Shut your privileged white mouth and listen

I don’t perceive myself as racist. Quite the opposite. I try really hard not to be. But sometimes, my privileged white foot steps in some shit. And there I am, doing my best to scrape it off.

I stepped in it on Facebook recently, while singing the praises of U.S. Representative Val Demings, who I’m hoping against hope will be Joe Biden’s running mate. In the midst of the burst of pain, anger, and outrage in this country over the murder of George Floyd, Demings wrote a brave and passionate op-ed in the Washington Post, in which she boldly confronted her fellow police officers about yet another abhorrent killing of a black man by a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. Yes, “fellow” officers. You see, not only is Demings a Congresswoman, she was a police officer for 27 years, part of which she spent as police chief.

Oh, yeah, she is all that and the bag of proverbial chips.

I discovered her during the impeachment trials. She blew me away. I listened to her speak and thought, “Who is THIS, and why isn’t she a contender for Biden’s runningmate? Well, now, apparently she is on his short list, and all my fingers and toes are crossed that Uncle Joe will recognize that Demings’ foot is the one that will fit his Cinderella slipper. Her perfect foot is in both camps: the black community and law enforcement! She is so uniquely qualified for this moment in time, and I will be over the moon to support BidenDemings2020.

Demings is one of those people who, when she speaks, your ears perk up. Your brain pays attention. Her voice rings like a bell. She has that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes her stand out in a sea of blah blah blah. In my Facebook post, I summarized her as: Smart. Experienced. Articulate.

Boom.

There it is.

“Articulate.”

Did you know that describing a black person as “articulate” is an insult? I certainly didn’t.

Heyyyyy…. what’s this stinky stuff on my shoe???

First, I was excoriated by an indignant white guy, which only pissed me off because there seems to be an overabundance of white people speaking on behalf of black people without their consent. “Whitesplaining.” So arrogant.

We went a few rounds after he proceeded to pelt me with belittling “Jane, you ignorant slut” insults. I insisted that not in my wildest imagination was I insulting Demings in any way, and pointed out to him that he didn’t have a problem with me describing her as “smart” or “experienced.” Following his logic, would these not also be backhanded slaps that insinuate blacks aren’t smart or experienced?

But he then produced a piercing story by Lynette Clemetson, a black woman, explaining that the history of this word is a back-handed slap to insinuate that blacks speak sloppily, and one who speaks eloquently is a bit of a unicorn. Which, of course, is just nuts. People still believe that sort of crap in this day and age? Why can’t I call an articulate black woman articulate, just like I would an articulate white woman? It doesn’t make any sense to me!

I wrestled with my immediate instinct to fight this issue to the death, because dammit, insulting Demings was the furthest thing from my mind, and let’s face it: She really is articulate, and I meant that from my heart. I want her to be our next vice-president, and first female president after that! I love this woman!

But there it was. From someone with personal experience. Someone who knows firsthand.

Me being me, I was ready to keep on slugging and prove my self-righteous point, and verbally take this guy down (he knows not with whom he deals!), but then I reread the story. Clemetson was/is spot on. And, despite my intense urge to prove I was right, which fuels most of my tooth-and-claw debates on and off Facebook… I pumped the brakes.

Hmmm.

Although another privileged white person chastising me for being another privileged white person just grates me the wrong way — the milk calling the sugar white — I realized that wasn’t the point. Clemetson’s story, and the history she revealed, were the point. I let it sink in. Turns out (brace yourself), I was wrong. Rather than argue, I decided to concede. I apologized, said I had no idea I was using an unkind word, and replaced the word in the post on the spot.

And then, another comment popped up in the thread, from a lady named Sylvia:

I am a 71 year old Black woman so I speak from years of experience. Whenever we’ve been told we are articulate, it means we don’t talk “black”, whatever that means. It’s like being asked if we’re educators just because we know how to properly use nouns and verbs. Long story short, it is most definitely not a compliment. I hope this explanation helps.

I was so touched by her gentleness and patience with my white privilege ineptitude, despite the fact that white folks, even well-meaning ones, don’t deserve any gentleness or patience from a black person, and yet… she extended that to me anyway. That really touched me. And impressed me deeply. This was my response to her:

Thank you for explaining this. I had NO IDEA.
The post has been updated.

