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Filtering by Category: Black Lives Matter

RACE CARD

Cindy Maddera

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted about watching the news while sitting at the car dealership, waiting for an oil change. She said that there were two other people in waiting area with her, a woman with her teenage daughter. In the middle of all the news coverage, the teenager looked at her mother and said "you know, if this were about 20,000 black men at a concert, no one would care." The woman who wrote the post went on to describe how she was outraged and angered by the teenager's comment and implied that her mother should teach her daughter to keep such comments to herself. The woman said that this (in regards to the Las Vegas Mass shooting) was a heart issue, not a race issue. The first responder to this comment whole heartedly agreed, stating that she was so tired of 'them playing the race card.' Another commenter asked if the teenager was white. The woman responded the teenager was 'mixed something' but she hadn't really looked at the young girl. 

I read through the whole thing and felt ill. I don't really know this woman. We knew each other in high school, but that's about it. I started to write a comment, but in the end I just hid the posting from my news feed.  I didn't see the point of trying to explain to her how her Facebook posting was an excellent example of white privilege. Sure, the Las Vegas shooting is not about race (necessarily) but that teenager brings up a really good point on how this society talks about violence and race and how these issues are portrayed in the media. Elizabeth Smart, a fourteen year old white girl, was abducted in 2002. Her story made national headlines. That same year, Alexis Patterson, a seven year old black girl from Milwaukee, was abducted while walking to school. Her story was a blip in the news. We've seen police video after police video aired on the nightly news of officers shooting unarmed black men, but in 2012 we all watched as James Holmes was taken alive after opening fire in a movie theater. There is a habit of referring to a white person who opens fire on other civilians as a mass shooter, while a person of darker skin would be called a terrorist. 

All this young person has ever seen and heard is the disparate way in which race is discussed in this country, where the president will not condemn neo-nazi's but will call peaceful protestors 'sons of bitches.' She sees a country who does not care about black people. We have showed her that this is a country that does not care about black people. Yes. I say 'we'. Because we all play a roll in this. Instead of being outraged that this young girl doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut (or keep her place, is also how I interpreted that comment), why not ask what would prompt her to say that? And then listen, really listen, to her answer. Or maybe instead of biting your tongue, you could have said "I would care. This is a horrific and senseless act of violence that no one should ever have to experience no matter what." This woman missed an opportunity show empathy and start an important conversation that could have led to understanding on both sides.

Instead she chose to 'bite her tongue' and spew her anger out on social media. And why shouldn't she? I mean, our (not mine) President of the United States engages in this behavior every day. He sets the example. It's just that some people haven't thought about how maybe this is not the example we want set. Maybe we're better than that. Maybe that's all I'm asking of that woman because I want to believe she's better than that. I want this country to be better than that. 

 

 

TIRED

Cindy Maddera

I was sitting here today, looking through all the postings on Facebook about the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem and disrespect and boycotts and ugly ugly words of hatefulness. I sat there shaking my head at all the ugliness and my shoulders slumped with exhaustion because I knew I would have to say something. I'm tired of blogging about this issue. Silence is acceptance, but constantly being vigilant is so tiring and there have been so many posts out there that say the right things far better than I could say them. Why bother? Then I think about how tired I am and imagine that it is nothing compared to how tired Sybrina Fulton must be of this fight or how tired Leslie McSpadden must be. 

"Average citizens feel like their kids are not going to make it home safely, because we've had so many incidents where somebody is shot and killed and nobody is being held accountable," she said. "You have to bury a loved one, and on top of you burying a loved one, nobody is going to trial. Nobody is being arrested. Nobody is going to jail. And so it like adds insult to injury.

"Where is the justice system for some of these families? Where was the justice system for us?"

-Sybrina Fulton, Treyvon Martin's mother

Do you know those names? Have you heard of these women? They are two women who make up an ever increasing list of mothers who have had to burry a child who has been shot by law enforcement or for just walking down the street. Not only are they dealing with the exhaustion of grief itself, but they are dealing with the every day fight for justice and the every day fight for change. So I shake off my minimal exhaustion because it is nothing compared to those who have to fight tooth and nail every day for equality because of their skin color. Those NFL players kneel because they are exhausted from years of standing for an anthem that does not include them.   

