Coming Back to America

I originally thought of this as a quick post to social media, but then rethought that as it goes deeper than a post to Facebook and certainly much longer than Twitter can handle. This post concerns observations and thoughts that I had as I faced returning to the U.S. from having lived in Canada for almost 5 years.

We moved to a city in the Province of Ontario from Florida back in 2013 because of a job opportunity with the organization for whom my wife works. When we left, I was well aware of the racism and prejudices present in this country both from having children of a different race as well as having taught at the middle school and high school levels and having to attempt to teach students not only English, but also Holocaust/Tolerance education. I also saw it as the conservative media and politicians continued to attack President Obama’s every action. Yet, seeing it from the outside gave me a much darker look at what was going on in the U.S.

One way that I saw the dark clouds of paranoia and xenophobia was when I’d have to make trips back into this country for medical or other purposes. As the election of 2016 came closer, the officials at the U.S. border became increasingly more visibly armed and their questioning more increasingly and ominously paranoid. Whenever I would enter the U.S., the guard would ask questions that seemed odd. It started with asking me my license plate number (not something I’d memorized as I doubt many folks do). Then, it morphed into requests for me to remove my cap and glasses. Then, questions regarding my political views about the incoming administration and how I viewed living in Canada, if I liked it better than living in the States. I became thankful for my ability to hide my true feelings and even flat out lie after a few times of this. My tension would not cease until I returned to the safety of Canada and their border patrol’s benign questions concerning if I had any alcohol, tobacco, or firearms and where I lived in Canada and why which I deemed valid as it was their country and I was a guest in it.

The night of the election and for weeks afterward, I couldn’t sleep. I began to also overeat and simply not care about whatever happened to me because I knew that I’d be returning to a nation very much unlike the one I’d left. I cried a great deal. I tried to step up my efforts to find a way that we could remain in Canada. My wife tried to convince me that things would not be as bad as I thought they would be. But she didn’t watch the news nor pay attention to the rantings of the incoming administration. She felt that his party would hold him in check and that it would not be as bad as it appeared.

Once the current administration came into power, the guards at the border got worse, their open carrying of M-16s more apparent as did their now body armored uniforms. They became bolder in their questioning. Now, they would focus on my having a beard as they asked and re-asked the same questions to try to somehow catch me in a lie. At one border crossing, it became apparent that it was too isolated to be safe to cross back into the U.S. due to the behavior of the guards; so, I went out of my way to cross at a more populated one so there would be more witnesses to anything that could happen. Yes, I became fearful of returning to the country of my birth and citizenship, not because of doing anything wrong, but due to my fear of being seen as a threat because I did not agree with the policies of the new administration.

The news, as we watched both news from Canada and the U.S., seemed not to match. While we heard just the facts from the Canadian networks, the U.S. seemed more slanted. Some items occurring in the U.S. not mentioned in U.S. news broadcasts were mentioned in Canadian ones. Tougher border crossings for both U.S. citizens as well as Canadian citizens arose. It was like the U.S. intentionally did not want people coming in.

Once we moved back, it seemed like a cloud was descending over the States. More and more accounts of racism and prejudice. The rise of a more virulent and violent white supremacy. And the response from the current administration was everything from silence to stating there were “good people on both sides.” Under any other U.S. administration in my lifetime, Democrat or Republican, the actions of white supremacists would have been condemned. That was no longer the case. I’d lived in Florida when Trayvon Martin was murdered by a white man simply for walking down the street. Yet now, there were Black men and boys, such as Eric Gardner and Tamir Rice, being killed by police and getting away with it. There were people trying to escape violence and poverty now having their children placed in cages at the U.S.-Mexico border. There were people who were brought to this country by their parents years ago who were being threatened with deportation to countries they knew nothing about. The U.S. border officials started showing up at bus stations where I moved to try to deport people. Migrant farmers were being picked up and whisked away in an increasing manner. All of this and the administration not only condoning it, but ordering it and for no reason aside from prejudice and hate.

As I write this, a few days ago Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden named Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate in the upcoming election. Almost immediately, the supporters of the current administration began to attack her based on the color of her skin and gender. They are putting out a conspiracy theory that she is not a U.S. citizen simply because her parents were immigrants. She was born in Oakland, California, and is a U.S. citizen regardless of whether her parents were or not. (They were, by the way). It’s the same tactic they tried to do to President Obama because his father was Black and his name was not a Western one.

There is no cause for this aside from hate and prejudice. In the coming months as we head toward the election, I know it will only get worse. It is my hope that the country can ignore the hatred and prejudice and come together in supporting the positive change that exists in the Biden/Harris ticket as well as in all the progressives that are running for office in this country. They need to be, indeed must be, elected in order for this nation to make it through this darkness and survive.

