Oregon’s White Struggle

  
Unfolding yet again in Oregon is an epic struggle of White Americans fighting for their soul.  Unsurprisingly the media shares little of the white supremacist and xenophobic ideologies at the root of the prime activists in the Harney County occupation.  The mostly armed White men have a track record of violent rhetoric and extremist views that go beyond simple anti-government goals.  

Nativism, exploitation of the land, and the meaning of Whiteness are at play.  Oregon has long faced this struggle as militia and hate groups have dominated and flourished in Oregon politics and shaping the general social order.  While many Whites may dismiss their fellow White militants, no Person of Color is.  We know too well and too often how fear mongering by a few translates into paralysis to address racial inequities and a culture of white fragility particularly among Oregon’s liberal white elite.  

The contradictions abound, sharpened by the acquittal of officer Tim Loehmann in the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice, and the general law enforcement response to community protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and yes…Portland.  

 

Imperialism By Many Names

Growing up solidly middle class in an American mid size town, imperialism was not something that was very evident.  As a mixed race person of color, racism and classism seemed more salient.  

Naturally these systems are all nicely interlocking, and sometimes in a way that makes getting to the route quite confusing.  Academically like many intellectual leftists I gained a good dose of theory from university, teach-ins and considerable reading.  I greatly appreciated the privileges of the 1990s when so much new literature became accessible from smaller printing houses and eventually the Internet.  Getting to read first hand accounts of people around the world created a global context brought which I could more easily identify patterns of imperialism.  

I am still only on the verge of identifying as an anti imperialist, still needing to do more intentional personal work to consider my values and political orientation.  While my work has many marking of countering capitalism, I still struggle with bourgeois attitudes and behaviors.  I am greatly impressed with so many peers, youth and elders who live with such intentionality.  

I’m trying to discern more clearly what economic system at the root is effective enough to realize a more just and equitable world.  Pragmatically it requires persistent redistribution of resources and capable leadership to help us aspire to a better future and to fight corruption.  

The Evils of Weaponizing Campus Security Forces

The forces of fear and ignorance are alive in Portland.  The Portland State University Board has authorized arming security forces with weapons that can kill.  Check out Rebel Metropolis.  As our children of color face persistently experience threats of violence and disproportionately pay the ultimate price of #whitesupremacy, the choice to put more guns into our education learning environment demonstrates the corruption of leadership.

We are blessed by the #BlackLivesMatters movement and efforts of Don’t Shoot Portland and communities of color working for a world where all people have the rights, recognition and resources to thrive.  It is notable that the activists are directing the growing energy towards concrete systemic change and we should be thrilled to see young people of color and allies organizing direct action at PSU, the Capitol, and other places of power and influence.  Not for a minute can we buy into the mythology that the status quo will serve all of our communities fairly.  It is a ruse to believe such nonsense, but one that will have ample resources and influence behind it.

Our leadership must be in the spotlight and we must organize for the long-term if we expect any significant change.  There are many roles to play, and no individual can know or play them all.  As we muster ourselves to the goal, let us not only call out the evil, but to expect that those who we are in relationship with are doing the same.  And then to ask “why” when there is silence.  We can all benefit when we take time to reflect, not just be the first to share something on social media, or to tweet or like, but to more deeply contemplate from the inside out the meaning of what is happening around us.  Share that seed with the world, and let it flourish.

On a related note, from what I consider my liberationist, progressive, justice-centered viewpoint, and to quote a colleague, “we cannot just be the left, we must build the left”.  We cannot just be individuals in the fight, we must continually build working relationships, trust, respect.  At the center of this is the value of accountability, to the values we share, and to one another.  We have work to do to address our own internal strife, where we sharp elbow and blindside one another, seeking to be hard, righteous, and to lift ourselves up at the expense of others.  We have difficultly giving feedback, engaging in process, bringing others up with us, building structures, asking and receiving support, and continually clarifying and renewing the values that bind us.

Writing Coming Out Of #Ferguson #EricGarner

In America’s largest city, the judicial branch declined to pursue charges against a security officer who was videotaped in broad daylight choking a man to death. This came less than two weeks after courts in the nation’s often overlooked central region reached a similar decision in the shooting of an unarmed teenager. Both victims were members of the country’s largest minority group, and the killings have set off nationwide protests that have often escalated into clashes between dissidents and the security forces.

You’ve got to love being overseas, and reading about what is happening in America.  You really get a whole new perspective.  This quote comes actually from an American writer Joshua Keating at Slate who writes columns about US events using the same tone & tropes US media does about foreign events.

There has been a lot of really good writing, reporting, reflecting and analyzing coming out of the violent events of #Ferguson and #EricGarner and more.  I’ve had time to read more than I normally do on my mini-sabbatical here in the Philippines.  I still find it difficult to react as quickly as I’d like to, but I’m sending out a deep appreciation to the people who have taken time to do so.  I am particularly drawn to the landscape analysis given my long-term interests in social change, but also have found several very influential portrait posts.  Without must annotation, here are some very good posts worth reading or reading again:

White America’s Scary Delusion: Why Violence Is At The Core Of Whiteness by Dr. Brittany Cooper

Ferguson Solidarity Protests by Deepa Iyer (keynote at APANO Convention 2014)

#CrimingWhileWhite Confessions by Noam Cohen and a response #AliveWhileBlack by Zachary Goldfarb

I find it valuable to have a trove of White folks naming the privilege they’ve received in #CrimingWhileWhite, as a window into Whiteness.  I think this increases the likelihood of reaching other White folks, and comes out of the context of our current US racial context.  This aspect of the twitterverse provides a level of reality check for White America.  I see #AliveWhileBlack less as a “response”, because I don’t think we’re debating right/wrong here, but more as an important continuation of our dialogue on race.

