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Learning to See the Truth

We are not all free. We are not free unless all of us are free. Don’t convince yourself otherwise. This is what institutional racism and modern-day slavery look like. How do more of us move from caring in our hearts, to not settling down until transformative change has happened?

In this article, the author Casey Blake illustrates how psychological manipulation is used in intstitional racism: Shameful Police Brutality Isn’t “All In Your Mind” Now.

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Police Brutality in Asheville

In case you’re not following this local incident of police brutality, abuse of power, and racial profiling by the Asheville Police Department, here’s an update from my perspective. And please follow this story, as this is the horrid underbelly that is alive and thriving in Asheville. You can find this information yourself in City of Asheville blog, APD twitter account, Asheville Citizen-Times, WLOS, and New York Times, WashingtonPost articles, and facebook posts. Please correct me if any of this is wrong.

  • The local DA and police department are swiftly acting to investigate who “leaked” the police body cam video, in order to charge that person as it is illegal in the state of NC for body cam video to be viewed by the public. This is much swifter action than appears to have been taken to investigate the beating, based on the timeline that APD released.
  • National news sources have picked up and are reporting on the incident.
  • There is evidence that the FBI was involved in investigating the case, but unclear if they still are.
  • The police chief, mayor, and vice mayor met with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and the Baptist Ministers Union where pastors expressed their concern.
  • City Council is holding a special meeting, closed session, on Monday to discuss the release of additional information related to a former APD officer’s use of force.
  • The Citizens/Police Advisory Committee (CPAC), a group that serves as a liaison between the police department and community, will have their monthly meeting on March 7, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. in the classroom at the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center located at 285 Livingston St, Asheville, NC. Normally the police chief attends these meetings. She was not scheduled to attend this one as it was supposed to be a community meeting with no police. There have been requests for her to be there as this is the ONLY institutional way for the public to communicate with the chief. There is no word on if she will attend.
  • Black organizers are hosting a community engagement meeting for mainly the black community to identify what actions to take moving forward.
  • The police chief has issued an apology (a couple of days ago, not when the incident happened in August) and many folks who are new to paying attention to APD’s leadership and communication styles feel encouraged that she is admitting the mistake. She is not addressing the many other concerns around this incident.
  • The officer who violently used excessive force resigned from APD almost 5 months after the incident. It does not appear that charges were brought against him. It does not appear that he is being held accountable for his brutality and abuse of power. I’ve not heard anybody find if he’s gotten a job at another police department yet.
  • The Asheville Police Captain Stony Gonce is on paid, investigative suspension. It is unclear if this is related to the police brutality incident or not.
  • It seems that the other officer on the scene who watched and permitted this to happen has not had any disciplinary action against him.

“I jay walk this intersection all the time. It’s terribly designed. It’s very hard to cross because of the poorly designed crosswalks. I have done it at least once when a cop car went by. I was never stopped let alone harassed, arrested and assaulted. Arresting a black man for trespassing and jay walking is some messed up Jim Crow nonsense.”
~ Cindy Conway, white woman

Read this article for some important perspectives from local leaders.

And this one from the Asheville Blade is an in-depth look at this incident in the context of past events.

 

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People Are Murdered and Criminalized for Speaking out for Justice

Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied! 30 Minute cut from Sam Vinal- Mutual Aid Media on Vimeo.

(Film in Spanish)

DJs2UM8VYAA4AAQAround the world, including in the US, North Carolina and even Asheville, activists are harmed, harassed, murdered, incarcerated, or wrongly convicted for standing up for the rights of the people and the land — they are criminalized for speaking out for justice and exercising their fundamental rights to free expression and assembly.

Knowing this threat, people continue to risk their lives to protect their people, the earth, and the well being of future generations. These are people who are deeply devoted to the common good and the well-being of people living now and in the future. These are not folks who want to look like they are committed to a better world, but people whose actions and lives reflect their actual devotion.

