Dana’s Highlights of “Shades of Youth, Youth Speak On Privilege and Power” premiere film showing, Friday January 23rd 7 to 9:30pm at Inner Light Ministries, Soquel, CA (film trailer: http://www.antiracism.com/shades_of_youth.html)

 

I felt my spirit shining with joy as the lights dimmed down in Inner Light Ministries’ social hall with every seat taken, watching people still flowing into the room. Standing room only. It felt good to take a seat on the carpet with the youth and adult allies flooding to the front of the room. I could spot my dad, grandma, room mates, and old high school friends waiting patiently not knowing what to expect as a mix of community gathered to engage in dialogue around racism and white privilege. How far could we go with such 250 people in the room? Could some healing take place? Who is in this audience? Are we ready to dive into white privilege? I was in a “moment in time,” feeling the profoundness to be standing before an audience with my best friend Jasmine and Lex about to stand tall in creative resistance through spoken word. The high school youth in the room reminded me that 15 years before I swam in confusion, not getting it all together why there was separation between white peers and youth of color. I didn’t even speak the term “white privilege,” and now we were about to watch brilliant young people articulate circles around racism and privilege. What I knew back then was a deep sadness and clear sense that my innate creativity was stifled in this unspoken confusion.

 

Back to the Film Showing, people pouring in, what were many of them sensing? Were many of us on different planets of feelings and analysis around the systems and interpersonal damage of racism? What were their reasons for wanting to be here on a rainy Friday night? Could being in community around healing racism be more real in 2009? Am I a catalyst in this process with my poetry and residual not knowing?

 

During artist and musician warm up time I had the opportunity to practice freestyle spoken word for the first time. Truth be told, I wanted to run away, play small, rest up and prepare some more in my luxury of whiteness. Instead I went up to the mic and let a piece come out like a prayer for freedom. Free from silence that has held my white ancestors hostage to assimilation. When Lauren asked people in the room to stand up if their family spoke about racism on a regular basis, I witnessed white youth near me stand up right away, then realizing that their families did not speak about it 2 to 3 times a week, sat down and physically got it, that WE mostly don’t talk about racism in our white families. The journey of these white youth trying to stand up then sitting back down was a good learning point for me. It was disappointing for me in my own journey to realize that the white adults in my life did not have the tools to speak to white privilege. That being stuck was a common thread. That not having the tools to understand this primary division and dehumanization in our world is like seeing a baby not being able to hold her close. Feelings, understanding a deeper place of knowledge never tapped into. It was important for me to learn that this silence was on purpose and that my generation and future generations of white youth can continue to heal past legacies through breaking the code of white silence.

Ricky Sherover-Marcuse in her article “Towards A Perspective on Eliminating Racism: Twelve Working Assumptions,” wrote as number twelve, “All people come from traditions which have a history of resistance to injustice, and every person has their own individual history of resistance to oppressive social conditioning. This history deserves to be recalled and celebrated. Reclaiming one’s own history of resistance is central to the project of acquiring an accurate account of one’s own heritage. When people act from a sense of informed pride in themselves and their traditions, they will be more effective in all struggles for justice.” (http://www.unlearningracism.org/writings/eliminate_racisim.htm).

(to be continued)

 

Shades Of Youth” spoken word excerpt on white privilege –

 

Whiteness defined through sayings such as the good old days when “our” forefathers created land of the free 

White privilege is thinking I can write the perfect poem

that will fix racism in America, save the world

because I learned from every adult to believe in me.

 

White privilege is pretending like these words don’t make me want to fly away to lala land

cause I got to keep it together and be better than those white folks who are racists.

White privilege is the ways I’ve hidden from people of color cause I knew my prejudice would be discovered, kept silent telling myself it wasn’t me who committed histories or atrocities.

White privilege is thinking I have no culture, that race does not matter

5 generations deep in America

I can no longer smell the fragrance of ancestral lands, nor songs, sayings, stories, nor recipes.

Irish, German, Scottish, English, Swiss and French

My family bought into whiteness at the cost of connection to stories of how my peoples survived and who my people are.  Roots matter.

