Cops: Friend or Foe?

Repost from 10/29/18

It’s been an inner conflict for awhile, but especially uncomfortable since the Pulse Shooting on June 12, 2016.

Love Cops

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Of course, like many/most White Americans, I have been socialized to love the police. Growing up, they came to school to talk about the good things they did in the community, when we saw them out eating somewhere, my family always bought them dinner and I was raised to say “Thank you,” to any law enforcement person I saw up close.

Then when I was with Zack in San Diego, he was a Deputy Sheriff, so I lived with a cop for about 8 years (he was in for 10). Living with the uniform was vastly different than seeing one on the street.

You see, I was molested by my step-grandfather when I was under 10; he was a motorcycle cop. An alcoholic motorcycle cop. I was molested while he was in uniform once. So when I was with Zack, for the first part of our relationship, he changed clothes at the station in the locker room, taking care of my fear of The Uniform.

In 1998, I was arrested and jailed for a total of 21 days in two jails (in Orlando and extradited to San Diego). (Story to come.) I was very fat, but was treated kindly (enough), but I also didn’t fight or buck the System at all. Compliant to the core.

Even still, I have been someone who goes out of her way to be kind to law enforcement officers.

Especially since the Pulse shooting.

The Police and Sheriffs were fucking amazing during the stand-off at Pulse. A couple of weeks after the shooting, I wrote an extensive Thank You to all those who worked to save lives and comfort the dying that horrific night, with special call-outs to law enforcement.

– The entire Orlando Police Department who risked their lives, over and over again, to save as many people as possible. I am filled with so much gratitude, my heart overflows with tears streaming down my cheeks.

– Everyone at the Orlando Sheriff’s Department who also risked their lives multiple times and kept communications between the different agencies running smoothly. I also weep with gratitude for your agency.

– Orlando’s amazing SWAT Team who found ways to get into the building to save people and then removed that evil animal from this earth. You all are incredible.

Since Pulse, I go out of my way to thank Policefolks, Sheriffs as well as all the EMS personnel. Not only thanking them, but buying the breakfast, lunch or dinner… even if it is a full table of them.

Hate Cops

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Baton Rouge, Louisiana

And then I look around and as I read and learn more about the Black Lives Matter Movement, I have realized how ingrained it is in the Black community to not have good feelings for, dislike, and even out and out hate law enforcement. (How have I missed this before? White Privilege & ignorance. I do know how.)

Of course, it makes perfect sense considering the incessant harassment and massacre Blacks experience on a daily basis.

One of the best memes I’ve seen talked about the feeling white Hillary Clinton supporters are having after the election, that feeling of being betrayed, let down, disbelief that so much hate and bigotry has been around them all this time and has now been released into the light of day… the meme essentially said: WELCOME TO THE BLACK PERSON’S WORLD EVERY FUCKING DAY OF OUR LIVES. This was very impactful.

I’m reading a lot, keeping my mouth (but not my pen) shut and learning what I can. I search different words, different terms (the most recent new word for me is “woke“) and explore threads on my Facebook (not as integrated as I would like it to be) and I am trying to learn as much as I can.

This came from my Tumblr feed:

If you work with Black, Latino, Native, or any youth of color, I feel it is incredibly irresponsible to put them in spaces with police, or to grant police any sort of access to these youth that builds positive public image for an institution created from – and vested in – white supremacy. That’s institutional gaslighting.

This was just wow for me. And I see the Truth in it for sure.

I have two brown kids and one white one. I wonder how I would teach them if they were young today. Taking a little dip from each belief system isn’t even possible; it is all of one OR all of the other.

Even though the kids are grown and gone, I find myself wrestling with this today.

Leaning more on the #BLM side, to be honest, even though I am White.

We’ll see where I tip eventually. Lots of unlearning to do. Lots and lots.

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Blackface

So, we know there are issues surrounding the wearing of blackface by politicians and I wanted to share how I responded as things began.

When the first story about Gov. Ralph Northam wearing blackface in college came out, I listened for his apology and thought, “Well, that was good.” I also thought this was 1984, not too long after I got out of high school (I graduated in 1979) where there were many KKK fanatics and I saw blackface done on more than a few occasions. So, the pounding reality of the horror of blackface for African Americans/Blacks did not really compute. I was tepid in my response.

I also realized I am white and what the heck do I know about what blackface looks like to a black person… feels like… to a black person, so I began listening and reading the comments and thoughts and essays by folks who live the reality of black hatred every day.

And while I still do not believe I really understand how horrible it must be to be demoralized, depicted and demonized by a white person in blackface, I think I am beginning to get it.

I hope to find the visceral reaction to it I should have had when the yearbook picture showed up on TV.

Pick a Cause, Any Cause

(For some amazingly strange reason, this post cannot be formatted correctly, no matter if I work in WYSIWYG or HTML; I have tried for 2 days to fix it, to no avail. I apologize for the bizarre lack of paragraph breaks/doubling of paragraph breaks.)

I have a theory (that has surely already been discussed in other places) that the new administration has an entire strategy to create as much turmoil as possible, knowing there would be protests (because the Women’s March on Washington was planned well in advance of the Inauguration), then seeing even more protests with each Executive Order, their idea took on greater and greater maniacal glee.

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artist, Darwin Leon, Chaos After The News

Piling On of Causes

Suddenly, there are causes to the left, causes to the right, causes above, below, front and center. People are flooding into the streets to protest the lack of women’s rights, Muslims being banned from our borders and white supremacists wanting to speak at colleges.

There are even more protests, not pounding the pavement, but striking the keyboard or dialing the phone. Some, like the scientists, have found even more creative ways of protesting bans, denials and dissolutions. And others are crazed by the potential nominees for various posts in the administration or losing their Obamacare, incessantly calling & emailing their representatives to voice their opinions.

 Folks who have never protested a thing in their lives are making signs and finding their way to join hoards of others who have also never found themselves in a mass of protesters.
An aside: In a piece about an ACT UP workshop, this really important point was made:
You learn activism by doing it, they said. One of the main obstacles to activism is the idea that you have to be an expert to do it —

Spinning Plates

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artist, Jessica Joy – Finding Peace Amongst the Chaos

Because there are so many causes to fight, it can be challenging to protest everything one feels strongly about. Surely, the administration is having a field day cheering that fact.

I see people in my own life swirling around, grasping at causes willy-nilly, protesting 1 one day and another, 2 days later. This frenetic energy cannot possibly be maintained. Speaking up, living in crisis mode, changing one’s life patterns, even for a short time can exhaust someone, causing Outrage Fatigue.