Silence is acceptance and I do not accept a white supremacist president. I do not accept a president who continuously goes out of his way to further divide this country. I will continue to speak out and I will never stop telling those people who agree with our president that they are wrong. I will never stop asking "how would you feel if you were treated that way?". I will never stop saying "treat others the way you would want to be treated." I will never stop expected those common decencies from my neighbors and I never stop expecting it from my government. 

 

SILENCE IS VIOLENCE

Cindy Maddera

I didn't have a stellar high school history education. I remember one teacher in particular who just let us do whatever and often played movies like Red Dawn. We did cover the Civil War, at least the basics, like Abraham Lincoln and states succeeding the Union. In all of the lessons taught to me, the teachers talked about the various things that triggered the Civil War, like state's rights versus federal authority and the election of Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth President of the U.S. But the most important part of the Civil War, the thing always emphasized, was that it ended slavery. My take away from these lessons was simple. Slavery was (and is) a horrible horrible thing. It is a shameful awful part of our American history. People who fought to keep slaves were awful and cruel and the furthest thing from anything Christian. Villains. They became villains in my mind. 

Lessons on World War II came along soon after. We learned about Hitler and Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. We learned about a bomb so horrible and destructive that countries came together to make a declaration to never use it again. My take away from my lessons on World War II was that Nazis did horrible awful things to people they deemed less than themselves. Color, religion, sexual orientation, not being full blood German, were all things that would send a person to prison camp and death. Somewhere around 7 million Jews and around 1.8 million non-Jewish Polish citizens, not to mentions the hundreds of thousands of homosexuals, disabled people and people of other religions, were killed by Nazis in World War II. Nazis are horrible, evil people. Villains. They are villains.

We have villains living among us now. They are people who believe that the color of their skin makes them better or gives them more rights than those who are different from them. They believe that African Americans should "know their place". They believe that their Christian religion is the only religion and that those who follow any other form should leave this country. They believe that homosexuals should be 'cured' or killed. This group that consists of white men and women are not true Americans. They spread hate and intolerance. They teach this hate to their children. They are a disease. A blight. They are domestic terrorists. Wars were fought to end people like this. 

The very same people who brought violent protests to Charlottesville, South Carolina over the weekend. 

Those men and women, cheering for racism and holding Nazi flags and Confederate flags are domestic terrorists. 

It is my responsibility to speak out against racism. It is my responsibility to stand up to hate. My silence to those hateful actions is to condone racism. This blog is my voice and the best outlet I have in this moment. I am not a public speaker, so this is my public stage. I will not condone or tolerate hate and racism in my family, in my friends and in my community. 

 

DANDELIONS

Cindy Maddera

Remember when you were a kid and thought dandelions where the most beautiful flower and you picked all of them in your yard and then proudly held them up in your clutched sweaty little hand as a gift to your mom? At some point in adulthood, probably when we first started caring for a lawn of our very own, those bright yellow blooms became the bane of our existence. That dime sized blister on my thumb is the result of digging those invasive plants out of the vegetable garden. I've seen Josephine eat them. In fact she dragged half of the ones I pulled from the garden off into the yard to chew on while I worked. As I tugged and pulled each dandelion plant free, I thought "I used to love these. I used to think these bright yellow flowers where stunning." 

