Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dismantling Racism Part 3: Pray Don't Prey

I'm pretty sure this was not meant to happen, because when I stopped to take the pictures, there was a place behind the skeleton of the barn where some new construction had begun. Later, I saw some men there, but I was in a hurry, so next time, I will ask them'

Either way, it fell.

I'd been standing inside it a week earlier taking pictures and wondering about what it meant to "dismantle" racism. 

You can see in the picture below the new lumber to the left..again, maybe that was part of the process of deconstruction, and perhaps they were harvesting all the wood they could harvest before pulling it down. It reminded me of stories I'd always heard growing up of "the old barn" that was on our property and which my dad, with some other men and a few tractors, pulled down so that we, his three kids, wouldn't be endangered playing in it.

He used the good barn wood to make a desk, tables, and some other beautiful things that remain in our family. They are treasures today.

So, dismantling racism. As we pass the 50th anniversary of MLK's death, I think it's fair to say that no one has the answer, or we would not be in the place we are in today. There are all kinds of people who think they have the answer(s) and who are very loud, boisterous, and insistent about them.

Last week, the denomination I've served for 23 years published a report written by a Commission appointed to look into what they call the "Hiring Practices Controversy". Feel free to read if you like dirty laundry, but long story short, our President resigned, our Moderator died, and two or three white male staff members also quit after accusations of unfairness and white supremacy in hiring of a regional staff member. 

Our denomination is in turmoil. People are talking past each other, accusations are flying, and, worst of all, there seems to be no safe space to discuss anything without being shamed or shouted down. There is, it seems, an "official" position which shall not be questioned. So why even have a commission? The Commission has been funded at almost $500,000.  More on all of that here.I hope for and expect some great results.

I struggle with this, not because I mistrust the sincerity and good will of the Commission members, but because I do not understand how to explain half a million dollars allocated to this study when I was turned away by every UUA official I requested help from in my work with a local rural African American woman whose husband has been incarcerated for almost a year waiting to be deported to Mexico. (Their story is in the fundraiser on this blog). I didn't ask for money; only for help sharing the plea. How do I face this family when my denomination claims to support undocumented immigrants and poor Black families and tell her they could do nothing? (By the way, the UUSC did provide resources and connections for us). This is exactly what conservatives talk about when they criticize liberal hypocrisy. This is why Black communities trust white liberals the least of all! 

I may be wrong, since I've been disconnected from denominational activities for the past year or so, but I know how we do things. If I weren't already a Unitarian Universalist, I would run, not walk, away from them as quickly as I could. They sound and look like a group of people trying to use will, intellect and ego to force results. Rather than going out into the world with prayerful reflection and open hearts, we've chosen to look inward and point fingers at one another with accusations of white supremacy.

This all brings to mind the Serenity Prayer, which might be a good start. (God) grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that it might be helpful for us to do more praying and less preying (on one another).

And, as Carl Jung brilliantly told the founder of AA, lasting sobriety would never be possible without a spiritual conversion. And I think this is the true problem that my denomination is not addressing. Racism is not just a structural problem, it is a soul sickness that requires a deep spiritual reckoning and repentance, something many liberal religionists have no language nor ritual for.

This week I heard some talk about how what's missing from the movement against racism is a "leader like MLK." I disagree with that. One has only to look at the success of the gay marriage lobby or what appears to be the burgeoning movement by young people for sensible gun legislation to see that movements today can be spontaneous, organic and can reach a point of saturation and success without charismatic leaders.

This is the science of Appreciative Inquiry.

I don't understand why we (UUs) aren't using AI (Appreciative Inquiry)in this process.It involves raising up what is best, innovation and creativity which evolve based upon the positive core value. It has its scientific basis in quantum theory. I know it is hard to sustain in organizations, because I have tried it with one church, that reverted back continually to Newtonian thinking*. But at another congregation, which grasped AI, change and innovation were welcomed.

When I think of places where oppression and discrimination have been effectively addressed, I can see that it happened because diligent, positive, dedicated and creative work came to a tipping point. It's how things like recycling, smoke-free buildings, breastfeeding, and so many more major developments and shifts in cultural awareness have come about.

Racism has a grip on our culture, and white privilege is real. It's endemic. We have to relearn everything we thought we knew. We can do it! We've done things as hard as this before. We have poets, teachers, brilliant writers, and so many good people who can unlearn white privilege. It may happen slowly at first, but just like we saw with the Stoneman Douglas rallies, there may come a sudden cataclysmic moment when the last vestiges of it crash to the ground. I believe this can happen. Not by shaming or blaming one another, but by loving and believing in the goodness of each other, the God-ness in one another.

And from the remnants, some thing beautiful and precious may be created.

