I’m scared to post this. I’m afraid of alienating people I love, people I interact with on a daily basis, people whose friendships I value. I wouldn’t say this if it hadn’t been weighing heavy, like a 50 pound weight on my tongue every time I open my mouth to say something and stop before it comes out because I don’t want to stir the pot. I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But I can’t, in good conscience, do that anymore.
I live with a certain degree of privilege. Monetary privilege? Not so much. But social privilege? Absolutely. I am part of a demographic that is perceived as the LEAST THREATENING to society. I’m a White Lady. Further, I’m a Southern White Lady. Still further, I’m a Heterosexual, Cis-Gender, Southern White Lady who Happens to be the Married Mother of Two Apple-Cheeked Blonde Children. I’m a damn Norman Rockwell painting, complete with pearls and a homemade apple pie.
I have literally never been discriminated against in any significant way. I’ve been the target of unwelcome male attention because of my gender, but that’s a rant for another day.
The point is that I don’t have any right to complain about racism.
What I do have, however, is a duty to complain about racism.
It exists. It’s real. It happens every single day, in every single city in America, whether we see it or not, and as long as we avert our gaze, it’s pretty easy to feel indignant that anyone should imply that there are racists among us. “There’s a black man in the White House,” I hear them huff. “What more do they want?”
I’m not going to speak for an entire race that I’m not a part of, but my guess is that one of the things “they” want is to no longer be referred to as “they”. To do so is to imply that to be black means that you aren’t part of “us”. That you are somehow “other”. That you can’t sit at our table.
Having a black president is a huge step. Even ten years ago, I didn’t really think it was possible. There was too much of a pushback, I thought. Too many people were angry. Too many people said, “I’m not racist, BUT…”. It’s a huge step, a leap forward in progress that was long overdue. But we’re not done.
How many times have you heard nasty things said about our First Lady that were directly about her race? About her body? How many insulting caricatures have you seen posted on Facebook by a friend from elementary school who you only vaguely know? I’m ashamed of how many times I just clicked, “Unfollow” and pretended it hadn’t happened, because I didn’t want to make a fuss or cause any unpleasantness. After all, I’m going to run into this person at the Dollar General, and I’d hate for it to be awkward. I should have called it out for what it was. I should have said, “Why was it treason when the Dixie Chicks didn’t like George W. Bush, but you can laugh at caricatures of our Commander in Chief, depicted in overalls, eating watermelon in the Oval Office while the First Lady, a woman of infinite class and enviable arms, stands by in a dotted headscarf, like she stepped right off a bottle of syrup, and call it freedom of speech?” But I didn’t. I quietly unfollowed, I went for a run to burn through the rage and shame that burned in my cheeks and my stomach. I should have said something. I should have said something. I should have said something.
Clemson’s football coach, Dabo Swinney, made a speech yesterday about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, about his choice to remain seated during the National Anthem. I realize that down where I live, to question Dabo isn’t just treasonous, but downright sinful, but here’s my problem. He didn’t condemn Kaepernick. He just said that his protest wasn’t at the right time or place. He said that our problem was sin, not racism. And on the surface, that’s pretty innocuous. He’s being lauded by nearly everyone I know as an example of what humans should be like.
I wonder when, exactly, is the right time for a protest. I wonder where, exactly, is the right place.
He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He held him up as an example to which we should all aspire. But maybe he forgot about some things. He seems to have forgotten Dr. King’s 13 arrests. Maybe he never learned about the death threats Dr. King and his family received, year after year of his peaceful protests. Dabo wasn’t there, I assume, when people called for Dr. King’s blood. I certainly wasn’t. But I can read. I paid attention in history class. Those incidents are well-documented. It’s just more comfortable to forget, I guess.
What I really want to say is that you need to decide what it is that you want.
“We wouldn’t mind peaceful protests.”
(Okay. We’ll forget for a minute that this is being said by the same country that arrested, beat, tear gassed, and set actual fire to peaceful protesters not all that long ago. Okay. That can’t be used as evidence by the jury. Didn’t happen. It was all hand-holding and rainbows and everyone recognized Dr. King as a saint from Day One, and immediately saw him as the force that would unite our country forever. Nobody threw books at little girls just for walking into school. No one poured acid into swimming pools because black people were swimming in them. Nobody lynched anybody. Nobody set fire to any churches. White America collectively opened their eyes, all at the same time, and said, “Holy gee whiz! You DON’T want fewer rights? Our bad! Won’t happen again!”)
So. Since you said, “We wouldn’t mind peaceful protests,” that’s what Colin Kaepernick did. You actually can’t get much more peaceful than that. He just sat. He didn’t yell. He didn’t hold up a sign. He didn’t throw punches or set fire to anything. He just sat.
America collectively lost its mind over this.
“We wouldn’t mind peaceful protests, just not like that. It was the wrong time and place. It was inappropriate. It was disrespectful. It was distracting.”
