Responsibility

by Buzz on 20/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

reply0620 Omelas

I keep coming back to Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.

In it there is a wonderful, happy utopia that requires just one single tiny injustice in order for everyone to enjoy the glorious benefits of their society.  And most of the citizens either put the thought of that injustice from their mind, or else they rationalize it as being for the common good.

But a few cannot live with it, no matter how much they benefit from it.

And in the end, they have to walk away.

The people leaving the Christian church today
are the ones walking away from Omelas.

I am a Christian.  I believe in what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  I try — with varying degrees of success, and often falling short of my best possible effort — to live by those teachings.

As long as we let the bigots and the con-men and the slickee boiz have access to the TV cameras and microphones, we will drive people away from the Christian church.

And when we drive away people who have been raised in the faith — or rather, raised in the most toxic sub-sets of the faith — we cannot feign surprise when they finally see the truth, realized they have been lied to all their lives, and then turn with a vengeance on those who did the lying.

That’s where the most militant anti-Christians are coming from.

Those who enjoy privilege are afraid they will enjoy it no longer. They are not afraid of mistreatment, they are afraid they will be held responsible for hurtful things they say and do to others whom they can safely ignore now. The outliers like the racist thug who shot up Charleston will commit worse and worse outrages.

According to current demographics, in 2048 the non-Hispanic white population in the US will be 49%. They are already below the crucial tipping point where either party can get elected just by appealing to white votes only; to achieve victory in the future a political party has to either cultivate non-white voters or suppress non-white voters.[1]

That’s the bottom line, white Christian America (especially we males):
We may have not caused the problem, but if we refuse to take steps to correct it, if we deny it even exists, then we assume full responsibility for it and all the guilt that goes with it.

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[4/1]  I’ll leave it to the astute reader to decide which party does which.

 

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It’s A Big Bowl Of Toxic Turd Stew & We’re All Taking A Bite

by Buzz on 19/06/2015

I started my series on Rachel Dolezal because I saw it as a safe way of examining the issue of race relations in this country by focusing on a relatively harmless / certainly ridiculous incident.

As I noted in the series, my family is about as multi-ethnic as they come (all we need is an Arab and a Jew and a Native American to complete the set).  I cannot look at people being targeted because of their color or ethnic background and not see members of my family as the ones on the receiving end.

But reality has a way of sabotaging my plans, and in the middle of what was meant to be a jokey / lighthearted-but-sincere look at race relations in this country, yet anther toxic turd deposited himself in the punchbowl.

This time, as opposed to my truncated Christmas series of a few years back, I opted to complete the series as planned. This is no disrespect to the victims of the Charleston shootings or desire to trivialize that tragedy by deflecting it to something minor.

I have a long piece that will be coming online later today, perhaps tomorrow. It was started before the Charleston massacre, and was sparked by comments on an entirely different matter, but the truth is the problem this country faces consists of the nexus point where several overlapping Venn diagrams of evil create a truly toxic stew.

And while the country could easily shrug off any one of those Venn circles, when they are added on top of one another they become force multipliers.

We have got to attack the problem from multiple angles if we’re to have any hope of solving it.

facepalm Jesus new angle

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Appropriate Appropriation

by Buzz on 18/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7 / part 8

“I really think that white people are from another planet because when we came to America, it was so nice. It was just Indians. And they weren’t even Indians. We called them that by accident. And we still call them that. We knew in a month that it wasn’t Indians but we just don’t give a shit. We never correct it.” Louis CK

At a certain point, it becomes very difficult to tell where cultural appropriation is benign and where it turns malicious.

When bratty fratty college students dress like “pimps & hos” or Mexican banditos or American Indians to ridicule those groups, it is always with the deliberate intent to denigrate the groups portrayed.

If they are ridiculed, then they are not worthy of respect; if they are not worthy of respect, they can be safely ignored.

But again, one extreme is not the entirety of the story.

For every drunken college student trying to prove they are one of the entitled masters of the universe, there are thousands of young girls from all cultures and backgrounds who think Disney’s Mulan is the Greatest Heroine EVER and can’t wait to dress up like her for Halloween.[1]

And it doesn’t matter if Disney’s version is too…too…Disneyfied or not accurate or not the best telling of the story: The fact remains they want to dress like / assume the mantle of someone they genuinely admire.

