Talking About Race: A Workbook

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

More about Barbara ...

A friend of Barbara's and her deceased husband had called to stop by to visit her. His name was Harry and he is African American. Barbara knew that this might cause a commotion where she lived, as he'd be picking her up to take her out. So she let him know the kind of place she lived in. (She had not chosen the residence by the way, it was chosen for her, but that is another story!) Harry said that is something he is willing do deal with.

He picked her up. The attendant was clearly uncomfortable. (I was there visiting at the time.) He helped her into the car and off they went. They returned several hours later. I am also there as B. and I had other things to do that afternoon. Harry helped her out of the car and they gave each other a kiss goodbye.

The head of the residence was up in her office and noticed B. return as they have a back entrance that is wheelchair accessible.

Although she knows me and knows I was there she had come out of the elevator with a growl of an expression on her face and her posture was stiff as a board too. She looked to me and said, "I was upstairs and saw them out the window, and wanted to come down to make sure everything was all right."

Now I knew where she was at. I let it go because I also knew Barbara would figure it out and want to deal with it in her own way. B. is the one who is living there and in this woman's care it needs to be worked out between them. Once inside the woman followed us in the elevator and she asked B. "So that is your friend?"

And Barbara answered "He most certainly is." She then proceeded to go to the staff room and to share this interaction with the staff.

How do I know?

Well, I don't. I am drawing an assumption based upon the changes in attitude toward Barbara ever since that day. Before she went out to lunch with Harry the staff were exceptionally sweet and accomodating toward her. They had often told me how wonderful she is.

Since that day Barbara has begun to have a reputation for being "difficult". They told her daughter that she is "getting worse" when she is not and has no signs of dementia. They warned her that if she continues to give them "any problems" she will have to go.

Barbara has decided to withstand the storm. She has no choice but to do that. She is still very happy. None of this has phased her although you cannot help but be aware of the change and it is unpleasant.

Someone at her lunch table said to her, "Is he really your friend"?

To which B. answered, "He most certainly is." "Oh ..." the woman said, and turned away.

She has not spoken to Barbara since.

"I am okay with that" Barbara said to me and added, "She needn't ever speak to me again. That is all right."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

You Are Never Too Old to Come Out for Racial Equality!

I have been away from blogging for several weeks and catching up on reading.

What have I been reading? "Between Barack and a Hard Place" and "White Like Me" by Tim Wise. Both books are thoroughly engaging.

I have found myself saying "Yes!" "Yes!" to so many points Wise makes throughout each book.

My own book will be out on January 15, 2010 titled "Let's Talk about Race: A Workbook about White People Fostering Racial Equality in their Lives". There has been much behind the scenes work to do.

I have received so much support for this effort that I am amazed and very happy about it! In the next few months I will be telling you more about this.

In the news so much is going on that is deeply disturbing to me. On Facebook I have a great many videos about the highlights. In several days I will update you on what is going on. But I will add this today:

I have a friend who is white and she is ninety years old. Until recently Barbara (this is not her real name) shied away from talking about race however B. has shared some alarming stories with me from her childhood. The other day she proudly came forward about her position regarding racial equality in the community she lives in. It was a risky and courageous act. Barbara lives in a controlled environment and the people who run it and live in it are all white. So she stepped up and out even though she is wheelchair bound and has been for five years. No matter their reaction she will not be able to walk away from it and no one is more aware of that than Barbara.

The result of her honesty and refusal to keep her views hidden from others has caught the attention of the woman who runs the place.

She often looks at B. with hostility but Barbara simply smiles all the more and when she does she does so with integrity and happiness.

Barbara's face literally glows and the serenity she feels about her decision to share her views is transparent to everyone around her.

It has been wonderful to witness her "coming out" about her views regarding racial equality. The liberation from the silence she was trained to believe was more appropriate wore itself out; the
"gift" of acceptance from some family members and peers that was simply a bribe to encourage her to be quiet wore itself thin.

Barbara has come into her own and couldn't suppress it any longer. This served as a reminder to me, that it is never too late to let race matter, even if it is a social construction (which we know it is) we can choose self-expression over repression at any age.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Few Words about Race/ism today.

I just wanted to say hello.

After the meeting at the White House with Dr. Gates, Detective Crowley, V.P Biden and President Barack Obama, I was clearly disappointed with the outcome. Of course this is not to say that everyone was. But I took issue with meeting over a "beer" and outside instead of inside, the photo shoot beforehand and the rather weak postures of each person as they stepped away from the table.

It did not lend itself toward a "teachable" moment, although so many teachers are absolutely brilliant and dedicated that I do expect many will maximize on this opportunity to draw as much from it as humanly possible.

The drinking seemed highly inappropriate to me at the time and in retrospect I still believe that it was. Alchohol of any kind under such circumstances was a poor choice in my book. I am still not over that.

But I am moving on in the full recognition that nothing has been resolved to my satisfaction as a result of that meeting.

I have been watching "Reclaiming the Dream" on CNN. This program is rich in its presentation and the panel's dedication and involvement in the black community. In case you are unaware of the dilemma's facing our children where race/ism is concerned today, tune in as a great deal can be learned from it.

More later,