People are burning his jersey. Boycotting his team. Using his name as a swear word. He is vilified and called a disgrace. People are FURIOUS. But he did EXACTLY WHAT YOU SAID YOU WOULD BE TOTALLY FINE WITH.
I’ve read “He’s rich, what is he whining about?” As though his protest was for personal gain, which he has stated repeatedly that it is not. As though being rich exempts him from caring about anyone else having problems. As though he being rich, personally, has erased generations of systemic oppression.
So Dabo wants him to protest in a way that isn’t distracting. In a more convenient way. Maybe we’d be okay with it if he protested peacefully…at home? Alone? With the curtains drawn? In the middle of a Tuesday night? That…that kind of defeats the purpose of a protest.
I’ve heard people say that what Kaepernick did “should be illegal.” Really? Think about it. Really think about what you’re saying. If I understand you correctly, you want peaceful protests to be punishable by law? You want sitting during the National Anthem…to be punishable by law? So…saluting the flag, standing for the Anthem…those are going to be…mandatory? Think. Think. Think. What other governments have made swearing allegiance…mandatory? I’ll give you a second. You can Google it.
You did, huh? Now, is that what you really want? Really?
The words of the National Anthem, which I have sung hundreds of times at various sporting events, fundraisers, and even once at a funeral, clearly celebrate, with fireworks and a note that pierces the stratosphere, that we are “the land of the free”. That means everybody. EVERYBODY. Everybody is free to say things. So if you have the right to burn Kaepernick’s jersey, that means, logically, that he has the right to sit during the National Anthem. If you want to make that illegal, then you no longer want this to be the “land of the free,” you want it to be “the land of the things I’m comfortable with”.
In college, at Clemson, actually, I read Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in a history class. I read this sitting in a classroom within spitting distance of a statue of John C. Calhoun. The irony, at the time, was lost on me. But last night, after hearing Dabo’s much-lauded speech, during which he invoked the name of Dr. King, I couldn’t stop thinking about this:
“One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked, “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded as much as the outgoing one, before it will act.”
He continues to say, “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor, it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never”. We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
We have have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim, when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of affluent society…”
It goes on, and it is painful and poignant, and it should be required reading for everyone before they’re allowed to post anything at all on the internet, ever.
Racism is still a thing. It is. It was when I was in kindergarten, and there was one black girl in my class. Another kid told me not to sit next to her because black people’s houses were dirty. This wasn’t in 1967. This was 1988. Well after desegregation, this kid, who being five didn’t know any better, had been taught to say these ugly words. Somebody taught her that. If racism stopped like a switch flipping off when Dr. King declared that he had a dream, then where did she hear it?
Racism is still a thing. When ladies are describing someone and look around before they whisper, “She’s black,” it’s still there.
When we say things like, “some of my best friends are black,” to excuse or defend the next words that will come out of our mouths, we are acknowledging that what we’re about to say is racist. And with those words, that seem harmless among your friends, you plant another seed, you enforce the idea that we are somehow different, that your “black friends” are in some way not the same as your “white friends”. If they were, you would just call them your “friends”. Whether you mean for it to be or not, it’s still there.
When I , an idiot teenager, got away with loitering and stealing signs and committing acts of petty vandalism, no one ever stopped me. Ever. No one blamed it on my upbringing or called me a thug. No. They chuckled and said, “I remember being a kid, too.” It’s still there.
I say this to you, my fellow White People: we don’t get to decide that racism doesn’t exist. That’s not our call to make. Maybe you aren’t racist. A whole lot of people aren’t. A whole lot of people in the SOUTH aren’t. There are, I have to believe, more good people than bad people. But that doesn’t mean that those bad people aren’t there, vocal, angry, and dangerous. Just because we don’t see something every day doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I don’t see polar bears every day, but I’ve seen one once, and that’s enough to make me accept that they do, in fact, exist. It may not affect you at all. But you have to think, if so many people are angry, if so many people see it, then who are we to say their experiences are invalid? It’s not our place. We don’t get to decide how other people feel. We don’t get to sit from a distance and say, “They have a black president, what more do they want?” If you think racism doesn’t exist, stop using race as the primary way you describe our president. Use “Harvard graduate” or “excellent husband” or “Commander in Chief”. Show our first family the same respect you show the National Anthem. Hold W’s daughters to the same standards you hold the Obama daughters. Treat Michelle Obama with the respect she deserves as our First Lady. That’s what you have to do in order to claim to love your country enough to scream treason when someone sits during its anthem. You can’t have fierce pride in your Confederate heritage, wave your heritage flag, and then be horrified when people don’t want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, even though if your ancestors hadn’t done exactly the same thing, you wouldn’t have a Confederate heritage to be proud of. You can’t claim racist remarks about our first family are “freedom of speech” when a peaceful protest is “treason”.
Actually, you can.
That’s the point. You CAN do those things. The veterans you support fought for your freedom to do those things. But if you want that freedom, you can’t say it applies only to the things you like. It doesn’t work that way. Walk through it. “We have freedom of speech, so we can say whatever we want. But that guy shouldn’t be allowed to say what he wants, because I don’t agree with it. I don’t think that right…should be…distributed…equally.”
