Friday, October 23, 2009

Not what you "say" white folks...it's what you do

In the span of less than eight hours, strange and connected things have occurred that I needed to "carve in stone" as it were.  Always good to have landmarks along this journey of mine - keeps me on course.

I'd been having some interesting conversations about race and racism on another blog, with Mel, a white woman who seemed eager to "own her shit" and move forward better, together.  After spending a lot of yesterday commenting back-and-forth on our respective blogs, I decided to leave her last comment to me unanswered until morning, and went to bed.

When I checked my email this morning, I'd gotten this - "Dr. Andrew Manis: “When are we going to get over it?”  - from my former, downstairs neighbor in DC when I was going to grad school who once told me, "You like pain, huh?"  She was referring to the MANY TIMES  I'd bent her damn ear talking about why money is not the most important thing in the world to me, race and racism, white people and Black people and - why The Changeling, with his mask-wearing self was no friend of mine. 

Pretty interesting conversations given she's a 57 year-old Black woman, born in New Orleans and raised in Detroit, with a placard on a little chain on the passenger-side dashboard of her little, blue VW Bug that reads, "This car is for Black passengers only!" and - loves The Changeling and his family.  As a  matter of fact, it was she who gave me the the little sign where I whited-out the "s" on "Daughters" and scanned in that you see in the upper right corner of my blog.  She got them both at the same time.  But her philosophy was, "We gotta make that money, we don't have time to worry about all that!"  So, I was pretty surprised when she sent me the, "SOMETHING TO REALLY PASS ON!" piece about Dr. Manis.

After reading it and thinking - "He sounds just like Mel." - I decided to answer her comment that I'd let sit until morning, but - it was gone, along with several others we'd both made on two of her posts.  I thought, "Hm-m-m-m, how odd!"  I knew I'd left her with a question that might have required some thought, but I didn't think it was that deep she'd delete our conversations. 

Rather than explaining all that transpired, I'll just post it all here and you draw your own conclusions:

===============================================

Mel, I came over to respond to your comment in response to my "point-to-ponder question - "Why would you think I'd gone to all "White" schools?" - from last night.

Remember you said, "...What is interesting to me is that I have little recall, Deb, of that "experience", except that I was in my early teens and from the day I started to school, I felt like I was in a strange dream. She finally just withdrew me until we could move. I have no stories to tell from that time - none - they are just a blur.

Was that ever how being in predominantly "White" schools felt, Deb? Like being in a strange and uncertain land at times? Based upon that brief time, I've often wondered."


I told you, "The blur thing is interesting - and a point to ponder, as is this: "Was that ever how being in predominantly "White" schools felt, Deb?"

However, it seems you've deleted ALL the comments not only to this post, but the Baldwin/Baez one as well. Luckily I saved it because I do want to respond - since we're being real and all. (BTW, jj's "review" comment of the first chapter'll sure look nice on a book jacket huh?)
==================================================
I told you I hadn't ever gone to an all-white school until grad school- last year, and you replied:

Author: itsjustmel
Comment:
Didn't know your age, Deb, or, if you went to private schools, or if areas you have lived in were divided into "districts" where the majority in certain grade levels was predominately "white".

I don't consider YOU "collateral damage" but that the collateral damage of relating my exposure to the hypocrisy, even today, causes "unnecessary" pain.

The possibility of "unnecessary pain" is the "collateral damage" that I was referring to.

The "privilege/supremacy" delusion was one of the biggest eyeopeners for me. It made no sense whatsoever because that "lack of privilege and supremacy" you mentioned was superimposed by a dominating - not "dominate" - race.

Yet, the power it maintains is oppressive in many forms. It is hard to see that when you have been raised to believe that.

"Suddenly" you awaken to how senseless that whole belief system is and the human struggles it has caused. It is hard to comprehend how you ever believed that, really. Yet the imprint is there and you can't go back and speak up when you were silent or step up to the plate when it was the right thing to do, or go back and get involved now that you recognize the many missed opportunities to do so.

But... maybe, just maybe... Deb, something good will come from making an effort today.

======================================================

When I read the first paragraph, I couldn't believe it. I certainly have my own idea why you would automatically assume I'd attended all-"White" schools, but I wanted to hear your "truth." Instead, you said this:

"Didn't know your age, Deb, or, if you went to private schools, or if areas you have lived in were divided into "districts" where the majority in certain grade levels was predominately "white."

Knowing that on several occasions, we've discussed exactly the opposite of what you said, and recently
- like when I replied to you on 10/16 at my place about BLM: "It was - in my then predominantly Black, public, high school; by my Black English teacher. (We did move on up, but divorce, and Black mobility ushered in by white flight have a funny way of changing a child's life over time).

And on the "Race Card" post, which I can't seem to find right now, I told you about being 53 and going to an all-Black, Catholic school with all-Black nuns!

