Pandora’s Box

With human and civil rights issues I’ve found that knowledge is like a pandora’s box. Once you start to learn about it you can’t “unknow”  it. You can’t pretend it isn’t happening.

Modern day slavery. Sexual assault. Racism.

You can’t watch movies like Walk of Shame and not be uncomfortable at the microaggressions and jokes with a racist fray in them.

To open the Pandora’s box is to constantly be aware of unjust situations. It is so frustrating and can be quite isolating.

For example, I recently watched the movie Dear White People and after watching the movie I had the “feels.” (By the way DWP was an excellent movie I think should be compulsory for, well, everyone. But especially for college students.)

But who I am to share that I have the “feels”with?  It isn’t a black person’s responsibility to help me wade through how unjust our systems and processes are, and to hold my hand along the way. They are experiencing it first hand.

I should be turning to other white people to try and explain the “feels” and create more understanding.

But a lot of people haven’t opened up the pandora’s box yet. A lot of people like to pretend the box doesn’t exist. The world would be simpler if the box didn’t exist. But the box stays there, and you can’t ignore it.

That’s all for today.

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following up. and on, and through.

Books I want to read later, and good follow up to the recent reblog. I want to be Michelle!

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The Dirty P Word

It was one of the last days of my senior year of college. It was a beautiful day. I organized a group of my girlfriends to go down to the closest lake, rent a boat, and spend the day soaking up the warm Georgia sun while reminiscing on our college days.

One of my girlfriends had a close family friend who owned a marina and would let us use one of his boats for the day. We went into the room to sign the paper work and go through a brief safety course. They asked us for our I.D’s.

Wait, you aren’t 25?
*Smiling* Nope we are like 22. But we’ve done this once before???
Who did you say you knew here?
Mr. So and So.
Oh! That’s right. Of course. We can make an exception.

Ohhhh privilege. The dirty P word. I’ve been afforded many forms of privilege throughout my life. I’m privileged in that I’m white and I’m privileged in that I am a relatively pretty female.. But the story above was the first time that I clearly saw the effect of privilege, and recognized it for what it was as it was happening in my life.

It has taken me far too long to write this post. I was mulling over why I have been subconsciously putting off engaging this topic and it hit me. I think it is really difficult to engage this topic because identifying something as white privilege can feel so much like an accusation. As Jeremy Dowsatt so eloquently explained, “the phrase “white privilege” kind of sounds like, “You are a racist and there’s nothing you can do about it because you were born that way.”

Until sometime in college I never even knew the term white privilege but it is something we should all be clear on.

In Tim Wise’s book White Like Me he discusses what white privilege is on numerous occasions but here are a few ways he defines it that helped me to grapple with it:
1: “Privilege: Wherever you are, it’s taken for granted that you must deserve to be there. You never spoil the decor, or trigger suspicions of any kind.”

2: “Whiteness, as I was coming to learn, is about never being really out of place, of having the sense that wherever you are, you belong, and won’t encounter much resistance to your presence.”

3: “Privilege makes its recipients oblivious to certain things; we receive unjust advantages at the expense of others.”

In lieu of the Ferguson decision I have thought of more palpable ways that white privilege is relevant to my life…

-White privilege is knowing that if I marry a white man I will not have to worry that my children will be in danger every time they leave the house in a hoodie (or every time they leave the house regardless of the hoodie..).

-White privilege is feeling angry about the lack of an indictment in the Ferguson case instead of being terrified.

-White privilege is knowing that if I am stopped by a police officer, it’s probably because I WAS doing something wrong (read:speeding) not because I was being racially profiled.

-White (girl) privilege is knowing that even though I am stopped for a speeding ticket I might be able to cry my way out of it.

-White privilege is never having to worry if my name on my resume will deflect someone from hiring me.

-White privilege is being able to ignore that something is going on in Ferguson at all.

-White privilege is not having to discuss race with your friends, parents, co-workers, and children, because it isn’t “relevant” because “racism doesn’t really exist anymore”.

This buzzword or buzzphrase is so real and palpable. If you still don’t understand what it is you can look here.

