Photo by Arno Meintjes

Photo by Arno Meintjes

Poor Cecil. By now I’m sure you’ve heard about how Cecil the lion met his sad and painful end. I don’t know what kind of person thinks this kind of violence is fun. I wonder how that dentist from Minnesota treats the humans in his life, but this post is not about him.

It’s about us. I am struck by how many people—on social media, mainstream media, the water cooler—are so vocal about their disgust, shock, and condemnation of the murder of Cecil the lion. Not because their outrage isn’t justified. This was a terrible act. But there is a lot of terrible violence happening right here in our communities every day that I think deserves at least an equal amount of outrage. Some are angry that people are quick to condemn Cecil’s death but not so willing to do the same for other atrocities happening around them. I can respect that anger. And it isn’t an either/or situation. We should be both outraged by what happened to Cecil and about black lives cut short, women and girls being raped…I could go on.

So if you’re feeling that anger, that outrage about Cecil—good! I’ve got five more things that we should muster up that same outrage for:

1) Women of color dying in jail cells—Sandra Bland, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, and many others.

2) The 35 women on the cover of NY Magazine coming forward about being sexually assaulted by Bill Cosby, and the empty chair that represents so many other women and girls who are sexually assaulted every day.

3) The dreadful conditions that exist in Family Detention Centers and the continuing struggles of immigrant women and children who flee violence in their families and countries.

4) Transgender women are being killed at alarming rates.

5) Thousands of women across the country and here in Washington State are being abused by partners who promised to love them.

Last week my fearless coworker Tyra Lindquist had some excellent thoughts about how to fight injustice. Today we are talking about Step 1: Pay attention and get fired up. If we can do it for a lion, we can do it for each other.

I told a friend recently that I was going to tour the Whitney Plantation near New Orleans. She replied, “Brace yourself.”

Photo by anthonyturducken

Photo by anthonyturducken

The Whitney is the first museum ever to focus solely on the facts and experience of slavery in the United States.  It is a fascinatingly idiosyncratic institution that is so unlikely to have evolved and to be succeeding.

My experience was that it managed to deliver a punch without knocking me out. Unlike most museums, you are not left to wander around on your own. You have to go on a tour with a guide who tells you the unvarnished truth of what happened here. It’s tough going and our mostly white tour group was shaken by the experience. The guide firmly dissuaded one white woman when she asked questions designed to point out that maybe being enslaved in the south wasn’t always the kidnapping and torture that it surely was. “You may be trying to comfort yourself,” the guide said.

But there is no reasonable way to comfort oneself as a white person. There is only to feel the national shame.

To the best of my ability, I let myself feel the white heat of that shame. Slavery was not my fault, but it is 2015 and I’m alive now so the legacy of slavery is my responsibility. I see only a slice of how the consequences of slavery still linger, but when I pay attention, I see more and more.

I started writing this blog three weeks ago, after the shooting in Olympia of two black youth by a white policeman. But I wrote myself into tiny knots and couldn’t finish.

What struck me at the time was the immediate pronouncement of the police chief that race was not a factor. Impossible. Race is always a factor. Me, you, the cop, the kids, the police chief—everyone is swimming in the same mighty river of our national story of racism and privilege.

And now we have South Carolina. Where even today the Confederate flag still flies high over many a public building.

It would be very easy to point to the south, to point to others, to point to shooters and haters and say “Them! They are the problem.” Black people throw their hands up “don’t shoot.” White people throw their hands up “not me.”

I’m white. I’m not throwing my hands up. I know it’s me.

I’ll confess to just a few of the ways that it’s me.

I lobbied for years to pass laws creating more and more domestic violence and sexual assault felonies and these laws created a lot of criminals and a lot of prisons. I failed to recognize the huge impact this was going to have on people of color. This is institutionalized racism.

I pay taxes in a system that funds my school better than yours. Institutionalized racism.

I elect people who continue to support (by doing nothing) tax codes that keep black people poor and white people rich. Institutionalized racism.

It is difficult to understand the enormity of all that I have contributed to. And it would be the easiest thing for me to crawl back into bed because I feel so ashamed. Ashamed of Olympia and Charleston. Overwhelmed at the enormity of what lies ahead to undo the harm.

But the words of our Whitney Plantation guide echo in my mind: “You may be trying to comfort yourself.” These words remind and inspire me. To comfort oneself is human. To act, human too. So I’m going to drag my sorry ass to work. Today I’ll post this blog and call my legislator to ask why she isn’t passing a budget that fully funds all schools. And think about what else I am going to do. I encourage all you white people to get your sorry asses out of bed and get moving too.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

As Marissa Alexander was released from jail this week, The Nation examines why our legal system turns women into criminals for trying to stay alive.

Lindy West, a writer who is regularly harassed by trolls online, has a deeply moving piece on This American Life about confronting one of them.

Janet Mock, known for her memoir Redefining Realness, has a new talk show centering the voices of women of color. The show’s discussion of Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad is captivating.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Zoë Quinn, the first and biggest target of Gamergate, has launched a network to help people experiencing online harassment & abuse.

Why campus approaches to sexual violence shouldn’t be more like criminal trials:  “No one cries foul when a student is expelled for cheating on an exam based on the preponderance of the evidence.”

The girls of the Radical Brownies troop have their own badge system, including one for “Radical Beauty”, an “LGBT ally” badge and a “Black Lives Matter” badge.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

When survivors tell their stories, they can seem cold or indifferent, get details wrong, or be unable to remember everything that happened, which is then used as a reason to disbelieve them. But these are all common, predictable responses to trauma.

Become a Racial Transformer today! “Racial Transformers don’t fixate on who’s a racist or whether someone intends animus. For they know that the deepest racism lies not just in the hearts and minds of individuals, but in the roles and rules of big institutions.”

Two powerful stories of abortion, pregnancy, and parenthood: “I had such severe postpartum depression that I was afraid my baby’s head would fall off.” And “I really was not prepared to quietly accept a bunch of non-Black people using my race to guilt me out of getting an abortion.”

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

A pair of disturbing articles about the criminalization of pregnant women: Wisconsin’s law allows the state to jail women if they are suspected of drug abuse while Tennessee charges drug-addicted women with assault once they deliver.

We here at WSCADV always want to hear what Connie Burk has to say, and here she is with some choice words on preventing violence in LGBTQ communities.

The man who held and killed hostages in Sydney this week was, unbelievably, out on bail for involvement in the murder of his ex-wife, and more than 40 charges of sexual and indecent assault. And yet the Australian government is planning to spend more money fighting terrorism, not family and sexual violence.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

At 17, Malala Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. “This award is courage and hope for me and all those who fight for education.”

Shonda Rimes was honored this week and her response has all the humor, drama, and emotional intensity of a good episode of Scandal.

Roxane Gay writes a lyrical defense of bad victims over at The Toast.

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