Monday, March 3, 2014

Law School, Palm Trees, and Pirate Treasure

What do you do if you are a slightly heavy ‘tween’, who despite his usefulness in finding hidden pirate treasure and fending off strangely friendly monsters named Sloth, but is constantly ridiculed and called “Chunk” by the likes of Rudy?

You go to law school and become lawyer.

The first part happened on a movie set. That last part happened at UCLA.
That’s right, Chunk from the Goonies went to the UCLA School of Law and can now sue the pants off of anyone who clowns his girth. Though word on the street is he no longer matches that childhood nickname.

According to the data about 80% of the people who went to UCLA’s law school are capable of suing people’s pants off so be careful.

Better yet, don’t fight them, join them. There are palm trees, the beach, and at one time George Mastras the writer and creator of Breaking Bad. If you are a little less Hollywood you may appreciate that the former provost of Dartmouth, who then went on to be president of Occidental, was UCLA Law alum. Not too shabby.

I’m sure it is mostly due to Chunk, but the school does boast a top twenty ranking in US News and World Report. It’s lot cheaper thanYale. It snows a lot in New Haven. Just sayin.

I myself have no desire to be a lawyer, but in the event I need one, I know where to look.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Privilege

I am having an online “discussion” with some loose acquaintances over whether or not white privilege exists. I of course believe it exists but I fear I am not doing so well convincing the others.


I think they think I’m a left wing extremist who has drunk too deeply from the pools of white guilt  and become fully indoctrinated with a terminal case of liberalism. As I said before we are just acquaintances.

I am told that the idea of white privilege is simply an idea pushed forward to perpetuate a victim mentality and entrench a sense of racial division. It is argued that racism as an obstacle for black people is a myth and that the best course, the one supported by God and truth, is that we should all just be one people, work hard, and stop complaining about the past.

Stop complaining about the past. I hear that a lot. “How can we move forward if people refuse to forgive?”

Forgiveness is a hard thing to give; especially when it isn’t asked for.

Not only is it hard to give, it has nothing to do with the discussion. It has nothing to do with white privilege.

White privilege is not about the past, it is about the now. I didn’t learn this by reading it. I did not learn about this in some liberal college. I didn’t even learn about it by the name “privilege”. I learned about it when I was a Mormon missionary.

I learned it when for the first time I lived in a place where all the faces on billboards didn’t look like mine. I learned it when  I walked down the street and everyone would stop and stare at me. I learned it when people I had never met, including police officers, would stop me and ask what a white boy was doing in this neighborhood. I had my motives questioned at every turn. I couldn’t have one single solitary conversation without first addressing and justifying my race. After two months of this I was deeply and fundamentally worn out. I was tired after two lousy months. After two years I was callous.

There was more to it than that, and that was only the first half of my nonacademic education.

More than two years after those two years, I watched as my black wife experienced the very white world of Salt Lake City.

None of the faces on billboards looked like her. As she walked down the street people would stop and stare at her. People she had never met would always lead by asking where she was from and wanting to know how a black girl ended up in Utah. She couldn’t get anywhere with anyone without first explaining or justifying her race. People asked her to repeat herself, not because they didn’t understand what she said, they were just amused by the way she talks. After a couple months she was tired. After two years she wanted out. So we left.

Two more years after that came the real lesson. Two years after we retreated from Utah’s white world we were in South Carolina. I walked from one world to another, white to black and back again, and only occasionally was I questioned. My race sort of disappeared… unless my wife was around.

Her race never went away. She never brought, nor brings, it up. She doesn’t have too. Everyone else brings it up for her. She doesn’t focus on it. She just lives her life. But I bring it up all the time.