And there you have it.
That America, where the pledge is mandatory and we’re not allowed the right to peaceful protest? That’s not the Land of the Free. That’s something else entirely. I’m not saying that you can’t be angry. I’m saying to be careful what you wish for. A country that requires you to swear devotion to a specific set of ideas, and makes pledging loyalty to them mandatory is not a place I would want to live. I don’t think it’s a place anyone wants to live, if we really sit down and think about it. I want my patriotism to be a personal choice. I want my religion to be a personal choice. I don’t want anyone making my personal choices mandatory, because in doing so, you take away the meaning in the choice.
I acknowledge my privilege. I don’t celebrate it or deserve it, but I realize that it’s there. And since it is there, whether it’s right or not, I think I’m obligated to use it for good.
If you make a racist joke, I’m going to call you out. I’m going to make it clear, from now on, that you should not be comfortable using that language around me. I have ignored it and excused it for too long, and I’m ashamed of that. It’s not okay. It’s not harmless.
Since Dr. King’s legacy is now so much revered (as it should have been all along, if things were just and people were kind), I want to close with this, because it is as true today as it was when it was written in that jail cell in Birmingham:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council or the Ku Klux Klan, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you and the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action” ; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season,” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Before you say that MLK would have condemned the Black Lives Matter movement, read his words. Because they condemn you, too.
September 24, 2016 at 7:33 pm
Thank you for writing this. Brilliantly crafted. Thoughtful. So so good! I teach high school and am teaching a Gender & Ethnic Studies class this year. I want you to know that your blog post will be assigned in my class next week. Thank you!
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September 24, 2016 at 7:51 pm
Thank you for sharing your perspective respectfully, thoughtfully and honestly. More of this, America. It’s time to talk.
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September 24, 2016 at 8:05 pm
This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about. Everything you said, resonated to the innermost parts of me. Thank you. I was ignorant to some of your references, but not anymore. I appreciate your well thought out words of advice. We keep talking about freedom of speech, but only when we’re OK with what a person says. It’s blasphemy if we don’t agree.
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September 24, 2016 at 9:10 pm
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September 24, 2016 at 9:24 pm
This is an amazing piece of writing. Thank you so much for your thoughtfully written essay.
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September 24, 2016 at 9:29 pm
September 24, 2016 at 9:46 pm
Beautifully written, Erin. Thank you.
September 24, 2016 at 10:28 pm
So eloquently written. My husband and I have a 24 year old daughter and we believe like you do. She does too. So she expresses her beliefs and frustrations on FB. She is constantly vilified for believing in white privilege. I tell her to unfriend these people, they have no place in her life, so why should they have a place on her FB. She believes in rehabilitation!
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September 24, 2016 at 11:37 pm
@Diane H. What does unfriending people accomplish? If the only people we associate with are those who agree with us, then what good can we accomplish? Everything we say will simply be preaching to the choir. I understand the frustration with people who insist on remaining ignorant, especially when they themselves get upset when you speak up, but what if maybe one of those people remembers what you’ve said, and some day your words lead to a change of heart? You eliminate the possibility of that ever happening when you eliminate such people from your life.
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September 25, 2016 at 10:46 pm
unfriending people isnt about who we can convert to our ideas…. we dont haveto be friends with people whos values dont match ours in hopes we can change them. social media isnt a soapbox unless thatsyour goal. friendship is not about begrudgingly staying in contact just in case someone comes around to your way of thinking….it doesnt have to accomplish something.
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September 26, 2016 at 2:27 pm
But see, if we cut everyone who doesn’t share our values out of our lives, then there’s no room for growth on either of our parts. We learn from people we disagree with–even if we remain convinced that they’re wrong, we still learn something about how different people see the world. I’m not saying people with whom you have sharp disagreements need to be your best buds, but staying in contact on social media is pretty minimal. This idea that people who disagree shouldn’t even be in contact with one another is a huge part of why things have gotten so bitter and polarized. We need to be better than that.
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September 26, 2016 at 5:43 pm
We do learn from people we disagree with, however only if both are willing to be in conversation with one another. Example: this week I’ve been responding to two apparently white men on a Sojourners(tm) Jim Wallis blog. Discussion is not what I would call it. So far, I’ve been assured that I am wrong and they are right. While I admit that I’ve asserted my point of view as “right”, I have tried to engage them. Black people are described as “they” while the police are given the benefit of the doubt. I have lost sleep over this.
There are times when one needs to pull away in order to maintain one’s own health. I agree that the best solution would be one where we can truly share views, insights and more. When that works it is beautiful. Perhaps if we could be present in person together and perform a listening exercise where one person talks, the other listens without interjecting any words or facial expressions, and then the content is reflected back to the speaker, it might very well work, especially if there is another who observes the interchange and offers evaluation at the end.
On a personal note, I am the type who gets emotionally wrapped up in these discussions. I just can’t write or read a comment and go away saying to myself, “That’s their opinion and this is mine, I’ll leave it at that.” I’m working on that skill, but it is not one I’m practiced at or comfortable with.
