Inclusion Vs. Exclusion

You’re welcome.

Such a simple, elegant phrase. Such a kind and decent concept. I don’t know why so many people struggle with it.

There are so many out there who make it a point to say just the opposite. You’re not welcome. You shouldn’t be able to come here. You can’t buy my cake. You should sit at the back of the bus. You shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person that you love. You are not welcome to be a part of our club. You shouldn’t have the right to vote. You can’t rent my apartment. You don’t belong here. America used to be great when we didn’t have to treat you with respect. How dare you speak up? We get to control what you do with your body. You must be walled off. You must be silenced.

We see it everywhere. In the red MAGA hats, in the “lock her up!” chants, in the attacks on innocent people on the streets. We see it in the hatred that oozes from the mouth of the very man who is supposed to lead this country. You’re not welcome. You are an enemy of the people.

Hate makes you look ugly. It reveals the disease in your very soul. It makes us all so much less than what we could be.

When you hate, when you marginalize people, when you try to prevent people from having the same rights that you do, you cause suffering in this world. Why would anyone want to do that? I will never understand it as long as I live.

When you find yourself in a place of inclusion, where people are welcoming and accepting and embracing of your unique qualities, it’s such a freeing experience. I’d rather be wrapped in a rainbow than beaten by a tiki torch any day of the week. That should be obvious. Why isn’t it obvious?

I’m feeling very ineloquent about this whole subject compared to the conversation Ellen Page had with Stephen Colbert recently. Check out the video here. It’s really worth watching.

Thanks, Lee (and Ellen Page) for inspiring this post!

Not Welcome

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Raising Bullies and Bigots

By now, everyone knows about the actions of the ignorant little punks from Covington Catholic High School in Covington, Kentucky. That these privileged little private school boys had the nerve to wear their Make America Great Again hats and get into the face of a Native American elder who was simply trying to diffuse a situation, and who had proudly served this country before their repugnant butts were even born is beyond outrageous.

One of the boys in question is saying that he didn’t do anything but stand his ground and the gentleman approached him first. No, you stood your ground with a MAGA hat on, which is a symbol for hate, and you had a smug smile on your face, and an unblinking stare, a sign of aggression, while your friends continued to taunt and ridicule. There’s a distinction. It wasn’t as though you were putting your arm around the guy and asking for a selfie.

In fairness, the high school does not condone the actions of these kids, and has an apology prominently placed on its website. That’s further proof that the actions were inappropriate. But one wonders what kind of tolerance they teach at a school with this as the mascot:

covington catholic's mascot

Here are some lessons neither they nor these kids’ parents seem to be teaching:

  • Respect your elders. All of them. Even if you don’t agree with them.

  • Walk through the world with dignity, and don’t deprive others of theirs.

  • Be polite. Especially when you are a visitor.

  • Aggression is intolerable.

  • Hate is the most blatant form of ignorance.

  • You have no right to invade someone else’s space.

  • Kindness and decency is the only true currency you have.

  • NO ONE has the right to be a bully.

If I could speak to those boys I would say, “This video will follow you for the rest of your life. Hopefully you’re capable of shame and remorse and this will build your character. If not, you are psychopaths, and you are in serious need of intervention. Seriously. You should be worried. Get help.”

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White Privilege Run Amok

We all know it happens. Special privileges for the already privileged. Little blonde Barbie dolls getting a pass for their outrageous behavior. But it’s particularly sickening when it’s caught on tape.

Most people, if they’re pulled over for blasting through a stop sign at 60 mph, are reeking with alcohol, have weed in their vehicle, and come up as twice the legal limit on a breathalyzer test, would have at least enough sense to know that they’ve been caught dead to rights, and need to shut up and take their medicine.

But not Lauren Elizabeth Cutshaw. No. She’s a little ol’ South Carolina white girl, and therefore thinks that butter won’t melt in her mouth. She wails drunkenly in the back of the police car that she went to a really good school, graduated with honors, was a cheerleader, and had never been arrested before. She also said that she’s a pretty girl, and therefore shouldn’t go to jail.

Apparently, she also told the cop that she’s a “very clean, thoroughbred, white girl.” And that’s where I started to taste vomit in my mouth. Because I suppose I could say the same thing about myself, if it ever occurred to me, and lord knows it hasn’t gotten me very far. (Although, probably a little farther than I deserve, but that’s a topic for another day.)

