#BlackLivesMatter, Y’all

#BlackLivesMatter

It’s been simultaneously fascinating and disturbing to me to watch different people’s reactions to that simple hashtag and the movement it shares a name with. My white conservative friends almost uniformly react with disgust and defensiveness to both the statement and the movement. My white liberal friends almost all claim to support the movement, particularly as long as they approve of the methods employed by the movement and haven’t, to my knowledge, disputed the truth of the statement. 

On the face of it all, #BlackLivesMatter is such a simple statement that it seems as though it should be too obvious to even bother stating let alone disagreeing with. Do #BlackLivesMatter? Well, of course they do! The fact that anyone would dispute the truth in that statement or feel the need to counter it with statements about how #AllLivesMatter is itself a strong *indictment of the racial issues and defensiveness in the US.

Now, I must admit that I’ve completely shied away from using those specific words in the past, in large part because of the strong reaction I’ve seen in response to them. Sure, I’ve tried to be a good white ally in other ways. I’ve been fairly regular about posting articles about systemic racism, talking about race and racism with my children, and calling out racist remarks when I see them. But…. I haven’t used #BlackLivesMatter. 

Why not? I finally asked myself earlier today, but I wasn’t completely sure what the answer was. I don’t particularly like politicized posts or being bombarded day in and day out by extremist posts from any side of the spectrum and I guess the reactions to #BlackLivesMatter have felt to me as though they’re reactions to an extreme perspective. I don’t particularly want to be an extremist who constantly posts links to questionable websites and subsequently gets hidden or ignored by all reasonable people on the Internet. 

But, when looked at rationally and not through the lens of other people’s emotions, is #BlackLivesMatter really that extreme? Is it extreme at all? This is a simple statement of truth. Something so obvious that it shouldn’t even need to be said. Yet many people all but lose their minds with defensiveness when they see it. 

So, I’ve come to the perspective that it is the people who object to #BlackLivesMatter, particularly those who object to the statement itself, who are the extremists. Those I’ve seen who object to others saying something as fundamental as #BlackLivesMatter have not been coming from a place of reasonableness or thoughtfulness, but rather from defensiveness, if not anger, and it’s pretty well accepted that defensiveness intereferes with understanding.

I can’t base my wording decisions on other people’s defensiveness. Sure, it’s often essential to know your audience and to try and present things in a way that are most likely to be understandable to them, but sometimes the defensiveness itself needs to be addressed before a productive discussion can even be had. 

On another note, I’ve seen many liberal friends of mine post about how upsetting it was to them that some protesters from the #BlackLivesMatter movement interrupted Bernie Sanders’ rally in Seattle a couple days ago. This might sound harsh, but truly, it’s not up to white liberals to decide what is or isn’t acceptable for the #BlackLivesMatter movement. 

Marginalized people have historically not been able to access the “socially acceptable” channels in order to have a strong voice in society. Perhaps instead of voicing outrage on the Internet, white liberals might gain more understanding and be able to remain supportive by looking into the reasons why the #BlackLivesMatter protesters at that event felt as though they needed to use tactics that you see as unacceptable. 

Don’t get me wrong, nobody has to completely agree with everything a movement does in order to support it, but standing in judgment of a marginalized people’s movement from a place of privilege is not supportive.

I like Bernie, I think he’s a good guy with good intentions. I don’t agree with him about everything, but he seems genuine and as though he’s really trying to tackle the big issues that other mainstream candidates won’t even bring up. It’s still not my place or any other white person’s place to look from our position of racial privilege at what #BlackLivesMatter did and get all judgy about it. Those aren’t my family members and friends being murdered by the establishment or by overtly racist nutjobs spurred on by systemic racism. You or I might have done the exact same thing if we were in their shoes, there’s no way of knowing. 

For what it’s worth, I grew up in the Seattle area and I 100% agree with the protestors that Seattle is horribly racist. The worst thing about the racism in the PNW is how so many of the white people who live there simply don’t see it or consider it to be an issue. So many people in that area will readily and repeatedly call out racism in the Deep South, but ignore the rampant racism in their own area or in their own words and actions. 