Madison Wilburs says it perfectly in “On Outrage Fatigue“:

Every morning, we wake up to a fresh Trumpian outrage, as the orange one’s fat little thumbs have tapped out the latest vitriol via Twitter before we lift our weary heads off of the keyboards we fell asleep on because we were up past midnight planning how to block his Cabinet, or save ACA, or get to Burr and Tillis, or, respond to Russian hacking. Is it any wonder that some of us are experiencing outrage fatigue?

As the Day of His Ascendence (formerly known as Inauguration Day) approaches, the more the sense of impending doom and inevitability grows. After the election, outrage and disbelief propelled many into passionate, but ultimately quixotic pursuits. Flipping the electors. The Jill Stein recount. As those prospects faded away, and the names and hideous bios of Trump’s Cabinet appointees came out, many geared up to protest and block that odious pack of cronies, capitalists, and cranks from running the country. Lists of committees were drawn up, scripts written, action plans mobilized. The GOP then ganged up on ACA, as Trump fanned the flames. No, no, protest that! many online cried. Russian allegations exploded; Trump kept tweeting. Crooked media! Overrated Streep! All-talk John Lewis!

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Outrage Fatigue

As sure as I am sitting here, the White House and even much of Congress are devising ways to wreak havoc on America and betting “libtards” will be out en masse protesting within a couple of hours. They are counting on it. So far, we are not disappointing them.
But with the passage of time, people become numb and mute, collapsing with exhaustion, creating  an open, wide and clear, path for the “president’s” coup to complete itself. (And I do believe we are in the middle of a coup!)
Long-time protesters each speak about outrage fatigue, previously called burnout, in their stories. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) movement and even the LGBT(QAI+) (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Asexual, Intersex, etc.) all find themselves teaching younger generations how to avoid the outrage fatigue that comes with long battles, ones we are surely just beginning with this “president.”
actup_demonstrators

What I Can Do!

I have Bipolar Disorder and struggle with depression and must be hyper-vigilant to not become overwhelmed with sadness and pain, something that’s been quite a challenge the last 6 months or so, increasing each day. I’m also physically disabled, unable to go out into the streets to protest.

But I can write.

Since the Inauguration, I have been sitting back and pondering… considering what cause resonated most with me, which one I would be most effective battling.

What bubbled to the top was Censorship.
As a writer/blogger, I’ve been censored several times, from Blogger slamming my blog shut for having nude women (giving birth and breastfeeding!) to my midwifery licensing organization strong-arming me to “edit” one of the most important blog posts I’ve ever written. (I did and deleted the original, something that still brings tears 9 years later.)
Government censorship has always made me crazy, but it’s been over there… you know, in other countries.
Until this “president” brought it front and center in the United States.
I could enumerate so many examples, but the loudest and most obnoxious recently came from “president steve bannon” when, on January 26, 2017, in the New York Times, he said:
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while….”
You can imagine the response.
From shock to hysterical laughter, CNN’s Jake Tapper gave the best answer of all; an emphatic, “NO.”

My Strategy to Avoid Outrage Fatigue

I have chosen to focus on that one strength of mine… writing… and the topic that most resonates… Censorship.

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This way, I will be able to pace myself. During the couple of weeks with this new strategy, I’m finding myself able to see-and-toss the non-censorship posts, news pieces and videos, but am seeing, quickly and clearly, the pieces that relate to me specifically. This prevents news overload, which pulls me down towards depression. It is, sometimes, challenging to ignore the information on the periphery, but as I do, I find myself more and more at peace.
By focusing on my life-long writing skills as my major protesting mechanism, I am able to keep my interest level high and will have long-term focus on the censorship issue.

Many Hands…

guanyin
Guan Yin (觀世音菩薩), the Chinese Bodhisattva/Goddess of Compassion, Mercy and Kindness. I have “known” Guan Yin for about 3 decades working in birth, she is the Goddess who overlooks childbirth. When I remembered her “thousand arms” (in some depictions), she was the perfect representation of how I visualize the community (protestors/protectors around the USA) working to save our country’s liberties & laws… with compassion, mercy and kindness… for, and with, each other.
One last strategy is for me to connect with other writers, especially those who focus on censorship. Companionship fosters support and support can manifest in many ways including encouragement, reminders of the mission at hand and backing each other up when conflict gets nasty.
I’m hoping that as I send this out over the airwaves, it will find other like-minded people, but especially writers. I could use the support and suspect you could, too.
LET’S WRITE!

My Inner Islamophobia

With all these horrific Islamophobic things happening in America, I’ve been trying to see my own inner Islamophobia more clearly.

fobiareal

You know how it sounds when someone says, “I have a black friend/boyfriend/partner,” and are saying in parenthesis, “So I can’t be racist,”… how racist that sounds… how racist it is? It is the same with my making loud declarations of having a Muslim friend. I am clearly professing, “See me? I’m not Islamophobic, but I am a really progressive liberal atheist who can sidle up to a person that much of the world wants to destroy,” making it All About Me.

I find that really disgusting.

Islam

I know very little about Islam and discussing it with my friend has taken us into really uncomfortable territory. We’ve pretty much abandoned the topic because my atheism is so contrary to his deep beliefs. I have Googled and read about Islam, sharia law, the different ways to be Muslim, Islam in the United States versus in mainly-Muslim countries and, the really tough part, Islamic extremists and why violence is so important to their causes.

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Islam is an incredibly complex and varied religion, much more so than Christianity or Judaism, both religions I know and understand pretty well, having been both in this life. I’ve been told that it can take many years and a plethora of scholars to explain the Qur’an. How does a heathen learn about Islam when it is such a pain in the ass to understand?

Just looking up “Moderate vs. Radical Islam” images for this piece brings intense emotions for me because the hate in the photos and comics are so, so despicable. (Is my friend considered a moderate? A liberal?) I don’t even know what to believe anymore. Is Islam a cruel religion that does not delineate between a Muslim here or in Syria? Are all American Muslims really potential terrorists given the right circumstances and their anger level at how they are treated by Americans? (This is, I have found, one of the most common beliefs and it is excruciating for me to even utter it because I know how my friend is going to hear it.)

moderate_muslim
One of the nicer comics I could find.

For fuck’s sake, how brainwashed am I? Where did it come from? Islam is a brand new experience in my life comparatively. The horrible things I’ve learned have all been based on violence against others… against the LGBTQIA+ communities, women, American journalists, random strangers who’ve made life difficult for the killers… really skewed pictures and stories that have clearly imprinted in my mind.

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How do I counter these negative beliefs? I am not sure where exactly to look because the information on the Internet is widely contradictory and, I have learned, laced with radical ideas the murderers use to recruit marginalized Muslims. When I’ve asked my friend for help, things devolve into major discomfort so we just agree to let the topic go.

I’m lost, but I don’t want to be anymore.

no-bigotry

Intersectionality

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I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminism previously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.

And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.

It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.

