On White Privilege

Well-known and respected Evangelical pastor Louis Giglio, sitting across from Christian rapper Lecrae and the Chik-Fil-A guy, trying to have an “honest” conversation about race, said that

“…white Americans understood “the curse that was slavery” but that they “miss the blessing of slavery—that it actually built up the framework for the world that white people live in and lived in.” He added that “a fuse goes off” for a lot of white people when they hear the term “white privilege,” so he suggested a change of language. “I think maybe a great thing for me is to call it ‘white blessing,’ that I’m living in the blessing of the curse that happened generationally, that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta”…

He has since apologized for his “poor choice of words”. This dodges the issue inherent in what he said, which is this: the belief that while we would never tolerate slavery today, it served its purpose at the time in building the foundation of this nation. Further, that people of color must be patient with the white folks who just haven’t turned the corner on issues of race because we are still trying to reconcile the blessing with the curse.

This is a dangerous lie.

I was in my second year of teaching American Lit to high school juniors the first time one of my Black students said “There is something not right about white people.” I had introduced a piece from The People’s History of the United States in class in an effort to combat what I knew to be a white male version of American History. I don’t remember which piece. I don’t remember what we were talking about, or what prompted him to make the comment. I can see his face as he said it though, and he was angry.

I fought him on his idea. I don’t remember my exact words either, but I do know I wanted to impress upon him the idea that we can’t paint a whole race of people with the same brush.

I know, I know, I know.

Now, I know.

But then, it took me a few more times of hearing different Black students say the same thing before I stopped wanting to protest and started trying to understand.

Finally, in the ninth year of my career, I was sitting in a classroom with my good friend Paula, waiting for her to finish a conference with two students so we could go home. Sometimes for teachers, these are the most unguarded moments with students, and can produce the most amazing conversations.

Again, I don’t remember exactly how we got here, but we’d recently had a riot on school grounds that sparked between the Black and Hispanic students and ended  with 40 sheriffs on campus and multiple arrests. At some point in the conversation, one of the boys said “I can say this to you because you all aren’t white, but white people are not right in the head”.

“I’m not…white?” I asked.

“No. You know what I mean. You aren’t white-white, like Lakewood white.”

Lakewood is city within a city, part of Long Beach, where I grew up. And yes, Lakewood has a well-documented and on-going problem with white supremacists.

But it was more than that, for this kid. So I asked him “What do you mean, not right in the head?”

And he told me his mom had said that any people who would enslave another people and then not even try to understand the damage that caused? There was something wrong with them. Wrong mentally. Wrong emotionally. Wrong morally.

He was not the last Black kid to tell me this and I always remember it when I hear things like “I think maybe a great thing for me is to call it ‘white blessing,’ that I’m living in the blessing of the curse that happened generationally, that allowed me to grow up in Atlanta”.

Or the lady on a Facebook post the other day who said “How can we, as whites, learn, if we are only being shown hatred( or whatever the opposite of kindness is) In my opinion, even in anger and frustration, you will open more eyes by using that anger in love, or at least an eagerness to awaken.”

It is critical to the narrative of white American history that this nation was carved from the wilderness by white men who pulled themselves up by the bootstraps to found and defend the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The idea of white privilege threatens this narrative. It says our forefathers had an advantage, from the beginning. Sometimes that was money or manpower or deadlier weapons. But always there was an attitude of entitlement, a desire for domination.

When a white person says “I think maybe a great thing for me is to call it ‘white blessing’”, he is communicating an unwillingness to surrender a cultural mythology that places him front and center. When a white person says “How can we as whites learn when we are only being shown hatred”, she is asking to be treated with a patience and care not extended to people of color.

Now see all that as a person of color, with slavery or American Indian blood running through your veins.

Look from the Thanksgiving pageants about how a shipload of entitled white people came to Massachusetts and set about stealing the land and resources from those who already lived there, to the children of immigrants locked in cages at the Texas border.

