As I look with the benefit of hindsight on the results of last week’s election, I see the way that progressive white people like me failed to pull our weight. Because we felt assured of the outcome, too many of us neglected to have the hard conversations with the people in our lives who needed to hear our perspectives.
People of color will suffer for our neglect. But, rather than write some think-piece about white guilt or voting demographics or the great divide between red and blue America, I wrote a poem. Lord have mercy, I wrote a poem. Continue reading →
With all the certainty of a woman clutching her purse and crossing to the other side of the street, an officer in a helicopter sized up a man far below: “That looks like a bad dude.”
The officer had little information on which to base this judgment. Below him, a man walked with his hands in the air. He was not suspected of any crime. His vehicle had stalled in the middle of the road.
But he was large. He was male. He was black. That was all the officer needed to know.
Terence Crutcher lived his life in a body that our country has deemed a threat. And because of our entrenched biases, his life was cut short.Continue reading →
This post represents another detour from my blog’s traditional topic of race, but I appreciate the outlet this venue has provided as my family has grappled with an unprecedented flood that destroyed the first floor of our home in South Louisiana and left tens of thousands of families with even more destruction and loss than my family. I have also deeply appreciated hearing from so many who were touched by my family’s story and shared it with others, donated to support flood relief throughout the Baton Rouge area, or even made their own trips to Louisiana to assist in cleanup efforts.
On the morning that I arrived in Denham Springs to help my family after devastating floods engulfed South Louisiana, I examined my brother’s photography equipment. I pulled lens after lens from an old black steamer trunk and evaluated each for whether the muck was caked on too thick, the residue had begun to rust the equipment, or water was still trapped inside. Those few that could possibly be salvaged, I cleaned, rinsed in fresh water, gently toweled off, and then packed away in Ziplocs filled with Louisiana rice, hoping the rice and a few passing weeks might work together to extract the remaining moisture.
One telephoto lens, the longest by far, was heavy with the water that remained inside. This was not just any water. Floodwater of the sort that devastated my hometown in August is a vicious combination of muddy river water, raw sewage, oil and petroleum, and runoff from other chemicals. It is foul. It is ugly. It sticks, and it stinks.
Inside of my brother’s camera lens, it looked like someone had dumped a full cup of clumpy, poorly-mixed Ovaltine behind the glass and then sealed the lens. I twisted the lens every way I could think of, flipped it and shook it in every possible direction, but not a drop of the muddy water leaked out. I wondered how this water had wormed its way into the lens to begin with, what minuscule opening the flood had found that I could not.Continue reading →
Yesterday, I received the first photos of my family’s house in Denham Springs, Louisiana, and it’s moved me to reflect further on everything that has happened over the past week. Below is the story of what my family has endured. It is long, very long, because I wanted to capture what the day-by-day of this has been like, the little signs of progress and the many moments of heartache. Parts of it are repetitive of updates I’ve shared throughout the past week on Facebook, and my chronology may be off in spots where I’m mixing up the blur of these long days, but I wanted to put it all in one place, even if it’s a bit off topic from this blog’s typical theme.
I don’t share this to elicit sympathy or sad-face emojis or donations to my family (please donate instead to relief organizations that are working on the ground if you are inclined; I’ve suggested several at the end of this post.) I share this because the people of Louisiana are being ignored-the destruction they are facing, their immense suffering, and their incredibly resilient spirits-and others need to understand what is happening.
This is just one story, and we are lucky. There are tens of thousands more stories like this is Southern Louisiana right now, and most have seen much more devastation than my family.
The wounds of the past week are deep and raw. I grew up just outside of Baton Rouge and graduated high school 10 minutes from where Alton Sterling was killed last Tuesday. I’ve grieved for this complicated place of my childhood as I’ve witnessed its turmoil through the eyes of friends and family still there. One friend posted a photo of her children and their cousins beside the mural of Sterling, saying that children, especially black children like hers, could not be sheltered from the realities of the world. Another friend shared how her daughter ran down the hallway as her father, a white police officer, prepared to leave for work, fearful and begging him not to go.
The anguish is real for so many, in Baton Rouge, in Falcon Heights, in Dallas, and across the country. The fear is warranted. The anger is valid.
But this is not a post about feelings, least of all mine. This is a post about choice.Continue reading →
The U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union last week stunned many, and pundits immediately began drawing parallels between the messages of isolationism and fear that fueled the Leave campaign and the hateful rhetoric that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has spewed throughout his own stunning political rise.
One of the most interesting parallels to me was the stark difference among voters by age. U.K. voters under 24 voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U. (75 percent), and each subsequent age group inched closer into Leave territory, with those over 65 strongly in favor of separation from the E.U. (61 percent). These results are strikingly similar to recent polls on attitudes about Trump by age group, with his strongest support among those over 65 (51 percent) and his weakest among those under 34 (23 percent).
This may paint a rosy picture of a more accepting, empathetic and open-minded future. But it’s not all campfires and kumbaya. Another very clear age distinction emerges when you consider “Brexit” voter turnout patterns. More than 80 percent of people over 65 weighed in on the question of separation at the polls. Among the youngest group of voters? Only 36 percent cast ballots.
Isolationism and fear helped propel an unlikely proposition into a new reality, and it’s easy to cry racism. But we also must acknowledge that apathy and privilege can twist isolationism and fear to much the same end. Continue reading →
I woke up last Sunday with two items on my list for the day: plant the plum trees my wife gave me as an anniversary present and write a post about privilege and the Stanford rape sentencing. I opened my email as I was sipping my coffee and saw the headline: 50 Killed in Orlando Nightclub Shooting. Every further detail I learned deepened my despair, from the fact that the LGBT community was the target and a high proportion of people of color were in attendance at Pulse that night, to the revelation that the shooter was Muslim, which I feared would further fuel hateful rhetoric.
I felt a grief I couldn’t have anticipated welling inside of me. I set my phone down, headed outside and spent the next four hours planting those trees and tending to my garden. I never did write the post I intended to. I didn’t want to venture into my head that day, even if to write about something else.
That’s the pitfall of a blog intentionally designed to examine a topic after the immediate news cycle has passed–invariably, something else has taken its place. Sometimes, that something else feels so all-consuming that it’s hard to make space in your head or your heart for anything else. So, on to Orlando.