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A Middle-Class, Middle-aged White Woman Talks About Racism

First, no I’m not a Karen. But that is my gender and generation.

Second, there is no way I can comprehend what it is like to be black in America (that’s kinda going to be part of my point). But that also gives me a chance to speak to the others out there like me, or the Karens. Just because we don’t really know what it’s like, doesn’t mean we cannot add value to the situation. We can sympathize, empathize, and lend our voice to speak up for others. Changes don’t come unless people unite.

powerful-quotes-martin-luther-king-jr

I was born into a middle-class white family in the late ’70s. Picture me as a first grader, fascinated by the noise my corduroy pants made when I walked. My small world consisted of avoiding being threatened by my sisters when I sang all the songs from the movie Annie and trying not to wear out the zipper on the pocket of my Kangaroo tennis shoes. One day in school we are taught about a man named Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a brave and respected man who made a difference for a lot of people in something called the Civil Rights movement. Also, he seemed very exotic to me (not that I knew what that meant). We were told he was black. I didn’t understand why I got a stern talking to when I used an actual black crayon to color him in on my coloring page in school. I was just told he was black. You see, I’m sure I had encountered black people, but I didn’t realize what that meant. I took it literally. People looked all kinds of different ways, and I didn’t give it much thought. I doubt I knew I was white. I thought I was sorta peach or apricot.

So in the innocence of being a kid, I had to figure out that the colors of people weren’t exactly literal and that some time in the past people that came in different colors had not treated each other well. It seemed like it was now all okay though because of that movement this brave man had been part of. We learned it as history, not an ongoing struggle, and when you’re a middle-class white kid, it’s not something you really grow up understanding or seeing every day. For the longest time, I guess I took for granted that the Civil Rights movement of the past meant racism was over now. I haven’t been trying to ignore it all these years. This was not intentional. It just hasn’t been something I noticed in my life. If you’ve been living your life on the other side of the race divide, I’m sure that sounds fairly stupid. But it’s true. At least I’m being honest.

I like to think of myself as a compassionate person with a tendency to empathize well. I’ve even done some of those emotional IQ tests and scored high. Yay me! And no, I’m not asking for any cookies.

But maybe I haven’t been very observant. Until more recently. I grew up, went places, read a lot, watched movies and tried to observe the world around me better. Sometimes you don’t want to believe what you learn. It hurts to see others who are put down and treated unjustly.

I asked God once to break my heart for what breaks his. Don’t ever pray that if you don’t mean it. Several years ago now, I learned about human trafficking, which is modern day slavery. It makes me sick that people still own other people and the atrocities of what these slaves have to endure. People are NOT property. No race, no gender, no children should ever be owned. A body may be owned, but not the inner person… until it persists so long that they give up. They let go of their identity and die a little inside. I HATE this. What is happening in our country right now is not just the result of a case of police brutality, which may or may not be based on race. It is so much deeper than that. Slavery in the literal sense ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, but in many cases true freedom still has not been achieved. I believe it’s a deep seated cancer that got into society long ago. As with most things, this is not necessarily true for the majority, but it only takes a few to taint everyone. Not all white people are running around having secret meetings in silly white hoods. I would venture to say most white people are not actively condoning racism. Many of us are disgusted by it. And on the other side, we see a people that has been held down for so long that many of them have lost their hope. They are stuck in cycles they just can’t seem to break, not because they don’t want to, but because they’ve never really been taught how or given the means to do it. (More on this in a later post, I think)

I used to think things were different, and I used to think everyone had an equal chance, but it is so much more complicated than that. More recently, my husband and I have watched some things that raised up more awareness in me and made me think. All of these are either based on true stories or portray a reality. First we finally watched the series The Wire. Season four, the one about the school kids in Baltimore, brought me to tears and broke my heart. Then we watched the movie The Green Book. It takes place in a time of segregation, but it showed the development of a friendship between two unlikely men, one black and one white (it’s more complicated than just that though). Netflix made a short series called When They See Us, about the Central Park Five. And most recently we watched Just Mercy. There are more out there. Plenty of documentaries and books too. These are just a few things that haunted me.

I don’t have solutions that will change society overnight. But I am hopeful that we have reached a point where more people are opening their eyes. I hear people saying we can fix this at the polls. But it’s not about politics. It’s about individuals. There needs to be a dialogue. We all need to try to understand each other. Change will have to happen from the bottom up, not from the top down. We may look different, but beneath our skin color, we really aren’t. We have the same basic needs. We all want to be loved, to be accepted, to know our loved ones are safe, to know that we are safe. We all laugh and cry. We feel joy and agonize in grief. I am sure there are more people who want to do good and see equality than there are those vile people who want to poison and divide society. We must be a bigger number, united in love. As Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Speak out. But you also have to do it in love. I think sometimes we see problems as bigger than we are and think we cannot make a difference. Maybe not alone. But if we come together, light always wins over the darkness.

