A Moral Obligation

#Black WomenBeing

Safety Pin Box subscription material July, 2017

A moral obligation is “a duty which one owes, and which one ought to perform, but which is not legally bound to fulfill.”

In the proverbial perfect world everyone would honor their moral obligations. We would do unto others as we would have them do unto us, regardless of race or color.

The color of your skin should be irrelevant.

Yet in this country, it’s not.

An abhorrent display of white supremacy played out in Virginia this weekend. Most who looked on are horrified.  Most.

The United States is a nation built in part on the backs of African slaves.

Slavery in America began when the first African slaves were brought to the North American colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, to aid in the production of such lucrative crops as tobacco.  Wikipedia

Saturday’s Twitter hashtag espousing #ThisIsNotUS was no doubt created as a panacea to the horrors of the white supremacist terrorism on display in Emancipation Park.  Not all white people are racist of course, but we all need to be accountable.  Yet the most profound tweets came from people like @wikepediabrown who tweeted:

When you say you repudiate the documented history & testimony of people who have endured a racist America since its inception.

I’ve been doing the emotional work this year of coming to terms with my own white privilege, an academic concept more recently brought into the mainstream via the black lives matter movement. I’ve subscribed to Colorlines, joined the NAACP and for a time attended local meetings of SURJ which stands for Showing Up for Racial Justice. Shortly after the November election I joined #Safety Pin Box for “effective measurable ally-ship. One of the early tasks asks us to evaluate our media consumption,  because “consuming media without a critical eye lowers your ability to be compassionate to marginalized people.” My personal goals are to remain open, honest, and inquisitive. My challenge is to set aside ego and understand this is not about me or my own personal defensiveness (i.e. I’m not a racist, I didn’t vote for 45, etc.)  Lilla Watson says “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

We have a sitting president who couldn’t even manage a few sentences without dropping his nonexistent moral compass and blaming “all sides” for the atrocities that played out this weekend.

The leader of this powerful country couldn’t bring himself to voice the truth. Racism and white supremacy are alive and well in this country, emboldened when a portion of this country elected such a hateful man. After a horrific week of playing brinkmanship with the man-child running North Korea, the week ended with horrific violence on our home turf.

We have so much work to do.

Let it begin with me.

Resources:

Colorlines:  “Colorlines is a daily news site where race matters, featuring award-winning investigative reporting and news analysis. Colorlines is published by Race Forward, a national organization that advances racial justice through research, media and practice.”

NAACP: “The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.”

Safety Pin Box:  What is an “Ally”? “Ally” is the term commonly used to refer to someone from a privileged group who supports the efforts of oppressed people. White “allies” support Black people in their pursuit of full liberation from anti-Blackness and white supremacy. This support is given wholly and unabashedly and is demonstrated financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Allies to not define what it is to be an ally, rather allyship is defined by the oppressed people being supported. If Black people choose to have white people a part of their freedom work at all, they reserve the right to fully define what allyship they require.

There are many issues with “allies”, both the term itself and how it manifests practically. We use the term “ally” to broadly identify white people who looking to support Black liberation both with their resource and with their deeds.

Many will claim they are allies, few will do the work necessary to demonstrate their commitment to eradicating white supremacy. Ally work is a privilege and not a right. No white people are entitled to Black revolutionary efforts or Black spaces. Ever.”

Southern Poverty Law Center: “The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.”

Please add your own in the comments section, below.

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26 thoughts on “A Moral Obligation

  1. I find it hard to credit that scenes like those we witnessed over the weekend are possible in 2017. You have my deepest respect for taking the actions that you are taking and I hope that there is a tidal wave of such engagement. It is so important not simply to sit back and say ‘oh, how terrible’, but it can be hard to know exactly what to do… you have found a way.

