Category Archives: grattitude

Old Friends

Fountain at Lake Phalen . “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”

I had a busy week this week doing a lot of socializing and catching up.  Once upon a time, a long time ago I was involved in High School theater.   We had a foreign exchange student from Amsterdam who joined us backstage.

The theater bunch in high school was pretty tight.  We all spent whatever spare time we had hiding out in the theater shop.  We were also, many of us, involved with band and/or choir – which meant pep rallies and marching band.  There were days when I would get to school before 6am and not leave again until after midnight.

some of us back in the day….

and now!

Many of us have stayed in the area and stayed in touch.  This week we had the honor of being visited by our dear Dutch friend!  The opportunity for a reunion was enough to get a few of our out of state friends to fly in as well.

I didn’t participate in all of the activities, but we did have a lovely get together and reminiscence on Monday evening.  Many of us also got dolled up to go swing dancing at the Wabasha Caves on Thursday.

Ready to go dancing!

In addition to all of the walking down memory lane I managed to acquire the grandpuppy for the weekend.  She needed some walking as well!

Today’s walk is brought to you by the neighbors dahlias.

Another friend (this one more recent) remembered she’d bought tickets to a water lantern festival.  She was going to be out of town and offered the tickets up.   Different group this time, but still connecting with friends and being out and about.

Making a lantern at Lake Phalen

I’m really grateful for the opportunities this week.  Besides the public transitions of John McCain and Neil Simon there are also several others happening both in my family circle and for other close friends and their families.  It’s nice to have a distraction, and to be able to share memories.

One of the hardest things with loss is that the person who dies takes your shared memories with them.  That’s true with divorce, with breaking up a friendship, and especially true when a good friend or close relative dies.  Getting together with my high school bunch helped me to remember, and also made me appreciate how we share those memories.

and sending them off under a beautiful moon

The water lantern festival (in it’s non-culturally appropriated form) is also an opportunity for remembrances.  Both of the friends I attended with took the opportunity to acknowledge the people they have lost on their lanterns.  I am grateful as well for the opportunity to make new memories and cultivate new friends.

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Breathe

morning haze on the campground

The air quality is pretty bad here, I can’t imagine what it is like in California.  This time of year the air here tends to be thick with humidity and still so the particulates from the Canadian wildfires hang in the haze.  The weather forecasters keep predicting rain, which would wash some of the particulate out of the air, but we’ve been dry for quite a stretch.

Why is this relevant?  Well, last week I missed posting because I was outside breathing the “fresh” air.  I was camping north of the Twin Cities.  Spent the first couple of days in a tent and then the next several in a trailer.  The advantages of trailer camping include air conditioning and last week that made a world of difference.

“New” camper on the road needs to go into “old” spot off the road. My job to stand at the sewer intake and make sure it wasn’t run over.

I’ve never really trailer camped before so I don’t understand the ins and outs of hook-ups and reserve tanks.  I do have a friend who, having just purchased a trailer, asked for my help getting it parked and set up.  In return I’ll have access to a retreat in the summer – air conditioning included.  Seems like a win-win to me!

The last time I was tent camping I ended up in the ER.  I threw my back out, badly.  This time I had enough help and support (and I didn’t have Orion with me) that I did fine.  I even managed to be a real help to the people I was camping with.  I also took care to go to bed when I was tired (much earlier than I would at home) instead of staying up half the night around the campfire.  I made sure to stay hydrated.  I didn’t “settle in” and stop moving.

Early morning campfires to help dry off the dew.

Even so I had a nasty allergy episode.  Someone decided to spread an allergen (they had been specifically asked not to use) around the ritual circle.  This is a particulate that contains a volatile oil.  In this environment, especially with the heavy, still air, the allergen doesn’t dissipate and instead continues to be reactivated and spread.  It meant I had to miss out on much of the community activities and stay close to our campsite.  It actually could have been life-threatening if I was less careful or less well equipped to handle my reaction.

The thing about accessibility is that accommodations were made and someone chose to ignore them.  I see that a lot.  People block aisles, drop into parking spots “for just a minute”, use public accessible bathrooms as employee changing rooms or (as in this case) think their experiences with disability are equal to everyone else so if it works for them that means it’s accessible.  This behavior is nasty when done in ignorance and down right evil when it is done with self-righteous intention.

