination, bias, and racism. Without this editing function, these feelings may be stored away as the benchmarks of a developing consciousness, or in the unconscious caverns of our human-ness, and as pieces of memory on our tabla rosa minds.

With comprehension, understanding, receiving accurate information, apprehension and cognitive-shifting, the gaps become lucid and we gain more clarity in our minds; we come to see how we’ve been brainwashed and included ourselves in the collusion with the racist culture we live in.

I suppose that what I’m saying is that this new consciousness is not about some academic exercise\to deal with racism is life. But it’s by “lived experience,” rubbing shoulders with people & groups who may be very different from us, and who look different than we do-African-Americans and other peoples of color, the ongoing processing of the dynamics of racism with its direct relation to us, and with its specific examples, and our own mental, social, adaptive and internalized responses to what’s happened in our lives.

This is what adds meaning to our new consciousness as well as our unconscious lives. Meaning, then, triggers motivation to act and engage with the Social Justice issues that come before us. We also have the chance to live by these new values of justice, equality & freedom. We can now live in the environment of Anti-Racism full time.

Copy: CBB November 26, 2017

With gun violence escalating in our culture in alarming rates, it’s clear that we need much more regulation on who can purchase or get a license for firearms. This is especially true for consumers who have Mental Illness, terrorist inclinations, or are convicted felons.

Yes, we’re in a place in our nation where we need crisis intervention, and legislation that must be enforced so that as a nation that claims equality & fairness for all of its citizens, will hold itself accountable for the rising rates of gun violence (even in randomized ways) in our society.

So, yes, I’m for this type of crisis intervention. But the truth of the matter is that there’s something much deeper making for more colorations of philosophical reasons & concerns. This leads to the long-term issue as I view it, not only a short-term “stop gap” issue as we typically view it.

I’m an addict in recovery, and have walked the path for many years. Addiction is that powerful, mysterious, cunning & mind-blowing dynamic that hooks us, pulls us in, and then leaves us stranded on the island of disengagement and powerlessness.

At the root of the gun control issue is our nation’s prediclection & addiction to violence and weapons’ use. On a global scale, we say we need war & militarism, so ‘that the world is kept safe for peace.’ As complete as is this idiosyncratic, paradoxical phenomenon that it represents, flips us upside-down, and results in many “crazy-making” outcomes when it comes to guns & violence.

The first thing an addict needs, is to see her problem, to enter a “bottoming out” phase-the epitome of ‘I’m sick & tired of being sick & tired,’ has to kick down the door of our consciousness, for us to get denial, support, and individualized methods of detachment from attachment. This is one of the most difficult times in recovery.

Let’s return to our societal addiction to violence & guns. There’s a bloodline in our culture that’s rarely even spoken of, or seemingly not noticed-denial & silence go together, and the desire to overcome our addiction to violence & guns, just like any other addiction, is often not strong enough for us to make real changes.

Wendall Berry wrote an essay, (The Best Spiritual Writing 2000. (2000). Edited by Philip Zaleski. Wendall Berry. The Failure of War. New York: HarperCollins Publishers), and in it mentions the fundamental inconsistency between “war and freedom” (p. 36) “Some of us who approve of our monstrous military budget and our peace-keeping wars nonetheless deplore ‘”domestic violence”‘ and think that our society can be pacified by ‘”gun control.'” (p. 37). Trying to do war and peace at the same time, creates a splitting in our collective psyches, or so it seems.

Justifiers of those who believe we can better keep the peace through war & militarism, fail to see that violence breeds more violence, and reinforces in a kind of perverse way even “state violence” through the Death Penalty, or abortion as birth control. “Acts of violence committed in ‘”justice”‘ or in affirmation of ‘”rights”‘ or in defense of ‘”peace”‘ do not end violence. They prepare and justify its continuation” (p. 38).

