March 2008


“Wrapped for the Market” got another reject, a nice personal one this time. Money would have been better (heh), but not everyone wants a flash story about a psychotic slasher. Sent it out again.

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From Minions At Work (by J. Steven York):

I got started reading this because one of my sons has a 12″ GI Joe menagerie and makes home movies using them, so I know what goes into that. And who doesn’t love an evil overlord and his minions?

My next project. I’d like to start in on April1st … a few days away.

What sounds better?

  • Freedom, part 3, which I have a partial outline for.
  • Clan Twelve, part 2 (aka Diary of a Monster), for which I have a subplot but nothing else.
  • edit People of the Earth (fairly straightforward, but feels difficult right now)
  • edit Test of Time (need to analyze this first but I like the idea)
  • finish a children’s SF story I started last year, called “The Adventures of Achilles Thornbottom”.
  • time for something completely different …

Taking a break from writing, at least until the end of the month. A 76k first draft for Esfera Valerosa is my second best yet (Clan Twelve was 96k).

I’ll most likely be posting here, if something comes to mind. Otherwise I’ll be getting more short stories ready to send off.

… and then I’ll shut up on the topic for a while.

The other day I was reading James Collier’s blog, and this article caught my eye. The article talked about ‘white guilt’, but the second to the last sentence is what grabbed me:

Obama seems to represent an option, in some minds, for moving towards better solutions, minus the scarlet letter if your skin happens to be white today.

This engendered a visceral reaction: this guy gets it. As I went about my business, this article stayed with me. I came to the conclusion that we don’t need less ‘white guilt’; we need more.

Now someone’s going to say ‘Good God, not more!’ White guilt has gotten the rap for all sorts of bad behavior. Just stay with me for a few minutes.

I’m a part of two 12-step groups. I won’t go into my addictions (I’m not alcoholic; feel free to buy me a drink 😉 ) but one thing we learn about in these groups is guilt.

Guilt is a good thing. Guilt says that you did something wrong. It makes you feel bad about what you’ve done. It motivates you to change, to make amends.

Shame, on the other hand, is toxic. Shame says that there’s something wrong with you. It leads to obsession, addiction, rage, depression. It makes you blame shift, lash out, deny you did anything wrong. Shame destroys your life and everyone around you.

When people talk about ‘white guilt’, what they really mean is ‘white shame’.

Look at that quote above. The scarlet letter (a quintessentially American icon) was not to guilt Hester out. It was to shame her.

White America’s shame has been rolling in with the betrayal and slaughter of the owners of the land we stand on, before the first man was taken as a slave, over 400 years ago, mirrored in the slaughter and pillage of Third Reich Germany. We are drowning in shame, and we drug, distract with television or the internet, buy, and join causes we think might make us feel better. None of it does.

We don’t need any more white shame. What we need is more white guilt. Guilt says “I did something wrong. I need to learn why what I did was wrong and change so I don’t do it again.” Guilt puts the motivation on the guilty party. A guilty man can’t in good conscience sit back and order the people he hurt to teach him what he did, or point fingers, or make excuses as to why what he did wasn’t all that bad, because he feels the guilt of what he did.

So how to move from shame to guilt? A good question. I’ve heard jokes about forming ‘Racists Anonymous’, and maybe that’s what we need. But until we as whites move from shame to guilt, very little will truly change in this country. Actions and words may become more correct, as people are shamed into it, but at a terrible cost.

We had slavery, which almost tore this country apart. Then the Jim Crow laws, set up with greed and spite as their motivation, in order to, if they couldn’t continue to enslave the body, enslave the mind. It wasn’t until 1954 that integration of schools was ordered, and it took armed men to enforce it in 1957. It wasn’t until 1971 that the Supreme Court said that forced busing could, and would, be used to integrate schools.

So it’s not as though it’s been that long ago that a white kid and a black kid might have gone their whole lives without actually talking to each other.

But back in slave days, people knew. Whites saw the oppression and either rationalized it, or got troubled enough to do something about it.

And during Jim Crow, people knew. Whites knew what they were doing, and either rationalized it, or got troubled enough to do something about it.

You see how racism is divisive in itself?

When you rationalize the suffering of others, it does something to you. If you’re a sociopath (as I think some of these people were), you don’t care. But if you do care, you either put it out of your mind, you make up reasons why you’re oppressing another human being (they’re dirty, evil, stupid, etc.), or you finally come to your senses and do something.

Those people who did something were the bravest of the brave, in days when even talking to a black person could put you in the category of ‘n*** -lover’, which in some areas could lead to a group of people ready to perjure themselves testify you had a black ancestor, putting you and your entire family on the wrong side of Jim Crow.

So there was fear. Fear makes people do things that you and I might think are insane. It makes people teach hate to little children in order to keep them safe.

But people knew what they were doing. And if they had any decency at all, they hated themselves for it. They felt shame about it, didn’t want to talk about it. They didn’t want their children to learn what they had done.

Then school districts were forced to integrate their schools, each side primed by parents who were afraid and angry — for different reasons.

And so a generation grew up not being taught what had happened (unless their parents taught them at home, and most whites didn’t even want to think about it). Teachers slid over, or ‘ran out of time’ to teach recent history. But the attitudes, the fear that other races engendered in their parents (and if someone scares Mom and Dad, they must be very powerful), the underlying shame … these lingered.

This is not in any way to excuse the prejudice of the past 30 years. But in those of my generation, much of it wasn’t intentional; people parroted attitudes (and in the sociopathic, actions) from their parents and grandparents. Not that it makes prejudice any less painful on the receiving end.

Re: institutional racism … look at who runs those institutions. Look at how old they are, when they grew up. I think you’ll find a pattern there. Remember: they knew what they were doing. I’m convinced they still know, even today.

The law, schooling, the economy — everything is set up for blacks to fail. Those that do succeed are in many ways the best of the best, and in a just world would be lauded as such. But we don’t live in such a world, yet.

What Obama’s speech made clear was that you and I have more in common than we thought. We all have the hateful grandparent or uncle, maybe even a parent who spews vileness under stress, who disapproves of you spending time with ‘those kind’.

In this we’re alike.

But it was their war. We, as the children of integration, Obama’s generation, don’t have to keep fighting it. Our children stare blankly at us and wonder if we’re crazy for keeping it going when we don’t even understand why we’re fighting.

Do you feel strange when a family of another color moves next door because of something in them, or something we picked up from our grandparents, who were trying to protect us from a Jim Crow witch hunt? Do you expect a person of another color to say or do something wrong because of them, before they open their mouths or do anything, or of what’s been placed inside you?

They say you see what you expect to see. For far too long, we’ve been told to expect the worst from each other. Obama has moved past this. He expects to see the good, which honestly blows me away.

Can we muster the courage to look at people as they are, rather than what our parents and grandparents have taught us they are? That is the question we face. Because when you see someone as they are, it’s a bit harder to hate and fear them.

YouTube video and transcript of Barack Obama’s speech in Philadelphia, over at Nezua’s place

I haven’t heard the speech yet, just read the transcript (and I have to leave for an appointment, so I won’t be able to listen to it for several hours yet).

I want to hear him speak and think about what I’m going to say before I write more. But this speech is what we all need to hear.

He’s done a great thing for America.

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