I have spent 50 years of my life with an awareness of access and disability.  My sister had sever enough allergies growing up that we had to leave the city at this time of year because the air quality was too bad.  That was before the advent of central air commonly available in housing.   I’ve cooked around food issues (for friends and family, conference style events and as a personal chef).  I’ve been pushing Orion around in a wheelchair for 25 years.  I have had my own experiences with access issues as well.

Our camp. The tent I stayed in on the right.

If I’ve learned anything it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all.  I know my son’s wheelchair is not as wide as standard and just because he can get somewhere does not mean it is “accessible”.  I know that what we need in a parking spot is different than what a driver with a disability might need, or someone with a scooter.   I know that distance isn’t the same issue for someone pushing Orion as it is for someone dealing with Fibromyalgia or a breathing disorder.

Many people, myself included, who deal with asthma will joke that “breathing is over rated”.  It’s actually not, and that’s why people die of asthma.  That’s why environmental controls on air quality are not just an inconvenience.  That’s why setting off fires, that become forest fires, that impact air quality across states is criminal.  That’s why I run my air conditioner all summer long, it filters the air.  It makes it possible to breathe.

Step by Step

I’m tired.

I’ve been writing this blog in my head all week.  I just can’t seem to find a theme I can stick with for more than a paragraph or two.  Or, if I’m honest with myself, a sentence or two.

Cynthia Wallin in Memoriam

Regular readers will know a friend of mine passed away and her memorial service was this last weekend.  I’m in the second or third tier of mourners.  Tier one – the decision makers and those truly being overwhelmed with waves of grief.  Tier two – the organizers.  The ones asking the decision makers what they want and striving to make it happen.  The people whose grief makes them prickly, rude, short-tempered, unclear and perfectly sure they have everything in line because keeping things in line is how they cope.  Tier three – the support system for the first two tiers.  The listeners.  The worker bees.  The one’s who are distant enough to put off their mourning until it’s convenient (at least a little more effectively).

I helped prep and man the buffet table. Yes, I have trays… and coolers.

Having the memorial made it real.  That’s part of the point of course.  Being gifted some mementos makes it real and personal (which it has always been, but denial is so convenient).  Having nothing left to “get done” means there is no longer an excuse to put off the emotional response.

Cancer Sucks

I’m sure the death certificate doesn’t say my friend died of cancer.  But it is certainly the undiagnosed and untreated cancer that caused the heart failure.

I’m grateful my friend didn’t die alone at home, but had people around her who cared about her.

I’m grateful my friend went quickly, all at once, rather than having to slowly and painfully waste away.

I’m grateful her very elderly mother dared to get on a plane and put herself in the hands of a community of her daughter’s friends whom she had never met.

I’m grateful for the presence of people who spoke about areas of my friend’s life that I wasn’t privy to.

One of the many, many things Cynthia made by hand were candles. We all took some home to burn in her honor.

I’m angry that a cancer that large and impactful goes undiagnosed for so long.  I’m angry that the complaints of a large woman (both exceptionally tall and not willowy) are dismissed by our medical community as always being about weight.  I’m upset that no matter how good the insurance you’ve got, unless you know what to ask for medicine is practiced according to the insurance company guidelines rather than actual medical need.

I had breakfast today at Gilda’s Club.  It’s a sort of monthly social event.  At Gilda’s I am surrounded by people living with cancer, many of whom know they have no hope of a cure.  I am always buoyed up by the spirit of care and acceptance.  I am reminded that there is pain and sorrow, but also hope and joy.

I met Gayle at Gilda’s Club about 4 years ago. She continues to smile through her cancer journey.

I’m putting one foot in front of the other.  Step by step.

Summer Holidays

Family fun

We spent all of the 4th of July week (and both weekends) up at my folks house.  It was quite the event.  Small resort towns around the Brainerd Area do big celebrations.  We didn’t watch any fireworks, but we could hear them.  Every evening!

Opa and Jager on there way off to Waldsee

Because we came up, Dad got to get several things checked off his “to do” list.  He went to a meeting, got his snow blower tuned up, and put new tires on the car.  He also had his buddy Orion along for 3 parades and a trip up to International Day at Concordia Language Villages

Orion attended Waldsee, the German village, with his Opa as his aid for 10 years starting 20 years ago.  It was fun for the two of them to return to their old stomping grounds.  There were even several people there who remembered them from years gone by.   The old Dean, Karl, noticed them across the way and stopped what he was doing so he and his wife could catch up with Jager and Opa.

