Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Yes, ALL White People. Even me.

You're not racist. And you want that recognized. Is that so wrong?

When I was in undergrad, an otherwise insufferable Sociology professor provided me with one of the most important experiences of my life. He wrote on the board before class instructions about where to sit in the room, based on our race/ethnicity. (A lot of people ended up sitting on the steps because they had a multiracial identity.) Then, he said, "Now let's talk about race."

I don't remember much of the conversation, but I remember one woman, who was Black, speaking up. Now, I'd had occasion to interact with her, and she seemed unfriendly as heck; I was quite put off by her. So I wasn't surprised (and was substantially indignant) when she said, "I expect white people to be racist."

But she went on.

"Because, in my experience, they usually are. And it saves me a lot of trouble and heartache to assume it from the outset, and let them prove they're not."

Oh. OH. That was important. 

And now here we are again, still. We are debating whether it's okay to talk about white people and our role in institutional racism. And some white people are getting mighty indignant. They are offended that one would characterize "white people" as racist. They want their feelings protected so they can safely engage. 

Going all #Notallwhitepeople about stuff like this is basically expecting black people to *keep* giving us a chance, no matter HOW many times they've been hurt and damaged... to never, ever develop any defense against the constant onslaught of microaggressions and macroaggressions, to turn the other cheek over and over, day after day, their entire lives.

It is, in fact, putting yourself above them, because they are black and you are white. Which we have a word for.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

California: The Little Big Dog

When we met Moo, we thought she was 10 months old, and would top out at 45-50 lbs. This was about six months younger and 10 lbs. heavier than we'd intended, but once we met her, there was no question: this was (and is) our dog.

She'd had a kind of a tumultuous life up to that point. Rescued off the street at just three weeks, she was fostered out by the animal shelter, adopted by a family with not one, but two toddlers, and then re-fostered by a neighbor when they just couldn't keep up with a puppy. That neighbor worked at my mom's vet, so my mom saw the posting and knew we were looking to adopt a dog. The rest is Moo-story.

Perhaps because of that early life, or maybe it's just her personality, Moo is a paradoxically rambunctious but careful dog. We knew from her history that she was social with other big dogs, but didn't know about smaller ones. The first time we encountered a family with a couple of cocker spaniels out on a walk, we learned: she just ramped everything down. Her go-to move for small dogs was to roll over and let them conquer her. They've always been her best friends.

Presently, we examined her paperwork from the shelter more carefully, and learned she was SIX months, not 10, when we adopted her. She didn't stop at 50 lbs., or 60, or 65... her most recent weigh-in was 75.2 lbs. She is a BIG DOG.

Except, she's not.

I've come to realize that she is absolutely sure she's a small dog. She's never tried to jump on our bed, or take food off the table. She will sit on the couch... but just with her back legs, forepaws on the floor. She will do the same with a person's lap if it's on the couch. And when our little dog, a Shibahuahua weighing in at a scrappy 11.6 lbs., decides to lie down in the middle of Moo's crate, she just looks at us all sad, like, "Where do I go now? There's no more room for me. She took it all." It's not even in her repertoire to kick the dog that is literally 15% of her size out of her own crate.

Deep down, she just doesn't believe that she is the size she is, that she has the strength she does.

As a California native, I'm proud of our progressive environmental regulations and our diversity and inclusiveness and our thriving industries. I'm proud of being a world destination, and love showing off Los Angeles to anyone who visits me. I'd be proud of our awesome weather, but I guess that'd be a little weird, since no one does anything to make that happen.

But it baffles me that we seem to be a little big dog. Here we are, with an economy larger than France, with 12% of the US population, the two largest seaports in the country, and the busiest cargo airport in the country... but when someone gets in our crate, we just don't know what to DO about that.

It's time we realize how big we are, how strong we are, and how much we are worth... to the nation, and to the world. Only then do we have a shot at demonstrating that value to our allies or enemies. And that is what will let us stay strong, vibrant, and thriving.