Reparations matter and are relevant (and doable) now

Today’s offering is a guest post from Kathryn Terry of Reparations Roundtable™, a group of white and white- presenting folks dedicated to the educational and direct giving aspects of reparations work (for more on her and the group, see info at the end after my usual giving/support blurb). – BGIM


I am a reparationist. A white-presenting woman who firmly believes in the redistribution of wealth and resources to Black Americans in order to address the deep harm they have suffered at the hands of white supremacy culture. At the hands of us…white people. Black Americans’ generational wealth was (is) stolen by white Americans, and the damage from that theft of resources reverberates endlessly via institutional racism and white support of it. 

I am a reparationist because I have learned over many years that it doesn’t matter if we personally didn’t participate in the actual theft of resources from Black communities. It doesn’t matter if our families were/are lower or middle class going back generations. “But my family is poor and we never owned slaves” is not an inoculation, in any way, against upholding systems of oppression that we think we benefit from (we do, unfairly). We are white, and therefore have been upholding white supremacy culture, the foundation of institutional racism, since we created it. From slavery to Jim Crow to redlining to the school-to-prison pipeline to unjust sentencing to do you get what I’m saying? Reparations are owed to Black Americans. 

This weekend, like every weekend and most days of the week, I’m raising funds for Black women and femmes and their children. I belong to a direct-giving reparations group, and every dollar we raise goes to supporting Black people in crisis. We don’t operate the way nonprofits do, generally doling out small amounts for a very narrow group of needs and/or people on a one-time basis. We provide support with critical living needs for as long as people need it. Our goal is moving people from crisis to stability. There’s never enough money, but I hope and believe we are making a difference in the lives of the Black women, femmes, and marginalized genders that come to us for assistance. 

As white people, once we open our eyes to how much damage whiteness and racism have done to Black people and communities, how can we deny that reparations are due, and that it’s long past time for them to be paid? For me it’s not possible to ignore the deep inequity created by centuries of racial oppression, so it feels inevitable and natural that I found my way to reparations work. I have always cared deeply about injustice. I have always wanted to bridge the deep divide between myself and Black people, who literally have no reason to trust anyone white after hundreds of years of oppression. Working alongside, and at the direction of, Black women organizers for the last two years in reparations work has been a privilege that I don’t take lightly. I try to be a consistent anti-racism ally and accomplice. It takes work, and a lot of that work is self-awareness and unlearning deeply ingrained racism. If you’re thinking right now “But I’m not racist”, I’ve been there. It’s our knee-jerk reaction to these conversations, and we can get past it. We are all racist and the difference is, what are we doing about it? What are we doing to change ourselves and society? What are we doing to heal the damage that our collective racism has inflicted on Black people? 

A big, impactful thing we can do is to get involved in reparations work. Seek out anti-racism and reparations groups you can join and learn with. Pay Black organizers and anti-racism activists by subscribing to support their work, whether they have a Patreon account or just feature their pay apps in their social media profiles. They deserve to be paid for the education they’re providing and the labor they’re giving to educate white people. We all deserve to be paid for our work. Budget income for reparations giving, help other people raise funds by sharing fundraisers. 

I urge people to seek out the truth about racism and the daily lived experiences of Black and brown people, get past the feelings that it will bring up in you, keep pushing yourself when you feel guilty or defensive or angry that this is what is true, and not what you believed the world to be. The point of learning is not to make us feel guilty or ashamed; it is to bring us to an awareness that Black people have been living under systems of oppression that center whiteness, that we are a part of those systems, and that we must actively work to dismantle them. Reparations through direct giving smashes the paradigm of capitalism and it’s built-in racism, putting dollars directly into the hands of Black people. 

It took many years for me to get to the point of aspiring to and working towards being actively anti-racist. It feels so much easier to allow ourselves to continue in our blindness to how racist the world around us is—our families, our friends—but we as white people are individually and collectively racist. To face that is to accept that yes, even you yourself have been racist during your life, whether you meant to be or not. Our intent doesn’t matter; the results of our action or inaction do. If we’re not actively seeking to dismantle racist systems of oppression, we are passively upholding them. Inaction in the face of great injustice is racism, too. 