Some of us are thicker skinned than others, and I am thankful for those who are. I am thankful for Erin who has crossed her line of comfortability and walked “out there” into a land where she will be praised and celebrated, and at the same time misunderstood and chastised.
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September 24, 2016 at 10:30 pm
i worked the Obama campaign twice i own two kap jerseys and my favorite person in the world was Norman Henry an older black man who was the sweetest kindest person i ever knew. He has been dead for about 15 years but his picture still hangs in my house on the Obama wall. i’m with you on the deleting of people who make you sick. i do that too. God bless you for writing this.
September 24, 2016 at 11:33 pm
Reblogged this on Roving Souls and commented:
So much love…
September 24, 2016 at 11:43 pm
What’s both ironic and obnoxious is when white people self-righteously quote Dr. King on those occasions when a few protesters regrettably turn to violence. King may have preached nonviolence, but he also was very clear on placing the blame for such violence on racial oppression, not on the movements to end the oppression. We may collectively revere Dr. King today, but a lot of people are all too willing to cherry-pick those parts of his message that they agree with, while leaving aside the more inconvenient things he said.
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September 26, 2016 at 5:45 pm
And many forget that Dr. King was jailed, what? 13 times? His life and his family’s lives in danger. And while we’re on that topic, what about those who in the dark of the night do damage to homes, cars and people?
September 26, 2016 at 5:46 pm
and by those I mean whites who damage property and life of people with skin tones darker than the tone formerly known as “flesh.”
September 25, 2016 at 12:16 am
Really well written and right on point. I have relatives who, I have accepted, are racists, pure and simple. It’s very painful. I hope I will remember this article when I interact with them and am able to, like you, call them out on their hypocrisy.
September 25, 2016 at 12:37 am
This is fantastic. You’ve said exactly what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to express so well.
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September 25, 2016 at 12:51 am
Thank you Erin for writing down exactly my thoughts. The “land of the free” means it is the land of the free for everybody, not just some people that think they represent “America”. No one person, race, religion, or ideology represents America, we as the collective people of America represent America and everyone has the same rights and freedom of speech and to be free. No one can cherry-pick what they think is “correct” and tell anyone else that their opinion is incorrect or treason because it doesn’t agree with your opinion. So glad you wrote this!
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September 25, 2016 at 2:58 am
Great, poignant and important read.
Thank you for sharing, I so enjoyed reading this!
September 25, 2016 at 5:43 am
Excellent. Thank you.
September 25, 2016 at 8:13 am
This was the first thing I read this morning when I came on shift….so true. I have called people out on racist comments, but not nearly often enough. I enjoy all the same “privileges” as the author, but have friends and family of many nationalities and ethnicities.
I believe in judging people by their “actions”, not their heritage. It may cost me some friends, or cause some discomfort, but I am who I am and I believe we all deserve equal rights, until we “DO” something to not deserve them. This applies to everyone, of every race. And I am trying to teach my kids the same thing.
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September 26, 2016 at 5:48 pm
Trisha, I love what you say. I would like a lesson or practice session on calling people out on racist comments. I’ve done it some, but not when I’m in a situation where I don’t know the person speaking the comments, which also usually means I was completely unprepared for the racist comment.
September 25, 2016 at 10:46 am
Wow! Just wow–well done.
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September 25, 2016 at 11:14 am
Judith, I feel privileged to have been able to experience your insight on several occasions. Your ability to communicate about pain and real life is extraordinary . Thank you for being able to put in words so eloquently what is needed to be heard! It helps all of us see the light and the shadows! Thank you.
September 25, 2016 at 12:03 pm
This. This needs to be shouted from rooftops all across America. I thank you, and I pray infinite blessings for you.
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September 25, 2016 at 12:56 pm
Thank you for your words. As one southern white lady to another I say to you, keep on writing. There are many groups here to support you on your journey. I list some of those in this piece here:
View at Medium.com
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September 25, 2016 at 1:27 pm
Thank you for your thoughtful, moving and well-written piece. I am much older than you (57) and from the North (New York) but I feel you and I could be the same person. I have had similar experiences and done very much the same thing: ignore, unfollow, unfriend, etc. but never called anyone out on it. That ends now.
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September 25, 2016 at 5:51 pm
Constance G. Hoyt, it is so good to read your response. I am a bit older than you! We’re all the same age in some ways I suppose since we care so deeply about this. My African American pastor friend in LA feels that people like we are the minority. The time is now to let him know this is not the case. Someone in one of the responses said unfriending doesn’t help, but I believe that sometimes it must be done. My next effort is to be able to say something to a stranger when he/she makes an unacceptable comment. I haven’t done that yet and I must. It’s not ok. Thank you!
September 25, 2016 at 1:51 pm
Reblogged this on themessylifeofmeghan and commented:
There’s just too much truth here not to share it…
September 25, 2016 at 2:38 pm
Thank you for writing this!