Look from the July 4th celebrations over a document that says “All men are created equal” to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 188 years.

Look at Andrew Jackson’s face on the $20 bill and hear again the story of your ancestors being marched from Georgia to Oklahoma to make room for slave plantations. Then see those white faces screaming at Hispanics to “Go back where you came from!”

Then a white man of God calls all this  a “blessing”? And a white woman asks for patience and love while she “learns”?

No wonder kids of color believe there is something not right about white folks.

This is what we have to do: Listen responsibly, which means not only when it feels palatable. Seek out the uncomfortable and convicting. Make yourself sit in the pain and anger of another. Examine the ways in which you have benefitted from that pain. Reject the mythology of the founding of this nation and demand that your children be taught the truth. I don’t know what else, but others do. Find them. Hear them.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou

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On the road to emmaus

Remember Easter Sunday morning, when Mary Magdalene met Jesus at the tomb and didn’t recognize him?
Today’s gospel also happens on Easter Sunday, just later in the day. Many scholars agree that the travelers were Cleopas (named in the Gospel) and his wife, Mary, who was noted to be at the foot of the Cross with the other Marys in John 19.
Perhaps they were traveling home, steeped in pain. Jesus has been killed and now his body is gone. They’re scared, exhausted, angry, and sorrowful. Cleopas says that Jesus’ death has robbed them of hope: We were hoping he was the one and now he is dead.
A traveler joins them–it’s Jesus, but the gospel says “their eyes were prevented from seeing him”
That got me researching. Was this lack of sight divine intervention or the limitations of grieving human minds? And if it was divine intervention–both Mary Mag and the disciples on the road to Emmaus were purposefully prevented from recognizing Jesus at first–what purpose does it serve?
Turns out, most folks who know think their eyes were purposefully veiled. St Augustine acknowledges that grief may have played a role, but that ultimately it doesn’t matter why they didn’t see him. 
The lesson is in the NOT seeing.
Mary Mag doesn’t “see” him until he calls her name. Cleopas and Mary don’t “see” him until he breaks the bread.  But he was there all the same. 
That is the gift of this Gospel, and what a gift it is–Jesus himself teaching the lesson that He is always here.  He calls us by name to know him. He is present in the breaking of the bread and therefore present in us. He is the kindness of a stranger and the safety of a meal with those we love. 
Grief, fear, anger, pain–these can all veil our eyes and make us feel abandoned and alone. Today’s Gospel teaches us to trust in the Resurrection and the promises of Christ.

A Few Words About Voting, To My Christian Friends

Most of us are regular folk, just trying to carve out a connected, contented existence in this life. Our voting values reflect this desire. I am prolife, as my church dictates, from natural conception to natural death. This means that I am anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-euthanasia, anti-death penalty. It also means I support extensive and immediate environmental reforms, affordable healthcare, government assistance, open and just immigration laws, social security, medicare, public education, civil rights, equal rights and paying my fair share of taxes to help this nation function.

I bet most of you are a lot like me, with a wobble to the right or left on certain issues. Which means you’re in the same pickle as I am—it’s damn hard to vote.  The candidate who reflects my values does not exist.

How do we vote? Historically, my church has encouraged me to value the sanctity of the unborn as primary to all other life issues. But the anti-abortion candidate is not always pro-life, sometimes glaringly.  Also, abortion rates are down and the threat to the environment is universal.

This is where Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego entered the conversation in a speech he gave in January.

You can read the whole thing—but here’s how he breaks it down:

Life issues ARE primary. And after years of doing not enough, the threat to our environment (and therefore our very existence) is equal to or more threatening than the evil of abortion. They must be considered equally.

But since the candidate who will legislate as both anti-abortion and pro-environmental reform does not exist, we have to add the other life issues to the scoreboard: abolition of the death penalty and euthanasia, open and just immigration and refugee reform, protection of worker’s, civil and religious rights, assistance for the poor and hungry, promotion of marriage and family, nuclear disarmament and the protection of religious liberty.

