Empathy, Getting Real, Wisdom

Hey white people!

I made you a list of excuses (some of you call them “reasons”) for racism that seem to come up a lot. It studying these ideas, I’ve been consistently shocked by the number of otherwise educated and intelligent people who subscribe to them. I’m left with the conclusion that haters are gonna hate because that’s what they want to do. There’s no reasonable, logical basis for it. They just want to hate, or be superior to someone bad enough to forego all their common sense to do so.

  • You’re elderly, and back in your day it was just the way things were.

Trust me, I know it can take a lifetime to deprogram the lessons we absorb in our upbringing. However, how much common sense can it possibly take to know that treating human beings any differently, especially cruelly, based on NOTHING but the color of their skin is immoral. Just because it was common doesn’t mean it was right. It’s not and never has been. You need to adjust.

  • That’s just the way it’s always been done.

See #1. History has gotten a lot of things wrong. Beating one’s wife, shunning divorcees and persecuting the mentally ill have all been common practices in this country. None of them are fair or humane, and now we prosecute people who do those things. The same should be done with racism.

  • That’s just the way it is where you’re from.

(I’m beginning to see that #1 really sums things up) It’s way past time to look around and see who does what differently and why. Maybe everyone else is onto something and you need to get on board. There’s nothing wrong with loving your home, but make sure you really have something to be proud of. Recognizing that we have some problems to fix doesn’t make you unpatriotic. It means you love your country (or state) enough to want to make it truly worthy of your pride.

  • You just don’t know anyone who’s a different ethnicity from you, so you inadvertently say racist things out of genuine ignorance but would never hurt anyone.

Being from a small, rural community, I know a lot of people like this.  This excuse might have held water at one time, but now we have reliable vehicles, good roads, phone service, the internet…It’s never been easier to get connected with anyone from anywhere. Go make some new friends.

  • You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and they can too.

This one could be its own book. I’ll sum it up by saying that if you are not a person of color, a woman, a disabled person or an immigrant, you already got a head start. There are people in this country who have achieved great things by overcoming obstacles so far from your experience that your brain doesn’t even have a place to process them. Just because it’s not happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not valid. No one is saying it’s your fault, but your willful blindness is a luxury the world can no longer afford. Being part of the solution starts with appreciating the advantage you were born with and being empathetic to those we weren’t.

If you’ve been taught, or managed to convince yourself that there’s any acceptable degree of, or reason for racism just remember this:

Ray Charles attended a  SEGREGATED school for the BLIND!

 

Getting Real

So you “have to” vote for Trump because Democrats are baby killers?

So, you think you have to vote for Trump because the Democratic party tends to lean “Pro-Choice”? Consider this:
1.Politicians don’t care about abortion; they just know you do. It’s a buzzword that’s long been used to manipulate a huge chunk of the population, especially conservative evangelicals.
2.If it was a priority to them, more progress would have been made by now. That’s not happening because it’s working for THEM (See #1). You know who it’s not working for? Poor women. You know who’s not poor? Congress.
3.These people are not dumb. They know one single piece of sweeping legislation would never pass, and they aren’t willing to tackle the many small changes that would actually make a difference, like:
A. Creating social programs that help strengthen relationships, creating fewer single-parent homes, preventing domestic violence and abandoned children
B. Teaching men and boys how to be fathers. Little girls get to play house and care for dolls from the beginning. Boys are handed toy guns and then we wonder why they don’t know what to do with their kids.
C. Make sure women are getting paid fairly and have more solid economic opportunities, so that when #3A doesn’t happen, they can support their families. More often than not, women are solely responsible for the kids because #3B is not happening.
D. Make healthcare, childcare and parental leave affordable and accessible to everyone.
4.Teach kids the truth about sex and make sure they can access birth control. If your family values discourage premarital sex, then it is your right and privilege to instill that into your children. It’s also your responsibility to give them a back-up plan. Our best intentions are often battered by the reality of human nature. My parents grew up smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. If abstinence-only sex ed was a sure thing, I wouldn’t be here.
5.Create comprehensive welfare programs so women have the resources to care for the baby after it’s born. THEN create a clear path to self-sufficiency (see #3C). You can’t ban abortion without providing a realistic alternative and you can’t claim to be Pro-Life if you only care about a child until it’s born.
The word “choice” gets thrown around in this conversation, as if it were that easy. Often women terminate their pregnancies because they feel they have no choice. It’s the kind of “choice” you make when there’s a gun to your head. The only way to prevent abortion is to empower women.
Side Note: I couldn’t help but notice as I typed that list, that it contains ideas that might be considered “liberal”. So that means that Republicans (voters, not candidates) want to eradicate abortion, and Democrats tend to favor social programs that would result in fewer abortions? No one is “Pro-Abortion”. Everyone knows it’s a desperately sad ordeal.
There IS an answer: Empowerment – Poverty = REAL choice.
COULD IT BE?!!? Is this common ground?!
Disability, Empathy, Getting Real

I’m not sick!

