Irony Deficient: Part 4

Whether looking for opportunity or looking to escape oppression, immigrants have believed in the idea of America even as America becomes less welcoming. But it is not the opening of America that will deplete us. It is the isolating, the narrowing, the closing of America and the building of walls to keep those we fear out…that’s what will drain us.

The irony is those who would make America great want to shut and bolt the door.

Inhale Openness, Exhale Persecution…
Inhale Opportunity, Exhale Oppression…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Fear…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

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Irony Deficient: Part 3

Each wave of immigrants to this country has been “othered” by the entrenched immigrants already here. Every group fighting for equality and authenticity has been “othered” by those who have won their battles. How ironic that once our own “tribe” achieves recognition, we don’t support the struggles of others to enjoy the full rights and privileges of being Americans.

“..belonging and inclusion [is] the only sustainable solution to the problem of othering.” ~ john a. powell and Stephen Menendian, Inclusiveness and Belonging

Inhale Welcoming, Exhale “Othering”…
Inhale Belonging, Exhale Excluding…
Inhale Including, Exhale Hostility…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe

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American Rights

I spent the entirety of my last visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in the art gallery on the 4th level. The relentless nature of racism so palpable throughout the museum is present in this space as the catalyst for uniquely American art.

The piece that haunted me, “Increase Risk with Emotional Faith” by Kevin Cole, looks innocuous enough: wide, colorful ties intertwined in a haphazard even whimsical fashion. But the chilling inspiration for the piece was the artist’s grandfather’s story of a lynching tree in Tarry, Arkansas and the memories of black men, lynched for trying to vote, their ties wrapped around the noose as a warning to other black men.

Especially in the states of the confederacy, people of color fought and died for the right to vote in this country. I pray it’s a right we take advantage of before it is lost to all Americans.

“You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens…so pay attention and vote.” ~ President Barack Obama

Inhale Commitment, Exhale Complacency…
Inhale Vigilance, Exhale Complacency…
Inhale Action, Exhale Complacency…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections with Renita

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Melting Pot…?

I watched some of the PBS series on Italian Americans last weekend, and I was struck most by the fear this new group of immigrants generated in the European Americans who were already established in this country. Like the Irish who had come earlier in the century, Italian Americans faced negative stereotyping, discrimination and violence.

I was reminded that the struggle to live up to the ideals of our founding has existed since America came to exist. I was also reminded that the achievement of ‘whiteness” available to these groups seems to have robbed them of their collective memories of prejudice and distrust experienced by their ancestors.

If they remembered, would that change their attitudes?

“Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.” ~ Coretta Scott King

Inhale Acceptance, Exhale Abhorrence …
Inhale Immigration, Exhale Marginalization…
Inhale Humanity, Exhale Antipathy…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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American Complicity

I suspect the one third of Americans who still approve of #45 is the same one third who frequently invite the one third they’ve identified as the “others” to just leave America. Or if they stay, to be denied full access to citizenship, preferably while serving time or detained in an ICE center….and servicing the government for free. OR be exterminated.

And if the remaining one third is disengaged, that could happen.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” ~ Haile Selassie

Inhale Engagement, Exhale Indifference…
Inhale Speaking, Exhale Silence…
Inhale Action, Exhale Complicity…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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Our Power

I thought about the Little Rock Nine last week after it was revealed that someone had written racial slurs on the doors of Black cadets at the US Air Force Academy Prep School.

It’s been sixty years since it took federal intervention for the nine Black students to be able to physically enter Central High School, officially desegregated in 1954 by the U. S. Supreme Court. Those students endured a year of verbal and physical abuse and then lost a year after the Arkansas governor closed ALL the high schools in Little Rock rather than integrate.

Sixty years later and these Black cadets, who, like the Little Rock Nine, just want access to a quality education, were still subjected to hatred. I just don’t get it…

The power of [our] diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That’s a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas.” ~ Lt Gen Jay Silveria, US Air Force Academy Superintendent

Inhale Respect, Exhale Bigotry…
Inhale Values, Exhale Fear…
Inhale Unity, Exhale Hate…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

 

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Unforgiven

A story about Hazel Bryan and Elizabeth Eckford popped up on my timeline last week. It was an older article, written in 2011, about the unlikely friendship of Eckford, one of the Nine who tried to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957, and Bryan, immortalized in all her racist rage, trying to prevent that from happening.

