Race Relations 2020

May 30, 2020

Ten years ago, I wrote Race Relations about a piece of my life that is now 45 years in the past. This is the sequel.

I’m not black or brown. I’m pretty much a privileged white person. I was exposed to racism in my youth via the small Texas town where my grandparents lived. I never understood it. I was also privileged to live in Hawaii and be a part of a community rich with many different cultures. I’ve lived in mixed race communities most of my adult life. Not bragging, just saying.

Even though my parents traveled extensively, they never quite shook the racial prejudice they were brought up surrounded by. My mother was quite the  snob. Perhaps I am a bit of a snob myself, since I admittedly judge people by ‘stupid or not stupid’. I’m thankful my son and daughter also understand the worth of a human being is in their soul, not their skin color.

Right now I am feeling like I want to say ‘I’m sorry” every time I see one of my African-American neighbors walking their dogs or just out for exercise. How do I explain I’ve always been an inclusive person without seeming lame? How do they know I’ve been active in efforts to confront racism, inequality and social justice all my life? How do they know when I say hello and smile, I really mean it?

When people of color look at me what do they see? Are they judging me as a whitey, la huera or gringa or whatever other derogatory word for blond (now gray) privileged white woman there is going around?

I’m angry, I’m scared—not for me, but for anyone who is being discriminated against. Or, judged by their appearance. Or mistreated because it’s assume they deserve it for some stereotypical knee-jerk reasoning. Believe it, we are in a national crisis.

And, I’m sorry we all can’t act like decent, intelligent human beings.


Standing on Sinking Sand

May 3, 2020

Pandemic week seven, or maybe eight–but who’s counting.

Even though there is a push to reopen ‘Merica, we are still staying home and wearing masks when going on our weekly shopping trips. The San Antonio community has generally been complying and following the guidelines to continue social distancing.

This week I read “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope” a book from Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. (Both who I have seen in person!)

If you think we are still the greatest country, I’ve got news for you. We ain’t–not even close. One thing the pandemic has done is highlight “the state of our disunion.” (Tara Westover)

“For starters, America doesn’t adequately invest in children, whose potential so often goes unfulfilled. One reflection of the state of the American dream: 76 percent of adults expect their children’s lives to be worse than their own. The World Bank Human Capital Project estimates that American children reach only 76 percent of their potential because of inequality and shortcomings in our health and education systems. That gives the United States a ranking of 24 out of 157 countries, in line with its score on the Social Progress Index. Many other countries, even much poorer ones, do better.”

Another quote: “The United States has chosen policies over the last half century that have resulted in higher levels of homelessness, overdose deaths, crime and inequality—and now it’s time to make a different choice.”

My question is-but will we make different choices?  We’d better or you can kiss your red, white and blue ass goodbye.

On the other hand…

The hubby and I watched about six hours of “The Call to Unite” live stream. It was full of beautiful people from all over the globe with hopeful, helpful, interesting and entertaining messages. We both got so saturated with emotions we had to turn it off. Now they’re posting some of the pieces on their website and Facebook page

So two sides to reconcile. Do we despair and throw up our hands? Or do we work to make things better thru all this time?  What will it look like on the other side of Covid-19? I don’t think we can count on anything just yet. The only thing I know for sure is it’s going to be what ever we make it.

Meanwhile.


Uncertainty is the new normal

April 20, 2020

It’s week six for us doing the ‘COVID-19 isolation rag’

I seem to be less anxious than I thought I might get. But, in all honesty, we are not in any of the tenuous–even scary–situations that many in our community or others around the country may be experiencing.

Fully retired, we have our Social Security money and small savings. We have a very affordable Medicare Advantage plan, and are so far in good health. We have our little house, transportation and other things that might have all been taken for granted until the pandemic got a hold of our country.

I read a very good article from Jon Pavlovitz which I think you (whoever you are) need to read.

      

Because uncertainty is the new normal. This all could have gone a much better way, but it did not. What we are left with has changed us individually and as a country and will continue to change us for years ahead.  Hopefully in many ways  we’ll grow, learn and be better to each other. I’m seeing it already, are you?

Let me know how you’re doing!

 


A letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

January 21, 2019

Dear Dr. King,

The day you were assassinated I was on the campus of Prairie View A&M, which in 1968 was still an all-black college located just west of Houston, Texas. I was in a group of white students participating in an ‘exchange program’ in collaboration with the college I was attending.

In those days, Southwest Texas State College students mostly came from small Texas towns. The guys were shit-kickers i.e. studying agriculture; the women aspiring to become teachers, nurses and wives. There were no African Americans on campus. There was one beatnik who became my boyfriend–but that’s another story.