The least we can do is try to understand. Then we have to find a way to “be the change we wish to see.” That’s going to look different for everyone. But once you see the injustice, you have to do something. Start by following the command to love one another. Much will fall into place and healing will begin if we can do that. Loving means we must listen to each other and respect each other. And let’s please all agree to stop letting an irresponsible media further divide us. Let’s listen to each other, not them.

So come on, Karen. Put down that bottle of wine, cancel your nail appointment and channel that anger over the sign in the supermarket being in the wrong place into doing something good, something that makes a real difference. Become a Karen with a cause.

Where Do We Go from Here?

I pulled this image from a great and brief blog post by Rob Morris of Love 146

I pulled this image from a great and brief blog post by Rob Morris of Love 146

Exactly a week ago I had a large red X drawn on my hand as a symbol to bring awareness to modern day slavery, more commonly referred to as human trafficking (a term many don’t understand), and so did many others.  I blogged about Shine a Light on Slavery Day and the End It Movement, and so did many others.

It was awesome to see celebrities and regular people flooding social media with inspiring quotes and pictures of them showing off their marked hands.  People who had been unaware were asking questions, which was exactly the point.

But now what?  I wore an X on my hand and more people know about slavery, but what can we do about it?  Plenty.  You can give to an organization that fights the atrocity.  You can find a way to get involved in the fight through one of the great organizations out there.  You can blog about it or find your own way to continue to spread the word.

JUST DO SOMETHING. Sorry- I don’t usually do the all caps yelling thing, but I really need to emphasize this idea. You need to find your own way to contribute to the fight.  Imagine if everybody who now knows about the 27 million slaves today took some sort of action.  That number would fall drastically.  So help to end slavery.  How?  Below is a list of several organizations I know of, and there are so many more.  I suggest you research what is available in your local community too.

Love 146

A21 Campaign

Not for Sale

Polaris Project

Free the Slaves

International Justice Mission

My Words as Weapons: Joining the Fight with Others

This video has gotten me all excited about the End It Movement this year.  Let’s all join together and fight together to free the 27 million people who are enslaved at this exact moment.

It seems such a daunting task to take this on alone, but we’re not alone if we work together.  27 million seems like an impossible number to free, but we just have to start with one.  Don’t not do something because you don’t think you can make a difference.

“Be the difference you want to see.” -Gandhi

Share this video because there’s no doubt this vile practice still exists and YOU can help. Ignite a fire for change.

Remembering 9/11

I remember it vividly every year. I posted this a year ago, but I wanted to share it again.

caverns of my mind

After September 11, 2001, many of us were feeling confused about what we felt after such an atrocity.  I did what I usually do in that case, and I wrote about it (of course then I had no outlet to share it with anyone, so I never really did).  I felt after all these years had passed it might be interesting to see what was going on in our minds at that time and see if we really are remembering.

From 9-22-01:

There are so many people affected by the tragedies that occurred on September 11.  In one way or another, we are all affected by them, as we should be as decent human beings, and as Americans.  Our country will never be the same again.  These horrific acts of terrorism rocked our sense of security in this country, and put us in fear, just as the terrorists had hoped. …

View original post 1,112 more words

All Men were Created Equal… All

I’m reposting last year’s Independence Day edition, partly because I didn’t have time for a new one, and partly because I figured a year later I might get a different group reading it.

caverns of my mind

The Declaration of Independence was written specifically to dissolve the relationship “the Colonies” had with Great Britain due to the tyrannical acts of George III, and the result was the birth of this great free nation we now call the United Stated of America.  We all know, or should know that from history class.  However, freedom and independence, for which many sacrificed and died to secure for us, should not be ideas only we can enjoy, but should be the general consideration of human beings to each other, everywhere.

No, the irony that Thomas Jefferson, the writer of this great document which gives us this day to celebrate our freedom, owned slaves is not lost on me.  He was a complex man, and though he owned several slaves, he actually was against slavery and wanted it to be abolished.  I remember learning something once about his attacking Great Britain for…

View original post 401 more words

Remembering 9/11

After September 11, 2001, many of us were feeling confused about what we felt after such an atrocity.  I did what I usually do in that case, and I wrote about it (of course then I had no outlet to share it with anyone, so I never really did).  I felt after all these years had passed it might be interesting to see what was going on in our minds at that time and see if we really are remembering.

From 9-22-01:

There are so many people affected by the tragedies that occurred on September 11.  In one way or another, we are all affected by them, as we should be as decent human beings, and as Americans.  Our country will never be the same again.  These horrific acts of terrorism rocked our sense of security in this country, and put us in fear, just as the terrorists had hoped.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t give in to their desires.  We are a strong country, with a strong history, and American pride.