There has been enough discussion about reparations. What is really needed is for us to come together and do the work of reparations and anti-racism. We do not have to wait for a law to be passed, for years of studying how and when and who reparations should be paid to; we can begin the work ourselves. Direct giving as reparations is the model for white and white-adjacent people to do the work of dismantling institutional racism, and we are always looking for other white people to join us. You can find our group, Reparations Roundtable™, on Facebook, and on Twitter @ReparationsR. 

Sincere gratitude to Shay for asking me to write this piece. I have been reading and following Shay’s anti-racism work on her website, Facebook pages, and Twitter for a few years now and I have learned so much from her. I appreciate the opportunity to engage with her community, learn, and grow together. I hope if you’re reading this that you also support Shay via her Patreon account. The education that Black women have been providing to us for as long as I can remember is worth supporting with our dollars. Her anti-racism work is not free. We shouldn’t think of it as free.  Ultimately, reparations is really about freedom. In the words of famous activist and Civil Rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” Believe it, and let’s get busy.


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Today’s guest poster, Kathryn Terry, is an active member of Reparations Roundtable™, a group of white and white-presenting folks dedicated to the educational and direct giving aspects of reparations work. She is also an advocate for children and adolescents, active in public school mentoring programs for the last several years. She loves writing, singing, dancing, and building community with people who are intent on becoming anti-racist and working to dismantle institutional racism. You can find Reparations Roundtable™ and join the group on Facebook, follow on Twitter @ReparationsR, and you can support Black women and femmes directly via their Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/ReparationsRoundtable.

Memes of hate: Do we need to look at them?

Today’s post is from guest contributor Mo Nunez (bio at the end of the piece)

There is a Facebook meme where white Jesus is standing behind Donald Trump—they are at the Resolute Desk. In the White House. I am to presume from the meme that Jesus is there to guide our “dear leader” as he signs yet another awesome winning something-or-other into existence. It is a reminder that our porn star in chief is guided by God (read: Suck it libtards!)

There was a point in time where I felt that I needed to see a picture like that. Shortly after the election of Trump, I began to see these memes pop up all over my social media timelines. I felt that it was important—essential—to keep the people posting pro-Trump stuff in my timeline. In my sight. I thought to myself: I did not want to run away; I want to know what they are saying. By looking directly at the hate, I was doing a good thing, I thought to myself—a proactive thing.

Over time, the memes did what memes do and they became more absurd, more abstract. I noticed something else was changing—what happens when life imitates absurdist imagery and thought? The lines between “holy shit that would be insane” and “holy shit that’s totally insane” are being blurred and erased on a daily basis by our abstract-improv-artist-in-chief.

I can remember the first time I read the sentence “I am proud to be a nationalist and I see nothing wrong with that.” It was here in America, in the 21st century, and it was not an “ironic” statement. I actually read that way before Trump said it at a rally (10/22/2018). Soon I began to see more blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic content popping up on my timeline. Eventually my timeline resembled a combination of the front page of Stormfront—classic Onion articles come to life and an Evangelical Tent Revival. But each time I saw hateful content I would go down a racist rabbit hole chasing after the original poster’s previous shitty things they’ve posted. I have to look, I reminded myself. I have to force myself to not turn away.

The thing about memes is that they are satire. They are the furthest extrapolation of an already absurd observation. The thing about Trump is that he is the furthest extrapolation of an already absurd, racist, sexist, xenophobic society. The memes I was coming across my feed morphed from cheerleading and silly ignorant slogans (“Build the Wall” anyone?) into a concoction of Trump idolatry, flat-earth-levels conspiracy theory, and pure unadulterated hate. “Build the Wall” was literally replaced with “Brown people are animals.” Specifically, I noticed the memes and comments were now centered around hate for anyone who believes that we should care about the state of the world and care for one another. Women who pointed out unpleasant truths about men, Black and Brown folks who pointed out racist realities of their everyday existence, immigrants who dared ask for their humanity and respect—these were all the fuel for the hate that I was seeing on a daily basis. But it was not just the trumpers whose hate was being fed.