Take a look at the picture below.

Traditional Korean Costumes

Look at the big dumb ugly migook wearing a Korean king’s costume. Why would that schmuck[2] do such a thing?

See the beautiful Korean woman standing beside him? That’s his wife.what does she see in him

They were visiting family in Korea.

They went to the Korean folk village to see historical Korean houses and costumes and recreations of thousands of years worth of culture.

She wanted to get their pictures taken in traditional Korean costumes.

It made her happy.

He’s big and dumb and stupid but he’s not that stupid.[3]

He got his picture taken with her.[4]

Every week thousands of people show up at science fiction and comic book conventions dressed as their favorite characters from comics and manga and TV shows and movies and video games and books from around the world.

Cultural barriers are annihilated!

They dress and cross dress and vault cultural boundaries in delight, not to denigrate and ridicule, but to genuinely celebrate symbols and characters that mean something to them, that resonate with them.

When you see some bearded guy at a comic con dressed as Sailor Moon, it’s not because he is ridiculing Japanese culture.[5]

It’s because he has found something in that specific sub-set of Japanese culture — a sub-set that now transcends its country/ies and has come home full circle — that speaks to him.

Yeah, it’s funny.

Yeah, it’s ridiculous.

Yeah, it means something to him.

He wouldn’t go to all that trouble of emulating the character’s costume as closely as possible if he didn’t think it was worthy of respect.

If he was just some drunken college kid shovelin’ shit on his perceived inferiors, he would just throw together a costume that matches his preconceptions of what he’s ridiculing.

You only go to that much trouble when you love something.

Apply this across the board to a thousand and one — a million and one!  a billion and one! – interfaces between people of one culture and another.

There’s no need to hoard our experiences:
Sharing them with others will not diminish them in our lives.

There’s no need to fear contamination from other cultures:
We will not be lessened if we acknowledge other people have ideas we find useful.

We don’t have to pretend.

We can simply be.

So what’s the punchline to the Rachel Dolezal story?

I don’t know.

I wish I had one.

She did a dumb thing.

But it was a dumb thing we can learn from.

We are far from home on the matter of race — and class — in this country.

We’re entering into a perilous time not only for this nation but the entire world.

We can choose to live in fear, or we can choose to live in respect.

We can choose to live unjustly, or we can choose to live justly.

We can choose to constantly strive to win, to dominate, to rule, to denigrate, to lord over…

…or we can choose to live in peace with one another.

We don’t need any grand new plans.

The instruction books are very simple and very clear.

As Daryl Cunningham observed:
“There is no them or us. There’s only us.

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[9/1]  There’s another cultural appropriation!

[9/2]  And another!

[9/3]  There’s a reason they’ve been married 40+ years.

[9/4]  And, damn, but I make one fine lookin’ king.

[9/5]  Which, in the specific case of manga and anime, is a Japanese cultural appropriation of Walt Disney’s style of drawing.

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Different Drummers

by Buzz on 18/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7

Q: What’s the difference between a jazz guitarist and a rock guitarist?

A: A rock guitarist plays 3 chords in front of thousands of people.

Cultural appropriation happens.  Period.  Full stop.

Charley-Pride-Country-Charley-P-329309

Like forensics at a crime scene, two cultures cannot encounter each other without incurring some mutual contamination.

The dominant culture is typically blind to any negative impact they make on the other culture.  Any change they recognize is seen only as a god thing.

They absorb whatever they fancy from the non-dominant culture, rarely asking what it is for, what it represents.  Objections to their trivialization of other cultures is treated as…trivial.

There is a pragmatic logic to this — things are things, meant to be used — and not all cultures, much less all individuals in those cultures value things the same way.

But there is also the matter of individuals (or groups, or cultures) deliberately undercutting the validity of others by taking their unique experience and re-casting it as something for the dominant group to possess as the sole curators and interpreters.

An example of
cultural appropriation

done right is rock’n’roll,
derived from rhythm & blues.

