One of the best stepping stones to understanding an issue is understanding those who are affected. Though a list of 9 things can barely scratch the surface, they tend to be points where you’ll connect with the group–common ground, so to speak. This is invaluable in winning your heart and mind to the cause. If you’re interested in Native American Rights issues, Indian Country Today is a great resource for you. Just remember, don’t attack the writers and the readers who comment to air their grievances. Allow yourself to hear them. It is not personal, they’re not attacking you in particular as the arbiter of torment. However, we do live with the legacy of genocide and multiple other crimes committed against the First Nations peoples. They have a genuine point and right to speak about these issues. So, set the ego aside and see what you can learn about them, listen to their fears and hurts and then try to be a sounding board from which others can learn the same. It’s the first step in attending this legacy and making things better. The past can’t be undone, but that doesn’t mean we have to continue living with the future it’s won for us.
The Native peoples of the Americas are fighting for their sovereignty, and the fall out will be the rest of us keep clean air and water. So why not help? Everyone wins.
The reality of fracking, despite what you hear in the propaganda filtered through ‘think tanks’ and seemingly benign interests from Oil Companies and Wealthy Investors, is that is destructive beyond measure. New York State has banned the practice. Let’s help other states and the sovereign First Nations do the same.
For what it’s worth, I want to respond to NoiseCat – with assurances that this fight isn’t over, and he’s on the path toward his goals. He is young and driven and will continue to succeed, and I congratulate him on his effort and tenacity.
Rhodes wasn’t really a goal not achieved. Dude! You were a finalist! I mean, to be able to even be considered, and you’re going to Columbia. I am six shades of envy right now. To have half your skill…And, YOU, you won against the odds. You will continue to win against the odds.
Seriously, don’t measure success by the fact that it might not exactly resemble your dream of success. Yes the scholarship was a goal. Again, YOU were a finalist, and you bumped out those who usually get in there, putting a face of color among the nominees. I too wish you had won the scholarship, for all the reasons you stated. Sometimes, there is something that is just off about what we wish for. Something in it is going to veer us off track. Maybe that’s what happened here, the path was forked. Don’t look back, though, or you won’t see where you are headed. Regrets sometimes trip us up and keep us from moving forward. I know…I wanted to be published, hailed a literary wonder, win an Oscar all by 30. Add a family in there and my life would have been complete. Nine years past my goal, I am just now republishing my books with an actual certified house, what we call a real publisher. Nope, no Oscar yet, no wonder, no fanfare, no parade, and saddest of all no family of my own. BUT, in that time I have succeeded in ways I failed to picture for myself. I gained a master’s degree recently in Film Studies and Screenwriting. I finally moved back out on my own after a really bad failure to launch. My experiences add up to forget who I am, and I wouldn’t trade a damn one of them, probably not even the sexual abuse. What would have to say to other survivors if I didn’t understand their situations? Equally, I’m not past how I was spoken to by the wealthy or powerful, from children at school to adult peers. Not even that degree set in my hand, the publishing contract etc, has changed the perception that others have of me. I look very young for my age, doe-eyed–yep, I’m a woman. I color my hair to cover the grays grown by my stresses, so no one can see the wisdom that I have in every strand. I am too young! Even my real age is too young to have as much gray as I do, at least in my vain opinion. You’ll see when you get here, or you will proudly bear each strand as a trophy of all your battles. The harsh criticism, privilege of perspective, and unthinking words will still strike at your armor. The other day, a caller said to me over the phone, as I was struggling to get her information and help her to find a solution: oh you’re just a secretary, no winded you don’t know anything. I expected better from this person, and they failed me. I was dive-bombed by a black disabled woman, someone who knows the struggle of life better than anyone. And it hurt. It hurt because I am the girl who helps everyone, I am the recipient for a fellowship in art and social justice, and I care. I would never speak to someone callously, to tear them down for what they do to keep a roof over their head. You just don’t know what someone is going through, and your words might be hitting the final straw that pushes them to desperate measures, ruining everything for their future. That is a responsibility I will not take, but millions are more than happy to be that trigger out of their me-centered thinking. They make the rest of us suffer terribly for it.