I have had to come to terms with guilt that I have associated with this privilege. As Gina Crosley- Concran explains in her piece on white privilege.. “You can see how white people and people of color experience the wold in two very different ways. BUT LISTEN: This is not said to make white people feel guilty about their privilege. It’s not your fault you were born with white skin and experience these privileges. BUT, whether you realize it or not, you DO benefit from it, and it IS your fault if you don’t maintain awareness of that fact.”

So becoming aware of white privilege as a white person comes with a responsibility. A responsibility to speak when others can’t and use your privilege for the good of others, and to educate others when you can.

Since moving to Taiwan I’ve experience very interesting forms of white privilege which you can feel free to check out here.

This is about all I have on this right now. But I suppose I have a challenge for all us white folk out there: be aware of the institutions, policies and cultural practices that are set up to favor us. And if you aren’t aware of them, educate yourself. A place to start? Perhaps here.

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Race ya.

I identify with so much of what is being said here.

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Tim Wise refutes denial

“White privilege is me being outraged and angered by the ‪#‎FergusonDecision‬ rather than utterly terrified.” – Scott Mendelson

NIOT Princeton

You may know someone who disagrees with your opinion about the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson. Here is Tim Wise, the noted anti-racist educator, refuting the denials  point-by-point.

There will be a peaceful rally for racial justice and non-violence in Palmer Square (Tiger Park) on Tuesday, November 25 at 6 p.m.  For more information, email or call the CFPA Office

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Miley Cyrus, Halloween, and Corn Rows

So, what do Miley Cyrus, Halloween, and white  corn rows have in common?
They’ve all recently been in the spotlight in social media for perpetuating cultural appropriation in some form.

Three or four months ago the trailer for the movie “Dear White People” popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. As the premiere date has grown near I have seen more and more trailers, and I am so excited for it’s release. The trailers are hilarious and they do an incredible job pointing out many of the ways that white people have taken over black culture and adapted it as their own with brash disregard to it’s origin (also known as cultural appropriation…).

I’ve always been curious as to what cultural appropriation really is. I remember last year Selena Gomez was criticized for being culturally insensitive for wearing a Bindi religious symbol while performing “Come and Get it” and the term cultural appropriation was thrown around. I also remember hearing people scoff at the proposition that Iggy Azeala and Macklemore are the Queen and King of rap and heard more murmurs of cultural appropriation. I recently read an article ranting about how the entire idea for the Color Run is stolen from Holi, an Indian festival. There was also the controversy about the Cleveland Indians, and the large group of people who wanted a name change.

According to Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University, in an article in Everyday Feminism, cultural appropriation is “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

Or simply: stealing what you want from a culture that is not your own, typically in an offensive way, and not giving credit.

Another Everyday Feminism article dives into why a lot of white people struggle with cultural appropriation accusations;  claiming “why can’t I just twerk like Miley?” or “I’m a hipster, feathers are so in!” or “I’m just expressing myself!”
But the issue is, as is explained in the Everyday Feminism article, “We tend to think of this as cultural exchange when really, it’s no more an exchange than pressuring your neighbors to adopt your ideals while stealing their family heirlooms. Westerners are used to pressing their own culture onto others and taking what they want in return.”

Every dentist’s favorite holiday is coming up: Halloween. This holiday is  renowned for rampant cultural appropriation. In an article by Everyday Feminism they explain that if your costume is racially, ethnically, or culturally based it is probably racist, especially if you don’t belong to that group of people. Would you wear that costume of a sexy geisha around Japanese people? The costume of the Mexican man with sombrero around a group of people of Hispanic descent? The sexy Native American costume in the presence of Native Americans?? Blackface in front of a group of African Americans?…No, or at least hopefully not. It would be offensive to them, because you would be twisting a part of their culture to be humorous, or sexualizing it.

Again, in the article they explain that “regardless of whether your costume selection was done with innocent intentions or not, your costume can still perpetuate harmful stereotypes and stigmas, which then welcomes more aggressive racist attitudes. That is: Even if you don’t think you’re vehemently racist, you can still perpetuate racism.”

Using someone else’s culture as a form of expression is a privilege (hello dreadlocks, corn rows, etc…). This isn’t to say you can’t partake in another person’s culture. In the inextricably linked world we live in I would say it is almost impossible to abstain from partaking in other cultures. But it matters that people with privilege in this arena take care with how we interact and exchange culture with other races, and groups of people.

