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Going Beyond Tokenism

Many years ago I was on a city committee whose purpose was to give advice to the Mayor about choosing the next police chief. The committee included a cross section of people based on profession, class and race. At one point, an African American man made a statement that African American men were the most oppressed group in this country. While I could understand the oppression he was speaking to, his point offended me on two levels. First of all, there were no Native Americans in the room and I think they could have made a pretty good case that genocide (combined with all of the other atrocities like boarding schools for children) and invisibility are pretty major forms of oppression. And secondly, I think it creates nothing but division amongst the marginalized in this country to create “degress of oppression.” Its awful no matter how, when or who it happens to.

But the point of me telling that story is that, as a white woman, I didn’t say anything because I didn’t think I had the right to speak. In other words, once a person of color has spoken on an issue, my job as a white person was to listen and accept their point of view. And I still believe there is a certain amount of truth in that.

But the incident gnawed at me for a long time. Finally, I brought the subject up with a very wise man who was teaching me about undoing racism. I told him the story and asked for his imput. His response surprised me and has stuck with me as a very powerful statement for years. He said that when I was settled and strong in my own cultural identity, I would be able to challenge anyone anytime, no matter the color of their skin. That’s NOT what I expected to hear from him.

What I eventually learned from this experience is that, as white people, we take our “culture” as the default culture. And in doing so, we never examine it, but tend to project it as the one and only way to be. Once we step back and notice that our culture is just that, a culture, and begin to notice it and claim it, we are freed to SEE other cultures for what they are and can interact in a meaningful way cross-culturally.  

Blog Voices This Week 11/25/07

I’m going to move away from my normal content this week. I know this means that I risk two things: first of all, buhdy might get mad that I’m not posting what I was originally asked to write about and secondly, I will make the title of this series meaningless to my content. I must admit that I’m much more nervous about the later.

But my motivation this week comes from a series that Nezua has done over at “The Unapologetic Mexican” titled Let’s Have Nexus. I think the content of this series fits very nicely with the goals of Docudharma in that he is stepping above the current fray and trying to find patterns that can help us change direction. He’s also trying to find common ground as a way to build coalition across different interest groups, which I think is the struggle of our times.

Another US Land-Grab from Indigenous People Happening Right Now!

From the blog Intercontinental Cry, here is a letter from Margo Tamez asking for help for the people of El Calaboz, Texas as the Border Patrol, Army Corp of Engineers, and NSA harrass them to give up their ancestral lands in order for the border fence to be built.

Great Holiday Gift Idea

I refuse to go shopping today. But having the day off from work did give me some time to think about what to do with my holiday gift list. Being the couch-potato pajama-blogging slouch that I am, I thought I’d look around the internet for some good ideas.

I don’t buy for many people, but one of my biggest challenges is buying for my 7 neices and nephews. They range in age from 10-19 and none of them live near me. I haven’t seen most of them for over a year. Now that they are mostly into adolescence, the line between kewl and nerdy is pretty thin and I don’t want to make any mistakes. For years I bought them books for birthdays and christmas. But I just don’t know enough about their tastes to pick well this year.

Finally, all but one of them live in consumer-driven Dallas, Texas. They are being productively molded by that culture and the holidays are a crash course in the art of always wanting more “stuff.”  

The myth of consumption

Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when the bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or bought or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for the meeting of your eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to loose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.

Daniel Berrigan

I read this quote for the first time this morning in the amazing diary by Hillary Rettig and OPOL titled Giving Thanks for Progressive Activists and its been on my mind all day. I’ve been thinking alot about the myriad of myths that we respond to almost automatically without much awareness. When we read a quote like that, it resonates deeply. We know it is truth. And yet the myth that getting more for ourselves will somehow make us happy is how we tend to live our lives.