As President Lincoln once stated, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” This country is divided under this current administration. It will not stand if this continues. No, I am no naive enough to believe it will not take work to bring about change once the administration changes. Yet, I know that it is only with a massive change in the governing of this country that any movement forward can occur.

White privilege is not what whites think it is

White privilege doesn’t mean what some Whites think it means. They get stuck on the word privilege believing it to equate with wealth and comfort. However, that’s not it.

Privilege, as defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, has two related definitions. The first is “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favour”. The second is “to accord a higher value or superior position to”.

The social and political system of this country grants people who are white with certain privileges that are not given to people of colour which are based simply on the lack of melanin in their skin. It has nothing to do with wealth, but everything to do with living each day.

Whites can and do go about our lives not really worrying about being pulled over by law enforcement or being shadowed in stores by security/loss prevention personnel.

Whites can and do get jobs over people of colour based not on qualifications, but on skin pigmentation.

Whites do not get stereotyped as being savages or lazy anywhere near the amount people of colour do.

A white man walking along the street while wearing a hoodie doesn’t have to pull the hoodie off when people pass him out of fear of being thought of as potentially violent.

When a white person does get pulled over or stopped by law enforcement, they don’t automatically get approached by the officer having his/her hand on the butt of his/her service revolver.

The list can go on ad nauseam, but I won’t belabour it. These are facts. People of colour, particularly Black and Brown skinned people face discrimination every day practically from the moment they are born.

Black and Brown mothers and fathers train their sons on how to try to avoid suspicion from ignorant whites so that they can come home from something as simple as a trip to get candy at the corner store.

Black women see images society throws at them saying their beauty lies in straightening their hair.

Black and Brown people are constantly told to behave like whites behave if they want to achieve success and stay safe in this country.

Again, the list can go on ad nauseam.

Enough is enough though!

Blacks and other people of colour cannot fix the system that’s rigged against them by themselves. It’s up to whites to join with them, listen, and act with them to change the system from one of systemic racism to one of real equality.

Not Enough

Not Enough

Shirts are not enough.
Signs are not enough.
Painted streets are not enough.
Sentiment is not enough.
Letters and emails are not enough.
Voting is not enough.
Protests are not enough.

All of these actions, while necessary and good, are not enough to bring about meaningful and lasting change in this country. We need tangible and earnest change in the system to rid ourselves of the systemic racism that pervades our country.

While the above-mentioned list is a start, we need to elect officials at all levels of government who will listen and act in a manner that changes the system. We must move forward with the agenda for which people are shouting, protesting, dying, and being arrested. We must make the agenda into law.

No human should worry about being mistreated based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should worry about being killed based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should live in poverty based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should worry about being able to get a job based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

No human should worry about not having healthcare based solely on the colour of her or his skin.

We must force our government to truly make this country one where equality is truly equality.

Equality across the imaginary concept of race.

Equality across all cultural differences.

Equality across all genders and sexual orientations.

Equality across all religious beliefs or non-belief.

The idea of equality for ALL PEOPLE truly should be equality for ALL PEOPLE!

Stand Up Speak Out

I recently received a comment on social media on a comment I made regarding white privilege. The person responded to me asking me if I too was white and, if so, how could I defy my race and state that we need to fight against white privilege. These types of comments are not new to me as I have been called “a traitor to my race” and that I am “no longer white” because I am “betraying my race” as I speak out against white privilege and racism.

My answer is simple. As a white person born with a privilege I did not earn, I MUST speak out against it. That we live in a society in the 21st century in which the color of our skin somehow provides us immunity to many social ills and grants us further immunity against continual harassment, racial profiling, and with privileges denied to our fellow humankind who are Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian is appalling. It should be equally appalling to every white person as well, particularly as we live in a country where, at least on paper, it states that every person is equal.

That very equality written into our constitution is a lie if all humankind is not treated equally. It is up to us, meaning white people, to confront the reality of the inequality and address it head on, both personally and systematically. If we do not, then we are guilty of perpetuating the inequality that surrounds us. It is long past time to change how this society works, or doesn’t work, when it comes to the lives of our fellow citizens.

We must stand up against racism and be willing to do so for the long haul until we eradicate its ugly head from our society. This means that when all the protests and hashtags begin to fade, we need to still be vocal and active to create the change that is needed. This means that when we see someone acting, speaking, or behaving in a racist manner, we speak out against them and make them stop. We educate them how it is wrong to judge people based on the color of their skin. We stop believing stereotypes and start support breaking down the ideology that perpetuates them. We speak up when we see someone of color being treated unfairly or abusively by anyone.