Dr. Clyde Bullion, our very liberal and a tad kooky sociology professor, spent several years opening minds and hearts, encouraging everyone to embrace racial and social justice. He held the first class on Black History and introduced us to African American writers and poets.  Bullion would stand on his desk and holler out readings from Langston Hughes and W.E.B. Dubois. Quite impressive–even though Bullion was white. We thought the visit to Prairie View made perfect sense for us.

During our two day visit, we were treated respectfully by the students and staff of the college. We attended classes, plays and social events. I remember sitting with a group of black students in an off-campus bar and asking, rather naively, the question surely stolen from me by Rodney King (whose beating and related consequences are attributed to the 1992 Los Angeles race riots) “I don’t know why we all can’t just get along?” Later, stunned and disheartened to the core to hear you were assassinated, we visitors were immediately sent home to “avoid any problems.”

I think you would agree, it seemed to have gotten much better. We even elected our first black president! Then, sadly, we are reminded of how deeply racism runs in our country with shootings of unarmed black children and men. #blacklivesmatter, the statistics regarding racial profiling by the police, voter repression tactics in some states, and the appalling racist behaviors of some citizens toward our very own President Obama. These incidences have us facing realities we may not wish to admit.

The statistics also prove inequality still exists.  Here are a few stats from Black Demographics website.

Blacks make up 14.1% of the population in the US.

Percentage in poverty: Blacks 24.2%           All races 11.8%

Percentage in poverty under 18: Blacks 39.6%      All races 22.6% (Appalling so many children of any ‘color’ are living in poverty.)

Graduation rate: Blacks 63.6%              All races 80.6% (Which seems rather low as a whole.)

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), African Americans constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population, and have nearly six times the rate of whites.

Black Median Household income: $33,460

(all races $50,502)

All Black Workers 2012 weekly earnings:$606

(all races $765)

Black Men weekly earnings: $633

(White men $854)

Black Women weekly earnings: $590

(White women $712)

MLK-2014-2

So, Dr. King, there seems still much work to be done. Annually, on a federally instituted day to celebrate you, people in cities around the US march to keep your spirit and desire for social justice alive.  I still hope someday we can all get along.

Peace and love y’all,

Laura

Right here in San Antonio, we have one of the largest marches of any city. For more information on this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day San Antonio March, click here, or find one in your city.


Unpacking your prejudices for a life well lived

September 1, 2018

Just who do you think you are?  Whatever the answer to this question it will reflect a heady, imperfect mix of your genes, your family, your life experiences and your environment. Where we live, the people we live around and interact with have a great deal to do with shaping our ideas, thoughts and attitudes about each other as human beings.

This is, after all the a ‘small blog’, so this won’t be a detailed discourse of the subject, just some thoughts I’ve had lately.

In consideration of my upbringing in a stable, white Southern family, I probably would have been more affected by negative prejudice toward other ‘races’ had I not had the privilege of being an Army brat. A previous small blog post tells how my attitudes were born again by living in Hawaii and taking advantage of multi-cultural experience.

In American cities, citizens are much more likely to interact with any number of folks from different cultures, countries, family situations etc. But, there are areas in our country where this is not the case and there is a prevalence of homogeneous Anglo populations. When this kind of, what I would call, isolation occurs, people aren’t given as much of an opportunity to broaden their intellectual or existential horizons.

This is the future. Make it good for everyone.

It’s been proven that living around people with different backgrounds and cultures gives us a larger life experience and usually modifies prejudices we might have previously held.

Despite the decidedly ‘white supremacist’ policies coming out of our current administration, the Pew Research Center determined there is  “Shifting Public Views on Legal Immigration Into the U.S.”

  • The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 5-12 among 2,002 adults, finds that 38% say legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its present level, while 32% say it should be increased and 24% say it should be decreased.
  • Most Americans do not think undocumented immigrants take jobs U.S. citizens want or are more likely to commit serious crimes.

It’s not just about ‘race’ or immigrants either. There is a prejudice against poor people—’they’re lazy, don’t want to learn, rather take welfare etc.’ My city San Antonio, though a great city in many ways, is one of the most economic segregated cities in the nation.  Which opens up a Pandora’s box of side-effects both for the affected population and on the community as a whole.

Oh, my goodness, this is a depressing post! So, what can you do about it? A few suggestions:

  • Make a difference where you can. Don’t condone bad behavior from others even if they are your family members. You know, like at Thanksgiving dinner and Uncle George is telling a racist or anti-gay joke.
  • Practice being inclusive and non-judgmental. Everyone has worth and a human story to tell.
  • Make new friends.
  • Try a new cuisine at an ethnic restaurant. (no, not just a new taco place)
  • Read National Geographic Magazine—there’s a whole world out there
  • Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been.

