Thursday, November 23, 2006

Today and the Anti-Racism School of Love

So we get the day off. It's a holiday. Based on?

Well, celebrating the brutal way European terrorists invaded this continent. We're thankful. We're grateful. As I remember it as a young person it was thankful for all *God* has given us. And we were taught that the righteous were blessed.

Woah, wait a minute. So let me get this straight. Does that mean whoever isn't *blessed* is not righteous? Does this mean that the poor--or those with less resources than we have--are somehow evil and being punished by *God*?

I feel like this is such a huge cliche to even be writing about. Not a good day for me to write. But I'm not going to write Happy Thanksgiving. My husband and I were walking down the street this morning here in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle (We're here visiting his son and fiance') and he said "Happy Thanksgiving" to someone. I said, "I'd be careful if I were you. Not everyone is into this holiday. For example, say that to a Native American and they'd probably want to kill you." He said to him it's just a day to be grateful for what we have.

If you can beleive that the first Europeans to come here were ever civil to the Natives and that there was some sort of feast everyone had all together then that would be a reason to celebrate and to try and restore the relationship by some pretty big apologies and restoration efforts. (Those efforts incidentally would not be whites' assumptions about what an apology is, but would be based on the leadership and direction of the Nations themselves.)

Even if that were true, and what really happened wasn't just bunch of snooty pilgrims determined to leave behind ever being oppressed again--even if that meant oppressing others--even if there really were respectful, thoughtful and genuine relationships at the outset of the first Europeans stepping foot on this continent. Even if it were true, so much has gone down since then that is not in that spirit how can the holiday still be based on the same stories?

I just have a lot of feelings about it. I think that if families get together and feast and such that it is a good time to completely change the reasons we do that. At the very least have a history restoration project which would bring to light how the relations between Native Americans and Europeans went massively askew. I mean the truth.

It's a huge project to end what is now called white racism. To end it and to heal from its affects. The big focus is on foreign oil and terrorism. It's not on our own backyard, the destructive force of capitolism or on what the Native community / individuals feel would be reparative.

And who could focus on that stuff? It would take a huge amount of discipline to focus on a) what our ancestors have done that is hideous i.e. attempted genocide, stealing of land to create US wealth ...

So the only way I see to create the discipline of being able to think about that stuff as white folk is to follow what a woman-I'll call her Mr.--has to say. She, Mister, doesn't want me to name her name publicly. Why not? She is Native American and by her own description it is just plain too terrifying to have her name listed publicly. She calls it genocide recordings. She says that this is a distress pattern handed down generation upon generation within her Native heritage. This genocide recording is a result of her people being killed on a massive scale by those who wished to completely wipe them out.

A recording is a false button in your brain--to put it simply--that plays at crucial times. For her, it's just too damn terrifying to be visible because the recording says (and don't get me wrong, the recording is based on true events) she will be killed if people see her.

But I've been working within her guidelines for the past four years. She did lead a small workshop (and continues to lead these) for those who wish to learn to be white allies to Native Americans. Her first task for us was to spend the first year having sessions where we focus on our "good" ness as white people. Sounds impossible doesn't it? In a room full of brown people who my white ancestors have done nothing but murderous wrong to and my instinct is to shrink into guilt and get out of that room as soon as possible and never go back.

That's precisely her reason for the first part, the first step in a two part series she had us begin. The first part is to have these listening exchanges where we notice our goodness.

Now this brings up some funny questions. What do you mean by good? Why should that matter and aren't you kidding yourself? Well, what she means by good is you and I never asked to be born into an oppressor group. She means to go into sessions and remember all the times you or I fought hard to not participate in the oppression. Some of the ways may seem unrelated but they aren't. If you and I sit down I can go over this with you. There have been, since birth, many instances where we tried hard to fight racism in our families. And we got dealt with pretty severely. It was made clear to us that to not go along with the oppression would mean we'd be dealt with severely. We'd be drugged, locked up, ostracized ... etc. It would not bode us well. And there was reallly, as young ones, no place for us to turn. But the session itself would look at all the ways we tried--even if we have given up for years already--to fight for what we knew was right. And we'd be encouraged to release tension or emotions related to how it was to grow up and be trained in an oppressor role in society.

A little more on why I follow her lead on focusing on human's inherent goodness: No child would ever participate in genocide or the perpetuation of slowly killing off a people by stealing their home and their spirituality and their languages etc etc unless they were lied to, and also treated just harshly enough in sometimes subtle ways but for extended periods of time that they eventually shut up and went along with it or "went crazy" (this is the way the mental health system tends to perpetuate racism) and were locked up or became drug addicts etc.

So, if I, in other words sat here and wallowed in how bad I am or how bad you are or how bad our parents or our grandparents or our great great great great grandparents were, I think within hours one of us would be very busy finding something else more pleasant to do.

The point isn't whether we're bad or good. But what are we trying to do. (Wow, J.E. I can't beleive I came around to this! :) And what is in the way of accomplishing it? How are we going to accomplish it?

I do find Mister's workshops and instructions to be helpful. And I am interested in the usefulness of emotional release in recovering one's ability to think clearly. (By thinking clearly I mean outside of racist, classist, competitive, oppressive conditioning.) She, as an international leader for Native people and in teaching white folks to be allies, teaches the discharge process and listening exchange process as key. But she has us as white folks spend a good chunk of time on saying in session that we are pleased with ourselves as white people.

Before you take off, confused and with no faith in my sanity, let me tell you what she teaches as the next step.

We then spend one year in sessions which focus on how we, as white people still benefit today by the genocide of Native Americans.

How do I benefit by the genocide of Native people?

And that's the assignment for the second year. I spend hundreds of hours discharging and facing it and coming back to it for another long hour after hour. If I hadn't put in the first part--how good I am by nature--I'd be sunk. I'd want to die, kill myself, or just forget about the whole thing and so whatever--be shit-faced drunk, or what we already do "just keep 'em on the rez or in jail!"

That's what we already do.

I beleive that is why racism is perpetuated. It's too damn painful to face!!

Mister has a method for facing the facts. It's kept my face in it and I have seen more and more white people who are able to keep their faces in being advocates of Native Liberation--and it didn't happen in the anti-racism school of hard knocks.

There's a place for the school of hard knocks but I'm not sure where that place is.

I'm proposing the anti-racism school of unconditional love and unwavering support. That doesn't mean we don't get tough in our love at crucial times. It doesn't mean we don't show up on each other's door steps to remind each other of the commtiment we made on item 8 page 3 of our long-term agreements to end all oppression and recover our own ability to think.

Okay, so my "school"--it's not for everyone ... That's okay. It's okay. You don't have to sign up for my school. You can run your own school or attend one where the students are routinely motivated by being reminded they are shits.

Oh, and while I'm making proposals ... who's up for changing what "Thanksgiving" Day is all about? :)



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