Category Archives: race

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down

A spoken work with references to the nursery rhyme, Ring Around the Rosie, and to ideas put forth by Resmaa Menakem in a recent interview with Krista Tippet, On Being. See references, below.

Ring around the plaza
an eye socket full of gas
the corner goes up in flames.
Ashes, ashes, we all
rise up.

Ring around the Big House
pocketful of protests.
The fence becomes a meme
demanding justice.
Ashes ashes, we all
fall down and weep.

Ring around the house of worship
pockets emptied of protection.
The Reverend’s voice rings to
the rafters of the nation:
“Because you held a
knee to our neck.”

Ring around the Rosie
a reference to a rash
pockets full of posies
those nosegays believed to
protect against the plague.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down
as cases spike, the bodies
that cannot breathe, numerous.

Ring around the wrist or the waist
We wear our slogans proudly
as if our purchasing history
might changed the damage done
over centuries.
Free Shipping! Black Lives Matter!

Ring up the purchases, fast and
furious, for its not all
pat and full of pride. The
esteemed list of best sellers
goes nearly fully to educating
white people about the ills of
our body, our white body,
holding down the Black body
for 14 generations.

‘Performative’ sneers a neighbor
‘a buzzword,’ she demeans,
then puts “micro-aggression”
in quotes, nearly begging
to be challenged in a post
decrying white women
challenging each other.

We could argue. I could be
right and she wrong, or
I could be obnoxious and she right
and none of it would matter since
it all happens from the
neck up and slightly to the left.*

What if justice with a
capital ‘J” arises from a
place located just below
the navel?

What if it’s a problem
niceness can’t nice us
out of? And policy can’t
strategize us out of?*

I’m reminded of the brief
time in one of my toddler’s
lives, when he went
around disagreeing with
everyone. “You are
UNcorrect,” he’d scold.

Neighbor, fellow white
progressive, you are
UNcorrect. Hook up the
laugh track or better yet join hands and
spin and spin and spin until
the world blurs into horizontal
stripes and when we all fall
down, the world tilts and
makes us woozy — a
full body sense of disorientation,
a visceral impression
of losing hold of our
ingrained reliable perspectives —
even gravity unfamiliar.
A falling down
that might unhinge us
enough to fully rise up.

No nosegays for protection,
no signs of disease
breaking out, but an

embodied redirection
a skeletal curiosity
a human openness lacking
historic reference to white
supremacy except as
a check and a check again —
a hand out held for a
less insular dance
maybe even a fever pitch
celebratory hallelujah
where race matters as
culture but not as an
up or down measure.

Ring around the Rosie,
a Juneteenth dance,
a July 4th dance.
Post pandemic, Post
Tulsa, Watts, Rodney King,
post slavery, reconstruction, Jim
Crow, red lining, post foul brew
of leadership that slinks
from low point to low point.

Some of this will be over
soon, right?

We’ve burned it all down
before — ashes, ashes —
but could this be
the real time, the call
forward, even if the dance goes to
our death — yes — since all
dances go there — but
with real hand holding
in a dance of falling down? Alive.

The wind blows today.
Maybe it brings hope.

 

* * *

*in his now famous TED talk about education, Sir Kenneth Robinson talks about how most of academia is aimed to an area “above the neck and slightly to the left,” and that this is one of its greatest weaknesses.

* Reverend Al Sharpton’s eulogy for George Floyd was powerful and moving.

* Resmaa Menakem studies how trauma is stored in the body.
In his recent interview with Krista Tippet (On Being podcast), he criticizes white anti-racism efforts for relying on strategy and policies, instead of on culture. He also says that ‘white niceness is inadequate to deal with the level of brutality inflicted on black bodies.’ He asserts that the ‘real battlefield is inside our bodies and therefore the conflicts need to be resolved there.’

