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Posts Tagged ‘hate’

Well, it’s happened again. In case you’re living under a rock, there’s been another mass shooting, this time in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Forty-nine people. Muslims. Immigrants. Men, women, and children, were massacred at their place of worship, the place where you should feel the safest and most at peace. Another mass shooting, sure to be followed by more, if the past twenty years are any indication. It’s almost commonplace now.

If you think this is going to be a blog on gun laws, at least directly, you’re wrong. It’s about hate.

You see, I’m a teacher. More than ninety-nine percent of my students are Muslim, true story. They range in age from 11-14, old enough to be aware and somewhat interested about what is going on in the world. I encourage them to discuss world issues that are important to them (this leads to good research and writing) and, especially in my first hour, we’ve had some really good talks this year.

When I saw the news last night, and then again this morning, I knew that there would be questions in first hour. Real, honest, questions that I didn’t have any good answers for, especially as someone not from their background, someone who can represent ugliness to them because of the actions of others who look like me.

I fought back tears watching the footage this morning, the disbelief and horror still fresh on the faces of the survivors, standing in their blood-spattered clothing and speaking to reporters. I shut the TV off and left for work, dreading what I knew was coming.

First hour came in, got settled quickly, as they always do, and began their morning work, journaling and reading. When we came together after their reading time, we started the day by sharing out answers, and then, as I always do, I asked if anyone had something else they wanted to share before started the day’s assignment. A hand went up, I called on him, and the question came.

“Miss, did you hear what happened in New Zealand?”

Twenty-nine other faces stared at me, some nodding a bit because they had already heard, some questioning what had happened. I wondered how I was going to tell them, what I was going to tell them. This is the internet generation, I’d rather that they heard it from me first. But that’s not what bothered me the most. The worst thing was that I had to tell them this at all.

How do you look at a roomful of adolescents and tell them that there are people in this world who hate them just for being who they are? How do you look these kids in the eye and tell them that there are people who would rather see them dead than get to know them because they’re Muslim? It’s not that they haven’t already experienced racism, they hear it all the time. They’ve been called terrorists, among other horrible things. They and their parents have been discriminated against before and it hurts them, but they are, sadly, used to that and a lot of them have great parents who tell them to not pay any attention to that, to be proud of who they are. But this is different. This was massive bloodshed, people like them who do what they do every week were shot dead for the simple fact that they were Muslim. They don’t cover how to do this in college.

I took a deep breath and explained it the best I could, as honestly as I could. My voice broke a couple of times and I had to take some deep breaths to stop more tears from coming and upsetting them, but they knew. They know I love them. This is a pretty awesome group of kids, my first hour, and I didn’t want to upset them more than necessary, but I was upset, too. I still am. I’m upset that someone with such public, racist, views, who spews vitriol all over social media, is cleared for a gun license. I’m upset that such hate festers and warps, whether it’s due to mental illness, drugs, or a dysfunctional upbringing, enough to carry out an act as brutal and as senseless as this. I’m upset that parents lost children, wives lost husbands, children lost parents. I’m mad as hell that there are people like that in this world. He grinned while being arraigned. Did you know that? I just read that on Al-Jazeera tonight.

As expected, they were horrified. You could have heard a pin drop as I briefly spoke about it. I talked, again, about our lockdown drills, that they needed to take them seriously because there were sick people like that out in the world. We talked, again, about what we would do if it were ever a real situation. The same hand went up again when I was done.

“Miss, why do they call us terrorists, but when a white person does something like this they’re called a mass shooter?” I sighed. This was definitely not going to be an easy morning. I told him that the Prime Minister of New Zealand had, in fact, called this man a terrorist and that’s who he was. I also said that he was right, that many times that is the case, but that things were starting to change. More people are standing up and speaking out, demanding fairness. I told my class that we had a long way to go when it came to race, that their generation had a really good chance of making their voices heard, of changing perceptions of Muslims to ignorant people. I hope I’m right.

They probably could have gone on all day, but I didn’t want them to dwell on it, so I brought our discussion to a gentle end and got them started on researching the Greek gods and goddesses, a project that they are excited about. It morphed into a more normal class time. I got a lot more hugs on the way out today, though.

