Category Archives: human rights

About “All Lives Matter”

Imagine a friend asking you, “My life matters to you, right?”

What would your response be? Would it be, “Well, yes, your life matters to me, my life matters to me, all lives matter to me.” How do you think this response would make your friend feel? Do you think it would make them feel like you cared about them?

Or would you respond, “Of course your life matters to me. Why do you ask?”

When I first read the slogan, “Black Lives Matter”, that was my response. My response wasn’t dismissive of the statement by saying “all lives matter”. It was acceptance: of course black lives matter. And then, I wondered why black people felt the need to make this statement?

  • When African American children are three times more likely to live in poverty than Caucasian children;
  • when unemployment rates for African Americans are typically double those of Caucasian Americans;
  • when African American men working full time earn 72 percent of the average earnings of comparable Caucasian men and 85 percent of the earnings of Caucasian women;
  • when 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police;
  • when Black Americans are 3.6 times more likely to be arrested for selling drugs and 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for possessing them;
  • when one in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males;
  • when African-Americans with college degrees are twice as likely to be unemployed as other graduates;
  • when the unemployment rate among blacks is about double that among whites;
  • and when whites with felony records fare as well in job interviews as African American men with clean records…

The message black people receive from American society is pretty clear: No, they don’t matter. The fact that the statement “black lives matter” even generates a response at all is an indication of how uncomfortable American society is with the idea that black lives might actually matter. Because if black lives truly mattered to us, we would care about mass incarceration. We would care about redlining. We would care about lack of education and job opportunities in primarily-black neighborhoods. We would care about the unarmed black men, women, and children who have been killed by police because they were deemed “a threat”. Black lives would matter to us. We would be forced to change our society, a society that has benefited many of us.

So, instead, we say “all lives matter”. Because if a friend came to you and asked you if their life mattered to you, you’d say “all friends matter to me”. And then you’d start talking about how much your other friends matter to you, to try to prove to this friend how much they do matter to you. This is what you’d do, right?

 Cute little black girl in pigtails. Text says: Yes, they do. *The only acceptable response to Black Lives Matter*. 


Sources to the statistics listed can be found in a previous post, We Can Do Better.

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Filed under human rights, leadings, oppression, racism, speak and listen with love, testimonies

Until ALL Love Wins

I spent most of yesterday morning and early afternoon celebrating the SCOTUS decision… And then sat down to watch the Reverend Pinckney’s funeral. I still have an hour and a half left to watch, which I hope to finish today. 

And this morning in Charleston, a brave black woman removed the Confederate flag from its place of “honor”. And was promptly arrested. And the flag was raised again for the 11am white supremacist rally.

And last time I checked, 4 black churches had burned since the Charleston terrorist attack. 

So until LGBTQIAA POC can fully celebrate yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling, my joy at that ruling is bittersweet. Until black lives matter no longer needs to be said, until phrases that end in “while black” (walking while black… sleeping while black…) are a distant remnant of the past, I will stay woke and dream of the day when ALL love wins.

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Filed under equality, GLBT rights, human rights, lgbt issues, pride, racism

Poems

“A Just Being”

Being as just
Being
Sitting to sit
Writing to write
Writing to right
Wrongs left
From
Unseeing
Unfeeling
Believing non-being
Instead of
Just
Being


“Holy Differences”

Wholly different perspectives
Stand their ground
Trip me up
Put motes in my eyes and
Cotton in my ears.

Where is the common ground?
Where is the shift we need to
See the same?

Yet in the differences rests
Diversity, the
Holy harmony of humanity,
That which turns the
Wholly different into
Holy differences.

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Filed under human rights, inspirations, leadings, oppression, poetry, racism, speak and listen with love, that of God

White Privilege: Reflections after the George Zimmerman verdict

I’ve been thinking a lot about racism and white privilege since the George Zimmerman verdict. (I’m not going to call it the “Trayvon Martin” verdict, because Trayvon Martin wasn’t on trial.) I’ve been having lots of conversations about race issues on facebook, some of these conversations haven’t gone very well. But these have been some of my thoughts…


Some people have tried to make the point that because Zimmerman is Latino and not white, race wasn’t a factor in the trial.

