Friday, May 18, 2012

Revisiting the Dialogue for Why We Can't Wait

During The Coversation's 2nd reading of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Why We Can't Wait this February, Members participated in discussions and activities that demonstrated their experience with issues of race and class.  Over the next several weeks The Conversation blog will post aspects of these discussions and the reading for you to view and comment on. Our hope is to demonstrate that there is still hard work to be done for true equality to exist in our country's psyche and involvement with her own  diverse (rich/poor; black-brown-red-yellow/white; queer/straight) citizenry and that this text provides guidance and a blueprint of social movement and change that can adjust this violent and oppressive syndrome of power.

Here is some commentary from one of the Conversation meetings during our reading of this text.

"Racial injustice is complex and difficult and it is going to require strategy and resources to change it. It is not going to come by quickly because, as Dr. King says, "400 years of sinning takes time to repair". It needs to be done urgently but not in a rush. That is it has to be thought through. It cannot maintain the status quo.

Wherever you work if you find yourself on the side of those telling people who face injustice to wait longer--CHANGE SIDES, for God's sake, because the status quo will not give anybody justice. The status quo has to be challenged and transformed from people who are outside of it.

It should be ended.  Planned gradualism and planned spontaneity will not work. There has to be a structure." -Conversation Member

The following are letters that Conversation members drafted in response to this prompt:

 Write a letter stating what you would say to the White moderate and to the Black activist of today.

To the Black Activist,

·      Stay strong and continue to fight for social justice. Improve on your strategies to improve on your strategies to in pact change and retrain from criticizing the strategies of others. Recognize that the beast is multi-layered and complex and here is no silver bullet or one approach. Let’s be less critical of others in the fight and fight how we fight. END (*)

·     When you first committed to the philosophy of black nationalism the territory seemed clear and unassailable. The march of time and Hesson’s life raised the specter of criticism of the underside of nationalist philosophy. I sit amongst you being black thinking nationalist. Let’s you and I begin the straight talk about life on this Rock and the universal need for respect.*

·      Wake up; this is your fight. Know your power. Don’t wait for whites to solve our issues. Don’t allow your position in society be a weakness. Love all. Love = understanding. Know self as a person.*

·      What do you need from me? How can I support you? I challenge you to have an open conversation with an activist about issues and don’t allow yourself to discredit what’s being said. Choose to speak or debate often to get real talk.*

·      Who are the black activists? Are you the ones who struggle silently in schools to pull youth into the opportunities hoarded by white wealth in America? Are you involved in aid to Somalians being starved and slaughtered by revolutionaries? Are you active in the Democratic Party of Pierce County to elect black candidates with a progressive agenda? Are you considering yourself an activist by following your pastor in his latest community project for poor and disenfranchised in Tacoma? Honestly, I’m kind of in the dark here. Maybe the term is a misnomer that in this era tries to cover to many bases. Do you even want to be called a black activist these days? Would the implication of the term just dig up the anarchistic mood of an era that burned you out long ago? I don’t honestly know what an activist is. I think it still scares people, the term black activist.*

    To the White Moderate:

    I am writing to you today because I am concerned about the continued and pervasive reluctance to deal directly with racial injustices that still persist in our society. And why do I point to reluctance? Because every time I or more often my sisters and brothers of color bring up the ways in which they experience incarceration, education deficits etc... disproportionately impact people of color. 

      Every time an instance of police brutality against a person of color occurs and attempts to rally support are made. Every time anyone gets behind issues related to injustice or race white progressives say a version of the same thing:  "That issue distracts from the larger issue of capitalistic exploitation OR we need to get away from identity politics if we are ever going to get anywhere." 

      I say to you that unless and until we deal directly with racial injustice that pervades our society we will never be able to  make strides towards transforming our political and economical structure for the benefit of all. Instead of constantly telling people of color to "get over it", we, white people, need to cast aside our fears of being exposed as having racist attitudes and commit ourselves to getting real that we are all affected by racist conditioning and "get over it" meaning get over the idea that we might come across as racist in discussions about race. 