The intersectionality of Capitalism, Corporationism, and War-Making systems ramps up & deepens the quagmire. This vicious circle says we want peace, we want it our way, and we have to keep “improving” our armaments to insure we get it done our way. Each component is motivated by profit, often accompanied by the denigration & exploitation of human beings-a characterization of a fascist or oppressive system.
Berry writes,

It seems only reasonable, only sane, to suppose that a gigantic program of preparedness for national defense should be founded first of all, upon a principle of national and even regional economic independence. A nation determined to defend itself and its freedoms should be prepared, and always preparing, to live from its own resources and from the work and the skills of its own people. But that is not what we are doing in the United States today. What we are doing is squandering in the most prodigal manner the natural & human resources of the nation (p.42)

Our addiction is a co-dependent relationship with Economics, Corporations, Government, the earth, our convoluted thinking, power and control. Co-dependency is an unhealthy, often pathogenic system of need for those in the relationship-the essence perhaps of addiction. It grows out of a drive to replace our needs with that of another party, who we feel may give us what only ourselves we can give ourselves.

This dysfunctional co-dependency has to be seen for what it is: an addiction of distraction, of shifting energies to less helpful modes of living, with the main outcome, not that of living in sobriety, or matched in the ability not to think in a clear-headed way about the sources of violence & conflict within our culture. As persons or organizations, we should take a closer look at our addictions, taking note of inherent flaws and obstacles in each one. Certainly, we also need to do this as a society.

The sooner we change the old, dilapidated premise of “making peace through war,” to a newer, holistic, person-centered one, the greater our prospects of seeing a life-giving alternative emerge.

Copy: CBB November 21, 2017

Joan Borysenko On the Dark Night of the Soul

Joan Borysenko (author of Minding the Body, Minding the Mind) writes about her own experiences of plodding through the dark night of the soul. She writes, refreshingly, about how the psycho-therapeutic model discounts this kind of “mystical” transformational journey or therapy, because it lacks qualitative & scientific analysis & verification, thus, is not a variable in human change processes. However, there are many ways of viewing these internalized changes.

And again she writes,

This mythological approach to our stories of pain provides a larger context to personal growth then do traditional medical-psychological understandings. Dark nights of the soul-fear, depression, madness, trauma-are too often seen through the limiting lens of fear. In fear, we wish only to rid ourselves of apparent negativity rather than searching our souls for its gifts. Fear demands that the problem be fixed indirectly by drugs or therapy so that the person can be restored to his original ‘”normal”‘ state (p. 54).

The term dark night of the soul has its origins in the mystical writings of St. John of the Cross (he lived during the 1500s); St. John refers to it as “nakedness of spirit” [p. 118. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross. (1991). Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh & Otilo Rodriguez. Washington: ICS Publications)].

In this volume, St. John states a conclusion very similar to Borysenko’s:

The darkness and trials, spiritual and temporal, that fortunate souls ordinarily undergo on their way to the high state of perfection are so numerous and profound that human science cannot understand them adequately. Nor does experience of them equip one to explain them. Only those who suffer them will know what this experience is like, but they won’t be able to describe it (emphasis added). In discussing this dark night, therefore, I will not rely on experience or science, for these can fail and deceive us (P. 115, Ibid.).

Here’s another important distinction that ought to be made clear: the paradoxical contrast of religion and spirituality. As a rule, many religious systems have replaced/exchanged religion for spirituality. Here’s the significant difference, however: religion consists of systemic rules, creeds, practices, norms, ideologies, and structures; spirituality is comprised of a deep-seated, human desire to belong, to be connected to something much larger and more transcendental than any humanly-devised set of maxims-a connection to our True Selves in our inner persons.

This goes beyond intellectual or pragmatic factors encountered on our spiritual journeys. You might say, it’s very similar to Buddhism’s Nirvana or Enlightenment, and their notion of emptiness.

Therefore, spirituality is of necessity more fluid, free, open, continually-changing with contexts and personal transformations-along with a more aligned sense of directness and affection in our hearts & minds. And, a sense of congruency with the structure of reality of biological & spiritual life.

