On Pressing Forward after the Election

My son is curled up next to me, snoring in his sleep, battling the 101-degree fever that started around 1 am Wednesday morning – right when the election news was rolling in. He has not allowed me to leave his side and even curled up in my lap through two movies and about 100 books. If you know him, you know this means he is really sick. Or really scared. Maybe he has internalized my pain.

In some ways, caring for him yesterday postponed my processing of the election. But, more importantly, it filled me with love.

We will always be proud of how we voted this year.

I genuinely believe that love trumps hate. That light drives out darkness. That in times of great division and fear, we must turn to love. But what does this really mean? And what does this mean right now?

To me, it means to love as Christ did. To see others as Christ sees them. To see their humanity and to recognize our kinship as children of God. Our Father in heaven loves all of us. We must do the same, even when we disagree. Even when we are wronged. Even when we are hurt. We must embrace love.

This love must be unconditional, but it does not have to be blind. Christ loves us, so he shows us our weaknesses and asks us to repent. He tells us when we are wrong, when we make mistakes, when we sin; He asks us to be better. He gives us a way to be better. So, like Christ, we must love and we must listen. But, we must also call out hatred and injustice and bigotry and ignorance when it exists.

We love, and we fight for light.

To fight for the light means we must acknowledge that darkness exists. It is not enough to say let’s just be kind to one another. To do so without acknowledging the ugly is more harmful than good. To do so implies the privilege to ignore realities that so many of us have lived for generations. We must be honest. And we can do it with love.

It means acknowledging that yes, many of the white people in middle America feel abandoned and betrayed by government. That people have lost their trust in a government controlled by money and business and lobbying. It means recognizing that most of us feel the same way and want to see change. It also means acknowledging that every marginalized community has always been treated this way and worse. And, regardless of economic circumstance or location, white people still have more power.

It means acknowledging that though there are other factors involved in peoples’ voting decisions, consciously or not, race was absolutely an issue.

CNN exit polls

It means acknowledging that the person elected to our highest office represents big money and big business and an impunity that harms our democracy and values. That this man rallied his supporters despite a documented background in direct opposition to many of their concerns and needs. It means acknowledging that his narrative was created through rhetoric and bigotry and lies too countless to mention.

It means acknowledging that a man who ran a campaign founded on racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, white nationalism, bullying, fear and lies had the support of enough Americans to be elected to the White House.

It means acknowledging that while not everyone who voted for Trump is overtly hateful or racist – and that many voted for him reluctantly to support political agendas – some are. And they have been given permission to become more vocal and public in their hatred. It has already begun. It means acknowledging that those who voted for Trump, but who professed not to agree with his messaging were nevertheless willing to overlook, accept and support it with their ballots. It means that nearly half the voters in this country willingly chose to perpetuate racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia and discrimination. It also means they can say they weren’t supporting those things – because for them, those are just ideas, not active threats. But regardless of how they justify it, the overall results endorse bigotry.

It means acknowledging that while some people have the privilege of claiming this is just about politics, for marginalized communities – people of color, people who identify as LGBTQ, disabled people, women, Muslims, immigrants – this goes much deeper. This is about humanity and survival and life.

It means recognizing that for us, the fear is real. The trauma is real. The terror is real. This is not leftist political fear-mongering or over-exaggeration. This is a genuine response to Trump’s threats and words and actions. Just listen to the children. Listen to the teachers who had to go into classrooms Wednesday morning to talk with youth filled with terror. Pay attention to the things that have already started happening, even in liberal strongholds. It is a response to a legitimization of white nationalism. To the silencing of women and the acceptance of sexual assault. To the vitriol against Muslims and immigrants. It is knowing history and fearing its repetition.

It means learning about reconstruction, Jim Crow, eugenics, the Chinese Exclusion Act, DAPL, indigenous history, Tuskegee, and farm workers’ history, just to name a few. It means learning about voter suppression, the resurgence of voter ID laws and this year’s attack on voting rights.

