Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A reflection after the first talk on "Who are we? Race and Identity in Rural PA"

The two events this past week were hard, but great opportunities to talk about the struggle toward equality here in the US, and the opportunity for our region to be a leader in the national debate around racism.

We are lucky to live under a federal Constitution that frames for us the nobleness- not of blood, or wealth- but human conscience.

Where are we now in this struggle? We have come a long way from our colonial cradle- it has been a fight, and we still have work to do.

It is hard to look at racism, but we have a responsibility to reflect and make a choice about who we are, who we want to be as a community here in Central PA, and what we will do next:

Scroll down in this study to see that PA is the only northern state that joins the South East in being The Most Prejudiced states in the US- that is based on "The National Annenberg Election Survey ask[ing] people to rank the intelligence, trustworthiness and work effort of different groups of people, on a scale from 0 to 100"

A plea from Penn Live's opinion editor to end the 'quiet racism' here in PA.

A Penn Live report on Racism in PA school sports: Unchecked, Unchallenged, Unabashed: Is Racism in High School Sports Being Tolerated?

A devastating case: PA Police Chief accused of cover up in fatal beating of a hispanic kid in Shenandoah.


HOW will non-white citizens respond to this abuse?

Recently in Sunbury: After a bar fight (no one asked what the fight was about) two men chased a black man down, and the black man stabbed them. Notice the discrepancies in stories- "black man chases down and stabs two white men" and "the white men had black man on the ground, and then he stabbed them." Let's ask ourselves- if a black man chased a white man down and had the white man on the ground and then, the white man shot the black man- what would the story be then? Self-defense? This young black man has been sentenced to jail on multiple counts.

Recently in Sunbury: After being called "Nigger" in Sunbury, a young black man chased down the taunter with a bb gun to scare him. The young black man has been sentenced to jail.

Community is a relationship, let's reflect on the white/non-white relationships we have in our communities, and the role we each play.

I want to thank everyone who has been brave enough to look, like the Sunset Rotary in Lewisburg, who recently gave me the opportunity to share the talk: "Who are we? Race and Identity in Rural PA" I know people here care, but perhaps we don't know what to do. As a first step, let us be open to a discussion about racism.

*this post recently erroneously stated that PA had climbed to #1 racist state on the Top Tens list, in fact it currently ranked #18. 

Meet Up from Sat. Aug 1st in Selinsgrove

The Meet Up in Selinsgrove was a start at looking at what tools we have to address the injustices of racism and the challenges we face in talking about racism in Central PA.

Challenges:
The perspective that 'We don't have a problem with racism'
People think racism does not affect them
Getting non-white perspectives
Talking to white people about racism
People are afraid to speak up
We are ashamed to talk about racism and afraid to talk about our feelings of shame
Reaching people who 'are not the choir'
Support for the work of addressing racism

Tools:
Undoing Racism         
Socrates Cafe
Reading Clubs
Civic action
The United Way:
-has a Diversity and Inclusion Council- is looking for diverse members
-and a Diversity Blog to share stories- good and bad about diversity in the Valley 

Many people have approached me and asked me to not talk about racism- to focus on other issues like poverty, 'new conservative' streams of consciousness, LGBT rights, prison initiatives, or to look at all oppression as one- but that is not going to help the growing numbers in our communities who are affected by racism every day- who die, are sent to prison, and ultimately live a shorter life due to the stress of living in an aggressive environment.

Equally important is the knowledge that racism is not a conservative vs. liberal phenomenon- we all have grown in a similar culture in this respect, and I can tell you, through my conversations and experiences here in PA that people of all persuasions care very much, and we are all challenged by talking about racism.

Can we ask ourselves, "Who are we?," "Who do we want to be?" and "How do we contribute to our national creed and struggle for equality and justice for all?"

The first challenge is 'the conversation' which starts with "I am not racist". We all react this way, it seems, but if we can push a little further we will start to see that we are.  Let's talk about it. I want to assure you that racism is a problem we need to solve in Central PA, and that the first step is to simply talk about it.

Racism- a power element or structure that favors one race over another. 
Structural Racism- community or societal structures that favor one race
White Privilege-  benefits for 'white' people in societies that favor white complexions
Discrimination- consideration of others based on group identity rather than individual merit
Bigotry- intolerance toward those who have different opinions than oneself 

"Focusing on people as causes of evil then exonerates social structures and political decision making for contributing to underlying conditions that foster evil:
poverty, racism, sexism and elitism."-Philip Zimbardo