White Privilege

Have you ever been stopped by the police or sheriff while walking or driving? I have. I was going a little too fast. Once, I made an illegal u-turn. Other than that, I’ve made it through over forty years of driving without being stopped.

And I have certainly never been stopped because I was female and white.

You know where this is leading.

Since the events in Ferguson MO, I have been – again – doing a lot of thinking and reading about race. How can we not?

But most of us don’t go very deep.

I was raised with what today is called “white privilege.” I don’t know what it was called back when I was being raised with it. It probably wasn’t yet called anything.

I didn’t know I had white privilege. It was easy to not know this because other than two families who had slightly darker skin than my family did, everyone in my neighborhood, everyone in my school, in fact, looked just like me. It was simply “normal” to have light skin, a dad with a good job, and a mom who was a housewife.

in high school, I got to know a few minorities. However, it wasn’t until after graduation that I understood that every single one of the black students lived, literally, on the other side of the tracks. It wasn’t until after graduation that I learned about the swimming pool in the basement of the high school that had been closed down because “the Colored” wanted to swim there, too.

So what does it mean to have white privilege?

For one, it means I don’t have to worry about being pulled over for some obscure reason when I’m driving. And if by some chance I am, I have no fear of being shot. Even if I question the officer’s motives in stopping me, said officer might get a bit testy, but I won’t have a gun pulled on me. I won’t get shot.

I know far too many young black men who have been pulled over – repeatedly – for daring to drive down our county roads. In broad daylight. At night, they’re pulled over and the office approaches, hand on gun. These are young men who live here. They must be sick of it. I would be.

White privilege means that if I chose to, I could purchase a rifle, sling it over my shoulder, and walk through the local grocery store.

I don’t know a single person who is not white who could pull that one off. In fact, just a few weeks ago, a young Black man was in Walmart. He picked up a pellet gun in the toy department. A customer saw him with the gun and dialed 9-1-1. He never had the chance to set the gun down before the police shot him. Can you imagine a young white man being shot for picking up a pellet gun? Can you imagine someone even dialing 9-1-1?

No once crosses the street because she is afraid I’ll grab her purse. And if I did grab that purse, it’s not likely I’d get shot while running away.

No one follows me through a department store, fearful I’ll be shoplifting. I had a white girlfriend in college who shoplifted and no one ever gave it a thought when she went into a store. My black friends were closely watched.

Over $400,000 has been collected to support the policeman who shot Michael Brown – before he’s even been charged with anything. And some of the donors have made such racist, hateful statements that it is shocking, even to me, one who has heard quite a bit.

I am not sure what we do about this except to speak out. Over and over, Black youth – and adults – are gunned down before they can even explain what they’re doing. Remember Renisha McBride? She was in a car accident and her cell phone was dead. She knocked on a door and when no one answered, turned around to leave. That’s when she was shot by the homeowner.

We all, whatever our race and whatever our privilege or lack of privilege may be, must speak against the madness of assuming that Black = dangerous. We need to all stand together on this. Letters to the editor. Attend rallies in each other’s neighborhoods. Cross the race barrier.

I marched for equality in the 1960s. It saddens me, sickens me, that I have to do it still today.

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Dancing Woman

A few weeks ago I went to a writing group I occasionally attend. One of the prompts was a drawing of a woman with wings. She appeared to be dancing. Here’s what came from that prompt.

08 August 2014

She dances to a rhythm only she can hear.

When she first started dancing, nearly forty years ago, she had no wings.

But it was, and still is, often said that she dances as an angel might, her long skirts flowing and twirling.

She dances at home. She dances in the streets. She dances her way into church and she dances in the Safeway while choosing frozen peas.

I believe she dances through her dreams each night. I believe she dances her dreams each day.

About fifteen years ago, she found a lump. Rather, she found two. She eventually danced her way to the doctor’s office where she was referred to a specialist, and then danced her way there.

She paused in her dancing through the biopsy and danced up a storm when she was told the lumps were not cancerous. She danced as she told the doctor she’d live with the lumps.

But the lumps grew. And within a few months they’d sprouted tiny downy feathers. She danced her delight.

By the end of that year, the downy feathers had become tiny wings.

She danced to Chavella’s house to get her dresses altered to accommodate the wings.

Each year the wings have grown, and each year she gets her clothing altered to accommodate the size.

She says she will dance on her own grave.

Pieces of Lives

I wrote this in July 2000.

It was only 9 am, but my face glowed red in the desert heat. Sweat ran into my eyes. Arms were slathered in SPF 25 yet they’d turned pink. I’d drunk close to half a gallon of water in the hour I’d been out there. I’m part of a group who volunteers weekly to pick up trash that migrants heading to El Norte have left on ranchers’ lands. What I was finding, however, were pieces of lives.

Near a small campsite, I found two small plastic packs. One was black, a woman’s. It held a little food that had gone bad, part of a roll of toilet paper, and two maxi pads in their pink wrappers. I wondered how desperate a woman, or any person, must be to try crossing this desert on foot. How desperate would I have to be?