Mom usually makes us pick up the pizza and bring it home, but the promise of air-conditioning got her moving.

I kept Mom occupied while the boys were out and about.  Ordinarily we’d be taking things easy at home, but the air conditioning died the day I arrived.  So we had our own “out and about” adventures.  We decided it was too hot to be home and went out for a drive and pizza.

We had a great “girls day” and a beautiful lunch

We collected my sister, Andrea, and ran errands in Brainerd.  (That really meant lunch at Prairie Bay and Mom sitting in the air conditioned car while one or the other of us ran into the store.)

We ate pretty well at home too.  When I’m there I do a lot of the cooking, or at least the meal planning.  When I can stand it, I’ll enlist Dad’s help.

Dad does a great job on the grill

 

 

That’s especially true for grilling.  I’m more than happy to let him set up the coals and carry things back and forth, at least most of the time.  We’re still in mourning about that beautifully cooked salmon.

But sometimes the carrying is a problem

 

 

Dad did have a chance to redeem himself.  At my request he made mussels and a fresh focaccia to go with them.  Even Orion thought they were really tasty!

The baker with his masterpiece

It was a great trip.  We had a great time.  It was also pretty physically demanding.  The drive took at least an hour longer than usual – in both directions.  The heat and humidity was draining, and it wasn’t always easy to breathe.  General household chores (which I do more of up there than at home) take their toll, as do extra transfers with Orion and massage work on Mom.

Orion thinks seafood is pretty good stuff

Now I’m glad to be home, laying on my back on an ice pack.

Sorry about not being able to get the photos aligned properly.

 

Social Media

I’ve been neglecting my blog.

Mom sitting in the sun (I’m reflected in the glass door)

There are a multitude of reasons for this, and even more excuses.  It’s summer, no one reads blogs in the summer.  I’ve been spending a lot of time up at my parent’s and they don’t have the internet.  I keep forgetting to take pictures.

The truth is that social media is a double-edged sword.  Addictive and depressing, narrowing the information bandwidth, and allowing us to pretend we’re connecting with people, creating an illusion of a network of friends.   At the same time it really does help keeping track of our loved ones at a distance.  It can be an efficient way to organize, or spread information.  It can be a meeting ground and a place to begin new, real, relationships.

Like most things, making social media work for us rather than against us requires work.  Hitting the like button and sharing the facebook generated and suggested birthday meme isn’t really work.  Counting how many “friends” you have and playing games across a social platform doesn’t build relationships.

My daughter (I got to hang with her friends for her birthday) doesn’t read my blog. Ever.

I have friends who read my blog.  I know this because they’ll comment, or call and ask for follow up.  (Or message me to alert me to a gramatical error.)  When I see them they’ll be fairly up to date on what’s been going on in my life.   I have friends who don’t read my blog.  They are surprised at old news and entirely unashamed when I comment that I talked about it on my blog.  (If you really wanted to keep up……)

I also have regular readers who feel like friends.  I’ve read their blogs, and made comments.  They’ve read my blog and made comments.  We have some things in common.  We keep track.  But it’s hard to read all the blogs and maintain all the long distance, never met you in person relationships.  Bloggers come and go, getting caught up in other aspects of their lives.

Orion is really good about liking and sharing my posts. But I suspect he just reads them to see what I’m saying about him. 🙂

I am truly grateful for all the people who take the time to check in.  I am delighted by the little likes and shares, and genuinely appreciate the support.  I am thrilled and if I’m honest intimidated by the comments.  I try to check in and respond back.  Sometimes it’s overwhelming.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in my social media outpourings.  Thank you for being that oddity that is an on-line friend.  Thank you for your likes, your shares, your comments, your patience, your continuing checking in and checking up on me.

Charities

Anne is the Volunteer Coordinator at Gilda’s Club. Getting nametags ready for the Imagine a Place Breakfast

Many of you know that I do regular volunteer work for Gilda’s Club Twin Cities.   Gilda’s is a place where support, education, classes in healthy living, social support and community resources are made available to anyone impacted by cancer – for free.   That’s not just people with a cancer diagnosis, but their families and support systems.  It’s an incredible organization and a beautiful and healing environment.