Today I am praying to those who are now ancestors to guide and protect those who are still alive and are walking this path today. I am praying that more of us will release from the fog of denial, open our eyes to the fact that so many rights are being threatened all around the world and in our own neighborhoods, and find concrete and courageous ways that we can join the struggle to stand for freedom for all.

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 11.08.37 AM2 years ago today, Berta Cáceres, a Lenca organizer, activist and leader  in Honduras, was assassinated in her home. From 2010-2017 in Honduras, 124 environmental activists were assassinated for their grassroots efforts to defend indigenous rights and the environment, fighting against the Honduran oligarchy and international corporations that are stealing and trying to steal indigenous land to build dams, gated communities, refineries and more. The activists standing up to these government and corporate powers are fighting against the increase in militarism and military spending as education and health go unattended to (sound familiar) and the earth is extracted for profit. They are standing up against patriarchy, homophobia, the stealing of land, and discrimination against indigenous people. They are defending the rivers. These indigenous communities are fighting for the future.

The military force and brutal repression being used against them is funded by US taxpayer dollars, and US companies are profiting from it.

The below video is a beautiful and informative window into this situation in Honduras and a mirror for situations all over the world. These indigenous people are calling on us all to build societies that are able to coexist in a way that is fair, dignified and for life. These are examples of alliances of people coming together to defend rights. “The people united will never be defeated.” Their resistance includes songs, theater, drums, and community.

The question for me these days is not so much “what can I do?” But, more so, who are the people that are with me, sincerely devoted to taking action together for the rights of all people, the well-being of current and future generations? There are many different roles we can play, there is so much to do, not acting is not an option for me.

In honor of the 2 year anniversary of Berta’s assassination, please consider a quick phone call to your House representative asking them to sign the Berta Cáceres Act. Details below.

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The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act is a landmark bill introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and currently co-sponsored by 70 Members of the House of Representatives.

Find out if your House Rep has signed it.

The bill states: “The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity” and that the military has committed violations of human rights. Therefore, the bill asks that the United States suspend all “…security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Note, two of the accused murderers are former Honduran soldiers trained by the United States in Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas

Please call your Representative NOW and ask to speak to his/her Foreign Policy Aide! Because the bill has been re-introduced, all of the bill’s co-sponsors will need to co-sponsor again! If your representative has not yet signed, call them and ask them to add their support as a sponsor of the bill!

Script:

“My name is _____. I’m a constituent from (your town/city) in (your state), and I’m calling to ask Rep. _____ to co-sponsor H.R. 1299, The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, calling for a suspension of U.S. security aid to Honduras until human rights violations committed by the Honduran security forces cease. Has Rep. _______ seen this bill? Can I count on him/her to sign on? Please call me this week at (your phone number) to let me know if you have seen the letter, and if Rep. _____ will sign it.”

More info about the situation:

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Reflections on Power: In the Role of a Facilitator & the Body of a White Woman

john-dewey-reflection-quote-16vbfv9I recently facilitated a session where someone shared in the closing reflections that they felt dehumanized. For anyone to feel dehumanized by my actions is, for me, a fail. When I mess up, it’s imperative for me to own it, learn from the experience, act differently in the future, and make amends as best as I am able. My hope is that this public reflection will help me integrate what I am learning and potentially be valuable for people reading this (as I know I am one of many who carries the identities of a facilitator and a white woman). I am committed to facilitating with integrity and humility. Reflecting in depth on the feedback I receive is an essential part of my commitment. What follows is my perceptions and analysis. I’m sure that there is more to see from the perspective of other people who were present.

