The conversation about diversity, equity, & privilege in America

This is a tricky topic to write a blog post about, dear Readers. Even though it’s potentially asking for backlash, I want to attempt some thoughts around this politically tense issue.

Diversity, equity, and privilege are popular terms in our society these days, especially in the field of education. Being involved in this field for the past several years, I’ve seen these concepts only growing more prevalent. All facets of educating children and youth need to be run through the equity and diversity lens, and all white privilege must be checked at the door.

I like the pendulum analogy:  the pendulum is forever swinging from one extreme to the other in society, and at the moment we are in the wide arc of diversity.

What does this translate to in practical terms? Many things, including the fact that if a person happens to not be “of color” they are likely to be suspected of racism, white privilege, or else unawakened (not woke).  (Disclaimer:  I am a white person, living in the heart of the western United States.) I am in the midst of a graduate program to become a licensed special education teacher for K-12 students. I am a “mid-life career changer” as one recruiter put it to me, a polite way of saying I’m a little old for this game but am doing it, nonetheless.

Let’s face it, racism is as old as history itself. Since there have been different tribes of humans on the planet, there has been bias from one group towards others. Its manifestation as oppression, slavery, and violence is an ancient story here. In fact, I’ve been studying for a Praxis exam I must take and pass in order to obtain licensure; the dreaded Social Studies subtest. This test covers an insane amount of historical facts, from the time of European exploration of the Americas beginning in the 15th century, all the way through our current era. As I’m sure many readers are aware, the story of how America came to be the United States (and its 245 year history) is one of a little cooperation and friendship between different groups, and a lot of fighting, warring, pain and suffering. Abhorrent practices such as near extermination of indigenous tribes and slavery of Africans were common ways that certain white European-Americans got land, wealth and, yes, privilege. From the Spanish conquistadors who decimated Mexico, Central and South America, to the Dutch who brought African slaves to the Caribbean islands, (and consequently to the East Coast of the colonies) to the Spanish and English pirates who stole treasure as they traveled the high seas, to the Europeans who settled the original colonies at the expense of indigenous tribes’ lands and way of life, they eventually pushed across the entire continent and took what they wanted for their own gain in the name of “Manifest Destiny.” With so much bad blood as the foundation of settling and creating the United States of America, it is little wonder that 245 years later, this country is in a very tenuous position on many fronts. There is considerable evidence that we are on the cusp of complete societal collapse.

So here we are, in 2021. Never before have there been so many groups, individuals, famous and influential people of color speaking out, through all available platforms, about ending racism and unfair practices by the government at all levels. The truth of their message could not be any plainer:  People of color must be treated equally in every way as white people in the United States. It is incredible that over 150 years have passed since the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments were passed which made slavery illegal and gave rights of citizenship to black people. It took a hundred more years for the Civil Rights Act to be passed, guaranteeing Black people equal protection under federal law. And yet, here we are–Black and Brown skinned people are still being treated as less than white privileged people in lots of places in the United States in the year 2021.

Of course we have made a lot of progress. Barack Obama became the first Black president of the United States in 2008. People of color are at the top of their game in many fields of endeavor, such as music, the film industry, visual art, performance art– in fact all the creative industries. Obviously they are leaders in Sports. And in science, innovation, business, government, and also education. Yes, there has been a lot of progress. Still, the struggle to end policies and practices based in racism continues. The school to prison pipeline for youth of color is real in cities across America today. It is still true that in many public school districts, white women make up the majority of teachers, and white men the majority of top administrators. We still have farther to go.

Dear Readers, I’m afraid this blog post turned into a rant tonight. There is so much more to say on this subject. But I will end with a thought to ponder. We must never become complacent, and it’s important to continually check ourselves for hypocrisy. Case in point:  The Met Gala was just held in NYC this past week. It’s an annual event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where many famous celebrities come and model the most outrageous “formal” gowns and evening wear from New York’s fashion designers. I happened to notice that New York’s Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attended the gala event, wearing a gown with the words “tax the rich” written on her backside. Although I generally like her spunk and fearlessness at calling out corruption when she sees it on Capitol Hill, I must say that there was more than a little hypocrisy involved in her choice of attending that event, and wearing that particular message. See this article for more.

https://www.businessmayor.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-responds-to-criticism-of-tax-the-rich-dress-worn-at-met-gala/

Elegy for Our Common Identities

September 11, 2021

Today was the 20 year anniversary of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and Pentagon in Washington, DC.  I, and many other Americans, watched and listened to the event that took place at the 9-11 memorial at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. For several hours, pairs of people took turns to read the names of every person who was killed by the terrorist attack.

