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.
“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.
(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.
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 —
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.
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!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminismpreviously, 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.
“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.”
So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.
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 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.
Sitting here, I am so livid and repulsed by that orange man I swear, if he was in front of me… well, let’s leave it at spit in his face for now. To attackRepresentative John Lewis, on this Martin Luther King Eve, is the most heinous thing that fucking pig has done so far… and he has done a LOT of stupid, cruel and repulsive things.
One of the best pieces of advice about the orange man is for people to daily insult him so he is so busy using his fingers to tweet, he won’t have any to push the nuclear release button.
Clearly, I am not in the hospital. My gallbladder decided to chill out and a blast of IV Levaquin overnight in the hospital brought me back to normal. I feel perfectly fine. I have an appointment with the surgeon I met while there, who not only takes my insurance (huge hurdle made!), but also has experience with super-big folks. He scoffed when I told him the GI Doc told me I would never find anyone to do my surgery and said I was hardly the biggest he has worked on. My appointment is Jan 23rd.
I met a nurse while in the hospital who, upon introduction, seemed a jaded veteran. Surely because I wasn’t in pain, I could be my entertaining self and each time she came in, we talked about this and that… my meds… the stupid heart monitor they make you wear the whole time now… and she mentions that she hated the monitor, too, but she thought she was having a heart attack. Without lots of detail (for privacy), she lost a loved one at Thanksgiving and was struggling with mourning after having to go back to work right away. I listened and validated her pain and difficulty trying to take care of others. I said I knew it was she who should be the one being nurtured. She fought tears, but I went and held her for a couple of minutes… giving love and healing light to her. When I was discharged, she walked me down to my car (I invited her) and she said very kind words about my being a midwife and how she could see how loving I am and how lucky my clients were. I thanked her for such kind words and then hugged her again before turning to go. If you’re reading this, please send her some love.
Note: When 30 Imodium AD and 12 Lomotil a day won’t stem the diarrhea, you might want to check for gallbladder issues, especially if a fever comes with it. Pain in your upper left abdomen is optional.
Redoing my Advanced Directive. Always so much fun talking about pulling the plug. I do NOT NOT NOT want to EVER live in a Nursing Home. Ever. I will find a way to die before anyone tries to stuff me into one of those horrid places. No life-extending bullshit. If there is a will she/won’t she live quandary… err on the side of letting me go. I AM A DNR!Everyone got the message now?
I am learning that my youngest, Aimee, has burst forth and begun sharing her writings. She is SUCH an incredible writer! I had no idea. Was I not paying attention?!
I’m pretty upset as I write this. I’ve known I spent money during the Mania… enough that I am in quite a hole I cannot seem to climb out of… but I did not know how much.
I could have gone and looked at my bank statement when I realized the money was gone so I knew where it went, but I was sticking my head in the sand, ashamed of what I had done… too embarrassed to even disclose it to myself.
But I found a pile of Blu-Ray DVDs 3 days ago; all 6 seasons of Northern Exposure and Season 1 of St. Elsewhere. I’m enjoying Northern Exposure (am on Season 5 now), it being one of my fave shows of all time, but I cannot help wishing I had the $400 back instead.
Today, I decided to be brave… and humble… and go look at the accounting of my spending during the Mania. It isn’t pretty. I didn’t have lots of new things in my small space, so was baffled what I could have spent the money on.
Apparently, I was benevolent.
Not needing to share the organizations I picked… I’ll just say I chose ones who were either in Syria or were attending to Syrian Refugees. 3 different ones.
1 of them twice.
Trying to put the pieces together, I looked here in the blog and, as the Mania was ascending, I had written about my utter horror and distress about the Middle East. Clearly, it affected me deeply considering the amount of money I donated very soon after writing those posts. There is no way I could say, “I wish I had the money back,” but I still wince seeing how much I sent out.
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to not have that happen again. As far as I know, I didn’t tell a soul I had done it. If I had, maybe someone could have questioned me? I have zero recollection of spending anything during that time. I don’t have anyone to watch over my finances (which Zack used to do). I don’t have credit cards, but spent everything I had plus more I had in the bank, so can’t even cut up cards to try and save myself from me.
I’m lost. Maybe someone will have some good ideas for not having that happen again?
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.
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.
El Paso, Texas – Ciudad Juárez, Mexico
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.
My friend realized what she said immediately and apologized profusely, saying she didn’t even realize how racist that was thinking it.
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.
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”
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.
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?
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.
Alllll that said, I am proud of myself for opening my mouth finally. I will keep doing it, too.