Perceptions About Power that I had Walking into this Session

When I am facilitating a group, I always hold power in the room. I guide where a group goes or doesn’t go. I hold the actual or symbolic microphone, making decisions about whose voices are heard or not heard. I take up space. I am the center of attention at times. I have influence over what is or isn’t happening in the room. Sometimes I use my power in ways that are contrary to how a person in the room would like the time to be spent. I take very seriously this facilitator’s position of power and influence and strive to use it to make equitable spaces where people are respected and able learn from each other.

problem-of-whitenessI am a white person and a White Woman. I share these identities with many other people that have historically and still currently hold social power simply because we are white. We act in all kinds of ways, intentionally or unknowingly, that hold us as superior and others as inferior. We have and still do cause trauma and harm towards people of color. Historically (and currently), white folks and White Women had the power of being listened to and believed, our word would be taken as the true word when in relationship with people who did not have as much social power as someone who looks like me. I would be listened to while others weren’t. And many, many folks who looked like me used that power to not only get what we wanted and control other people, but to actually harm other people. When I show up in a room, I am showing up as myself in that moment, and I am also showing up in the image of other people who looked like me and were allowed to be abusive, harmful, and inconsiderate, to name just a few things, towards people who did not look like me.

When I’m facilitating (and in life), sometimes people will be responding to my direct actions. Sometimes people will be responding to my actions that resemble those of people who looked like me in the past.

Another identity that I can embody is that of a White School Teacher, an archetype that has historically been abusive with its power (along with the education system at large). 80% of teachers in public schools in the United States are white and it is well researched that white teachers and the education system that white folks have created have not been fair, kind, honest, or effective in educating students of color (and some might argue all students).

As a white facilitator, particularly when working in a multi-racial setting, I must be hyper aware of my whiteness and all the ways that I am using or releasing my power and even the ways that those who looked like me have used and abused our power in the past.

What I learned in the Experience I Facilitated

  • Knowing all of that above — There was a 15-minute section of time where I forgot that I was white. I was centered on the task of facilitating a process and learning experience. I slipped into the role of a teacher. I used my power as the facilitator to teach the group something that I thought was important for them to learn. I did not realize that when I was the facilitator interrupting participants (an act that felt appropriate for what I was teaching in the moment), I was also a white woman, perhaps a white teacher, interrupting and shutting down people of color — a behavior that is very common for white people to do. In hindsight, I think if I had been holding in my awareness that I was white in that tense moment, I would have used my facilitator power in a way that did not replicate patterns of white folks using our power to oppress and silence people of color. But I forgot that I was white (a privilege and pattern that happens often for us white folks). It was a harsh reminder about how much diligence it takes to consciously disrupt habits of whiteness that are alive in me. I’ve grown up in a world that allows me to not know what it means to be white, but to just exist as “a person.” That ignorance is unacceptable if I am facilitating multi-racial groups and working towards racial justice and healing.
  • As a facilitation team, we were teaching something that the group did not give us consent to teach. This is contrary to how I like to operate, how I believe education is effective, and to my own sense of respect for learners. But I did not realize I was living that until it was too late.
  • I am reflecting on the wounds people carry from up to 25 years of schooling with white teachers that were abusive with their power. When I am facilitating and “teaching” something, how often might I be summoning up past experiences of trauma or mistrust from the white teachers of someone’s childhood?
  • I am also reflecting on — what could it have looked like for someone to interrupt and name the ways my whiteness was showing up and influencing the moment?

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What Happened — The Facilitated Experience

A social justice fellowship hired 3 consultants (a multi-racial team) to guide the Fellows (majority people of color) in a process to co-design the rest of their programming and curriculum with an allocated amount of money to work with. We facilitated:

  • Pre-session: 1-on-1 interviews
  • Session 1: Connecting, understanding the mission, the kind of learning environment that they want to experience and create
  • Session 2: Relationships with money, capitalism and collectively shaping a power analysis of what they want to amplify, interrupt and innovate
  • Session 3: Collective Decision-making process and begin designing

Session 3 is the session I’m reflecting on here. Our goal was to give the Fellows an overview of a collective decision-making process and then facilitate them through the process, highlighting the process in action along the way so that they could take over the facilitation and facilitate themselves as our contract ended after session 3. In session 1 we asked if anyone had experience with a collective decision-making process. No one raised their hand so we proceeded with the assumption that we would be offering them a process that would be new to them, something for them to experience first hand and then they could choose to use or not use it. We chose a consent-based decision-making process as the tool that we would offer.