I can’t let it go, though. Do you know what haunts me right now? Their eyes, their eyes that ask me, “Why?”

I don’t know. I don’t know how to solve the problem. I couldn’t give them a good answer. This is what I do know: There is evil in this world and it kills. It spreads through social media, through fear, through ignorance. We have to stand up to it, whether it has to do with race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, sexual preference, or disability. We have to make it uncomfortable to spout that crap, even when we’re scared. I’m guilty of staying quiet, I know I need to step it up, especially around people I know. If enough people speak up, maybe minds will open, hearts will change. Maybe love will win.

I don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll let Lin Manuel Miranda.

“Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.” ~Lin Manuel Miranda

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I attended a funeral this past week. A friend of my mother’s from her childhood had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind two not-quite-grown children and a devastated husband.

Dee Dee was a quiet force of nature. I remember her from the very beginning of my memories, from those fuzzy edges when I was very small up until the more clear thoughts of today. I loved her. She had a pet skunk for a time, I remember, named Mandy. I wanted a skunk for the longest time after that and didn’t understand why my mother didn’t think that was a good idea. She always had animals, which made me an instant fan.

Her mother was my godmother, my Nina. I still have the cross necklace with a diamond chip in the middle that she gave me on my baptism day when I was just a few weeks old. They lived just down the street from us and it was there where I got to know Dee Dee’s three sisters, who fussed over me, and where I got my first delicious taste of lobster dipped in melted butter. (There is dispute over that. I remember them saying it was lobster, my mother said it was crab. Either way, the experience is etched in my memory.) Her family had been a refuge for my mother when she was pregnant with me as a teenager, loving her as their own, and they have always been in contact.

As I mentioned, she died rather suddenly, without warning, at only sixty years old. Sixty is young these days and although she did have some health issues, no one expected her to be gone so soon.

I met my mother at the service, held at a local funeral home. It was already quite full of people when I arrived, about an hour before the service began, but as the time drew nearer, more and more people poured in, leaving the staff to hurry and add many more rows of chairs. If I had to estimate, I would say that there were around 150 people crammed into that small room.

The priest began the service by welcoming everyone and asking Dee Dee’s son, and then her husband to speak. My heart broke for this strapping young man, set to graduate from college soon, as he choked back tears and referred to his mother as his best friend. Her husband, the shock still evident in his voice, told the room how there was not one single bad thing about her in the many years that they had been together.

The floor was opened to other people who wanted to share their memories of Dee Dee. It was touching and beautiful to hear from so many people, at least twenty, who got up and had a story to tell. Some were poignant, some were funny (the Sam’s Club Cheetos story had everyone laughing), and some were sad. For most of her adult life, Dee Dee had worked for a company that helps people who have disabilities and many of her current and former coworkers filled the room. I was moved by the stories of her selflessness, her patience, and her apparent love for her vocation, a calling she had always had. It didn’t surprise me at all. I remember when she had adopted a young boy with severe disabilities back when she was in her twenties, before she was married or had her biological children. Meeting him was my first experience with someone disabled to that degree and I remembered how patient she was with him. She taught me through her actions to not be afraid of people with disabilities, that they want to be loved and accepted like everyone does. I’ll always be grateful to her for that lesson.

The service lasted for more that an hour and a half as people shared their love for Dee Dee. In her short sixty years, she had touched so many lives, probably more than she ever thought. I’m sure she would have been embarrassed by all of the outpouring of emotion, she wasn’t one to toot her own horn, always working quietly in the background for the good of others. After the priest made sure that everyone was finished sharing, her daughter read from Ecclesiastes and her husband thanked everyone for coming. In closing, we all held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer together, then listened to one of her favorite songs.

When the service was over, my heart was full. The world is a scary place and these days, watching the news often makes me feel as if nothing will ever be right again, that hate, discrimination, and willful ignorance have taken over the world. Just read the comment section of any article to see some scary people. (Or don’t. Really, it’s horrifying to see what some people post online.) It’s hard for me to understand how people can be so awful to each other, or how terrible things are condoned or ignored because of money, religion, or politics. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes. Hearing all of the wonderful things said about Dee Dee. though, reminded me that there are good people in this world, that things like love, patience, and understanding still do exist, even if they are hard to see through the haze right now.