The difference between me and Miss Lauren is that it would never occur to me to say such a thing about myself or anyone else. That unwavering sense of entitlement was never bred into me. But then, it would never occur to me to join a sorority, cash in on my looks, drive while wasted out of my ever-loving mind, or wail pathetically in the back of a cop car.

According to Linked In, this deluded woman is a Real Estate Advisor for a high-end real estate agency. I think it would be interesting to check back in about a year to see how well she’s doing now that her white privilege card has been revoked. Poor dear. She’ll only have the content of her character to cash in on at that point, and from what little I’ve seen, I’m not particularly impressed with that.

Lauren-Elizabeth-Cutshaw1
In the flesh.

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The Value of Human Life

There is a reason that serial killers often target women, prostitutes, indigenous people, drug addicts, and the elderly. It’s because they can.  Just as predators often go for the weakest, slowest, or least supported or most isolated members of a herd, killers tend to go for what society deems to be the low hanging fruit. After all, who will care?

Well, I care. These people were daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, and friends. They lived and loved and laughed, and yes, screwed up, just as much as any other person has. They have just as much value as any rich, beautiful, blonde girl in this world.

I’m outraged at how often these cases go cold based on the “value” of the person who went missing. I guarantee you that if Ivanka Trump disappeared, the case wouldn’t go cold. Ever. And yet, according to this article, more than 2,000 indigenous women in the US and Canada have vanished without a trace in the past 20 years. Poof. Gone. And most of us have not heard of a single one of them. This is unacceptable.

We seem to devalue human life more and more. Hate is gaining a newfound acceptance in this country. What the hell is wrong with us?

We are all so hellbent on being at the top of the pecking order that anything that makes you stand out is a good way to classify you as a “them” instead of an “us”. Are you different than I am? Then you must be less than I am.

Is your skin color different? Yay for me! That makes you easy to eliminate. What if you don’t speak my language? Another thing that’s hard to hide and easy to discount. Is your gender or sexual orientation “questionable”? Are you deformed in any way? Too old? Do you have breasts? Do you wear a turban or a hijab or any other clothing that makes you stand out?

Then you are out, my friend. Way out. So far out that if you disappear, no one will miss you except the people who love you.

Something has to change, folks.

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Put Up or Shut Up

We are a country divided. We all know that much. Some of us don’t care. Some of us encourage it. Some of us aren’t quite so willing to let go of those who are on “the other side”.

I’d like to think I was in that third group. I really would. But I admit that I struggle. My opinions and beliefs are as strong as the next person’s. I don’t really understand people who don’t think the way I do.

I want to believe that my views could be swayed by hard evidence. But I wonder. Because I don’t think I’ve ever persuaded anyone else by presenting facts.

I don’t usually stop liking or loving people just because we don’t agree. I do my best to judge people on the content of their character. Are they kind? Do they mean well? Are they trying to be their best selves? These things are vitally important.

But every once in a while someone I care about will voice an opinion that horrifies me to the very marrow of my bones. It’s usually related to racism or intolerance or cruelty. And this leaves me in an awkward place.

I hate, hate, hate confrontation. I really do. So in these situations I can either a) ignore the comment and secretly lose respect for that person, b) wash that person right out of my hair, or c) speak up and risk losing that friendship, but maintain my integrity.

Well, I can’t choose option a. I’d develop ulcers. It’s just not in me to pretend something I don’t feel. Option b would certainly be the easiest route. Unfriending a person is so simple now that most of us only interact via social media. God knows people have done it to me. Even relatives. It doesn’t feel right to me. If I ever cared about someone, I kind of feel like I owe them more than just disappearing without explanation, without at least trying to understand why they feel the way they do. So that kind of forces me into option c.

Ugh. I loathe option c. It ties my stomach into knots. It makes me stew over what to say for hours. It makes me feel sick. It’s just so important. It’s a pivotal moment. I don’t want to screw it up. I try to do it in a decent one-on-one kind of way, rather than in a public forum. But it’s still hard.

I’ve had mixed results with option c. Sometimes we agree to disagree. But I feel better, at least, for having spoken up. Sometimes I’ve experienced blowback of epic proportions. That’s never fun. And it tends to result in the severing of the relationship. But as a wise man recently told me, “A true friend should be able to have a respectful conversation.”