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Growing up White in Santa Cruz

I was raised in Santa Cruz as a working/middle class hippy/yuppie child. My grandma and grandpa’s house was and still is a few blocks from the Live Oak Supermarket, yet our family did not shop there. I went to elementary school across the street, even helped plant the now soaring Oak trees when I was a little girl. I learned in silence that us white folks do not shop in the same local grocery stores as my Latino classmates and community members.  I grew up shopping at Staff of Life and New Leaf, surrounded by familiar looking white folks who only spoke in English. I learned that “our” stores had superior produce and meat, yet did not think about access to money for organic foods and about the people of color whose job it was to grow and bring these items to Staff of Life for white people like me.  I now have the language to name the racial smog I was surrounded in as a child, that called seperation between the white and Latino communities natural.  I mourn my lack of authentic relationships with children and adults of color while growing up; neighbors, classmates, community members, service workers.  Poetry is a healing tool for me to explore the smog of racism and white privilege and my conditioning in this dehumanizing mess.  Poetry is also an essential tool in my journey in unlearning racism and transforming shame into creative resistance. 

Saturday Night Privilege (May 2008)
 
9:30pm sobriety check point working class Live Oak area 
lined up police cars with flashing lights,
Live Oak Supermarket parking lot, grey toyota truck, two Latino men walking the sober line
heart racing I roll down window
white cop sees two beautiful white ladies, leans in and says, “you don’t smell like alcohol”
Lets me go
my heart sinks
I am white, presumed innocent

By Dana Kaiser-Davidson
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

When Will White People Quit Waffling?

         When I first read about “Obama Waffles” being sold at the Family Research Council Values Voters Summit, my honest reaction was that it wasn’t real. The confusion about the reality of white power being flashed proudly at a Republican conference as well as the belief that racism no longer exists shows how deeply entrenched I am in racial smog. It is useless to paint a story about a few individual racists, while claiming that I am a good white person writing about this bigoted act. Authentically I wanted to separate myself from the Christian Right, Bob DeMoss and Mark Whitlock who created this product as well every person that supported it in silence or out loud. Then I let my heart lead rather than being trapped by my mind. I felt disappointed, embarrassed and angry. Joe Barndt in his book, Understanding and Dismantling Racism, states that, “Every system and every institution in the United States was created originally and structured legally and intentionally to serve white people exclusively,” (p. 93) I look back to the media’s outrage at Reverend Wright’s sermon, when he was quoted to say, that the U.S is under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan. The media’s reaction reflects the loss of critical thinking within white culture. Reverend Wright shows us white folks through example, that people of color have no choice but to confront the silence of white power. One does not need to look further than Santa Cruz, CA to see the truth of Rev. Wright’s statement. KCBS reported July 10th, 2008 that two white men had been found distributing fliers asking white people to join the KKK to preserve the “white Christian civilization.” The County Sheriff’s officials did not arrest these men because they were not “breaking any laws,” and were in fact found that same night distributing more fliers. The lack of accountability of these KKK members by County Sheriff officials shows us plainly how white power operates to keep white power in place. The media outrage at the promotion of “Obama Waffles” still to this day being sold online, is completely void.

 

        It became evermore clear that it is essential for us white folks to open our eyes to the way white power operates in the U.S. Joe Barndt states that, “while white power is supposedly no longer approved or openly supported by law, it continues to not only exits, but to thrive. The evidence being, the U.S. Congress and our state legislatures are still mostly white. The CEO’s and boards of directors of most of our major corporations are still mostly white. The presidents and faculties of most of our universities are still mostly white. And even far worse, the underlying mission, purpose, values structure and culture of most of these institutional structures are still defined in the same terms as they were when they were legally serving only white people,”(p. 94).