It is about admitting that the ugliness exists, even if the brighter part of our souls wants to believe it doesn’t. It’s about choosing to confront the ugly rather than try to interpret it in a way that makes us feel better. Some people have expressed surprise. Not all of us have lived this privilege of looking away. We invite you to see the world as it has looked from our eyes all along.

I am afraid. I am terrified. I think about internment camps and concentration camps. About medical bills and an environment destroyed. I fear a loss of rights that took years to achieve. I fear a nation pushed backwards fifty years into a hole that will take generations to escape.

I fear. I tremble. I’m angry. But, I won’t wallow here. I will harness my emotions into power.

For now, please don’t tell me it will all be okay. One must have a lot of privilege to say it will be okay. Most people saying this are White. Maybe it will be okay for you. And, to be honest, I’m glad about that. At least it will be okay for some.

But, it will not be okay for everyone. No Child Left Behind was not okay for the generation of students forced to practice taking multiple choice tests at the expense of genuine learning. It was not okay for students who never got art or music or physical education in schools. It will continue to have lasting effects on individual lives, schools and society for generations to come. The economic collapse of 2008 was not okay for people who lost homes, lost savings, lost jobs, lost everything. Maybe you were able to choose a neighborhood or pay for a school that provided a progressive education and more opportunities. Maybe you had enough of a buffer to survive and even benefit from others’ economic tragedy. But not everyone had that choice.

It will not be okay for the families who are torn apart. It will not be okay for the refugees who are turned away. It will not be okay for young people who will be ripped from schools and jobs because they were brought to our country as children. It will not be okay for people threatened by or hurt by violence. This is literally a matter of life and death for some. It will not be okay if millions of people lose their health insurance. It will not be okay if our economy collapses. Maybe you will be able to weather that storm – but remember the privileges that helped you get where you are. Not everyone has those.

It will not be okay for anyone if our planet and our environment are destroyed. No one has the privilege of avoiding those effects.

This is how I feel today. Maybe many of these things are fears that will never find fruition. I hope so. I hope the man who campaigned is a different leader than the person he presented as a businessman and campaign figure. As Hillary reminded us, we owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. But, I am more than a little skeptical.

Don’t tell me things will be okay. Don’t ask me to keep you comfortable. Listen and tell me, we will get through this. Because we will get through this implies difficulty; it implies perseverance and hard work and action. Things won’t be okay unless we plan and prepare for the changes that may come, until we acknowledge the real and lasting effects they will have. Until we work through things together.

We will look up toward hope and light.

Still, I have hope. There are still so many reasons to hope.

I have hope in my husband, who has the courage to share his opinions publicly despite hurtful responses from beloved extended family members. I have hope in former students who voted for the first time, got out the vote in Philly, studied to be informed decision makers and protested in the streets. I have hope in Pantsuit Nation, whose stories and posts have been inspiring and moving. I have hope in the people who reached out to me today, in the hugs and communities that are being galvanized toward action. I have hope in the group of Mormons I talked with last night at a book-signing event – faithful men and women who are devastated, empowered and willing to act.

I have hope and tremendous pride in a California who voted forward as the nation turned backward. I have hope that we will again be the rebel state leading the country back into the future.

I have hope because Hillary won the popular vote. I have hope knowing the majority of voting citizens did not choose the ideologies and rhetoric of division strewn by Trump.

I have hope that yesterday’s election will catalyze action among those who have been complacent. I have hope that people will be motivated to share opinions they have previously held close for fear of judgment or offense. I have hope people will realize these fears are what prevent us from generating dialogue toward change.

I have hope because, as Theodore Parker once wrote, history shows that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” It is painful and slow, but it always does in the end.

I have hope that the emotions of the moment will turn into committed actions over time.

As for me, I will keep writing. I will sign petitions. I will go to protests and donate money. I will fight DAPL and stay informed about issues. I will vote in every election and write to elected officials. I will make my home a refuge for those that need one. When my home fills up, I will make room elsewhere. I will teach my children.

I will practice civil disobedience. As Dr. Martin Luther King wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail, “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

I will not sit idly by to watch as others fight on. I will fight the good fight, finish the course and keep the faith. All of our voices and our actions matter more than ever.