It is a wonder how perceptions change with age. When the Cabbage was in pre-school, Michael asked her if she had any black kids in her class. He wanted to make sure that she was in a class of diversity. The Cabbage looked at him oddly and said "Black kids?!? Kids aren't black!" She didn't know about the terms we adults have created to describe skin that is not white. Michael, not wanting to mess up anything, just said "OK" and left it at that. He realized that kids don't see color the way adults do. They recognize that there are different skin colors but they haven't been told about ethnicities or about stereotypes. They learn those things. From grownups. Eventually the Cabbage will notice that the color of her skin will afford her a certain sort of privilege. I would have hoped that we would have fixed the privilege of skin color before that happened, but it doesn't look like that's the case. 

iBiology recently posted a video series on Mentor Training to Improve Diversity in Science. I watched it because I thought it would be important and educational for me to watch. I thought I might learn how to talk about diversity and race with confidence or without the worry of offending someone. I also wanted to hear if they addressed the lack of young African American women in science. I see this here and I wonder how to fix it. They don't really address that, but they do talk about how important diversity is to making scientific discoveries. This is not a message I needed to learn, but it was one I was happy to hear because I don't think it is said often enough. It's the reason why I shared the video to Facebook. The messages presented by Dr. Angela Byars-Winston and Dr. Sandra Crouse Quinn are messages that applies universally, not just in the field of science. 

Let's say there's a committee of people put together to solve a specific problem regarding the whole country. The committee consists of ten people. All of them are men. All of them are very very wealthy. All of them are white. How effective do you think they will be in solving a problem that affects all of us (white, black, hispanic, middle class, female, LGBQT, farmer, working class) in a way that is helpful to all of us? Wait...that's pretty much the situation we have now. Bad example. I'm saying that having a diverse group allows that group to approach questions to a problem in a more effective way because we all add something unique to the table. 

It's not about not seeing color. Not at all. It's about embracing color and recognizing the beauty and strengths in having a diverse society. It's about being respectful without expectations. Treating others the way you would want to be treated. 

ROCK PAPER SCISSORS

Cindy Maddera

I wanted to talk about Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott. I started writing and then deleted everything. My thoughts and words seem inadequate, yet I know, as a white person, my silence on yet another week of needless deaths is worse. We, as in White America, with our prejudices and mistrust of people who are different than us have created a society of fear, more mistrust and hate. See how those things feed on each other? As a whole, it seems that there are too many blind to this concept. 

Every time ISIS claims responsibility for a terrorist attack, they are banking on the backlash on Muslims to be their recruiting tool. They know that any time a person of authority (like a presidential candidate) speaks out about banning Muslims from their country or making all Muslims be on a registry, that seeds are being planted in an impressionable young person's head. Why on earth should they have any loyalties for a country like that? What is happening on a daily basis between law enforcement and our black communities is causing the same kind of damage. Why on earth should anyone have loyalties to a country who treats them as if they were criminals and second class citizens? 

Second class citizen should not even be a phrase in our vocabulary. Have we forgotten the pride we took as a nation to be considered a melting pot nation?

The melting pot is a metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogenous, the different elements 'melting' together in a harmonious whole with a common culture.

As a White American, I take responsibility for the part I play in this. I will watch out for my neighbors. I will use my white privilege to make my community a better place for ALL. I will use my voice to speak out against injustice. I will not be silent or complacent. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to those families. 

SOME THINGS ON MY MIND

Cindy Maddera

There's a long list of chore related activities that I should have done over the holiday weekend, but instead I spent my time watching movies like Jurassic World and Mortdecai. I started a new book that was promised to be a "beach read" that is mindlessly entertaining. On the actual fourth, I went to a yoga in the park event at the Nelson that turned out to be the most patriotic yoga class I've ever attended. There was a lot of talk of how great it is to be an American (I do not disagree). Then Michael and I rode our scooters all over the place for the rest of the afternoon. 

First we rode over to a new place for lunch. Rye is now considered to be our new favorite, especially because our waiter went back to the kitchen to ask the chef how they make the meringue on their lemon meringue pie. I know how to make meringue, but this meringue was unlike any. It was almost like marshmallow fluff. I know now that it's a Swiss style of meringue and next weekend may just be a pie making weekend. After lunch, we rode over to REI just to look around (some things do not change). We ended up parking our scooters next to another scooter. The owner of that scooter was coming out just as we were taking our helmets off. We had a lovely time talking about scooters and engine sizes and the joys of riding. 

