A World of Measures

We are a measured society. Our actions fall under values we would wish to believe manifest in our background, cultural mores, the manner we were raised, the people by which we surround ourselves. In order to feel a certain sense of security, I want to believe in doing the right thing, living a life of compassion, respect and understanding. I often fall back upon the only attribute I can always count on to help me move forward – the concept of love. We all have a penchant for understanding what kindness might do to enhance our own personal confidence in who we are and how we go about our lives.

What I just described is how I live my life. I might go through my day with concern of other’s perception of me, but nowhere in my day have I ever felt a concern for my welfare beyond evaluating my own actions and making the right decisions to maintain a moral and dignified life. I have never felt my reality to be threatened by violence of any sort. Even those bullying moments in my childhood didn’t amount to anything as traumatic as senseless loss of life over and over again. I lost my cousin when I was 12 years old – he and I were six months apart in age, and that tragedy changed the course of my young life. What is important to recognize about that moment is that I didn’t have to get used to loss being right around the corner of all my actions throughout every living moment of my existence.

I am a White man living a privileged life.

When George Floyd lost his life last May during the Memorial Day holiday, I struggled to understand his loss. I tried to imagine the pain his world endured and I could not wrap my head around it at all. I couldn’t go and visit the memorial. I felt like I didn’t belong there. I felt pain and compassion for his loss and the impact on the community, including the horrific repetition of a systemic assault upon the welfare and safety of people of color in our society. I realized the Black community lived in a measured life far different than my own.

Daunte Wright lived a measured life. His every action has been based upon and judged by the color of his skin. His safety was when he was surrounded by his friends, his family, the people he counted upon to always be there for him, to not judge him, to never ostracize his position in their lives.

I once sat in a roundtable discussion of an equity based forum, a group whereby I was one of only a couple of white participants in a mix of a dozen contributors. The end discussion was a share of how we all felt about the last hour of a courageous conversation. I spoke out and suggested this was a fascinating hour and that I needed to process this and probably write about my feelings later in the week. I felt confident I was speaking accurately from my heart. A woman on my right said to me, “I’m glad you are going to do that, to process this day – good luck with that.” She then suggested she will get up from the table and be immediately immersed with a need to survive as she goes about her afternoon. She said “I have to be aware of myself in my every move the moment I walk out my door in the morning until evening when I can return to the security of my own home.”

I was actually a bit shocked, perhaps mortified at my naive approach to the measure of someone else’s life far more impacted by the nature of racism in our society. A woman on the right of me after listening to me rationalize my ignorance then plead, “when are white people going to let go of their white guilt and just acknowledge their role in privilege in our society.” Stunned again I thanked everyone at the table for letting me share in the discussion and allow me to have my takeaways. I was humbled. I was measured in the moment, but that feeling paled to the measure I realized people of color will experience every moment of their lives.

Daunte Wright’s life was certainly measured and he suffered a tragic end to living his life in goodness and flaw. The paramount misperception without question the color of his skin. The evidence would suggest a travesty has occurred, one that repeats itself so frequently there are protesters today walking the streets wearing t-shirts with a dozen names printed in a list of losses our Black society has experienced at the hands of ignorance. The world around Breonna and George and Michael and Philando and now Daunte are rampant with a confusing measure of importance in a country where the color of our skin is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. It is important to understand how measures play a role in perception.

There will be push-back. There always is. I have a good friend whose husband, also a friend is a police officer in the twin cities. She once described to me the fear she has every time her husband has to walk up to a parked vehicle he has pulled over for a traffic violation. I wish that analogy could be as simple and educational as it sounds, but there is a greater argument to be had about discrimination, fear, confusion in a hurting society. We are all being measured, however there is a much greater consequence for people of color in a world that still after decades beyond the civil rights movement of the 60’s continues to perpetuate a thinking of ill-met measure and judgment that has nothing to do with the whole of our humanity.

We are all products of the same nature of human beings relying upon eating, sleeping and communicating with each other to live our lives in a kind, forgiving, loving manner. We all do live measured lives some with greater extremes than others. The truth is we need to be measured the same – we need to leave privilege behind and begin loving one another for whom we are rather than forcing our neighbor to adjust their lives based upon the color of their skin.

We need our measuring stick to endure the confusion and misperception of years of trauma and perpetual ignorance and begin to love one another with kindness and acceptance. We need to be measured by a universal humanity and not one of misguided and horrific judgment.


© Thom Amundsen 4/2021

A response to the tragic death of Daunte Wright, of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Philando Castile and the countless names that preceded death based upon fear.

White Privilege

white privilege

what I have
would regrettably could
be different as
standing alone in a crowd
without indifference
disguised
preconceived judgmental
scrutiny

let me stand
side by side
in a world of true
compassion
love, human, free
then we will perhaps
all believe
we are not
racist
we live in a
dream

Different Set of Eyes

wallup.net

Yesterday morning, while sitting in a writing lab with a student, we both received notifications at the same time, about the Houston tragedy – Tragedy in Texas – and we talked for a minute or two of our sadness. We exchanged the usual, it keeps happening, oh that’s scary, terrible, any number of coined phrases that are now attached to school shootings. But then I turned to her and I asked her,

“How do you feel about that?” and I looked her directly in the eye.