      People of color have been dealing with injustice from day one and white people need to acknowledge that first a and that white people have a lot to learn from people of color and should be taking leadership from them instead of offering leadership to them. f we began to this we would become a more powerful force against all injustice. Please white people wake up and get over it.
       Sincerely Conversation Member and fellow White person*

·       If you heard Oprah say “When you know better you do better” you’d think we as a people would have no issues with racism, however I feel the opposite has come true. We have used knowledge, power, and nepotism to continue on in our forefathers steps. I recently heard a gentleman say we see racism like getting our tonsils out and we need to see it as the plaque that builds upon our teeth needing constant attention.*

·     You continue to celebrate the United States as based on fairness and equality. I fear that you are unaware of how it is in fact the inequalities that exist that allows you to enjoy your comfort and remain to be ignorant of the realities of millions of people of color. If you truly are advocates fro justice and equality then your times and efforts can better be used by speaking to other white moderates in order replace ignorance with awareness. I urge you to refrain from concentrating your efforts on improving the ills of black people and refocus to address the ills of whites which go ignored and continue to impact blacks.*

·      Hey didly ho there Neighbor,
     A chipper morning to you. What are you scared of? What is your “Normal”? Why are you scared of blackness? What will it take for you to examine privilege and reclaim your humanity?"*
    Martin Luther King states that you "are the great stumbling block in the Negroes stride toward freedom. That shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstading from people of ill will." 
      I struggle myself to point out visual representations in my community of Dr King's statements and I'll say that without help, sometimes I often fail--perhaps because of the fear of criminalization, most definitely because of my own inability to cut through the B.S. most speak. This helps me to undersatnd that you would have immediate and powerfully supported failings as a priviledge holder. 
     In the past, I have thought that by practicing "goodwill"myself I was truly doing what was right for those I was serving, sometimes simply because I was succeeding in what I was told to do. So I see your own stumbling block in this as it matches my own in fragmented ways. Never-the-less, I cannot accept any excuse that doesn't at least address one's own shortcomings with this knowledge and the harm the lack may result in. --So please don't try unless you are ready to turn the microscope upon yourself.*

     Most days you do nothing short of disgust me, make me cringe, and feel angry. I often feel bad about myself for allowing you the power to make me angry, day in and day out. You make me Cherish Saturdays so I don't have to see you if I don't choose to. I often wonder about you as I am trying to muster the cmpassion to work with you--if then time were 1963, whose side would you be on? Is it the context of 2012 that allows you to be perceived as a "good well meaning progressive individual"?

      So much is below the surface now that as far as I know, even if you call yourself a public servant for the good of all people, you may not really care that much if the drop-out rates, unemployment rates, and incarceration rates for people of color stays where it is--or god-forbid gets worse for as long as you and your children live. If it came down to it, would you willingly give up your position of power for a black person if it were going to alter power relationships for the better? I don't believe you would. I do hope you prove me wrong.*
    Understand that we don't live in a black and white world. Don't be colorblind. You must see color and deal with color because it matters. We live in a color society. You can't make social change without the whole race-rainbow. I mean from black to asian to all people. On some level you gonna have to own up to your ancestor's wrongs. I don't know on what level but you can't shy away from your past and what happened. Most importantly, love and when I say love, I mean understanding. Know people in your world community and then know yourself and I mean yourself as a person not your race or your religion. *

    Personal Observation of Conversation member prior to sharing letter:
      I felt significantly more honest talking to the black activist than to the white moderate. With the white moderate I was doing persuasion, humoring them and playing to their need for order and status quo because making this change is really the most responsible thing because it will stave off violent change. This is really the more balanced and moderate point of view.

    Letter: The time for action is now. Our country faces unprecedented social unrest if we do not take moderate balanced steps to address the gap between rich and poor and between people of color and whites. We may be the freeest nation on earth but we respond behind countries like China unless we restore stability and affirm our peopl's faith in our peopls and constitutions.  *


Here's a bit of information on Farm Bill 101 in preparation for this Sunday's Conversation presentation by Dean Jackson of Hilltop Urban Gardens (HUG).

Farm Bill 101
The Farm Bill is the single most important piece of legislation impacting U.S. food policy.  It decides what is prioritized in funding - organic agriculture, commodity crops, nutrition, SNAP program farmer's markets, conservation, and more.

With all its importance, the vast, vast majority of people have no idea what the Farm Bill is and how it impacts the choices and access we have to food.  This Sunday Northwest Farm Bill Action Group will bring an awesome "on the ground" Farm Bill training to The Conversation.  HUG has coordinated this training to offer the opportunity for dialogue about our food system, food justice and the health of our communities.

For more information about Northwest Farm Bill Action Group visit:

To read more about our food system through a justice and equity lens check out Applied Research Center study "The Color of Food":

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Regarding schooling and creativity

As a follow up to our discussion today, check this out