Because when I walk into a restaurant to have lunch with a client or my employer, they simply smile and shake my hand. When I don’t warn these same folks that my wife is black, there is a very tangible elephant in the room with us. They smile at me, then pause at her. The head tilts sideways just a little, confusion passes across their face, and they don’t really say anything for a minute. Once our lunch dates, our fellow church goers, our neighbors, or anyone we meet gains their composure it isn’t on to business as usual but rather the start of the side show. I am never as fascinating or entertaining when I am by myself, but with her in the room there is electricity.

Now make no mistake, she is quite electric, but when I walk into a room with my sisters or any coworker who looks a little more like me; nothing.

She does not complain. She does not act the victim. It is just her life. It is a part of her life that I never have to deal with unless I choose to. She cannot choose. For her it is as permanent as both her American-ness and her black-ness.

My white-ness doesn’t even exist unless I say something about it. Even then most treat it like it is only pretend.

How fair would it be for me to tell my wife that it is all in her head? How fair would it be for me to tell her that our experiences are alike and the same? Do I tell her to forgive and just move on?

Move on from what and go where?

She has to deal with something that I do not. Neither of us are dwelling in the past nor placing any blame. That has nothing to do with our differing experiences. Our parallel realities. This is what my privilege is.

She has to deal with something in life that I do not. I enjoy a privilege in comparison.

Why does this matter? Why is it important for me to acknowledge? Because  she is my wife. If the two of us are to have any sort of relationship, to live in the same house, to work together, we have to understand each other. Acknowledging our truths does not drive a wedge between us.

It is the only thing that can remove the wedge that already exists.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Head and the Heart

The head and the heart while inhabiting the same body, don’t always seem to be connected. I live in my head. It receives messages from my extremities, wraps them in context, makes sense of them, and charts a course of action. Happy, sad, pleasure, or pain, all filter in, get experienced, logged, and filed away for future reference.

 Day to day, or rather every day, I know racism is real. I know White people as a body murdered, raped, and humiliated Black individuals in an effort to do the same to the Black community. Every day I know this, but rarely do I feel it.

When I can see it, I feel it. When I see it there is a glitch in my head. A message has come in from my eyes but went somewhere before reaching my brain. I felt it before my mind could register it. I know what it is, I know where the mental file folder is in which it will soon be filed. I know the context and the history; I even have several cross-references come to mind. I have all this and it still doesn’t make sense.

 I don’t really understand it. I’m not sure it can be understood, and in that gap left by not fully knowing is left only feeling. I often wish I could feel more, or at least feel more often. The older I get the more I have to fight off the slide towards being cynical and jaded. I know myself. I know that feelings come slow and fear that if not nurtured, they may stop coming at all. I know this is not just me, but most people.

 When it comes to race, we White people don’t normally feel it. Most of us don’t have a mental file folder for it, and when a mental message of racism shows up, it normally gets discarded, or maybe sent to some unreconciled “other” bin. Till we see pictures like this. When we see pictures like this, it is an idea no longer, it’s real. It isn’t “lynching”, it’s a two dead Black men hanging from a light post. It is crowds of White murderers laughing, pointing, and being proud. It’s a little boy beaten to death lying in an open coffin. It is systematic racism come to fruition, it feels evil, it goes right to your gut, then your heart, and if your head isn’t spinning by the time it reaches there… it’s too late for you.

 Some time ago I learned a lesson. It was black history month and I was enthralled by the series of programs on PBS. I was motivated, I was horrified, I was feeling. While I was experiencing this I realized my normal partner on the sofa was gone. My ever TV watching wife was not watching black history month. It was not just once but every night. I asked her why and she brought home a message I think I knew, but needed to hear. She said, “you need those shows to learn and to feel. That’s good. I don’t need those shows, I feel it all the time.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

