Sunday, August 21, 2016

Stuck in '56

This morning's New York Times Magazine  opens with an excellent article, "Bias Charge". The author poses a question that I'd never considered, never would have known to ask:

"How did racism become an issue of character -- and not culture -- in the first place?"

That part of the paper was delivered on Saturday, so I've had a lot of time to think about it.

My mother was a racist. As a child, I didn't know the word or really understand the concept. But I know that my mother used words that sounded ugly to refer to people whose skins were different colors than our white ones. When I mentioned this to my sister, she replied, "Back then everyone was." It was part of the culture, a culture that began a long, slow, as-yet incomplete process of change.

We've evolved in our tolerance, acceptance, protection, support of other races. Some of us have learned about "white privilege," something that despite my thirteen years in a Quaker school, I barely grasp. Oh, I understand the principle okay, but the nuances elude me. I'm working on this.

But getting back to the question -- How did racism become an issue of character and not culture? -- I don't have an answer, though I know the premise to be true. The question has helped me to get a handle on an on-going situation. There's a woman, a few years older than I am, who lives in a very rural area of a very southern state. "Edna" is a racist. (She's also xenophobic and homophobic, which comes as no surprise.)  I can't do anything about any of this (other than forbid her to use certain words when she is in my home)  and -- for very personal reasons -- I am unable to sever our connection.  Her younger, enlightened brother says, "Oh, she graduated high school in 1956 and got stuck there." He's given up, too, but loves her because she's his sister.

Apart from her racism and related characteristics, she's a person like all of us who has her good traits and her bad ones. But because of that racism, I've had trouble thinking about those things. For me, it's been as if racism is all that she is.

Today, for the first time, I am beginning to understand there is a difference between racism that is an issue of culture and racism that is an issue of character. A difference between people like my mother and others of her generation where no one challenged the belief that white people were better than other people, and Edna who lives about an hour from the nearest traffic light amid neighbors who use the same derogatory racial terms that she uses vs. the people who disrespect our current President because of his skin color and write such vile comments about his daughters that even Fox News had to delete them, and judges who impose vastly varied sentences on individuals that seem, somehow, to be connected to their ethnicity. Racism of culture/racism of character.

The New York Times Magazine article written by Greg Howard is very, very rich. I'll keep it and read it again. It has given me new insight and understanding of my mother, long gone, and Edna, still a part of my life, victims -- if you will -- of their culture. Please read the article if you have the opportunity. If you don't, I'll leave you a quote to chew on:

"It's common for white Americans to position themselves as the neutral arbiters of what is and is not racist and what other Americans are allowed to be angered by. Lo and behold, the answer is always the same -- real institutional racism always ends up being something from the past, something dealt with, not an ongoing system of policies that afflicts minorities and profits white people to this day. Offer any objections, any other experience of the world, and the response you'll get is . . . 'Just [expletive] get over it.'"

Friday, August 19, 2016

My Political Post: Read At Your Own Risk

Well, I certainly did not suspect that follows the Revised Common Lectionary. But . . .

This past Sunday pastors here, there and everywhere including an old friend preaching at my church cringed as they were given this Gospel to share:

"From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

For those who may not know, the word Gospel means good news.

And this morning, a click-bait on Politico's Facebook page proclaimed:

"Trump and Clinton wreck Facebook friendships -- The social network has become the vehicle for 2016 vitriol, and is ruining relationships in the process."

I went ahead and read the article; a great deal of it made sense. And connected with Sunday's lesson from Luke (Chapter 12, in case you were wondering). This is happening to people I actually know. A father and his son argue their political positions on Facebook for all the world to see, getting more insulting with each comment. People have announced which candidate they are supporting and freely invite those on the other side to unfriend them. I've watched a long-standing friendship unravel and probably come to a permanent end over our current candidates.

I think, though, they've got the headline wrong. At the risk of sounding like a member of the "guns don't kill people; people kill people" faction, I don't think Donald and Hillary are actually wrecking Facebook friendships; it's the people writing about them, arguing about them, having to have the last word, those are the people who are wrecking their own friendships.

Two weeks ago, in celebration of the Rio 2016, I made a vow that during the Olympics I would neither post politics on FB nor would I comment on others' political postings for the duration of the games. One of the best decisions I've made in recent months!!! Most of the time, I've just scrolled past those posts, moving on to Karen's inspirational quotes, to Emily's bicycle ride to fight MS, to Julie's celebration of a new grand baby, to Bonnie's newest adventures in the kindness community. I'm a better person for making that pledge. So I'm going to extend it. I'm done posting my political viewpoint on Facebook; everyone knows who I support anyway. I'm done commenting on anyone else's political posts. If someone becomes too rabid, I'm simply going to downgrade him/her to "acquaintance" and unfollow. That way she/he won't see my posts and I won't see theirs. All of this can be revisited and readjusted after November.

Oh, and getting back to Luke: One of my seminary professors has become infamous famous for allegedly shouting, "Preach the damn Gospel!" That's what my friend did.  And she did it without mentioning either candidate.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Quilt for Orlando

My guild, Philly Modern, committed to providing two quilts to be sent to survivors of the Pulse attack in Orlando or to families who lost someone in that attack. The response was huge. We went with rainbow hearts; I made two. After Tricia did the magnificent quilting, she brought it to me and I was able, despite my back issues, to make the binding and machine it on. Then, in front of the Olympics this week, I hand-stitched that binding down.