September 25, 2016 at 3:54 pm
All I can say after reading this is:
September 25, 2016 at 4:45 pm
Thank you, Erin. This is beautiful and needs to be said. I have posted it on my FB page with just the trepidation you remark upon. Here’s hoping that there may someday be a world where such words are no longer necessary.
September 25, 2016 at 5:12 pm
Wish I had written this!
September 25, 2016 at 5:56 pm
I see the wisdom in your words. I, too have been the victim of prejudice all my adult life. As a gay man, the government has told me whom I can marry. Society has told me that I can’t mention whom I am attracted to. I just went to a church luncheon with my Bible Study group and several of the people casually went on a Hillary bash.
I can’t stand the woman, but I am voting for her because I don’t want the kind of hatefulness that Trump would put there.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say “have the correct theology or you will go to hell”. It says “Give your life to Jesus and he will cleanse you of your sins and you will go to heaven”.
What if the Bible IS inerrant – it is never wrong? Our beliefs CAN be wrong. There might be verses we have inserted into the Bible. That doesn’t make IT wrong, it means God will show us those verses and we will remove them from scripture. We have been working from a corrupted Bible for 2,000 years now and God hasn’t sent us to hell for it yet. He has been patient so he can show those who have the wisdom to hear, which verses were added by teachers and translators.
“Don’t allow women to teach”
“Women shouldn’t talk in service”
“Homosexuality is a sin”
Each has linguistic problems that show they were not written by Paul. The common belief is that they were notes written in the margin by a later translator that got added into the main text by accident or preference. God will not allow that blatant error to continue forever. He will also not condemn to hell someone for an error. I believe that God is correcting these errors in scripture because the Bible IS always right. It IS God’s word. “And the word WAS God” “And the word became flesh … the only begotten son of God”.
“My” bible is always right, we just don’t understand it well enough yet, but God is patient, longsuffering, not wanting to punish, but forgive. I can see a time in the future when we will no longer hate or criticize other Christians who believe differently. I just wish I could live to see it.
September 25, 2016 at 6:24 pm
Reblogged this on katepavelle and commented:
I meant to write something about Kaepernick – but you better read it here first. Also reblogged on my main page, http://www.katepavelle.com
September 25, 2016 at 7:13 pm
This needs to be posted on every street corner in America, on every Social Media platform there is , I give you the highest praise for this , this is Spot On Thank You , Thank You , Thank You and God Bless
September 25, 2016 at 7:51 pm
Thank you for all of this!
September 25, 2016 at 8:24 pm
Both a right AND a duty, I’d say.
And you can report racist cartoons and comments on Facebook. Just passing by or commenting are not the only options. You click at the upper-right corner of the post, go down to “report post” and report it as hate speech. The person who posted the hate will not know who reported it.
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September 25, 2016 at 9:14 pm
Beautiful. Thank you.
September 25, 2016 at 9:15 pm
I would contend that anytime someone of any race fails to display patriotism, Americans lose their minds and villify that person. I.E. The Dixie Chicks had their careers ruined abd CD’s burned in piles. Personally, I am all for peaceful protesting things you not agree with, but want to point out that America is colorblind in how it retaliates against the perceived unpatriotic persons.
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September 26, 2016 at 1:56 am
TO long but true if you read it and take a break and come back to it. Nice to know she has given a lot of thought to the situation and it is greatly appreciated it shows a lot of thought-time and effort went into this letter. Thank you again.
September 26, 2016 at 6:49 am
I had a lot to say.
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September 26, 2016 at 3:06 am
THANK. YOU. FOR. ALL. OF. THIS!!
September 26, 2016 at 6:39 am
Allow me to explain. I read comments before I let them be posted. I do this because a lot of people leave a lot of expletive-riddled comments to complete strangers, and I don’t want that kind of grotesque negativity here. Disagreement is absolutely fine. Using ethnic slurs and telling the author that you hope she f****** gets shot is not. I was asleep when you commented. I approved your disagreement as soon as I woke up. Good morning, sir. I hope your day is filled with sunshine.
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September 26, 2016 at 6:39 am
That’s exactly the opposite of what I said. I clearly said that you have a constitutional right to say whatever you want to say, but that also means that other people do as well.
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September 26, 2016 at 6:48 am
And honestly, if my most loyal reader wasn’t my grandma, I wouldn’t do that at all. But she is, and I love her and I don’t want her to worry about my safety. If someone wanted to write their own post about how wrong and dumb and unattractive I am, though, they can do that on their own blog.
LikeLiked by 1 person
September 26, 2016 at 6:56 am
Brilliant. Thank you!
September 26, 2016 at 9:41 am
One of my dearest friends commented that you speak for her. I love her dearly. She has always been very compassionate and much smarter than I am. But I had to post this. I am not afraid, I am not weak, and personally don’t give a damn.
My experience is different than yours. I am a white female over 60 years of age. I was not blessed with “blond children”. I hate Norman Rockwell and the illusion that it creates.