One of the side effects of my severe anxiety disorder and depression is that every once in a while everything makes me cry. Full. On. Big. Fat. Tears. Everything. It does not last very long, a couple of days usually, but I cannot control it. During these spells sad news, good news, mundane news—all of it makes me break out in tears.

I know that I am being triggered by everything right now and yet I know that I have to stop seeing this shit on my Facebook timeline on a daily basis. Despite being triggered by everything, this hate I am forcing upon myself is different. It’s not triggering me to the point of tears. I can deal with that. I have been dealing with that my whole life. Something worse is happening to me, and I fear to my friends who feel that duty to subject themselves to the cult of Trump. We are moving to the dark side. We are fueling our own transition with their hate. What happens when we are consumed by our hatred for “these fucking garbage humans”?

At first I thought it was my duty to keep that shit in front of my face. I felt it was my duty as an activist and educator to stare down the hate and keep it moving. “I need to know what they are saying!” “I need to remind myself these people exist!” I’ve gone beyond knowing to hating. With a passion. This cannot be good. Right?

Last week a guy I barely know (but who keeps popping up in my Facebook timeline) posted a picture of a woman, let’s call her Nazi McGov, in a Nazi uniform. This woman works in Maine. She works for a government agency, in fact. Now. Today. The man who posted it noted that it was insane that this woman has a job where part of her responsibilities are to “monitor” and “assess” people’s behaviors. Immediately after posting the picture, which he made quite clear was a “publicly accessible document” that she herself posted, he was bombarded by people, some of them not even her friends, accusing him of being racist towards Nazi McGov. He was a “bastard for posting the pic” and “insinuating she was a bad person.” He was an “asshole for posting her picture” and “slandering her.”

“Bro you are so dumm, posting that pictur! you libtard!, do you EVEN KNOW what slander menes?!” 

This man stuck to his guns the whole way through; he consistently reminded folks she posted this pic—it doesn’t really matter if it was five days, five years, or five decades ago. He reminded his attackers that shortly after WWII most of us agreed Nazi stuff wasn’t cool. You know, like blackface. Or so we thought.

Watching the people come after him made me realize that I would rather have people like him on my feed than the people who are coming after him. I don’t actually need to keep seeing the hate that these folks give. Its real. I’ve lived it, and it would be insane for me to suggest that statement should only be in the past tense like some of the folks kept “reminding this man”—“that was in the past; get over it!”

I’ve begun the process of weeding out people who post hateful memes. I am weeding out the Trump zealots (read: zombies) along with the “devil’s advocate” sympathizers. I am prioritizing positivity. In just a short time I feel happier.

But I’m left troubled because I’m not sure why I felt that I HAD to keep myself connected to the viotrol, hate, and ignorance that is currently abundant in this country. Was I afraid I would have a hard time finding some? My whole damn professional trajectory is a reminder that this stuff exists. Why am I inviting more of this into my life? What did I think would actually happen if I stopped looking?

I have some new questions now: Do white people need to be the ones to stare this hatred in the face?  What is the difference between self-care and avoidance? Does anyone need to chose to see this kind of ignorance and hate on a daily basis? How do people stay motivated in the fight if they look away at what is actually happening? If we do chose to look how do we respond in a way that does not deplete our positivity?


Moises “Mosart” Nunez is an educator, activist, and Ph.D. dropout with a master’s degree in education. Mo’s professional focus is on issues of teen violence, at-risk-youth intervention, the social-emotional education of teens, creating inclusive school environments for students with special needs, school redesign, community engagement, and dismantling racist practices in public education. Mo currently designs and leads community engagement based anti-racism and implicit bias workshops for district and school leadership across the country. Mo has taught English, social studies, and special education across the Northeast in public schools, alternative-education programs, private independent schools, and several universities. Mo has also designed and served as director for several successful at-risk-youth programs, most notably at New Beginnings in Rochester, N.Y.—an alternative education school that focuses on educating and reintegrating recently incarcerated youth. Mo has served as administrator, program director, and program manager for several alternative education, day treatment programs, and public schools in New England and the tri-state area. Mo recently won The Phoenix magazine’s Hip Hop DJ of the Year 2018, and released an album of original music under the name “mosart212.”


