Equality Rant

The graphic above prompted me to go on a rant on Facebook yesterday. First, because I agree wholeheartedly with the author, but mostly because I’m sick and damned tired of the inequalities present in this country.

How will we ever measure the loss of the intellectual contributions of women and people of color over the course of history? Has anyone ever made an attempt to calculate the costs of misogyny, racism, and xenophobia?

The patriarchy, in all its glory, has not only managed to restrict the rights of those who are non-white and non-male, but in the process of doing so, managed to literally rob society of the potential residing in countless members of their non-privileged counterparts.

Certainly there have been outliers who’ve transcended race and gender to succeed in this predominantly white male-dominated society, but just imagine what we could be as a nation if everyone was valued. Just maybe we should begin looking at this issue from an economic position rather than a humanitarian one. After all, money is pretty much all some people care about.

When We Know Better

Many years ago, when I was in my mid-20’s I dressed as Aunt Jemima for a Halloween party. I donned a red gingham dress and crisp white apron, tied a kerchief around my head and sallied forth for an evening of revelry.

Oh, and as much as I’d love to forget this part, I also painted my face and arms black. Yes, I went to a party wearing black face.

I had no idea what a horrible stereotype I was perpetuating. I didn’t know the history of white actors portraying black characters as lazy and bumbling. No one at the party found my costume offensive, but then again, they were all white, just like me. We didn’t know any better; although, we probably should have. Ignorance really was no excuse.

Fast forward a few years to a conversation with an African American colleague. Halloween was approaching and the school kids we taught were giggling on the playground about their planned costumes. I told my friend that I’d once dressed as Aunt Jemima, thinking she’d find it funny. She did not find it remotely funny. This wonderful woman who I admired so much quickly and firmly set me straight. If we hadn’t ended the interaction with a hug I’d have worried that our friendship was over.

I called her that night and thanked her for enlightening me. She said, “Now that you know better, make sure you do better.”

I’ve never forgotten that, and have done my level best since then to do better in all things. I don’t always succeed, I know. I was raised with many tired, racist tropes that I didn’t even recognize as such until they were brought to my attention.

When NBC talk show host, Megyn Kelly claimed on her morning show this week that she didn’t think wearing black face was racist, I thought, “Honey, you’re about to know better. Now, will you do better? We shall see.

Peace, people.

Get Off My Lawn

Do we get crankier as we get older, or could it be that we just do not care anymore what people think of us? Maybe that perceived crankiness is just a result of the wearing away of social constraints. Why am I even contemplating this?

I’ve been a fairly nice person most of my life, but I do have something of a temper. It’s something I try to work through, and I’ve gotten better at it through the years, but now as I approach my 62nd birthday I find that I’ve lost my ability to tolerate certain things.

Usually those things are large concepts, like racism and misogyny. I have zero tolerance for those who discriminate on the basis of race or gender, and I’ve been saddened to discover that some people I counted as friends over the years do both. I’ve gotten cranky with them, and in some cases they are no longer my friends.

Other times those things that make me cranky are little and local, like littering. One day last week I was behind a 40-something mother and her pre-teen son as they exited a convenience store in Tallahassee. Both of them had bought big gulp type sodas (huge cups) and were unwrapping their straws in the parking lot. I watched in horror as they tossed their straw wrappings on the ground.

Before they got into their car, I said, “Excuse me, I believe these belong here,” as I bent down and scooped up the wrappers, dramatically depositing them into a trash can that was literally two steps from them.

Now, the instant I said that I thought, “Oh crap, they’re both bigger than I am.” But I casually strolled to my car and drove away while they remained sitting in the parking lot. Who knows, maybe they learned something? Or maybe they took down my license plate and are plotting to take me down. But if they follow me to Doright Manor, I’ve got one thing to say, “Get off my lawn!”

Peace, people.

Surrendering to Love

Surrendering to Love
By Leslie Noyes

Hate is thick out there
Marching through the city streets
Tearing us apart

Love is present, too
Quieter, yet pervasive
Calling for action

Now we have the choice
To which do we surrender?
I'll always choose love

Note to Shop Owners

Dear Shop Owners,

On Saturday, November 12, as I wandered in and out of shops in Juliette, Georgia, I noticed confederate flags and merchandise featuring the flags available for purchase in several establishments. In a couple of shops I had amassed an armful of souvenirs, as reminders of the little town where Ruth and Idgy were brought to life in Fannie Flagg’s novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

As soon as I noticed the flags, symbols of the ugly racist history of our country, I returned the items to their proper places and left. I didn’t raise a fuss, but neither did I spend any money in these shops. 