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    • I agree. What’s even more disquieting is how young these people are. These aren’t old, disgruntled people from a bygone era, but youth. Someone taught them that this was okay. The torches reminded me of the terrifying scene in every movie with a mob ready to burn things down because of fear and misunderstanding. The primitive brain has taken hold. We have no leadership in this country, no voice of reason at the top. The heartening news is that outrage seems to be taking hold. How I long for the reasoned voice of our last president at times like this. Obama was a standup guy with grace and honor, intelligence and a heart. I miss that. This country needs it more than ever. Thank you for your kind words.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Well said Alys, I’m so embarrassed that this happened in my state. The poor excuse for a leader that we have in 45, really comes out when these people think he is on their side. He does not live in reality. I, too, hope this will be a turning point, but I’m afraid things may get worse before they get better. Good for you for taking action, we all need to step up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for commenting, Karen. We’ve waited two days for 45 to say something principled, and now that he has it sounds hollow and pathetic. Who believes him? You can be proud of your governor and his no-nonsense press conference. He said what needed to be said. That’s what gives me some hope.

      Liked by 1 person

    • You needn’t feel embarrassed dear. It’s my understanding, the white supremacist traveled from near and far to spew their racist retoric and hatred. Those people do NOT reflect the people I have met and know in your fair state and throughout America. Having visited Virginia and in fact Charlottesville too, I know, that the people of that state and city are kind, friendly, good hearted and hardworking. Personally, this Canadian is feeling only empathy for the good folks of Virginia, that are suffering for the likes of those with so much hatred in their hearts.

      Don’t be fooled, hatred and racism is everywhere. We are not immune to it in Canada either and never more prevelant than today, Sociologists report that it’s in fact been spurred on by 45. Those who sympathize with his message (how it differs this week from his offensive rhetoric at his rallies pre-election), seem to think this is their free-ticket to come out of the racist-closet. Somehow, they are, mistakenly, thinking it’s now acceptable. Wrong! The Criminal Code in Canada prohibits, “hate properganda” , it differs province to province but here’s an excerpt from Wikimedia about the penalties.

      “from a fine to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years for anyone who, by communicating statements in any public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach of the peace”

      Being treated as a social periah isn’t enough for these hard-core hate filled racists. A criminal record might be a good deterrent as it can effect their future job prospects and ability to travel. I think these horrendous actions are likely to continue until the American Government have the will/balls to incorporate similair legislation. Laws that States can use to control those who wish to put themselves above others in their communities based solely on their skin colour, including the KKK, Neo-Natzi and White Supremacist.

      Thanks for your post Alys, it’s hard to see these things. I hope these groups you’re joining will effect change. But I honestly think, I has to be against the law to promote racism and hate with fear of penalty, before these kind of rallies will disappear.

      Keep up the good fight xo K

      Liked by 2 people

      • I am proud of my Governor, and the Mayor of Charlottesville and so many others who have come out to defend against the White Supremacist. We finally saw 45’s true colors as he spewed on, completely unfiltered yesterday and showed us how he really feels. I hope Congress will begin to stand up to him now and start to strip away his power. He is the most un-presidential President ever!!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Your governor and mayor are both setting a fine example. The UV students peaceful coming together a few days later was equally wonderful to see. So much healing needs to be done. 45 doesn’t seem to have the capacity for careful thought, diplomacy or a sense of moral understanding. It’s deeply disturbing.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thoughtful piece Alys. I joined ACLU right after this last election too, and will also join SPLC — they do great work. I know I need to do more, to look around locally and see where I can help. Thanks for the push!

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  4. It’s hard as an outsider to know how much of what we see on TV is media sensationalism, and how much is trivialisation of what is a much deeper and more important issue. We watch aghast as 45 steers out of control towards war, but are less aware of how he enables and ratifies oppression, prejudice and injustice on home soil. Thank you for making a difference.

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    • Kate, it’s exhausting keeping track of 45’s daily efforts to turn back the clock on this country. I wish that much of what we see were sensationalism. The administration is unraveling years of policy that moved us forward, many of these changes quietly happening behind the scenes. Every day feels like a new assault. Here in California, immigrants are afraid to show up for work. Many of the low-paying jobs are filled by immigrants from Latin American countries who now live in fear of deportation. In many cases, the mother or the father is undocumented, even though the rest of the family are legal US citizens. The constructions industry has been hit hard, as well as domestic help, and agriculture. Moving on, Kate, how are you feeling? Are you improving with the days?