On your “What happened to the Real Movement? (Baldwin/Baez post where you also deleted all comments)”, you aid:

"Author: itsjustmel
Comment:
Re-post from below

Deb. Ok. Call me on it, if I’m failing somewhat on here on “trying to make my journey about getting there, whole with as little collateral damage as possible.”

Am I simply creating "harm" or leaving "inhumanity" in my wake, in your book, Deb?

I would like to have that feedback from you."


I'm calling you on it Mel. And in response to the rest of your comment in the beginning where you said:

"I don't consider YOU "collateral damage" but that the collateral damage of relating my exposure to the hypocrisy, even today, causes "unnecessary" pain.

As I told you in the comment to which you were responding, I say again, don't consider me collateral damage. I meant what you meant in your response. Relating your "exposure to the hypocrisy" doesn't cause me any "unnecessary" pain whatsoever. Like I said in the comment you deleted, I come from one of the "original 13s" where whites abashedly assert their privilege/supremacy (and our lack thereof) - I prefer you call it what it is. I'm familiar with the games and I recognize them when I see them. Which does not mean I will play them."

I see since last night, you've decided to stop asking "why" and see no need to continue to discuss "IT" anymore. Your blog, your choice.

The above is in reference to Mel's new post, wherein she asks some rather poignant questions, one to which I thought I'd reply today at 2:55 p.m.:
"What would happen if I found out that “Why?” wasn’t worth another second of my time.”

Today, in our supposed “post-racial” nation? There’ll just be another white person whose known all along that what they were doing was wrong, but NOW, after having benefitted a lifetime from doing so, decides to shower us all with mea culpas all while, of course, framing the racism narrative and telling us (like we don’t already know) what racism has done to us like this guy:

http://www.peoplesvoiceweekly.us/wp/?p=13

Kind of like all the commercials on TV now with Black folks all over – when just last year, there were hardly any. And the beat goes on….
I started doing something else here in the house and as I piddled around, it hit me - I knew nothing about this man Andrew M. Manis!!!  Preconceived notions about him being one of "those guys" was hardly where I wanted to be on this journey!

So I sat back down and wrote this comment back at Mel's at 3:39 p.m.:
Got to do some reading up on Andrew M. Manis. He may well have been on the right side of right all along so I shouldn’t say, “like this guy” – at least until I know more about him.
After quickly perusing the net, I left this comment at Mel's at 4:55 p.m.:
…and now I do. And he HAS been “on the right side of right all along” it seems:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_M._Manis

http://www.maconstate.edu/about/involvement.aspx

See Mel, that’s what “checking yourself” and “owning your shit” is all about. It’s easy – because I’m committed to making this journey be about being the best “Me” I can be – nothing else.

Because when that is your only goal, your only purpose? “Real humanity” can’t help but follow. For me, doing anything other than that is just “tilting at windmills.”
Let's be clear, racism and its co-pilot prejudice are, and always have been a part of the very fabric of this country from its founding until today.  But as anyone who's read me knows, I believe there's a difference between the two.  My "Prejudicial thought" about Dr. Manis carries with it "NO POWER" whatsoever, to economically, psychologically, socially, environmentally, institutionally affect his way of life, unlike the decidedly different, and ongoing "Racism" in this country with its power to do all those things and so much more (as evidenced, the "selection" of the Changeling!).

Racism and prejudice are in us, as Mel once said.  How could they not be?  Now, there may be a white person whose not had a single racist thought, did a racist deed or not benefitted by their complicity with those who have - regarding Black folk (and other minorities), but I've never met one.  And I can't speak for all Black folks, but I'd have to say, I've never met one of us whose not had a single prejudicial thought, did a prejudicial deed or benefitted by their complicity with those who have regarding white folk  (and other minorities) either!  These are givens - for me - when talking about such a hot-button topic because I know that, in order for us (or any one else for that matter), to truly become a "post-racial nation" and stop lyin' about it, we all have to constantly "check ourselves" and "own our shit."  As I told Mel, anything else, is "simply and sadly - tilting at windmills."  After our flurry of converations of the past week or so, I've yet to hear from Mel.

I'm just sayin' - I am an intelligent, willing-to-honestly-work-on-this-shit, Black woman with no malice in my heart (but more than a little Natalie Turner in my soul) whose been on that journey for at least 29 years.  All I ask is that when you visit me here, treat me and fellow commenters that way - or I will call you on it and keep right on truckin' along my journey of "Me."

8 comments:

itsjustmel said...

Well Deb, I guess you "got me".

I think you've been wanting to, so I hope you feel better.

As I said in my follow comments to you when I got home, "You can make me into an "impostor", but, that won't make it true.