I do know one thing: I’m more upset and concerned about the shootings of unarmed black men and women than I am by the things the #BlackLivesMatter movement has done and said. Even if I was more upset by the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it’s not my place to grumble about it. It’s not about me. 

#BlackLivesMatter, y’all. 

~B.
*We’ve probably all seen the #AllLivesMatter analogy of a fundraiser for cancer treatments where someone stands up and shouts, “But other diseases are bad too!!!” Okay. Yeah, all diseases are bad and everyone’s life matters. Thank you, Captain Obvious, but we’re focusing on this specific problem right here and now for specific reasons. 

Polarization

I’ve been trying halfheartedly to blog more lately about issues that are important to me. This hasn’t happened for a myriad of reasons including the novel I’m writing, the children I care for, and the husband who ocassionally wants to interact with me. 

The biggest issue, I must admit, is that I’m tired of the Internet. Tired of how polarized things have become — or maybe they’ve always been this polarized and now it’s just more apparent to me. Tired of the gross simplification of serious issues. Tired of talking with people I don’t actually know about important issues that they’ve already made up their minds about. Tired of people who spout memes about everything and egregiously misunderstand nearly everything I type if I don’t completely agree with them about every detail, even though I’m generally trying my best to actually hear and understand what they’re saying.

Because, apparently, in the Internet community, if you don’t completely agree with one or the other of the media-fueled “opposite” sides on hot-button issues, then you’re on the “other side” and are the enemy. To be debated and countered, but never actually listened to or heard. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. I can often pinpoint exactly how two “opposing” sides are talking past each other. It’s fascinating, albeit frustrating, to watch and I know I’m not immune either. It’s always more obvious to me when other people misunderstand each other than when I’m in the thick of it myself and I assume that others have similar experiences.

Anyhow, my truth is that I’ve almost never found the extreme sides, the ones the media seems to delight in perpetuating, to be correct about important issues. Reality is complex. Reality cannot be easily summed up into the memes and pithy soundbites that people online delight in. The reality almost always lies somewhere between the two extreme sides and I generally find myself agreeing at least partially with people on all sides of extremely intense issues.  

We have amazing access to people’s opinions and thoughts, yet it seems as though many people aren’t interested in listening, only in talking. I guess that I also haven’t wanted to participate lately in the cacophany of opinions on the Internet. 

But I also believe that the following is crucial: 

The solutions to the big problems our families/communities/countries/world face cannot be solved as long as we persist in fighting each other at every turn and aren’t actually listening to or hearing the concerns of our fellow human beings. 

I’d like to ask a few simple questions for anyone who reads this (including myself) to think about.

1. Why are only two “sides” presented as being possibilities in almost every single hot-button issue? Why are those sides then pitted against each other and seen as irreconcilable? 

2. Why are so many people stubbornly resistent to seeing issues from another person’s perspective even as we have access to so many other people’s perspectives now?

3. When did agreement and the conversion of people to one’s own way of thinking become more important than building relationships and caring for our neighbors?

Perhaps we could try listening, working together, and trying to find common ground. Instead of getting stuck in the confirmation bias feedback loop. Instead of posting memes or inflammatory articles. Instead of opposing people from the “other side.” Instead of trying to win converts to our way of thinking. 

That would be quite refreshing. 

~B.

Talking About Josh Duggar = Re-victimizing

There’s an article going around right now that basically says everyone needs to stop talking about Josh Duggar’s past crimes because it’s revictimizing the girls he molested so many years ago. ***see note at bottom about the article***

Articles like that one are coming from a place of concern and I appreciate that very much because too few people have acknowledged the hurt of the women who survived this situation, BUT these articles also miss the point in a major way.

For me and for most of the people I’ve seen speak out against what happened it’s not about shaming the Duggars or reopening their wounds. It’s about shedding light on the increasingly common abhorrent beliefs about obedience, consent, and sexuality that create a perfect environment for sexual (and other) abuses to flourish and remain hidden within. Allowing these beliefs and abuses to remain hidden would be a travesty.

