US Election Aftermath

My dear friends and family members. Words finally came to me, so I wrote them. If you want to read them, please feel free to. If you want clarifications about anything, please message me.

Before I get to my actual post: I care about you all, I trust that you all thoughtfully arrived at your perspectives, and I’ve done my best to listen to everyone during this election cycle.

Mostly, though, I’m so tired of seeing all the fighting, chastisement, and blame.

I also really just want to safely wrap up (all cozy like in a blanket) all my friends and loved ones who have been or likely will be negatively affected by this election result and take care of you all and make it all better    I’m here for you. This is not a happy result for me either.

I am disappointed.

I am also in a position where I don’t particularly need to fear for my life or the lives of my children because of the election results. After all, I’m a member of only one group that’s been explicitly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric and only one other group that’s been indirectly targeted by Trump’s rhetoric.

Many, nay most, of my loved ones are not so fortunate and they’re in the process of grieving for the rights they’re about to lose, the security they’ve already lost, and/or the realization that they aren’t particularly welcome in their own country and communities any longer and maybe haven’t been welcome there for a very long time.

The election result just happened about 48 hours ago. Expecting people whose very lives are endangered by an election’s results to just “get over it” or “stop letting their feelings control them” – especially this soon since the election happened – is the height of entitlement.

You’re happy about the results? Cool. Be happy then.

You’re meh, but okay about the results? Cool, be that way too.

You were devastated but got over it real quick? Awesome! But it’s not a race.

And for the love of all that is good and holy: Please let others have their time to grieve! Maybe listen to them to find out WHY they’re upset. I have not seen any “sour grapes” “sore losers” on my social media. Instead, I’ve seen people who are legitimately worried about their own lives or the lives of their loved ones.

Obviously I don’t know what’s on anyone else’s social media, but there are plenty of people out here who are hurting and scared and need time and support from the people they thought cared about them. Not to be chastised about how they’re handling it (or not).

And yes, some people are harming or threatening others in response and that’s not okay either. I’ve not seen anyone say it is.

I’ve spent this entire election cycle listening to people from all sides. There were valid concerns on ALL sides.

There are real live people represented on all sides.

Multidimensional people who are not a monolith along with the rest of the “left” or “right” or “independents” or “3rd party voters” or “people who stayed home” or whatever group with whom you disagree the most.

I’m quite sick and tired of the hatred and vitriol. I’ve mostly seen this coming from the Trump camp so that’s what I’m focusing on, although I’m well aware it’s a growing problem on (again) all sides.

Personally, I would love to see all sides listening more to actual people and less to the media. That the media has played a large and devastating role in this election is probably one of the only things about which I agree with Trump (and I’ve listened to his actual words, not media renditions).

I have very specific things to say to both sides before I sum up. I even color-coded them so you can see where the sections begin and end:

If you’re one of my loved ones who is devastated/scared by these results, regardless of whom you voted for (if you voted), then please take the time you need to grieve. I’m happy to listen and commiserate with you and support you in practical ways however you need me to and as far as I’m able.

I love you and am here to help in any way I possibly can, my friends and loved ones who stand to lose the most from these results. I’m sorely grieved by the outcome myself for many reasons and I can only personally hope that Trump remains a liar and won’t accomplish nearly as much as he’s promised.

If you voted for Trump, well, I’m going to trust that you had legitimate, non-hateful, reasons for doing so. I love you and care for you too, but my focus has to be on supporting my friends who are hurting right now.

If you’re one of the folks who’s upset about people calling you a racist because you voted for Donald Trump, please let me tell you something that might help:

Sometimes (often) people make incorrect inferences about others’ lives from the company they keep or the votes they make or the social media posts they post/like/share/comment on.

If you’ve been called a racist and people are incorrect about that assumption, then maybe it’s time to publicly and vocally stand up against the hurtful rhetoric that came along with the positive things you were voting FOR. Consider giving support (in whatever way you’re able – emotional support is totally free and can go a long way) to your friends who stand to lose the most during this presidential term. Show them that you really did just vote for Trump because you wanted better jobs for the middle class! Or whatever reason you actually had.

I’m speaking now specifically to those of us who have the means, support, ability, and (yes) privilege to actively listen to people from other sides and try to find solutions to fix the mess we’re all in:

Regardless of who you voted for, please use this time to get better at listening to your fellow Americans instead of watching/reading the media while surrounding yourself with people who largely share your demographics and viewpoints.

This polarization happened on all sides and important life-altering concerns from other groups of people were missed on all sides. And this is the result.