Maybe I was naive, again, but I had hoped that my experience as a "white" suffering from the internal grip of racism was as important for you to gain some insight as it was to be validated by a voice of "just facts" in the face of so much denial.

I can't present that in any way that is going to make you or me "feel" good about everything I say and how I say it, Deb. I've known that all along.

The only thing that surpasses the how deplorable those facts are, is presenting them exactly the way they have played out.

You don't have to trust me. I don't require it or expect it.

I am fighting so many demons to show up for this leg of the journey, internal and external, that "what you think of me" this early in this exchange of life experiences cannot be my focus.

The blogging platform is one of the most unaccommodating stages I can think of for what is being presented and attempted here. The technical logistics are difficult enough, but communicating in a way that stays on topic, consistently builds rapport and provides for a safe, but open discussion is painstakingly difficult. It is so easy to play all of our many roles to skirt what really is at stake.

We both know damned well that truly forgiving "me" and me coming to terms with racial equality leaves us both absent a sense of power that serves neither of us in the "healing" process, if that's what we truly want.

It either forces us both to another level of interaction or keeps us wounded by the customary accusations, cautious and completely distrustful of the slightest, real movement toward seeing the others side of the equation.

Both of those options are painful, but one at least offers greater rewards - whether we ever end up "friends" or not.

You can interpret everything that happened technically, and with the posts, in the last 24 hours on my blog without the slightest clarification from me, Deb, on your blog.

It's your blog.

Deb said...

"Well Deb, I guess you "got me"...I think you've been wanting to, so I hope you feel better."

Really, Mel. I told you before, I don't spend my time sitting around "scheming," nor do I play "gotcha" games. That YOU THINK that I have been wanting to, is clearly - again - your shit. Feel better? Won't even dignify that with a response.

"As I said in my follow comments to you when I got home, "You can make me into an "impostor", but, that won't make it true."

And as I replied over at your place - more of your shit Mel, please do not ascribe it to me.

"Maybe I was naive, again, but I had hoped that my experience as a "white" suffering from the internal grip of racism was as important for you to gain some insight as it was to be validated by a voice of "just facts" in the face of so much denial."

I can't speak to your "naiveté. All I know is what I told you before - Communicating with you has confirmed much that I've believed all my life growing up in this country. It's added balance, and a definite "Okay, I'm not damn crazy" feeling that puts a lot of things in perspective. I also said, Often, I just want to shut the hell up about it (because hardly anyone really wants to hear it!), but I just can't. And then I come across someone like you, willing to not only own her shit (out loud!), but commit herself - fully cognizant - to doing better going forward and I'm again rejuvenated! So don’t twist it.

In for a penny, in for a pound, Mel. In order to do better going forward – you have to actually, do better going forward. While what you said above sounds good, please don’t minimize the importance of “just facts” to the journey. Without facts, how can you find the truth? After your question, I simply asked why you would think I’d gone to all-white schools. The answer you gave me, quite nonchalantly before launching into your thoughts on “collateral damage,” was simply not true. That’s what this is about – to me. Truth matters to me, no such thing as “just facts.”

If we’d only talked about it once, I could see you not remembering. But several separate occasions? Sorry - No. If you didn’t want to answer the question, you should’ve just said so. But then today, you did, with this: “Michelle Obama’s thesis (from what I got to read of it) of her experience in college is apparently different from yours – and I have wanted to ask someone that I could explore what she seemed experience as alienation from the White culture??” What did that really have to do with Me? What did that even mean? And if you wanted to ask my opinion about it, why not say, “Do you think that’s what Michele Obama went through in all “White” schools, Deb?” Sounds easy enough to me. (cont. next comment)

Deb said...

”I can't present that in any way that is going to make you or me "feel" good about everything I say and how I say it, Deb. I've known that all along.” I don’t need to be “made to feel good” – just honesty. And that you’ve known it all along,” speaks to baggage you brought into the conversation, IMO.

As you said, "What you think of me" this early in this exchange of life experiences cannot be my focus.”

It was never my focus, Mel – and never will be. I’ve spent way too many years focusing on what white folks (and everybody else) think of me, instead of what I think of me. Once I righted that ship, trust me, there'll be no going back. How the facts played out is how it happened. I've learned, particularly when dealing with white folks - facts matter. Ignoring them would be like moving into one of those roach-droppings-painted-over apartments you used to rent for that slumlord, thinking I was getting a truly freshly painted one.

”It is so easy to play all of our many roles to skirt what really is at stake.”

Hate your having so much trouble communicating in the blogosphere, I’ve not experienced that difficulty. Sometimes with you though, it seems, because you’re so "full," we're talking past each other. But, more and more it sounds like the same old shit - white folks talk, Black folks better listen. Black folks talk, white folks listen if they want to and certainly not until they've had all their say.