“If you knew your history, Then you would know where I'm coming from, And you wouldn't have to ask me, who the H... do I think I am.” Robert Nesta Marley in Buffalo Soldier
The turn of the century, the one before the one we just had, is referred to by historians as the “nadir” of Black history. To the rest of us that means it was the worst period for Black people since the end of slavery. This was the period where White people mailed post cards picturing women and children grinning beneath Southern tree's strange fruit. This was the period in time when Black Americans were generations deep in being American but still generations from being legally allowed to be American. Think for a minute how that would feel. In 1900 the principal of Jacksonville Florida's largest public school wrote a poem. The school was the largest because it was for Black kids, Florida had a lot of those, but Florida did not have a lot of schools for “them”. The poem was to commemorate Abraham Lincoln's birthday and a visit to the school by Booker T. Washington. A few years later the poem became a song, and the song soon became an anthem. People over time sang it in churches, on busses, while marching, and in prisons. The song has words of hope, of liberty, of God, and patriotism. Patriotism. A Black song in 1900; patriotic. In or around 1812, America was attacked. From the vantage point of a ship in the harbor, a poet wrote a poem that then became a song, and later an anthem. At that time Black people were 3/5ths a person and 100% percent property. As American's first put hand over heart and sang of bright stars and broad stripes, they did not intend that the song would be for Black people, because “those” weren't Americans. It took more than one hundred years to change that. During those hundred years there was that other song. During those hundred years there were nooses, blowtorches, marches, murders, legislation, military occupation, sit-ins, speeches, there were tears and there was music. “God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way, Thou who hast by thy might, led us into the light, Keep us forever on the path, we pray,” were the principals words way back then. Later they were also the words that opened the prayer that followed a Black man raising his hand to be the leader of all Americans. Times change. Times change but human nature does not. Neither does history. These truths, together, next to each other, make up what, and who, we collectively are. Who makes up this “we” is important. Are we a “we” yet? When the White we learns that there is a Black national anthem, how do we react? When the Black we realizes the younger half doesn't know the song, how do we react? When we realize “we” aren't, do we react at all?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

For Your Consideration

Now that the festivities on the fourth are done and the celebration gives way to recuperation, may I offer something for your consideration?

Imagine for a moment the year is 1776 and you are black. You are owned by a white man, a rich white man. He is riding off to fight for independence from England. He has fully embraced the idea of freedom and liberty and an individual’s right to determine their own destiny. He has not offered you your freedom and has taken certain steps to ensure you don’t try to gain it yourself in his absence.

How important would the fourth of July be to you?

Let’s skip forward a few years.

You are still black, but free and living inPhiladelphia, maybe New York. War has begun with the southern states which are fighting to retain the right to own your people as slaves. The white people around you argue over what they are fighting for, retaining the Union or freeing the slaves. Either way, you still aren’t allowed to worship with, go to school with, join the labor guild, or live in the same area as all these lighter skinned Americans. Even the unpopular immigrants, Irish and Italians, don’t appear to like you. They are coming over in droves.

How would you feel about America as you watch these newcomers become naturalized citizens, who then riot at the idea of a draft to go fight for black people’s freedom?

Soon the whole world is at war.

Germany keeps invading other countries and declaring themselves superior. You, a black person watch as the whole country marches off to stamp out the evils of Nazi racism and protect the freedoms of not just America, but the world. Meanwhile a law was passed saying you can vote, yet you still aren’t allowed to do so. You can’t testify in court against a white person, no matter who that white person is or what they have done, you still can’t join the unions or go to the same school as the white people, and all the police are white.

In such a situation what might you think when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor?

Then we go off to fight in Asian countries. We do so to protect against the freedom squelching powers of communism. Thousand upon thousands of American soldiers are shipped thousands of miles away to defend the relative freedom of citizens of Korea and Vietnam. Meanwhile you, remember you are black, still can’t send your kids to the good public school, ride in the front of the bus, join the union, see a white doctor, or live next door to a white person. Did I mention you still live in Philadelphia? A bunch of folks from all over are heading south on Greyhound buses and they are getting beaten senseless. The Police don’t protect them because they are the ones doing the beating.

How, with all this in mind, would you feel about America?

Would you be justified in being angry?