 

PS This post took almost two hours. ARRRRRRRRRRG! WP would not upload a 5M video from my iPad. I kept trying. Then, it also wouldn’t upload a draft to my phone (I usually bounce back and forth). So then I said, screw it, I’ll just publish and keep revising. So then I made a voice memo, forgetting how I uploaded it last time, then researching and remembering — requires emailing it to myself and then downloading to PC and inserting as media on blog. But then (Then!), I could not access WP Admin on PC, at which point I moved from a barely contained fury to whimpering. I had to google how to access admin, which took a bunch of tries, and then, when I tried to sign in, I apparently had the wrong PW, no re-assign PW link showed up in my email and then (Then!) they told me my account was closed and if I thought it in error to tap link where they wanted three pieces of info — none of which I had. I backed out and started again and just for fun input what I THOUGHT my PW was, just to see what the fuckers would say, and sure enough: “PW was used ‘too recently.'” YOU MEAN IT WAS MY PASSWORD? So now I have a PW that starts ‘youfuckingpieceofshit’. But I got my poem up!

West Newton Metta

It got crowded. What was six feet became four and then two. It was hot. I started thinking about myself in ways I don’t normally, as old, as immune compromised. So just before it was time to kneel for nine minutes in silence, I left. I said metta all the way home.

May George Floyd be peaceful. May he be free of inner and outer harm. May he be cared for gently as he makes his passage home. May he know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May the young woman who filmed Floyd’s murder be peaceful. May she be free of inner and outer harm. May she be healed of recent and transgenerational trauma. May she be cared for gently as she walks upon this earth. May she know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May George Floyd’s family be peaceful. May they be free of inner and outer harm. May they be cared for gently as they walk upon this earth. May they know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May the people of Minneapolis be peaceful. May they be free of inner and outer harm. May they be cared for gently as they walk upon this earth. May they know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May the people of Houston be peaceful. May they be free of inner and outer harm. May they be cared for gently as they walk upon this earth. May they know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May all protesters be peaceful. May all protesters be free of inner and outer harm. May they be cared for gently as they walk upon this earth. May they know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May all members of law enforcement be peaceful. May all police be free of inner and outer harm. May they be cared for gently as they walk upon this earth. May they minister to the public gently and for the greater good. May they know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May all Americans be peaceful. May we be free of inner and outer harm. May we be cared for gently as we walk upon this earth. May we know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May all sentient beings be peaceful. May all sentient beings be free of inner and outer harm. May they be cared for gently as they walk upon this earth. May they know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

May the earth be peaceful. May the earth be free of harm. May the earth be cared for gently as it spins through space. May the earth know joy, wisdom, and compassion.

Tomorrow — a rant. I’ll bet you can hardly wait.

How is everyone doing?

Not just another day

It’s hot. “The news flattens one spirits,” is one way to put it. A neighbor uses chalk to #saytheirnames

She inspires me.

It is hot enough for the season’s first batch of gazpacho.

Elsewhere in the neighborhood, a random act of kindness.

And a kitty looking Finn over as we pass.

And in case you didn’t already know that consciousness loves contrast, after a brutal catch up of the news this morning, look what greeted me to the East.

If nothing else, give

View this post on Instagram

RIP George Floyd.

A post shared by Chawne Kimber (@cauchycomplete) on

It’s heartbreaking that Chawne Kimber had cause to repost her “I can’t breathe” quilt. After nearly every comment, Kimber asked, “but what are you going to DO?” A drumbeat. A call to action. “What are you going TO DO?”

Here is a link to Minnesota Freedom Fund, which among other things, pays criminal bail for those who cannot afford to do so. I gave a little this morning.

And here is a Medium article titled, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.” It was written in 2017 and things have only gotten worse since then, so it’s still relevant. You could get lost for years doing the suggested reading and movie viewing. Don’t. Get a parallel course of action going.

Massachusetts has been reforming their criminal justice system in recent years, supported by a number of advocacy groups, like Citizens for Juvenile Justice. I made calls to my reps about some aspects of these efforts back in 2017 and am putting the task front and center again.