Because Gilda’s does not demand anything of its members, it is supported entirely by community donations.  Our clubhouse is a gift of time, talent, and resources of many volunteers, community members and business organizations.  The position I occupy, Gilda Greeter, is a volunteer position that many of the group of Gilda greeters have been doing for years.  There is a lot of love at Gilda’s.

Last week was our big annual fundraiser.  The “Imagine a Place” Breakfast started to raise funds to create a clubhouse in our area.  Imagine a Place, our founders said, where people could go to get help and support.  We continue to imagine and to grow.  That takes a lot of time, a lot of hands, and honestly a lot of money.  I put in some extra hours last week to help out.

Girls night out, and we all got an I ATE sticker to support the Aliveness Project

The Aliveness Project has been around in the Twin Cities for a lot longer.  They are an organization that supports people who are living with HIV and AIDs.  They were one of the first groups that offered free testing.  They also provide education and support to their members.

I’ve not been as active with the Aliveness Project, although many of my friends have.  One of the best fundraisers they do is called Dining Out for Life.  Essentially, restaurants who participate donate a percentage of the days take to the Project.  It’s fun to make a date for a night out and know that because of the timing you are also supporting a good cause.

In all honesty, we didn’t plan our night out to happen along with Dining Out for Life.  (In spite of the fact that we were all aware it’s a thing.)  We didn’t pick the restaurant Northbound Smokehouse because it was one of the biggest supporters of the event (a platinum level participant).  We just got lucky.

We ordered big, ate really well, tipped generously and all threw a little something extra in the envelope the Dining Out volunteers provided.  We were happy, and grateful, to be enthusiastic participants.  It was fun, it was easy, and most especially it was a good cause.

Minnesota has one of the most active non-profit communities in the nation.  We have a council that reviews non-profits and provides information about how their money is distributed.  We have community events, generous business owners and an understanding that if those in need do better, we all do better.

How do you support your community?

Downsizing

This project required a dumpster, a truck, and 3 cars packed full of stuff to go.

I’ve been posting a little inconsistently because I’ve been spending a lot of weekends “up north” at my parent’s house.  As they age their needs have changed.  Mom is mostly using a walker to get around, even in the house.  She’s really needing a wheelchair if she’s out and about.

Literally could not take 1 step into this closet when we started. The stuff on the floor was piled 1/2 way up to the lower bar.

There was a big effort in March to get Mom a hospital bed to sleep in.  She can use the adjustability.  It will also help to have the grab bars just to roll over.  We acquired a bed from one of the relatives (in the next state over).  The logistics of getting the bed here and installed have been daunting.

The biggest dilemma in all of this has been space.  My parents hang on to everything.  As my Mom has lost track of what she has, she’s found the need to “replace” things that never were lost.  We’ve seen them using what we would call rags and bought new as well.  Then we discover the problem is just that the new stuff is being “saved for special.”

There used to be a path along the near wall. The walker couldn’t get INTO the room

We are repeatedly invoking the mantra “Use the stuff!  If you don’t use it, then toss it.”  We’re at the point  where the hospital bed is ready to install and the white gloves come off.  We’ve spent the last weekend cleaning, decluttering and tossing.  The whirlwind also included putting in new faucets in all the sinks (to stop the dripping).

It’s been a little distressing, a little disgusting, and required a lot of patience.  The end result is that Mom can actually take her walker into any room in the house.  Furniture has been moved and cleaned behind and under that had been collecting dust for 20 years.  There is still a lot to do, but this is a good stopping point.

This room has always been a problem.

Here’s the after. Andrea is justifiably proud. Dad is a little unnerved.

There is a lot of disorientation, especially on Mom’s part.  It will take her some time to get used to the space.  Dad has to touch everything that’s been put away and make sure that his most precious memorabilia is where he can get his hands on it at a whim.  I’m sure in a couple of weeks piles will begin to accumulate again.  Better is still better.

Mom is pretty happy. There’s actually a workable pathway out the door!

Thanks to my sister Andrea, her husband Butch, her son Zac and his SO Darcy, and Andrea’s daughter Alyx (who spent the weekend scrubbing).   I couldn’t have touched this job and they took the lead on all of it.  I’m thankful to be able to help at all.  5 years ago, I couldn’t have done anything.