The people who read the names of the dead were all relatives of someone who died. Two by two, they stood somberly and read name after name, in alphabetical order.

Nearly 3,000 people died as a result of that fateful and tragic day. As the names of each one were read, I listened. Musicians played lovely, quiet chamber music to accompany the readings. Many emotions washed over me during the course of the memorial service.  Sorrow was the keynote underlying the entire service. One by one, the readers honored the one they had personally lost. Patterns quickly emerged:  father, brother, cousin, mother, sister, daughter, son. People of all ages honored their loved one, including many children and youth who never had the opportunity to know the one who died personally. And yet, each one spoke similar words of knowing them through the stories, pictures, and family ties they had for the past twenty years. Most of the readers remarked that they wished their beloved could have been alive to see their families grow and mark the milestones of their common lives—graduations, births, marriages, and other significant moments. Some readers choked up and cried as they read their memorial, feeling the loss as acutely as if time stood still. Many spoke of the pain they still felt as they remembered their beloved one every single day. And many ended with the words, we will meet again one day.

Corey Kilgannon for The New York Times

The common threads that were repeated over and over during the course of the four hour ceremony became apparent and important to recognize. A few of these threads include:

The names of the dead read as a reminder of who lives in America. The ancestors of these people came from all parts of the world, and yet they were all together in New York on that fateful day. All races, religions, creeds, and belief systems were represented in those who died.

Everyone who died had someone (or many) who cared about them, and misses them very much to this day. And, the important point that each person was simply a human, living their ordinary life on a clear September morning, when something unforeseeable and utterly horrific happened to them that was completely beyond their control.

This blog post is not the place to discuss the implications of everything that came after 9-11-2001, or of how the world changed forever because of that day. This post is simply my way to honor and remember, along with many others, those whose lives were taken from those whom they loved.

During the livestream, they showed the memorial itself. It is a brilliant representation of the eternal nature of life, death and spirit. A deeply built square fountain and pool of water that continually recycles. Around the perimeter are all the names of those who died carved into the stone rim. There were flowers and flags placed next to everyone’s name. The symbolism is profound as a fitting memorial to the human spirit which can never die, regardless of the destruction of the physical body.

Although today’s memorial service was specifically for the ones who died on 9-11-2001, I also sensed the larger memorial to all of those who have left us through no fault of their own. The pandemic has taken many millions of lives and left millions more behind to grieve. In a real sense, this time on Earth seems to be one of intense grieving and loss. There is a line in the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Christian-Judeo bible that states, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die … A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”  This is a time to mourn, to remember all that has happened, and to honor it for the lessons we have learned as the whole of humanity.

System Breakdown

It has been a long time since I wrote on this blog. I’ve spent many hours dealing with my despair and conflicting emotions about the catastrophic state of our world. Back in May, when the weather where I live (Denver, Colorado) was sweet and fragrant with blossoms, I already felt trepidation about the coming summer. Every summer since I’ve lived here (from 2014 on), the summers have become increasingly more extreme. This is true for most places around the world—more heat, more extreme hurricanes, floods, drought, and wildfires.

What will our collective future be like?

The Earth/Gaia is clearly going through a cleansing and purging process. Humanity has for eons polluted, abused and taken from her in every way possible. And now she (for Earth/Gaia is indeed a living being, just as we are) is using all means at her disposal (all the elementals) to restore her body and become whole again. The outcomes of this process are all the extreme weather events humanity is experiencing, and will continue to endure into the foreseeable future.

For a moment, I still believed that the worst of climate changes could be avoided. Back when the Paris Climate treaty was signed, nearly six years ago, for a glimmering moment it looked like humanity was finally waking up. World leaders understood the real dangers we faced, and they made a big show to acknowledge them and committed money, time, and resources toward reversing the damage we’d caused over the past several decades of fossil fuel burning.