Let me be brutally honest here. People don’t like to think of themselves as racists, so let me clear the air a bit.

I am racist. When I see a black man or teenager, for a split second, I’m suspicious. Then I become aware of that irrational suspicion and I let it go. In today’s America, where most of our arrested criminals are black (because most of the people arrested are black), it’s very hard not to be a racist. It takes a lot of effort and work.

We’re culturally trained to associate criminal behavior with black men.

If I saw George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, instinctively I would be suspicious of Trayvon first.

Look deeply and honestly within yourselves. Can you honestly say your first impression would be different?

And if not, then how can you claim this trial had nothing to do with race?


The term “privilege” has always bothered me, even though the ideas behind the terms like white privilege, ableist privilege, etc., make sense. And I just figured out why.

Privileges are something extra you get, like when you’re a kid and your parents tell you you can earn a privilege by doing a chore. And when we talk about white privilege, we’re talking about unearned privilege. We make our “privileges” a source of guilt. In other words, the fact that I can walk down a street alone at night without being shot for having my skin color making me appear “suspicious” is something I should feel bad about, that other people don’t have the same safe experiences.

But being able to walk down a street at night without being shot because your skin color makes you appear “suspicious” shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be the norm.

Being able to walk into a store and not having the manager tail you should be the norm. Being able to get a job based on your qualifications and not your skin color or sex or etc. should be the norm. Being able to live in any neighborhood you can afford without being given sham excuses about why you can’t live there should be the norm.

Everyone should be able to live the life a male, straight, white, able-bodied, etc. American can live.

The guilt involved in the discussions on white privilege I’ve read implies that the privilege itself–our experiences as white Americans–is the problem. We need to give up some of our privileges so those without them can live like we do.

No. I don’t want to walk down the street and be judged as if I were black. I want everyone to be able to walk down the street and not be judged because of their skin tone.

The goal is to improve people’s lives, not lessen some to improve others.

My “privileges” aren’t the problem. The problem is that they have somehow become extra benefits and not the normal experience of just being HUMAN.

So, white Americans, don’t feel guilty that you can walk home and not get shot like Trayvon. Don’t feel guilty for getting into that college or getting that job.

Feel empowered to work so that people who are being denied their human rights can have the same opportunities at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that you do.

Because ultimately, what we’re talking about are rights, not privileges.

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Filed under compassion, human rights, humanity, racism

Maitri Practice on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

Today is the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, what has been called the world’s first genocide. In fact, the term “genocide” was coined to describe the events in Ottoman Turkey in 1915 toward the Armenians.

Hitler admired the Genocide and used it to persuade Germany to begin its racial exterminations:

“Thus, for the time being only in the east, I put ready my Death’s Head units, with the order to kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language. Only thus will we gain the living space that we need. Who still talks nowadays of the extermination of the Armenians?”

Prior to 1915, there were over a million Armenians living in Ottoman Turkey. Over 800,000 Armenians were killed, and that’s the “conservative” estimate.

I’ve been doing the Buddhist practice of maitri/metta daily now for nearly two weeks. Today I chose to attempt wishing maitri/metta on Talaat Pasha as my fifth stage maitri/metta (this is the stage when you wish wellness on someone you hate or feel aversion towards). Talaat Pasha was the Director of the Interior of Ottoman Turkey during the Genocide. This is the man who bragged about the massacres of Armenians by exclaiming,

“The Armenian problem doesn’t exist anymore.”

He wasn’t the only man responsible for the Armenian Genocide—it’s doubtful whether he actually killed any Armenians himself—but he was instrumental in the organization of their deportation and mass slaughter.

As the time for wishing maitri/metta on Talaat Pasha approached, I felt increasing apprehension. When the time finally came, my body began to shudder and I felt my eyes water.