Our culture has lost track of the sacredness of caring for our elders.  We don’t have the time, services, support or even the examples of how to handle this.  We are trying to do this work from a distance.  3 hours is no distance from my parents compared to what many of my friends deal with.   Very few of us anymore have the resources to take our aging parents into our homes.  We do what we can, and are grateful for the opportunity.

Losing Time

Photo by Gianna Olson (one of our group this weekend)

Daylight Savings time is hard on the body, especially in the spring.  I spent much of the weekend indulging my own body clock.  That was great, but since I’m more of a night owl, it made the spring forward adjustment even more difficult.

I am doing better than I expected under the circumstances.  I attribute that to taking some time out for a Sauna.

Sauna is a social/spiritual/cultural event.  There are sauna/sweat practices in many northern cultural traditions.  In the Twin Cities there is actually a club, the 612 Sauna Society that was founded to explore and share the Norse sauna traditions.

The 612 Sauna Society sets up their portable sauna

This month they’ve set up in the courtyard of the Swedish Institute.  A good friend decided she’d like to try sauna (she’d never done one) and I got an invite.  I chose to see this as a continuation of my birthday celebrations.  Especially after last week’s snowstorm I’ve seen lots of people succumbing to the “is winter ever going to be over blues”.  Part of the reason I maintain the “older you are longer you get to celebrate” philosophy is to combat that.

It was a perfect day to spend the afternoon sweating.  In a Scandinavian setting sauna is usually done in cycles.   You warm up to the core and then come out into the cold and cool all the way down.  The “rinse repeat” can mean coming out of the sauna and jumping into the snow or a cold lake,  doing a cold water splash, or just hanging out.  We did three rounds, and mostly skipped the “rinse” part of the program, although it was certainly an option.

Inside is inviting and peaceful

The 612 volunteers actually recommended a slower cool down.  The quick splash, or even a brisk breeze at colder temperatures, can make you feel ready to return to the sauna before the core has really cooled.  We drank a lot of water and cooled off by the fire.   Being outside in swimsuits at 30 degrees Fahrenheit was quite sufficient, and quite pleasant.

The time in the sauna was social, but it wasn’t small talk.  In many ways the sharing was as much a release of toxins as the actual sweat.  There wasn’t a “timer” we were told to listen to our bodies and come out and go in as we would tolerate it.  We brought water bottles and the 612 Sauna Society provided water for refills so we were very conscientious about staying hydrated throughout the experience.

Refreshing to be in a swimsuit in the snow

It was a time without time.  It was a ritual without a lot of ritual.  It was an opportunity to learn more about the cultural history of sauna and about each other.  It was an opportunity to get in touch and in tune with my own body rhythms.  It was cleansing and healing.  It was delightful.

Even better is that I can tell the cleansing and healing effects have stayed with me.  My desire for just water continues to be high.  My appetite is good, but not overwhelming.  My aches and pains have eased up considerably.  I slept really well.  I’m still grumpy about the time though.  It shouldn’t be this late yet!

 

Previous, perhaps relevant, blogs:

Daylight Savings

My first Daylight Savings post

It’s not the first time I’ve been to the Swedish Institute in birthday season

Resistance and Gratitude

Somebody appreciaes the snow

This is me still not feeling much like writing.  At least this week I’ve been doing the part where I write my blog in my head.  That’s an improvement, and better is better.

I watch everyone I know sink into the cabin fever, long winter blues at this time of year.  The longer brighter days are great, but they’re not enough when we get yet another 6″ of snow.  I’m grateful to have a birthday this week.  It gives me something to look forward to and it gives me a reason to get out and celebrate.

I have the best neighbors!

I’m grateful for the neighbors, who are Karina’s age.  I haven’t had to lift a shovel all weekend and I was able to get out of my driveway to spend Sunday with a good friend wandering through the Como Park Conservatory and Zoo.  We are very fortunate to have this haven in the depths of winter.

When you walk in your skin celebrates.  There’s moisture in the air!  Your eyes delight in the variety of shades of green.  The conservatory staff is very contentious about rotating the small plants though so there are always some manner of blooming orchids.

