Monday, October 19, 2015

The Privileges of Foot-Stompers

Earlier today I read a post on an author blog (passionate, full of truth bombs strategically dropped) that used the example of someone stepping on a person's foot as an analogy to explain what it's like for a person of color to deal with the problematic and privileged things people say, even when the foot-stompers in question are friends.

"It's like someone stepping on your foot and getting angry with you for saying 'um, ow, could you get off?'"

It got me thinking about the different ways white people react to being called out for saying or doing something racist. [It can apply to various types of privilege, of race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status, but in this case, we're focusing just on race.]

Disclaimer: I am white, so while this is me trying to understand and frame the issue in a way that makes sense to me, it is also through my observations as someone with white privilege. Hopefully, I get it right, or at least, don't get it wrong in a way that hurts people of color.

Types of Privileged Foot-Stompers:

1. If you're lucky, you meet someone/are friends with someone who, even if they have privilege, walk carefully, so as to avoid stepping on someone's foot altogether. This strikes me as the Informed Ally. They might still step on your foot, but it tends to be a rare occurrence.

2. Then, you have the Newbie Ally. They know they should step carefully, but they don't know the way just yet, so they stumble a lot. They will step on feet, but they tend to apologize, and use the experience to try and avoid doing it again.

3. The Ignorant Ally/Neutral Privileged is someone who thinks they know where they are going and is walking pretty confidently to their destination. They may not be looking for feet to step on, but they also are not watching out for people's feet. They may apologize because they know they should, but they don't tend to look at their behavior, reflect, and change route.

4. The Arrogant "Ally" is exactly that. They think they know everything, they think they are an ally, but they don't really listen. They step on people's feet and say they didn't, or that it isn't their fault your foot was there. Apologies are begrudging, often insincere, and it becomes more about them feeling attacked for being called on the foot-stomping rather than the fact that they stomped on someone's foot.

5. The False Ally claims to care about the daily micro- and macroaggressions POC have to deal with/suffer from/try to survive, but they blatantly say and do things that show they either do not know or do not care. They stomp on feet and not only claim your foot shouldn't have been there, but that you must have put your foot there on purpose, in order to get it stomped. Why, you were probably trying to trip them. How could you do that to them? They've tried so hard to be a good person, and you know, people have stomped on their feet, too.

6. I don't have a good name for this last category. They're bigots. They're deliberate foot-stompers, out to hurt people because…who knows. Maybe they like hurting other people, maybe they were raised to stomp feet and don't want to think about changing, don't want to see that it hurts others, or maybe they are just so afraid of being called wrong that they double-down on their feet-stomping, because if they're louder and stomp more feet than anyone else, that means they're right.

Here's the take-away: Stepping and stomping on other people's feet is wrong, hurtful, and you should not do it. And if you do, apologize sincerely. If you have a moment of thinking, "It's not my fault! I didn't mean to!" keep it to yourself. It happens, stepping on others' feet. But even if it's unintended, you still hurt someone else. It doesn't matter if it was an accident or done out of ignorance. Apologize to them, then take a step back, look at the interaction. Was there something that precipitated the foot-stomping? Something you said or did that changed the interaction from friendly to foot-stompy? Think on it and try to change. But don't put the onus of your change on the person whose foot has been stepped on, they are already in pain, and they have probably had their foot stepped on multiple times that same day.

Words may not break bones the way sticks and stones will, but words still hurt like a thousand papercuts, or a million foot-stomps. Worse, words can sometimes inspire others to become foot-stompers. Think about what you say and what you do, educate yourselves. It's an ongoing process, but why harm when we can try to make the lives of others just a little less painful?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Helping the Syrian Refugees

I don’t normally do things like this, but my friend Ariel Ricker is currently in the area where refugees are fleeing. She was first in Turkey, helping out with refugees leaving and is currently in Greece, helping when refugees arrive. She is working with others to put together care packages–food, clothes, shoes, and other necessities. She’s told me the refugees are no longer even allowed to bring one bag of belongings, so they are literally arriving in Greece with nothing.

I’m sure many of you have seen the photos of refugees who have not made it. But for those who have reached the shore, there is still a lot that can be done to help.

If you are in that region, this is the website of an organization she’s working with where you can find out what refugees need and where you can drop items off: Care Packages for Syrian Refugees.

My friend is also personally going into stores, and buying food and supplies, but her financial resources are not limitless. If you are in the US and would still like to help her, you can go to her GoFundMe page. The money donated there will help her with basic housing and necessities so she can stay there as long as possible to help, and the rest will go towards helping the refugees.

I know some folks like to donate through larger organizations, others prefer something more direct. I have seen the posts from my friend, the photos of what she's seen and who she's met, so I know she is there and doing the work.

If you have a few dollars and have been looking for a way to help, I’ll hope you’ll consider donating to my friend. If you can’t, please spread the word.

Related to this, she is also a journalist and writing articles on the situation: 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Searching for Sabrina

2015 isn't done yet, but it's had its share of ups and downs for me.

I've been a teacher for nearly five years--July would have been the 5-year anniversary of my starting my teaching job. But things happened and basically, the school closed. It was the sort of thing that was out of the hands of the campus administration, but my life went from prepping for a new quarter of English and psychology courses, teaching the first week and settling in, to waking up on a Sunday morning in April with a new email me informing me the campus (and all the other campuses for this college) was closing. 

So I was suddenly without a job. It was sort of shocking, but in some ways, well timed. It had been a fast-paced school, a new bunch of students every quarter (100 or so new names and faces, four times a year), and very little time to catch my breath or focus on other interests.

I'd struggled for a long time to get back in the habit of reading for leisure, or writing, or crafting. I often didn't have the energy, and when I did, I often didn't have the motivation or inspiration.

I felt like I was losing myself.

Without the daily grind of teaching, and being lucky enough to be in a home situation where I could take a few months off, I figured this was a good opportunity to rediscover what makes me happy.

I start the job search in earnest in September. I gave myself the summer to focus on finding my joy, so I've been writing and making jewelry, and decorating trinket boxes, even doing a little painting and trying to get back in the habit of drawing.

It's kind of glorious. I get sleep, I have more control over my daily schedule, and I feel like I found Sabrina, finally.