Even this is not enough. We do not vote issues or parties into office, but people. We cannot afford to ignore the person for whom we cast the vote, no matter how aligned we are with their politics. And this consideration is three-fold.

First, we must admit that our national discourse is dysfunctional, and as a result our government has done very little good in the name of all Americans. Our nation family requires healing, which in turn requires compromise. To true patriots, who believe in the rights of all Americans and not just their own interests, it then becomes essential to select a bridgebuilder, someone who can reach across the divide and craft collaboration.

Second, they must have the same principles we try to instill in our children: truth, integrity, honor, discernment and reflection. These principles are demonstrable, and should therefore be evident.  

Third, they must be competent: Mentally, emotionally, spiritually and in statecraft. They all have resumes. It is our responsibility as moral voters to research our choices.  

This can work. Even though it may mean voting for someone with whom I do not completely align—by using these guidelines, I can make a better, more faithful decision.

Lastly, we have to refuse to participate in the spectacle. When John McCain and Mitt Romney were running for President, they were running against my candidate and, caught up the rhetoric and vitriol that is our national election, I saw them as other and enemy. Although I know that my votes for Barack Obama were faithfully sound, in hindsight I see that either of these men would have also made fine leaders, by Bishop McElroy’s standards and my own. Our presidents and presidential candidates have not always been persons of integrity, but we know what men and women of integrity look like. They build bridges, unite others, seek compromise, speak truth, reflect, apologize and are humble enough to admit they do not have all the answers.

This soundness of soul and spirit is what we should seek in a leader, and what we deserve from someone who earns our vote.

Why the high five tunnel needs to go

I knew we were in trouble when she spent three minutes telling me how she just wanted her team to have fun.

I remembered her from last year–she just wanted the kids to have fun then too, which meant playing her two best players the whole game and objecting when we stopped her team’s breakaway because it was happening on the field next to ours. “It’s just for FUN!” she yelled.

On Saturday she said “Gosh, they’re only seven.”

When I was seven, I won my first President’s Cup. When Gabe was seven, he lost his (it was five years ago and the details are hazy, but it was something like: the ref, who had a grandson on the other team, allowed an extra minute of play in which the other team scored the tying goal and then he awarded a pk in OT on an incidental handball).

One of my players has scored 15 goals in two games—four of them left footed and one that she pegged out of the air as it flew across the front of the goal. I don’t have to ask her to back off in the second half—she hangs back on defense all on her own. She’s seven.

One of my players hates it when the other team scores so much that she chased down a breakaway last week, waited til the other player slowed down to shoot and ran her off the ball. Then she cleared the ball to the sideline, not the goal line, because throw-ins are better than corners. She’s seven.

A girl on the other team saved a breakaway by grabbing my player by her jersey, allowing her teammate to steal the ball. Her coach told her never to do that again. I told her next time don’t get caught. She smiled at me because she knew I knew.  She’s seven.

My own daughter buried her head in my hip and burst into tears at halftime—because she’d only scored one goal. She’s seven.

So they’re not only seven. They’re already seven. And a meat-eater is a meat-eater they day she is born.

After the game, we shook hands and my girls went for their snacks. “Hey,” Just-For-Fun called “Don’t you do the high five tunnel?” This is where the parents make a tunnel and the kids run through it all together after the game. Fun and necessary for four and five year olds.  Last Spring, my team decided it was dumb. At the end of the game, they want one thing: snack.

“We don’t” I told her.

“Really? Why not?” she asked incredulously.

I shrugged. “They don’t like it. They’re seven.”

“Right, ” an outraged voice belonging to the dad coaching on the field next to us piped in.  “They’re only seven.”

“Yeah, you know they do the high five tunnel with the 5th graders, right?” Just-For-Fun said.

“Right,” random coach dad said, shaking his head at me. “Wow. Whatever.”

I didn’t say any of the words in my head.  

