Journal Week 5 - Crash

I'm looking forward to my diversity experience and group presentation on Rwandan refugees in Grand Rapids.

But what I mostly took away tonight was _Crash_. It's one of the best movies I've ever seen. Definitely the best movie about the impact of racism: _A Time To Kill_ wanted to be this movie, and I enjoyed...well, enjoyed is definitely the wrong word. I appreciated _ATTK_ and it was good. But _Crash_ took the documentation and exploration of racism to a new level. Racism is more than just Black vs. White, or ethnic differences or straightforward and blatant prejudice. Crash captured the complexity of both external and internalized racism. It built up relationships then twisted and even destroyed them. And restored some. The reason I was crying so hard in the scene where Elizabeth is raped, then Lara is nearly shot was that the entire movie to that point hit me each time. There was also a resonance for me with the "successful black sheep" theme involving Graham, for personal reasons.

Maybe I'll be able to add more later, but if I type anymore now, I'll spend all night crying. And I can't do that.

Because right now I need to go hug and kiss my kids.

Journal Week 3 - Individual Experiences with discrimination

I encountered a lot of sexism and classism growing up working class in a wealthy suburban school district. They compounded each other. Even the most obnoxious administrators and counselors at least conceded that working class boys could benefit from education, the same was not believed of we girls. "You don't need physics to have babies!" quoth my principle when refusing to approve my schedule. "You are cheating and I'm giving you an F." said my history teacher when I wrote for a "what would your life have been like in ancient Greece" essay that it would have been short, given that I only survived birth because doctors had worked out a few months before that blood transfusions could reverse the effects of Rh Factor incompatibility in newborns. And that I was an oldest daughter, who would've been pretty much guaranteed to be exposed, a victim of infanticide, even if I had survived birth. And my academic counselor's observation that "You won't need those college track courses to work at [local factory] so why take them?"

How many Descartes' and Curies have died young picking cotton too slowly and being whipped to death? How many Shakespeares and Angelous have spent their lives mopping floors and writing poetry in secret if they even got the chance to learn reading and writing? How many Beatrix Potters and Mileva Einstein-Marics are still not given credit for their mathematical and scientific accomplishments, regarded as "sounding boards" instead of collaborators, amateurs instead of professionals, incapable of serious intellectual endeavor and valued only as sexual or nurturing peons based on their gender alone?

I am not claiming genius, or comparing myself to those beacons of knowledge. I'm just questioning how much better off we would be, locally and globally, if institutionalized racism and classism and sexism and materialism weren't still the order of the day.

Journal Week 4 - Discrimination and white privilege

I didn't learn about white privilege from a class or assigned readings. I learned about it from my fun and friendly and brilliant and beautiful college roommate Lavonne. She was from Chicago and we had almost everything in common. Except white privilege. Lavonne was African American. Being friends with her changed my life and my perception of myself. I had mostly identified myself by class, but hanging around Lavonne made me acutely aware of my whiteness and the many things I took for granted that she could not. Like not being followed by security in stores. And having food servers skip over her to ask me what I wanted. And being able to get my hair wet if it rained. Which I usually did, because Lavonne would confiscate my umbrella if an unexpected fall of rain happened. :)

When people are new to the fat acceptance movement, they often say that fat phobia is "the last acceptable prejudice." Sometimes I get sick and tired of enlightening them, but I keep on doing it. To honor Lavonne. Even though I had to drop out of college after my second semester and move back to my home town, and we lost touch, I will never forget what I learned from her and honor it.

Journal Week 2 - In God We Trust

I have to say my main response to the discussion tonight was that wow, are people ignorant of really basic US history. I don't expect people to know about the plague that killed 90% of the eastern coast's Native Americans, so that settlers were able to just move into the dead people's towns complete with already built houses with already planted corps and stores of food. High school classes never teach kids about it. Or most of the harrowing details of the slave trade, starting with our old buddy Christopher Columbus. Chris and his sailors enslaved inhabitants of the societies he "discovered." And just don't get me started on "discoveries" of places and things that everyone already living there knew all about - hint: if someone who already lives there is guiding you to it and showing you, you haven't discovered anything. Much like being shown Einstein's theory of relativity in seventh grade does not mean that I, Mary Heil, have discovered relativity. Back to Columbus, he ordered the slaves' hands cut off if they failed to give over their daily quota of gold. Even children. And there's always the failure to discuss the abandonment of the freed slaves after the civil war, with repracussions now.

But I have to draw the line at "The Founding Fathers were fleeing religious persecution."

First of all, the religious persecutions of the "pilgrims" who settled Plymouth (150 years BEFORE the Founders were twinkles in their mothers' eyes)consisted of fines equivalent in price to speeding tickets today. Just like today, if you didn't pay your ticket you might end up in jail for a couple of days. And these folks were rich - they usually went to "jail" at a boarding house instead of a real jail with poor people. It wasn't exactly the Inquisition. When you consider that people could be and routinely were hanged for stealing food when they had none to feed their children, it really puts that "persecution" in perspective. And any amount of religious persecution the pilgrims suffered pales beside religious persecution of slaves. Nobody in England was getting gang raped and whipped to death for practicing her religion, but slaves could be and were. Calling fines persecution is an insult to African Americans and First Nations people.

This is not and was deliberately meant not to be a "Christian nation." Roughly a fourth of the Founders were NOT Christian. Which is why the Constitution/Bill of Rights emphasizes religious freedom, abolishes a national religion and a includes a requirement that there be no religious test for political office. The Founders were pissed off because could be survielled, searched and stolen from by British soldiers, imprisoned indefinitely without charges (England STARTED habeas corpus in the 1215 Magna Carta, but ignored it in colonies) and taxed outrageously without representation in parlaiment, meaning that they had no legal recourse to protest and right these wrongs. They were not fleeing religious persecution. Most of them weren't fleeing anything, they had been born here.

Okay, I need to put the kids to bed. Rant over.

Except to say that King George the Second of the USA has pretty much restored all of the depredations that the Founders rebelled against.