Talaat Pasha to me during this meditation was not an individual. Not really. After all, he died long ago. Anyone directly involved in the Genocide is almost certainly dead. So what was I doing, attempting to wish him well, happiness, and freedom from suffering?

How much suffering must one face to honestly—fervently—wish the extermination of an entire race of people? How much fear?

And today, as Turkey continues to deny that the “massacres” were a Genocide (they say the Armenians were collaborating with the Russians and that’s why they had to kill all of them), I wonder not only about the effect of an unrecognized Genocide on the race that was killed, but the effect of an unrecognized Genocide on the nation who still denies it. To have something so horrible in your past that you cannot even allow your citizens to openly discuss it (to call the Genocide a Genocide in Turkey is illegal; it’s a “crime against Turkishness”). To live in fear that perhaps one day you’ll be forced to name those actions “Genocide” and the result will be the partition of your country almost in half (Turkish Armenia in Ottoman Turkey was a significant part of the eastern-central geographical block).

So, to Talaat Pasha and all like him, to Armenians who still suffer from this Genocide, to Turks who still deny its reality:

May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering.

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Filed under buddhism, compassion, cultural integrity, human rights, oppression, practice

Held without Hope

I don’t know where they’ve taken me or why they won’t allow me to call Rob to tell him I’m okay. I don’t know if I am okay, but the thought of Rob worrying about where I am is unbearable. The facility I’m being forced to call home is large and institutional, with lots of plain white walls and green linoleum tiles. The phones are old rotary phones that are apparently more for decorations than use; no matter how many times I try to call Rob, the phone refuses to connect. There are perhaps one hundred women trapped here with me. Each of us has been given our own room, not out of respect for our privacy, but in an effort to keep us from forming bonds. We’re not allowed to talk to each other, even a brief “Hello” results in a reprimand from our supervisors.

It’s made clear to me from the beginning that I am not to be released, that my only chance lies in escape, an escape which necessitates my pretense of acceptance and contentment. The more one shows her unhappiness here, the more notice one receives from the supervisors. The only women who go relatively unnoticed here are the ones who have been broken into accepting that this is what their lives have become.

We are, in a sense, well-cared for. I’m given the medications necessary for controlling my Rheumatoid Arthritis, the food is nutritious; we have access to medical care as needed, fresh water, bathing facilities; we’re even given a job: every day, we make baskets.

But the truth is that we are being held here against our will and without the knowledge of our families. The agony of not only being separated from Rob and our cats, but imagining the despair he (and the cats) must be feeling is soul-crushing. Though I know my chance for escape relies on a content facade, the truth is that I cannot hide my despair. I worry that the only way I’ll be able to put on a content facade is when I’ve forgotten who I am and who I’ve left behind.

________________________________________

When I woke up, the despair of the dream smothered me into tears. My normal routine for dealing with nightmares is to remind myself that it was only a dream and wasn’t real. Yet as I tried to comfort myself, I was struck with a crushing realization: that my nightmare is a reality for so many people around the world.

For Palestinians held indefinitely in Israeli jails whose families are denied access or information. For Muslims who have been detained by our American government that professes freedom at the expense of the rights of those we deem unAmerican. For the illegal immigrants all around the world, who never know when they might be detained and if their families would know. For all of those who’ve been kidnapped from their homes or workplaces to be detained in jails because they had the courage to speak out against an oppressive government or militia.

This was only a nightmare for me. I was able to wake up from the dream, safe and sound in bed with Rob, our cats clustered around us. I was able to let the nightmare fade and move on with my life. But the knowledge that my nightmare is reality for some people broke me open.

After that dream, I can no longer ignore the suffering of those who are held without hope of release. It’s not about guilt or innocence. It’s about suffering.

If my nightmare shook you at all, I urge you to join me in supporting Amnesty International, an organization that fights for the rights of those detained without hope.

May everyone living my nightmare have the chance to wake up and start living again.

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Filed under amnesty international, charities, compassion, dreams, human rights, leadings, oppression