Facing Challenge

What is the biggest challenge I am currently facing? 

I am not that far from retiring, but I don’t want to retire from everything. I want to make sure I don’t retire from seeking justice. I have spent too many years not fighting for justice. I don’t want to become an old woman. I want to be a vibrant, alive woman who speaks up against inequity, who demands changes in policing and politics, who goes to council meetings and expects members to mandate police wear body cameras, and more.

These phrases will become my mantras for my life. This is the start of the last chapter in my life where I become a better ancestor.

  • Silent no more
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Be not afraid
  • Be Antiracist
  • Be a better ancestor

The following image was the best thing I saw this week. It’s not about being either racist or not racist. Racism is in our roots and blood. Not everyone is guilty of horrifying and overt acts of racism, but we all positively live with the effects of it in our world. We can all point it out and help to dismantle it, making a new future.

Today is Wednesday, Day 127 in Bahrain’s coronavirus time, day 92 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt is by Ethan Zohn: “Write about the biggest challenge you’re currently facing. Now think of a series of words, phrases or even part of a quote that have helped get you through some tough moments. Use those words to compose a mantra of your own. Chant it to yourself whenever you need it.”

Mama, Did You Know?

Mama, did you know
When you held that baby
46 years ago?

You were there, Mama,
to hear him when he called.
He called you when he
was ready to be born.
He called out when
he skinned his knee.

How many times did you cry
over your black son,
knowing what his country
does to black bodies?

He called you during
times of trouble
Surely, there were cries
in the good times too–
When he was a stand out athlete.
When he got a college scholarship.
When he became a father.

Mama, did you see him
from the grave when
he had his unfinished
life snuffed out?
Did you hear his final
call on Memorial Day, 2020?

Today Jon Batiste shared a piece of music for meditation and asked us to consider how we are doing our part to “deepen our collective spiritual consciousness” and “begin to implement genuine and lasting change.” Here is Baptiste’s song “Meditations,” composed in collaboration with Cory Wong. Today is Sunday, Day 96 in Bahrain, day 61 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad.

To My Great Grandbaby

Dear sweet little baby joy,

There is nothing like a new baby to bring hope into the world. I know there are those who already loved you when you were barely a timorous, yet tickling and intoxicating thought in the minds of your parents.

Welcome to the world, my dear. I missed your birth, but I just wanted to say how much I would have loved you if I were still alive. Your grandma was my baby once upon a time, so I know the joy you have brought to your family.

First and foremost, I would like to apologize to you that I didn’t spend more of my life fighting to dismantle white supremacy.

After we had our first African American president, Barack Obama, a segment of our country rejoiced that we were becoming post-racial, whatever that meant. Another segment went into survival mode. The racists came out of hiding, raising up their repugnant heads. The powerful (who were powerful because they had white skin) were scared. They called it things like tea parties and conservatism instead of what it really was, fear of losing their ill-gotten and undeserved power.

There was only one silver lining in the debacle of the 46-1 presidency that you will read about in your history books. It made lots of people like me aware of the awful condition of our country–there is no such thing as post-racial. Racism is at the heart of everything wrong with our country. It is the foundation we are built on.

After hundreds of years of killing and displacing indigenous people and stealing, killing, and enslaving black people from Africa, we spent close to two more centuries clinging to white power, continuing to displace and kill people with abandon and impunity. But when that one was “elected,” I figured it would be temporary–I gave him less than 100 days.


But the country fell for the con.

Not really. The country was the con. The vile and vicious underbelly–the truth of systemic racism–was exposed in all its ugliness. It was flaunted and shouted from the mountaintops. People in power shoved their fingers into their ears and shouted lalalalalalalalalala to drown out the din of the circus in the Executive Branch and closed their eyes to pretend not to see the 40% of Americans embracing and celebrating the blatant racism he espoused. There were even whole media outlets committed to continuing the con.

Even though there was a very mentally ill man in the White House, the leaders would neither invoke the 25th Amendment nor would they remove him from office when he had been justly impeached. They had to pretend all was normal. Because if they didn’t, their power would collapse.

But you know the end of that story. The 46th president won by the largest landslide in the history of the country. She won all 50 states. The former president and most of his cronies spent years in prison, and at least blatant racism crawled back under the rock. However, not before a great majority finally acknowledged it, and finally became accomplices with our brothers and sisters of all colors to fight systemic racism.