It’s a mini tropical vacation

This time I was delighted by how many things were in fruit.  There were limes on the lime trees, chocolate pods on the cacao, star fruit and prickly custard apple.  (Now I am on a mission to try prickly custard apple or Brazilian paw paw.)  We found odd buds and blooms everywhere.  In the conservatory hope for spring thrives.

Thursday was an adventure.  Karina had the evening off (a rare occurrence) so we’d planned for her to take me out for my birthday.  Then her whiskey distributor invited her to a launch party for Jameson IPA.  (They age their whiskeys in beer barrels (caskmates) and brew their Irish Pale Ale in whiskey barrels).  I was game and we had a good time.  It was not too big a party, probably because of the snow (the first 4″ was Thursday, the 6″ was Saturday).

Don’t know what we’re getting into, but we’re game.

We critiqued the drinks the same way we often have dinner.  Debating the merits and downfalls and discussing how to use or adapt the idea.  Mostly we were pleasantly surprised.  Neither of us are big IPA fans, but the mixed drinks were well balanced and the caskmates added a level of nuance to the whiskey.

“After party” because Karina needed to do a little more “homework” checking out local hot spots

I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate your birthday.  I started last Thursday and I’ve got plans (so far) through most of March.  That’s something else to be grateful for!

 

Here are a few more photos from the conservatory, in case you needed your own touch of spring:

Even the ferns are having babies!

Cocoa pods in the tree

Bright colors breaking up the greens

 

I’ve written about the Como Zoo before:

Apparently it’s a good place for me to go when I’m “resistant”

They’ve finished the expansion, but we didn’t see any great apes Sunday

 

MLK Day

So on Martin Luther King Day I decided to use my platform to expand another voice.  My friend Crystal Blanton    is a Social Worker, an activist, and a talented writer.   Reprinted with her permission:

Losing the Illusion: The Reality of Racism Today

Losing the Illusion: The Reality of Racism Today

Jun 17, 2017

Many of us are angry right now. I am enraged by one more example, another reminder, that Black lives don’t matter in this country. After hearing the verdict today I am numb. I cannot wrap my mind around a society that clears a cop from all criminal charges after shooting and killing a man, Philandro Castille, in front of a 4 year old child and his girlfriend…. while he still had his seatbelt on.

I have been sitting in my numbness thinking about the trauma of this on that little girl, his girlfriend, his family, his community, the school children he worked with.. And the Black community at large. I have been thinking about the ways that trauma are retriggered and how that applies to racial trauma. I have been thinking about the generations of transgenerational pain in the Black community and how epigenetics pass this down generation after generation in our DNA.

It seems like year after year we have been fighting for the larger society of Americans to listen to our stories of pain, trauma, and fears. We have been working overtime to prove the existence of racism and discrimination that continues to be normal in our experience and a part of the fabric of the very society we share with others. It is interesting in today’s times to see the country continue to be divided by race, and to watch a portion of Americans come to grips with how overt racism has become (again) in the age of Trump. It is interesting to watch people come to grips with the ongoing murder of Black people by the state, and work to cope with the increasing realization that the words of our Black friends and family were truthful and real all along. It is essential for people to understand that racism is alive and well, functioning in all facets of our society and interwoven in the fabric of our history and our present.

Critical Race Theory is very applicable to this and understanding the ways that American society continues to thrive on systems of racism embedded into its very operation. And when we are evaluating the impact of racism, and ways to disrupt that pattern, we have to start looking at racism itself from a very different lens. Racism isn’t just the white hooded figure with an ignorant view on life and an affinity for the word Nigger. Racism is a system, a construct, that permeates every corner of our society and has been used as a tool for targeted success in this nation.

On the UCLA School of Public Affairs site it states that “CRT recognizes that racism is engrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. This is the analytical lens that CRT uses in examining existing power structures.” Let’s say it again for the people in the back. “The individual racist need not exist…”

People live in a place of cognitive dissonance by convincing themselves that someone is a good person and “can’t be racist”, or that people of color just want to make everything about race. Arguments even ensure about how a cop, like the one that killed Philandro Castile, “isn’t white and so it couldn’t be racism”. Ignorance about the functionality of racism in power structures and institutions, coupled with cognitive dissonance, is the reason people can believe such things. It is comfortable to think that racism is a person, that it is “bad” people, and that others can be separated from it because they have Black friends.

