You know me as a a mother, an artist, a teacher . . . a solo-preneur. Perhaps you’ve heard me speak of progressive ideals and maybe even perceived me as a fierce champion of the disenfranchised. It’s all mostly true, however on my path of self discovery and spiritual growth, I understand myself to be a racist.
I don’t have a “personal” Blog space. I am the sole owner and creator behind Phoenix Magyk. There is no “Royal we”.
While I am keen to make adornment of resonance, sell those adornments and teach the art form, I believe that the life I experience, informs my art, influences the custom work I do, and how I relate to others. So this is me . . . my authentic self.
I believe that being positive is way better than being negative, that fear is the opposite of love and that hate is fear manifest. However, I’m not so high in the clouds of spiritual enlightenment that I miss what needs addressing in a firm way.
This might be clumsy, I’m doing my best. Before I get started on my story, I just want to be clear about a couple of things.
I SUPPORT Black Lives Matter
I SUPPORT Anti-Racist Groups
I SUPPORT Anti-bigotry Groups
I STAND against White Supremacy
I STAND against Nazis
I STAND against White Nationalists
I’m sending love and light to Charlottesville, the injured and to the families and friends of Heather Heyer and the Troopers killed in the helicopter crash –
What happened in Charlottesville was horrible. I felt helpless, hopeless, horrified and scared. I’ve spent the last couple of days figuring out what I can do more of, to be a part of the fight. I believe that all of us with like ideals have a responsibility to speak out and condemn such hate. My personal feelings or my story aren’t necessarily part of any solution, however I’m reaching out and coming out of my closet. I am confident there are white people out there like me.
I was born in Glenridge, New Jersey, to immigrant parents. My father was from Greece and my mother, from Spain. Both of them had come to the states as children with their respective families. During the 30’s and 40’s, immigration in to the states was a “cool” thing. People came from all over and were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty and promises of living the “American Dream”.
What I have known is what I grew up with. There was very little connection to my parent’s origins, shared in our house. It is my greatest sorrow, that I know so little of where they came from and what their lives were like. I know, there is always Ancestry, right? And what I know from my growing up, is that my immigrant parents became “white”, with all the associated privilege that comes with it. Why? Because, I think, it was practically mandatory.
When immigrants came to America’s “melting pot”, it was understood, that one would become an American. People, who came to the states, would learn English and American customs and become “American”. Cultures were maintained in small enclaves and in homes. One reason was the systemic racism that existed at the time. It just seemed smarter and safer to become “American” than to do anything that drew attention to yourself or your culture of origin. I believe this concept has been seen over and over again, starting with WWII, when the Japanese were robbed of their possessions and placed in camps. Clearly, we “Americans” learned nothing from what we did to the Indigenous peoples.
There is a lot of historical information about this, and I’m not going to share it at present. I want to get to my point 🙂
We moved to Texas when I was 3 y.o. It was a very small town. I do not remember EVER seeing a black person there. When I was about 6 y.o. we moved to tiny suburb outside of Houston, and I don’t have any memory of meeting ANY person of color. I do remember that my mother made a HUGE deal of us not speaking Spanish, IN or out of the house any more. Until then, it was the only connection I had to her culture and history. My father never spoke Greek and never encouraged us to learn.
When I was about 13 y.o. we moved to a different suburb in Texas. It was during my years there, that I experienced racism. I had no idea what I was experiencing then. I was told that my fellow young humans were just “mean, just ignore them and they’ll go away”.
My skin was pretty brown, and my hair was super curly and “white people” really could not determine if I was a light skinned African American or Hispanic. I was called names and bullied a lot . . . until I found ways to defend myself by trying to look tough, in jeans and t-shirts and boots. I also learned to yell loudly – the best defense was a good offense. I was called the “N” word and “spic” and other racist slurs. I still shudder a bit when I recall.
I remember, after a confrontation with some girls, I asked my mother “What ARE we?” Firmly and clearly, she said, “WE are AMERICANS and that’s all you need to know”
I used to think that statement was a badge of courage. I have come to understand over the years, that it was a badge of fear . . . and protection.
My mother felt that in order to protect us from getting beat up/killed, we had to ignore any identification or demonstration of our heritage and so we were raised “white” and throughout my life, I have experienced the privilege that comes with it.
I was never overtly taught to hate any one or any group of people. I was raised by and around people who believed that people of color were “those people” that lived on “the other side of the tracks”, and other racist stereotypes. I did not know that those were racist ideas. I also don’t remember being taught to “love everyone”. There was never a conversation about race in our home. What I learned was a covert white supremacy. Racism that is insidious and rampant unconsiously.
We moved to California when I was about 16. I was still in the white world I’d grown accustomed to. I knew nothing of other people’s lives.
My parents were “old school” Republicans . . . fiscally conservative and socially, centrist/moderate. I had a clear sense that “white” was good and anything else was not really important.
It was in my early 20s that I started to meet people that weren’t white and I began to understand, that my thinking was all wrong and I became a “new-age Democrat”. I moaned and groaned about Republicans and felt horror and outrage over news reports of the KKK violence . . . and those “crazy Black Panthers”. I was a bleeding-heart, liberal, racist. I still didn’t get it and I did nothing.