It seems to me, that there is a missing, eliminated ingredient to understanding the dark night of the soul.. Christian theological-ideologies appear to have removed many of the practices of contemplation and mystical realization from their domain of influence. Instead, their focus seems to be more about action, creeds, activities, and discursive agendas!

In Christian, theological-ideologies, the Higher Power of Absence, is akin to the “dark night.” If we think the HP is absent, our minds are often deluged with confusion, stress, contradiction, aloneness, uncertainty, and groundlessness; learning to “be in the process of listening” even when our HP appears to be gone on a vacation. It is a silent waiting period, anticipating the felt sensation of our HP being fully present, mindful to us, and friendly with our desires to become one with our Higher Power.

She writes in her book, Fire in the Soul: A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism (1993). New York: Warner Books, Inc., about the nature of “dark nights”:

“Dark nights of the soul are extended periods of dwelling at the threshold when it seems as if we can no longer trust the very ground we stand on even though there is nothing familiar left to hold onto that can give us comfort” (p. 62).

During dark nights our belief system is challenged and we are thrust into mortal combat with the forces of our own and the collective unconscious. For a variety of different reasons-loss, guilt, trauma, shame, war, shock-the world as we know it ceases to be and we are left with no familiar ground to stand on. A period of inner chaos characterized by fear, doubt, terror, depression or madness may follow (p. 65).

This “dark night” crisis usually resolves itself in one of these three ways:
1).  After the crisis, we slowly put ourselves back together, but we may have some of the same, vague feelings of anxiety or dissatisfaction (Buddhists use the word “dukkah” for this type of discontentment).

2). This may also lead to success or the choice to stay in the “mud wrestling” match with Mental Illness, or

3). We come out of the crisis feeling a renewal of integrated strength, wisdom & vision.

Describing this “dark night” process, she writes, “Even when our old self is dying, the immortal Self at our core is untouched by the pain. In fact, because our old perceptions no longer filter reality in the same way, communication from the wisdom Self sometimes comes through more clearly in dreams, poems, and insights” (p. 66).

Here, Borysenko apparently agrees with the notion that spiritual insights may be learned best and most completely by an intuitional method, not necessarily an intellectual method of inner work.

Abraham H. Maslow, the Psychologist & Creative who described “peak experiences & self-actualization” as partners at work in a kind of “dark night” journey:

We may define it (the peak experience-my conclusion) as an episode or a spirit in which the powers of the person come together in a perfectly efficient and intensely enjoyable way, and in which he is more integrated and less split, more open for experience, more idiosyncratic, more perfectly expressive or spontaneous or fully functioning (p. 69).

Darkness has many degrees of lightlessness: in one, it’s so dark, a person may feel blind and naked, unable to make out anything. The feeling or cognition of “groundlessness” is a part of the internal fabric of “dark nights.” For more insight on “groundlessness” check out some of the writings of well-known Buddhist writer, Pema Chodron, through Shambhala Magazine.

On the other hand, the darkness just prior to sunrise is both dark and light. At this point, one can see the light (of union with a Higher Power) perhaps more than the darkness. As St. John notes, the darkness allows us to envision, actualize & envision the process of deadening the cravings & affections of our empirical body-minds. The arising light helps to unburden the blindness and see what the day brings.

It’s in this way that we may be able to see the emptiness of society’s false values, to deflect our attention to them; it’s in this way that we’re able to perceive our own, human emptiness, and that the only way we can make it to the light is to recognize that we aren’t able to get their on our own human power & steam. Yet, as in Buddhism, emptiness isn’t about “nothingness” or “non-existence.” As we label it, “space” is empty of some things, but filled with others.