To begin, my legacy is the white legacy, the ugly past of genocide and thievery. On top of that, I come from the poor and immigrants who struggled to make a better life in the 1900s. My parents won the American Dream, even if they’re feeling like that’s not all that much (Dad was diagnosed with cancer, and it has re-surged. Mom also has her medical issues). My mother came from the other side of the tracks. She’s the daughter of a single mother, the father denied anything to do with her all her life. She was treated as the lowest of the low by those in society who thought you require having two parents to make things on the up. My grandmother married an abusive husband, to which the only good thing from that came my uncle. She now lives on about $600 a month and food-stamps. She lives in a modified and freezing trailer by a corn farm. Politicians want to take her social security and food stamps away. Without that, she would have $40 a month from her ex-husband’s pension and her seamstess pension. Both my parents are on fixed incomes, facing medical bills. Who is to take care of her? She worked her fingers to the bone until her late sixties for that, not just eight hour days–in laundries, textile mills, so on. Should I take her in on my single income, the pay of a secretary? If only my publishing would come through!As for me, I measured my success by a fairy tale–car, house, family and my dream job. I totally empathize with your dreams because of it. We imagine these accolades that we must achieve in order to be considered successful, but it has nothing to do with the heart of the matter. A house, a husband and enough gold to live comfortable and raise children that can be educated at decent schools is all that I ever asked. Instead, I have just enough to get by (finally bought my first brand new car in 2008!), with a little savings. I can’t afford my own home. I have to share an overpriced, tiny apartment with a friend. I have no children to take care of, but I have a dog I think of as a child, and maybe soon I will have a baby–though that dream may be denied me too considering that healthcare doesn’t cover anything you require for health, only the bare necessities of what you might need, which is decided by white old men in a room somewhere apart from reality. A child isn’t considered necessary to anyone, but it will affect me negatively the rest of my life to never have even one. Adoption? If I could afford that, I could afford a Cadillac and a house in the burbs. Single women are frowned upon in adoption circles, unless they’re rich ladies collecting kids like porcelain dolls to better their rep with minorities.So what is success? For me, the Oscar is your Rhodes. I need that to hold in the face of every bully who beat me back everyday for being born a woman, for being deemed economically undesirable, for being from that side of the tracks, for having an opinion, being and wanting to be educated, wanting a better life than what I was given to work with…but maybe that’s why we’re not winning? We think this fight is justified, but our battle is somehow tainted by a hate we refuse to admit we’re tasting. Fuck. I don’t want that to be true! I want that Oscar! I want you to count coup for your people, and win the justice eluding them every second as they struggle forward. Why is that tainted? Why is that not justified rage? Because white men tell us we’re wrong for wanting these things, and then we falter in our resolve to achieve them, our tone comes off a bit bitter, we hold ourselves aloof and it’s felt.
Regardless of these horrid people who stand in judgment of others, thinking their birth somehow makes them better (pigmentation? Really, white people?) or that money does, I hope you keep reaching for your goal. 99% of us white people don’t get the native struggle. My own struggle only scratches the surface of your reality, but it gives me a better perspective than a lot of other whites, and I try to feel with you through your words what is going on and how I might be able to help, because I am the other half of your legacy and I am tired of it being kicked down the road to the next generation to address. No! I am here today to listen to the voiceless and use my platform to amplify their message and make it heard. Maybe someday the shaking will break us all free of the legacy we were born to. Real freedom. Real success.
The conservative mind considers itself. The liberal mind considers the collective. Us vs. me centered thinking. This might sound like more divisive rhetoric, but it is a reality which needs to be dealt with in order to stem the dangers it causes to society. We can listen to the opinions of others, but we’re not forced to accept them as fact, or be barred from criticizing opinions that are obviously wrong-headed. There have been several studies concluding the same reasoning.
Let’s start with a metaphor. A pond does not exist without a connection to a greater collective of water, they bubble up from underground springs tying things together. What happens in one spot, thus affects another. So when one pond is suffering neglect or even pollution, the other ponds connected to it will suffer too. Until that collective notion is understood by conservatives, there will be no compassion from them, because they can only function from a me-center. The liberal is always us-centered. Can empathy be taught? They say so, but those predisposed toward selfishness will continue to work from a universe in which they are the central and the most meaningful factor.
Take the police brutality issue (yes, I’m going there). Those fighting for equality and against brutality are seen as monsters hating the police by those who are police, related to police, married to police. Those raising the issue of police brutality are thus silenced, because as one person said to me “if my husband needs a tank to do his job, he better have one – you don’t get what he’s up against.” The self-aggrandizing thinking of the me-center, which does not empathize with those who have done nothing and are gunned down, beaten, raped, or wrongly incarcerated by the thousands each year because training is poor, regulation poorer, and recruitment half-assed–but, you know, the people (usually blacks) are the problem, not the police who continue to give themselves a bad name, or the me-centered individuals around them empowering the brutality.
Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? Those cries almost always go out in regard to high profile cases, for example, Bill Cosby. The word of twenty plus women are nothing in the minds of those who love this man. I, too, am disappointed to hear this, but I do not question the timing or validity of the claims because I am in no position to condemn Mr. Cosby, but I am in a position (Sexual Abuse Survivor) to have an opinion. Survivors of Sexual Abuse/Assault are often never listened to, never believed, so the supposed lateness of the claims is unsurprising, but for those who have zero empathy it shouldn’t matter. Is their really a date stamp for when you have to raise a claim by, and why do you believe that? Please question yourself if you’ve been asking this question of the accusers, as their numbers build and build. The answer is, a person who asks these questions is me-centered. They’re focused on how this will affect them, not anyone else, least of all those women who have daringly come forward against a titan.
The fact that we’re more concerned about the rights of alleged 20+ times Rapist over a teenager who lifted a cigar, is disconcerting to say the least. Hoodies are in question, but not men who drug women to rape them, or use their power to force sexual favors, such as the police officer in Dallas. The people on the street are not considered innocent until proven guilty by a jury of their peers. Instead, police are increasingly becoming Judge, Jury and Executioner – dispensing their Wild West justice in the matter of split seconds. A split second is not enough time to judge. However, it is enough time to get killed, and that is why they wear vests and are given guns. However, again, in the majority of cases, the people gunned down are unarmed. The cops lied and colluded to cover this terrible tragedy up, and have done so innumerable times in the past. This does not mention their ties to hate groups who target minorities, or the laundry list of corruptions nationwide. But, if you question them, you will be threatened with a lack of service to set you straight or end up being brutalized yourself. The me-centered are seeking self-preservation, not a holistic solution that will make them safer while strengthening police-public relations and doing their job to Protect and Serve. Instead, they tell us “you don’t know what it’s like out there.”
The thing is, we do get what it’s like OUT THERE. We live OUT THERE. We’re living out there, everyday. They pretend we don’t have a window into their same reality. Perhaps the issue is that they’ve made their own window on reality which only overlooks a very narrow segment of life? Is that possible? They’ve built up the fear speech they try to give the public so much that they’ve bought into. That they go on these calls daily, nightly, all the time, that is the only thing they see and interact with. Their bias is heavily stacked toward the criminal. It might be worthwhile to have them step back more often and see the good, instead of hunting criminals in every shadow at every minute. In other words, they’ve put on a mindset and can’t shake it. They’re not well-rounded experiencers of life, but rather narrowly introverted experiencers of moments.
In light of that sentiment, let me assure whoever might care, that it’s not us who don’t get what it’s like out there. It is, in fact, that me-centers, because they’re talking about a fraction of events in all events considered, as though they’re the only thing happening, don’t see a big picture—ever. Yes, it only takes one event to end their day badly. That’s true for all of us, badge or not. One split second can change a life, and there is more than a stray bullet aimed at us OUT HERE. We have to worry about everything from Tsunamis to job loss to robbery, rape and car accidents. The list goes on, OUT HERE. Try adding your pigment into that mix for a real kick up of issues you face, OUT HERE. Or maybe you’d like to try a religion that is blamed for every ill in the world, or lack of which makes you look like a monster to those who do believe OUT HERE. Maybe you drew the lot that night walking home. Whatever, cops aren’t the only ones in the line of fire, and we need to stop looking at them as if they’re the only people in harm’s way on a daily basis. Oh, and they signed up for it, we didn’t. The average person was thrust into this world on a cold rainy afternoon without permission, and they squalled, but no one heard their protests.
The crux of the issue is a slide to the right in the United States, and probably all over the world. A slide so far right it smacks of Fascism. I read so many stories decrying the ills of immigration from Kansas to Berlin, all pointing the finger at brown people. I guess World War II taught us nothing about how that steam-engine wrecks. The far right slide is Fascism. It’s the extreme of conservatism. Look that up on google, if you don’t believe me. By the way, it’s also ‘only your opinion’ that we have fascism in the United States—no, Ma’am, that’s a fact. Corporations are so deeply embedded in our government, we may never get them out. The cops are being used as their private security force, putting them in a very precarious position with the public. Also, ignore that the police have consistently remained conservative (the individuals making up the police force are usually conservative thinkers/voters). This makes them easy to use for such ends.