As this country becomes ever more divided, those respectful conversations seem to be becoming fewer and farther between. They aren’t easy. But if we ever reach a point when they become impossible, I think we’ll have lost one of our most important qualities. We’ll have taken a really ugly step back from what it means to be human.

Locked Horns

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That Race Thing

Recently I attended an all day seminar at work regarding race and racism. That’s one of the many beautiful things about living on the left coast. I doubt it would even occur to my former employers in Florida to allow us to have such training, let alone make it an annual event.

I learned much that day. For instance, on a scientific level, race doesn’t even exist. If you look at our DNA, only one out of every thousand nucleotides is different, from human to human. In fact, Penguins and fruit flies have more genetic differences within their own species than we humans do. (I didn’t learn this in the training, but I’ve read somewhere that our DNA is has 40 percent in common with that of a banana! Think about that the next time you eat a banana…)

The trainers showed us a fascinating video in which they did an experiment with a high school class. They sequenced a portion of each student’s DNA. Before the results came back, they were asked who they assumed they had the most genetic similarities to. Naturally, the African Americans assumed they would have more in common with each other, and the Whites gravitated toward the Whites, the Asians with the Asians, the Hispanics with the Hispanics, and so on. But here’s the interesting thing. That turned out not to be true at all. The commonalities and disparities were actually amazingly random.

The skin color thing is a function of the sun. Humans in more overcast climes developed lighter skin over time so that they could absorb every ounce of vitamin D that they could. Otherwise they would not have survived to pass on their genes. It’s just a melanin thing, as simple as that.

Race is something constructed by society to further political and economic goals. Thomas Jefferson, the same guy who wrote that all men are created equal, also wrote, in Notes on the State of Virginia, that “Blacks are inferior to whites in the endowments both of body and mind.” That was, in essence, his way of justifying his ownership of 225 slaves. But there is no scientific evidence of these inferiorities whatsoever. The only reason blacks became slaves in our society was that the white indentured servants who used to do our scut work before slavery could too easily run away and blend in with the general population. Whereas if your skin was a different color, you had nowhere to hide. Slavery was a much more sustainable outrage than indentured servitude.

We often talk about America being a melting pot. I was taught to believe that that meant we are diverse, and we’ve all blended together to become Americans. I used to be so proud of that! But actually, the melting pot concept was more about the desire for all Americans to be able to assimilate and be exactly the same. It was all about only allowing white Christians to sit at the table. I’m repulsed by how twisted I got this. I’d much rather that we be a hardy stew.

One last thought for those of you who still think others are inferior because they have not reached your level of success. It’s easy for us W.A.S.P.s to forget that everyone else has to start 30 yards deep in their own end zone. They don’t have the leg-up that we were born with and never earned. This picture is one of the hand outs from the training. Print it out. Mark off all the privileges you have. Then mark off any additional ones you feel you don’t have that people will assume you have. (For example, I’m not a Christian, but people would think that I was.)

Once you’ve marked off all that privilege, think about who has to be oppressed for you to have each one. It’s a sobering realization. Now, tell me again how all men are created equal?

IMG_3057

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“It’s How I Was Raised.”

I was remembering a conversation I once had with a coworker when I worked for the Florida Department of Transportation. We were doing highway inspections out in the middle of nowhere. I mean, there was nothing or no one around for miles except fields of potatoes, and for some reason he chose that moment to say something really racist.

I had to call bullsh**, as I am wont to do in these situations. I don’t know why I bother. It never ends well. But I can’t just sit back and let ignorance like that pass.

“Dude, I can’t believe you just said that. I can’t believe you believe it, let alone say it out loud.”

“I can’t help it. It’s how I was raised. I was taught—”

“Excuse me? You’re a freakin’ ADULT!!!  You don’t have to march in lock step with your parents. You’re not a potato. You don’t have to stay where you’re planted.  You’re not a stupid man. You get to decide what your morals and values are. I’d find it refreshing if you took ownership of your hate, and stopped blaming your parents for it. It would be even more refreshing if you got a clue.”

It was a long, quiet ride back to the office. Did it do any good? Probably not. But some things just have to be said.

potato field

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