In “The New Jim Crow,” Michelle Alexander describes the devastating impacts of mandatory minimum drug sentencing and forfeiture rules. In the case of mandatory minimums, judges lost the power to consider a person’s circumstances. Sentencing that should have been calculated in months was imposed in five and ten year chunks.

When I worked for Aid to Incarcerated Mothers in the 90’s, I met inmates who had received mandatory five year sentences for possession of small amounts of drugs. Drug sales were often motivated by poverty or to support a habit. If parents, these women were almost always in danger of losing custody of their children — a secondary and devastating consequence to ridiculously long prison terms.

Alexander delineates how the forfeiture rules not only created incentives for law enforcement to grab property, it incentivized the vigorous continuation of the drug trade itself.

I’m jumping all around here, but there is a through line.

When making investments, you can either choose a socially responsible fund (an ESG investment) or have an otherwise ordinary fund apply filters. We chose Trillium as our ESG fund and applied the filters of fossil fuels and private prison corporations to others.

Privatization of the prison system creates incentives for keeping incarceration numbers high. More bodies equals more profits. ICE has been housing people in private prisons as well.

While I’m not sure that I fall all the way on the side of prison abolition, I most definitely want the racist and other inhumane policies to undergo reform. Our numbers are beyond shocking.

In closing let me say how gratifying it was to watch Amy Cooper go down in real time. From “twitter do your thing,” to her identity being posted within hours, to her voluntary surrender of her dog before sundown, her termination from Templeton Franklin the next day, and finally, her being banned from Central Park. She went full Donham* and deserved every bit of it.

*Woman who cried rape and effectively killed Emmett Till. She recanted a couple of years ago.

This quilt is from my Middle Passage series.

What counts as good news

Maddow on pause because I just can’t take anymore right now. And you know, it’s not just the onslaught of breaking, awful news, it’s also (and this happens frequently), the disorientation that arises when a big scoop turns out to be something we’ve heard before, maybe even more than once and often over a year ago (recent example, David Farenthold’s Washington Post story on trump’s hypocritical dependence on immigrants without legal status at his various businesses).*

Before pausing the news just now, I learned the identity of this MAGA-hat guy that I used on a SoulCollage card as a stand-in for the rot that trump has exposed. Turns out he’s the worst of the worst. He’s Andrew Anglin, founder of the Daily Stormer website, terrorist extraordinaire. He was one of the organizers of the Charlottesville protest two years ago. He’s a Holocaust denier who advocates Jewish genocide and has an army of like-minded white nationalists at his disposal. The Southern Poverty Law Center calls him “a prolific Internet troll and serial harasser.”

Well — judges in three recent high profile cases have awarded Anglin’s victims damages.

If you remember, these are the kinds of law suits that the Southern Poverty Law Center filed to good effect against klansman years ago.

The imposition of damages on white nationalists and their organizations counts as GOOD NEWS, particularly since we now know that the Department of Justice cannot be relied upon any longer to do the right thing (the legal, moral thing). As long as these cases come before judges appointed in the pre-trump era, we can hope for more satisfying outcomes.

* in reading the Washington Post piece this morning, I can appreciate what’s hopeful there, too, actually.

In a world where Democrats are slow-walking the impeachment process, we can look to state courts for interim justice. They have to be courts out of the reach of AG Barr, of course, but since they are, they’re also courts not bound by the OLC memo prohibiting indictment of a sitting president AND their judgments cannot be subject to presidential pardon power. Surely state laws are being broken by not only hiring undocumented immigrants but in instructing them in where and how to get fake papers.

Meanwhile K arrived home from his 49th trip to China last night and I’m off to Western Mass. tomorrow for a writing retreat. I kinda wish I was staying home honestly.

Lastly, what good news have you to report? I’ll start: CBD oil seems to be helping with my joints!