These reactions reflect an ongoing debate about intersectional feminism — the idea that many women are members of other marginalized groups, which affects their experiences — that is bigger than the march. The issue has especially heated up since social media has democratized and made public conversations about issues affecting women.

“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”

intersectional

So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at both UCLA and Columbia, is credited with coining the term intersectionality. She did this in her 1989 paper Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.

I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.

I Am Intersectional, Too

I have written about how I collect descriptive labels. Interestingly, many, many decry labels and refuse to inhibit their identities with them. But, how does one eschew labels yet embrace intersectionality? Is that possible?

intersectional-identities1

I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet  I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.

Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.

I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.

I wish I was there.

intersectional_feminist

Recognizing Racism (Including My Own)

I had two experiences two days in a row that had me crying foul against what was coming out of someone’s mouth.

That I can recall, these are the first instances when I called out Racism in those around me.

I finally opened my mouth.

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Bishop Desmond Tutu said:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

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El Paso, Texas – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico

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El Paso in the foreground; Ciudad Juárez in the background

I was chatting with a girlfriend and the subject turned to the racial integration of the cities we had visited around the United States… a really great topic, actually. We talked about what cities were really White (Seattle & Portland, although there are many Asians in the Pacific Northwest), the way so many cities are segregated (Orlando and San Diego) and then I talked about El Paso being a place where there wasn’t anywhere I could go that I didn’t hear Spanish. As I was learning Spanish, it was nearly an immersion experience and I loved it.

My girlfriend, someone I consider incredibly enlightened with race issues being of a minority herself, said, “El Paso really is part of Mexico.” And she laughed. I was rather shocked, but gathered my wits and said, “I do not find that amusing and it is rather racist.” I continued that people flee Ciudad Juárez for El Paso. I have listened to Americans malign El Paso for decades and it pisses me off. El Paso is a magical place in the middle of the desert and for many, many Mexicans, living there can, quite literally, be life-saving.

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This is taken from US Interstate 10 in El Paso, looking into Ciudad Juárez.

My friend realized what she said immediately and apologized profusely, saying she didn’t even realize how racist that was thinking it.

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This offers a small glimpse into what is just on the other side of the Rio Grande, looking into Ciudad Juárez.

Confession of My Own

As we left the El Paso discussion, I felt safe enough to share one of my own Secret Shames.

I do not say or even think (obvious to me) racist thoughts in my day-to-day life. However, put me behind the wheel of a car and the racial epithets fly unbidden. Only in my head… never out of my mouth… but it is still incredibly disconcerting. And wrong. I’ve meditated on it many, many times over the years trying to purge it from my psyche. I’ve looked at it trying to figure out “Why?” All I can figure is it was how I learned stress relief in a car, hearing it growing up. I have learned in therapy that the younger imprints can be some of the hardest to delete from our habits.

I will not give up trying.

“Think Good Thoughts”

A beloved family member recounted a story of going to a Christmas Concert in a local park and seeing a young Black girl carrying a sign that said (to the best of her recollection), “As night falls, the guns come out.” My relative was quite upset seeing it and said she wanted to go talk to her and tell her to “think good thoughts,” to not think so negative.

I winced, took a deep breath and gently explained how that is a horrible racist-ly negating thing to say. I said that Blacks are told what and how to think all the time by Whites and they have every right to demonstrate the pain and anger they feel in public. And it is our duty to be quiet and listen.

exhausting

My relative was somewhat receptive… she is trying hard to move along with the times, but it is confusing for her in ways I cannot imagine, she having lived through the Civil Rights years.

Right after that discussion, she said one of the other Never-Say-to-Blacks (or People of Color) statements:

“I Don’t See Color”

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I took another deep breath and quietly said, “You do see color. You look in your closet and pick out clothes that match. Colors of people might not be in the forefront of your thinking, but saying you do not see color is not a compliment. It is an insult.

In Why I Hate The Phrase “I don’t see color,” Roni Faida says:

Tell me this, if you were walking down the street and saw a Black man with a hoodie on with his hands in his pockets walking toward you, you really think you wouldn’t notice his color? If your child was going on a date and you saw that the date was Black, you mean to tell me you wouldn’t notice that fact? Come on now, of course you would.

Maybe you are one of those people that really wouldn’t mind. Maybe you truly believe that you absolutely don’t care about the color of someone’s skin. But answer me this, how many people of a different color have been to your house to eat? How many times have you broken bread in the home of a person of color? When you reach for the phone to call one of your dearest friends, are any of them a different hue than you?

Exactly.

flesh-crayons

I am ashamed of how racist I am seeing myself. I can’t even say the terribly racist statement, “I have a black friend,” because I don’t have any. That’s how racist I am. I represent the segregation of America. And it sickens me.

Obviously, I need to devise a plan to remedy this really negative oversight.

Pondering, pondering

Alllll that said, I am proud of myself for opening my mouth finally. I will keep doing it, too.

Sitting & Listening

From my Tumblr Feed:
Dear White Friend,
Your job in racial discussions is mostly to listen and ask questions. When you speak over PoC it’s not only disrespectful but it makes it painfully obvious that you really have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about.
Sincerely,
your friends of colour

I Am Listening

dalai-lama
I am watching as increasingly negative, even hateful, memes/quotes/commentaries about White people flow like lava from an exploding volcano on my Tumblr feed. Sure, I Followed them willingly and I could just as easily, with the click of my mouse, Unfollow those blogs, but I think it behooves me to sit in my discomfort and listen to what is being said. Even when the words say, “I hate all White people.” Especially then.
At the moment, the words are floating around me; I am absorbing as fast as I can, but it is a challenge. I feel like an overfull sponge trying to take in another flood of liquid.
I am pretty sure this is where the Unlearning & Relearning comes in, right? To unload some/many/most of those old beliefs I have from a White-oriented American school education and growing up in a White-oriented life… and relearn as many facts/realities/experiences from Blacks/People of Color/people I don’t know very much about.

Why Am I Listening?

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I am listening because I want to learn how to “unpack my White privilege” and (for a start) use my privilege to shut other white people making racist comments up. I don’t know the words yet, but I feel them percolating inside, preparing to coalesce into ideas, then a couple of words, then sentences… and finally into arguments/demands for someone to shut the fuck up with their racist bullshit. I want to use my White voice in a way that shows respect and honors Blacks who walk in hate in America. (Especially now that Hate-Garbage is being hurled at Blacks and People of Color at an horrific rate.)