I had a fairly deep conversation with myself this morning, over a steaming sink of dirty dishes. I realized myself was making a pretty decent point, so I decided to let you in on the chat.
I grew up in a church that subscribes to practice of the laying on of hands in prayer for divine healing. For more than 20 years of my life, I attended youth camps and prayer meetings. I was in church every time the doors were opened, and sometimes I just used my key.
Countless times while in those services, I’d make my way to the altar by way of cane, walker, wheelchair or under my own power to seek prayer for a range of ailments and trials.
More often than not, I’d immediately be surrounded by my fellow believers who were praying, not for the encouragement or guidance I was seeking, but strictly for God to deliver me from my wheelchair.
Just to be clear, Friends, this talk doesn’t really have anything to do with religion, and I’ve got no grudge of any kind. It’s about the prevailing idea that all people with imperfect bodies want to be normal, that we’re anomalies in the spectrum of humanity that have to be dealt with some how.
If typical people didn’t perpetuate that ideology, we would have more ramps and fewer stairs. Ramps work for everyone. Stairs don’t. If there were fewer accessibility barriers, there would be less unemployment among disabled people. I could go on and on…
When people assumed I was seeking healing because I have a visible disability, it feels like A) that attribute of myself is totally unacceptable, and B) they’re disrespecting the way God made me, not even considering it might be for a purpose.
           
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, they’re good people doing what they sincerely believe God wants them to do, but why didn’t occur to anyone that God made me exactly the way he meant for me to be? My whole life I’ve heard talk about how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, but then we pray for the deliverance of people who were somehow made incorrectly?
People will line up all day long to tell you your plight was God’s will, unless it’s something that makes them uncomfortable, then you need to be delivered from it. Who gets to decide where that line is?
Choose Your Words Wisely, Wisdom

(At Least) 6 Steps to Evaluating Information.

I interrupt my originally-intended blog post to bring you this emergency post about how to evaluate the information you are constantly bombarded with on the Internet and elsewhere. This is by no stretch a conclusive list, but it’s a good jump-start to our common sense.
  1.  Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
  2. Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
  3. Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
  4. Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
  5. Look for sources that use specific language.  For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully.  Go to step six.
  6. Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
My only intention is to give you some tools that will help you make better decisions about what you put into your brain and what your inflict on the people around you, on and off social medial. I’ve seen good people do so much damage with misinformation. You don’t want to be that person. Remember the truth seldom exists in extremes. The gray areas are always your best bet.
Choose Your Words Wisely, Disability

Are you an ableist?

Recently, someone questioned my use of the word “ableism” to describe society’s tendency to favor typical people over those with disabilities. It’s a real thing, y’all. For example, everyone can use a ramp (including people with handcarts, strollers, etc) but only the able-bodied can use stairs. In spite of this obvious fact, stairs are the rule rather than the exception, often limiting where people with disabilities can work, live, eat, shop, worship, go to school, socialize and pretty much everything everyone else does..

Inevitably, when I start talking about this sort of thing, someone will feel compelled to tell me a story about how their brother’s girlfriend’s neighbor knew a guy (not a guy, a kid. It’s always a kid), who overcame his disability and learned to drag himself up the stairs, and he’s SUCH an inspiration.

The only thing a story like that should inspire you to do is demand more practical accessibility standards so no one has to resort to becoming a spectacle.

We appreciate your support, but I’ll take dignity and independence over fleeting, warm fuzzy admiration any day.

Getting Real, Wisdom

Beware of the false bottom!

If our society was a work of literature, it would consist of about 98% long, rambling run-on sentences about division, oppression and all the worst things human beings do to each other. There would be page upon page about what one side wants and why the other side doesn’t think they should have it, followed by heated commentary from people who can’t seem to put themselves in another person’s shoes well enough to know what they’re talking about.

The other 2% would be beautifully bold statements about when we finally got it right, underlined with the blood, sweat and tears of those who labored sacrificially to make it happen and highlighted with the joy the of ones whose lives and will be forever changed because of it, radiating out to give support and inspiration to future generations.

We should be careful to never take our progress for granted or forget that we don’t stop being equal in the spaces between accomplishments. Inequality is a fallacy, an evil lie perpetuated by those who desperately want to preserve the status quo that severs them so well.

Uncategorized

Snow Days

We humans labor under many delusions that erode our quality of life. One that particularly makes my eye twitch is that we are all extra-special, super-unique little snowflakes. Friends, give me a break.

Like most stereotypes and over-generalizations, there’s some truth to it. We all have our own little oddities that make life more interesting and provide lots of opportunity to learn about different points of view, but while our quirks supply diversity, it’s our common human expereinces that gives us stability.

 “You don’t know how I feel!”
“You don’t understand what I’m going through!”
“Well maybe you’ve done this before, but [insert lame qualifying statement here]!”
Why is that our knee-jerk reaction when people try to identify with us? Statements like these not only isolate us, they also discount the empathy of the person trying to reach out…and that’s something we can’t afford to lose.
Here’s some stuff to keep in mind when you find yourself in a similar conversation:
1. Recognize the Empathy: It might sound a little harsh and sloppy, like the person is trying  to one-up you or make it about all about them, but remember humans are imperfect. Appreciate the effort they’re making to acknowledge your situation and help you feel less alone.
2. It’s entirely likely they don’t understand every single facet of your feelings, because no one can read your mind. Make it an opportunity to explain/educate, not an excuse to shut them down. If I’m every Queen of the World, it will be a crime against humanity to discourage someone’s attempt to empathize.
3. If you are trying to be the comforter in a scenario like this, be careful to keep your “I              statements” to a minimum, and make them reflect back to the comfortee.
All the –isms in the world, sexism, racism, ablism, etc, continue to exist because we make a million little decisions every day that lead toward ignoring what makes us the same and remaining ignorant about the unique qualities of people we think are so different from us.
Not making the effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes WILL have serious consequences (so will keeping others out of your shoes for that matter). Always remember all we know for sure is everyone you encounter only gets this one life and your existence will affect it.
Isolation will destroy you. An individual snowflake won’t last long on it’s own, but when it starts sticking with its buddies, they are literally a force of nature.