Now, my sweet great grandbaby, you get to join this fight because, no matter how much we fight it, it’s still not gone completely. Don’t let your guard down. We have to keep up the fight for equal justice for all.

I love you and will watch you run your race with perseverance. I’ll be the one on my feet cheering you on from the grandstands (Hebrews 12:1).

Love,

Your Nana

P.S. I’m afraid this is much more difficult than I make it sound. People of color put up with the oppression of white people like me every single day. If it’s not 2050, and anyone is still reading this, I listened to a podcast today that helps white people know how to fight the right battles. Check it out here by Myisha T. Hill, Lettie Shumate and Weeze Doran.

Day 87 in Bahrain. This is Day 52 of The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Today’s prompt was written by Carvell Wallace.

#Verselove Helps Me Confront Myself

So many slices of my life lately are reading and writing poems.

Who knew?

My first time ever writing a poem each day in April happened because of quarantining in this Covid-19 chapter of life. Having just had a successful 31 days of writing blog posts for Slice of Life, I decided I might give poetry a try in April thanks to this inspiring post by Glenda Funk.

And I succeeded. It was a rewarding experience and has been helping me process life events and news. Now, this week poetry is helping me confront my own complicity in white supremacy.

Say His Name–Ahmaud Arbery

“Come, son, grab your gun
There’s a black burglar
Bounding ’round the block”

In this land
Two armed white men insist on their
right to defend themselves
While one unarmed black man
is not allowed to exercise the same right
Or to exercise

State laws made to justify
Two people
Chasing,
Confronting, and
Killing
a person
they’ve never met.
Usurping duties of
police, court, jury,
and executioner.

As long as the two
are on the safe side
of the racial contract in ‘Merica
they will be exonerated.
Always
Assumptions of white innocence
Always
Assumptions of black guilt
Always

Americans implicitly know
Who are bound by the rules
And who are exempt
Would your son be allowed to jog
in a new neighborhood?
I know
You know

All men are created equal
(If they are white and own property)
Crooked creed

All men are created equal
(But some are only 3/5ths equal)
Crippling creed

Codicil in invisible ink
Yet penned visibly in red blood
On black bodies

Murder is illegal
But fine for white people to
Chase down and kill black people
If they have decided
that those black people scare them
Cowardly creed

These injustices
Push the racial contract into the open
Then it’s up to us to choose
Do we embrace its existence?
Do we contest its existence?
Do we deny its existence?

Hang on, white men.
Hang on, power-hungry,
To your fading entrenchment of
White political power to
“make America great again”

Father and son
Chased a “burglar” jogger
Shot him dead.
Acting in self-defense?

No.
Arrested and charged with murder
Because of national outrage
(But absent the video, then what?)

Centuries overdue,
But now is the time
for more
national outrage,
America.
It’s time for a
Courageous creed

Many words and phrases in this poem were found in the first half of this article in The Atlantic: “The Coronavirus was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying”

#Verselove is continuing during the year for five-day challenges each month. I am so excited that the May #verselove 5-Day Monthly Open Write starts on Saturday this week. Kim Johnson will give us some delightful and challenging prompts. Everyone who wants to will write a poem in response to the prompt, however they interpret it or want to stray from it. Then the community of poet-teachers reads and comments on the others’ poems.

You are all invited! Join us starting this Saturday through Wednesday. It is a healing and empowering activity for this stressful time. (Click for the sign-up form.)

I made this comment on a #Verselove evaluation last month.

Me and White Supremacy

We need to talk about white supremacy. Not in the “bad” people, but in our own white selves.

Let’s start today, not just in New Zealand. But in America or wherever we are.

White supremacy has been with us throughout our nation’s history.

Through slavery…leasing convicts…lynchings and other racial terrorism…Jim Crow…racial hierarchy…racial profiling…mass incarceration.

When I was a baby, Martin Luther King, Jr., pleaded with white moderates:  “If you fail to act now, history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

Why didn’t I talk about America’s wealth being built with the blood and sweat of enslaved black people?

Why didn’t I talk about “good” people standing by and watching?

Why didn’t I talk about anti-blackness and white supremacy?

With my parents?

With my friends?

With my own children?

Though I didn’t articulate I was better than black people, I don’t remember ever articulating I wasn’t.

There is no such thing as being colorblind when it comes to racism.

My silence was complicity. White silence. White apathy. White centering. White privilege.

Complicity in white supremacy.

I am white, and I need to own it.

I am white, and through my acceptance of America’s original sin, I am a white supremacist.

Now, I have work to do.