I agree, of course, that the survivors of Josh’s molestations have been revictimized by this news coming out the way it did. I am absolutely sickened that the world knows their identities, which should have been protected until or unless a time came when they wanted or felt able to tell their stories.

However, that ship has sailed. Even if every single person on the planet stopped talking about the Duggar scandal right NOW, those womens’ names are still out there. The damage is done.

In my opinion, the focus now needs to be on exposing the underlying questionable theology so that perhaps future victims might be spared the experience altogether. That perhaps past and future survivors might gain the actual help they need and not be thrown under the bus by victim-blaming sexual abuse “counseling” materials the way that these most recently discovered survivors almost certainly were.

I’m not still talking about this topic to “heap hate” on Josh or his parents. Nor am I “dancing with glee” that the Duggars have been “brought down.” Actually, I’ve felt quite ill about the entire thing ever since it came out, in addition to being rather upset and baffled by all the people who continue to defend and minimize what happened initially and how it was handled in the aftermath.

I do have hope that people will start to examine the theology behind the Duggars and Gothard now that yet another story has come out of that camp. I have hope that enough Christians will listen to abuse victims/survivors; stand behind them and tell them that that what was done to them was NOT their fault in any way! I have hope that we can move forward and learn how to handle the issue of sexual abuse in constructive ways in our churches and through our legal system.

This issue is not going away and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

***note*** I don’t plan to directly link to the “revictimization” article in question. I find it both hypocritical and distasteful that they use the names and photos of the women involved, in a post about how those women are being revictimized, thus letting everyone who didn’t already know their identities know exactly who they are. Blatantly outing the abuse survivors yet again in order to have a sensationalistic “click-bait” title is utterly inappropriate in a post telling everyone else to stop talking about them.

This other article is linked above, but I wanted to say a bit more about it as well. It was written by a lawyer who actually trained at Gothard’s law school and was involved in Gothardism for a while (is not any longer, of course). He’s not excusing Josh’s actions – but he does an excellent job of outlining how their beliefs can set the stage for this to happen.

Duggars

To be completely honest and up-front from the beginning of this post, I have never been a fan of the Duggars. Fairly early on, I learned too much about the Pearls, Bill Gothard, and ATI to really buy into the whole “sweet large Godly family” brand they’ve tried very hard to create over the years with the help of TLC.

That said, I’ve also done my best to give them the benefit of the doubt over the years and this is how my thought processes tended to go: Yes, they used to recommend the Pearls child abuse training manuals on their website, but they don’t any longer. Maybe they’ve changed their minds about them. Yes, they’re members of ATI and, as such, they had to agree to certain methods of disciplining their children and living their lives, but they do also seem like genuinely nice people on camera and maybe they rejected the more extreme bits of Gothard’s teachings.

Then, this week, news came out that the pervasive rumors about Josh’s alleged sexual sins had been proven to be true.

Most of the people I have personally seen speaking out about this on social media are Christians, which is a good thing. The Christian community (myself included) would do well not to minimize this or act as though this is an example of Christians being persecuted for their beliefs. The saddest thing about this coming out, to me, is that several of the victims’ names are known by default because the sickening information contained in the police report and the timing of everything don’t leave many doubts.

I feel the need to ask: how many extreme patriarchal families are going to end up with sexual assault/abuse charges before that specific community does something about it?

The Duggars followed Gothard and he recently stepped down due to sexual abuse/harassment allegations. They shared many similar beliefs with Vision Forum, and the ex-leader of Vision Forum (Doug Phillips) also currently has a case against him for having repeatedly sexually assaulted a young woman who was under his care. Doug Phillips’ transgressions were originally painted as an “affair” by his supporters, despite a clear power imbalance in the situation.

These do not appear to be isolated incidents, and for what appears to be a very logical reason. In my experience, any culture that teaches male supremacy, that women cause men’s sexual sins, that parents must isolate their children from the outside world, and also that they have to raise children very punitively while requiring “first time obedience” to authority figures is creating conditions perfect for incidents like this to take place and for the victims to have a very difficult time receiving any significant help.