Be not weary in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. Out of small things proceedeth that which is great. – Doctrine and Covenants 64:33

Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) Syndrome

Reset has struggled for over two years to find a property for our campus in (around, adjacent to, somewhere, anywhere!) near the Bay Area. Promising properties have fallen through over and over again and thus far, we are still homeless. Our entire team has been thrown into a never ending hurricane of uncertainty about our jobs, our organization, and our ability to do the work we set out to do.
For me, the most jarring part of this property hunt so far has been an email that a potential neighbor sent to a member of our team after a community meeting. Essentially, she was against Reset moving to the property and she had emailed over fifty people to share her sentiments. And oh, by the way, she believes in the work that we do. She just didn’t want us there.

NIMBY. Not In My BackYard.

Shortly after this community meeting, there was a sudden reversal of zoning in which an obscure legality resurfaced to dismantle Reset’s ability to run our program from the site. We don’t want you here.

Juxtaposed with the Google Impact grant – won through public vote –  this experience gives me a discordant reminder of the reality of creating change in our society. It seems so many of us are willing to support inspiring causes, good work and social change when it can be done from behind computer screens in the safety of our own homes. But, should the work actually require a change in our lives, a commitment, an action toward professed beliefs, resistance is immediate and swift. We are good people who believe in good things, but very few of us want to examine our deeply ingrained and subconscious beliefs about other human beings. It’s easier to say we want change than it is to live it.

 The Racism Train

There’s a problem when we champion change, then hide from it when it really counts. Like it or not, white superiority is well defended and protected. It may be unintentional. It’s likely unconscious. Without more introspection and sincere interaction, the racism train keeps rolling – George Sachs

In a system that is built firmly on the perception that white is normal and good, that black is dangerous and criminal and that everything else is foreign, unnatural and barbaric, it seems that unless people are willing to recognize racism as it exists, we will be forever hopelessly skewed toward inequity. We have a society built on racism with people who are unwilling to believe they are racist.

The most insidious misunderstanding of racism is the belief that all racists are like Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan: overtly murderous and hateful toward their victims. Too much of this certainly exists. However, in its most basic form, racism is prejudice plus power. For better or worse, we are socialized to develop prejudices about others. However, as Peggy McIntosh writes, white people carry an invisible knapsack of privilege that most do not even realize they possess. These privileges are attached to great power. Conversely, people of color are acutely aware of the prejudice they face and the privileges and power that are withheld from them. The systems created by this combination of prejudice and power have been solidified and compounded throughout history and over generations. They are unquestioned because they are woven so imperceptibly, so normally, into our structures, institutions and beliefs. But, once you see this racism, it cannot be unseen. It is everywhere.

And, I might add, one could argue the same thing for gender, ethnic, able-bodied, religious and sexual privilege and power.

Very few people want to perpetuate racism and its attendant inequities, injustices and frankly, destruction and death. However, the reality is that we are. We all are.

A Few Questions

When we look squarely at injustice and get involved, we actually feel less pain, not more, because we overcome the gnawing guilt and despair that festers under our numbness. We clean the wound – our own and others’ – and it can finally heal  – Desmond Tutu

Unless we are willing to ask ourselves hard questions and look inward at our subconscious beliefs, we will continue to perpetuate a status quo in which everyone loses in the long run. We all have implicit biases (learn more about yours here) that have been ingrained through the messages we receive from the world around us. Our subconscious beliefs don’t always match our professed beliefs, even if we want them to. But, we can work on our own awareness and then, over a lifetime, continue to work on change.

Do I live in a neighborhood that is mostly white? Is it because the schools are better? Am I okay with the fact that schools in some neighborhoods are better than others? Am I okay with the fact that not all students have access to the same quality of education and resources? That too many students of color students attend schools that I feel uncomfortable walking through, let alone sending my children to? Am I willing to integrate schools so that all students have the same access to resources that I’d want for my children? Am I willing to push for a reallocation and increase of resources that would enable us to create a system of education that is enriching, innovative and equitable for all young people? If not, then what am I afraid of and am I willing to look inside at the real beliefs I have about people who do or do not look like me?