Yes, I’m sure that Dee Dee would have been embarrassed about all of the fuss made over her, but what a legacy she has left behind! Think about it. We’re all going to die someday, whether our lives are short or long, whether we know it’s coming or, like Dee Dee, it takes us by surprise. There’s nothing we can do to prevent it, though we try to put it off as long as possible. What we can do, though, is choose to live so that we leave some good in the world when we’re gone and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same. We can stand up for what is right, we can help in a million ways, we can love. Yes, indeed, we can love.

We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess up sometimes. It’s human nature that prevents us from being perfect, that lets our masks slip now and again. But I firmly believe that the more we do the right thing, especially when it’s difficult, the easier it becomes. I also believe that when we own up to our mistakes and admit that we made a bad choice rather then blaming it on someone else or circumstances, we earn the respect of others and we grow as people. It’s not the easy way of doing things and it’s hard to bite that bullet sometimes, but it’s so necessary.

We need more Dee Dees in the world. We need more of that patience and understanding that she lived every single day. We need to accept people as they are, the way she did, and to protect those who don’t have a voice. We need to be good people.

So, I challenge you. I challenge you to open your mind, to open your heart, and to deliberately do something different today that will benefit those around you. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be as simple as opening the door for someone when you normally wouldn’t. It can be letting someone go ahead of you in line. Instead of getting angry at another driver, take a deep breath and let it go. (I especially need to practice this one. I say a lot of bad words in my car.) The point is, the world isn’t going to get better if we sit back and wait for other people to do it. It begins with us. It begins with you.

I’m closing with part of Lin Manuel Miranda’s speech from the 2016 Tony Awards. I feel that it is appropriate here.

“We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

Dee Dee loved, with her whole heart. It’s a goal to work toward.

 

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The ugliness has begun. Threats and assaults have increased towards mosques, non-European-looking Americans, LGTBQ folks, and women in general since the election; many incidents invoke Trump’s name. It’s exactly what we were headed toward, yet here we are.

I’m not playing a sore loser card, the Electoral College has spoken. Not the will of the people according to the popular vote, but according to the rules of our system. That’s how it’s written and that’s not the issue I’m taking on. Now is the time to deal with what we have and go from there.

I voted against that man, not against a party, not for a party, not for Hillary Clinton in particular. I voted against vulgarity, hate, and intolerance. I voted so that my gay family and friends wouldn’t have to worry about their marriages being dissolved. I voted to show my nieces that women should never have to put up with sexual harassment or assault, especially from men in power. I voted so that survivors of sexual assault and abuse, myself included, wouldn’t be triggered by the President of the United States. I voted to show my amazing boys that the behavior exhibited by Donald Trump is reprehensible and wrong. I voted so that my Muslim and Jewish friends can freely practice their beliefs without having to worry about being harassed and threatened because the freedom of religion, a Constitutionally protected right, is one that we should hold dear. I voted so that my Mexican friends know that I stand behind them. I voted against a billionaire who has never known a layoff or a hungry day in his life, but told the working class that he could relate to them.

Donald Trump won the election. God, help us. Those of you who know me know that I don’t take God’s name lightly. This is my actual prayer: God, help us. We are now seeing the very worst of many people in our country on both sides and so far, it’s not getting any better.

So what to do about it? For starters, I began wearing a safety pin soon after the election. In case you’ve been living under a rock, a safety pin is a sign that the person wearing it will stand up for you if you are being harassed by hateful actions. Thankfully, I have not had the occasion to do that yet, but I am prepared, even though confrontation makes me queasy. I will do it because I will be a part of the solution. I will do it because I am a Christian and we are called to love our neighbors. I will do it because this onslaught of sickening, disgusting, venom frightens me and I will stand up to it. It’s something small that I can do.

