Category Archives: web

Marlon James on racism in Minnesota

It’s been a long week. After nearly five days of deliberation the jury acquitted Jeronimo Yanez of the accusation of manslaughter against Philando Castile. I’m still trying to wrap my head about that one.

Marlon James, the Booker Award winning novelist who teaches at Macalester College put it this way:

10 years of living in Minnesota as a “big, black guy” has led me to a gradual though futile “reduction” of myself to get closer. I have a big global voice, but a small local one, because I don’t want to be a target, and resent that in 2017, that’s still the only choice I get to have.

His whole essay is a clear, succinct, grounded and deeply indicting description of Minnesota. I wish I could say he was wrong, but I’m certain he is right.

What a difference a switch can make in a photo

Here’s an essay which explores what O Magazine did recently, when it asked a photographer to take pictures of some common scenes amongst women — but flip the races involved. There are powerful implications to these shifts, which I hope — as a white woman — other white women will see, and which I hope all of us can learn from. Perception is powerful!

For white parents: bringing the resistance home

In the wake of Jordan Edwards’ death, we need to remember each other, and re-member our communities into beloved communities. Here is Gail Kirshenbaum’s plea to white parents:

Imagine if the hundreds of thousands of parents who mobilized around the country to fight high-stakes testing now start mobilizing as anti-racist parents. Anti-racist parenting can be—must be—community parenting. Imagine if white people believed that this fight was not “for” people of color, but for every one of us. If we could finally see how racism has damaged our own minds and hearts and is damaging our children.

That would put both love and justice at the center of the fight.

That’s how we play the long game against Donald Trump.

My President was Black

There will no doubt be many, many books and articles reflecting on the Obama presidency in the years to come. But I think it unlikely that very many will be as eloquent, carefully argued, and thoughtful as this piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates — concluded just days after the 2016 election. Read it. It is a masterful reflection on the tortured history which is race in the US, the specific family circumstances that shaped President Obama, and the perilous times we are living through.

Helping white people engage racism

Here’s an eloquent essay by a pretty famous novelist (Jodi Picoult). She invites white people to see ourselves more clearly as implicated in structures of racial oppression. I think this is more accessible than many such essays, and in this age of Trump we need to do all that we can to invite engagement with these issues.

Here is the grievous mistake I had made for the majority of my life: I assumed that racism is synonymous with bias. Yet you could take every white supremacist and ship him off to Mars and you’d still have racism in the world. That’s because racism is systemic and institutional, but it is both perpetuated and dismantled in individual acts.

Entering the Trump era…

Most of us have been too perilously close to despair these past few days in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump to do much of anything except hold each other close. As a friend wrote in her Facebook post, “Hate has been effectively commodified and strategically weaponized in this election cycle. It will and has become a well resourced permanent fixture in public political discourse. And do not expect the media to engage critically, the benefit of such political theatre is also a part of this monetization.”

So what can we do? In the days to come let us find ways to reach out to each other and keep on, keeping on. Today I was reminded of this necessity by an author, Otto Scharmer, who has the experience of the darkest days of Europe to call upon. He reminds us that:

It was interesting to watch the entire American media establishment try to take down Donald Trump (after creating him)—only to realize that all their attacks only made him stronger. The only effective voice against him was Michelle Obama’s. She was the only one who could take the air out of him. And she did, even to the degree that the Trump camp decided to stop attacking her. What made the First Lady, who has high approval ratings among Democrats as well as Republicans, so much more effective in dealing with the Trump phenomenon?

When you watch her speeches in New Hampshire and Phoenix you see the answer: she responded to him not with hate and fear. Instead, she spoke with empathy, honest reflection, and compassion. She courageously exposed her own vulnerability showing up as a human being. Michelle Obama also does not primarily focus on the “opponent,” but rather on her own experience, her own opening process, and on the positive future that she feels is wanting to emerge. That’s what it takes to be a warrior of the third category, a warrior of the open heart: as you engage the current moment, your eye is on the future that is seeking to emerge—not on the past that you try to fight against.