As we crossed the parking lot to head into the store, we noticed some people chatting around the cutest teardrop style camper. They had the back open so you could see the whole set up. We joined the conversation asking about things like space and air conditioning. I told the woman about this couple we ran into last year from Canada and how they were driving an un-air condition VW bus across the US. The woman said "Was it orange!?" I said "Yes!" Then she said "We know those people!!!" They had just spent a week camping with them. The world is so tiny. We talked with that couple for a while about Jeeps and trailers before we all finally made it into the store. 

Later on Michael found me looking at the dehydrated meals and I told him how every once in a while, Chris and I would each pick out a different packet and that's what we'd have for dinner one night. We picked out a meal to have for lunch some time and then I grabbed a bag of Moon Cheese off the shelf. I said "let's try this!" Any way, it turned out to be the best thing ever and possibly laced with heroin or crac or both. Michael can't stop talking about it and last night he looked up the patent on how it's made. He quickly determined that we most likely could not manufacture our own Moon Cheese and will be forced to purchase this deliciously weird snack. Michael said that we should never try heroin together.

As I'm typing all of this, my thoughts move back around to my very patriotic yoga class where there was an emphasis on being grateful to live in this wonderful, free country. The mix of it all though...the yoga in the park, the carefree scooter rides, fucking Moon Cheese....rings out as so grossly privileged particularly when you wake up the next day to news of yet another story about white police officers shooting a black man. I wonder if journalists just have a fill in the blank form letter written up by now for these things. They just erase the names and replace with new names. Alton Sterling was the 154th black man killed by police this year. He was pinned to the ground when he was shot. You're an idiot if you think the cop acted in self defense. You're blind and delusional if you do not see that this country has some seriously gaping wounds infected with gangrenous racism. 

If you say racist things, if you support candidates who incite racism, you are part of the infection. If you see racist behavior and do not step up and say something or at the very least make it known that you are watching, you are part of the infection.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others - Philippians 2:4 

The world is really so very tiny. 

 

FROSTY

Cindy Maddera

It started Monday with a familiar tingle at the back of my throat and by the time I left work I was feeling feverish. I took cold medicine and fell asleep on the couch and that's pretty much where I stayed for the last two days. Wednesday looked promising. I got up and took a shower and pretended that I was going to work, but just the effort of showering left me exhausted. I went back to bed and slept for two hours, only to get up to move to the couch where I dozed on and off most of the day while Boardwalk Empire played in the background. I could have easily repeated all of that again today, but instead I gave myself a slap and went to work.

Now I am sitting like zombie at my desk with my supervisor asking me why didn't I just stay home. One day off work was necessary. Two days off work seemed decadent. Three days off work means I have some serious ills and I'm not willing to admit that. So I showed up. I'm making an effort. My ears crackle when I swallow, but I've added a paragraph and picture to a newsletter that I'm working on. I'm starting to think that this is all I will accomplish today. Something I didn't do while I laid on the couch for two days was anything with the internet. I didn't write. I didn't check emails. I went to facebook once to wish some people a Happy Birthday, but that's all I did. I didn't read my daily Skimm of news. I barely replied to text messages and I did not take any pictures of anything. I'm now missing two days in my 365 photo happiness project. I'm not all that upset about it. There's more important things to be upset about. 

I have written and deleted and written and deleted over and over something about the University of Missouri. None if it seemed right. Then I realize that this is kind of the point. This whole situation is not right. Everything about any of it is not right. It's not right that these kids did not (do not) feel safe at their own school. It's not right that there are people out there STILL teaching their kids to hate. It's not right that so many choose to ignore or brush aside racism. How can you write something to that makes sense of something so wrong? I can't, but I can show my support. I stand with those students of the University of Missouri. I believe in their peaceful protest demanding change. I am in awe of their bravery to stand up and do so. May these students give others the courage to stand up to the face of injustice. Because you're fooling yourself if you think violent acts of racism are only happening on this particular college campus. 