I acknowledge speaking up is barely anything meaningful… and for me, speaking up is often online and in writing, however, for me, it is a start.

listen

Don’t Call Me an Ally

The Word “Ally”

I have chosen not to call myself an ally… first, because I don’t believe I can name myself an ally, but that it is a word given… graced upon one from the main group itself.

an-ally-is

Gee Lowery of the Onyx Truth explains in brilliant detail why I know I am not anywhere near ally status at this point. They say, in “Dear White Allies, I’m Not Really Interested In Being An Ally With You“:

The day your so-called ally status can prevent a cop from developing irrational fears of Black people & prevent cops from going into itchy trigger finger mode is the day you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status you seek can get a cop sentenced to prison for taking the life of an unarmed Black person, you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status decides to vote to funnel necessary funds into these Black communities that have high levels of Black on Black crime to create economic & educational opportunities so that Black people in these communities won’t have to resort to a life of crime, you might actually be a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status walks up to a political figure with an agenda that is SPECIFICALLY catered towards BLACK PEOPLE that deals with OUR issues ONLY…not this “minority” double talk bullshit…you might actually become an ally.  The day your so-called ally status allows for you come up from behind that computer or smartphone to venture off into the Black community to spend your money in Black establishments as much as possible in order to further help the wheels of Black economic empowerment roll along, you might actually become a true ally.  Until you can actually do that, then what the hell are you actually good for?

My Challenges

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Even to me, I sound like I am making excuses for not being more active, but I know these are my very real limitations: my disabilities (including my size), my mental illness and my financial status.

I cannot physically go out and demonstrate without being in amazing pain as well as the logistical issue of being trapped or hurt if a confrontation with people or the police occurred. I would be a liability instead of a help. Just writing that makes me sad, but I have to soothe my Activist Self with I have marched for LGBT rights, rights for people of size, against the Iraq war and any number of other causes and issues over the last 30+ years.

What I Can Do

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I might forever remain on that bottom rung of the Ally ladder, the top being awarded the Ally Medal of Honor, but I can only do what I can do. (I keep repeating that to myself to assuage my feelings of inadequacy.)

  • I can write: Blog posts. Comments to other blog posts and articles. Tumblr posts. Tweets. Comments to both posts and Tweets.
  • I can give rides to those who need them to get them off the street and out of harm’s way.
  • I can get a tattoo that represents my support for different people and their fighting oppression. At the moment, the Safety Pin is the concept with an LGBTQIA+ rainbow, a Muslim flag…not sure what exactly yet, but something from Islam…, a peace sign, probably a rainbow one combining the two symbols… a #BLM and a flag for immigrants… probably Cuban because I am born of a Cuban Refugee even though they/we are not the Refugees of the Minute. I want a tattoo to show my support… a symbol of support that cannot be taken off like a safety pin. Hijabis, Blacks, People of Color, Disabled folks and many Gay or Transfolks cannot just take off the parts of themselves that bring, not just oppression, but (especially now), violence and death. And I have been looking deeply at my motivation for the tattoo. Is it to make me feel better with my White Guilt? Or is it really as a demonstration of solidarity. At this moment, I feel it is the latter. I have until December 6, 2016 to figure it out.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone, especially in this political climate.

I am here and I am not going away.

ed2

Maslow’s Hierarchy: We All Fall Down

I was talking to a friend tonight about The Election (groan) and we were sharing what news we had read during the day, what people talked about and our feelings about it all. Note that I do not watch or read the news (my therapist and Psychiatrist have forbidden it), but get information from Tumblr and Facebook. My friend, on the other hand, is a CNN junkie. Between us, we can usually cover all the bases.

Reality vs. Political Statement

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AP photo

We got to the Silicon Valley investors wanting to “Calexit” the United States and began a discussion of:

Is this for real? Or is this a statement of protest.

When the protests at colleges began the night of the Election and now that they have continued, including the #NotMyPresident hashtag, I started with “People are PISSED! They need an outlet.” The protests will mean zero to Trump’s White House. However, they are an incredible show of force of just how angry we are that this animal has become the President. I also believe they are laying the foundation for the election in 2020. (I am sure I’m not the only one watching to see who The Leaders will be as things unfold.)

Then the Calexit stuff… will they really try to secede or are they making a loud statement of distaste and anger. I believe it is the latter.

Next up was the Change.Org Petition to ask/beg/demand the Electoral College to not vote Trump in in December. My friend was NOT happy about it at all, saying that we can not like what happened and be as loud as we want about it, but that asking that the Electoral College to do this is not the way our American System of Government works. I offered that it was yet another “statement” of anger and frustration and surely people will know that an online Petition wasn’t going to make one iota of a difference with what happens in December. He said that even some college educated people he knows who do know how the government works were demanding their friends go and sign the Petition, acting like if there were enough “signatures,” it would, in fact, sway the Electoral College. (At the time of this writing, there were already over 2 million signatures.)

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Whatever Means Necessary

I made the comment that I felt people were grasping for control in an uncontrollable situation because they are terrified for their lives.They are using any means accessible to them… the streets, the press, social media and even as out-of-the-ordinary as Calexit, people are going to find a way to shout their sheer terror so someone will hear them.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

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I commented that many of the Protesters/Protectors have been plunged from the top of the Pyramid (Self-Actualization) to the bottom two levels (Safety and Physiological) in the time it took to hold one Election Night. Even the most oppressed have fallen down the rungs.

Women (including me), the LGBTQIA+ community (including me), Muslims (including my friend), immigrants, the disabled (including me) and so many more are, quite literally, scared of violence against themselves and their families… violence that can lead to death. As we know, it has started already. This would be the second level in Maslow’s Hierarchy.

Desperate people, especially our trans brothers and sisters, are killing themselves, bypassing the bottom level and removing themselves from life altogether. I hardly have words to express my incredible sadness that this man has terrorized our country so intensely it seems hopeless to even try and fight with The System.

It’s Up to Us

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Within the span of days, I, along with millions of other, are galvanized to fix things… do away with the Electoral College, take Trump/Congress/the government to court if they attempt to stomp all over our Constitution & Amendments (thank you ACLU!)… and to reach out, speaking for and taking care of others who do not (and have not) had a voice for far, far too long because of the oppression this country has harbored since taking the land belonging to the Native Americans.

For the first time since the night of November 8th, I am feeling hopeful that we can begin to reverse the tragedy that’s taking over our White House in January 2017.

We can do it. I believe in us.

 

Bipolar Mania: Precariously Weird

10/3/16, 5:24pm

Yesterday was so awesome. Filled with energy and no hallucinations. I took two short naps, but didn’t take my Risperdal until 2am because I’d moved into a new day without seeing it happen and I was still wicked high on energy.

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From Awesome to Terrifying

Well, I did have a few images/tactile sensations trying to invade around 8pm.