Their friendship blossomed after Bryan apologized, grew into a partnership over their shared experience, and then shriveled under the weight of suspicion from their communities and each other. Bryan’s conversion to and activities as an activist were not enough to gain forgiveness and acceptance among those she had hurt.

And I wondered…are we ever permitted to transition from the mistakes we’ve made…transform in the eyes of those who judge us harshly? Are there some grievances too egregious to be forgiven?

“Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” Colossians 3:13, MSG

Inhale Friendship, Exhale Unforgiveness…
Inhale Forgiveness, Exhale Unforgiveness…
Inhale Freedom, Exhale Unforgiveness…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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Empathy Gap

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Many Americans seem to only be capable of empathy toward family or people who look like them… like the anti-LGTBQ politician who softens his stance when his daughter reveals her homosexuality or the white suburban mom crusading against drug addiction who suddenly calls for treatment versus incarceration when the heroin addicts look like her kids.

Those Americans have been unable to empathize with the black and brown bodies videoed being brutalized so it was interesting to see their reaction to the violent arrest of a white nurse for upholding her hospital policy and protecting an unconscious patient.

Maybe they are waking up the realization that in a militarized police state, the brutality will eventually impact everyone…

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” ~ Martin Niemöller

Inhale Empathy, Exhale Exclusion…
Inhale Empathy, Exhale Judgment…
Inhale Empathy, Exhale Apathy…
Just Breathe

#JustBreathe
Reflections With Renita

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Knowledge

Each of us has different gifts and talents…things that we’re naturally good at that can be used to serve our purpose. To attract those who might offer a perspective that could be beneficial to our growth and achievement of our purpose, we have to be open to the notion that there some things we do not know, some tasks we’re not good at and some people with legitimate and different perspectives.

Because…“If everyone is thinking alike, then no one is thinking.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Inhale Difference, Exhale Conformity…
Inhale Diversity, Exhale Uniformity…
Inhale Disagreement, Exhale Homogeneity…
Just Breathe…

#ReflectionsWithRenita

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The Choice is Yours…

Last spring, in the face of virulent racism in this country, I started rereading Daniel Goldhagen’s provocative bestseller, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. Published almost 20 years ago, it explores how ordinary Germans “came to be such potential willing mass killers and how the Nazi regime tapped this disastrous potentiality.”

Goldhagen argues convincingly that the German’s thoroughly anti-Semitic attitude, which led to anti-Jewish measures, legislation, persecution and finally, incarceration and death in concentration camps, had grown unabated for hundreds of years. Anti-Semitism did “not appear, disappear, then reappear in [German] society”; it was always present.” The Nazi’s simply tapped into the hate.

The parallels to the United States’ unique brand of racism are pretty obvious. There is no evidence the beliefs, which allowed, accepted, and condoned the theft of this country from its original inhabitants and the theft and enslavement of peoples from another continent have ever fundamentally changed.

It’s why the politics of fear and division offered by our 45th president have been so successful.

Last weekend, once again we saw the results of extreme and persistent prejudice when ordinary Americans brutally implemented an illogical, illegal and immoral immigration order. The order, which, apparently, was not reviewed by other government agencies, did not come with instructions for the people responsible for its enforcement.

FirstTheyComeAnd so a Somali women traveling with two small children with U.S. passports was threatened, harassed, handcuffed while officials tried to coerce her into signing papers that would send her out of the country. During the 18 hours she and her children were detained, they were not fed or allowed to get food.

I’m sure those officials will defend their actions saying they had no choice. But they did…and they chose to act with no compassion.

This is how ordinary people become accomplices to atrocities.

In the days to come, Americans will have ample opportunities to choose compassion over unquestioning compliance…what will you choose?

Renita Alexander, Leadership Unlocked

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