 

 

        Although it is easy for liberal white folks like me to simply point the finger at conservative white folks, it is essential that we take this opportunity to look at the larger system of white power without getting immobilized by guilt or shame. Barndt points to the years 1492 to 1865, to see the two fundamental assumptions that were the building blocks of white power. The first assumption is that, “white people were the only humans. We were civilized. We had souls. We were Christian. We were in charge. And all the land and resources belonged to us….” (p. 92). In contrast, “people of color were not considered human.” Native Americans and African Americans were both legally considered to have no souls, no human rights had no rights, therefore justifying slavery and genocide. As a way to enforce white power and reinforce the non-humanness of Africans Americans during slavery and afterwards, white people depicted African Americans through caricatures. White folks bought Aunt Jemima syrup bottles, depicting a black woman who is jolly, passive and content to be a servant to a white family. These caricatures of black people were meant to keep white folks believing that white was superior and to reinforce that African Americans were non-human. “Obama Waffles” instills the same message that white is superior, where as people of color are inferior.

 

         The question that I am grappling with is how can we as a white culture begin to heal this legacy of white power without merely blaming a few white folks for their individual racism? How has this legacy of denying humanity to people of color hurt us white folks? I experience a sense of separation on the daily with white folks, as we operate in a culture of individualism. I experience isolation from friends, room mates, and family from our collective present inability to perceive how institutions here in progressive Santa Cruz , California are operating to exclusively serve us white folks. The privilege of being able to not think critically about the implications of holding Santa Cruz KKK members accountable, nor the creators and buyers of “Obama Waffles,” severs my ability to experience close relationships with people of color. The desire to blame a small group of white folks for their racism, only perpetuates white power. The false sense of perfectionism within white culture that has me trying to find the perfect words to inspire my white friends, roommates and family to open our eyes and our mouths; to begin dialoguing through the smog, through the hurt and collective loss of humanity.

 

 

 

 

Vacationing through racial smog…..

Written by, Dana Kaiser-Davidson (age 27)

I recently took an Amtrack train from Colorado to San Jose. During the trip, there was a White ranger giving talks over the intercom about the history of the land and the railroad. He announced that one of the gifts of the railroad was the diversity of labor gave way to the ethnic diversity present in the U.S today. He painted a picture of well-treated Chinese labor being respected for their healthy food and hard work as well as fairly paid Native Americans, African Americans and Mexican Americans. Even though I knew this fairytale version omitted the history of racism against the Chinese, being legally binded to temporary work; there was no mention of the land used for the railroads had been stolen from Native Americans and Mexicans (who were called aliens of their own land); I sat in the comfort of my own seat knowing that the silence of racism was diminishing my humanity, my connection to the white folks and people of color on the train. I chose to feel bad and hide in my privilege rather than to speak up. In the section on Loss, in Tim Wise’s book, White Like Me, he says that, “People never hurt others in moments of personal strength and bravery, when they are feeling good about themselves, when they are strong and confident,” (p.126). I realize now that self-love and forgiveness are essential in speaking up to reclaiming humanity and ending racism. If I had been practicing self-love on the train, rather than dwelling in guilt, I might have had the courage to speak to the people around me to vocalize the absurdity of the ranger’s comments.  Today I choose to feel good about myself and commit to speaking up to racism especially in moments of feeling uncomfortable. Rather than trying to do it perfectly, I commit to speaking to reclaim my humanity.  Shedding the guilt and the silence mobilizes me into dealing with the loss from “whiteness” and white privilege.  Ending racism becomes an everyday “have to.”

 

 

Reflections from recent workshop, “Power and Privilege Sharing” in Santa Cruz area, facilitated by Reverend Deborah Johnson, Bonnie Wills, Lauren Parker Kucera, and C. Michael Woodstock.

 

written by Dana Kaiser-Davidson

 

I grew up thinking that the best thing I could do with my privilege was to pretend like I didn’t have it. In a group dialogue about early messages learned about privilege, I inauthentically told the group that I was taught doing good was the best thing to do with privilege. By attending two “White Ally Learning Labs” and reading several books on white privilege, I have learned many tools to support my ability to dialogue about white privilege and racism with white people. I’m also getting better at having a deeper sense of compassion for myself and other white folks.  Even so, I still felt this childhood sweaty palmed fear and desire to hide from the conversation. It was as if I wanted to use the silence as an opportunity to feel bad about myself.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until tenth grade in the cultivation of a few dear friendships with women of color that I truly began to learn through listening to their personal testimony about racism. I got it right away that I could not say, “I know what you mean,” because I had never been made to feel inferior or had my safety in jeopardy because of my skin color.  I grew up believing that my whiteness had nothing to do with having access to benefits in society because I was surrounded by white people who didn’t see themselves as having resources that people of color didn’t have.  