After I took the 4mg Risperdal at 2am, I was making my bed after having done the laundry during my frenzy and when I bent over to put the sheet on the back corner, some-one/thing fucking kicked me onto the bed. I thought I was being robbed! I fell and whirled around and nothing was there. I rubbed my ass it hurt so much. I started crying, got back up, put the sheet on and moved to grab the pillows off my chair and some-one/thing grabbed my upper arm; I could feel the fingers digging in. No one/thing was here. These were, by far, the most aggressive hallucinations I’d ever felt. Scared the bejeezus out of me. I put Bear McCreary’s Outlander music on and quickly jumped into bed and under the covers. I breathed with Raya Yarbrough as she sang the Skye Boat Song and eventually fell asleep.

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artist: Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

Today Sucked

10/3/16, 7:29pm

Today, however, has been entirely different than the delightful highs of yesterday.

I seem to have an emotional mechanism… a gauge, if you will… that can instantly detect where my emotions are at any given time. Today I woke up feeling… sad? Dejected? Off?… I sighed knowing today was going to be tough. And it has been.

I have struggled to type. Normal words come out spelled as a homophone of themselves. “Brake” comes out “break”… “flee,” “flea.” Frustrating as crap having to go back and edit over and over… not something I often have to do.

I did take calls, but could feel that too-fast mind on overdrive and had to really harness the energy so I didn’t talk over clients. One caller in particular spoke at a gentle pace and I could feel myself tromp tromp tromping on some of his words (and I could feel his frustration as well), so I was really strong with my voice and stopped doing it. The call went smoother and he was very happy in the end. (It was less than 15 minutes long, so I only had to control myself for a mere few minutes.)

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10/3/16, 8:28pm

I’m overwhelmed and need to lay down. Do I take my meds and sleep? Do I just rest for awhile? I cannot even make a simple decision like: Should I drink water or Diet Coke. (No comments from the peanut gallery with your opinions!) Back in awhile.

10/3/16, 9:24pm

I went and cried in bed thinking about today.

As the sun went down, I began to break apart more. Tears, laughter, morose, frustration. A couple of the guys annoyed the fuck out of me so I decided, with check-in, that I was a tad over-reacting and best email with them in the morning instead of tonight. Apparently I shouldn’t have screamed my head off in anger (in my room) when I was called “Sweetheart” in an email.

Oh, and the news. I am not supposed to watch or read the news. I am even trying to stay out of Facebook a lot so I don’t get dragged down by the horrible things going on. But I caught a whiff of the tragedy (understatement) in Aleppo and went to read what was happening. I have barely stopped crying since. And then all the Trump shit? It’s just too much. Too, too much.

Reaching Out for Help (Again)

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When I had my second “break-down”  in 1998, my dear friend who introduced me to the Internet (on New Year’s Eve 1994), along with my two lovers at the time, took me to the doctor where I was diagnosed (finally) with Bipolar Disorder 1 and put on a cocktail of meds that began my life of being medicated to keep me sane.

So tonight, as I felt my mind was disintegrating, I called my friend who understands in more ways than most in my life. She listened as I explained what was going on (hallucinations, physically shaking with electric energy and occasional jolts, crying, laughing, anger, despair) and she helped me decide to see the doctor again tomorrow instead of next week. No suicidal ideation at all, but the feeling like my mind is going to spill out of my ears onto the floor is so enormous, I am sorely tempted to go to the hospital, but know all they would do would be put me in and I don’t want that. (For me, the hospital represents  HELP!… a long-ingrained midwifery belief.)

I am just going to watch something inane and work on my Picture Files.

I promised those in my life: NO NEWS & CALL DOC in the morning.

You all heard me!

10/3/16, 9:58pm

Figure It Out for Yourself: On Not Asking Marginalized People to Educate You

This is a repost from 10/29/18

From my Tumblr feed:

Privileged people who say they want marginalized people to educate them don’t really want to be educated. In my experience, people who want to be educated will seek out the information they want, without putting the onus on you.

When privileged people say they want to be educated, what they really want is for you to say no, so they can complain that if you really wanted change, you’d change them. I guarantee that even if you say yes, they will completely disregard everything you say and act like its your fault for somehow failing to change a mind that wasn’t ever going to change. (sic)

My Response

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I actually struggle with this.

My first issue is not everybody has access to the Internet/Google. Not everybody can read, has enough reading comprehension to understand the arguments or cannot read English at all. Some people simply do not learn well through reading, but are more aurel instead. These are not my issue, but I haven’t seen them addressed, so keep talking about them.

My own issue is who do I listen to? How do I know the arguments/pieces on the Net are giving the right information? I am reading and reading, trying to tease the “right” attitudes/ideas from writers, but it is very confusing. I do understand this can happen in real life, but I would much prefer to hear from those I know how I can be an active supporter (avoiding the word ally for the moment) without offending.

I also believe that learning from articles when this is SUCH a personal issue is almost like playing the Telephone Game, learning second-hand. I am well-schooled… learned from books my entire life… am not Not NOT shrugging off my own responsibility to educate myself. But as I grew older, I saw that much of what I learned through books was total bullshit lies. How do I know what I am reading isn’t that all over again?

(more below the horrifyingly, ever-growing, long list of names of blacks killed by police)

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Talking one-on-one is an augment to my learning style. It feels belittling when I am told I shouldn’t ask any POC anything about being helpful in the #BLM Movement. Latinx & LGBTQIA communities don’t seem as resistant to being asked questions of how to unpack White Cis-Able-bodied-etc. Privilege. I am a disabled, mentally ill Latinx  Sex Worker & a femme Dyke, and I’m working hard on this White Privilege I carry. I remain open to respectful questions from anywhere and anyone. It confuses me how others are not like me. (Privilege glaring; I see it.)

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Rachel Bostick

I am also quite uncomfortable hearing this:

When privileged people say they want to be educated, what they really want is for you to say no, so they can complain that if you really wanted change, you’d change them. I guarantee that even if you say yes, they will completely disregard everything you say and act like its your fault for somehow failing to change a mind that wasn’t ever going to change. (sic)

That is SO not me or many (most?) whites in my world. Maybe qualifier of “many/most privileged people”?

I acknowledge this is a forever process, but I am working on it. Daily. Want to offer my skills where they could be used… writing seems to be the place right now.

I really am trying.

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“Make a choice. Speak up. Unsubscribe.”

Jarrett Hill wrote an OpEd piece called “White People, It’s Time to Use Your Privilege, Whether You Believe You Have It or Not,” for NBCBLK September 24, 2017.

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Writer, Reporter – Jarrett Hill

It began:

“A message for white people:

“I know how jarring it may be to hear a non-white person, or maybe anyone, even say the words “white people,” as it can take on a pejorative connotation. That’s fine. This isn’t always comfortable to have to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true, necessary, or timely.”

The challenge is for white people (myself included) to stand UP, (and kneel DOWN), speak UP and stop being complicit in the systematic and so-deeply-ingrained-whites-don’t-even-see-it-anymore prejudice and hate against People of Color.

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“Sorry, but not sorry, you’re going to have to take a side. And yes, you have to do it now.”