Summarizing the “dark night” of the soul, Borysenko suggests that the purpose of the dark night is to invite ourselves (all of us-ego, shadow-side, cognitive faculties, affective faculties, visions, near-death-experiences, & spiritualities, etc.) to join & connect with the inner Self; this is the triggering of a “threshold” for our True Selves to extinguish our False Selves, and to grow & develop.

In this author’s opinion, Joan Borysenko has expanded the notion of alternative therapies that many fear, for the reason of ‘how do we know if this really works and is really genuine?’ In another way, using the “dark night” therapeutically may be effective for many who wouldn’t necessarily seek the Medical Model for help with their therapeutic & spiritual needs and/or what they might term as “survival tactics.”

As a reader, you may want to do a kind of life review, and recollect times in your life that might possibly have been “dark nights of the soul.” There may be a difference between this entire “dark night” process, and apparent thresholds where you experienced a crossing-over into a higher consciousness.

Copy: CBB November 17, 2017

 

SURJ Southern Maine-Seacost Hosts Spoken Word Event

(This is a correction from the first blog with the same title:  performer’s names & owner of Book & Bar were added)

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, from 7:00-9:00 PM, the Book & Bar, in Portsmouth, NH, was rocking out with a variety of spoken word performances, from poetry-to-music-to-stand-up comedy by local creatives.

SURJ does fund-raisers such as this one (voluntary donations were collected), to raise money for our allies, partners & collaborators, who have a similar vision. SURJ’s vision is to educate in order to make people aware of racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and the cultivation of an anti-racism mind-set. The money raised from this event (approximately four-hundred dollars) will help & support the Black Lives Matter Scholarship Fund.

The theme of the spoken performance could be any topic related to Racial Justice, and all of the performers excelled in calling out their own topics, and giving more meaning through the art process & their unique personalities; that in turn, can create intuitional pathways to “internalize oneness” and raise consciousness in understanding the many faces of racism.

The idea of having this as an annual event has already been floated to some SURJ members; if this becomes reality, we envision putting together an anthology of the pieces presented at each event-this would also be a fund-raiser for SURJ and its allies.

A special note of thanks to Book & Bar for being our venue for this community event. We hope we can develop a good relationship with the venue, so that this can be an annual event, and we got off to a great start! The owner of Book and Bar is Dave Pelletier-many thanks to him as well.

Our performers: Melinda Salazar of Seacoast Peace Academy (piece on Reparations), Mary Stevens (personal story), Dali McDaniels (recitation), Robert Sapiro (stand-up comedy), Claudia Maturell (poet), Tammi Truax (poet), Jane Hegedy (singer), and Bear Beam (poet)

A very special note of thanks to all of the performers who composed a woven tapestry of insights about racial justice, racism & white privilege, and did so with passion, comedy, music, true personal stories, and poetry. We appreciate all of you very much! We hope you’ll return for our next one!

Special thanks to Karen McBride & Christopher Bear-Beam for organizing the event.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam November 12, 2017

Privilege is Privilege is Privilege

Let me say at the outset of this essay that I in no way consider myself a Linguistic’s or Semantic’s expert-no, I guess I’m just a mental explorer, and what I explain below is a kind of “What if I …?”or a “I wonder what’s in that gold box?” Perhaps it’s one of those ideas that may or may not be collectively owned. A hunch? A strange acidic feeling in the pit of my stomach? Etc., Etc., Etc.

When it comes to comprehending the meaning & definitions of words, in a semantic mode of looking at words, a word in itself doesn’t contain any universal, inherent, and changeless meaning, except perhaps in a denotative way. Words may also be spoken connotatively with the companionship of non-verbal communication, and other forms of Object Language.

Since words don’t image meanings themselves, then how can they possibly reflect meanings? We, people, give words their meanings. General Semantics uses this aphorism: Words don’t mean, people mean.

Here’s an metaphor that may help us to understand the distinction between words and people’s meanings given to words (or it may flood your head with sludge). Your back door is opened with sun shining through it. You notice on the rug, the shimmering outline of what looks to be a flower or plant. OK, so what’s more real-the organic plant outside on the porch or the shadow on the rug?