The Duggar parents handled this extremely poorly at the time, and that’s an understatement. I’m sure they were blindsided and didn’t know how to handle the situation, but the lack of follow-through with the authorities, the apparent lack of actual (as opposed to Gothard-approved) counseling for Josh or his victims, and the fact that several of his victims lived with him for years upon years after this happened are all inexcusable, in my opinion. Not only did several of his victims have to live with him, but they were filmed with him while posing as a happy — some might say “perfect” — family.

Yes, people can be changed, but the adults in the situation sweeping this under the rug was inexcusable. TLC working with them if they knew about this and how it was handled was inexcusable. Those girls having to live and be filmed with him for years after they were molested by him is inexcusable. The fact that the girls were probably given to believe (possibly not told outright, but certainly subtly given the message) that they were at least partially to blame since, under their beliefs, women cause the sexual sins of men is also inexcusable.

As for the timing of the story coming out now, I suspect it’s very simply because two of his sisters are starting to have babies and past traumas tend to surface during pregnancy and childbirth. There’s also the question of whether or not someone in the family wanted to protect the smallest members of the family and brought things to light when Josh was first beginning to have baby nephews and nieces.

I don’t believe this truth becoming known is some elaborate scheme to discredit Christianity or their particular brand of such.  The timing doesn’t seem odd or sinister to me at all and it troubles me that people would use this horrific event to further the dubious cause of American Christian Martyrdom.

The facts I’m left with at the end of it all are that the Duggars — portrayed as paragons of “Godliness” and “Family Values” — harbored a known child molestor in their home for at least one year before saying anything to anyone outside of the family, failed to follow through with the police report that first time when they simply mentioned it to their friend, failed to get the perpetrator adequate help, and failed to get his victims adequate counseling and help.

I believe that the Christian community needs to soundly condemn the adult Duggars’ response as well as the molestations themselves. This kind of chicanery should not be tolerated in the name of Christ. Yes, forgive, but don’t forget. There is no excuse for the adults sweeping this kind of incident under the rug. For years and years.

My sympathies go to the survivors.

Continuing to Learn about America’s Racist History

We don’t often have access to a television because we don’t have one ourselves. We usually watch shows online and don’t need another appliance taking up space in our small home, but occasionally we have access to one and, more occasionally still, the results can be absolutely lovely.

Flipping through the television channels tonight at a hotel, the third channel we hit had a movie (42) about Jackie Robinson. It was towards the beginning of the movie when we found it and the first scene we saw showed segregated entrances to the baseball field.

Immediately, my girls decided that was what they wanted to watch. They have never cared one tiny bit about baseball, but they are fascinated and baffled by the history of racism/segregation in America. They watched that entire movie and erupted in outrage every time they saw blatant racism portrayed. *Edited to add on the evening of 4/30/15: We’ve had a great many amazing discussions since that night about the challenges and hatred Jackie Robinson (and his family and teammates) faced and how it really wasn’t that long ago when he lived*

I hadn’t really known the story of Jackie Robinson before tonight — at least not to where I remembered much of it. I’m sure it was touched on in Ken Burns’ Baseball series, but it’s been so long since I watched it that I must’ve forgotten.

I love (re)discovering history with my children <3

Breaking the silence surrounding America’s racial history was very difficult at first — I can’t even tell you how difficult it was. Starting to talk about these issues with my children was terrifying to me when I began because I grew up in the “color blind” era when we didn’t ever mention race if we could at all manage it. Despite my initial discomfort, I believe that our discussions have paid off 100% based on the compassion and caring I have seen in them and their interest in learning more whenever the opportunity presents itself.

There’s a secret to talking and learning about racism: The more you talk about it, the easier it gets. The more you want to learn about it, the more your children will  almost certainly want to learn about it.

If you become (com)passionate about this topic then your children will have a good chance of mirroring your (com)passion.

