How to Do Better
I CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT THE "GOOD GERMANS" in Nazi Germany. The people who knew Hitler was deliberately committing genocide against Jews but who voted for him, anyway. On purpose.
People say that they were doing what they thought--believed!--was right, but how could they believe that murdering an entire subcategory of humans was the right thing? My thought process in response to this, as a Jewish person, goes like this:
There are obvious flaws within the system of thinking here, but I want to be transparent and honest, because that's the only way forward, here, so bear with me.
When Trump got elected in 2016 and started generalizing Mexicans in similar ways that Hitler generalized Jews, I of course panicked--because guess what? I'm Mexican, too. My friends told me that I was overreacting when I compared modern early Trumpism to early Nazi Germany, but I was genuinely terrified. Sure, I'm White-passing, and I grew up Christian. But would those things save me if push came to shove? When people start using rhetoric that blames an entire category of people, it's us-versus-them. It's fight-versus flight. It's survival thinking--and there's no reasoning with survival thinking.
for four years I've been struggling with what to do about my Trump-supporting family. My Mexican, Trump-supporting family.
Where do you start? How do you explain systemic racism to your eighty-something-year-old grandmother who grew up an American-born, Spanish-speaking, migrant farm laborer prior to Cesar Chavez, who was lucky enough to get access to a high-school education, then insisted on getting her associates, then became a moderately successful real-estate-agent-slash-mortgage-and-home-loan-specialist? How do you explain to a loving, caring woman--who believes that Trump is "strong" and just desperately wants her family to get along--that the man she believes in would kill her if he got the chance?
If I'd tried, she would have told me, "I don't think he would do that." And how do you argue with that?
You can't. Because until it actually happens, it's all hypothetical. But if it does actually happen, it'll be too late.
That's what has been at stake for all of us here: hypotheticals versus reality, and the inability to agree on which version actually reflects reality. We can't agree on what "reality" is, or whom to trust, because we're all in survival mode.
I'm a Quaker. I'm a pacifist at heart--not in a passive way, but in an active way. I'm not here to vindicate people who actively practice racism, but I'm not here to blame them for holding those beliefs in the first place, either. I'm thinking a lot about how to build bridges and how to cope with the fact that the amount of people who voted for Trump last year is overwhelming, and--to queer, non-Christian women of color like me (even those of us who pass for cishet/White)--terrifying.
There's no reasoning with survival thinking.
So. Here's what I'm going to do:
For a while, I'm going to let this blog be dominated by my thought processes and my experiences as an individual working through them. Right now, I think, there aren't enough places for people to be honest without being condemned for their honesty or their thought process "imperfections," and that's a problem. If we can't be honest about where we are, how are we supposed to grow?
In order to reach the "good Germans" of modern America, I have to utilize my privilege of not directly being on the receiving end of racism by educating others and educating myself--and doing the difficult work of being in the middle. For me, that starts with displaying my own nuanced experiences, thoughts, and encounters so that other people can see them, too, and maybe see themselves in that, too, and recognize that they're not alone and that change is possible.
I will be honest. And earnest, and wrong. I will be imperfect. But hot damn, I will be transparent, because I can't be the only one asking these questions, and I want to create a culture in which people aren't deemed "good" or "bad," but rather one in which we are free to establish ourselves as learners and be able to identify how we can do better.
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PART OF THIS COMPLETE BREAKFAST
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