The United States has always had a divide between races. But now, with the dotard “president,” it has become a chasm, one that grows more visible and wider with each new tweet. White people just cannot keep their… OUR… mouths shut anymore. We have kept silent and turned our backs for far too many decades.

Stand alone if need be

Blacks are being killed by the police nearly every day. Latinx are being confiscated from their homes, from schools, their places of employment and even in hospitals and churches. Muslims are accused of violence simply because of their religion… one many of us do not understand (myself included), but the harassment and death threats are just not what the United States was founded to represent. All of this in order to fulfill the dotard’s horrific ideas… and plans… to rid the country of anyone not white.

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“It’s very likely, and understandable if you feel this is unfair, this is inconvenient, it’s frustrating, it’s difficult, it’s embarrassing, it’s going to alienate you from people you know, love, work with, watch the game with.”

Too fucking bad. SPEAK UP! Speak for those who get killed when they open their mouths, receive death threats when they kneel at a football game (exercising their First Amendment exquisitely). We whites cannot leave Black & Brown people hanging out there alone anymore.

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I read an article yesterday (that I cannot find again for anything) where a Black Medical Resident was leaving work after a more-than-30-hour shift in the Emergency Room and a white man in a car started screaming the N-word at him, over and over again. He added some other racist epithets, but mostly it was the N-word. He said the white man was laughing so hard at his hilarity the doctor thought he would have to give him aid when he finally collapsed in hysteria.

While that part is gross enough, the part that was the most offensive to him (and me) is the whites in the parking lot who said NOTHING.

Bystander guilt 7

NOTHING.

He said they skittered away, trying not to get involved.

What the holy fuck, white people!

SAY SOMETHING! SCREAM BACK! 

Yeah, I know… they might have a gun. If they do, they do. You are supporting/protecting/showing love for another human being that is in the line of fire. If you believe in a God, He will surely reward you for speaking up.

“That’s privilege. Someone once said, “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” This is a taste of equality.”

It’s tough to say something when we are so used to just walking on. We cannot just walk by anymore.

WE CANNOT IGNORE THE ISSUE ANYMORE.

WE HAVE TO SPEAK UP!

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OPEN YOUR MOUTHS, WHITE FOLKS!

SCREAM when others simply cannot or are hoarse from doing so.

Annie Owens yell
artist: Annie Owens

ENOUGH.

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One of my heroes… Colin Kaepernick.

 

My Disgraceful History: KKK

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Racism, Hate, Hate Groups, Black History all discussed.

The horrific events in Charlottesville August 12, 2017, where the beautiful Heather Heyer was killed, were despicable acts of domestic terrorism. An outspoken beacon for ending racial and xenophobic behaviors, she will be honored always for her sacrifice to the cause of equality and peace.

heather heyer
Hero, Heather Heyer

My Sordid Family Legacy

These clashes between the “right/alt-right/white supremacists/white nationalists/Nazis/etc. brings out, once again, the shame I hold in my heart because of my family’s history in the Ku Klux Klan.

My great-grandfather, Eddie Johnston, came from Sweden when he was young. His family (whose name was Johnson) had been bigoted before they even got to Ellis Island. When my great-grandfather was asked his name, he added a T to his last name… because far too many blacks in America had the last name Johnson.

Memories of Racism

  • I remember when my family moved from northern California to Orlando, Florida in 1966; I was 5 years old. As we drove deeper and deeper into the south, I saw more and more segregation. I had no concept or context, of course, but absolutely remember the different water fountains and different bathrooms. Today, I am horrified at those memories.
  • In 5th grade, Mrs. Moore made it clear where she stood on the race issue. We still had no blacks in the school… the first and only black person came the next year… but as she taught American History, she lingered on the south’s views in the Civil War segment.
  • A friend of mine, Angel, brought in something that she wouldn’t even show me, but went to Mrs. Moore to ask if she could share with the class. I was near the desk so could hear it all, still not putting it into context for several more years. Angel had brought in some Civil War memorabilia, all southern in origin. I can still hear Mrs. Moore saying, “I believe the same as you do, but we aren’t allowed to talk about those things.” I went to sharpen my pencil and saw a photo of the white hoods and a burning cross. It was the first time I had ever seen the KKK.
  • My Nana, whom I was named after, was married to my Johnston great-grandfather. I distinctly remember her seeing black children, pinching their cheeks and telling them what cute “pickaninnies” they were. How I wish I could remember the faces of those children’s mothers; they had to have been disgusted.
  • When we spent weekends with my great-grandparents, watching television became an adventure in racism. The Flip Wilson Show, one of the first TV shows that starred a black person, was popular, but my great-grandfather would holler epithets at the blacks on his show and kvetched the entire hour it was on.
  • You know the child’s game of Eeny Meeny Miny Moe, yes?

eeny

When we played the game it was “catch a n-word by the toe.” I had zero clue what I was saying. When I had kids, they would play the game and sing “catch a tiger by the toe,” but there was not one time I didn’t flinch when they began singing the song, fearing they would say that horrible word. They’d never even heard that version of the rhyming game; I still braced myself.

  • Peppered around the south are Brazil nut trees. We called them “n-word toes.”

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heavy sigh

Add the KKK to My History

I was about 10-years old when my racist great-grandfather lay dying in a hospital from emphysema. The stories began being told about his life, one of which was his history with the KKK. Apparently, he had been an active member in the 1930s and 1940s when my family lived outside New York City and then again when my great-grandparents retired to Florida in the early 1960s. Hints that he might have been a grand wizard wafted about as well.  I have no idea either how to find out if that is true nor do I have any desire to learn more about his/my shameful history.

How I Was Raised

My father, a Cuban, was called the n-word in high school (in Miami) and my mom’s family became apoplectic when they became engaged. Not sure if my mom had some inherent understanding of racial issues, but she was a supporter of civil rights issues in the 60’s. Not that she could march or anything having 3 kids one right after the other, but she said she did speak up as much as possible with friends and family.

For whatever reason, we just didn’t say the n-word at home. Except for what I mentioned above, I cannot recall ever using that word to describe anyone or use as an epithet.

It took until junior high, which bused in blacks, before I heard the word used regularly. I didn’t connect the word with racism until long after I graduated from high school. I remember, in high school, hanging out with band members who “joked” about being in the KKK, how they were looking for local meetings and even talked about burning crosses. I sat mute, confused and lost. How much more oblivious could I have been? I’m baffled at my inability to see the graphic evil stewing around me.

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Somewhere along the line, my mom gave me the book, Black Like Me… a not so subtle teaching of stepping into another’s shoes… black shoes. I remember reading it as if it was yesterday.

After my parent’s divorce, my dad married a deep south-thinking bitch. When she met my Dominican husband, her face pinched tight and she asked, “Are you black?!” the word “black” spit out like a bitter pill. Somewhere in me, I sat up straighter and mentally stuck my tongue out at her.

