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Tomorrow, 5 years of seminary and many more years of discernment will come to fruition for me as I find out where I will begin my journey as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  For all of us who have been in search this winter, this has been a time fraught with anxiety and punctuated by incredible affirmation of our abilities as well as painful reminders that we cannot be everything to everyone.  I am grateful to everyone who has been with me on this journey and particularly to the incredible congregations who were generous enough to explore the potential for building ministry together.  I am overwhelmed with their love.

And in the midst of this, Unitarian Universalism is in pain (Critics decry ‘white supremacy’/UU World – March 27, 2017).  Once again, we are being asked to look deeply at the self perpetuating patterns of white supremacy that continue to dog our efforts to be “multi-cultural”.  Even as I launch my nascent ministry, I cannot be silent on this issue; particularly as a black gay man.  We have stepped into a new time of consciousness in the United States and I believe the world, where we are being asked to show what we are truly made of.  I am proud to soon count myslef among dynamic and diverse Unitarian Universalist religious leaders and I believe in Unitarian Universalism, but not with an eye that only looks back.  Fixation with the past is the same crime of our government that speaks of “founding fathers” and “original framers” to fix the ongoing terrorism of black and brown bodies and the epidemic of violence against women and the catastrophic marginalization of human sexuality, differing abilities and mental perceptions.  I must see Unitarian Universalism looking forward.  We cannot be sentimentally bound to the tools and structures that have reinforced patriarchy and subtle (and not so subtle) racism.  We must listen, we must learn, we must be humble, we must do better. We can be more.

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“Inherent worth and dignity” is not enough,
when “worth” is code for “white”
and dignity is spelled “m-a-l-e.”
This slippery intention
to name us all the same,
too often strides
into assumptions about perspective,
privilege, agency and pride.

“Inherent worth and dignity”
refuses religiosity, and will not bow in unison
or hold a single vision of the divine.
Yet while it mutters a refrain that tries to contain
the vast complexities of every human being
it seems to sound just like the same Western God.

Because “Inherent worth and dignity”
is the language of the colony
that doesn’t know the pain of slavery in its genes,
that ignores its culpability for Holocaust,
that continues to bastardize native people in ritual and song,
that strains against translation,
and always leaves women one step behind.

“Inherent worth and dignity”
Is carved from the dissonant language of white supremacy.
It resonates with paternal principles grown from privilege,
and rises as an onanistic declaration,
excited most by promises of self-righteous satisfaction.

Inherent for you
But abhorrent to her;
Worthy to me
But valueless to them;
Dignity to him
That erases xyr …

“Inherent worth and dignity” is not enough
In a language where the word nigger still sours every tongue.

We must have more.
We must have freedom
Unchained.
We must be seen
Unfiltered.
We must be heard
Un-silenced in a full-throated and triumphant cry.
We must have more than the language of the oppressor
for this dream of freedom to grow living wings
and finally take to the sky.

#unraced, #eraced

A Poem in (the) Twitter Verse*

Racism is not just about white people and non-white people hating. It is about who has “race”.

In the United States, there are “un-raced” bodies and “e-raced” bodies.

E-raced means there’s a social algorithm that makes your color, culture, religion and customs an opaque burden.

Un-raced means your color, culture, religion and customs are invisible and weightless.

If you are un-raced, sometimes you turn around to see racism in the distance, and you hate it.

If you are e-raced, you are the physical location of racism. You see it in the mirror, and you hate it.

If you are un-raced, you hear about shootings and poverty and say “what a shame.”

If you are e-raced, you wonder if you are next, or if someone in your family just died.

Most white people in the United States are un-raced.

Most everyone who is not white in the US is e-raced.

The Bundy family and their accomplices are free because they are un-raced.

The Alt-Right wants to protect the exclusive white privilege of being un-raced.

White liberals who write songs to speak for brown mouths are un-raced.

The Movement for Black Lives is a demand for an end to being e-raced.

Black youths being killed by police or each other are being e-raced.

Black conservatives being thrown out of Republican rallies as thugs are also being e-raced.

Muslim women having their scarves ripped off their heads are being e-raced.

Latino/a/xs being told to speak English are being e-rased.

The tribes protesting at Standing Rock are being e-raced…again.