Think of the reflection on the rug being like a word, and the real one on the porch as a person engaged in human interchange. True meaning is given by human beings, not by the words or how they’re used; we write and say the words, but we also give flesh-and-blood meanings to these words in human-communicative-acts.

Human beings are a symbolic species using the various aspects of semantic communication, and since each brain is totally unique & self-identified, thus, each brain may give its own, unrepeatable (alluding again to our unique personas) meaning(s) for the words people choose as meaningful to them.

So, when someone uses the words white privilege (WP), what does it mean, does it mean anything, does this happen all the time, most of the time or a little bit of the time? The specified connotations of WP here, could be used prejoratively or in a more positive way.

Any word, even a so-called neutral word, may exert meanings for an individual, but it may also be freighted with traumatic or conflictual- emotional baggage around the word.

When it comes to using the word privilege in the proximity of white, it’s helpful not to use a very broad brush when describing it, but here may be a time to think “incremental, more concrete, more specific, less abstract, etc.”

Accurate and aligned (aligned with the operational functions of the natural, bio-systems, and the basic structure of the reality of life; two of these are the diversity & interdependency of life); then, a common language (emerging from intentional conversations with one another) must attend our uses of the term “WP” so that all parties can be on the same page of conversational meaning.

“White Privilege” can be misused or mis-emphasized because it’s an emotionally-laden term and many of our human responses to WP, being perhaps one of the cruxes of white racism, the word may then become uni-dimensional, rather than a multi-profuse term, that enables us to listen, and gather-in around a constellation of prerequisites for “privilege” to be alive and well in our American culture.

When some whites hear the term, WP, it often sets off a deep, inner, defensive-resistance, because many whites in society, don’t believe they’ve lived privileged lives: “I grew up dirt-poor and poverty was my playing field,” and a white person may reflect this notion in conversation, behavior, or in one’s worldview.

A basic grasp of WP includes the notion of receiving some “kind” of immunity or advantage gained by the simple fact of being born in white skin.

In effect, WP, is one privilege that may be be offered-advantages over disadvantages-well, who wouldn’t want this if there weren’t other side-effects?

In the U.S. each citizen, upon reaching voting age (except in locations where felons legally can’t vote), and has the free right to vote, by virtue of citizenship.

At the age of eighteen, anyone has the right to enlist in one of the branches of military service. Different privileges come on reaching hallmark ages like eighteen or twenty-one.

Every human, who exists in our culture, under the rubric of Civil Rights or Human Rights is equal & free; why? because we’ve been gifted at birth, innately, and graced with a universal set of human rights, inherently these are the rights of each inhabitant on the planet.

Here are some more uses of privilege:

*the privilege of education & learning-each person has the privilege & right to seek the education that will help them achieve their greatest human potential

*the privilege of leaving their homeland or their country to improve the economic lives of one’s family, and increase safety when in countries where military conflict is occurring

*the privilege of having adequate health care for oneself and her family

*the privilege to work in a safe environment in order to feed their families
the human right of working to organize co-workers into unions for protection, safety, and preservation of their lives and their family’s life

*the privilege of being a Veteran of the military-Veterans Day was November 11, 2017, and Vets ceremonies were held around the nation. One of the privileges for Vets on this holiday is receiving free meals at local establishments and franchises.

The above items are all part of the picture of privilege that we or others may or may not have, living as responsible change-agents, in our respective native cultures.

What are some ways we might be able, by extending & outreaching our WP, to enhance life’s meanings & offer change?

Let’s say another white person makes an obvious faux pas, when they say something like, “Hey, don’t you know white makes right?” The implication that perhaps most of us would acknowledge is that WP gives more bangs for the buck when it comes to what’s considered “normal” behavior. The norm-though, is whiteness, white supremacy, a white-centered culture, and how a person of color relates to others that don’t look like him or her.