Thanks, Rachel, Bryan, Layla, Josie, Clint, Jen, Mike, Jillian, Myisha, Dr. King, and all the others who are inspiring the dismantling of racism.*

 

View this post on Instagram

 

🌿 take a moment today to consider how you show up.

A post shared by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle (@rachel.cargle) on


*More I’m Learning From

17 Inspirational Quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr., About Speaking Up When it Matters

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Justice in America Podcast with Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith

Speaking of Racism Podcast with Jen Kinney

Instagram: @Rachel.Cargle, @Laylafsaad, @morethanmiked, @ckyourprivilege, @degan_art

Silent No More

Her name was Gwen and she was 8 years old, a year younger than me. She knew exactly what she was doing when she snatched that wallet from the ground, ripped out the few dollars, and dropped the incriminating wallet into the nearest garbage can. Within moments, I saw another little girl crying, flanked by an adult who was helping her look for her dropped wallet.

Looking back after all these decades, I remember that scene as clearly as if it happened yesterday. I was paralyzed with sadness for the little girl crying without the money she needed for opening day at the ball field. I watched in disbelief that Gwen could ruthlessly take her money. I was dumbfounded–literally found dumb–I did not say a word. To anyone. Until now. It wasn’t that I was unable to speak; I was unwilling to speak. I also remember that I was sad for Gwen, and I was angry that she could so effortlessly carry out that bad idea. Had I found the wallet, I believe I would have happily turned it over to the crying girl, “Look, I found this! Is this what you’re looking for?”

Well, by God’s constant grace, I grew up to be mostly the I-found-this-how-can-I-help-you person, rather than the take-the-money-and-run person at the ballpark. However, I also grew up to be mostly not angry enough to speak up about injustices. The silent person who watched Gwen take that girl’s money without so much as uttering a peep was not sad and angry enough. Whatever I feared about speaking up was stronger than my sadness and anger over the injustice.

Today that story came to my memory. It reminded me of my complicity in white supremacy.

When I was born, Jim Crow was in full swing. Even in suburban L.A., we still did plenty of racist things–the words we used, the costumes we wore, the jokes we told, the fears we nursed, the near complete segregation of ball fields, schools, shops, neighborhoods, churches and everything else I frequented.

As laws were passed to give civil rights to people of color, my family slowly began to change. I tried to become one of the ‘good’ white people. I didn’t do blatantly racist things any more. I didn’t use racist words. I made friends with people who were bused into my school in 1974. (Finally…two decades after Brown v. Board of Education!) I tried to be the good and nice person who wouldn’t take a little girl’s wallet. The person who wouldn’t be racist. The person who would never be a white supremacist.

However, even as I tried to not to be racist, I knew deep down that me being a good person would never solve society’s problem.

I rejoiced with the country when Obama was elected. I was a 30-year independent voter who temporarily became a Democrat so I could caucus for Obama in Iowa. I didn’t pay too much attention to the hatred and vitriol with which some people viewed his election and presidency. I thought they were a racist minority that was gradually getting snuffed out and sent into the crevices of society.

Then the unthinkable happened and I finally noticed. The racist vitriol, among other factors and entities, elected trump to the presidency. OK. Then I began to get it. An individual’s “goodness” or “niceness” is really not enough. This was more urgent than I had ever realized.

Thanks to the writings of Layla Saad, I now have names for what I was doing as a ‘good’ white person.

White silence.
White exceptionalism.
White apathy.

“Here are a few examples of White Apathy in action:
• White Apathy shows up as laziness, tiredness, fear, boredom, numbness, perfectionism, turning away from the news, and other apathetic feelings and actions when it comes to engaging in anti-racism practice.
• White Apathy shows up when people have done very little anti-racism work, so they don’t understand just how urgent this work is.
• It shows up as White Silence, White Exceptionalism and inaction because of your attachment to the idea that you are a ‘good white person’.”

Me and White Supremacy Workbook, page 87, by Layla Saad

White privilege.

“I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have white privilege. I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.”

From “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” (1988), by Peggy McIntosh (You can read an excerpt by McIntosh, which includes 50 bits of daily privilege that people like me have for no reason except our skin color.)

White people, we are all complicit in keeping racism and white supremacy as strong as ever in our country.

Our institutional, systemic, toxic, and endemic racism needs dismantling.

It’s going to take education. This is black history month. Let’s get educated. We all need to stop justifying and start listening.

I don’t want to be silent anymore.