In fact, his grandmother was black, 2 of my children being brown, the last white like me.

Confronting My Own Racism

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It took (too) many years coalescing all that I’d seen and heard into some semblance of understanding.

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I’m sitting looking at the blinking cursor, not even sure where to go from here.

pausing some more

I need to amend a sentence I wrote above.

“I cannot recall ever using that word (the n-word) to describe anyone or use as an epithet.”

Amendment: Out loud.

After not using that word in my life, how did it jump into my mind when I was frustrated or angry with a Black person (usually in the car)? Where did that (disgusting) habit come from?

The 1980s were a really introspective time for me. I tackled issues like boycotting, feminism, inner-homophobia, non-violent communication & childrearing… and began exploring my beliefs (and lies) about racism and xenophobia.

(This is much harder to write than I expected.)

I am the embodiment of white privilege. I might have Cuban blood and a Latinx surname, but I have been indoctrinated in the ways of the white culture.

Despite working with Latinx migrant and immigrant women for a couple of decades, learning Spanish, and being able to make platanos maduros, I remain steeped in whiteness.

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My Apology

I acknowledge there is very little I can say to alleviate the damage done by me and my family, but I have to apologize, nevertheless. I am deeply sorry to everyone affected by those in my family… and perpetrated by myself, even inside my mind. I do not want forgiveness, would never ask for it because I do not think forgiveness is in order. I want blacks to know, in my heart, I do apologize every day. I try to use the privilege I have to rectify, support and lift up the blacks I see and interact with. I am so, so sorry. There are not enough words to express myself.

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Some Things I’ve Learned

“For a black American, a black inhabitant in this country, the Statue is simply a very bitter joke… Meaning nothing to us.”

James Baldwin, Ken Burns‘ America: Statue of Liberty

Black Lives Matter is an amazing group that holds black people in the esteem they deserve. I love their goals of ending the country’s systematic incarceration, ending police violence with regards to black folks and being “unapologetically black,” fighting for reform of the justice system that is overwhelmingly against blacks and standing tall in their shared problems and successes. I’m listening.

BLM

It makes my heart ache seeing what’s happening with this country because of 45. Each of us has a role to take in ending the pain and growing chasms tearing our country apart. I cannot march, but I can write. I need to write more.

“What’s different, he said, is that the world now has a history of what Nazism is and what it led to, which it didn’t have 75 years ago.

“We don’t have the ability to pretend like it’s not happening,”

Listening Hard

I-am-listening

The Tarnishing of Trump

I have this vision of the Oval Office having “FUCK FUCK SHIT FUCK”s bouncing off the walls like molecules pinging in boiling water.

It is not uncommon for that now-golden-hued room to hear expletives, but I’m betting that as the days unroll with the word “Russia” in each sentence, the “Shit, fuck, damn’s” have been accelerating and getting progressively louder. (And amusing side note: When searching “trump White House expletives,” the suggestions at the bottom of the page all had Bannon’s name in them. Hilarious… and expected.)

45 anger

For 100 days, I cried and wrung my hands in terror that someone in the White House would accidentally (or on purpose) hit The Red Button and our world would be annihilated.

nuke button

During those first 100 days, with every stroke of the president’s pen that removed women and children’s rights, that signed away our natural resources so the rich could get richer, that created enormous doses of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, ordering the confiscation and deportation of people struggling to stay alive and on and on and on… and with every bizarre cabinet appointment, my heart broke and despair settled in.

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I was directed by my doctors to stop watching the news because all it did was submerge me deeper into depression. I was joined by millions of others who had the new PTSD diagnosis called President Trump Stress Disorder, our nation’s leader now holding the distinction of being the first president to have an anxiety disorder named after him.

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Will Durst says in President Trump Stress Disorder (Baxter Bulletin):

An epidemic is sweeping the nation, causing sufferers to experience feelings of hopeless doom, certain annihilation and cataclysmic collapse. It’s an existential plague manifesting itself by enveloping the stricken in a black cloud of despairing suicidal thoughts. The malady that is striking down innocent citizens left and lefter is … the Presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is literally making people sick.

>100 Days

But now, with the variety of Russian headlines intertwined with you all in that Oval Office, I am glued to the TV, the real news, (what you call the “fake news,”) and I sit on the edge of my seat waiting for the next delicious morsel of information.

And I am no longer depressed.

It is no longer Opposite Day in America.

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Instead of my being unable to sleep, now it is your turn to toss and turn all night, worrying about your futures. I, on the other hand, am finally able to sleep soundly.

And every morning since Day 100, I wake up smiling again.

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Immigrant Birthing in El Paso

I wrote about my introduction to working with immigrants in ICE Burns: My Early Doula Clients. In 1990-1991, I volunteered as a doula at a Planned Parenthood Prenatal Program in San Diego, California.

El Paso, Texas

When I moved back to Orlando in 1993, I stopped for 3 months at Casa de Nacimiento, a birth center (now closed) in El Paso, Texas. 99.9% of the clients coming through Casa were immigrant women from Mexico, usually Ciudad Juárez. My Spanish, school-acquired, then practiced with the doula clients in San Diego, became second-nature in El Paso.

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While Casa gave me an amazing education and taught me many skills, there are lingering worries about being a white person using the immigrant women as practice specimens… a reverse voluntourism experience. I will write about these feelings separately; they are deep and complicated.

I was not as woke about the White Savior Complex as I am now, so merely tried to be the best student midwife I could be. I loved these women and their families. I loved talking to them, learning about their Mexican lives (which were slightly different than the Mexicans’ experiences in San Diego). I purposefully kept my heart open, wanting to be a positive birth worker for the women coming and going through the center’s doors. Those 3 months in El Paso remain some of my most wondrous life memories. While most people despise the city, I found it alive with culture and magic.

Rio Grande

Getting from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso for prenatal appointments was often a hit or miss experience for the birth center’s clients depending on which officer was patrolling the border bridge that day.

It had not been easy: The visa that allowed her to cross back and forth between Mexico and the U.S. is expensive, and she had had to prove she had money in the bank and a reason to return to Mexico to be granted it. The lines at the border between Juarez and El Paso can take hours, and border agents are said to sometimes tear up the visas of women who are noticeably pregnant. Some women end up giving birth on the bridge between Juarez and El Paso because of delays….”

When the border was closed to even those with visas, the pregnant and laboring women, with their families, trudged through the Rio Grande River… day and night… to cross into the United States. They often walked miles to reach the birth center.

immigrants-rio-grande

Crossing the Rio Grande was bad enough, but the water was/is disgustingly polluted. American maquiladoras rose on Mexican soil years ago as a way to bypass manufacturing regulations implemented in the United States. With so little oversight, the maquiladoras also freely dump their waste, including poisonous chemicals, directly into the river… the same one laboring women were walking through. On several occasions, we would give a river-soaked woman a shower before she felt clean enough to have her midwifery appointment or birth her baby.