The last year has been an ugly, ugly time of polarization. Let’s please try to use this experience to do better in the future.

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 ❤

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

Talking With the Children About Racism

“Racism doesn’t require the presence of malice, only the presence of bias and ignorance, willful or otherwise.” ~Charles M. Blow, The Perfect Victim Pitfall

It’s well past time to discuss the issues of race and racism with our children. Especially for those of us who are white and have largely had the privilege of being able to ignore issues like this for a very long time — possibly even our entire lives. There’s solid research available now about how all of us – even babies – have intrinsic biases against people who are a different race than we are. The recent events in Ferguson, MO; Columbia, SC; Staten Island, NY; Phoenix, AZ; and Cleveland, OH; along with the continued failure of there to be any sort of consequences at all for the white police officers involved in any of these cases are scathing indictments of the way our society, particularly white society, has chosen to handle race by largely ignoring it.

I’ve talked openly with my children about skin color for around a year now. At first it was awkward, even painful, and I had no idea how to even go about doing it, but it has gradually gotten easier the more we’ve talked about it. We were almost done reading our Addy Story Collection book when I asked a good friend of mine, who’s from a very colorful family, to help. She suggested that we use foods to describe skin colors to help even my youngest children better understand skin colors and their differences. I love that idea because there’s not a dichotomy, there’s no opposite to “coffee color,” “almond color,” “sugar cookie color,” “molasses cookie color,” or “cream of wheat color” like there is with black and white.

With that idea to help make the concept of different skin colors more accessible, even to my preschooler, we began to talk more in depth about the history of racism and slavery in America. We had started reading Addy together at the beginning of this year and through our many conversations they have learned that there is still a dichotomy and prejudice in a lot of people’s minds and that there has been a great deal of prejudice in our country’s past as well as our present. Along with that they also know that it’s not as simple as “white” and “black.” Really, to my children, people are food-colored, multi-colored, there are SO many more colors than just two or three or four, and everyone’s skin colors don’t make any difference in anyone’s worth or in anything else that’s inherent. Even within our own family, all white, there are varying shades – some darker than others.

Among all of that, I have wanted to make sure that they understand that skin color *does* make a difference in how people experience life. Someone’s skin color makes a difference in how they are treated and how they may have to react to certain situations in order to stay safe. This year, unfortunately, there has been no shortage of examples about how certain people groups are treated differently in our country than we are. 

We talked at some length a few months ago about several of the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown photos on Twitter and about how the media often chooses to portray people as heroes or villains. When I talked to the two oldest about the events in Ferguson back in August, it was as though lightbulbs went off in their heads, “You mean that some people still treat people differently because of their color?” 

To which I had to reply that, yes. Yes they still do. Why? Because it’s apparently inborn in all of us, but that doesn’t make it right or okay or excuse those biases. The knowledge that biases are present  in everyone’s thinking is vital, in my opinion, because only then can we learn to recognize our biases and to not be bound to the concept of “color-blindness,” which is not only impossible to achieve in the light of those studies, but that mindset also serves to ignore the very real experiences that black people in our society experience in their everyday lives – regardless of their socioeconomic status.

*Side note: For more information about the biases and discrimination black people experience, please see the Twitter hashtag #LivingWhileBlack and really try to listen and hear and understand the experiences posted there. You can also contrast those stories with the stories at #CrimingWhileWhite, if you really want to see a clear dichotomy.

But how did we begin these conversations with the children? How do you even talk to children about these kinds of horrifying current events? I was asked on Facebook a few days ago whether these discussions had come up naturally or whether we had needed to be more purposeful about it and honestly, it was a little of both.

My children had begun verbalizing the fact that they were noticing people’s skin color at some point towards the end of last year. So I had been agonizing about how to go about talking about these issues for a while before we began to read Addy out loud in January of this year. I believe that Addy was a great introduction because it brought up extremely serious issues and opened the door to further discussions about them, but the issues were brought up in what I think was an age-appropriate way. Ever since reading Addy, which was a purposeful – albeit an ultimately child-led – decision by simply having it around and presenting it as an option for a read-aloud, race issues have come up naturally as my children have seen things firsthand and as they have brought up questions of their own. We have also continued our discussions with the oldest two, in particular, about current events and the very real discrimination and racism that people who don’t look like we do still face today.