I consider myself fortunate in that when I was growing up, my parents felt it was important to instill in me a love for this country.  I can remember asking my mom what made the United States such a wonderful place.  She replied, “Because we have freedom in this country.”  Freedom.  This word did not take shape in my mind until I was older, but I always knew it was important and that it made this country special.  Then when I went to school, I learned about all the people all over the world who had risked everything they had in order to come to the United States of America, in order to live in a country that offered them freedom… And I learned of the men and women who have fought for over 200 years now to gain and to preserve this freedom.

It is the hatred of this freedom that brought this dreadful assault on our country, and cost the lives of possibly thousands of innocent citizens.  It is no accident that the worst of the attacks took place in the city that has long been the symbol of our freedom, and of hope.

I can remember when I was in elementary school, putting my hand over my heart, looking up towards our classroom’s flag, and saying “The Pledge of Allegiance” before sitting down for our daily lessons.  I also remember learning and singing “America the Beautiful.”  It was a privilege to be one of the students chosen to put up the flag in the morning.  We were proud.  The last time I saw American pride like that was during Desert Storm…until now.  We are proud again.  We sing “America the Beautiful” again… and we look towards our flag again with a proud intensity this country has probably not seen since the strikes on Pearl Harbor.

It is a shame that it took such a tragic event for this country to put up the flags again and come together.  But we have.  We truly are the United States.  A renewed fire burns in each of us as we watch the heroes in New York City banding together, sacrificing their time, their sleep, and their lives, in hopes of saving even a single person from the devastation that was the World Trade Center.  The fire continues to burn as we watch the sickening celebrations in some Middle East countries, where children dance in the streets, and others pass out candy, being taught to hate already. And the fire grows even stronger as we listen to our president tell us that the state of the union is strong, and that justice will be done.

Now we need to take a stand and support our country and our nation’s leaders as we seek retribution for the attack on our freedom.  We are a changed country, and we can’t go back now.  We should never go back to the complacent lives we lived before.  We must keep the flags waving, and remember why we’ve come together now… to protect and defend our freedom.  This truly is a great nation, and we need to believe in this, not just now, while the events are fresh in our minds and hearts, but also through the coming events, whatever they may be… and forever.  We need to pray, and continue to pray, not just for the missing, or the families of the missing and the dead, but for our country as a whole, and our leaders… and the men and women who will fight for justice in faraway lands.

I thank God every day that none of my loved ones were lost.  This does not mean I am immune to the feelings of loss as I see and read about stories of everyday people who were senselessly murdered in this catastrophe.  I feel as if I know these people, and I grieve with their families, co-workers, and friends.  There was a young woman who came into my store the other day with her small son.  She was looking for anything she could find that was patriotic.  “His grandfather died at the Pentagon, and his father is in the Navy, helping with recovery efforts,” she told me.  Then she said something that rings true to me.  She told me there is nobody in this country who is not somehow touched by this.  She was right.

A new feeling now settles in on me.  I’ve always been interested in the history of wars in which the United States was involved.  I’ve studied books, watched movies and documentaries, and visited museums.  This one will be different.  For the first time, I’m old enough to really understand the situation, and I’m old enough that I know some of those men and women being deployed now to fight are my friends and former classmates.  This will be more personal.  I stand behind the fight and these men and women, and I pray that the Lord will bring them back quickly and safely to their homeland…the land of freedom.

God Bless America!

There was no Youtube when this happened, but images were online, videos circulated, and we all shared the tragedy through these.  Now Youtube has several videos in remembrance, but I just picked one, because many of the images are the ones I remember from that time, and the song that felt like the backdrop to everything for a time was  “God Bless the USA.”

On the day of September 11, 2001, Robert and I had the day off together.  I got up and turned on Today.  Being a bit groggy, I thought the images I was seeing live of the Trade Center were scenes from an upcoming action movie.  When I realized they were not, I went to wake up Robert.  I told him he had to get up because somebody was bombing New York.  We spent that day in a daze, not knowing what to do or how to react.  We could not stop watching the news.

Finally we decided to go out of the apartment and headed to the mall where I worked.  It was quiet and shops were starting to close down.  We went to see my coworkers for a bit; they too had been given the go ahead to shut down.  Nobody was out shopping that day.  As we headed towards the mall exit the song playing was Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.”  Oh, the irony and eerieness of hearing that song in that moment.  And yet, how hopeful it was to hear it.