Speaking up is imperative to change the system that treats people of color differently than whites. When laws or law enforcement is in the wrong, they are called out and changed. Law enforcement, when behaving unjustly, must be called out and the guilty charged with the crime. Elected officials must be held accountable as well. There are not one set of laws for whites and another for non-whites, there is the law and it should not see color when it comes to how justice is handled.

There is no reason why a Black person charged with a crime and a white person charged for the same crime should not be subject to the same punishment. None.

There is no reason why a Black mother should have to worry about her son as he goes to the store to buy candy. None.

There is no reason why a Black man should be worried to go for a run in a white neighborhood. None.

There is no reason why a Black person who is pulled over for violating the speed limit should worry that she or he may have a gun pointed at them or worse when a white person who does the same does not. None.

White people MUST stand up and speak out against racial injustice to make damned certain that change happens. Our Black brothers and sisters cannot do this alone, history has proven that much.

So yes, white privilege exists. It is wrong and it needs to end now.
Black Lives Matter.

The Myth of White Superiority-A Brief Look

It’s time once again for me to anger some people and delight others. With the recent installation of a new president in the United States, there has been a surge in the numbers of white supremacist groups, along with other hate groups that are primarily made up of individuals of white European backgrounds. They all claim to be of a superior race. It’s not a new thing that they’re claiming, but it is a myth or rather an invention of culture that has sullied the human race over time.

Gene researchers have concluded that race simply does not exist. All humankind is genetically the same. Our differences in appearance are evolutionary mutations that helped our ancestors adapt the climate where they lived. In fact, “the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that “race” is not a biological reality but a myth” in 1950 (Sussman). Dr. Sussman, a professor of anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, further states that while “the concept of human races is real. It is not a biological reality, but a cultural one. Race is not a part of our biology, but it is definitely part of our culture”(Sussman).

I recently read, and I apologize as I do not recall from where, how at one time in our nation’s history, indentured whites and blacks were considered to be on the same level, the lowest in fact. However, in order for the white elites to maintain power, they allowed the poor and indentured whites to believe they were part of the ruling class based not on economic status, but on race. Much of this occurred as a result of Bacon’s Rebellion in the 1675, when Nathaniel Bacon, “a white property owner in Jamestown, Virginia,…managed to unite slaves, indentured servants, and poor whites in a revolutionary effort to overthrow the planter elite” (The Birth of Slavery). When the uprising was suppressed, the wealthy planters put into motion changes that brought in more slaves from Africa rather than ones from the West Indies who might know English and be able to try to unite again with the indentured servants and poor whites (The Birth of Slavery). As such, the poor whites, while allowed to vote, felt they were superior to black people based on their being white rather than being any better off than the black people were.

The myth of superiority of whites simply continued as our nation developed and the myth continued to be perpetuated though laws and stereotypes. Historically, there was, of course, the whole Eugenics area of pseudo-science that tried to perpetuate these ideas of race and racial superiority. Nazi Germany was perhaps the most infamous for this as they tried to show the superiority of the Northern white Europeans over everyone else. Even in the history of politics, we have the words of Lyndon B. Johnson who said, “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. [commenting on racial epithets seen on signs as he visited in Tennessee] If you convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

What does all this have to do with life in 2017? Everything. This myth of white superiority has never gone away. It’s why there are people who complain about the Black Lives Matter movement and reply with All Lives Matter. It’s why enough people went out and voted in such a way as to give an openly racist and xenophobic person the Electoral Votes to win the presidency, even though he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, which he claims were rigged. It’s why there are people who have given themselves over to irrational fear of immigrants from primarily non-white countries and who are of primarily non-white dominated religions. Racism is not dead by a long shot, but it is, despite the uptick of hate groups in recent years, terminally ill.

One remaining vestige of the myth remains with white privilege. There are whites who wrongly claim this does not exist. Many of these white privilege deniers think that since they are not wealthy, then they cannot be considered privileged. These folks still buy into the same culturally based myth as the poor whites did after Bacon’s Rebellion, yet they refuse to see how people of color are treated differently than they are treated. They do not see how law enforcement target people of color in subtle and not so subtle ways. They don’t hear car doors lock at a stoplight when they walk pass. They do not know what it feels like to be denied service or even a loan because their skin color makes them a credit risk. If a white person commits a terrorist act, that person is deemed mentally unstable; however, if a person of color, especially a person of color who is also a non-Christian commits a similar act, then not only is the act labeled an act of terrorism, but it’s expected by the media that all members of the perpetrator’s race or religion come out to condemn the attack or else they are deemed to be in favor of it.