Ultimately, what these current events and recent scientific studies have taught me personally is that everyone has biases – that’s just human nature – the important thing, in my opinion, is that we recognize that fact – stop denying that these biases exist – and try not to act on our biases, especially where they’re irrational and built on centuries of oppression/privilege and/or where they’re constructed by the media to perpetuate the status quo. But in order to begin recognizing these biases and in order for our children to recognize these biases, we have to talk about it. We have to talk to our children and start conversations within our communities about race and racism and our country’s abysmal history with regards to race. This is not a one-time conversation any more than the “sex talk” should be a one-time conversation. Noticing and checking our biases has to be an ongoing and conscious effort lest we find ourselves slipping into those inborn biases and getting comfortable with our unearned privileges yet again.

Links for parents:  You can’t effectively teach what you aren’t familiar with yourself. Are you poor and not sure how you’re privileged? Check this out: Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person Do you prefer comics to articles? White Privilege, Explained in One Simple Comic Worried about what it might mean about you to admit that you’re privileged? My White Privilege Would you like to see a list outlining many of the invisible ways white people are privileged in American society? White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack Do you think that well-to-do black families are immune from the effects of white privilege/black oppression? I taught my black kids that their elite upbringing would protect them from discrimination. I was wrong. Would you like to read about someone else’s journey towards realizing their white privilege? How I Discovered I am White The words we use to describe people and their actions really do matter: Maybe I’m a Racist and I Didn’t Even Know It Do you still think you and others can be “color-blind” successfully? Babies aren’t even “color-blind” according to several studies. Three-month-olds, but not newborns, prefer own-race faces.  Nine-Month Olds Show Racial Bias When Looking at Faces Babies Show a Bias Towards Own Race Do you take exception to the way black people expressed their feelings in the wake of the failure to indict Darren Wilson? On Ferguson Protests, the Destruction of Things, and What Violence Really Is (and Isn’t) For a long, but excellent, read about why we really should consider Reparations to the black community for how they continue to be treated, even today, please check this out: The Case For Reparations

The Taboo Topic

I’m going to start off my first post of this year by talking about a pretty hot-button issue. I feel very strongly about this issue, but it’s really none of my business what other people choose to do about it. So, please, don’t tell me what you did or what you will or won’t do with regards to this issue. I don’t want to know because it’ll probably just make me sad and I don’t want the comments to turn into a debate (assuming enough people will even read this to make it a potential debate).

The issue, you ask? The issue is circumcision – routine infant circumcision, to be specific. This is a very American issue since the rest of the developed world stopped routine circumcision quite a while ago. This is also a human rights issue mixed in with the question of parental rights.

With this issue, there are many questions to ponder:

Why did the rest of the developed world stop this practice?
Where do parental rights end and the child’s right to his or her body begin?
What about religious beliefs?
How culturally important is it for a child to have a surgery simply because the parent of the same gender had that same surgery as a child?
What is lost to circumcision?

However, my main goal with this post is to encourage parents to really research circumcision before they decide either way. Please, look at what is lost to circumcision, which could also be called “foreskin amputation.” The foreskin is not just a useless flap of skin. Please, understand what you are taking away from your son before you decide to take it away.

There are all sorts of resources about the benefits of circumcision and I think it’s of extreme importance to get the other perspective – to seek it out before making a final decision.

Educate yourself so that if your son comes to you when he’s older and asks, “Mom/Dad, why did you circumcise me?” you can give him a good answer. “Because everyone else was doing it.” is not a good answer. The odds are good that your son will be happy with whatever he has, but as more boys in the US remain intact (the rate of babies being circumcised in hospitals during 2009 was a mere 32.5%), the likelihood of him realizing that he’s missing something and questioning your motives will probably increase.

Educate yourself so that you won’t learn something new in 1, 2, 5, or 20 years that makes you regret your decision. The more research you do, the more confident you will be in your decision.

I cannot even tell you how many mothers I’ve met who wish someone had encouraged them to look deeper into the issue of circumcision before they had their first-born sons. I’ve met countless women who circumcised their oldest and then, after learning more about what the surgery actually entails, left subsequent sons intact. Many of these women state that circumcising their son(s) is their biggest parenting regret.

Please be certain, before you send your son in for irreversible surgery on the most private and personal part of his body, that you are making the best decision for him. Not the best decision for you or for your family or for your friends, but for your son who will have to live with your decision for the rest of his life.

I encourage you to check out cirp.org and read the studies located there. The site has a definite pro-intact (not circumcised) bias, but the relevant studies are all represented and you can certainly ignore the commentary from the owners of the site if you wish to be more balanced about the issue.

You may also wish to take a look at Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) if you’d like to hear the case against circumcision from the medical perspective. You’re almost guaranteed to learn something new about the foreskin which is, truly, an amazing part of the body!

