Thursday, June 19, 2014

In the name of nuance and kindness

For the past few weeks I have been sitting with the realization (or reminder) that social justice narratives (in particular my own) often lack the capacity or invitation to hold nuance, to engage in an exchange of ideas, to actually dialogue and to do so with kindness. The dynamic is less about learning and growing from others, but to prove myself right, even if at the expense of the feelings of others and at the expense of my own growth. Shutting down the conversation has kept me from the opportunity to hear the nuance in the voices of my peers, it has kept me from becoming greater than the limitations of my own ideas.

Whether the topic is the use of the word Tranny, whether FIFA should bring about an institutional ban of sorts in response to crowds yelling “¡Puto!,” whether people who grew up watching soccer with their loved ones are right or wrong to be excited about the World Cup, whether gay marriage is the death of sexual liberation, whether Orange is the New Black. So many lessons I could have learned, so many stories I could have heard had I just made enough room for nuance and kindness.

As an atheist, I do not know how much credence I give to astrology, but I do know that I was born under the sign of Taurus and that I am stubborn as all hell. Regardless, I am committing toward pushing myself to learn to listen to the ideas of others, to not feel threatened by them, to sit firmly in my own convictions while hearing what others have to say.

I do not know if this is a public apology or a way to hold myself publicly accountable, perhaps it is both. The one thing I believe in above all else, is the possibility of creating world large enough to fit us all whole. My unkind and anti-nuance stances are not aligned with this belief. So, to quote one of Adelina Anthony’s poems, “I’m checking myself, so I don’t check out permanently.”

With this, I begin my moratorium on political commentary. I look forward to reading and learning to listen to my peers.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Irreconcilable Differences: Because this is what HOPE looks like

In 2008, I was among those who believed that voting for Barack Obama was the right thing to do, that it was time and necessary to have a Black president, that "HOPE" meant something deeper than a poster, that it held the possibilities for a larger world, a world where justice could fit.

In 2012, I was among those who believed that voting for anyone but Barack Obama would constitute a vote for Mitt Romney. I believed that, despite Obama's centrist ways, his short fallings, and the disillusion, the alternative would be further devastating. I also thought that, perhaps, in his second term, he would do right by poor/children of color in public schools, immigrants, all women (even those employed by religious institutions), Black and Brown men enslaved in our prisons, the millions of students and former students bound by crippling debt.

I am aware of the numbers. I know that Congress has proven itself useless, that Democrats lack what Republicans have: unwavering values (for however vile, they have values), commitment to the poor the way Republicans commit to the rich, the backing of a fearful and hateful base, the patent on Jesus Christ, the IRS-defying churches, the money. I know that in many, many cases, Obama's hands have been tied, that the country has become further conservative, further insane. But not all injustices have been out of his and his party's hands.

From the President's admonishments that Black men be "good" men, that they raise their children, not "get in trouble"; to his and the First Lady's annual graduation speeches admonishing young people of color to "get over it" and work harder, to seek the riches promised by "Respectability," to follow their lead and see all their problems disappear; to escalated and ongoing wars; to the atrocity that was (and is) "Race To The Top," and opening the doors to further privatization of public schools; to overseeing (or at least benefiting from) the systematic, overnight dismantling of the Occupy Movement; to ripping immigrant families apart; and, now (or for some while now) the mass incarceration of immigrant children, taken from their families, captured and held in grotesque living conditions and substandard care, I cannot stand in my home, in my communities, and say with a clear conscious, "We did the right thing."

Perhaps, to the extent that our pseudo-democracy allowed, voting and encouraging others to vote for Barack Obama was, if not the right thing, the best we could do. I still believe there is great value in having elected a Black President, that the impact on race and racism in this country has been positive, despite the Right’s high-jacking of the race debate—the imagination of children of color today is far different, hopefully greater than the children of color of my and previous generations. But having a man of color in the Oval Office means nothing to the child detained in Arizona, away from their family, sleeping under the crumbling roof of a “processing center,” hidden from the eyes of the media.

What am I supposed to say to this child? That I projected my own ideals to the word HOPE, that I compromised my beliefs in the name of the “greater good,” that it was the best I could do, that I am sorry? I am complicit.

This country is, indeed, so far to the right, so entrenched and wedded to white supremacy, its theocratic ways, its hunger for ever-increasing wealth, that the mass incarceration of children is acceptable, the further stripping of a woman’s right to self-determination is acceptable, the enslavement of Black and Brown men in prisons is acceptable, the deportation of more than 2,000,000 immigrants is acceptable, the periodic mass murdering of people at the hands of gun-worshiping sociopaths is acceptable, drone strikes are acceptable, surveillance is acceptable, the dismantling of Affirmative Action is acceptable, growing impoverishment is acceptable.

And all we offer ourselves to fight with is a Liberal agenda, an agenda that seeks to reach across an aisle that is becoming blurrier by the day, mantras that seek to reassure and assuage the middle class while stomping on the backs of the poor, that gays and lesbians can now get married and join the military and help perpetuate the injustices that sustain our comforts. The best we can come up with is something “better than the alternative.”

But, tell me, how horrific is that alternative if this is us at our best?