All posts by RJB

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.

Solidarity with Standing Rock

As people across the land struggle to find ways to be in solidarity with the resistance being offered to the pipeline, the Standing Rock community has put together some basic information sheets to help. Please read these before undertaking any kind of solidarity with the community there. Listen and learn! There is information to consider before you go, information about how to join in camp culture, information about Lakota values, and information about what to do when you return home. We are very grateful that these thoughtful materials are being shared, and urge people to pass them along.

Opening to love beyond measure

Liz Loeb is a local justice activist in the Twin Cities. She spoke recently at a local synagogue, and shared this beautiful witness. Read the whole thing! But here is just a brief excerpt:

I am also here to tell you that when you give up the lies of white supremacy, when you turn yourself against the resistance that is inside you, you open towards the interconnected liberation to which our humanity owes itself. I truly believe that when we find the place of our own-most stake in black lives mattering, we open towards an experience of love. The love and community and care and possibility I have experienced as part of a resistance movement towards justice is like nothing I can describe. It means knowing that there are people to catch you when you fall, and it means knowing that there are people there to love you when we win. It is something different than the intimacy of family or the individual history of friends. It is the connectedness that binds us to one another, and it is sweet beyond measure. Wherever you are in this journey, I hope you will find a way to give it a try. Let go just a little but. Worry just a little less. Trust the amazing black leaders who are shaping this movement more. And I promise, if we can do this, if we can keep trying together, we will find ourselves somewhere new.