There's is not much that I can say that hasn't been said before, except maybe that I am listening. I hear the cries of your protest and I recognize that my problems are nothing compared to your's. I want those students to know they are making a difference. They are making things better. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Cindy Maddera

I know I usually reserve the Friday entry for gratitude, and before I head out on this rant, I will assure you that it still is a post about being grateful. It's just that ever since I heard that news story about the Tennessee Mom, Jackie Sims,  who wants to ban The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I have not been able to get Jackie Sims out of my head. The more I think about her reasoning for the removal of the book the more I wish she was standing in this room with me so that I could shake her and tell her what an irresponsible and ignorant human being she is. 

Now I have not read this book yet. It is on my reading list though. As a scientist who has worked with HeLa cells it is an important book for me to read. I have also been an outspoken person regarding gene patents and genetic ownership and how some companies tend to cross a serious line. Which is what they did regarding Henrietta and her whole family. Now, just for argument sake, let's remove the race card from this story (just briefly, because I am well aware that Henrietta's story is one of exploitation of black people). Jackie Sims believes this story to be "pornographic" and should be told in a "better" way. I think this woman may be referring to the section of the book that explains how Henrietta Lacks discovered her tumor while in the bathtub. Meaning she found the tumor through self discovery of her own body. Let me tell you how dangerous it is for this Tennessee Mom to see this as pornographic. 

Right off the bat she sending a message that there is something shameful and dirty about human sexual organs and in particular, female sexual organs. She is teaching a teenage boy that women's bodies are shameful and not their own, which leads to the insinuation that if a woman's body is not her own, it is therefor property of a man to be treated however this man deems fit. Secondly she is teaching her son that self exploration of one's body is a dirty shameful thing when it is clear that this is how we can find things that seem a little off so we can tell our doctor. I couldn't help but think that while I laid in my bed the other morning performing my monthly breast exam that Jackie Sims would consider this to be a pornographic act. So when she says that this story could be told in a better way, does she mean that we should use made up names for those parts of the human anatomy? No one is going to take a scientific book seriously if you replace the word vagina with whoha. Same reason why no one should take Jackie Sims seriously. 

Most importantly this is a story of how an entire family has been wronged by the medical industry. That is the very essence of this book. I believe that by making an issue about the human anatomy, Jackie Sims pulls attention from the true point of this story and that's where the issue of race comes into play. Focusing on a small section of the story where Henrietta touches herself is degrading to this story and degrading to Henrietta Lack and is a misdirection from the true story about the exploitation of a black family. Henrietta Lacks' story is a women's rights issue. It is a civil rights issue. It is a human rights issue. That should be the take-away. 

Henrietta Lacks' cells have been instrumental in scientific research and for this I am truly grateful, but I am not above the shame involved in knowing how scientists obtained these cells. Henrietta's story is a reminder of just how important it is for me to be an ethical scientist and I am grateful that Rebecca Skloot brought Henrietta and her family's story to light. 

I am thankful for Henrietta Lacks

WE DON'T DESERVE NICE THING

Cindy Maddera

I started listening to The Problem We All Live With on This American Life recently. I haven't been able to listen to the whole thing and there's two parts to it, but it's about education and desegregation. The first story focuses on Normandy High School. Normandy is part of the school district where Michael Brown went to school in Ferguson MO. They started the show with a clip from one of the news affiliates taken on the day of Michael Brown's death. In that clip you can hear Michael's mother, Lesley McSpadden, screaming at the police, telling them that her son had just graduated from high school. "Do you know how hard it was for me to get him to finish high school?"  You can hear everything, all of it, in her voice and all I want to do is put my arms around that woman and just hold her in hopes that she finds some little tiny bit of comfort. Because how could she ever be comforted? How can she ever not have a constant ache from losing her child? But that's not the point of the story.

The story is about poor education in poor neighborhoods. It's about a high school doing so poorly, it loses it's accreditation which gives those students the option to bus to a better school district. The Normandy District chose a school thirty miles away when they had a perfectly good high school in Clayton county, five miles away. The reason is simple. Make it harder to get to the better school and students will opt to stay at Normandy High. A thousand students took their chances with the school thirty miles away, Francis Howell. When the court ruling came that these children would be bused to Francis Howell, that community (85% white) held a public forum. The local NPR station recorded that forum and as they played back excerpts of the people voicing their concerns about Normandy students being bused in, I felt my stomach turn. One woman said her concerns had nothing to do with race even while she listed stereotypical fears.  Busing in these black children would be the equivalent to busing in criminals. What was going to keep their children safe from guns and drugs? 