Encounter at Protest Leads To Hug by Gosia Wozniacki

Gosia, who is a friend,  shares this followup personal reflection, particularly in light of the critiques of the photo:

After the photo of a 12-year-old African American boy hugging a white police officer in Portland went viral, it generated a lot of interesting responses on all sides. I’d like to add my thoughts to the discussion, because I’m a photographer and lover of photography. Please note these are my personal views, not those of the AP. I fought hard for the AP to print this photo, secured the rights from the freelancer to publish it, and got in touch with both the officer and the mom of the boy to write the back story of the photo. Many people reacted very positively to the image – they said it was a sign of hope, of much needed healing, and it left them weeping. But some have also criticized the photograph, saying it has shifted the attention away from the problems of racism and police brutality facing our nation. Critics also have said white people grabbed onto the image as an easy excuse that all is well after all. And they’ve accused the photographer of cropping the photo to distort reality and the officer and the boy’s mom of staging the photograph and using it as PR tool for the police. First, let me say that I’m glad this image is generating big emotions and discussion from all sides about race relations and about the meaning of photography. Did this photograph tell the truth, or not? Every photograph in existence is “cropped”. Photographers frame photos in the field by choosing a certain piece of reality and excluding everything around it. They also crop shots using editing software. These are the basic ways photography works. Every piece of photo out there is subjective and selective, because the moment and the frame are chosen by the photographer. Every photo is just a small piece of a much bigger reality and we all know and expect that. But good photographs also have the power to stop time and focus on tiny moments that we might have missed. The placement of photos in newspapers and online is important, and editors need to weigh the importance of what is newsworthy and why – but clearly, this wasn’t the only Ferguson-related photograph published last week. Also, there are circumstances I can imagine where the framing can be deceiving, when key pieces of information are missing. I don’t personally think this is the case here. One of the criticisms is that a lot of people were shooting photos of “the hug”, making the police and the boy’s reactions inauthentic. If you’ve attended any recent street protests, you know that every other activist is holding a cell phone or digital camera and taking photos or video or everything and everybody. Photography and shooting video have become ubiquitous, esp. in times of public chaos. This was a noteworthy moment, and the fact that people were paying attention with their cameras doesn’t surprise me. I wasn’t there to see the hug, and don’t know what the true motivations were, but let me offer this: When it comes to the boy, he was crying before he ever approached the cop, so I believe his emotions were sincere. When it comes to the policeman, we’ll never really know what was going through his head other than what he tells us. In the end, here’s why this photo was so compelling: on the surface, it was a positive image during a week of negative images, the element of surprise. But it wasn’t just a normal hug. What made the image a standout was the expression on the boy’s face and the story behind it. According to his mom, the boy has been struggling with the issue of police brutality and racism against black teens. He was there at the protest, bravely facing the police barricade, tears streaming down his face. And when he was hugging the officer, his face was anguished. That face said everything – it said how hard a black teen’s life is and how difficult and complicated it is to hug (read: to trust) a policeman who should be there to protect you. The struggle on this boy’s face expressed the relationship between black teens and cops. And it’s that face that should lead us all to ask why, in a country where police should work for all citizens, a black boy has to cry when hugging a white officer — and why this is even newsworthy.

 

 

Oregon Health Equity Alliance 2015 Kickoff

Check out these great photos from Darlene Huntress of Oregon Action from the Oregon Health Equity Alliance (OHEA) Legislative Kickoff this week.  They are beautiful!

Really proud of our growing alliance for communities of color, immigrants and refugees fighting for a better Oregon. These photos kickoff our story for the next year for health equity, strong families and racial justice.

Our work is becoming increasingly organized, with great trust, discipline and care for each other’s work. As we continue to raise and share resources equitably, we expand our capacity to win on issues that affect our communities.

Another word for this level of discipline is militant! While perhaps loaded for some, it has important meaning in our work to confront generations of inequities and is key to achieving lasting change.

Ukulele Manila

fourstringsfridayI am dedicating a portion of my sabbatical to learning how to play the Ukulele.  I’ve played guitar since college, self-taught and follow along student (with a big hat tip to my old college mates Benno & Josh).  I never progressed all that much in the guitar, but can hold the basic chords together.  Tomorrow morning is my first lesson, at home thanks to Wames Music Tutorial Center and Teacher Tep.

Haven’t yet committed to buying a Uke, but found a great little Uke Store/Coffee Shop that is very nice in Cubao near where we are living in Quezon City.  The Four Strings feels like a good old fashioned cooperative and startup entrepreneurial millennial project.  I love it.

2015 Blogging Goals

2015worldwewantI’ve been all talk and no action for months now on restarting my blog.  After a week of decompressing in the Philippines, I’ve decided I need to set some goals.  Like a good organizer😉  I’m not talking a workplan mind you…

#2015Goals

  • Post at least 3x weekly
  • Write about spirit at the intersections of identity
  • Focus on the Oregon experience
  • Have fun!

Ok, now that I set goals, time to get to work!