I am a white woman that grew up on the south side of Chicago. I grew up lower middle class. My father died when I was 10. It was a time when women did not have their own credit cards. It was a time when college educated women worked as secretaries. My mother worked hard in an office as a clerk. She was smart and through her diligence, she was able to support two children. In order to help with the family finances, I went to work one day after my 15th birthday.
I do not feel that I had social privilege.
My mother’s last words to me expressed concern that I had gotten too tough. She wondered if she could have done something different to make my life easier. Truthfully, she gave me a good life but could not prepare me for the ridicule, hate, anger, and jealously that I would encounter in business.
The problem with your perspective is that it chooses to recognize only the plight of racism. I feel that your perspective is that you have never suffered so people who look similar to you have never suffered. It is not a logical conclusion. You do not recognize my suffering because I did not complain. I persevered.
You do not recognize my suffering because it is easier for you only to judge the obvious.
You do not recognize the plight of class. You do not understand how difficult it is to succeed in big business when your family has no influential friends. You do not understand how people judge your ability because of where you grew up and what your parents did for a living. They do not admire your parents for working hard and “sweating blood”. They assume that they are poor because they were stupid.
You also do not recognize the plight of women in business. And not because I was a sex object, but sometimes it was as simple as my womanly softness was presumed as weak. And in some peoples’ eyes, weak means incompetent.
Your view is simplistic and selectively judgmental.
Truthfully, the ugly side of being human is that we criticize others in order to make ourselves feel better. In truth, others strengths and weaknesses have nothing to do with who we are. But most importantly, other people’s opinions have nothing to do with who we can become.
I learned a long time ago, that I can spend my time whining and feeling sorry for myself or I can persevere.
Make no mistake; perseverance takes its toll on the heart and soul. Perseverance makes you hard and angry. I become more reclusive with each passing year as if interactions with other people bring more risk than reward.
So I disagree. Please understand, your lily white experience is NOT mine. And while I am compassionate about how harmful experiences shape others lives, your comments are those of “selective concern”. You are concerned only with those issues that the current political situation agrees with. WAKE UP – THERE IS PAIN ALL AROUND YOU!!!
In regard to Kaepernick, I will speak to you as an employer. I ran a small business with approximately 150 employees. Our reputation was everything. And while on my time and my nickel, I expected employees to leave their politics and prejudice at home. Their performance meant that we were all able to put food on the table, support our families, and pay our mortgages. Cruel words or actions toward others created an unhealthy environment in which we all spent too many hours. Cruelty toward others has no place in business.
As far as football, millions of Americans watch football to escape the monotony and/or pain of their daily lives. They relate to their favorite teams. The team is more than just what is played on the field. Each team has a persona, a reputation that is similar to the culture of the city it represents. So for Kaepernick to protest America or police officers is inappropriate when he is on the football field. It happens that you agree with his stance. What if you did not?
What if you were a police officer that was a fan of the San Francisco 49ers? How would you feel if you were a parent of a police officer who was concerned that your child put their lives at risk everyday to “serve and protect”. These people are fans too. And it is the responsibility of the team, to protect the reputation of the team.
To risk offending those fans, put the team’s reputation at risk. If enough fans stop buying tickets, the team ceases to exist. Football is entertainment and his job is to entertain.
And while “some things are bigger than football”, he is a free man. He can quit football and take to the streets. He can dedicate his life to protesting. He can go back to law school and fight for justice. He can become a police officer and dedicate his life to seeing that all people are created fairly. But he has chosen entertainment. He has chosen a profession that provides an escape to others. For one day, fans can pretend that they belong to something bigger and more exciting than their humdrum and/or painful lives. Any distraction from that goal makes him less of an entertainer. He chooses football because he is paid well. He chooses football because money is more important to him. He has sold out and the guilt from selling out caused him to create a minor distraction of protest. He is not a hero, he is not Martin Luther King. He is a kid that made a statement and was shocked at the reaction. He is as human as the rest of us, and he has a lot of painful lessons to learn.