I have never experienced the United States in an un-raced body.

Every day I wake up to news that reminds me how often and how easily my body is e-raced.

America, seen from inside an e-raced body is a nightmare.

No government or President alone can solve the tragedy of the un-raced vs. the e-raced.

Regardless of how you are “raced”, don’t vote for an ideology…vote to be seen.

The goal is not to be un-raced or e-raced.

The Goal is learning to share what it means to be human-raced.

-ALD

 

*This “poem” originally appeared line-by-line on Twitter

Stop Resisting*

Warning: The following blog contains video content that is extremely disturbing and is posted for educational purposes only. Please watch at your own discretion.

PBS – Need to Know: Crossing the Line at the Border

I’m posting the link to the PBS documentary on the murder of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas at the San Diego border because there are two words that haunted me when I read about the recent altercation between police and a black family at a Fairfield, Ohio pool. The words are “Stop Resisting.” It would seem that these are the magic words that police and law enforcement officers utter to magically transform and safeguard their actions into an act of subduing a “violent criminal”…in the case of today’s situation, a 12 year old girl (read about it HERE.) With Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, the officers claimed that he became violent and needed to be subdued as they were transporting him back to Mexico…even though, as the video above shows, his feet were bound and ultimately his trousers were nearly torn off.  We hear the officers shouting “stop resisting” while he is repeatedly tazed and crying for his mother. In the end, he can be seen lying unresponsive on the ground (this happened in plain view of many people crossing the border and was captured on a camera phone.) We hear echoes of this command to “stop resisting” when we look at the Eric Garner video and see an unarmed man being choked to death. We hear it when the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice case (also a 12 year old) claims that the “he had no other choice.”

IMG_0249These cases all began with assumptions. Assumptions and specific choices by the victims: that they could get away with breaking a minor law (Eric Garner); or escape a traffic violation or child support (Walter Scott); or in the case of Tamir Rice that he could play with a toy gun, or in the case of this week’s 12 year old, that she could go to a pool and swim with someone who had no suit. But it is the assumptions of those doing the policing that are repeatedly turning these stories into funerals. The assumption that a teenager wearing a hoodie is going to rob somebody and doesn’t belong in the neighborhood (Trayvon Martin); the assumption that a large framed teenager walking in the street is an unwelcome and lethal threat (Michael Brown); the assumption that a bikini clad 15 year old is going to cause physical trouble (McKinney, TX); the assumption that a 12 year old girl at a pool is a threat to a fully grown, armed and body armor clad man (Fairfield, OH); and of course the assumption presented in the PBS video above, that a hog tied immigration detainee with a broken ankle is a potentially lethal menace to at least 10 border patrol agents (Hernandez-Rojas.)

“The more that black and brown people, immigrants and the disadvantaged are assumed to be violent threats, and the more they are targeted by what feels like a “renaissance in racism,” the more they are going to feel the need to violently fight back.”

If all of this sounds ridiculous it is because, tragically, it is. There is no logic or justification for the psychology that is being exhibited as a standard in the way policing works in the United States. The only thing that is extremely clear is that the behavior being trained into the way people are policed in our country (regardless of the race of the officers…see Freddie Gray) is that if an alleged perpetrator has black or brown skin, regardless of their gender identity or if they have an accent, they are assumed to be older, more devious, more violent and more of a lethal threat to public order than they most likely are.

Our culture is playing with fire. The more that black and brown people, immigrants and the disadvantaged are assumed to be violent threats, and the more they are targeted by what feels like a “renaissance in racism,” the more they are going to feel the need to violently fight back.  All of this has the potential to spiral even more out of control than it already has.  As a civil society, we must look at the social construct we call race and actually deal with it. The truth is that we are no where yet near living in a world where it is either useful or welcome for a biologically, genetically and ethnically white woman to choose to be “black” so that she can co-opt her place in “fighting the good fight” ; particularly, when black and brown people who can’t choose to be anything else are being shot, beat up, targeted and abused, not only by deranged white supremacists, but even by the very people who are supposed to be protecting us all. The social construct of race was not created to keep white people in…it was created to keep everyone else out (see: #europeanimperialism & #onedroprule.) Until we deal with that  inequity, there will be no real just and fair inclusion…or policing for any of us.  And until we deal with it, people of color most certainly will not “stop resisting.”

