BIPOC and what it must be like for Black Americans and indigenous people

Listening to solid news coverage about the struggles of immigrants and refugees, I was struck today about how disheartening, depressing, and even traumatizing it might be for Black people (and, now that I’ve been thinking about it, for indigenous people in the US) to have excellent passionate and committed activism and news coverage about the current issues facing immigrants and refugees. Even if Black and/or indigenous people fully support the rights and causes of immigrants and refugees, I can’t help but wonder (and I suspect google would bear this out) if Black and indigenous people might feel once again as if they don’t count or are invisible to the “allies.”

What I mean is this: Black people in America (and indigenous people here) have been terrorized and brutalized for hundreds of years, but they’ve barely made the news. Or, if the issues they face make the news it’s either covered from a white supremacist perspective or it only flashes in and out of the public eye.

Later this morning I saw on twitter an acronym I didn’t recognize: “BIPOC.” Instead of asking the tweeting person what it meant (they are an indigenous rights activist in Canada, I think? and I’m sure are bombarded by white people asking them to explain things) I googled it. It means “Black, indigenous, and people of color.” From what I’ve read, it’s used to help center discussions and work related to racism on people who tend to be marginalized when the term POC is used. For example, POC can refer to anyone who has Black or brown skin (or who identifies as a person of color). But, in general, Black Americans have enormously different histories than do those people who have come here voluntarily.

These days, as I’m hearing about the important good work being done for our neighbors who don’t have documentation stating they are legally allowed to live here, every news story I hear or read I think about how many stories about Black people being arrested and jailed for jaywalking or being systematically shut out of every single institution in the country. At this point, I’m not doing much more than thinking about it, but as I was noticing it, I felt like I wanted to share it.

As always, these notes are quickly written and are by their nature not inclusive of all aspects of these complicated issues. But, I’d rather say something than nothing at all when I’m in a place where it’s appropriate for me to speak/write. (For example, writing on my own blog is an appropriate place for me to take up space.)

working for change is dangerous for people of color, they should be paid

This past weekend, Shay Stewart-Bouley (aka “Black Girl In Maine“) was co-facilitating a discussion about cross-racial communication with her colleague and friend, Debbie Irving. A white man arrived at the event with the intention of stirring things up, believing his point would not be well-received. You can read more about the event, and what happened, here, and about Shay’s response here. The fact is, every time Shay speaks out about racism, she is putting herself in harm’s way. This is not an exaggeration. It’s not just uncomfortable work, it’s dangerous. She gets death threats regularly.

When I saw some news coverage of this hostile man’s disruption at what was meant to be an honest dialogue about improving communication, I was furious. I wrote a letter to the editor (you can read that here) because the piece, as Shay said, shares all kinds of thoughts the hostile white man had and the reporter didn’t even interview Shay to get her take on it. She is the one who was put in a position where she didn’t feel safe (based on life experience she had reason to know the man might snap at any time), but the reporter did not tell the story from her point of view.

I’m writing this post to remind my white readers, my white friends and peers, that there’s a lot we can do to make our country a better place to live for people of color. One simple thing we can do is to contribute financially to the work done by people of color like Shay (and the writers she pays) who not only share their ideas, their life experiences, but they also risk their physical and mental health if they openly work against racism.

Quakers and white supremacy

One of the reasons I love Quakers is without doing it perfectly, we try to live by Jesus’ example. I was recently reading a “minute” from New England Yearly Meeting, 2016 that I want to share. From, https://neym.org/news/2016-yearly-meeting-minute-white-supremacy:

“This minute is an important instance of speaking Truth to power. This minute represents the hard truth of Friends of color. The largely white Yearly Meeting is the power that needs to receive this Truth.

We want to grow; we want to become whole. We have received this minute and have been exercised. We want to invite others into the same experience. With our hearts broken open we approved the following minute; uniting with it with both joy and pain. This is the truth God has brought us to at this time. We feel the Love in these words.

We are complicit in white supremacy. We at New England Yearly Meeting have been “colonized” by our white supremacist culture and fall short of our full potential as a gathered body of Quaker Meetings because of this colonization.

We commit to engaging in interrupting white supremacy in ourselves:

  • within individuals
  • interpersonally,
  • in our meetings
  • and at all system levels of NEYM

To start this, we ask Permanent Board to explore an external cultural competency audit of New England Yearly Meeting.

We support Friends General Conference, an organization of which we are a part, in its efforts to interrupt white supremacy in its organization.

We commit to support fundraising by the New England Yearly Meeting FGC committee to raise $4,000 from our membership and our monthly meetings by the end of 2016. These funds will be available to FGC towards the cost of an external cultural competency audit if FGC decides to have one conducted. If more than $4,000 is raised, we direct the Permanent Board of NEYM to find use for the additional funds to support the work of interrupting white supremacy.”

 

make Trump a lame duck h/t @samswey

click here to donate

 

to my white friends

To my white friends: please listen closely to your inner voices. Please notice if you — even for a millisecond — have a flash of a thought of “they must’ve done something wrong/illegal” when you hear about the number of times people of color are hassled by the police.

Even the most open-hearted and progressive among us are influenced by the systems we live in.

You know the justice system is not just, but please notice if you have the little whisper of “they must’ve done wrong.”

I found that once I started noticing those nearly-imperceptible thoughts — for me, police = protection against criminals, so, therefore, police stopping someone must mean they are a criminal — I was able to learn more about myself. I began the process of ridding myself from the emotional obstacles that had been preventing me from actually participating in social change.

Despite decades of work on my own part in racism, I still have those thoughts! I saw that Philando Castile had been pulled over 49 times in 13 years and I thought, “wow, maybe he was a criminal?” The thought lasted fractions of a second, but I noticed it. I caught myself. I corrected the thought. I was reminded of how insidious racism is and it reminded me to refocus.

I’m not done being racist, and no matter how much inner or outer work I do, I probably won’t shed all of it. But I started getting better when I started getting really, really honest.