Not everyone is on board with the safety pin thing, though. There was a meme going around on social media recently that irritated me. It is a picture of that brave officer who shot the attacker at Ohio State this past Monday. It says, “Your safety pin didn’t save anyone, this cop with a gun did.” Well, yeah, and those two things have nothing to do with each other. A knife-wielding maniac is a job for police officers and I am so very thankful that we have dedicated, wonderful people to protect us in these situations. Our police officers and other first-responders deserve our respect. The pin that I wear is not a means of defense, it’s a sign that I will help you, however I can. What makes me angry about a meme like that is that it insinuates that wearing a pin equals weakness. It absolutely does not. Inserting oneself into a potentially hostile situation with the intent to diffuse it takes a lot of courage, the very opposite of weakness. There is nothing weak about standing up to bullies. The more people that stand up to the recent ugly events will make them happen less and less, whether they wear a pin or not.

What else can I do, besides wearing a pin? I can write letters to my representatives, I can donate to organizations that work for equality, I can blog. I can hope that people who voted for Trump also actively work to quell the bad things that are happening.

In short, I choose to deal with the outcome of this election with love. Will it make a difference? I hope so. I hope I’m strong enough to help my family, friends, and neighbors who may need it in the coming months and years. I hope that we, as a country, make it clear that hate is not tolerated, no matter who we voted for.

So, I choose to respond with love.

I choose love.

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I watch the Today Show in the morning while getting ready for work. Sometimes it’s background noise, sometimes they have stories that I really listen to. I tune out a lot of the political stuff because I’m sick of hearing about Donald Trump and all of his insanity. The cooking segments are okay and I listen to the headlines, but my favorite things to watch are the human interest stories, stories about real people in different situations and how they handle them, in good ways or bad. The human psyche fascinates me. I am endlessly curious about the motivations people have, what circumstances in their lives led them to act the way that they do.

I was watching on Tuesday when a story came on that caught my attention. Apparently, Old Navy had put out an advertisement that portrayed an interracial family: an African-American mother, a Caucasian father, and their little boy. It’s a really cute picture, as many advertisements are, with everyone smiling and happy. When I looked at it, I  thought that it was a cool thing for Old Navy to show an interracial family, a reflection of our modern society. As I found out, though, the reason that that advertisement was being shown on the Today Show was because many people didn’t feel the same way.

I went on Twitter to read the comments. (I know, I know, the comments are scary, but if you’re going to take something on, you should know your enemy.) I’m not going to put even a fraction of them on here, they were that horrible, but they range from “disgusting” to some extremely vile things. I was really (unpleasantly) surprised that so many comments had something to do with “white genocide” Huh? Genocide? Um, no. Genocide= what Adolph Hitler did to the Jews. Genocide= what is happening to certain groups of people in the Middle East right now. Genocide= what happened to the Tutsi in Rwanda, 1994. Genocide≠ people of different races marrying and having families. The ignorance is staggering and more importantly, frightening. Here is an article from the New York Times, if you’re so inclined: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/us/upbeat-interracial-ad-for-old-navy-leads-to-backlash-twice.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 You can also see the controversy on Twitter and most news sites.

I don’t understand the mentality of people who have been posting those inane responses. Some of them are so evil that I’m surprised they’re walking among us, but most of them vowed to never shop at Old Navy again. Really? You’re not going to shop at Old Navy any more because they used an ad of an interracial family? Stupidity and ignorance at its finest. If you are threatening to harm people because of their racial background, you should not be out on the street. Period.

What really floors me (and makes me smile to myself) is that many of the people who are so opposed to racial mixing are possibly of mixed race themselves and don’t even know it. During the period of legal slavery in the United States and its territories, thousands of children, often the result of rape from white masters. were born to slave women. Some interracial (and illegal) couples also lived together consensually and had  children. If those children, or their children, could “pass” for white, they often did in order to have a better life. Many times, their white families didn’t know and still don’t! A good example of this is Bliss Broyard’s fascinating read, One Drop. The title comes from the premise that if a person had only one drop of African blood. he or she was classified as black and was treated as such during the time of slavery and many years thereafter. Her father, Anatole Broyard, an acclaimed New York Times columnist, had come from a racially mixed family but decided to pass for white when he was a young man. It wasn’t until he was literally on his death bed that the truth came out and his children were introduced to a whole new branch of the family. It’s a fascinating story.