I remember one visit down to the edge of the river to help a nursing mom up the slope, the surface of the water had an oil (or gasoline) slick on it as well as scum like this:

dirty_river_el_paso_juarez0

All because Border Patrol would feel holier-than-thou and not let people over the bridge even with valid visas.

Disgusting.

Borders

I’ve not been to El Paso or Ciudad Juárez since 2002, but the border topic, with #45 in power, has a new focus.

Just this week, on February 22, 2017, the Washington Post wrote “Anxiety over Trump stems flood of Mexican shoppers to El Paso,” ending the piece with:

A U.S. border agent checking documents remarked at the lack of cars.

“People are scared,” he said, as he took this reporter’s and a photographer’s passports.

Of what?

“Of our president,” he said, before sending us on our way.

Yes, those of us who have a positive history with immigrants in border towns are, most assuredly, very, very scared.

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Photo by Ivan Pierre Aguirre for The Washington Post

ICE Burns: My Early Doula Clients

We are watching as ICE, the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, rounds up immigrants from around the country.

And it’s only getting worse.

In Raids, they are knocking on doors, stopping people in shopping centers, going to workplaces, setting up checkpoints to examine papers and licenses and other vile ways to take, what seems to include, non-criminal folks who have been in this country sometimes for 20+ years.

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In February 11th’s Washington Post, Lisa Rein, Abigail Hauslohner and Sandhya Somashekhar co-wrote “Federal agents conduct immigration enforcement raids in at least six states.” They say in part:

Hiba Ghalib, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said the ICE detentions were causing “mass confusion” in the immigrant community. She said she had heard reports of ICE agents going door-to-door in one largely Hispanic neighborhood, asking people to present their papers.

“People are panicking,” Ghalib said. “People are really, really scared.”

I cannot even imagine how terrifying it must be to hear footsteps outside your door, then even worse if there is a knock.

My Early History with Immigrant Women

I’ve spent an enormous amount of time with birthing immigrant families, most from Mexico, but others from all over Central and South America, as well. From Orlando, El Paso and San Diego, I was a midwife and doula to several hundred immigrants over a 20-year period.

My first experiences were when I volunteered to work at Planned Parenthood as a doula to their (99%+) Spanish-speaking-only prenatal care clients. My Spanish was school-learned at that time; I became fluent over the years. I made many language mistakes along the way.

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the artists says this piece “portrays an oppressed pregnant woman trapped by the fear of fighting her oppressors.” I cannot find the artist, any help so I might attribute is welcome.

While the women did not all work, a myriad did, usually cleaning houses and/or being a nanny for White, often English-speaking-only people. The partners (almost always husbands) worked anywhere they could. Plenty were migrant farmworkers.

A White Observer

My care as a doula began by going to all prenatal visits during the pregnancy and visiting their home twice, making sure they had the supplies necessary for the new baby. It was not uncommon to take mom to the store, kids in tow, and buy her bags of groceries because there was nothing but rice in the cupboards. Everything from toilet paper to diapers were needed by my clients. I foraged wherever I could to find what they needed.

alicias

It had to have been difficult to have (yet another) White person enter their home and see how they lived. Would I judge? (No!) Would I think they were bad parents and turn them in to CPS? (No.) It was nice after the first couple of women let the others know I was a decent person and could be trusted.

Medical Prejudice

My role as doula continued by going to the client’s home when she was in early labor, then taking her to the hospital as labor progressed. (Doulas do not transport clients anymore because of liability.)

Once in the hospital, I remained with the client and her partner (if he chose to come and/or stay in the room) until after the baby was born, including helping her get started with breastfeeding. I translated from Spanish to English so the nurses and doctors knew what she was saying and needing.

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photographer, Barbara Herrera

You know how many women choose an epidural for pain relief in labor? Back in 1990, an epidural was not an option for women on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid).

Do you hear that?

Women on Medi-Cal could not get an epidural for pain relief.

If my immigrant clients thought they might want an epidural, they had to give a $1000 down-payment or it was simply not an option.

This was horrifically cruel and incredibly discriminatory. It took until 1998 before it was legally challenged.

The controversy over Medi-Cal rates was highlighted further through news stories about physicians charging Medi-Cal recipients for services. The Los Angeles Times reported on the practice of some physicians and hospitals illegally forcing Medi-Cal beneficiaries to pay cash for epidural anesthesia during childbirth. The physicians named in the story maintained that they had to demand payment from the patients to cover their costs because Medi-Cal payments were insufficient.

My History with Immigrants

Over the years, I worked at Planned Parenthood, overseeing one of their Prenatal Programs, then, in 1993 and again from 2000-2001, went to Casa de Nacimiento in El Paso, Texas, my path towards becoming a midwife. In 1994, I worked under a CDC grant at the Farmworker Association of Florida as a Spanish-speaking HIV/STD educator for female migrant farmworkers.

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strawberry pickers near Orlando

As we watch the decreasing rights for immigrants in the US, ICE hunting men, women & children down for deportation, my heart aches. I know, because I know, some of the people being shoved out of our country are the women whose hands I held during labor, the babies-turned-children-turned-teens I helped into the world and the fathers who took care of their families working the fields and doing whatever they could to pay the bills.

It is beyond unfair.

U.S. Border Agents Pursue Human And Drug Smugglers Near Mexican Border

The Birth of Censorship

Today I read about a library in Evanston, Illinois, outside Chicago, having several Islamic-oriented books defaced with slurs and swastikas.

Evanston Public Library Books About Islam Defaced With Swastikas, Racial Slurs

book-defiled

One book about the Qur’an, pictured above, said “bullsh*t hatred cover to cover” with a swastika drawn below it written on the title page of the book. Neal said other books in the same library section were also defaced. She wrote in her post to urge readers to speak out against hatred and intolerance.

“Evanstonians like to think we are safe in a bubble of tolerance, but none of us can afford to pretend that we are not affected by the hatred that surrounds us now,” she said. “None of us can afford to sit this out, to hope it goes away, and leaves us untouched. Whatever your politics, if this kind of hatred and intolerance disgusts you, speak out today.”

Censorship Begins

It might seem a stretch, if not ridiculously impossible, for this one defacing act to have anything to do with Censorship and the end of the Free Press, but I promise, it absolutely is just the beginning of the encroachment of the boot heels of those-soon-to-be-in-power onto the fingers of the writers of, not only books, newspapers and magazines, but also on the keyboards of little blogs like this one… all because we/I dare to question the status quo.

Their goal of erasure of conflicting opinions has begun.

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