Speaking of the case against circumcision, Dr. Paul Fleiss wrote an article many years ago called just that! Dr. Fleiss is a pediatrician and I believe he’s also a member of DOC.

If you’d never consider cutting your daughter’s genitals, but consider male circumcision to be beneficial for your son, I suggest that you look at this handy comparison chart, compiled by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an author and activist who has written some of the most groundbreaking books about the topic of Female Genital Mutilation. Of course female and male circumcision are different, but probably not as different as you may think.

What about the question of religious beliefs? I’m a Christian and can only really speak to the Christian aspect of religious circumcision. There are plenty of resources out there for Jews who want to look more into this issue. I don’t know enough about the Muslim faith to speak to the topic. However, it is very clear to me that, in reading the New Testament, circumcision is not something that is necessary for Christians.

In fact, Paul is very clear in Galatians that circumcision is not worth anything to followers of Christ Jesus. In fact, he states that if a man lets himself be circumcised, Christ is of no value to that man. Search the scriptures yourself – be very certain that it is truly a religious requirement before you circumcise only for that reason. Many Christians believe that they must circumcise, and that is clearly not the case.

Finally, I would like to encourage all the circumcised fathers out there – particularly those who want their sons to “match” them – to take a trip down memory lane and remember how many times they really compared penises with their father and if their family was open about nudity, was their father’s circumcision status really the first thing they noticed? Or did they notice first that there was a size difference and all that hair too?

This decision is one of the most important decisions you will ever make as a parent. Your son will live with the consequences of this decision for the rest of his life. I entreat you to not take this decision lightly. Circumcision is a surgical procedure, it is not a “little snip” and not everyone is having it done to their sons any longer.

~B.

Australia pushes for equal rights:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/12/09/2113665.htm

Doctors back call for circumcision ban
Posted Sun Dec 9, 2007 12:37pm AEDT

The Australian Medical Association has backed a call for laws banning the non-essential circumcision of infant boys.

The Tasmanian Children’s Commissioner, Paul Mason, says non-medical circumcision is a breach of human rights.

The AMA’s Tasmanian President, Haydn Walters, says they would support a ban on the practice, except where there are medical or religious reasons.

He says there is only rarely a medical need to carry out the procedure.

“There were quite a lot of folk myths around the advantages of circumcision. They’ve almost all been debunked,” Prof Walters said.

“There are some minimal advantages in some circumstances, particularly in some infectious diseases, but they’re overwhelmingly balanced by disadvantages in other areas,” he said.

(The following rant is not meant to guilt any mothers who have chosen to circumcise their sons. Most American women are not educated about the functions of the foreskin and what is actually lost during circumcision. Many people believe that since doctors still perform male genital cutting, then it must be safe and/or beneficial. The main responsibility lies with the doctors who still perform these cosmetic surgeries on children too young to consent and with the culture and media for perpetuating the myth that circumcision is so beneficial that the risks and losses don’t matter. It is hard sometimes to step out of the cultural box and look at what America does to half of its boys objectively.)

It’s about frigging time! Cosmetically – for a non-medical reason or to potentially prevent potential problems that may never occur – altering your child’s genitals is wrong regardless of his/her gender. If only so many Americans weren’t such hypocrites… if only Americans would recognize that boys’ genitals are just as important as girls’. I will never understand how someone can cut off a healthy piece of someone else’s body or think that they should have the right to do so.

Just because Americans do it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Many cultures who circumcise women also think it’s the right thing to do, but that doesn’t make female genital cutting right either. The only difference is severity – both involve cutting someone else’s genitals against that person’s will – and since merely pricking a girl’s genitals to get a bit of blood (which is by far less severe than chopping off what will amount to approximately 15 square inches of tissue on an adult man) is illegal, the law is obviously not about severity.

Everyone deserves to decide what parts of their OWN genitals they keep or cut off. I’ve only ever met one intact man who wished to be circumcised. He chose to be circumcised and is happy that he made his own decision. The men I know who wish they had never been circumcised are plum out of luck. They can never be “uncircumcised.” The choice was stolen from them when they were most vulnerable.

/rant

This is a big issue for me. I have spent a good part of the past 2.5 years learning about the barbaric custom of male genital alteration/cutting. The rate of circumcision in my part of the US is approximately 24% now. Our local hospital refuses to perform non-medically indicated infant circumcisions. The custom is apparently dying a slow but sure death.

It can’t happen soon enough, in my opinion.

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