While rock remains a predominantly white expression in the US, it never denigrates but rather always celebrates its origins in old African-American blues.

African-American blues are neither ignored nor compromised, but still flourish as a unique expression of that experience.

Further, in addition to rock, the blues have also evolved into a number of other uniquely African-American and multi-cultural music forms.

But at the opposite end of the spectrum we find the wrong kind of cultural appropriation in the use of Native American symbols and names in sports.

Now, the standard defense is that those names are tributes to the peoples and tribes and cultures they are derived from, but one finds this claim rather nonsensical:  There are no Nashville Negroes or Jersey Jews sports teams, for instance.[1]

To call a team by a derogatory name (i.e., “redskins” = “non-whites”), especially in face of opposition by the very people being insulted, is a total negation of the experience of those people and their culture.

It is saying: “You do not really exist.  You have never really existed.  You are nothing except the fantasy we have created to represent you.”[2]

But as always, we contradict ourselves
(and why not?  We are large, we contain multitudes).

part 9

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[8/1]  We do have the occasional team of Sheiks but those are almost always traced to an idolization of a fictional character portrayed by a famous actor than any real connection to Arab / Islamic culture, so perhaps that’s an example of double secret negative cultural appropriation.

[8/2]  Going back to the fact there are always exceptions to the rule, the Florida State Seminoles sports team has licensed the name and specific cultural icons of the Seminole tribe, paying the tribe a yearly fee to use that name and those icons, and giving them final say in how they are used.  So in this specific case, the use of the Seminole name really is a tribute to those people because they are being paid for it.

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When All Else Fails, Read The Instructions

by Buzz on 18/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6

“Everybody wanna be [black] ‘til the cops come.” – Paul Mooney

Dolezal’s silly ass shenanigans allow us to now examine the problem from several angles, all of them non-threatening.

Dolezal b 02

It’s clear that the genetic component and physical markings of race have no direct bearing on an individual’s life, but how the society values and reacts to those markings does.

To hammer the point home as hard as possible, America is one kind of place if you are white, an other if you are black, another if you are male, another if you are female, and so on and son on and so on and son on…

According to the instructional manual, that’s not the way this country was designed to be run.[1]

This is the point in the narrative where the deniers cite “political correctness” as if that’s a trump card that blocks all further action.

Really?

What is decried as political correctness is simply the golden rule being fairly enforced.

The best definition of political correctness is that people who once had to shut up and take the shit dished out to them are now recognizing their ability to call shenanigans on those dealing the shit.

This does not make the shit dealers happy.

To deflect self-analysis, the deniers seek to trivialize complaints.

If they can mock outrage at “cultural appropriation” they can negate the very real problem of the denial of any history, any culture but their own.

And with no story to challenge theirs,
they can always be the heroes.

part 8 / part 9

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[7/1]  And, yes, there are always exceptions; in a country of 318+ million there has to be some disabled lesbian African-American who has had a blessedly easy and successful life while some rich WASP preppy from a long line of rich WASP preppies got the shaft.  The exceptions do not disprove the rule.

 

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Welcome To America

by Buzz on 18/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5

“I guess I’ll never understand American audiences.  I tell a joke about Sammy Davis being Jewish and the people become hysterical.  Yet, I’ve been Jewish all my life and it never once got me a laugh.”

– George Burns

At the Skirball Center in Los Angeles are two almost life size pictures taken in the early part of the 20th century.

The first picture is of a weary mittel European Jewish mother and her children, dressed in drab shapeless garments typical of their peasant life; the next is of the same mother and children 18 months later, bright and alert, no longer downtrodden, dressed in the latest fashion.

In the words of the Harvard Lampoon they dropped their old customs like a live hand grenade and assimilated into urban American culture.

Note:  They were the outsiders trying to fit in,
they were the weak emulating the powerful.

Did they succeed?

Define success.  Their children were instrumental in redefining American culture.

They were still outsiders — to a degree.  Never 100% accepted into white bread Protestant middle class Middle American culture but certainly much more welcomed than they were in Central Europe.

Certainly much more welcome than the African-Americans brought here as slave labor to make white America rich.