During the course of my conversation with my female colleague, she declared that there were no ‘tanks’ belonging to police in Missouri at the protests, they were national guard, they did not say police on the side. It took me one search to find the police marked vehicles to which I had referred to as the colloquial tank, and no military tank images of any kind unless a standard Humvee counts (see below). This is just one of myriad ways living in a me-centered world limits your view, but add to that privilege and you’ve got a powder keg of ignorance. (Yes, she is white. You’re not surprised, are you?) My colleague is invested because of her partner. No doubt, her partner has used fear to frame her thinking on the issue: The fear of loosing him. The police have been using fear tactics for job security for generations. They used it back in Tammany Hall days to bully support from the poor, mostly Irish, immigrants—laughing all the way to the bank and providing little to no protection. Sound familiar?
What should also sound familiar is a tactic of an abusive personality. Did you know that Police are twice as likely to commit domestic violence as opposed to the rest of the population? Did you also know that they have a higher rate of alcoholism, affecting 25% of cops? They also have high divorce rates.
Not to mention how this ignores more than two centuries of racism and brutality against non-whites (the Irish used to be included in that, along with the Italians, Greeks, Germans, and on) and especially immigrant populations, non-Christians, and women. The ACLU has a nifty how to help fight brutality manual.
Returning to the lovely conversation with my colleague, I was told that if I (emphasis on I) continue to speak (on brutality with her, making her hear the other side of the story, which is jarring her cognitive dissonance) it will threaten our professional relationship. Ma’am, please! Again with me-centeredness. Just to clarify, we never had a professional relationship to speak of. She is self-aggrandizing again (like she did with placing her husband above all other lives—nix consideration), by simultaneously threatening the comfort of my working life and building up the importance of herself in it. She never liked me to begin with, and treated me like a bad toddler at a recent event, emotionally bursting out that I needed to man the check-in table, while I was trying to talk down a guest from an anxiety attack. What she needed trumped everyone else in the room (despite claiming to suffer anxiety herself). What she needed was to look good to those around her by running a tight ship with an iron fist for the staff. Now, I know exactly why I never felt comfortable with her. She is a me-centered (really bad at disguising it too) and I am an us-centered (just as bad at disguising it). My priority was the guest with anxiety, and getting them back to a good place so they could safely exit the event without incident. I did not know the person all that well, but I empathized from my own bouts with anxiety.
A lot of people will say that I am anti-cop for stating what I have here, but that is not true in the least, and I thank your for reading this far. What I actually am is anti-brutality. I am against that which is going to denigrate our police force, make their jobs that much harder and leave the citizens of this nation less safe, and that is ignoring the problem. There is a lack of training, funding and improper equipping of the police force. National Guard stations have been closed nationwide, which could have supplied the necessary forces for escalated situations with far greater skill and calm. I am against fascism, which is the marriage of government to corporation which then uses the police to enlist Marshall Law and control over the population – a process that has been ongoing since 2000. I am against the unnecessary violence and force the police have been using (Tasering an 8 year old Native girl for nothing, shooting a black 12 year old with a toy and beating his sister who came to his aid….).
But when you live me-centered, you can’t see what’s happening to others—no cause, just the end result. You only see the filtered version of what you fear will happen to you because of it. I empathize with your fear that you might loose your partner to a crook’s bullet, or worse. I feel that empathy in my gut for you, but that doesn’t trump the life of a mother’s child, Average Joe’s wife or Grandpa, because who the hell are you to say that your husband or wife is worth more than that other life? When you get into that eugenics based discussion, the really ugly head of racism isn’t too far behind. But worst of all, you’re a me-centered, so all you feel is what affects you directly and you don’t weep for those left behind to pick up the pieces of brutality that your partner’s club perpetrates. I am Us-Centered and I want an end to the brutality for the sake of the mother, your husband/wife and the odd family member that was forgotten until he/she was found shot to death by cops. We the people live out here everyday and we are innocent until proven guilty. We have the right to justice, not the right to be served blind judgment.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
“The ongoing fight against racism mattered in 1965 and still matters in 2015. Selma goes far beyond revealing the roots of anti-black oppression. In two hours, the film offers a much-needed history lesson to a generation still divided by racial and socioeconomic differences, revealing how racism in America has created a system of power and privilege that pervades the everyday lives of people of color.” – Derrick Clifton