This tiny exchange gave me a huge epiphany. Besides writing, I’m a massage therapist. I’ve had my own practice for 20 years. In the course of that practice, I’ve had a couple clients with fibromyalgia. They made no sense to me! So extremely sensitive! One of them yelped, “too deep!” when I first placed my hands on her back. I was only spreading the oil! I consulted with her physician, who explained that the nerves of a fibromyalgia patient interpret touch as pain. It doesn’t matter that I think my touch is light — all that matters is their experience of pain. It’s not my place to judge, it’s my place to accept their experience and adjust my approach accordingly.

Believe their pain. It’s so simple!

This prompted me think about the pain black people experience every single day — the pain that white people don’t know about because they never experience it. This utter cluelessness is the definition of “white privilege.” And thinking about fibromyalgia pain really snapped things into focus.

We need to believe people about their pain. When black people say “that hurts,” we privileged white folks need to believe them. Even if it doesn’t hurt us, even if we didn’t intend for it to hurt, even if we don’t understand why it hurts — we need to shut our mouths, nod our heads, listen, and acknowledge it. Particularly if we caused it. Our own understanding of that pain is irrelevant.

I don’t have fibromyalgia.

I’m not black.

I don’t understand either pain.

But I accept it.

And should a black person inform me about my pain, I’ll shut my mouth and simply listen. And if I caused that pain, I’ll take responsibility, apologize, and make a correction.

Will you?

 

Biden — his time

It’s been fascinating and a bit overwhelming watching the list of Democratic primary contenders try to make themselves seen, single grains of sand on a beach of political noise that they are. But several have captured my fancy: Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris, in that order come out on top. But in my heart, I worry if any of them can withstand the Trumpster blitzkrieg on Election Day. Currents of racism, sexism, and homophobia sadly run deep and wide in this country.

Pete Buddigieg is simply brilliant. He is so calming, so intelligent. When he speaks, he sings the song of my people, and it feels like a sweet, soft lullabye. He’s smart, he’s patient, he’s kind, and he’s a veteran. He’s everything Donald Trump is not. He’s the Anti-Trump! Although I’m simply enthralled with him, to be fair, when you think of dealing with foreign affairs at the international level and wrangling with dictators like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, Buddigieg is very thin in that department. But the real issue that will trip up a successful presidential bid is that he’s gay.

I don’t have a problem with his sexual orientation, and you probably don’t either (or you wouldn’t even be reading my stuff!), but there are plenty of folks out there who do. They run mainly in two camps: the Mike Pence type who believe that Jesus hates homosexuals and God will spank them all (and not in a good way), and the knuckledragging, severely intrinsically homophobic Right Wingers, who I suspect are so rabid because they’re terrified of their own normal same-sex curiosity. You know, the ones who would yell “faggot!” out in public and then puff up their chests because it made them feel manly. One word for both camps: Ugh. Sadly, they vote.

Here’s the thing: I can already hear the latter homophobic camp making the “butt gig” jokes. It’s disgusting and outrageous, but I guarantee that they’re already saying it. And our Idiot in Chief is cackling right along with them, because he’s just that juvenile. It’s stupid and base, but then, so are Trump supporters. (Not normal Republicans, mind you. I’m talking about the flag humpin’, MAGA-hat wearin’ Trumpanzees.) Don’t underestimate their ability to show up and make an X next to his name, even if they can’t spell. They only need to master one letter of the alphabet, and clearly they did in 2016.

Then there’s Amy Klobuchar. So midwest. Fair and tough. Too tough, some say, on her staff. However, that’s because she doesn’t have a penis. If she did, no one would even comment about that. I really like Amy. Like Mayor Pete, when she speaks, I feel calm. I feel like everything will be OK. I feel like an adult is finally in the room. She may not be fancy. She’s kind of like a trusty Buick Regal, and not even a new one. But she’s ever so safe. After the last two years of this presidency, “safe, calm, and fair” sound super awesome to me. However, there’s that lack of a penis. As evidenced by the number of women who supported a sexist, self-admitted groper, who dumped wife after wife in a row for a newer, shinier model, not only are there men who won’t vote for a woman, there are women who won’t vote for a woman.