If there was a shred of human decency in our culture, a true taste of justice, there would be at the very least an open acknowledgement of the huge contribution the ancestors of today’s African-Americans gave to this country, this culture.

This country was literally built on their backs, and those who cast hagiographic backward glances at the pioneers and small farmers celebrated in story and song would do well to realize while those people were scratching out subsistence existence, millions of African-Americans were building the foundation of a vast financial empire that would support this country.

a concise history of black white relations in US

Built on cotton and tobacco, that empire fed the northern banks that in turn fueled the industrial revolution above the Mason-Dixon line.

I have often cited Ursula K. LeGuin’s classic short story, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”.

It is a story — a fictional essay — about a utopia built on a single injustice and how most of the citizens either ignore that injustice or wistfully acknowledge Such Things Must Be, but a few — a tiny few — cannot live in that utopia with that knowledge and leave for where they know not, only knowing it’s not a tainted paradise.

We find more and more people willing to walk away from our tainted utopia, or more properly, to walk away from blind compliance to a flawed past and towards a better, more perfect union.

“Ah!  White guilt!” The screechweasels howl.

Yeah.  So?

Having a knowledge of guilt, a sense of shame and responsibility is the first step towards true repentance.

None of this excuses Dolezal’s stupid little lie or her betrayal of trust by those who hired her.

But it does explain the origin of her deception, a rejection of a society that refuses to acknowledge its moral responsibility.

No, strike that:
A rejection of a segment of a society that refuses to acknowledge its moral responsibility.

The old road is rapidly aging.

part 7 / part 8 / part 9

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What They See Is What You Get

by Buzz on 18/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4

“I was born male but had gender reassignment surgery.”

“What was the most painful part?”

“When they cut my salary in half.”

There are certain gender identity issues that remain consistent from culture to culture.

African-American culture, however, is a result of white American attitudes towards race (and by extension, class).

Identical triplets separated at birth and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Nairobi, and Port-au-Prince will have radically different cultural backgrounds.

Hell, identical triplets raised in Baldwin Hills, Chicago’s South Side, and Ferguson will al experience radically different cultures.

So what exactly is “race identity disorder”?

It’s not something that’s necessarily inherent, such as a feeling one’s skin color / eye shape / hair texture is wrong.

And it’s not a desire to disguise one’s self for protection:
That’s an eminently sensible strategy under a wide variety of circumstances.

There is something much more intellectual about it, conscious and deliberate than gender identify disorder or body integrity identity disorder.

It’s a conscious realization something is amiss in the social order.

Now, there are plenty of people who will snicker at this idea, the sort of people who denigrate those they refer to as “social justice warriors”.

Dolezal b 07

They represent a desire to deny the obvious,
because to admit to the obvious demands change.

Change, or an acknowledgement that one is a major component of the problem.

Change for the good, for the better…

…or embrace the evil.

I can’t and won’t presume to know what was going through Dolezal’s head when she began her hoax, but the way her thoughts manifested themselves indicates she was moving away from the status quo.

Lots of people change their identities,
move away from the status quo.

part 6 / part 7 / part 8 / part 9

 

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A Question Of Black Or White

by Buzz on 17/06/2015

part 1 / part 2 / part 3

Q:  What’s the difference between St. Patrick’s Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

A:  Once a year everybody likes to pretend they’re Irish.

Dolezal’s impersonation poses an interesting question, although unanswerable at this time.

But before delving into that, let’s back up and ask the question before the question:
Was she an effective NAACP leader or not?

Now, there are non-African-American leaders in the NAACP, nothing in their rules preclude that so long as the person is committed to NAACP goals.[1]

So, is Dolezal delusional and really thinks she’s black, is she a pathological liar who lies because that’s what she does, or is she just a wannabee “W-bomb” as it were?[2]

‘Cuz if she’s delusional and really thinks she’s black,
then her deception is not a deception in her own mind.

animated rachel dolezal

But that immediately calls into question just how tight her grip on reality is,
and if she’s made other delusional choices in her official capacity.