All Men were Created Equal… All

The Declaration of Independence was written specifically to dissolve the relationship “the Colonies” had with Great Britain due to the tyrannical acts of George III, and the result was the birth of this great free nation we now call the United Stated of America.  We all know, or should know that from history class.  However, freedom and independence, for which many sacrificed and died to secure for us, should not be ideas only we can enjoy, but should be the general consideration of human beings to each other, everywhere.

No, the irony that Thomas Jefferson, the writer of this great document which gives us this day to celebrate our freedom, owned slaves is not lost on me.  He was a complex man, and though he owned several slaves, he actually was against slavery and wanted it to be abolished.  I remember learning something once about his attacking Great Britain for its support of the slave trade in an earlier draft of the Declaration, but it was removed at the request of Georgia and South Carolina, I believe.  It is likely that the reason he was unable to free his slaves was because of personal debt which had to be paid off before he could free them, though many were freed before his death.  Say what you will about this man, after all, his life and character have been hotly debated for a few centuries now, but he did pen these famous and treasured words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men were created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

If you read it again, you will notice the words “all men.”  The Creator endowed these rights, so they really go beyond our governments anyway, right?  Who will declare independence and freedom for those enslaved today all over the world (including in our own “free country”)?  This isn’t something we need to depend solely on our world governments to do, though that would be a huge help; this is something we can all do, even in little acts.

This is not meant to make any Americans feel guilty as we celebrate our freedom today.  By all means, grill hotdogs and hamburgers (tofu burgers if you really want, since it is a free country and all), eat apple pie, and light fireworks or just watch them on display, while you savor the moments with your family and friends.  We have those rights, and we should be proud and thankful for what we have.

I just ask that you take a moment to remember with me, there are about 27 million people around the world, and a surprising number of them hidden right here in our free nation, who are not themselves free, but are enslaved to a tyrannical power which is using them and exploiting them.  Human trafficking is modern day slavery.  Spread the word.  Find an organization to support.  Let’s help declare freedom for those who are enslaved and do not have voices of their own in which to do so.

Happy Birthday to the United States of America!  I am proud to be an American and I will use my free voice to spread the word about those who are not.

A Human Trafficking Jam

Christmas is my favorite time of year (cliche, I know); the reasons for this joy have changed over the years as I’ve grown up and come to realize what is really important in this life I’ve been blessed to live. It was once about getting gifts.  Then it was about getting the perfect gifts for others.  Last year my husband was unemployed and we opted out of gifts altogether, a choice which opened my eyes and heart in a new way.  Perhaps I’d lost sight, or never had it in the first place, of the TRUE meaning of Christmas.  A savior was born with the full intention of dying as the ultimate sacrifice for a lost world that continually turns its back on Him.

Now that is LOVE!

So it is with this in mind that I go forward.  Christmas is about salvation… for everyone.

Some time back I prayed that God would “break my heart for what breaks [His],” and he’s been doing it over and over again.  The further I research human trafficking as I get ready to run another 200 mile relay with some friends to help fight this atrocity, the more my heart breaks, and the angrier I become that more people aren’t doing anything to stop it.  Doesn’t anyone care?  There are 27 million people around the world right now who need SALVATION from slavery.  Many are children, and for them my heart breaks the most.  We are to stand up for the orphans, the widows, the poverty-stricken…and those who cannot stand up for themselves.

I’ve recently become frustrated.  As our race comes closer (Ragnar Relay FL Keys, Jan 6-7), our fundraising meter continues to stay at about 12-13% of our goal.  I guess it’s a bad time of year to ask for donations.  Money is tight for many these days and their families are the priority for Christmas spending.  I get that, but just wish everyone could set aside just a tiny bit to give these children the gift of freedom, even donating in the name of a loved one perhaps.  I think the problem is that Christmas has become so commercialized that many have forgotten that SALVATION and SACRIFICE are the true meaning of this beautiful holiday.  It’s sad.

I have little money to give (right now anyway), so I understand that side of the issue.  But there is hope.  Though little money has come in yet for our cause (Love 146), we’ve managed to get the word out about human trafficking, and creating awareness is the first step.  When people find out about this race and why I’m running it, I get a chance to answer a lot of questions.  Maybe when people do have money again, they will remember the 27 million slaves and help us free them, just as Jesus came to free us from our bondage. I’d love to do more… like hold each of those little children suffering at the hands of sick child molesters, and tell them that no matter what has happened in their lives, God loves them, and so do I.  But until then, I will continue to spread awareness and work towards a human trafficking jam (abolishing slavery) in the only ways I can.

Several years ago, Jewel put out a Christmas album, and her song “Hands” was on it.  It isn’t a traditional Christmas song, but it seems to capture what I believe God wants us to understand about Christmas.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lk0bKfC8XSE

If you are interested in giving to our cause:

http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/robert-harper/love146rr