 When I realized that my sense of reality of how the world worked was so different than people of color, shame and guilt immobilized me. I thought silence and hiding was the only way through these feelings. The depth of this silence still grips me because White conditioning has me want to be knowledgeable, in control, comfortable and approved of.  One lesson learned…. the best thing I can do with my privilege is to first be aware and awake to it and then to authentically speak about it, break the code of white silence.

 

 

“Why Ally?”

Allies spark the whys

that ignite the fire,

that sires the desire

to retry,

and fly

and lie

down with doves.

 

By Robert Brownstone


A prayer for moving through the racial smog for white Americans

Dear Spirit,
                You are all there is. Completely connected to me and my connection to all people. I am one with you, safe in you. I affirm heaven on earth right here now. I know healing of white supremacy culture is taking place right now. I know humanity is transforming. Love heals all fear. I affirm open, authentic, loving communication. I affirm the release of Capitalism. I know complete prosperity, sustainability, and sovereignty for all beings.  I know that white Americans are waking up to the racial smog that surrounds us. I know clarity leading to justice.  Spirit is present in this smog.  I am an open channel for possibility consciousness and healing of racism. I am healing my immersion in racism and hold up this healing for all people. I know spiritual revolution is here.  Thank you for clarity, discernment, open and loving communication. Thank you for safety, vitality, and all needs met. Thank you for healing and transformation. Thank you for heaven on earth. I let this prayer be and release it into the universe. I know it is done. So it is. Amen

        My prayer was answered as I literally woke myself. The white man spraying gas for me is a metaphor for the racial smog that has us white folk asleep to our privilege, our sense of loss from cultural ancestry, and the racism we are conditioned to act out. What is racial smog? I see it as perceived inability to see the world through a racial lens. When I think that I do not suffer from the lies   I’ve been taught about people of color, from the histories not told to me, from the present day reality that racism does exist and I am a conscious and unconscious participant in it; I am breathing racial smog. When I think I am not soulfully affected from cultural disconnection from my ancestors and their Irish, Scottish, German, French and English foods, memories, stories, and music; I am soaking in racial smog. When I think that I wasn’t conditioned in whiteness, or that it does not give me unearned privileges, I am living in racial smog.

By Dana Kaiser-Davidson

 

Racial Smog

by Dana Kaiser-Davidson

It was 3am, the morning of my first White Ally Learning Lab (WALL). Sweat trickled from my palms, heart racing like the beat was in my head. Relieved to be awake in the dark stillness of sleeping humanity, I was freed from the nightmare of my mind. The next morning I was going to the WALL. Nervous excitement had me tossing and turning. Could I show up this day as open willingness to be present even in the midst of wanting to hide in the fogginess of white privilege? Would I be found out as that “bad” white person posing as an ally in ending racism? Would I have to uncover the shame of my white ancestors who turned their backs on people of color in the name of economic success called capitalism? Could I look at, hold the shadows of racism enacted in my mind and actions without running to cozy fairyland of white comfort? These were some of the questions that stirred the consciousness of my dream/nightmare.
I was gripping the ground in an open cemented quarry, 15 feet from my first best friend, a white woman named Jordan. She was curled up in the fetal position. In the distance was a white man wearing a navy green suit and army gas mask spraying green and red smog. This gas made me dizzy. The air was too cloudy to see. Fear gripped my body, tightening every muscle. I couldn’t breathe. I remember wanting so bad to be close to Jordan, get up and walk away from this power hungry man. The feeling of anxiety rose as I realized that I could lose consciousness and become powerless to what this man wanted to do with my life. I tried to move but was paralyzed. The only thing I knew to do in that moment was pray. The prayer literally woke me up from this nightmare.

“My People, White People.”