As protests go, it was a small one, but important to me. Maybe I didn’t get to come home with a Towanda t-shirt, but the spirit of Towanda was with me.

Sincerely,

Leslie Noyes

Fight racism however you can everywhere you go. It’s as important now as it ever has been.

Peace, people

Flags and Patriots

Stand, don’t ask
Pledge allegiance,
There’s a good boy!

Otherwise, those
Flag toting
Patriots cry no joy.

Never mind that
Soldiers died for
Your consecrated right

To speak your mind
Wrapped up in the
Constitution, tight.

Unblinking, unthinking
Loyalty to words
Written by a racist

Sing them anyway,
“Oh say can you see”
That doubts persist?

Courage lies within
Your conscientious
Objection,

Yet some say
Your rights unworthy
Of protection.

Screw that,
Give ’em hell
Stick to your guns,

Wrap yourself in the
Words of our founders,
Amendment number one.

Make it Stop

I am a white middle-aged woman. I once accidentally drove with an expired license tag for over a month. When I was stopped by a young police officer I batted my eyelashes and got a warm smile and nothing more than a warning to “take care of that as soon as possible, miss!”

When he pulled me over for the offense, I have to admit that my heart began beating faster, and I’m sure my blood pressure shot up. I had no idea why I’d been stopped, but having been taught my entire life that police officers are there to protect and serve I sat quietly in my seat as he approached my car.

“Are you aware that your license plate expired in March?” He asked.

“Oh!” I exclaimed, “I had no idea. I’m so sorry!”

“License, registration and proof of insurance, please,” he requested.

“Sure, no problem.”

I fished my license and insurance card out of my purse and leaned over to get the registration out of the glove compartment. It took me awhile because my hands were shaking a bit. Finally I found the correct document and presented it to the officer with a smile.

“I can’t believe I didn’t take care of this! We are in the middle of a transfer and this just got lost in the shuffle.”

“Oh? Where are you moving?”

“Dodge City,” I said. 

We chatted briefly about the distance to Dodge City from Great Bend and how he had an aunt who lived there. He then gave me a dimpled smile and sent me off with a warning.

As he drove away in his squad car I sat relieved. Whew! Dodged a bullet, as we say.

For black men in this country, the standards are different. They do not always get the feeling that the police are there to serve and protect, and with good reason. Routine traffic stops like the one I recounted often have fatal consequences for the black driver and/or his passenger(s). In other words, they don’t get to dodge the bullet.

We have a serious problem in this country. There is a different standard for people of color. Blacks are detained for “walking while black” if they don’t appear to belong in certain neighborhoods. They are profiled and stopped for minor traffic incidents and often they do not survive. 

And then, at a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas, Texas, a disturbed young black man did the unthinkable, opening fire on police officers who were mingling with and offering protection to those assembled. He killed five officers and left others injured. Five men who were protecting the rights of citizens to lawfully protest didn’t get to dodge those bullets that ended their lives.

I’ve cried a lot this week. Cried for two young black men who joined many others who’ve been killed for minor infractions and for the policemen whose lives were lost on Friday night. We can mourn them all. There is no conflict of interest. 

The right wing media has begun demonizing these black victims. Rumors are flying: “he was a bank robber,” “he might’ve been a pedophile….” Even before the blood had dried on the pavement their names were being dragged through the media mud, without a shred of evidence or proof of either being true.

The Dallas event, a peaceful, unity building affair, has likewise been painted by the right in a completely different color: “I hear they (Blacks) were taunting and threatening the police,” “I hear it was really ugly down there.” And yet, I have friends of all ethnicities who attended and said it was a life affirming event, right up until the shooting.

This didn’t start out as a condemnation of the right wing media, but the more I wrote the more angry at them I became. People who listen exclusively to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk, or watch only FOX news are being fed a line that is not only false, but dangerous. 

I want it to just stop. I want us to remember that we are all in this together, that the rights of every single human being on the face of this earth are equally important. I don’t want special treatment based on the color of my skin. 

Peace, people. I’m going to go cry some more.