Every summer into late autumn has proved more devastating than the last. The past several years have been the hottest ever recorded on Earth. The poles are melting at rates much faster than climate scientists believed possible. Siberian forests in the coldest regions of Earth have become infernos each summer. Records continue to be broken for all the extremes, all around the planet. As it turns out, the world leaders who signed the Paris Climate agreement didn’t really mean what they said, what they wrote, nor what they agreed to do. The machine of fossil fuel use continues on and we continue to abuse our planet’s air, water, land, oceans, and resources.

Two years ago on this blog, I posted some articles written by Jem Bendell. He wrote a research paper about the impending collapse of systems due to all the factors I’ve named here. At the time, I was horrified and appalled, and yet I also could understand why he made the assertion that our world would soon experience breakdown. Two years later, Bendell’s predictions are beginning to become our reality. Everywhere one looks, there is system breakdown.

We gather and rebel not with a vision of a fairy-tale future where we have fixed the climate, but because it is right to do what we can. To slow the change. To reduce the harm. To save what we can. To invite us back to sanity and love. The truth is we are scared and we are brave enough to say so. The truth is we are grieving and we are proud enough to say so. The truth is we are traumatised and we are open enough to say so. We are angry and we are calm enough to say so and invite others to join us.” (Jem Bendell’s Opening speech of the international rebellion of Extinction Rebellion in Oxford Circus on April 15th 2019).

It is excruciating to look at the world now. I think that’s why so many people refuse to see what is obviously before them. Denial of our common situation is sadly ubiquitous among many millions of souls.  Brave scientists, authors, thinkers, journalists, and even some awake politicians have been sounding the clarion call for changing human behavior for years, and some for decades. Now we have reached the point of no return. Someone wrote recently, “this may be the coolest summer for the rest of my life.” 

Dear Readers, I am very sad to write that I’ve reached the point where I no longer feel hopeful about our common future on Earth, at least not into the foreseeable future. I refuse to join the crowd who foretells the extinction of the human race. Yet, it seems very clear to me now that the years ahead for all of us will be increasingly difficult to navigate. The extremes in temperature and global heating of the atmosphere will force us to make radical decisions about where and how we live upon Earth going forward. The Elon Musks of the world will likely find extravagant ways to live well, no matter what. But for the rest of the billions of humans, life is about to become much more difficult.

There is a loose community of people alive today who firmly believe that we have now entered into a new, Golden Age of Gaia. They advise against watching the old paradigm of life as we’ve known it for millennia crumble. Some of these folks are serious about aiding this new Earth, and spend their time giving courses, being out in nature with crystals, performing all sorts of healing rituals for Mama Gaia, and envisioning the new, healed and whole Earth and her people. In their scenario, the people have reconciled their dualistic, separate self with the One/All That Is. There is no more war, hunger, greed or bad actors. It’s basically a New Age version of the proverbial Garden of Eden story restored. This group of folks are very serious about their visioning and have been working and waiting for it to manifest for many years. They are still waiting.

As much as I want to also say yes, this New Earth has been birthed and will continue to grow in the decades and centuries ahead, I currently see only evidence of the crumbling and breakdown that apparently “needs to happen” before the new age can begin. For a lot of reasons, I sincerely hope the New Agers are right, and it will only be a matter of time before the world transforms into a beautiful, peaceful, healthy, ideal place filled with happy, secure and peaceful humans who understand that All Is One. However, I personally don’t have much energy left to keep fighting for this someday future world. I am exhausted.

These are tremendously hard words to have to write, and the main reason I seldom post on this blog any longer. No one wants to read such depressing thoughts. I wish so much to report better news. To be fair, there are small pockets of humans around the globe who are raising organic food, saving animals, helping other humans and modeling better and more sustainable ways to live upon Earth. This is wonderful and I applaud them all. But in the face of the vast tsunami of disasters facing large populations of people, these efforts are like trying to put out a hundred thousand acre forest fire with a garden hose.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far. I send each of you love and light, and the courage and strength to keep going in your life. May all the small gestures of loving kindness we give to others and to ourselves add up to something amazing and miraculous that we cannot know right now.