September 26, 2016 at 10:53 am
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences and thoughts. Since you took the time to write such an impassioned response, I feel like I owe you the same respect. So, here’s my deal:
I didn’t disclose everything about myself in this post, because I didn’t think it was relevant to the point I was trying to make. I didn’t want to make it about me, or distract from the issue by giving my life’s story. I gave a handful of exposition, a smattering of my own experiences that are relevant to my life as it is right now, at this moment, where it happens to be at a very good place. Here’s what I didn’t include: I also grew up poor, but in the country, impoverished rural Appalachia, instead of the city. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, or half as bad as a lot of people had it, but that doesn’t mean my house was warm in the winter. What I did have that makes me say that I grew up with a certain degree of privilege, was two parents who were well-educated and kind. Not everyone has that advantage, regardless of their skin color, and I would be a fool not to recognize it and be grateful for it. They pushed me to work hard to earn the scholarship that made it possible for me to go to college, that made it possible for me to have a much different life than I would have otherwise had. Additionally, I happened to have been born with white skin. Does that mean that I was automatically handed the key to the city and have never been treated with anything but respect, red carpets and buckets of cash? Absolutely not. But it did mean that I had one less hurdle in my way. I didn’t have to fight quite as hard for my place as my friends who happened to have darker skin than I did. The problems I had to deal with were still there, and were still bad, but I didn’t have to face them with the additional battle of prejudice on top of them. Like you, I also lost my father at a very young age, to brain cancer that killed him slowly and painfully. (I was older than you were, though, 16 instead of 10. I’m so sorry for your loss. That must have been unbearable.) My life hasn’t been without struggle or loss or hardship. But I didn’t feel that a post about constitutional rights was the place to share that. Yes, I have a nice-on-paper existence right now. That doesn’t mean getting here was easy. I don’t speak for everyone, and I couldn’t possibly, because I know that everyone has a different narrative, and that no one owns suffering. I can only speak from my experience, and that is what I felt called to do. I’m sorry that you felt it was simplistic and judgemental; that was never my intention. I mean, I live in a town with one of the highest poverty rates in the state. Of course I realize that there is suffering all around us. It breaks my heart every single day. I’m a substitute teacher, and I spent Friday combing a four-year-old’s hair that was so matted from neglect that it was all I could do to hold in my sobs until I was safely out of the child’s sight. Yes, there is horror everywhere you look. And I absolutely plan to spend my entire life doing everything I can to stop it. As far as understanding my narrative, before you make assumptions, it’s important that all of us remember that a few paragraphs is not enough to paint an accurate enough portrait of who a person is. Now, about football.
I cannot bring myself to care about Kaepernick as an athlete. My personal opinion is that football is boring and that professional athletes are paid way too much when teachers are buying classroom supplies out of their own meager paychecks. That’s not the point. That’s a different issue altogether, and if I addressed all the issues that I think are important all in one blog post, it would be a jumbled mess. This is what I chose to write about this time. I care that this athlete, just like the rest of us, has the constitutional right to free speech, and that we, not being him, can’t really know what his motives are or whether or not he has anything to be upset about.
I, not being you, cannot tell you not to be upset by what I wrote. I cannot make you like me or agree with me or see things from my point of view. I can’t tell you not to think I’m simplistic and judgemental. I cannot tell you not to say hurtful things without knowing anything about me. That’s your right as a US citizen. The only thing I can do, as a mere mortal, is say what’s in my heart and hope it resonates with someone. You weren’t one of those people, and that’s okay. I respect that, and I can see where you’re coming from. I am a cupcake-baking redneck in a hot pink fairy costume. I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. Your life experiences have molded you to feel the way you do, and you have every right to feel that way.
The way I survive on this cruel planet is to choose to believe that in addition to suffering and misery, there is also goodness. I don’t believe that because I have led a charmed life free of hardship and sadness, but because I came out the other side of it time and time again. No matter how bad things were, I can’t deny that I have woken up every morning for my entire life. Yes, I have been blessed with many things, and I’m not going to apologize for having a supportive family, or for having the Rockwell portrait. I worked damn hard for that Rockwell portrait, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. It’s the result of a bunch of messy situations and hard work and desperation and prayer and survival, and if you look closely you can see cracks in it, and where it’s ragged around the edges, but it’s mine and I love it.
Again, I’m sorry that I made you feel like I was judging you. I never want to make anyone feel bad, and I did know that by writing this, I was risking that. The fact that it turns my stomach to make anyone feel that way, but I felt so strongly that I needed to say it anyway that I was willing to take that risk should tell you something about me. I’d sooner pluck my own eyes out than be rude, so I wouldn’t have written this unless I absolutely felt that I had to.
I hope this helped. I’m not saying this in a snarky or condescending way, but I am praying about this discussion. I’m praying that this explanation is clear, and that it comes across as sincerely as I mean it. You don’t have any reason, really, to believe me, because you know practically nothing about me, but for what it’s worth, I’m trustworthy. I’m kind. I’m honest.
I hope that your today is the best one yet. I mean it.
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September 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm
Well written. The only area that I might say I disagree with…………….NOW, I do NOT think it should be “illegal” to not stand at attention for the National Anthem. No, I do not. What I do feel strongly is that these American players (regardless of man, woman, which sport they play)……..professionals with a contract…..should have a clause in their contract that requires them to stand in respect of the National Anthem of this USA. Then, they could exercise their rights, truly, by choosing to sign or not to sign.
Thank you for your writing.
September 26, 2016 at 6:01 pm
WHY should anyone be required to stand for the national anthem, especially if it seems to exemplify how they are not treated equally? Someone write that football is a business and the business should be able to require standing. That, to me, sounds like requiring a certain religion. It is our First Amendment right to protest.
People of the Society of Friends (Quakers) faith group do not put their hand over their heart when the pledge of allegiance is said.
It may not be a parallel exactly, however I do not understand how African American athletes can be criticized for a hand not placed over their heart during the national anthem, and Ryan Lochte is able to act out in a drunken “I didn’t really mean it” episode and end up on Dancing With the Stars. I am sure many people would say, but that is not the same. As far as I’m concerned. It is.
