Spring is Sprung, but Men Needn’t Be!

How is it possible that any person could hate spring?  I love few things more than stepping out of the gloom of winter to enjoy the warmth of the sunshine with friends, tossing around a frisbee, having picnics, going for bike rides!  Spring makes me absurdly happy!

After reading a post by “Sista Toldja” over at The Beautiful Struggler entitled “Cruel Summer,” I remembered a conversation I had with a female friend a few years back.  We were getting ready to go to the park to enjoy the sun, and before we walked outside, she took a deep breath and said, “I hate this!”  I didn’t ask immediately what she hated so much, but I quickly realized what she was preparing for with her deep breath.  In the ten blocks or so that we walked to the park, nearly every man we passed stared, eyes down, some even being bold enough to lick and smack their lips.  One dude even grabbed at his crotch.  The part that amazed me is that we were walking together and very likely could have been a couple, and a few guys even felt entitled to “cat call,” commenting on her ass as we walked by!

She ignored them and asked me to do the same, and as we got to the park, we talked about it.  “It’s hard for me not to hate spring,” she said.  “It’s always worst in spring when the warm weather clothes first come out.  It’s like they’re starved puppies who are watching a meat truck unload its wares for the first time in months!”

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Inspiration Through the Words of Others

From time to time, I find it important to reflect, to take some time to think about the work that I do, to find inspiration, and to recharge my batteries.  I’ve always been a quote person: someone who has quotes on their walls and desktop to keep them focused.  I find a certain kind of comfort in the inspirational words of others, so I wanted to use this week’s post to share some of those words of inspiration with my readers.  What quotes inspire you?

 

Angela Davis

“We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”  – Angela Davis

“Radical simply means “grasping things at the root.” – Angela Davis

“Only when it is dark enough can we see the stars.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The power of resistance is to set an example: not necessarily to change the person with whom you disagree, but to empower the one who is watching and whose growth is not yet completed, whose path is not at all clear, whose direction is still very much up in the proverbial air.” — Tim Wise

“The task we all face as human beings … is to find and become who we are. The task teachers face is to find their own way of teaching, one that manifests who they are.” – Derrick Jensen

“I know that power – with all the authority, physical comfort, and quality of life it brings – strongly pushes a person into a world of material possessions, and people and things that stimulate their senses. Gradually, they start to protect this material paradise with walls to defend it from threats and keep from it anything that may unsettle life inside. As the blessings in that paradise increase, the walls around it multiply to the same degree.  Only great willpower and moral strength can enable a person to get to know those that live outside these walls, engage with their concerns and wounds, and even struggle for them. As a person embellishes their life in their paradise, the human and moral effort required to live the struggles of others increases.” – Ayed Morrar

- “It is not easy for a man to be as great as a mountain or a forest. But that is why the Creator gave them to us as teachers. They tell me to be patient. They tell me I cannot change what is, I can only hope to change what will become. Let the grasses grow over our scars, they say, and let the flowers bloom over our wounds.”  – excerpt from Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn

- “Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.” – Buddy Wakefield

- “If you enter this world knowing you are loved, and leave this world knowing the same, then everything that happens in between can be dealt with.” – Michael Jackson
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The Relativity of Privilege

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write about privilege, especially after I received some great feedback from one of my posts on White Privilege.  Based on the suggestion of a friend, I was going to write this week on the concept of Straight Privilege, but after reflecting on some of the regular conversations I have with folks in the work that I do, I thought it might be better to start in a more general place.

In my post on my own religious bigotry, my friend Julia commented, mentioning the importance of having “an accurate spectrum to contextualize [one’s] suffering in comparison with others.”  Right there, and in a much more profound and concise way that I ever could, Julia got right to the heart of social justice work.  So often in working with young people around the country, I bring up the concept of privilege (perhaps white, wealth, male, straight, Christian, or abled privilege), and I immediately hear the chorus: “But I’m not privileged!  I grew up [insert tough circumstance].”  And in a lot of cases, they’re right . . . they do lack privilege in the particular area that they are describing!

To understand the concept of privilege, though, is to understand the relativity of privilege.  Now, if anyone knows privilege, it’s me.  I’m a straight, white, able-bodied male from a wealthy, Christian, American family.  To quote Louis CK, “How many advantages can one person have?  You can’t even hurt my feelings!”  Hell, I’m even tall and relatively good looking, if I do say so myself (thanks mom and dad for those good-looking genes as if it wasn’t enough for you two wealthy, white people to produce kids!).  There aren’t many ways in which I can complain of being shortchanged, let alone oppressed.

That’s not the case for most folks, though.  In fact, the majority of people in the world lack privilege in important areas of their lives.  Understanding issues of social justice, then, means understanding the ways in which our privilege is relative to those around us.

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Race and The Presidency – “It’s Medicine.”

I had the incredible pleasure this past weekend of being a part of the 3rd Annual C.I.R.C.L.E. Conference for educators.  I joined some pretty amazing presenters as I led a workshop on building relationships across difference, and I had the fortune of seeing Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr, founder of the White Privilege Conference, speak.  He had some awesome points about the work that I am privileged to do for a living, and he reminded me that “no matter how much work we do, there’s still deeper digging ahead.”

One of the points that Dr. Moore made that most resonated with me was about President Barack Obama.  Lately I have found myself profoundly frustrated with the President.  I have thought on a number of occasions, “Why did I vote for this man?” and “Can I vote for this man again?”  Too often I have felt like he was doing little more than continuing many of the destructive practices and policies of his predecessors.  Yet Dr. Moore reminded me of something pretty darn important in his opening remarks at the C.I.R.C.L.E. conference.

“Sometimes I don’t even listen.  Sometimes I turn off the sound and just watch the President.  Seeing him standing there in that position – It’s medicine.”

I realized then that couched in my criticism, much of it legitimate political criticism, is an incredible amount of white privilege.  It is an incredible privilege to be able to forget the context surrounding our nation’s first Black president, a context which I often do forget.  I forget that the image of President Barack Hussein Obama is more than a simple image of the president but rather is the portrait of a man born to a black Kenyan father and white American mother who rose through the ranks of local and national politics to become president of the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth.

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Budget Cutting or Class Warfare?

Usually I try to stay away from overtly political posts (ones that take a stance on pieces of legislation or on political candidates) unless the issues or people discussed are highlighting a particular issue of race, religion, gender, weight, sexual orientation, class, or ability that needs discussed.  This week, though, I figure my criticism is bipartisan, so I suppose it’s alright.

I have been pretty concerned as I have watched closely the negotiations in the U.S. Congress over budget cutting in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.  Now in all of this, I definitely understand the need for budget cuts and austerity measures (though I am not convinced of the economic wisdom of budget cutting when the economy is only first starting to emerge from recession).  What is concerning to me, though, is the nature of the budget cutting being proposed.  To understand this reality, let’s first take a look at what Americans would prefer to see cut if cuts need to be made:

Results of a Wall Street Journal Poll regarding the ways Americans do and don’t want to see the budget balanced.

According to the Wall Street Journal poll, of the 26 ways listed to cut the deficit, the most popular were: “placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per year (81 percent said that was acceptable), eliminating spending on earmarks (78 percent), eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary (76 percent), and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries (74 percent).”

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