Peace y’all!


Moving Experiences

May 12, 2017

A recent conversation with a journalist friend and a couple of “moving” articles got me thinking. I have some mixed feelings about gentrification and the ‘forcing’ of people out of their homes and their comfort zones to make way for new development—whether it be private or government backed. I am not unsympathetic towards these persons’ situations. I am also not above being influenced by my own personal experiences of voluntary and involuntary home moves, both as a child and as an adult. Sometimes, these were good experiences, sometimes, not so much.

Having grown up an Army brat, I think I moved about 17 times before I even went to college. These moves were easy in a way as we always had housing options provided, moving companies to pack and ship all our belongings, and the places we went were good. Even if we were in the same town, we sometimes had to move from off-base to base housing. New schools, new friends, new environments. All these made me, and most likely all service brats, very resilient. Some I know even developed a wanderlust of sorts.

When I was in my twenties and living in Austin, I lived for almost 8 years in one of my favorite houses. That was my first experience of living more than about two years in the same place. I was so attached to that house I dream about it sometimes still. Though it has become distorted over the years.

When I was somewhat forced to come back to my parents’ home–from yet another city–due to an abusive situation,  I disliked San Antonio. It took some years to really feel like this is my home for good. I’ve been here almost half my life now, though I’ve moved domiciles about a dozen time.

Our House is a very fine house.

When my husband and I bought the house we are in now, he said, “It had better have a nice ceiling because that the last thing I want to see before I die.” Meaning he was sick and tired of packing, moving and the expenses it entailed. There still may be some moves in our future.  Probably not the ones either of us would like.

And, then I think of the millions of families in the Middle East and so many other places who are forced to leave their homes with practically nothing. They face starvation, disease, displacement camps, death. The girls and women are often beaten and raped. My heart goes out to them. And, I’m sorry the US is trying so hard to close its doors to refugees. But that’s a whole other conversation.

Perhaps, there is a better way to transition people who are being displaced in our city. I understand not everyone has the experience, knowledge or again, resilience, to handle being told, out of the blue, they have to move. Being more thoughtful about the process before and during, instead of just afterwards, might be a way to proceed.

Peace and Love Y’all


Jesus loves ALL the little children

March 18, 2016

Remember that Sunday School song we all used to sing “Jesus Loves the Little Children”? For some reason I started singing it this morning as I was getting ready for work. And, I thinking, “Jesus loves ALL the little children in the world including:

22% of all children in the US living below the federal poverty rate

one in five children suffering with mental illness

62% of Hispanic children in the US living in or near poverty

The estimated 679,000 children who were victims of abuse and neglect

All the Syrian and other refugee children, clinging to their parents, hoping for a chance to live in a better world

The children born to undocumented parents in the US who fear they may be torn from the only life they’ve know and deported.

Let’s remind all the “conservative Christian” politicians and their ilk spreading hate and bigotry, Jesus is not selective about who He loves and that is the model we should strive for. Not how much we can cut the assistance and education programs. Not how fast we can round up all the “undocumented” families or build a wall to keep out all those who do not ascribe to the same faith as they claim to follow.

all the children of the world

Jesus loves the little children All the children of the world Red & yellow, black & white they’re precious in his sight Jesus loves the little children of the world

 

Sing that little song several times today to as a reminder just who does Jesus love. Sing it for your family, your friends and co-workers. Sing it for yourself.

 


Disabled Hondurans — voices for the voiceless

May 15, 2015

On February 26, 2015 eighteen members of the Honduran Association of Migrants Returned with Disabilities (AMIREDIS) began a journey across Central America to the United States. Their purpose to “raise awareness about the perils of riding on top of train cars on the Mexican railroad commonly referred to as “The Beast” (La Bestia in Spanish). AMIREDIS activists also “promote justice and rights for disabled persons” as their distinctive commonality is traumatic injuries incurred while riding La Bestia.

AMIREDIS represents more than 70 of the 700 persons in Honduras who have been maimed by a similar train accident.  For those seeking to escape a country rife with corruption, violence, unemployment and poverty, it is a courageous decision to take the long dangerous journey, across Central America and Mexico hoping to immigrate and/or reunite with family. “We have dreams of a better life,” said Jose Luis AMIREDIS president.

At the end of a grueling journey to the United States border, thirteen of the men turned themselves in and were incarcerated in the Eagle Pass detention center. They were transferred to the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall where they stayed for over a month until RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) facilitated the release for 11 of the men who vow to continue the journey. “Thank God for RAICES,” said Jose Luis. “The detention centers have no way to care for people with disabilities, so we are thrown in a cell and forgotten.”