How familiar am I with the history and institutions that created and maintain the segregated neighborhoods in which we live? How familiar am I with the history of any people of color in our country? Is it okay that the stories and truths of entire populations have been erased from our dominant narratives? Am I working to teach my child(ren) a more authentic narrative that includes multiple perspectives, people and events? Am I asking for the same from school curriculum? If not, why not? Am I willing to ask myself whose reality I believe to be more important and why?

What do I do when a black boy, like Trayvon Martin, Michael BrownJordan Davis, or Tamir Rice is senselessly murdered? Or when a black girl is attacked sitting at her classroom desk by a school security officer? Or when a black people are arrested for entering their homes, as in the not-so-isolated cases of Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr. and businesswoman Fay Wells? Or when innumerable black men, like Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Sam Dubose, Kenneth ChamberlainJohn Crawford III, Sean Bell, or Amadou Diallojust to name a few, die at the hands of the police with no believable reason? Do I have the luxury of turning off the TV and forgetting the event? Do I think these events are isolated and new? Did I get more incensed about the murder of a lion than I did about the murder of a human being? Do I entertain the possibility that the children did something to provoke their own murders or attacks from adults who were supposed to protect them? Do I justify the deaths and blame the victims for their own murders? Would I entertain that possibility if the child or person in question was white?

When thousands of people are regularly senselessly and innocently killed around the world, do I mourn with all of them? Do I stand with every man, woman and child who endures violence and death? Did I feel more outrage and sadness about Paris than Beirut? Than Nigeria or Syria? Did I stand with Paris on my Facebook wall? What did I do to show solidarity with people who suffer at the hands of terror everywhere? Do I even know about events that are destroying the lives of people around the world? What am I doing about it?

If I really believe all people are equal, what am I doing to ensure that we don’t replicate systems that maintain an unjust and inequitable status quo? No. That maintain an inhumane and genocidal status quo around the world?

I can answer some of these questions satisfactorily to my soul; but most…most and more haunt me everyday. There is so much work to do.

Our Responsibility

All the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action -James Russell Lowell

A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race – Joseph Smith

What is our responsibility? Whose responsibility is it, if it is not ours?

There is much I do not know, but I do know that our responsibility is great. We have a responsibility to our families and our communities. We also have a responsibility beyond. It is not enough to profess support of good causes or solidarity with those who suffer. That is only a first step. We need to act. We need to change. We need to create change.

At least, we need to try.

Our Backyard Garden

If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can survive only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family – Desmond Tutu

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together – Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Activists Group, Queensland

 I believe that most people are good people. Well-intentioned people. People with good hearts who love deeply and care for others. We protect those with whom we share a connection. We tend to our small plots in the expansive garden of the world.

We say – and truly believe – we want everyone to have their own sustaining and plentiful plots, but we are less inclined to see the realities around us. We are less inclined, even resistant, to observe that the lush plots of some are built inside enclosed, barbed-wired, electrical fences. Some plots operate with a redirected water supply that nourishes only their plants. Some plots are built on the backs of the people tending other plots.

Parts of the garden have become deserts for want of water and shade. The pesticides used to protect plants in some plots are killing their neighbors’ plants. Some people are straight up destroying other peoples’ plots for their own gain.

At some point we must realize that the entire garden is our garden. East Palo Alto, Richmond, South Central, Hunter’s Point are our garden. Syria is our garden, Nigeria is our garden, Mexico and China are our gardens. When we look up and remove the shades that are blocking our vision, we will realize that our actions and inactions, our penchant to look out myopically for our own affects the entire garden, and thus, actually harms us and those we love. We lose our collective humanity.

If the world is our backyard – our garden – then we cannot push the responsibility away. We are sisters and we are brothers. We should be connected with love. Our liberation, our freedom and our humanity are bound together. We cannot abide by the NIMBY syndrome; it is a sickness we must eradicate. We must seek out and welcome our responsibility. Our souls and our hearts as a people depend on our willingness to act with love. We must recognize that the entire garden can become even more fruitful, lush and generative when we care for it together. The world and its people are our garden to tend.