Monday, July 11, 2016

You fix this shit ...

"You fix this shit ..."

This comes from an essay Anthea Butler wrote for Religious Dispatches, in which she responds to her editor's request for a piece about the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the five police offers who were shot and killed in Dallas.  She says, essentially, that she'd one writing for white people who are looking for a person of color to express the outrage, the power of the pain, that we white folks can't (or won't) express ourselves:
"I'm done saving you, good white folks.  You want Black people like me, who like you, to say the prophetic thing, and bail your ass out for not speaking up, for remaining quiet -- while you get your work, vacations, and scholarship done this summer."
I hear this.  At least, to be honest, I'm trying to hear this.  It's hard as a person who was raised to think of myself as white to really  hear this.  Still, I'm trying.  And I think to myself -- what the hell am I supposed to do?  Damn.  how do you change the collective consciousness -- even more the unconsciousness -- of a country?  How do you "turn" the folks who see Donald Trump as, as Ms. Butler put it, "a savior"?

We're told that in Biblical times a prophet could speak out with such conviction that even kings would put on sackcloth and ashes as a demonstration of their heartfelt mourning and desire to repent.  Mohandas Gandhi would stop eating, and the people of India -- Hindu and Muslim alike -- would change their behavior out of concern and respect for the Great Soul.

Is there -- could there be -- such a prophet today?  Who do the American people love so deeply that they would pause in mid-battle for?  I'm not holding my breath for this kind of a solution.

But what can be done?  What can I do?  I know that "show up" matters.  I believe -- deeply -- that it makes a difference, when white folks help white folks to recognize -- to really see -- the racism that is embedded in our culture in which we move unconscious as a fish glides through water.  These things make a difference.  As does working to ensure the enfranchisement of people within historically marginalized groups.  As does writing letters to politicians, and signing petitions, and attending rallies, and getting arrested, and ...

And how do you change the collective consciousness of a country?  Because it's just not enough to change laws.  The ratification of the 14th amendment changed the status of African Americans ... except that it didn't.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensured that people of color would have the same access to participation in the democratic process as anyone else ... except that it didn't.  (And to further drive home the point, this issue had already supposedly been taken care of back in 1870 with the ratification of the 15th amendment!) 

Yes, we can do anti-bias training for police officers, and it's important work.  Will it really address the implicit bias that is at work in every interaction?  There are so many things that we can do, yet I keep coming back to what seems to me to be a fundamental questions -- how do you change the collective consciousness of a country? 

"You fix this shit ..."  Who are better positioned to change an inherently unjust system than the people who benefit most from that system?  And yet ... how does a fish change the water in the tank?

I truly wish I knew ....

Pax tecum,


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arthurrashap said...

To fix this shit, let’s find our who is Responsible?

So, let’s put all the ‘news’ we the people get to see: the innumerable repeats of shootings, shooters, protestors; those working against the protestors; those analyzing (and incentivizing) the perpetrators – the list can go on and on. We are presented with all kinds of speculation about who the “bad guys are.” (How come it seems that 50%+ of the population, the women, are seemingly absent from the blame game?)
Bottom line: The Media is responsible (in part, in full, somehow) for the increasing number of the ‘events’ that take place and then they then get to cover 24/7. What’s the case?
Perhaps the bottom line for the media is that they are motivated by getting the greatest number of viewers so that they can persuade advertisers to advertise and that is where the media get their income and that is the bottom line of the deciders. Those presenting the news get big exposure and so solidify their presence and their salaries. Pretty simple marketing in a system where deciding that all this exposure only motivates/facilitates/energizes those susceptible of being drawn to deviant behavior.

Is there a solution? Yes. Turn off those stations/channels/media outlets that perpetuate this sordid focus. Restrict yourself. Fewer viewers for this type of focus might just motivate a broader coverage, less incentivization for the deranged, and a return to what really matters in life for us to live together, peacefully, and achieve mutual well-being.

Arthur Rashap

Martin said...

Arthur, you say we should "return to what really matters in life for us to live together, peacefully, and achieve mutual well-being." That means you think that there was a time where we did live in this way. Since Europeans came to the Americas, this state was not there. I'm not familiar enough with what happened before then to know if there was peace then. I do however know that the slaughter of Native Americans, the slavery of Native Americans and Black people, the Jim Crow laws, the ongoing practice of police shooting people for little to no cause (which disproportionately affects Black people and other People of Color, and the mass incarceration (which again disproportionately affects People of Color) do NOT constitute peace and mutual well-being. Furthermore, the list above is just the tip of the ice berg.

Moreover, the shootings are not being done by "the deranged." As you probably know, "deranged" is prerogative used to describe people with mental illness. People with mental illness are much more likely to be the victim of crimes (including violent crimes) than people without mental illness, but are generally not more likely to be the perpetrators of them. These shootings have nothing to do with mental illness. Saying it does adds to the stigma of mental illness, which in turn leads to discrimination against and violence towards people with mental illness.

RevWik said...

You make an important point, Arthur -- our perception of reality is greatly influenced by the stories we hear, and "the media" (an increasingly broad term) does indeed dominate the way those stories are told.

Yet I don't think that this is "the bottom line." The reality of the existence of systems and institutions that have been purposefully created to support the imbalance of power between Whites and People of Color is not the invention of the media. As an example, it appears that the legislators who crafted North Carolina's new Voter ID law did so only after examining the voter records with an eye toward how African Americans have tended to vote. African Americans in North Carolina tend to have used predominantly non-photo IDs -- the law prohibits the use of non-photo IDs. The data shows that African Americans have tended to vote most often during the first seven days of North Carolina's 17 day early voting period -- the law eliminates those days. This is an example of a systematic and intentional effort to disenfranchise People of Color in order to maintain the status quo of White supremacy. The media had nothing to do with this. Institutional and systemic racism did, and they are "the bottom line" here.

"The media" rightfully can be decried for the way it highlights the sensational. Yet it did not create this abhorrent history Martin recounts in his comment. And it is that history, its legacy, and those who intentionally (and, yes, even unintentionally) continue to support and promote it, that is the "shit" which must be fixed.