Newspapers report cut fences and land strewn with dirty diapers and water jugs, but what I’ve seen has not matched what I’ve read. To be sure, our group has found hundreds of water jugs which we cart off to recycle. But we’ve also found car batteries, an old sofa, a refrigerator, and a car bumper. We haven’t seen a single diaper in the weeks we’ve come out and haven’t seen any fences cut.

Reaching for my water again, I wondered only why there weren’t more abandoned containers. The heat had already convinced me to quit for the day, so I couldn’t conceive of spending days, even weeks, pushing through mesquite, walking dry washes, and evading La Migra. How is it that the desert heat has killed only sixteen of those who’ve passed through here in the last few months? If I’d been one of the migrants, it’s likely I’d be one of the dead.

Poverty can force a person to push scant belongings into a small pack, string a gallon of water on a rope, and say goodbye to friends and family. To head off into a land of thorns, venomous snakes, and terrible heat with no lakes or rivers. How must it look to those from the rain forests of the south?

in addition to all the dangers of the land, there are men with binoculars and rifles searching for those brave enough to cross the area by foot.

The money migrants pay for assistance in crossing guarantees nothing. In exchange for money, migrants get promises laced with lies; they get led through the desert without enough water or food; they get packed into cars and vans with poor brakes and tires. If spotted by the men with rifles, they are abandoned by the ones they’d paid to guide them. Some are left alone to die.

I looked at the small collection of things I’d decided, for reasons I don’t understand, to keep. I have a green ball cap from the 1996 Super Bowl; a yellow bandana; a blue toothbrush; thin white socks tucked neatly into a pair of tennis shoes; the identity card of man from southern Chihuahua; diarrhea medication. Pieces of lives

Camping

Camping! Time to take the Aliner to the lake.

Cinda came over and we popped her up easily. The inside was quite dusty, but then as we cleaned it out we found the camper had been leaking. Thankfully, no mold. We got the insides all cleaned out and were ready for the next part.

Keys. Well, the keys were on the key rack hanging inside the back door. But then the wall was sheet rocked, and I have no idea where the workers put the key rack. Or the keys. And I am not able to find out.

I called the neighborhood locksmith. Retired. No idea who else might give it a try. I called area trailer parts places and they referred me to Aliner. I wrote to Aliner on their secure website. They no longer make the lockset and referred me to a local RV Center. This could go round and round.

So we can’t lock the trailer up. Okay. We’ll live with that. Anything valuable gets locked in the car.

Next, the front, by the hitch, has a retractable wheel that can be lowered to move the trailer around. The wheel is removable and the retractable part is used to stabilize the trailer. There is a piece of metal used to join the two pieces. That metal tube was missing.

Trini, the amazing man who works for me sometimes, found a piece of metal – not the original piece – and made it work. Hooray!

Get the little triangular levelers to put under each corner? Check. Long mirrors to attach to the car so I can see around the Aliner? Check.

Put the tow bar in and move her into place! Woo!!!

Tow bar? Where’s the tow bar?

I last used it a few months ago to tow a junk trailer to the yard to fix up and use to haul things away from here (big trash, broken washing machine, etc.) Now, just where did the tow bar go after that? I cannot recall, nor can my partner. We both remembered seeing it certain places, and Trini and I have  looked everywhere. No tow bar.

Clearly it is somewhere. Make that Somewhere with a capital S. But exactly where is, at this point, a mystery.

So instead of camping tomorrow, Cinda and another friend are coming and we’re emptying the carport and getting rid of stuff.

Woo! Carport cleaning!

Addendum: tow bar was found during the carport cleaning. Camping soon!

Ambra and Mary

All I could see of Ambra was a pair of skinny white legs sticking out from under her VW bug. Mary the Dirty Goose was patrolling the grounds, strutting her stuff, her head slowly swaying side to side. She honked contentedly, quietly.

Ambra carefully loosened the nut of the oil pan. Perhaps if she hadn’t been so intent on her mission, so determined not to spill any oil, she might have seen it coming.

Mary’s head suddenly dropped to the ground, her beady eyes focused on an imagined intruder. With a proud honk, she charged forward and latched her beak onto one of those soft white legs just as Ambra twisted the nut loose from the oil pan.

I heard the thunk of Ambra’s head against metal, followed by ear-splitting screams and curses. I spun around to see Mary viciously clinging to a flailing leg as Ambra attempted to kick, thrash, and roll her way out from under the car. She finally emerged, her blond hair dripping oil

I was frozen, first with amazement, then with laughter, By the time I was able to make it across the yard to help, Ambra had grabbed Mary by her long white neck. This only made the goose more determined to hang onto her prey. Mary finally popped loose from Ambra’s leg, after which she flew (not by her own power) at least twenty feet through the air.

Sizing up the situation correctly, Mary took off at a full goose gallop, running and honking for her life. She was pursued by an oil-dripping crazy woman, screaming references to goose dinners and down quilts.