One way to confront these attitudes & ideologies is to ask simple questions of someone, that may explicate more of the subject: “Can you tell me what you see, in such a word as “‘right?'” (referencing the phrase “white makes right”); don’t whites make mistakes, too, after all, they’re not perfect but oh so imperfect!”

What does the adjective “white” include in its definition, denotation or meaning? Does anyone, even those who perhaps don’t have the background of speaking or writing with comprehension in their own language, have a chance of coming to a consensual meaning of the word “white?” For example, a white person may not know what “white” means for skin coloring, and far more folks have no idea how to give any words or definitions for the word “white.” What’s it mean to be “white” in America?

If they do know what “white” means, as one of the partners of privilege, they most likely wouldn’t know exactly how to respond-it would be challenging & difficult-don’t worry if it seems like this is just for you. It isn’t. It’s possibly the most sought after answer that whites want the answer for. So, none of us is alone in this. Remember, too, there are no experts in racism, just those playing it out in life, as healthy or unhealthy processes in their lives.

Here’s another example: what if you, as a white person, and another white person, and an African-American, are checking into a hotel together for some type of conference-the hotel clerk looks at the white person (no tandem welcome, no eye contact for the African-American guest), and asks “how can I help you?” with the most pleasant, inviting voice she can use, but my guess is that this wouldn’t include the black person, who also is a guest of the hotel.

The other white person doesn’t pick up on the white clerk’s WP, and is clueless; but you, on the other hand, can see what’s happening in front of your eyes, and it’s making you mad as hell: this is a good time to use your privilege to interrupt the racism you see going down; you might consider saying something that draws out the white clerk’s behavior; granted, all of this is a judgment call by the whites engaged in an incident such as this, and this part of the process takes its lead from, and is relative to the social context.

Keep using your inner conversation and whatever other defense mechanisms that work for you; you have permission not to be excited, anxious, mad, upset or angry-you have to own this yourself; speak in calming & caring tones to the clerk (or whoever the person is), maybe explain why this happens a lot in our public domains, and you may be able to offer possible alternatives to the individual to employ should it happen again.

Here’s one way anti-racism might describe WP: when privilege or advantage is used to perpetuate & maintain this cornerstone of racialized privilege, this is a form of denial or resistance; finally, to differentiate whether this privilege is known to the person’s consciousness or whether it’s an unconscious privilege, that may often be used with the intent or “knowing” of a superior attitude to those with whom you have difference. And in this case, it might refer to all non-white people, or only certain communities of color.

Copy: CBB 11/12/2017

Privilege is Privilege is Privilege

Let me say at the outset of this essay that I in no way consider myself a Linguistic’s or Semantic’s expert-no, I guess I’m just a mental explorer, and what I explain below is a kind of “What if I …?”or a “I wonder what’s in that gold box?” Perhaps it’s one of those ideas that may or may not be collectively owned. A hunch? A strange acidic feeling in the pit of my stomach? Etc., Etc., Etc.

When it comes to comprehending the meaning & definitions of words, in a semantic mode of looking at words, a word in itself doesn’t contain any universal, inherent, and changeless meaning, except perhaps in a denotative way. Words may also be spoken connotatively with the companionship of non-verbal communication, and other forms of Object Language.

Since words don’t image meanings themselves, then how can they possibly reflect meanings? We, people, give words their meanings. General Semantics uses this aphorism: Words don’t mean, people mean.

Here’s an metaphor that may help us to understand the distinction between words and people’s meanings given to words (or it may flood your head with sludge). Your back door is opened with sun shining through it. You notice on the rug, the shimmering outline of what looks to be a flower or plant. OK, so what’s more real-the organic plant outside on the porch or the shadow on the rug?

Think of the reflection on the rug being like a word, and the real one on the porch as a person engaged in human interchange. True meaning is given by human beings, not by the words or how they’re used; we write and say the words, but we also give flesh-and-blood meanings to these words in human-communicative-acts.