Which brings us to Kamala Harris, both female and a woman of color, and although she’s a rock star — intelligent, experienced, and a true and fearless fighter — there are people in this country who will see “woman” and “dark” and will not vote for her. Some folks will not confess their prejudices outright, but in the privacy of the voting booth, they let their fears and mistrust rule their choices. I hate that this is the case, but it is. Waving American flags and baseball and apple pie aside, we are still a nation that has a huge population of backwards assholes.

Hold up that mirror and take a good look at yourself, America. You ain’t all that.

After the last election, which seemed like it should have been a slam-dunk, weren’t we surprised when the ball tipped off the hoop and the other team won. I just don’t know if this is time to take any chances. That horror has made me extremely gun-shy. This is no time to take chances and aim for lofty, philosophical pie in the sky. We have one singular mission: Extract Trump from the Whitehouse. Period. We can put Climate Change and a whole array of social needs at the top of our to-do list in Congress, but we need to get rid of Trump to make that happen.

And now we have the candidate.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is IN! Let the marching bands play and the balloons fly!

In every poll, Biden crushes Trump. Why? Because he appeals to the middle of the road voters and independents. He peels off all the essentially fine Republicans who held their nose and voted for Trump anyway, simply because they couldn’t stand Hillary. He also doesn’t scare the latently sexist and homophobic. This voting block is legion. And they will swing the election, not Millennials or Trumpsters. They literally are the swing vote.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he’s another old white man. But he’s not just any old white man. He was vice president to one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, decent men who ever sat in the Oval Office; Barack Obama. Obama is famously quoted as saying that choosing Biden as his running mate was amongst his wisest decisions. Besides that huge character endorsement, with eight years of vice presidenting under his belt, Biden is richly and thoroughly qualified to lead this country amid the challenges from foreign nations and dictators, and represent our country as a kind, experienced, gentle but tough man, with the country’s interests ahead of his own. In the midst of the social, political, environmental, and international shitstorm currently buffeting us about like frantic, panicked leaves in the wind, Biden is a calming presence. We can relax. Uncle Joe has got this. Everything will be OK.

Whew!

Although I have been, and am, solidly in the Biden tank, and truly believe he’s the best person to hit the reset button on this country and rid us of Trump, we don’t need him in the White House for two terms. He’s earned his retirement, and while that might seem like that should be his next logical and natural step, he’s putting it aside for the greater good of all. It’s one of the oldest movie plots around: Over-the-hill wise, tough old hero overcomes all odds and with superhuman strength, rides in and saves the day. It’s pretty much every Clint Eastwood movie made since he turned 50. I want a hero, dammit! I want to be able to look up to someone and say, “I don’t have to fret about this anymore. Our hero will save us!” (This is where I clasp my hands to my cheek and swoon!)

That said, we don’t need Biden to be a hero for eight years. Only four. He only needs to ride in, clean up the mess, and hand a shiny, pretty package to the next person — his running mate and vice president. Biden needs a “new blood” candidate who will engage the Millennial voters, the far left, and progressives. Beto? Well, Beto is so wet behind the ears, you could grow moss there. I still do not “get” the buzz about Beto. He’s about as spicy as Wonder Bread. What’s his message anyway — hey, I’m really young and handsome? Nope. I vastly prefer my three aforementioned favorites, Mayor Pete, Amy Klobuchar, and Kamala Harris.

Weighing them all against each other, Amy Klobuchar has the most experience and the least baggage for turning off voters who are still stubbornly clinging to White 1950s America. In this election, she is the safest bet. And, we’ll have four years to adapt to the idea of a female president and catch up with the rest of the civilized world. Maybe when Amy runs in 2024 and Uncle Joe relaxes into a well-deserved, golden retirement, she can take the next step in chipping away at our phobias, prejudices and insecurities.

Klobuchar-Buttgieg 2024? Dare I dream?

No, I dare not. Not for now, not right at the moment. Because right now, 2020 and getting Trump out of the White House is the only thing that matters. And Biden is the guy. People sometimes comment that he didn’t win the last two times he ran for President. Well, duh. Stand back and look at it from the 10,000 foot vista: Did we really need him then like we need him now? No. It wasn’t the time. The Universe was saving him for the really important moment, and that moment is now. Bidin’ its time. And it’s now. Biden — His Time. 2020.

*****

Here is Joe Biden’s campaign announcement video, released today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=VbOU2fTg6cI
It will help you remember who were were before we forgot who we were.