If you had said that to me at the time, I would have most certainly begun to cry and defend myself. I.just.did.not.know. I was ignorant.
From my 20’s until about three years ago, I lived an ignorant life in which I was pretty certain that I was not a racist and what is this “white privilege stuff people keep talking about?” I felt certain that because my life was not comparable to “rich white people”, I was in the clear and in the trenches with the disenfranchised. I was very wrong.
Despite having very few conversations in my home with my children about race and bigotry, they have made their own way and have solid, anti-racist positions. I’ve learned a lot from my children, and I learn more everyday.
A real turn-a-round in my growth and awareness came when both my children slammed dunked me for saying “But gee, don’t all lives matter.” To which I was promptly informed that I did not “have a clue” and I was “trivializing the oppression that the disenfranchised have been experiencing their whole lives!” and most striking at the time “If a white guy got pulled over, this would not happen!” They were right.
I’ve been pulled over for broken tail-lights, expired registration, and once because a car that looked a lot like mine had been reported stolen. NOT once was I ever yelled at or was it demanded that I get out of my car. I once piled my little Honda under the tail end of a semi truck on PCH, while drunk, and they never even asked for a sobriety test . . . I was 17 and crying uncontrollably . . . but c’mon.
Once, while pregnant with my eldest, on the way to a camping trip, we got pulled over. I don’t remember why. We had an ax on the floor of the passenger side. We had just picked it up from a friend on the way out of town. As soon as the officer saw the ax, we were commanded out of the car at gun point and I was forced to “spread eagle” across the hood of the car, while my husband was at the back of the car. I was 6 months pregnant and fairly huge. I recall my fear and subsequent outrage. There had been several incidents of pulled over drivers, having attacked officers.
What became startlingly clear for me in remembering that story, is the understanding that while I got away with yelling at the officer, the African American community cannot risk it. I think of Sandra Bland and Eric Gardner and so many more lives ended, for an effort to stand up for themselves, to comply . . . at the hands of racist officers.
I’m not a victim here. I understand that through my ignorance and silence, I have been complicit in perpetuating racism and bigotry.
I am reaching out, doing more learning, asking questions and boosting signals to help people of color and other disenfranchised groups, be heard, which as a cis-white woman is something I’ve learned I can do.
There aren’t two sides. “Reverse racism” is not a thing. Activists, if feeling threatened, have a right to defend themselves.
For over 200 years, people of color, especially black Americans, have been treated differently . . . discriminatoily . . . cruelly . . . unfairly, and in so many instances, with deadly force. Black people have been lynched, burned, and scorned, in ways that no white person has had to endure, with perhaps the exception of Holocaust survivors. Black people have had to fight an upstream battle, at every turn.
I thought I understood what that meant, but I didn’t. For my lifetime, I have not had to fight for the right to go to school or the right to a particular job or the right to vote. While my life hasn’t always been sunshine and roses, in comparison to people of color and the many more humans that are rejected on a daily basis, I’ve lived a fairy tale life of privilege.
Nazis are not dead and they are not done. They are coming after anyone that does not look like them or believe like them. They are attempting to speak on our campuses and recruit angry, young men, with the lure of power through supremacy. Their stand on woman is equally as evil as their stand on race and certain religions. They are organized and headed across the country. Allowing their views to be propagated is dangerous. Banging the drum of free speech is a dangerous, slippery slope. They are terrorists and their intimidation and power grab must be stopped. Even in Germany, they destroyed symbols of Nazism to begin their healing. We can never erase history, however, it has been said “Those that cannot remember the past, are doomed to repeat It.” – George Santayana
Silence will allow them to move forward. I implore you to speak out and speak up.
I cannot speak FOR the disenfranchised. I can participate in actions that assist. I can boost signals. I can be aware of my own words and my own privilege and call it out in others when I see it. I can go to rallies of resistance and persistence. I regularly try to educate people on Facebook ;P
If we’re going to stop this force of evil and yes, I did say that . . . Nazis are evil – if we can’t help them change their thinking, I’m all for shoving them back into the holes they came out of, until such time as they are ready to listen to the truth.
I see unity coming in the collective group of those of us who condemn such ideologies of hatred. These are not “opinions”. They are trying to take American away from it’s efforts in tolerance, acceptance, love, community and a fundamental shift in system.
My point? I have a couple. Racism and bigotry begins at home – don’t teach it. Do a little soul searching and understand your own racism and where it came from. Acting from “white guilt” is less useful than acting from courage and compassion. Don’t be silent. Speak up. See something, say something. If your grandpa is still making circulating jokes about Asians and they way they drive…and maps and cameras, ask him to stop, tell him why and give him a new joke to share.
Here are some resources that I found super useful, maybe they will be of value to you.
Showing Up For Social Justice – places to meet up with liked minded
Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide | Southern Poverty Law Center
Erynn Brook, “White Feelings: 0-60” A great speed view on what people like me do/can do after events like Charlottesville and honestly want to help/assist/fight against racism. Silence is being complicit:
Paula Rothenberg, “White Privilege”. https://www.amazon.com/White-Privilege-Paula-S-Rothenberg/dp/1429242205 This is absolutely a mandatory read, and a great resource for anti-racist learning and education on white supremacy in liberal spaces.
And here are some great resources for talking to children.
Much Love and Light,