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      • I wish with all my heart that someone could find a way to send that man to the colder reaches of hell. I feel fire is too good for him.
        In other news, my recovery is slow and gradual, but it is happening. The flu here is still mounting, 2000 hospitalised last week 4000 this week in Queensland alone, with the peak still to come. I’m lucky to escape relatively lightly, and I count my blessings!

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        • At the very least, I would like to see him go to jail for what I’m certain are egregious crimes yet to be uncovered. As for your flu outbreak, I had no idea it was so widespread and severe. 4000 in Queensland. That’s simply awful. I guess the one positive about seasonal flu, is that now you are both immune. Thank goodness for small victories. Keep drinking your tea.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Alys, I abhor what is happening to your beloved America, but I am also very aware that in every democracy people are only a whisker away from similar directions/events. In NZ we like to think we are decent, honorable people. But there are undercurrents of racism, misogyny, hate….etc. It’s all here. It’s a moral obligation of every citizen to promote the common good, as well as good governance, wherever they live. You are inspiring, Alys.

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    • Thank you for sharing that. I suppose this sort of thing has gone on since the beginning of time. Just look at the ridiculous wars fought over trivial differences and the lives lost. It feels to me that electing 45 has somehow given permission to these hate groups and individuals that this is okay. I feel like we’ve the potential to move backwards, not just with this but with healthcare, the environment, climate change, etc.. The level of hatred and sense of superiority is both appalling and frightening. I don’t feel very inspiring, by thanks for saying so. Today I’m mostly feeling discouraged. Sending hugs across the miles. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for this post, Alys. Every time something awful happens I am reassured that there are a lot more good people in the world calling for love and positive action than there are haters, intent only on creating harm. And you are one of the best good people out there! I do appreciate the links you’ve included to several worthy organizations — and I would urge concerned Americans to get involved in their own community organizations as well. It can be as simple as volunteering to bring meals to an elder, or to accompany women to worship at their mosque. Every small act of kindness helps. But most importantly we must remember the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heidebee, thank you for sharing your ideas about volunteering and community involvement. Political activism isn’t for everyone, but there is a way we can all get involved by reaching out. You’ve given a few great examples. Our local public schools are good about requiring community hours and encouraging young people to find a place they can make a difference.

      Thank you for sharing Dr. King’s quote. He continues to inspire and uplift. We need him now more that ever. Thank you for being you. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I wanted to read this again with a wide awake mind. Since I’m still not getting notifications, I found this on Facebook last night. I’m grateful there are those that can and are willing to take political action. Racism and bigotry knows no bounds. Coming to this country right after WWII ended, I saw it first hand even though we looked no different. We did not speak properly. We have, as a human race enslaved and warred against others since the beginning of time. Any differences were the target. When we as a whole human race can embrace the differences maybe the war and hate will end. I see small signs of it and then something so horrific like this happens again and again. If I had not lost so many words, I would have tried to express myself as eloquently as you have here. This is your work in the world. I’m glad you are here to do it for me. I must take the smaller approach of shining the light on it one mind at a time. It’s what I’ve done since my sister was gifted to me so many years ago. I teach one, they teach one or two and so it goes. We reach as many as possible to show there are more similarities than difference but we must embrace those differences. Unfortunately, so many will always believe they are right and everyone else is wrong with no ability to open their minds. Keep up the good work, Alys. The world needs your spirit and energy in it. Hugs, Marlene

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marlene, thank you for your thoughtful reply. I too remember the cruelty of young girls making fun of my Canadian accent or phrases such as “pardon me” as if that was the most absurd thing they’d ever heard. I’m sorry for the hurt inflicted on you from unthinking and unwelcoming people. The schools are so much more aware of the bullying and heartless attacks these days. They dedicate entire curriculum’s to making things better. When my oldest son endured bullying, name-calling and cruelty at the hands of several boys at school in fifth grade, I didn’t hear from the principal but from him. It was a Friday afternoon and therefore nothing to be done till the following Monday. Even the yard duty parent didn’t believe him. It hurts me to this day, though the boys were made to apologize in writing and parents were notified. My sweet boy graciously accepted the apologies. THAT is what gives me hope.

      If everyone could adopt just one soul and work at making their life better, imagine what this world could be? xo

      Liked by 1 person

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