She paused for a moment, and then replied, “I’m sorry, but the first thing I think about is White people,” and she tried to restrain a natural smile, not one of happiness but one of timid reality that she lives in every day. See this young woman is Latina, and her mindset does not comprehend such an acceptance of school shootings. She believes the ‘mental health’ attachment is just another way of protecting the White community.

I looked at her and said, “You’re right.” But I was just beginning to think about the reality of her words. I couldn’t get past it the rest of the day. In my class later on in the morning, when the subject came up, there she was again, and this time her response was that society just allows it to happen because they can wrap it around a ‘mental illness’ label. I wondered if the rest of our society might see it as clearly as she does. I thought about her world.

In her scope of reasoning she has other concerns. Number one, she lives in a world where ICE is constantly knocking on her door, her friend’s door, family, acquaintances who every day wake up wondering if this is the day – will someone today lose their rights and feel the anxiety of having their family, lifestyle ripped apart. Certainly, it is a different measure than the immediacy of a school shooting leaving the slain to disrupt the lives of their family and friends, but hers is a unique pain.

I honestly don’t believe there is a concern in her world that anyone she is close to would ever resort to bringing a weapon to school and gunning down anyone in their presence. But I do think she walks around school, with her observant insight, wondering what next. What will be the next offense that will bear down on her society.

I’ve thought about my conversation with this young woman for the last 24 hours. She has given me new insight into what it is each of us thinks about every day, what are our central concerns, who do we worry about, and rather, when we think of an emotional commitment, what end holds confidence in our survival? Where she might be in constant motion trying to balance her world, her education, her work life all in a genuine effort to survive in America as a Latina woman, I’m on the other hand thinking about what plans I have for the weekend, and how can I pace my grading through the end of school year.

I don’t worry about losing my family to an immigration sweep. I do worry about school shootings, and I am constantly confused by how it continues to occur and how our society is gradually hypnotized into this absurd level of acceptance. She on the other hand holds a very sharp and poignant answer that when the rest of us stop and think about it, reveals a posture in our society that seems easily put aside.

Perhaps we are erring when we simply call it mental health rather than privilege.


photo taken from Pinterest

To Know Who I Am

I struggle sometimes,

with the right words,

perhaps an easy phrase,

a greeting of some kind.

I want the world to understand,

I am my own being,

I’ve fought a war perhaps,

nothing like a soldier’s wrath.

 

I listen to what is real around me,

the smarter speakers

those meant to be listened upon.

I wait for revelations,

I want to know,

where is it that I shall go,

with my next adventure,

just a simple morning away.

 

I’d like to think I’m right,

but there is such wide expanse

of narrative to discredit

anyone who might disregard

the reality of fear.

Instead we live in a constant,

of idiosyncrasy and wealth,

the sort that leaves a waning.

 

See it seems we are a society

built upon certain hypocrisy,

and if someone argues,

another might step in

when the originator

is walked out of the ring,

a towel over their head,

to hide only that embarrassment.

 

Yet, what happens to the winner,

when it is realized,

there is a far greater fight ahead,

than anyone might imagine,

Or perhaps they did,

just in the blink of an eye,

when were all told a no,

we might find agreement instead.

 

I wonder what it is, where I’ll be

suddenly when asked to know who I am.

Be A Racist, It’s Ok, It’s 2017

I walked into a nightmare today,

names were dropped, words were tossed,

I couldn’t get past an,

an, an, an,

omission of a hopeful anomaly,

that turned awful, horrific, debatably

ludicrous,

seemed we were all so frivolous,

funny, fanatics.

Seemed we were all lost in the comfort of our

WHITE PRIVILEGE!

White privilege regarded itself,

and no one else really mattered.

All the doors were closed,

we all looked at each other,

nobody cared, nobody cared,

nobody,

anyone within a couple of feet with

the ability to see and hear might have thought,

wait a second,

I thought it was the 21st century,

the 21st century – 2017.

Years beyond the days when civil rights

meant understanding there was a need to change,

a need to understand,

a time to respond to the changing mind,

and realize, realize,

real eyes would be watching now,

more cognizant, more genuine …

Have you noticed all the bi-racial advertising,

I mean there’s nothing wrong with it,

just advertising meeting a market,

nothing wrong with it,

the windows are all closed.

Nobody knows,

‘the trouble I’ve seen’,

the long and winding road …

Old man river,

and its four decades later,

we’re still safe though,

nobody heard the word said out loud,

except,

oh wait,

except, except, except,

accept responsibility,

we all heard it and we need all to

open the doors and try to squeeze through,

because we have suddenly narrowed

nearly a half century of effort.

But its ok,

the doors all remain closed.

Simple, right?

 

On White Privilege

I was pissed today,

they didn’t get it,

instead, they threw it away,

opportunity,

look around the room,

everyone has a set of eyes,

focus on the corneas, nothing else,

notice the tear ducts,

they exist,

Everything else is added baggage,

meant to confuse and display,

every wonder why?

The eyes?

I stood outside in the rain,

a natural cleanse,

when I opened my windows later in the day,

I could see clearly again, another setting sun.