The King Stay The King

First of all, a confession and a warning. The confession is that I’m obsessed with the HBO series “The Wire.” I think the creator, David Simon, is a prophet for our times. The warning is that I’m going to share some videos and they contain pretty harsh language. So, if you think it will bother you, be duly warned to not watch. OK, now on with it…

I’d like to start with a clip from the first season of “The Wire.” And I’ll give you a little background so you understand the conversation if you haven’t watched the show. In this clip D’Angelo is teaching two of his “corner boys” how to play chess. D’Angelo supervises the drug trade at a high-rise and his uncle, Avon, runs the show on the west side of Baltimore. Avon’s right-hand man in the business is Stringer. So, here’s the clip:

Blog Voices This Week 11/18/07

In the Boston Globe this week we find an article titled Blog is Beautiful: People of color challenge mainstream views online:

These intellectual challenges to mainstream and other viewpoints are some of the opinions Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander-American, and black bloggers are exposing on a growing number of sites focused on social, political, and cultural issues. The sometimes facetiously named blogs range from Angry Asian Man to The Angry Black Woman. Readers can find Latino viewpoints at Guanabee, The Unapologetic Mexican, or Latino Pundit. Those interested in information from an Asian angle head to Ultrabrown, Zuky, or Sepia Mutiny. Sites created by blacks include The Field Negro, Too Sense, and Resist Racism….

These sites – many of which launched in the past year, although a few are older – have become places where people of color gather to refine ideas or form thoughts about race relations, racial inequities, and the role pop culture has in exacerbating stereotypes. The writers often bring attention to subjects not yet covered by mainstream media.

(links added)

I thought this week we’d take a look at the blogs that were highlighted in The Globe to find out what’s on their minds lately. So lets start at the top and work our way down.

What else do bloggers do?

You know what they say about us don’t you?

They say we’re a bunch of slackers who sit around in our jammies with nothing better to do than to pontificate about our anger into our keyboards.

While I don’t know any of you in RL, my guess is that there’s not much truth to that characterization. But then, what do I know? I thought it might be interesting to check it out. I’d be willing to wager that the folks who show up here are some of the people that are actually most invested in making their communities and the world a better place. I’d like to find out if I would win that bet.

So I’d like to hear from you about what, other than blogging, you are doing to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Its really not bragging. I just think that if we capture all of what we are already doing, we might get a glimpse of the power we have as a collective group of people.  

Lessons Learned

Last week my friend and co-worker Pakou Hang lost the election to become a member of our City Council. Some of you might remember that I mentioned her as part of the legacy of Paul Wellstone. It was a huge disappointment to many of us in this community, and especially to Pakou.

But the disappointment is not so much in the fact that she lost, but how it happened. Pakou managed her campaign the old fashioned way – true grassroots organizing. For an election that only produced about 5,000 votes total, she had over 400 volunteers on the ground working to get out the word and the vote. This was extremely encouraging in that just a few weeks before the election, no one had seen or heard much from her opponent, the incumbent.

Blog Voices This Week 11/11/07

I don’t think that I’ll usually have a theme for this weekly essay. But I recently saw a video in my travels around the net that inspired one for this edition. The video was made by Sudy at A Womyn’s Ecdysis:

There is a movement underway on these blogs. And today, I’d like to give you just a small taste of some of its power.

Multipolarity: An End to US Hegemony??

A few months ago I ran across this quote from Glen Ford on The Black Agenda Report:

There’s a term going around in the corporate media called, “multi-polarity.” It’s really a euphemism, designed to describe the death of white supremacy over the planet. It’s been a long time coming – more than five centuries, since the European invasion of the rest of the continents began, resulting in the death of untold millions of people. Whole civilizations were wiped away, to make way for a northern European global sphere of influence. Now that era is coming to an end.<...>

China, India, Brazil and South Africa have joined in a political and economic compact to resist the domination of the United States and Europe. The political-economy of capitalism dictates that these nations must be dealt with. The social realities of the United States dictate that it cannot raise a military force sufficient to suppress the dark masses. Europe learned this lesson a generation ago. Now it is time for the white supremacist Americans to learn the same lesson: they cannot rule the world.

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Today marks the 402 anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot that was the inspiration for the movie (and earlier graphic novel) “V for Vendetta.” I found this to be one of the most powerful movies I’ve seen in a long time because it speaks to the heart of what I think is going wrong in our culture today…the ascendency of fear as a driving force.

So today, lets remember the words of the character “V” in the movie that are so poignant for our times today:

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