Would it make sense that you lack pride in these United States?

Might you resent this country and its promises applied to all except you and yours?


Lets consider how black people have reacted historically (go back to being white again). In the Revolution black people signed up to fight. There was a hope that freedom and liberty would one day trump the slave system.

In the civil war black people lobbied and pushed for the right to fight for the north, and once allowed, did so with vigor.

In the World Wars, black people enlisted. Knowing they would be relegated to being cooks and porters, they still enlisted to go fight for other’s freedom. Many even enlisted in foreign regiments to be able to fight. They did not relinquish their American identity, but had to join a foreign force to be allowed to defend home. They did defend it.

While the law would not defend black people at home, they were still drafted to go to Southeast Asia. They fought and died just like the white men.

All throughout American history black people have answered America’s call. From it’s inception, American’s with ancestral roots in Africa have stood up for the Star Spangled Banner and put their lives on the line.

Who can compete with this brand of patriotism? What group of people has better earned a right to complain or voice opinion on national matters? Most of all, who am I, a non military serving white boy from a solid middle class home, to ever cast doubt on the motivations or loyalties of these “others”?

On this, the day after our nation’s birthday, maybe we can think a little about where we have been and where we are now.

God Bless America and all those who call her home.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are You a Racist Admiral Cod? Let's Talk.

There are on these interwebs, all sorts of folks. A free and open forum for which I advocate. You are free to say as you please, as am I. Because I am free to speak, I would like to bring up my good buddy Admiral Cod.

Once upon a time he would leave pleasant comments on my posts. He saw my site fit enough to list me on his blogroll. I would comment on his site from time to time, if I felt I had something to offer.

Then one day it stopped. It’s hard to pinpoint when or why. Let me forward some guesses.

Was it when I mentioned the taint of slavery on American historical locations?

Was it perhaps when I posted a picture of my wife?

Possibly it was my exposing myself as a teetotaler, or was it that one post you did. You know, the one where you stopped “approving” or posting my comments? You remember the post right? The one where you posted a video clip of an old movie where the English stave off a final attack by the savage Africans. You approved a comment by some chap who lamented that we cannot treat our modern “brown menace” in like fashion. I pointed out that letting such racially negative comments to go unanswered was bad form. To which your response was… nothing. You would not post my comment nor respond to my email.

I let it go. Some times things are best left alone. But yesterday you were at it again. I have looked around and find your site listed on other sites blogrolls, you list some fine ones yourself, and the extent to which your rants go unanswered, or even defended, concerns me. Hats off to the young man at Sartorially Inclined. You posted his concern, but again not mine. Who’s else do you delete?

Here is what you wrote is what I wrote:

Racial acceptance is not a zero sum game. Perhaps the “others” are not welcome to you, but to assume your opinions are held by all is more than presumptuous.

You infer, and this is by no means the first time, that the decline of society as you see it, is hastened by the presence and or acceptance of minorities. You claim superiority in your Anglophile ways that is obviously tied to whiteness as you see it.

How sad.

You may think the proper order of the world, right side up as you put it, has whites at the top and others below, how do you propose this to happen?

What are you advocating or predicting?

Why, and this is more important, do you think this is the way it should be?

You portray yourself as cultured and learned, but this is simple ignorance.

No… I was wrong. You are neither simple nor ignorant, perhaps something worse.

Maybe it was I who was out of line.

So… was I?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick-or-tre... never mind

So the Mrs. and our daughter are handing out candy. A lady and her kids skip our house.
Our daughter calls after them that we do have candy for them. They ignore her. Our blonde neighbor hears the shouting, comes outside (our doors are less than 1 foot away from each other)and shouts after them that she has candy.

The lady came back, took candy from our neighbor, silently looked at my wife and daughter, then silently ushered her kid away... still not taking candy from my wife.

My neighbor was in shock with none of her usual excuse making and explaining things away.

Happy Halloween.