I could not believe how these people were speaking about children who just wanted a better education. I could not believe how short sighted these people were being, how a better education is a start to ending the poverty/crime circle. God! Even terrorists know this. It's why they target schools all the time. It's naive to think that segregation ended in 1954 with Brown vs Board of Education. America's public schools are segregated by race and poverty. In fact about 48% of public school children in this country are poor.  But again...poverty is a whole other hot mess. We have a serious racial divide in this country that has many of us beating our heads against the wall on how to bridge that divide. Yes...a better education is one way. All of the children in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA are deserving of a good education.  But also, white kids need to be in school with non white kids and vice versa. This is how you teach kids the beauty of diversity. Make them interact with each other. How else are they going to learn to interact with each other as adults? 

Some might say that I have no right to say anything about how kids should and should not be educated. I do not have children of my own in those schools systems. I don't know what it's like. Blah blah blah. As a tax paying citizen I have every right to question the lack of education we are providing for our future tax paying citizens, our future voting tax paying citizens.  Many studies have shown a direct correlation between education attainment and incarceration rates. More than half of state inmates failed to complete high school. We could save the country billions of dollars in crime related costs just by providing kids with a better education and giving them an incentive to get that education. It's called making America the best country in the world as opposed to the mediocre one we have become. 

  

BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAM, SORT OF

Cindy Maddera

My brain is clogged up with science talks and all my thoughts and feelings of being in Portland. The good news is that I'm not going any where for a while, so I have plenty of time to process all of it. In the meantime, I have unpacked my suitcase, finished the laundry, dusted the house and uploaded over three thousand pictures to Amazon. I'm looking into an external hard drive before I delete them all from this computer. I'm acclimating. By acclimating, I mean I'm going through the motions of being back to normal and I'm relying on someone else to think and make decisions for me.  Michael determined the meal plan for this week and made the grocery list. He's done a really good job. Actually, I think he's just happy that he kept everyone alive while I was gone. Four chickens, one cat and one dog is a lot.

I realized at one point yesterday that it's been one year since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO. Todd and I had several discussions on race while I was visiting him. None of those conversations ended with any kind of answer. I thought that things would improve, that Michael Brown would be the tragedy that would make people wake up and pull it together. Then I thought that things only seemed to be worse. Todd brought up a really good point about this. He said that it's because we have instant knowledge of what is happening. He's right. Everyone has a cell phone with a camera on it. It's not that there's been this sudden increase in violence against blacks by police. This is a problem that has been going on for way longer than it should be.  The reason it looks like more is only because I've finally opened my eyes to it. 

Life isn't fair. We cannot change the cards we are dealt. These are sayings that we have all heard.  But what about justice. Life shouldn't be unjust. Life shouldn't be about constantly watching your back because the people who are supposed to protect and serve apparently took an oath to protect and serve only white people. I do not want my tax dollars being spent on salaries for those kinds of police officers. All lives matter. Race isn't a reason to treat this person better than the other. Race is the thing that makes each of us unique and beautiful. Race contains our histories and is something to be proud of.  Lately, I'm not so proud of my own race. It's like we've just kept this perpetual ball of anger, hate and discrimination rolling throughout history. 

I don't want to be part of the generation that stops that ball from rolling on because the ball should have been stopped generations ago by those who came before me. We have self driving cars. We walk around with tiny computers in our pockets. We've eradicated smallpox for God's sake. It's long past time to eradicate discrimination based on race or anything for that matter.  Except we haven't. It's been left up to us to stop that perpetual ball of anger, hate and discrimination from rolling any further. By now that ball is too large and moving too fast for me to stop it alone. So I'm asking help from you guys. Do you think we could all maybe work together on this?