I can’t go out and peacefully protest in solidarity at this point in my life because I have four small children (one extremely small), but I can make sure that they grow up to understand systemic racism, white privilege, and the history that got us to where we are now. I can also teach them the importance of sticking up for downtrodden and marginalized people whenever the opportunity arises.

#dowhatyoucan

#breakthesilence

#fromthemouthsofbabes

#BlackLivesMatter

#WhiteRacialResponsibility

Homeschooling, Responsibility, and Educational “Gaps”

An excellent post, “What If,” showed up in my Facebook news feed today. It’s about the “what if” questions that “interest led” homeschoolers typically get asked and it reminded me of a discussion I had many years ago – almost a decade now, actually – when my oldest was a baby.

I happened to tell a woman at the local La Leche League meeting that we were planning to homeschool because I had been homeschooled myself and had loved it. In response she told me that she didn’t think she would be able to handle shouldering ALL the responsibility for her children’s education and that she would be too worried about ensuring that there weren’t any “gaps” in their education since she, being only one person, couldn’t possibly know everything that her children might potentially need to know.

She asked me how I thought I could handle that immense amount of pressure.

I thought for a few moments before responding because these weren’t issues I had considered before. In the spirit of the other article and before giving you my responses, I’ll put her statements into the “what if” format.

*What if you fail to teach them everything they need to learn? <- which is also assuming that all the educational responsibility is on the homeschooling parent.

I told her that, first of all, my children’s education wouldn’t all be on me…. because homeschoolers, in my experience, are often encouraged to go out and find mentors or classes in the community to help them pursue their specific interests if the parents cannot teach them adequately or to a more advanced level in that area.

In my own homeschooling life, by middle school I was primarily interested in music and music education so I took piano lessons and was allowed to attend band classes at the local public middle and high schools. By high school, I was well on my way to learning multiple band instruments. By my sophomore year I was attending five separate band classes as well as assisting the high school band director in multiple ways – sorting sheet music, cataloging the music library, tutoring other students, and generally trying to be helpful.

All of that extra music focus was in addition to the usual school subjects that I continued doing through high school. Attending the music classes was also my own idea to start with, helped along by the ample encouragement I received from my parents. I had attended a piano teacher training course and was teaching my own young piano students by the time I was 16 years old.

My parents, on their own, could not have helped me advance as far in instrumental music and music education as I eventually advanced, and yet I managed to advance that far by finding an adult mentor (my band director, whom I still see fairly often on Facebook) and well over a hundred peer mentors and mentees (fellow band geeks, unite!) as well as eventually choosing to major in Music Education at an excellent college.

In my children’s lives right now, finding mentors/classes involves them attending ballet classes and roller skating lessons – which are interests that are also beyond the scope of most public/private schools. We’ve been involved in co-ops in the past for subjects as diverse as art and science. As they find more and different interests that I don’t know enough about to assist them in learning, we will help and/or encourage them to find classes or mentors for those interests as well. Naturally, their musical interests have been well covered by my own knowledge and experiences so far :)

*What if your children have significant gaps in their educations because you yourself can’t possibly know everything they need to know?

In response to that part, I simply asked that person I was talking to if she thought her (public school) education had been without gaps and she seemed to suddenly understand. Oh, NO education is without gaps. Right. In fact, she told me that the gaps in her education were part of the reason she was concerned about having the responsibility for her children’s potential educational gaps, which is completely understandable.

We talked a bit more about how there really isn’t any way of ensuring that there won’t be educational “gaps” because even if someone is taught everything in the world in the most effective way possible, they aren’t going to be able to remember every single thing. There will still be gaps no matter how rigorous the curriculum is or how well-trained the teacher is.

I explained so many years ago that the most important thing to me then, as well as now, is that I help to set my children up for a life full of learning. I will do everything in my power to help them learn the basics so that they have a good foundation. I will facilitate and encourage them in everything they want or need to learn. Ultimately, though, I will consider their early learning to be a success if they retain and build upon their innate love for learning and knowledge of how to learn because then they will be able to fill in those inevitable “gaps” as they want or need to do.