If she’s a wannabee, someone who really truly-uly desires to be black because something about the African-American experience reaches her the way no other culture can, then her motives are understandable but disingenuous:  She saw presenting as black to be a benefit for her job.

Why would anyone trust somebody who would deliberately and consciously carry out such a lie?

Jenner, on the other hand, has the backstop of “I always felt this way, I tried to fit in the way I was, but I couldn’t maintain that and so decided to embrace my feelings and undergo gender reassignment therapy.”[3]

Jenner’s decision to undergo a physical gender change was not a spur of the moment thing.  Even people who question the wisdom of gender reassignment surgery can see how it is logically an attractive option to some who have that issue.  Only bigots and hate mongers would claim Jenner was and is insane, incapable of interacting with the real world.

Which circles us back ‘round to Dolezal.

If gender identity disorder is a real thing[4], then is race identity disorder a real thing as well?

Ah, a sticky wicket.

part 5 / part 6 / part 7 / part 8 / part 9

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[4/1]  Similarly, when we were doing the Serenity manga series, we made no religious test requiring our artists and writers to be Christians.  So long as they helped us do the types of projects were were committed to doing, their personal religious beliefs were irrelevant.  I have worked as a hired gun on Christian publishing projects where I have disagreed with specific theological points but kept my mouth shut because my job was to help them do their project.

[4/2]  C’mon, you’re smart enough to figure it out.

[4/3]  I presume that not everybody with gender identity disorder has the same degree of disconnect with their physical bodies and some are able to cope through therapy without going to hormone treatments or surgery.  Not everyone is capable of doing that, and if a person is connected enough with their birth gender to identify elsewise, we should respect their privacy.  So stop peeking under restroom stalls, Michelle Duggar.

[4/4]  And it is; even those medical practitioners who doubt the wisdom of surgery acknowledge the disorder exists.

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Just Who Do You Think You Are?

by Buzz on 17/06/2015

part 1 / part 2

“Hey, you know something people?
I’m not black,
But there’s a whole lots a times
I wish I could say I’m not white.”

– Frank Zappa
Trouble Every Day

The Caitlyn Jenner and Rachel Dolezal cases offer some interesting insights.

We’ll start with this:
Jenner has always acknowledged she was born male and is now presenting as female; Dolezal apparently hid her true biological parents from public knowledge.

These are not minor points.  Presuming one has the right to be identified as they present themselves, Jenner did not seek to capitalize off her change in gender by hiding her origin.  In a very real sense it’s nobody’s business but Jenner’s, her immediate family, and the medical professionals assisting her transition.

Dolezal, however, is doing a very off form of “passing”.

Passing involves denying one’s origins, typically because they would be detrimental to one’s livelihood, relationships, health, and even life.

Historically the less privileged passes for the more privileged.  Thus we have Rock Hudson, who pretended to be a straight male he-man; Billy Tipton, who presented as a male jazz musician while still biologically female; and Korla Pandit, who realized as a poor black boy he could never pass for white but with a turban and a smooth line of patter he could pass himself off as an exotic Hindu.

More rarely we have had people from privileged backgrounds pretending to be female or ethnic minority because there’s a buck to be made in it.[1]

One such example who didn’t hide behind dust jacket petticoats was Iron Eyes Cody, the famous “crying Indian” who was really an Italian-American from Louisiana who became so enamored of Native American culture that he bought into 1001%.

While Cody certainly gained fame and fortune[2] due to his portrayal, he also used his public recognition to do a lot of good for Native Americans.

Native Americans, conversely, were never taken in by his routine, but they realized his heart was sincere and he wanted to do good for the people he so closely identified with, so they unofficially adopted him as one of their own.

This is a kneeslapper, because while we can admire the Italian-American who was so determined to be a Native American, we can also smile at the irony of Italian-Americans who, by virtue of a single Native American great-great-great grandparent, are now co-owners of a casino.

So we come back to Dolezal and ask:

Is she nuts or is she just faking it?

Dolezal 8

part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7 / part 8 / part 9

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[3/1]  Lord knows how many male romance novelists hid behind a female penname, or adopted specific ethnic pseudonyms in order to appear more “authentic”.