Human beings are a symbolic species using the various aspects of semantic communication, and since each brain is totally unique & self-identified, thus, each brain may give its own, unrepeatable (alluding again to our unique personas) meaning(s) for the words people choose as meaningful to them.

So, when someone uses the words white privilege (WP), what does it mean, does it mean anything, does this happen all the time, most of the time or a little bit of the time? The specified connotations of WP here, could be used prejoratively or in a more positive way.

Any word, even a so-called neutral word, may exert meanings for an individual, but it may also be freighted with traumatic or conflictual- emotional baggage around the word.

When it comes to using the word privilege in the proximity of white, it’s helpful not to use a very broad brush when describing it, but here may be a time to think “incremental, more concrete, more specific, less abstract, etc.”

Accurate and aligned (aligned with the operational functions of the natural, bio-systems, and the basic structure of the reality of life; two of these are the diversity & interdependency of life); then, a common language (emerging from intentional conversations with one another) must attend our uses of the term “WP” so that all parties can be on the same page of conversational meaning.

“White Privilege” can be misused or mis-emphasized because it’s an emotionally-laden term and many of our human responses to WP, being perhaps one of the cruxes of white racism, the word may then become uni-dimensional, rather than a multi-profuse term, that enables us to listen, and gather-in around a constellation of prerequisites for “privilege” to be alive and well in our American culture.

When some whites hear the term, WP, it often sets off a deep, inner, defensive-resistance, because many whites in society, don’t believe they’ve lived privileged lives: “I grew up dirt-poor and poverty was my playing field,” and a white person may reflect this notion in conversation, behavior, or in one’s worldview.

A basic grasp of WP includes the notion of receiving some “kind” of immunity or advantage gained by the simple fact of being born in white skin.

In effect, WP, is one privilege that may be be offered-advantages over disadvantages-well, who wouldn’t want this if there weren’t other side-effects?

In the U.S. each citizen, upon reaching voting age (except in locations where felons legally can’t vote), and has the free right to vote, by virtue of citizenship.

At the age of eighteen, anyone has the right to enlist in one of the branches of military service. Different privileges come on reaching hallmark ages like eighteen or twenty-one.

Every human, who exists in our culture, under the rubric of Civil Rights or Human Rights is equal & free; why? because we’ve been gifted at birth, innately, and graced with a universal set of human rights, inherently these are the rights of each inhabitant on the planet.

Here are some more uses of privilege:

*the privilege of education & learning-each person has the privilege & right to seek the education that will help them achieve their greatest human potential
*the privilege of leaving their homeland or their country to improve the economic lives of one’s family, and increase safety when in countries where military conflict is occurring
*the privilege of having adequate health care for oneself and her family
*the privilege to work in a safe environment in order to feed their families
*the human right of working to organize co-workers into unions for protection, safety, and preservation of their lives and their family’s life
*the privilege of being a Veteran of the military-Veterans Day was November 11, 2017, and Vets ceremonies were held around the nation. One of the privileges for Vets on this holiday is receiving free meals at local establishments and franchises.

The above items are all part of the picture of privilege that we or others may or may not have, living as responsible change-agents, in our respective native cultures.

What are some ways we might be able, by extending & outreaching our WP, to enhance life’s meanings & offer change?

Let’s say another white person makes an obvious faux pas, when they say something like, “Hey, don’t you know white makes right?” The implication that perhaps most of us would acknowledge is that WP gives more bangs for the buck when it comes to what’s considered “normal” behavior. The norm-though, is whiteness, white supremacy, a white-centered culture, and how a person of color relates to others that don’t look like him or her.

One way to confront these attitudes & ideologies is to ask simple questions of someone, that may explicate more of the subject: “Can you tell me what you see, in such a word as “‘right?'” (referencing the phrase “white makes right”); don’t whites make mistakes, too, after all, they’re not perfect but oh so imperfect!”

