Grow is the word of 2020 and sometimes growing means learning to talk about hard topics. In the past, I have not said much about racial issues, mostly because it isn’t easy to talk about, there is not a clear solution, and when you try to open a dialogue about this topic, many people on all sides take issue and attack rather than seek to find a shared understanding.

So today, in the spirit of growing myself, I want to open a dialogue about class and racial issues in our society. I hope you will give me your thoughts so that we can grow together.

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Main topic of the Show: A Discussion

Intimidation and shaming has become the norm for influencing people who have opinions that run counter to the prevailing, chosen narrative. When it comes to race in America, this approach has backfired because there is not an open forum to discuss, learn and grow. One tiny misstep and you may find yourself a target of judgement, a job loss, calls, threats and worse. In this environment, how can we ever hope to find lasting societal change? The answer is we can’t.

It is time to discuss hard things. It has been time to discuss them for my life and for the lifetime of my parents and my grandparents. And here and there along the way, we have found a way to address racial and gender biases, generational poverty, and much more, in a way that moved things toward the better. And we have found ways to step backward.

And at the core of taking on hard topics is this: making rules to fix things doesn’t work. Capturing hearts does.

Whitewashing language doesn’t bring change, it merely makes it harder to have a discussion. Oh. Did that word bother you? Do you know what whitewashing is? It is painting a place to make it look cleaner and it has come to mean a means by which we hide the truth or truth in meaning from people. And it is dangerous to do this if our goal is in fact to create a society that values people for who they are, not what they look or sound like.

So then, how can we begin to talk about hard things like race in America? I think we need a set of discussion standards.

When we discuss hard things: 

  • Assume the person talking intends to process and grow, rather than to intimidate and attack
  • Approach discussions with opinion, facts, and questions – know the difference between these things
  • Be open to discussing what “could be” even if it seems impossible to achieve because impossible things do happen
  • Personal attacks are unwelcome in this discussion
  • “If this then that” statements lead to problems

So now I would like to open a discussion:

When I got up this morning, I wondered how many more livelihoods were stolen from people by vandals who wanted to loot and start fires? Notice I don’t call them protesters. Fomenting this kind of violence on innocent people because you are mad about a cop killing smacks of one of two things: Vast immaturity, like three-year-old tantrum-level immaturity, or a huge lie. I tend to think that we are seeing a huge lie. Protesters go out and they communicate their displeasure with the status quo – and hopefully they have a solution in mind when they do it.

Vandals burn things, beat people up, and steal stuff.

And yet the media – an establishment that is supposed to exist to uncover the truth, comes out with headlines about protesters burning things.

OK OK – we know how they came to that spin: It is totally unacceptable for police to kill a man in the way that George Floyd was killed and people are right to be pissed off about it and demand change.. You and I should be demanding change. Police for too long have been immune to prosecution when they do wrong – and what was done to Mr. Floyd and everyone who loved him was wrong. It is called ”Qualified Immunity” and goes to a 1982 supreme court decision:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlow_v._Fitzgerald

Link to the text of the decision: http://cdn.loc.gov/service/ll/usrep/usrep457/usrep457800/usrep457800.pdf

Basically, qualified immunity requires that the act that was done by the government official against someone be previously established as something that was in violation of the victim’s rights. And the way it is being interpreted is that, for example, when police sicked a dog on a suspect who had surrendered, they were not in violation of his rights because he was sitting up with his hands in the air. Had he been lying down as the victim was in a previous case, it would have been a violation. Sicking a dog on someone who has surrendered, sitting instead of lying on the ground totally different right? (It is no wonder this has led to our current tinderbox with cops.)

We’ve talked about the corruption of the justice system and how it is built to keep itself in business and in office. Well qualified immunity is another part of this.

It allows assholes like Chauvin and every other cop who stood around letting this happen get off scott free when they have clearly done something that at a minimum should have them out of a profession, and in reality in jail.

So back to race. It is also not a secret that people of color are the target of police violence more than those with white skin. This is an endemic problem that must be addressed. But it goes much deeper than a simple solution. And in order to find a path forward, we MUST be open to have this discussion without shaming and violence. Without ruining people’s careers as they form opinions.

An open discussion hurts. But an open discussion can also begin a healing process.

But the riots are scary and the media is just EATING THIS SHIT UP. They were having a really hard time keeping the coronavirus panic up and nothing new was happening and then a cop killed a black man, people protested, some protests got violent, and here we are.

Is it any wonder that some folks are screaming conspiracy?

And can we talk about a lifetime of programming that we have been exposed to? You know, the programming that pits one side against the other on almost every topic? From pandemics, to rioting, to personal life choices, what you do is either Democrat or Republican. How wildly absurd is that?

Why can’t I believe that racism still exists in the US, that the cop who killed Mr. Floyd should be tried for his actions, that rioting and violence are not only wrong, but a pathway toward getting the opposite of what the protesters want, that the media and government officials overreacted to Caronavirus, that coronavirus is still a terrible illness for some people and we should protect those vulnerable to it, that regulating every word, move, job, landscaping choice, food and healthcare decision is leading to even more tension and bigger problems, that taxes should be lower, that our education system has been broken for years and we need to open up opportunities for our children to learn outside the broken system or it will never get better, guns should be legal, that regulating ourselves out of local, stable sources of food was a terrible idea, that holding patents on plants that already exist is criminal, that drugs should be legal and I mean all drugs. 

And really at the core of things, why can’t I believe that it is in part the preponderance of regulations and laws that makes it all worse? People would not be complaining that cops were bad apples if the cops did not have so many victimless crimes to enforce. We try to fix things with rules and the more rules we get, the more unfair everything is – under the guise of fairness.