There are tenants to Critical Race Theory, and while those tenants are often a source of disagreement among different theorists in the field, there are a some that are universally accepted. The widely accepted CRT tenets include the following: Racism is Endemic, Race is a social construct, the power of differential racialization, interest convergence and materialist determinism, advancing the voice of the marginalized and intersectionality of identities.

In Critical Race Theory in Social Work Education: A Framework for Addressing Racial Disparities, the first tenet discusses the very point of how we view the role racism plays in society. It isn’t isolated to an individual person or experience and is not abnormal in our society. It is the normal reality of the power dynamics within the society we have created in America.

“Racism is Endemic. First, CRT asserts that racism is not an abnormal experience, but an everyday occurrence for people of color. It is reproduced in our structures, customs, and experiences. Accordingly, race should be seen as a central rather than a marginal force that defines and explains human experiences (Solórzano & Bernai, 2001). Given this endemic nature, CRT suggests that the functions and effects of racism are often invisible to people with racial privileges.”

The reality of this statement strips away the lies modern society has been able to tell itself about what racism is, how they are exempt and the accountability each person holds in the continuation of this demoralizing and deadly epidemic. What we are seeing now is how this illusion of safety for the average American has been  slipping away with every police murder of an unarmed Black person that is caught on a standard smartphone by a passing citizen.

While white America experiences the slow slipping away of the illusion of righteousness and exempt status, Black people are losing the illusion too.

Once again the Black community is faced with the reality that change isn’t really change, we still aren’t safe, and that we are rapidly slipping back to the 1970’s civil rights era. We are dealing with the harsh reminders that our bootstrap muscles are more defined than most and yet we are still target practice in these streets.

We are again and again faced with the reality that we are not in control of the narrative and our voices are too often left out of the historical accounts of our history. Coming to terms with our lack of social capital, in 2017, and the disenfranchised power-base we are holding onto, it leaves us to really think about what it means to navigate as a Black person in a modern racist society. It is comfortable for us too to believe that “We The People” now includes us…. Until it doesn’t.

Going back to the Critical Race Theory, how important is it for us to redefine our understanding of racism and the impact of the illusions of meritocracy, and good will on our psyche? How does this support or hinder positive change that promotes the survival and the ability to thrive for Black people?

For a moment, let’s dive a little deeper into the tenet about interest convergence and materialist determination.  Too often the survival of our people relies in our ability to appeal to dominant culture. Critical race theory makes space for us to understand that this itself is part of the construct of a racist society and an institutional system of privilege benefiting the majority.

“A fourth tenet of CRT is that of interest convergence and materialist determinism. This suggests that racism confers psychic and material benefits to the majority race. Further, it posits that the interests of the oppressed are addressed only when they converge with the interests of the dominant group (i.e. Whites) (Bell, 1980). According to Stec (2007), “acts that directly help blacks must implicate white interests because white economic (and other) interests and black oppression are inextricably interwoven and depend on each other for their survival” (p. 2). This means that those in the dominant culture who enact social, political, and economic change on behalf of racial minorities would only support changes if their own self-interest is better served.”


This leaves us with a lot to contemplate while we grieve yet another injustice at the hands of the state. How do we navigate a system, without the power of the dominant culture, and isolated from a system of justice that is meant to protect us? How do we heal hundreds of years of transgenerational trauma when we are living the horror that continues to retrigger the very pain of our ancestors? What does it mean to be an ally when the very nature of the system we exist within disproportionately devalues the oppressed and empowers others? When will we begin to look at how transgenerational trauma has impacted white America’s epigenetics around empathy, power, worth in our distorted systems?

I think it is time for us to begin the work of diving deeper into the construction of our societal fabric than we have ever been in order to gain understanding that will prioritize change. How can we shift what we do not understand…..

And in the meantime, I will continue to grieve for my people and the reality we are living in. I will continue to contemplate the meaning of freedom in the middle of the warzone. And I will continue to fight for the survival of myself, my family, my community and a collective consciousness that moves us back into future. In the meantime I will fight for love.

More to come…..

 

https://psychology.iresearchnet.com/counseling-psychology/counseling-theories/critical-race-theory/

http://www1.uwindsor.ca/criticalsocialwork/system/files/Constance-Huggins.pdf

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