But don’t get it twisted, there’s no role-playing or skirting anything going on - on this end anyway. How much gets accomplished doing that?

”We both know damned well that truly forgiving "me" and me coming to terms with racial equality leaves us both absent a sense of power that serves neither of us in the "healing" process…”

Speak for yourself Mel,don't project your feelings onto me here. First of all, I don't navigate my life seeking "to have power over anyone" but myself. Seen that movie (re-runs are still playing!). You talk as if not forgiving and maintaining racial inequality is truly powerful. It isn’t, it’s racism and I’m not absent any sense of power regarding that, seeing as I’ve been on my journey to other levels of interaction for quite some time now.

This leg of the racismm walk hasn't been particularly painful for me - just frustratingly more of the same shit really. The difference now is, I know it a whole lot better when I see it and that its motives have to do with the fear of the foot-on-neckers, rather than me not being a "good enough" human being. I guess when you get all your pain heaped on the front end, the back end is less about pain and more about not putting up with bullshit or bullshitters as you work to find your own truth. And I don't.

”You can interpret everything that happened technically, and with the posts, in the last 24 hours on my blog without the slightest clarification from me, Deb, on your blog.

It's your blog.”


Yes it is, which is why "the slightest clarification from me" thing is confusing. Have you not been welcome to “clarify away” in the comments here on my blog? And let me just make sure I’m clear here - Are you saying not to do it on your blog? What exactly did that statement mean? Just need to know where I’m permitted to express my opinions.

Cinie said...

Hey, Deb, got no real comment about the ongoing discussion/debate, just an observation about the whole "when are we all gonna 'get it' and teach the world to sing Kumbayah?" hullabaloo. These conversations will always be bogus, imo, as long as the legitimacy of Obama's "selection" goes unchallenged. Obama is in but not of "the community," he was not propelled or promoted by "the community," he was sold as a fait accompli commodity to the community by people who make a living serving, by exploiting, the community. That alone makes his potential to heal America's racial divide suspect. America's black community has no real relevance to him, so he can never really have any significant relevance to it.

Anybody who thinks America's racial healing is predicated upon accepting and embracing its first black overseer has his head up his butt, in my very humble opinion.

Deb said...

Hey Cin. No need comment on the ongoing "discussion/debate" if you don't want to. Though, if you've been following, I'd just like to know, from an uninvolved party, if "I" am not being clear about my concerns.

I co-sign on all you've said, and said so here:

"...with its power to do all those things and so much more (as evidenced, the "selection" of the Changeling!)."

Mel seems bothered by my excerpting conversations as points of reference, but that's just what I do. I never thought about it being a problem, as no one's ever said anything before now. Just let me know if it bothers you and I'll respect your "blog protocol."

"Anybody who thinks America's racial healing is predicated upon accepting and embracing its first black overseer has his head up his butt, in my very humble opinion."

Ditto! I always question the sincerity of anyone saying they want real "racial healing," yet accept and embrace the Changeling - at least until I can find out why. For me, it's the answers to the "Whys" that leads to any racial healing, IMHO.

For example, I'd like to have a sit-down with Joan Baez for example, because the life she's lived up to this point along with her admiration/association with MLK seems so counter to her support of the Changeling.

All that being said though, I don't even see "the potental to heal America's racial divide" in one person - but rather, tiny pockets of people willing to honestly do the work. Just sayin'

Cinie said...

Deb, Deb, Deb, have I ever told you how much I like the name of your blog? Not, "Let's All Agree," "Or, Can't We All Get Along," just, "Let's Be Clear." Can't ask for more than that, as far as I'm concerned. Your blog reflects your personality, doesn't it, so, how could I, or anybody else, have a problem with how you moderate it? I don't, but, if I did, I have my own blog where I can do whatever I want to, and, nobody's holding a gun to my head making me comment here, know what I mean? Personally, I think there are some things that other people's opinions just don't matter about.

Also, working through issues, whatever they are, is ultimately a personal thing. We bounce things off each other, but that's about all we can ask other people to tolerate. We can't carry each other's emotional baggage, or relieve anybody else of their burden. Hopefully, honest dialogue and a willing shoulder to cry on is enough. Just be clear. Duh. That doesn't mean that just getting your point across will lead to automatic acceptance of it. But, at least that way, we all know exactly what we agree or disagree with.

As far as "healing the racial divide" is concerned, maybe if everybody owned, acknowledged and examined their own bullshit to honestly evaluate whether they were comfortable with what it said about them as a human being, that would be a small step in the right direction. But, just getting to a place where a person is willing to try that much takes a Herculean act of courage, now doesn't it?

I got no problem with who or how you are you. You're my blog sister, and I wear that particular badge with pride.

Deb said...

'Nuf said. Thanx, Cin.

"You're my blog sister, and I wear that particular badge with pride.

Right back atcha!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

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