But back to having hard discussions – How about we open with just one aspect of it. Something I have trouble understanding in the discussion of race is this idea: If you are not <insert race or gender here>, then you don’t have a right to have an opinion.

Wait what? Why not?

Because you can’t know how it is for a person who is <race, or gender>.

While this statement is true, it is a fundamental flaw to demand silence in a quest toward shared understanding. True, I will never know what it is to be black, to be Asian, to be a gay kid afraid to come out. I’ll never know what it is like to be in combat, or a billionaire either. 

But why would you want to stop me from imagining what that is like? Why not encourage an open discussion about it so that I can better understand?

The shut up approach to winning hearts just seems so counterproductive.

What do you think? Should people be allowed to talk through their thoughts on this topic openly, or should we continue the silence? Should we avoid the problem?

I’m curious to hear what you have to say.

Make it a great week!

Song: Special by Sauce

GUYS! Don’t forget about the cookbook, Cook With What You Have by Nicole Sauce and Mama Sauce. 

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1 reply
  1. Hat Whit
    Hat Whit says:

    HI Nicole,

    You are so right in so many ways. You are right that there is much about race in this country that still needs fixing. Any means of “fixing” it is hampered by restrictions on discussion. (Of course, you’d need to assume that the instigators of the riots truly want to “fix” such things.) You are right that protest and riot are two different things. I would go so far as to say that the protests don’t turn (or rarely turn) to riot. It is more like the riot is a completely separate thing fueled by an agenda totally apart from anger over the heinous loss of a life. The protests, and sometimes the protesters, are being used. The issues of race and class that often found the protests are, in fact, intentionally exacerbated by an agenda that uses those issues you raise–silencing and overreach of power–to drive the rioters.

    Some of these youngish 20 and 30 year olds (mostly white?) who are throwing bricks are in it for the yucks. It is for them an exercise–a reification of the rebel reviling his/her culture in a throw back to those who did such things in the late 60’s. They feel that this is their time to make history and are intentionally participating in the past as well as the present. It is thrilling, sexy and bold and they are part of the YOLO generation. During my grad years, there was an extremely exuberant eight-page article in the university paper that did nothing but describe the act of taking over a building. Never in the whole article did anyone explain WHY they took it over. Back then, we called it the “rites of Spring” and fortunately, most of the participants were just playing around waiting for a cause. These days, they’re generally being handed causes in an environment intentionally stoked to ignite.

    Our culture warriors and educators have been fueling this for years. Silencing speech is just a piece of that. Forcing people to see themselves or others as victims first and foremost is another. The idea that we don’t have news or history or facts, but rather “narratives” is yet another. In fact, this last is exactly what both births and bolsters the silencing and the victim hood.

    I want to open this discussion up a bit more. Let me start by telling a quick story about one of my first experiences as a grad student in one of the more competitive programs in the country back in the 90’s. In the critical theory course that would supposedly determine the direction and methods of both our scholarship and our teaching, a classmate suggested that the Post Modernist thinking presented there, if followed, would lead to perpetual revolution. Our instructor replied quickly, “hopefully bloody.”

    First, let me be clear. I’m not suggesting any carefully plotted conspiracy here. What I point to is what feeds much of the malaise we feel these days. I think it is important to acknowledge that there has been, for a long while, an agenda driving much of our cultural direction. No matter who or what created that agenda, it is now lovingly fostered and nourished by those who would take advantage of it.

    OK, let me throw the cocktail party version of this thinking out there. Yes, this is overly simplistic. The arguments and philosophies that feed it are vast and nuanced. But nuance and philosophy (especially epistemology) need to be watered down for the “masses.” (Pardon me while I assume the enemy’s voice here and there.) Quite seriously, almost all of what you address springs out of this sad, contorted mix of linguistics, Marxism, Psychoanalytics, German/French philosophy and Anthropology. In (overly) short, the only two constants here are language and power.

    Other “givens” that follow from this are thus: 1) Power is a constant and thus the only way to shift it is to “occupy” it (familiar word that!). 2) There is no thought without words, thus there is no self without language, thus language *makes* selves (and history and “fact” and…). What follows is that, not only is language power, but power is language. Language must be wrestled into submission for the sake of occupying power and equally, power must be physically taken in order to create language (or history or fact).

    Think through your entire discourse with all of this in mind. Think of it in terms of that sort of revolution that is perpetual because power must always be occupied by those without it in order for progress. Add to this that “progress” itself can have no asserted end because that end would need to be ummmm yes, you got it “defined” by someone in power.

    Does anyone truly believe that this offers a way for a society or a person to survive? No, but the process certainly works for those who want to orchestrate power for their own ends. The whole thing is terribly sad.

    Considering this agenda’s Marxist underpinnings, it is no accident that the current activist boogeyman is the market and somehow government escapes blame (with exception of Orange Man Bad because he was first, blatantly a capitalist, and not a very nice one at that). In reality, it is neither the market economy nor a sane government that is evil, but rather it is both when they are in cahoots (and no longer sane). In a world where regulation of industry (and industrious people) reigns, regulation itself becomes the currency bartered between the market and the government. The two paired are frighteningly powerful. One of the eternal frustrations of Marxists was that the revolution didn’t magically happen on its own as theorized. What better way to prod it into action than by poking society with needless regulation (and I don’t just mean COVID stuff here, but so many of the regulations that cramp our everyday life).

    I’ll leave with this thought. What better way to rob people of freedom than to redefine what freedom means? When “freedom” means a right to someone else’s property (or even self) because freedom equals “fairness,” then fighting even for freedom becomes untenable.

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