But I did watch her team run the high five tunnel, game completely forgotten.

Then I watched one of my girls Facetime her mom at work to tell her she’d scored twice. I watched another get an up in the air hug from her dad for a pull back move she used to change direction and break away.  I watched Annie kick dirt over to Shea with a puss on her face because she didn’t play the way she wanted to play. I didn’t have to hear it to know that the man I married honored her frustration by saying “Ok. What are you going to do better next time?”

And I thought What a load of BS.

This sports parenting culture that asks the meat-eaters to make themselves smaller so no one else feels badly is ridiculous.  So is flatline parenting—we can’t eliminate the highs and lows. We have to teach kids to negotiate them. And don’t even get me started on random guy popping off from the other sideline. This isn’t Facebook, friend. You don’t get to comment.

Beware the parents who are so intent on manufacturing every emotion their child feels that they will even try to control other people’s kids. Which is what Just-For-Fun coach really wanted—for my team to act like winning wasn’t important so that her team would feel better about losing.

I’m not doing that. We won 11-4. I played all eight players the same amount of time. Four of them scored. We don’t need the high five tunnel–we had lots of fun all on our own.

A $10,000 Kitchen Make-Over

Sometimes you want a $50,000 kitchen. And sometimes your husband says “We have $10,000.”

The kitchen in our 1968 ranch house was marketed as “newly remodeled”.  My husband thought it was nice.

 I thought there was a giant kitchen trying to break free, so I called my good friend Bethany from Reclaimed Cottage and asked her to bring her husband David and her color wheel and come on over.

I love Bethany because she doesn’t make crazy eyes when I say things like “Let’s cut the peninsula and make it an island” Or “Let’s flatten the ceiling and panel it”.

David, though. David had a prescient warning: “You never know what you’re going to find behind the walls. And once you find it, you have to fix it”.

We discovered that the “kitchen remodel” mentioned in the listing was DIY with box store pre-fab cabinets. They must have been on sale because two sections were of the under-the-sink variety, with faux drawers. Ditto in the bathroom, btw. The quartz countertops were also self-installed, as was the laminate counter on the back wall.

Glass half full–once the quartz on the peninsula was cut, the cabinets underneath separated easily into their prefab sections and were very easy to turn.

Opening the walls and doorways was a bigger issue. The electrical was a maze.  In order to fit the refrigerator we had to knock out a half wall and relocate the main light switches. In the process, we somehow cut a line to the back of the house. There were so many wires in the attic, it took a two week process of elimination to find and then rewire the circuits.

The peninsula did not just magically turn into an island. It was too long for code on both ends and had to be shortened. Then it just looked like a bunch of cut cabinets. Bethany designed a “look” for the island, which included beadboard, trim and a cute little bookshelf at one end, and David made it so.

We opened both the doorways and took them up to the ceiling. David removed the soffet where the peninsula used to be and we paneled the ceiling with tongue and groove pine, purchased at Home Depot and stained just a hinch to call in the mantel in the family room.

In the middle of this madness, I found a wall clock.  It’s my most favorite color palette and it informed the colors choices for the entire house.

White walls, light blue cabinets and a cherry red island in the kitchen. Soft blue throughout the core of the home. Refuge blue—the same color from our last house—in the dining room. The family room walls lean about three shades away from white towards gray and while we need a new couch and curtains in there, I am waiting to find the right ones.

I did the dishes one night in the middle of all this and realized we were missing cabinets to the left of the sink. Didn’t have the budget for one more cabinet. So I went to Home Depot, bought a stair tread, cut it in half, stained and hung it with brackets I got from an Etsy shop. Total cost: $23.

Viola-ish.

The laminate counter is still there. The quartz counters too, rough cut edges and all. The ten year old appliances. It’s all there, and will be until we can save up to replace them.

Also, the bathrooms. They are an homage to 80s wallpaper:

They have to wait. My husband said “We have $10,000”. It is what it is.

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