What does the adjective “white” include in its definition, denotation or meaning? Does anyone, even those who perhaps don’t have the background of speaking or writing with comprehension in their own language, have a chance of coming to a consensual meaning of the word “white?” For example, a white person may not know what “white” means for skin coloring, and far more folks have no idea how to give any words or definitions for the word “white.” What’s it mean to be “white” in America?

If they do know what “white” means, as one of the partners of privilege, they most likely wouldn’t know exactly how to respond-it would be challenging & difficult-don’t worry if it seems like this is just for you. It isn’t. It’s possibly the most sought after answer that whites want the answer for. So, none of us is alone in this. Remember, too, there are no experts in racism, just those playing it out in life, as healthy or unhealthy processes in their lives.

Here’s another example: what if you, as a white person, and another white person, and an African-American, are checking into a hotel together for some type of conference-the hotel clerk looks at the white person (no tandem welcome, no eye contact for the African-American guest), and asks “how can I help you?” with the most pleasant, inviting voice she can use, but my guess is that this wouldn’t include the black person, who also is a guest of the hotel.

The other white person doesn’t pick up on the white clerk’s WP, and is clueless; but you, on the other hand, can see what’s happening in front of your eyes, and it’s making you mad as hell: this is a good time to use your privilege to interrupt the racism you see going down; you might consider saying something that draws out the white clerk’s behavior; granted, all of this is a judgment call by the whites engaged in an incident such as this, and this part of the process takes its lead from, and is relative to the social context.

Keep using your inner conversation and whatever other defense mechanisms that work for you; you have permission not to be excited, anxious, mad, upset or angry-you have to own this yourself; speak in calming & caring tones to the clerk (or whoever the person is), maybe explain why this happens a lot in our public domains, and you may be able to offer possible alternatives to the individual to employ should it happen again.

Here’s one way anti-racism might describe WP: when privilege or advantage is used to perpetuate & maintain this cornerstone of racialized privilege, this is a form of denial or resistance; finally, to differentiate whether this privilege is known to the person’s consciousness or whether it’s an unconscious privilege, that may often be used with the intent or “knowing” of a superior attitude to those with whom you have difference. And in this case, it might refer to all non-white people, or only certain communities of color.

Copy: Christopher Bear-Beam 11/12/2017

SURJ Southern Maine-Seacost Hosts Spoken Word Event

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, from 7:00-9:00 PM, the Book & Bar, in Portsmouth, NH, was rocking out with a variety of spoken word performances, from poetry-to-music-to-stand-up comedy by local creatives.

SURJ does fund-raisers such as this one (voluntary donations were collected), to raise money for our allies, partners & collaborators, who have a similar vision. SURJ’s vision is to educate in order to make people aware of racism, white privilege, white supremacy, and the cultivation of an anti-racism mind-set. The money raised from this event (approximately four-hundred dollars) will help & support the Black Lives Matter Scholarship Fund.

The theme of the spoken performance could be any topic related to Racial Justice, and all of the performers excelled in calling out their own topics, and giving more meaning through the art process & their unique personalities; that in turn, can create intuitional pathways to “internalize oneness” and raise consciousness in understanding the many faces of racism.

The idea of having this as an annual event has already been floated to some SURJ members; if this becomes reality, we envision putting together an anthology of the pieces presented at each event-this would also be a fund-raiser for SURJ and its allies.

A special note of thanks to Book & Bar for being our venue for this community event. We hope we can develop a good relationship with the venue, so that this can be an annual event, and we got off to a great start!

A very special note of thanks to all of the performers who composed a woven tapestry of insights about racial justice, racism & white privilege, and did so with passion, comedy, music, true personal stories, and poetry. We appreciate all of you very much! We hope you’ll return for our next one!

Special thanks to Karen McBride & Christopher Bear-Beam for organizing the event.

Copyright: Christopher Bear-Beam November 12, 2017