That’s white privilege. Those are not exhaustive examples, but I’m not writing a dissertation on racism or white privilege either.

White privilege is not about wealth or status. It’s about how being born white, particularly a white male, makes it that the person can get away with things that his or her non-white peer cannot. It’s the white kid caught with a joint who gets a verbal reprimand, but her non-white counterpart gets suspended or expelled from school. It’s the Asian kid who is told they must be good in math or science based simply on the color of his or her skin, while his or her white counterpart rarely hears that. It’s the Middle Eastern person who is seen as a terrorist, while his or her white neighbor never gets a second glance. It’s the Black person who is seen as a threat simply by walking down the street, while a white person is not. It’s the Hispanic person who gets asked if he or she is an illegal, even though he or she was born in the United States, but the white person is not. It’s stop and frisk versus let him or her pass freely. It’s fear that creeps into the heart whenever law enforcement passes a person even though he or she knows that he or she is doing nothing wrong.

White people need to own up to this problem and work to eradicate it. While a few whites may see this as an “us vs them” issue, it is not. Our country is based on the ideal that all humankind are equals. If a white person is treated better or differently than a person of color, that damages us all, if we truly believe in equality for all people. Some whites will feel threatened by this for fear that those who have been treated unfairly will rise up against them. Some whites fear no longer being in the majority and, therefore, feel they must fight for their culturally given right to remain a superior race. But again, there is no race aside from the human race. That’s a scientifically proven fact.

When it all comes down to it, all humankind are the same. There are good people and bad people of every skin pigmentation. There are intelligent people and, frankly, stupid people of every skin pigmentation. There are good people and bad people from every religion and no religion at all. People are simply people. Messy, mixed-up, and imperfect humankind.

We, as humanity, must begin to shift our conversations from non-existent race and toward conquering the problems we face as humankind. Problems that are not perpetuated by any race or religion, but by people being irrational and cruel to one another. Problems caused by not seeing one another as human beings regardless of skin color and treating one another with mutual love and respect that is due to all humanity.

Alexander, Michelle. “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.” The Birth of Slavery (Bacon’s Rebellion), The New Press, 2010, http://www.duboislc.net/read/BirthOfSlavery.html. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Sussman, Robert W. “The Myth of Races:Why are we divided by race when there is no such thing?.” Rawstory, Rawstory, 9 Nov. 2014, http://www.rawstory.com/2014/11/the-myth-of-race-why-are-we-divided-by-race-when-there-is-no-such-thing/. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

Be Prepared To Save America

The country, as we know it, will change dramatically come January 20, 2017. As such, we must be prepared. Already, there are rumblings from the GOP to gut the Affordable Care Act. They already attempted to undermine oversight of the House, but enough Americans stopped them through calls, emails, and letters. Don’t think for a minute that they’ll stop trying to pull midnight shenanigans or hidden attacks on those they deem as “enemies”.

We have already seen that the incoming person to the Oval Office has chosen to cozy up to a foreign government. Heck, even members of his party have done so with impunity. It seems the threat to our democracy will be from within as well as from outside in the coming years. This is why we must stay vigilant. We cannot allow our country to be taken over by a puppet president who answers to a foreign power and ignores his own intelligence agencies.

Here’s how I look at the next 4 years in the US as far as it comes to what we need to do to protect ALL Americans.

1. Make certain you have all the contact information for your politicians from the local level all the way up to the top (or down to the bottom if they’re GOP or Orange Sauron). Use that information to write/call/email/tweet your views and demand to be heard.

2. Keep a file of their pledges and promises and things they say or do and call them out if they screw up or praise them if they do what’s best for ALL Americans. (Use all your information from #1 and social media to do this).

3. Get or stay active, including informed, on all issues from local to state to national. Be heard!

4. Support candidates who will champion ALL Americans and not just a few.

5. When voting occurs, vote. If you don’t vote, you can complain, but you’re part of the problem if you don’t vote.

6. Orange Sauron DOES NOT have a mandate. The GOP does not have a mandate. He LOST the popular vote by 2.8 million votes! Remind him and others of that. If it wasn’t for the Electoral College, he’d not be there. Hold him accountable for special interests and his mouth/tweets.

7. Stand up against ALL forms of prejudice! Do this however you are able. March, hand out pamphlets, call, write, be there for someone who feels threatened, donate to causes, just do something. If not, you’re part of the problem.

Again, stand up and speak up for what is good. Don’t allow prejudices against others for whatever excuses they make to prevail. We are better than that as a country. There is no room for fear or hatred in the US.

Thank youE