Archive for July, 2016

July 23, 2016

I came into the world being intensely empathetic to all vulnerable beings: animals, flies who seemed to watch me and move with me, people, kids especially, being hurt by neglect or abuse, handicapped people, and those i only saw in rich peoples’ kitchens or in old cowboy movies.

I was sensitive to victims of prejudice as i was blessed by my Norwegian grandparents’ messages of love for others. My close family message to me was ‘don’t be so sensitive.’  As a young adult, i developed a way to say what was on my mind by bursting out forcefully with my observations before I could be shut down. ‘Don’t be so vehement Miss-I-know-but.’ I was a singular child who felt things, and saw that I would have to handle them myself. No one would help me.

Of course the feminist revolution in the ’70’s appealed to me. But i had already been reading Richard Wright, Langston  Hughes, Eldridge Cleaver, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston,Ellen Kuzwayo, Franz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and singing songs of oppression with my Paul Robeson record. I noticed that black women weren’t generally a part of that revolution. I made a decision that i would never allow a racist or abusive remark made in my presence go by without my admonition.I went out of my normal routine to help people of color. I was a good Quaker and later a good Buddhist. I was also way out of touch with my own pain, using world saving as a mostly satisfactory cover.

But when i turned 80 and said out loud, I am now old, I seemed to wake from a lifelong dream. I began to see more clearly my own sins, not just my former husband’s or loud speaking racists, but of the “lady bountiful” aid I sought to give especially to people of color. Had I asked those folks if my idea of a gift to them was what they wanted? Was i not being a ‘well meaning’ racist?

Now, as late a few months ago, I have found books by black Buddhists, often gay or lesbian, who are writing plays, starting people-of-color zendos, bringing up for examination words like ‘racist’ and ‘white’ and ‘supremacy’. They are ‘deconstructing’ religions, especially Buddhism. They are questioning my language and the assumptions behind those words. This is a powerful wake-up call, not to take on more guilt and lack of self-love, but to keep releasing the mis-information in my brain from my ‘white’ privilege.

These new young leaders are speaking their truths openly in congregations where they are being heard. They have found a rich field by questioning language usage. Instead of starting off with the color of our skins, they are gathering us back to our roots to the first people in Africa (or to Eden if you wish) where color of skin was irrelevant, and probably black. (Of course i have always taken issue with the idea that the sinner in Eden was a woman–actually the snake {check out the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel to see how Michelangelo painted the head of that snake!}) Thanks to these new thinkers, if I use the term ‘white’ i put in front of it, ‘whom I, he, she calls’ white. Racism isn’t of course just based on color of our skins, but renaming is heading in the right direction.

So dear folks, I have found a new use for hanging around in the late eighties. I will keep on releasing the ballast of my privileged past, and live in this old age no doubt  telling whoever is listening what’s new, even now.

If you want to read these folks, i am getting up a list, but you could start with “Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation” with essays by Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah.  Also, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and a dialogue i believe can be found on Youtube by Professor Glaude and his son, after the shootings in La. and Mn. and Dallas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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