Culture exchange is a real possibility. Everyday Feminism explained that “..cultural exchange can look like – engaging with a culture as a respectful and humble guest, invitation only. Don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t pretend to be a part of the household. Don’t make yourself out to be an honored guest whom the householders should be grateful to entertain and educate for hours on end.”

I have no gallant ending to this post but I do want to challenge you (and myself) to think about this topic while shopping for Halloween costumes, participating in the Color Run, and engaging social media.

I also want your feedback. What did I miss? What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you experience cultural appropriation?

Thanks for reading this piece.

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Being an Ally: What Does That Mean and Why Is It Relevant?

According to an ally is:
a person who associates or cooperates with another; supporter.”

It sounds relatively simple right? …Supporting someone else?

After doing a quick Google search on “how to be an ally” I learned that it is not so easy.

Let me break it down: I read about 5 articles on this topic and this is what I garnered from 3 of them.

According to the Article The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally:
Educate yourself.
Don’t expect a friend of color to explain everything “race” to you. Respect that it is not their responsibility to educate you, it is yours.
Don’t derail conversations.
If you are uncomfortable in a conversation on race, it doesn’t give you permission to         change the subject.
Don’t use a conversation on race to bring up another form of oppression.
This point was hard to swallow because I think I have done this. I’m interested in a lot of issues! However, after reading this in an article it makes sense. In college I had training on how to respond and care for sexual assault survivors.  When talking to a survivor one should not relate a personal story, or a friends story in an effort to empathize, because that can belittle a survivors situation. I think a similar principal holds true here. If someone of color is relating an issue, it is not appropriate to bring up a different issue and careen the conversation somewhere else even if you think it is relevant.

According to the article 12 Ways to be a White Ally to Black People:
Pay attention to media.
When an especially large event focusing on race is highlighted by the media (like     Ferguson, for example), pay attention to your news sources and the language they use.     Some news channels might only be after what will sell and might be misrepresenting a     situation.

Don’t buy into narratives like: Ferguson’s death was a tragedy because he was heading off to college the next week! He was a good kid!
As the author of 12 Ways to be a White Ally  points out, “His death isn’t tragic because he was on his way to college the following week. His death is tragic because he was a human being and his life  mattered. The good-kid narrative might provoke some sympathy, but what it really does is support the lie that as a rule black people, black men in particular, have a norm of violence or criminal behavior. The good-kid narrative says that this kid didn’t deserve to die because his goodness was an exception to the rule. This is wrong. This kid didn’t deserve to die, period.”

Be wary of buying into one story.

Be prepared for negative feedback, talking about race is difficult to “get right.”
Our country has been trying to do that for a shameful amount of time now, it is still an     issue and it still needs to be talked about, but it isn’t easy.

From the article So You Call Yourself an Ally:
Being called an Ally is a privilege, not a right.  
You can’t be a self-proclaimed ally. The age-old adage: “Actions speak louder than     words,” heavily applies here. You can’t be an ally one day and decide you aren’t feeling it     the next day. It’s a constant responsibility-especially when you consider the opposite;
“People of Color have no choice but to resist racism every single day of their lives. Women have no choice but to weather … misogyny every day of their lives. Differently abled people have no choice but to deal with and respond to ableism every day of their lives.”
My privilege can afford me the opportunity to “take a break” from resisting racism, but that doesn’t mean I should.

The responsibility of an Ally:
– is to engage with those who share the same racial identity.
-IS NOT to talk to People of Color about “what is or is not racist.”

Manage your own emotions.
This really stood out to me as important,  it isn’t the responsibility of People of Color to     hold our hands through this learning and living process.

One of the most pleasantly surprising finds in my research this week was that there are     entire conferences and organizations dedicated to those who are allies or who want to        work to fight racism. I think that’s incredible! Check them out here, here, or here.

In summation:
1. You can’t wake up one day and call yourself an ally.
2. Being an ally is a constant job. Racism is ever present, and deciding to not let that one 3. 3. Facebook post “go,” sometimes actually requires a lot.
4. You must actively educate yourself, not expect the people you might be defending to educate you.
5. Engage with those who share your same identity. Foster discussion. I think this is the biggest thing I can do in my daily life.
6. Get accountability. Join others who have the same passion.

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