Newtonian World View
  • Universe as Great Machine
  • Focus on Parts
  • One Right Answer
  • Predictable
  • Linear
  • Duality (This or That)
  • Objective
  • Value Things
  • Competition
  • Doing Creates
  • Single Reality
  • Material Focus
  • Separation
  • Autonomy
  • Make It Happen
  • Resist Change
  • Matter is made up of “Things”
  • Scientific World View
  • Study of Physical Matter
  • Control
  • Particles of Atoms
  • Finite

Quantum World View
  • Universe as Great Thought
  • Focus on Whole
  • Many Paths
  • Random
  • Non-Linear
  • Wholism (This and That)
  • Subjective
  • Value Relationships
  • Cooperation
  • Consciousness Creates
  • Multiple Realities
  • Spiritual Focus
  • Interconnection
  • Synergy
  • Allow It to Happen
  • Embrace Change
  • Matter is “Bundles of Energy in Relationship”
  • Consciousness World View
  • Study of Consciousness
  • Participation
  • Fields of Energy
  • Infinite


Monday, April 09, 2018

Sympathy for the Devil

Am I crazy? I can't believe I'm away from network and cable TV, and I'm going to watch a four-part series on Netflix called Trump: An American Dream. I'll just give it a try, I think, as I download the first part. But I end up watching all four, bizarrely intrigued. I'll be the first to admit that my husband and I are among those who start our day with Morning Joe and end it with Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes, watching what Trump calls "fake news" and what we call a link to sanity.

But unlike lots of my liberal and progressive friends (and even my own husband), I have a hard time hating Donald Trump as a human being, or believing that if we just get rid of him, all will be well. I sometimes feel sorry for Trump, in a weird way. He seems so unbelievably angry and sad, for someone who has everything that anyone could possibly dream of.

The documentary helps explain this. Born into a wealthy family, with demanding parents and all sorts of childhood issues that would predispose anyone to neurosis, Trump also channels what became a fatal addiction issue with his brother into a lust for power, sex, and fame, since, although he doesn't drink and disparages drugs, he has to fill the deep inner emptiness with something.

One line in the documentary rings more true than any other: Donald Trump is deeply insecure. 

With that in mind, it's easy to see through his bluster, his destructive demands and decisions, his tiresome tirades, and the callous way he has dangled our democracy over the cliff for more than a year. He's not just a sociopath; he's actually an over-indulged, petulant, self-aggrandizing infantile being. He is who he is. It is we, the voters who did and didn't vote, the citizens who coasted along while our democracy languished, who allowed him to have control of western civilization.

We don't want to acknowledge this, our laziness, our indifference, how little we've done to maintain our freedom, our environment, how little we've done to reach out to conservatives and Republicans and people who are economically or educationally disparate from us, so we project all of it onto Donald Trump.

In the past few weeks, a story has come to prominence about a family who were killed when their van went off a cliff in Northern California. As the facts rolled out, (and much remains unknown), two things happened. It became clear that the parents, a white married female couple, had been investigated more than once for child abuse and neglect of the six children, all of whom were Black. It also appeared that the crash seems likely to have been deliberate, a murder/suicide, not an accident. An article published by the Washington Post pointed out numerous questions and complexities raised by this set of facts. Article:  Can't ignore race

Just as it is easy for Democrats and liberals to project all of our frustrations with the current situation on to one person, it might be easy for folks to look at this family and blame the mothers, since they were gay, or liberal, or adopted too many kids, or were white women adopting Black kids, or because they home schooled. That is projection, too.

Likewise, it's projection to make heroes out of people who adopt kids, who take on kids with special needs, who adopt cross-racially. Because this happens, people like these women, who clearly were not ready to parent at this level and intensity (if at all) may have masked their problems, taken on more kids, or adopted in the first place, or adopted because of their own needs for affirmation or love, the worst reason of all to adopt. I know something about this, since I took on a special needs child  nine years ago, and I still startle when I tell people and they express sympathy, or express how wonderful they think we are.

But, in this situation, there are some actual fingers to be pointed. Our Family and Child Services systems are broken. This horrendous story is one of probably tens if not hundreds of thousands of examples where the cries of kids and the reports of adults go unmet. I have experience with this too. My eldest stepbrother, who repeatedly raped two of my siblings, has custody of his two young sons, and despite everything I have done to alert and beg the State of NJ to intervene, they have done nothing after the one cursory visit.

As a minister, I look back, and wonder about some of the families I observed at my church. Do we always ask, listen, and pay attention to children? Besides teaching kids to tell someone about abuse, it might be good to teach all adults what to look for and what to do when they see and hear certain signals. They are common: kids who don't go out, too skinny, under-developed, don't do normal "kid" things, seem scared or anxious, act perfect or too good to be true.

Finally, I've seen lots of online conversation about the Hart family, because one of my Facebook contacts knew them, and wrote about her shock, but mentioned her empathy for the mothers. She was skewered. From every possible direction, (white) women let her know in no uncertain terms how full of white supremacy her remarks were, since she was mentioning the women (white, murderers) and hadn't named the children (Black, victims). Their comments to her were vicious. Whenever I see anyone react with such vitriol (including myself), I think "projection". White supremacy and white privilege are deeply embedded in the psyches of white people. We hate them and want to push them away. Hence,  many (usually young) progressives, seeing these anywhere, become valiantly self-righteous in what they see as defense of  all People of Color.

Sometimes, it is good to turn the projector off, to look within, and see what is there that we might improve. I know that is certainly true for me.