My parents, especially my father, modeled a love of learning to me throughout my life that has carried me through numerous interests and jobs. They cultivated my love of learning and I cannot think of a single day when I haven’t learned something new and enjoyed the process. I have easily been able to fill my educational gaps every time it has become clear that there was a gap that needed to be filled. That ability has been priceless to me.

That is what I want for my children.

Disclaimer: I do not speak for all homeschoolers, only for myself. There are many different reasons out there for homeschooling and many other types of homeschoolers that may or may not fit within the scope of this post.

Homebirth Cesarean

I’m particularly excited about the new (and only) Homebirth Cesarean book and workbook that just came out. I don’t have my copies yet, but I have many dear friends who have experienced homebirth cesareans and I’ve been listening to and learning from them for many years now. My own copies of the books will be arriving shortly, but I wanted to write based on my own experiences and what I’ve learned so far, before I read the books. For a review of the book, I recommend checking out this article: http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2015/03/what-to-expect-when-youre-birthing-at-home-a-c-section-possibly

If you aren’t familiar with the term “homebirth cesarean,” there’s a good, albeit unfortunate, reason for that: the term hasn’t been around for very long, oddly enough. The reality of homebirth cesareans has been around for quite some time, but until recently virtually nobody was talking about them and there certainly wasn’t a specific term for them.

A “homebirth cesarean” is, put quite simply, a homebirth that requires hospital transport and then a subsequent cesarean section. Nobody is actually having cesareans at home (as far as I know).

This special term is necessary because, in our (USA) society, it takes a specific type of commitment and belief in the benefits of out of hospital birth in order to even consider a home birth. Usually the women who plan homebirths are extremely involved in the natural/home birth community and, in the pushback against unnecessary birth interventions, this community has had a tendency to demonize interventive births and hasn’t always managed to differentiate between necessary interventions and routine interventions.

Many natural birth advocates have seemed to forget that — although it’s true that the vast majority of births don’t require much, if any, intervention and it’s also true that it’s better to let things progress naturally when everything is normal and going well — every modern birth intervention has a time and a place when they’re appropriate to use. These birth interventions can be extremely necessary and even life-saving depending on the situation. In the name of “positive thinking” women are often actively discouraged from considering the possibility that there could be complications during their births. Homebirth transports in general tend to be all but a completely taboo topic in many natural birth circles.

Coming from that community it’s easy to see how a very medical birth of any type, let alone the ultimate of interventive births — a cesarean — can be perceived as a failure. The questions about what the mom, midwife, and/or doula “could’ve done differently” to “avoid” or “prevent” a surgical birth are all too common from the natural birth community, as are the well-meaning but ultimately dismissive comments about “well at least you have a healthy baby” from those outside of the natural birth community.

Mothers who experience homebirth cesareans not only have to deal with the loss of their preferred birthplace and type, but often also the loss of the support of the community that had previously encouraged them in their homebirth plans. Instead of feeling supported and validated, they are often viewed as examples of home birth “failures” —  cautionary tales of what “not to do” or instead threats to the viewpoint that birth is overall a safe experience if not interfered with.

The reality, however, is that there are no guarantees in birth. You can do everything “right” and still have an unexpected or undesirable outcome. Planning a home birth doesn’t necessarily mean you will birth at home or avoid a cesarean. Safe hospital transport options and the availability of cesareans when needed are integral to helping home birth remain a safe option.

Unfortunately, the emotional fallout from a home birth transport can be devastating even when the mom and baby are healthy in the end and I believe that the natural and home birth movements are partly to blame for that fallout by not acknowledging and talking with expecting moms about the potential for this to happen.

On the hospital side, respectful reception of moms and babies who transport would go a long way as well. However, as doulas and (student) midwives and natural birth advocates, we have to begin and continue to listen to moms who have transported for cesareans, to talk about the reality of transports, and to talk about the reality that cesareans are life-saving operations when they become necessary.

Cesareans aren’t something to avoid at all costs and they don’t signify a failure of women or of home/natural birth. A cesarean is far from the worst birth outcome and sometimes it’s the best outcome.

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