*Please note: this post was written before news of the murders at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina had broken. Out of respect for the grieving families, I will not post commentary until an investigation has begun and the community directly impacted has decided on how they need to be supported. Please hold them in your hearts.

Not a Toy

The Real Tina Turner – Not a costume!

This morning I read an US Weekly piece about the music artist Ellie Goulding from “Burn” being attacked on Instagram for wearing an imitation Native American headdress for Halloween. The singer claims that she hadn’t worn the costume yet when the photos were posted. Of course this isn’t the first time Native American “inspired” outfits got someone into trouble; remember a couple of years ago when Karlie Kloss walked the catwalk for Victoria’s Secret in a full length headdress? (read about it here. Yeah, they were serving “rain dance refresher” cocktails at the “pow wow” themed afterparty.) Halloween seems to be the time when people of color suddenly go from being actual living breathing beings to someone’s first place in a costume contest.

News Flash: People of Color Are NOT Playthings

That’s right folks, gone are the days when one could dress up as an “Injun” or “Mariachi Band”or a “pickaninny.” You might think its “all just in fun” or that “everyone does it” but people of color en masse are saying enough, and frankly, we don’t do it, or if we do, its certainly to make a point. This is the danger of the commercialism of a holiday like Halloween. For years, it has taken advantage of the de-humanization of people of color so that along side the other animal costumes (gorilla, wolf, etc.) you had Aunt Jemima and Charlie Chan. Maybe these kind of outrageous stereotypes are gone, but the impulse of mocking appropriation that put them out there is not. There is still a lot of work to do in letting people know that the era where people of color are voiceless, nameless myths that are great fodder for a joke is OVER.

People of color are redefining what “harmless play” is and that’s a good thing. Some older generations squawk at a lost innocence. I would argue that it is more of a lost ignorance. Suddenly (for some) everyone actually matters. I remember years ago being told that I couldn’t play Elvis Presley in a review show. My argument was that if they were going to have a white woman playing Tina Turner in the same show, than surely I could also play Elvis. Alas I did not win that battle because of course Elvis Presley (who was dead by that point) actually matters and Tina Turner (who is still very much alive…thank you very much) does not.

What is happening is that the core sense of what it means to have an identity of any kind is changing. Not only in terms of intersectionality, but even in terms of the big ticket single identifiers (Black, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Jewish…etc.) But in this identity revolution it seems sometimes as if people who identify as white are being left behind. It is as if privilege has been a drug that has numbed the sense of self identity among many whites, particularly older generations. It is extremely easy for someone like me, African American, gay…to look at the actions of Ellie Goulding and say “oh HELL no!” And I would tend to believe that goes for pretty much most people of color. Our senses are open and raw to this kind of hurt.  But I know for a fact (having had the conversation about the fashion show) that any number of white people I know, wouldn’t see the harm…wouldn’t get it. This is the morphine drip of privilege at work. How can you feel a sensibility that is blocked? There are those (mostly millennials) who are coming off of the anesthetic. They immediately get what it means when you ape someone else’s culture. But Ellie Goulding is 27 years old. Granted, she’s British; she has no personal cultural context for a relationship with Native Americans. But in this age of global internet, it is difficult to make any excuse for an international public figure being this unaware.

I’ve been told by some people reacting to the people of color revolution that it seems like an awful lot of work. This is, I believe, the reason that we even use the term “people of color”; it is shorthand for the dominant culture…much more digestible. I’ve always thought, however, considering world demographics that this terminology should be the other way around and that we should be referring to the global minority as “people of non-color.” I guess, in certain minds, recognizing each and every person for who they are and how they identify and trying to be authentic with them just isn’t as sexy as being able to make the odd Chinese or Indian joke. My response is this: think about how much work it has been to live invisible, mocked at, objectified, fetishized, stereotyped and generally put down for 400+ years?

The rest of the world is a little tired and ready to move on.

Oh, and speaking of sexy…don’t get me started on the whole “Sexy(…)” costume trend and the horrific stuff that says about what we think of women. UGH! But that’s another blog.