Read May 15th NY Times Editorial re immigrant detention.

Last week at the Episcopal Church of Reconciliation, four members of AMIREDIS, accompanied by RAICES attorney/advocate Mohammed Abdollahi, came to tell their stories to a group of interested San Antonio citizens. Abdollahi said, “These men have a credible cause for asylum.” Elaborated in a court document submitted by Attorney Jonathan D. Ryan, RAICES Counsel for the Respondents, the group’s “advocacy has garnered international media attention, effectively exposing the Honduran government for its incapacity to assist its disabled nationals; while the Honduran nation survives on the remittances of migrants who risk their lives travelling, it does little to support or assist those who return disabled. Consequently, these men now confront both the challenge of coping with their disability in Honduras, as well as retribution from the Honduran government for their advocacy.”

Hondurans seeking asylum
“In Honduras there are a lot of gangs,” Alonzo told us. “Because I didn’t want to join, they were harassing me to the point I felt I needed to take my chances to immigrate, or be killed.” “I had ridden the trains for days, been assaulted and was very hungry, thirsty and tired,” explained Alonso, who left a daughter with his mother back in Honduras. “I ran to get on another train, grabbed onto the railing to pull myself up and was dragged behind for several minutes. Finally I pulled myself up onto the train, but had mangled my leg in the process.” After a quick amputation and medical care in Mexico, he was deported back to Honduras.

“There are no jobs for disabled people in Honduras,” Ifrain told us. “There is such competition for work anyone with a disability is left completely out. And, there are no benefits for unemployment or disability. We come to try to find work and help our families back in Honduras.” He was deported back to Honduras after being assaulted and thrown from a train traveling through Mexico resulting in the loss of one of legs.

group at churchThe group is continuing to visit with people to help spread their message and to raise funds for the journey to the Washington where they hope to speak with advocates and policy makers. They have put their faith in God to help them be a voice for the voiceless, advocating reform in a broken immigration process.  “Nothing is impossible,” says Jose Luis. “We want to talk to President Obama.”

Immigration is a complicated issue. And, I don’t claim to know even a tenth of the legal or legislative aspects. But, I do know a compelling human story when I hear one. I also know that except for the Native Americans, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.

 


TEDxSanAntonio # 5

October 20, 2014

Ideas-In-Action-TEDxSanAntonio-280wThis year’s TEDxSanAntonio event had a decidedly different tone from the four previous events. I think that’s as it should be. Constantly evolving with fresh speakers and topics, each event–a mind opening, idea sharing experience–then becomes a unique memory for its audience.

Hosted again by Rackspace, the auditorium filled with a record crowd of close to 700 attendees and volunteers. With the theme “ideas in action,” speakers often left the audience with a call to action–to become advocates for change–to fight for immigration reform; to provide better access to quality heath care; to challenge the soda companies and their sugary ways; to learn how to share ourselves more and to tell our own stories. One speaker gave us tools to determine what might be a problem, or maybe a dilemma; and another stated it was a problem we aren’t encouraging girls enough to learn STEM.

We learned “life is improv,” and ‘hacker’ is not a bad word but creativity. Because the “old ways can’t get us to the new place,” we should improve support for urban impact entrepreneurs and develop urban agriculture. On the other hand, ‘colonias’ can become engaged communities. We nodded our heads in agreement that our schools are often “educating with broken tools” and project- based learning is so much more effective.  We stood on our feet and put our hands together with acceptance for a journey of self discovery as a young man came out of the closet and onto the stage as a drag queen. We heard a poet and a river speak the distinctive language of San Antonio.

Kori Aston hand-painted this picture while she told a story of strength and love.  It’s a good word for TEDxSanAntonio, one that I find each year. All the speakers’ names and topics are posted on the TEDxSanAntonio website  All the previous speakers’ videos are there as well. This year’s will be there after processing.

Kori Aston painting

Kori Aston painting

An experience better enjoyed live, plan to attend next year’s event–no doubt already being planned. Better yet, take heed to the issues presented, choose to make a difference in your community with your time and talents. Join the TEDxSanAntonio community by engaging in a Salon, a smaller, usually more ‘hands-on’ event, scheduled throughout the year.


The Dangers of Facebook–next chapter

June 25, 2013

Please read this news story about my grandson’s plight and sign the petition.

Please watch the video news story and share.

Justin has actually been in jail since February 14. He is now in solitary for his own protection. We are able to phone and I visit. He is also being visited by a Chaplain in the Prison Ministry.

Here is a link to a t-shirt “Free Justin”. Proceeds benefit a legal fund set up by the manufacturer.

My family and I appreciate any help you are willing to give.