Some mistakes that I and we made:

  • We did not explicitly get consent from the Fellows to teach them and guide them through the particular consent decision-making process.
  • Before we began practicing and using the process, I was assigned the role of explaining the process. We had created a handout and I explained the elements of the handout. My approach was very didactic teaching. In session 1, the majority of the Fellows indicated that they did not like learning in a lecture type environment. At least one Fellow indicated that they did like more traditional teaching styles sometimes. I was not listening to their request to learn by doing, but was instead taking 45 minutes to teach and explain.
  • I used my power as the facilitator and the assumptions that I had made that they were open to receiving the process and forced them to participate in the process, at times interrupting an organic flow so that I could fit their organic reactions into the process and highlight for them how to follow the steps. While I knew why I was making those choices, they did not and I think it felt like me inserting my power to control the process in the way I wanted it to go, disregarding their wishes and efforts towards shared leadership.
  • When I was using my power as a facilitator to interrupt people while they were talking and connect what they were saying to the process, not only was I forcing participation into something they didn’t consent to, I was also wearing my white skin, in a position of power, and interrupting people of color and exerting my power over people of color.

Some comments made in the closing reflections that particularly stood out to me:

  • Over-explaining is a form of Anti-Blackness
  • To point out process feels dehumanizing
  • Trust us that the work you’ve done is effective and we’ve got this
  • It felt like we were being blocked by the facilitation

I apologized for the mistakes I could see in the closing circle and I will continue to listen for ways that I can make amends for any harm that I caused. And, I think the best way for me to repair from these mistakes is to be diligent in myself about not replicating the same mistakes. I know as a white woman, my whiteness will continue to be revealed to me, and my inability to see how I am part of the problem or perpetuating problems will be illuminated. My prayers are that I keep learning, unlearning and embodying my growth and that I cause as little harm as possible. I know that I am on this journey of racial healing and racial justice for the long haul and I pray that I show up with humility and integrity, contributing in places where my presence is of value and is not a disruption to healing and justice.

P.s. This article was shared with me as a follow-up to this group: Consensus is a means, not an end.

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White Folks Are Needed to Help Undo Systematic Oppression

“So in 2018, white folks, stop showering us with empty compliments, being over-eager to befriend us & all that- just stop. It’s sad how badly you want your niceties to morph into freedom from white guilt.

And it doesn’t accomplish what you think it does, it just insults us when you think your biased kindness suffices in a world where we need you to actually undo systematic oppression.”
~ Alex Williams (read the full post)

I see a lot of white folks feeling pushed to a new edge with the blatant racism of the president of our country calling Black and Brown countries shithole countries.

I’m glad it is unsettling.
We’re all needed to actually undo systemic oppression.

“It’s more important for level-headed people to be strategic rather than outraged.” ~Don Lemon

May we use our outrage strategically to work together and undo systemic oppression.

Thank you Alex Williams for the education and Kristin Wilson and Desiree Lynn Adaway for the links.

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Freedom School with Desiree Adaway

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I see a lot of people who are feeling anxious about the state of things, want to do something, and aren’t sure what to do. To really be involved in making change, we have to do our homework and understand the complexity of the situations we find ourselves in. If you are committed to ending a pattern of caring-but-not-really-knowing-what-to-do — Freedom School might be the next step for you.

Desiree Lynn Adaway is a powerful leader and educator and is offering a great service by creating this introductory exploration of the ideas and topics most relevant to understanding and navigating our current social and political landscape. Freedom School will help you develop your self-awareness and capacity to take action in ways that will create lasting impact. Check it out. Spread the word. And let me know if you sign up!

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Facing the Challenges of This Time

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“In the face of daunting challenges, we must summon the courage to believe we are the ones we have been waiting for, take risks, and experiment towards solutions. We’re being asked to believe in our inherent capacity, step into the unknown, and challenge deeply held assumptions. For most of us, that’s radically disruptive and contrary to how we’ve organized ourselves to succeed in life… Together we will become the leaders we collectively need. And in the process we will continuously grow and shift and change to meet each new challenge.”

Jodie Tonita from Social Transformation Project, published in Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown.

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