I watched a spoken word performance at a Diversity symposium put on by the College of San Mateo (CA) in April. Kicking things off in front of a multiracial crowd of students, professors and community members was Dana Davidson, young white woman reading a poem – “My People, White People.” She broke it down – the loss, confusion AND vision for a new humanity.
While listening to her, I thought to myself, Whoa she’s got courage to start with that. What is this audience going to do?? They loved it! People across race could stand together and hear the honesty and integrity in the naming of whiteness. This week we offer Dana’s poem for inspiration and healing.

My People: White People
My people: white people
Truth be told “we” never were a people, fragments of cultures that bought into privilege
called whiteness, the invisible word
I remember 10th grade family history project being more concerned about my place in the human race
Bypassed cultural legacy for oneness, WE are all one my white people said
Not a color thing, just people.

My people: white people, Land of independent nuclear families
Smothering ideals of perfection, Bottled up resentments, Blistering silences
No such thing as mistakes or getting messy
We keep quiet to our own addictions, then blame people of color for all things called bad
poverty, drugs abuse, domestic violence, molestation……. perceived as isolated problems that white people are free from.

My people: white people
We say we are not racist, yet we are raised in a racist society
Pass on stereotypes of what we think people of color are really like to our children
We are fed half-truths and lies in history books
We sit silently while children are made into puppets on T.V color
White children learn diversity through Disney’s Pocahontas and Aladdin
Stereotypes that my grandparents taught me filtered my own perceptions
My people we have been hurt to think this separation does not chain our minds and hurt our souls

As I mind my mind with forgiveness, I let go of shame for my own people
I’ve deemed myself better than
I’ve acted out the lies I’ve been told, believing I was never racist
I sat in silence, guilt immobilized my mind
Held my own spirit captive
ego chatter categorized good and bad white people

Heaven on earth looks like oneness
With my own people
What is the use of pretending I am not like those white people
Who latch onto other cultures in order to cope with fragmented family histories

My people
From Irish, Scottish, English, German and unknown descent
Carried legacies of hurts with them
Pulled up from bootstraps laced in shoes stained in blood of slavery and genocide

My people: white people
Let’s love the hurts of forgotten legacies into wholeness
Let’s forgive our forefathers and mothers as we forgive ourselves for the violence, silence, shame and separation that internalized racial superiority has caused
For living in comfortable bubbles of safety
For believing we were never racist
Lets educate ourselves and other white people to histories ignored instead of asking people of color to be our teachers or explain the hurts they have faced

My people: white people
I vow to love you arms wide open as I love my baby niece
All white people no matter what you’ve said, done, kept silent in the name of privilege
You are good people
It’s time to mourn the hurts we’ve afflicted as a people
It’s time to grieve our separation from our own indigenous heritages
each cultural legacy dropped in the name of survival

It’s time to love our peoples, love ourselves
consciously awaken from our legacy of racial smog
Into awareness of our white privileges and culture
Let us create pride in our people
birthed in freedom, shared power, prosperity and tangible oneness with all people
My people: white people, the spiritual revolution is calling you

by Dana Kaiser-Davidson

Dear White Ally

This was originaly written for April 4th, 2008

Today we commemorate the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death and in the spirit of such an inspirational leader, we leave you with a poem written by Jasmine, a multiracial woman in support of white allies. (Find your own beat when reading this!)

Dear White Ally,
Privilege is no longer a bad word and perfectionism comes with new definition: conscious humanity ever evolving
There are no boxes, charts, theorems or postulates that will give you the magic key, for fixing hasn’t ever truly worked and we are walking into healing as remedy

Dear White Ally,
I need you to know that this letter is mine, as I know my mother’s white and freckled skin as my own somewhere inside
Please take note that I am clear we are related even when you’re confused about just how exactly

Dear White Ally,
It’s purging time right now
We are to sweat out competition and exhale our attachment to capitalism
We are to still our ideas to the possibility of new thoughts
We need to question our identities and hell, we need to question our realities
We need to speak, dance, sing, paint, express
You see freedom from silence is your next evolutionary development
You might not stay cozy

Dear White Ally,
I love you
I see you and I believe in you more now then ever.