[3/2]  Well, as much fortune as a supporting actor can make in Hollywood.

 

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Just An All American Family

by Buzz on 17/06/2015

part 1

Dolezal 5

“I married a Korean.

“My father married an enemy Italian.[1]

“My grandfather made the biggest cross cultural leap of all:

HE MARRIED A YANKEE!”

My mother was Napoletana as they come. I learned to speak English before she did.

While I was born in Raleigh NC, I grew up in Appalachia, about as poor and as hard scrabble a part of America as one could hope to imagine.

We were lucky, my southern cousins and my brothers and me, and we enjoyed a nice, comfortable, educated existence but we lived within a rock’s throw of people commonly called rednecks and crackers and peckerwoods but most often just plain ol’ hillbillies.

That’s my paternal grandfather’s side:
Southern Scots-Irish from day one.

My paternal grandmother’s side was mostly Irish immigrants with a thick slab of German sandwiched in between; nobody in the family liked the Germans, not even the Germans themselves. A Joisey goil, she met my grandfather at Bellevue hospital in the run up to The Great War (i.e., WWI):  She was a nurse, he was a doctor.

They met / married / mated and produced two daughters and a son, my father.

Dad’s marriage to Mom was a routine war romance save for two things:
Circumstances kept Dad from returning to Italy to marry Mom for almost seven years, and Mom’s sister Mafalda married an African-American soldier in WWII.

There’s a lot of bad crazy behind the scenes family stuff I’m going to leave out. We were not even aware of our African-American cousins until fairly recently.

We’ll drape a fig leaf over certain relatives and say their advice to keep our branch of the family unaware of the Chicago branch was based on a desire to protect my brothers and myself from possible discrimination by white Southern bigots.

Nonetheless, here we are. I have family blood relatives who by all cultural standards of this country are black.

Franco Harris not withstanding.

Jump ahead another generation:
I met and married my wife while stationed in Korea.

White guys married to Asian ladies are the most accepted form of interracial relationships in the US.[2]

The white Southerners we encountered when we visited my parents were unfailingly kind and polite to Soon-ok.[3]

We moved to Los Angeles when I left the army, a city with a much more laissez-faire attitude towards cross-cultural relationships.

Nonetheless, there were friction points for our daughters:
Cruel children at their schools who either teased them for being too Asian or for not being Asian enough.

Jump to the next generation:
One daughter is married to an all-American boy who happens to be a Romanian immigrant who arrived in this country at age 4. They recently adopted three wonderful kids who are of Mexican-American heritage.

Southern Scots-Irish / German / Irish / Italian / African / Korean / Romanian / Mexican-American by way of New Jersey and Chi-town with a stop over in NYC before settling in Los Angeles.

Some people will look at that and say:
“See? Post-racial America. None of that stuff matters anymore.”

And I say:
“You don’t really get it, do you?”

Whenever I see a news story about a 12 year old boy being gunned down as he plays in a public park in just the exact same way I played in public parks when I was 12 or hear some bigot screech about brown skinned immigrants ruining our country, I have absolutely no problem picturing a family member on the receiving end of that hate.

My God, I don’t want my cousins or my grandchildren or my wife demonized or treated like crap because they weren’t born the right color.

And the only way I can protect them is by making sure nobody else is allowed to be mistreated because of their race (or gender, or sexual orientation, or place of birth, or creed, or faith).

If I look after others, and others look after me and mine, then the chances of people suffering unjustly are greatly reduced.

So I’m compelled to call shenanigans on people who want to pretend race relations don’t need improving.

part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7 / part 8 / part 9

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[2/1]  He met Mom — nearly ran over her, in fact — during WWII. She was a bona fide card carrying fascist; we’ve got a picture of her in her young fascists uniform and everything.

[2/2]  I am well aware many Asian and Asian-American women are irritated at men who approach them not because they are attracted to who the ladies really are but because they are attracted to the fantasy Asian female those guys have created in their heads. When you’ve been married 40+ years, I think it’s safe to say you’re relating to the real person and not a symbol, but I digress…

[2/3]  All be it painfully pig-ignernt on occasion, but always without malice.

 

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