We as a society give Lochte a free pas, saying oh, he didn’t mean it, he hadn’t had alcohol in a long time. Mr. Scott is sitting in his car, and ends up dead, whether he was doing anything wrong or not. There are those who say that he didn’t drop his gun (we still aren’t sure that he had one) and that he didn’t follow police instructions (dismissing the idea that he was most likely very afraid and more importantly that he had a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Am I mixing situations, metaphors, and more? Probably. The reality is still the same. White boy gets a party. Black boy gets criticized and Black man gets murdered.
September 26, 2016 at 3:43 pm
Beautifully written, heartfelt and well-reasoned. Thank you for speaking out.
September 26, 2016 at 5:22 pm
Sadly MCZB, like many white folks, devalues the victims of racial inequality and injustice by insisting that white individuals are experiencing hardships as well. There is no need for you to apologize to anyone. Your post is amazing! It is a Tim Wise kind of statement…and I mean that as a huge complement. I am sure you realize that the heat has only just begun. You have spoken truth to power and there will be backlash going forward as you implement your new approach to fighting racism. We privileged white folks who “get it” must have the courage to vociferously name the bigotry and systemic racism that exist in our communities and is perpetuated by our white culture. It is the least we can do for our sisters and brothers of color. It is a role we must take on. Change will not happen without our commitment.
Last week a dozen or so local high school football players in my area (Syracuse, NY- we have just as many intolerant people up here in the NE as in the South) took a knee during the anthem to raise awareness of racial inequality and injustice. Subsequently, these children were excoriated by adults on social media with a level of incivility that was shocking. The Gospel reading in my church yesterday was Jesus’s parable of the privileged rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). It calls Christians (or for non-Christians, the “haves”) to recognize and take care of the poor and oppressed. I reflected on the actions of these young, courageous football players and the heat and outrage they are enduring as a result of their non-violent protest through the lens of the Gospel. I can’t help but ask myself WWJD? Jesus was a protester. He stood up against the status quo in His country in very inconvenient and public ways to speak for the marginalized and voiceless. He didn’t care about his reputation. He was mocked, ridiculed and ultimately lost his life for it. I think those young men are in very good company and so are you. May God bless you and give you continued strength and resolve to shine a light on racial injustice in our nation.
September 26, 2016 at 5:26 pm
Sadly MCZB, like many white folks, devalues the victims of racial inequality and injustice by insisting that white individuals are experiencing hardships as well. There is no need for an apology. Your post is amazing! It is a Tim Wise kind of statement…and I mean that as a huge complement. I am sure you realize that the heat has only just begun. You have spoken truth to power and there will be backlash going forward as you implement your new approach to dealing with racism. We privileged white folks who “get it” must have the courage to vociferously name the bigotry and systemic racism that exist in our communities and country. It is the least we can do for our sisters and brothers of color. It is a role we must take on. Change will not happen without our commitment.
Last week a dozen or so local high school football players in my area (Syracuse, NY- we have just as many intolerant people up here in the NE as in the South) took a knee during the anthem to raise awareness of racial inequality and injustice. Subsequently, they were excoriated by adults on social media with a level of incivility that was shocking. The Gospel reading in my church yesterday was Jesus’s parable of the privileged rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). It calls Christians (or for non-Christians, the “haves”) to recognize and take care of the poor and oppressed. I reflected on the actions of these young, courageous football players and the heat and outrage they are enduring as a result of their non-violent protest through the lens of the Gospel. I can’t help but ask myself WWJD? Jesus was a protester. He stood up against the status quo in His country in very inconvenient and public ways to speak for the marginalized and voiceless. He didn’t care about his reputation. He was mocked, ridiculed and ultimately lost his life for it. I think those young men are in very good company and so are you. May God bless you and give you continued strength and resolve to shine a light on racial injustice in our nation.
September 26, 2016 at 8:47 pm
Reblogged this on Miss Wanderlust.
September 26, 2016 at 9:38 pm
Erin, thank you. I have never been bold in sharing my opinion specifically when it comes to racism, politics and the state of our nation, until just last week when I truly believe the Lord led me to share my open and honest thoughts about being a black woman in America in this post http://lifeofaministermom.com/2016/09/21/some-thoughts-from-your-black-friend/.
You don’t have to read it. From my heart this is not a personal plug, but it is through that post that my dear godparents directed me to this.
Your words resonate with me tremendously. The last quote you shared from the letters of Birmingham has been something that I have been chewing on for quite some time now. Whether you agree or disagree with someone’s method of protest or expressing the freedom that is what we are all supposed to have in our country, let’s not get so lost that we forget about the message.
It’s real. Racism is real. Whether it’s real in your world or not, please take a moment to listen. To discuss it in a healthy way. To exercise empathy. To hear a perspective different than your own.
I have witnessed it, felt it and still do. But I thank you for using your voice and for sharing this thought-provoking piece.
Blessings to you.