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You’re gonna have to pry the straws from my cold dead hands

Today’s post is a guest contribution from BGIM friend and fellow writer Liz Henry.
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First they came for my cigarettes and I said, alright, makes sense. Then, they came for my smoking outside and I said, you know, this seems like a little much but I rolled with the inconvenience of other people policing the freaking air. And then they came for my Diet Coke with a tax on sugary drinks in Philadelphia even though Diet Coke is full of not even sugar but aspartame so fine, whatever, the chilwran diabeetus. Then, they came for the straws and I knew all bets were off, the turtles were just gonna have to die.

I like beverages and I love them with straws and if that means turtles have to eat it, well then the turtles need to eat it. Even if those turtles are Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo.

Look, maybe this is making you uncomfortable. There are many moments I’ve been uncomfortable in the past few weeks when straw-banning went from low-key, under-the-radar cause to full-blown self-righteous plague. Like, for instance, the moment I came across a growing list of companies in the process of banning straws and I saw McDonald’s on that list.

I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE—the turtles had come for me and won. My eyes couldn’t move fast enough through the sentence and by the time I got there and it said, “shareholders struck down a ban” I’ve never been more proud of capitalism in my life.

I raised my Diet Coke and I toasted the motherfucking shit outta those rich white men for holding it down for straws.

So, yeah, it’s been an uncomfortable few weeks for me, too.

I’ve had conversations where we whisper to each other “team straw” because we’re in a group and unsure of the company we keep and once the whispers go around and the eyes have darted and the nods have been reciprocated we let it out that paper straws ain’t shit.

I’ve had people tell me I’m “sad” like I need saving and I want to tell them they can come to my door with that kind of attitude and ring my doorbell so I can ignore them.

I’ve gone the Jurassic Park route and doubled down on evolution: “If turtles beat out dinosaurs, I’m pretty sure they can beat straws.” And, if they can’t, well who sold us “slow and steady.” Maybe turtles shouldn’t been liars.

I’ve also thought FINE, BAN THE STRAWS. I’ll create straw speakeasies and I’ll be rich and you’ll be stuck with adult sippy cups at Starbucks with no whip but Crush from Finding Nemo as your overlord just like you wanted. COOL DUDE.

I need you to know that I stared down the totalitarian talk points of crusading do-gooders, looked them in their profile photos and said, I LOVE STRAWS, and lived to see another day.

I want you to know that when I get a fountain beverage, and put that single-serving plastic straw into my cup, I look at the person next to me and say, “I’m making a political choice and the hate makes it taste better.”

Honestly, I’m having an Allen Iverson “TALKIN ‘BOUT PRACTICE, flashback but with straws, people. STRAWS.

The strawsistence will not be played by fake news. The 500 million plastic straws Americans allegedly consume per day? That number was arrived at by a then nine-year-old conducting phone surveys of straw manufacturers in 2011. How he arrived at that number? I dunno, go pound a calculator.

According to Bloomberg, if all the alleged 8.3 billion tons of plastic straws found on global coastlines washed into the sea, they’d “account for .03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastic estimated to enter the oceans in a given year.”

The greatest threat to marine life and our oceans isn’t plastic straws, Bloomberg reports, but fishing nets and other abandoned fishing gear.

Which leaves me so freaking pumped right now that we’re making the lives of people with disabilities that much harder because Johnny Jackoff filmed a video of one turtle with a straw booger and then everyone else was like BAN STRAWS!!!

So how many straw boogers would it take for women to get some rights up in this bitch? Just spitballing here.

And that’s why, you’re gonna have to pry the straws from my cold, dead hands. Which, if that even happens, I will haunt you with a glitter plague on your home and paper cuts on your person with Melania pumped through some Bose giving Michelle’s speech ad infinitum.

WE’RE TALKIN’ ‘BOUT STRAWS, MAYNE.

BIO:
Liz Henry writes good stories and makes bad choices. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and the anthology, The Good Mother Myth. She lives in Philadelphia and marks her territory in Diet Coke.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.

Photo by David McEachan from Pexels