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Posts Tagged ‘power’

Mauro Malang Santos

Racism is the single most critical barrier to building effective coalitions for social change.

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

Last night at an event focused on building support for immigrant communities, every single participant was a white person.

At a meet-and-greet at a local bar for Virginia Democratic Lieutenant Governor candidates, almost every participant a white woman.

At all the discussions of racial and social justice in my Unitarian Universalist congregation, the attendees are predominantly white people.

At an interfaith vigil that took place after the local JCC and UCC were vandalized with Nazi symbols and hate speech, all but a few attendees were white people.

At the university where I work, a place nationally recognized for the diversity of its student body, the faculty and staff meetings in my department are comprised almost entirely of white people.

At the local Huddle, every attendee is a white woman.

At the “Love Lives Here” family parade in response to Richard Spencer setting up shop in Alexandria, almost all protestors were white people.

At a dialogue hosted by the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution to bridge the post-election divide, all but two of the student organizers and one student participant were white people.

At the Kitchen Conversations at my house, eight of ten participants were white women.

Anyone see a pattern here?

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NOW poster makers

The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.

– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

A handful of friends and neighbors gathered for a second time. We got together in my living room to share ideas and support each other in our efforts to become more politically active.

Our first meeting took place in early February. We kicked off with drive and energy and a fury of commitment. In the intervening six weeks, our national disaster escalated and many of us lost momentum. Speaking candidly with friends and peeking into my own heart, I notice that many are experiencing the outrage fatigue we predicted. The Republican administration continues to throw all its might into dismantling regulation, research, democratic checks, civil liberties, protection of the commons, and social safety nets. Those of us committed to these institutions as well as to the values that undergird them have lost our sense of direction. How do we respond when everything is a crisis?

First we admit the sense of loss.

Then we remember that these power mongers win if they paralyze us, so we must keep moving.

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klimt-a-arvore-da-vida

He asks.  I fumble.  Events crash past, plowing under a vocabulary both dated and outgunned.  My words like vestigial limbs grasp at an extinct terrain.

As we drive the short distance home, NPR wallops us with our nightly load of federal ordure. The new Congress just voted to pave the way for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  Our representatives exhumed an old law which will allow them to slash the pay of any federal worker down to $1.  In a stage play of quasi-constitutionalism, those who ask the toughest questions wield no power.  The men in charge anoint a public opponent of civil rights as the nation’s Attorney General and an oil tycoon as Secretary of State.

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vivir-sin-fronteras-colordsgfix.jpg

Here is a small selection of things that don’t work:

  • Wearing black
  • Fretting
  • Posting “Joe Biden: White House Troublemaker” memes (although a giggle is good medicine)
  • Wearing a safety pin
  • Returning to safe, familiar, more-or-less neutral patterns of work and social life
  • Conflating the expression of feelings with action
  • Rehashing outrage and fear in casual conversations with friends and family who agree with us
  • Repeatedly checking social media to watch horrors as they unfold
  • Waiting to see what else he does before doing anything ourselves

Here is what does work:

  • Asking the next question: What action will we take today — this very day — in the service of justice and our common future on this planet?

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procession

Are you willing to use the power you have in the service of what you say you believe?


-Audre Lorde

We’d scheduled a White House tour for the morning after the election.  My 10-year-old son was already excused from school for the day. Through the night, the red stain bleeding across the map tangled me into a knot of sleepless apprehension.  It drew tighter every time I reached for the phone to pull up CNN.  As the unreality of our new president crystallized into fact, fear of what will happen to our nation, to my neighbors and our shared home — and the uncertainty about how to be a mother through it all — metastasized from compulsion to obsession.

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shavanaas

I take a deep breath and add another 2-1/2 lb weight to either end of the chest press bar.  These “graduation” days are bittersweet.  Each crossing of a threshold puts the lie to the comforting narrative that I’m only so capable, only so strong.  If I keep surpassing my own limits, I might start to believe that most of them are self-imposed.  How in the world can I avoid living my full life under those conditions?


Image: Mary Ellen Mark’s Photograph of Shavanaas Begum, the Indian Circus Strongwoman, 1989

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