The TLC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, and PBS’s Finding Your Roots have both surprised a few celebrities with DNA test results showing that they have an unexpected racial connection. Ty Burrell, who stars on Modern Family, was surprised to find that the family whisperings of having a black ancestor were true. Several African-American celebrities uncovered white ancestors. Some were surprised, some were not. The truth is, we all have quite the mixture of races in us already, there is no such thing as a “pure” race. People who perpetuate the myth that there is a pure white race need to check their facts, and possibly their DNA.

My own roots are pleasantly jumbled. My father’s side of the family is pretty straightforward English/Scottish/Irish with some Swiss and German thrown in for good measure. My mother’s side, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Nick, was born in Sicily. Poor Sicily, while now part of Italy, has been conquered many times by other empires: Arab, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Northern African. It is difficult to say what our racial background actually is based on Sicily’s history. His son, my uncle, took a DNA test several years back. It showed that we have northern African cousins, in Algeria and Sudan I believe, but it didn’t say how far back in time we were related. It could be 200 years ago or 1000 years ago. Like I said, it was an older test, but my sons and I thought it was cool that we were part African. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I’m a sickly pale about ten months out of the year, but I have some African roots.

The point I’m trying to get across is that the idea of race as a kind of a club is stupid. Sure, I love looking up my family history and learning where my ancestors came from (especially the English, for the simple fact that they kept amazing records in their parish churches), but equally intriguing for me is finding the different cultures that dwell inside. How exciting!

I taught 5th graders for several years and that is when they begin learning about slavery in United States history. Many of my students would self-identify as their religion, so we always had to have the talk about the difference between race and religion. One can be born and raised into a certain religion, but that is a choice. One’s racial background is not a choice, it’s just how you are born. You can’t choose it before you are born, you can’t change it, it’s something that is a part of you forever. We talked about being proud of whatever background we had, but also how it was important to respect the identities of others and how different cultures contribute so much to the world. We also talked about how it was not okay to disparage somebody because of their race. You see, children are taught racism, it’s not something that they’re born with. Something to think about…

The term “race” has been used by bigots as a way to separate people, to create divisions and animosity, instead of simply being used for historical or scientific purposes. That never made sense to me, seeing as how science and religion agree that human beings both started in northeastern Africa, even if their ideas of how we began are different. Differences developed in response to our environments. A translucent-skinned person like me would burn to a crisp on the African continent today, my lack of melanin meant to soak up Vitamin D from the sun in northern climates. My northern European genes have won out in that respect. My Grandpa Nick, however, had what one would call a “swarthy” complexion, necessary in sun-drenched Sicily to protect him. I look more like my father’s side of the family, but I have just as much DNA from my mother’s side as I do his. What you look like doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on what your roots are. Remember, with every generation back, your number of grandparents doubles: two grandparents, four great-grandparents, eight great-great grandparents, and so on. Unless you are a careful genealogist, you really don’t know all of your racial background. Maybe that’s worth taking a look into. You might find out some really cool things!

Open your mind and think. You’ll be surprised at actually makes sense.

A presto.

 

 

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There are things in this world that I don’t understand. There is pain, there is hate, heartache, and fear. There’s racism, intolerance, violence, and death. I’m tired of it. I want to be an informed citizen, knowledgeable about what’s going on in the world, but it wears on me, this constant unrest. I want peace. I know it won’t happen, there are too many people in this world who only know how to communicate through violence, but that doesn’t stop me from yearning for it.

I don’t know the answers. I have my opinions, but that doesn’t mean I’m right. There are so many mitigating factors in the situations happening in our country and all over the world that I won’t even pretend that I know how to solve them, and neither does anyone else, no matter what they say.

So, what to do?  Here’s my plan.

I will be kind to others.

I will apologize for my mistakes, because I will make many, and sincerely try to learn from them.

I will try and see things from another’s prospective.

When I disagree with someone, I will express my opinion in a civil manner without getting ugly.

I will live with integrity.

I can’t solve the world’s problems, but I can do my part to make it a better place. In this time of celebrating the birth of the One who came to bring peace, it is the least I can do.

Spread love this season.

 

 

 

 

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