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I’m OK With Oppression, As Long As You Don’t Mess With My Television

July 16, 2013 9 comments

“Today, we have no political or national will to end injustice.” 

The problem with this statement is that there are people in this country who believe that there are no injustices.  Seriously.

But every issue we face as a nation, comes down to some form of discrimination and many just don’t see it that way.  Instead, most see our call of injustices as an excuse.

You can look through my Facebook timeline and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Growing up in a conservative, rural town in New Mexico, most of the families appeared to have the same things, same experiences. Disparities in wealth, health, etc existed, but as a young child I didn’t see it and no one was really there to tell me otherwise.  It wasn’t until I left for college and graduate school and my work with communities across the country the last fifteen years, that helped me to think critically and see injustices for what they really were.

Yes, we have choices.  But our choices are predetermined by who we are as a people because it is embedded in our society.  Not one person in this country can tell you what justice looks like, because not one person has ever seen it.  While people continue to internalize and justify racism and discrimination, we will never see it, at least not in my lifetime.

Our upbringing didn’t help us either.

During my EMERGE NM class this week, I learned something from our instructor, jona olsson.  It is something I’ve known for a long time, but I could never put it into words.  She couldn’t have put it any other way:

“we are expert scholars in the propaganda our parents taught us.”

Powerful, right?  I mean, really.  Think about that statement for a second.

Not to blame my parents for everything, but we’ve been taught so many things from generations before us, particularly on how we treat other people and how we’re supposed to be treated and we can’t seem to shake it. Thinking about it this weekend, I go back to comments and statements made by family and friends overtime, stereotypes they hold to be true, and it makes me angry. So angry, I choose to not surround myself around that as much as possible. But Saturday night’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial didn’t do anything to lessen this feeling.

The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida is the dumbest piece of state legislation I have ever read (we’ll leave Texas law out of this conversation, because Texas is just another freak of nature).  The law is one thing we need to argue about, however to see people sit back and say that Travyon Martin, a young black kid, was not targeted and discriminated against by George Zimmerman, a known violent person and racist, is absolutely outrageous.  The verdict wasn’t so much the surprise, it was the shock and awe I felt from those who decided to come out in support of the murderer’s actions and characterization of Travyon Martin.

With the character assassination of the murdered child, the quote above brought it home to me the night we found out the verdict.  I knew George Zimmerman would not be convicted. I knew because 1) Stand Your Ground is way too broad and 2) our justice system in this country is jacked.  What I was not prepared for, however, was the utter carelessness of loss of life from those around me, especially from communities of color, who were ok with the verdict or did a *shoulder shrug*, like it was no big deal.  Some said, “get over it.”

Get over it?  As a person of color, we are devalued in our country because of who we are; the color of our skin, our language, what we wear and even our name, and yet we defend the system that is built to keep us oppressed?  What the “get over it” people did, was show me that once again, they have drunk the kool-aid of oppression. They actually believe that there is no such thing as injustice in this world and that we each have control of our own destiny and that those with privilege are actually good people and looking out for the best of us. Racism is over. GET OVER IT!

I remember a story my dad tells me and although he means well, when he tells it, it really infuriates me.  My father was a farmworker for all of his life until retirement over a decade ago.  During his career, he worked for a gentleman here in Lake Arthur, New Mexico, a farm owned by a family that my dad had strong ties to. To say that my dad was loyal, is an understatement.  He was so loyal that one day, one of the owners of the farm came by where my dad was burning weeds along the area where he was farming. The owner fell into the burning brush and my father jumped in after him and saved his life.  My dad insisted that this man go to the hospital while my dad stayed behind, letting his own burns heal on their own. The infuriating part about this narrative is that when my dad tells this story, he shares it in a way that makes him nostalgic for those days. You know, the good ole’ days? What he never mentions, or does not want to argue, is that his boss never provided him basic health care, he worked six days a week, from 6a to 6p, and managed acres upon acres of farmland on his own.  When he retired, he was so proud to have learned that his former boss hired three guys to do what he had done on his own!  For him and my family, this “built character.” Sure, it did! But the toll it must have taken on my dad physically. This story also reinforces this mentality that we we don’t deserve to be treated fairly and equally.  So when I bring this up, I’m told to not say more.

It’s just an excuse.

When you pass this farm that my dad managed for so long, it’s no longer the beautiful land he once cultivated. Instead, the land is unkept, without nourishment, and saddens my father each and every time he passes through. The owners of this land are now extremely wealthy, living off the money they made after selling the water rights to the farm my dad worked so hard for.

I love my dad.   I love him because he worked hard to make a better life for me and my family.  But his hard work also lead me to question the system and think critically about what and how we are treated.  We are two very different generations and we see the world differently. What he sees as loyalty and being a good hired hand and worker, I see as an employer taking advantage of a man and exploiting him to get what they could out of him.

When I tell my dad that this is an “injusticia” it aggravates him in the same way others treat the idea of injustice all across this country.

It’s just an excuse.

The murder of Trayvon Martin, the attack on women’s reproductive rights, the nativism we hear and see during immigration debate and the justification we make for “random” acts of violence are consequences of a misogynistic society.  We refuse to see it for what it is:  oppression.

Racism and discrimination may not be as obvious as it was in our history books for many American’s, but to say that it doesn’t happen, especially from people of color, makes it even more impossible to initiate a national or political will to make our society better.

It’s ok to talk about it.  It’s ok to say we have problems in this country and that we need to make necessary steps to figure it all out.  But I worry that we may have to go through a series of challenging events before the “get over it” group finally realize that they were wrong all along.

They came for everyone else and you didn’t care.  Who will be defend you when they come for you?

 

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40 Days Left Until Election Day…And You Still Don’t Know Who You’re Voting For?

September 28, 2012 3 comments

Last Monday I drove to Missouri to visit my sister.  But before I could arrive to my final destination, I of course had to face a few interesting encounters along the way.  First off.  Amarillo, Texas.  I arrived around 8a, where I stopped to fill up Herbie’s tank with gas.  Here, I was introduced to an older gentleman filling up his own tank, who immediately began to complain about the high gas prices.  Instead of discussing the issue in a manner that was both fair and realistic to the issue itself, he continued to go on a rant about how we should bomb the hell out of Iran to meet his desires for low gas prices.  Unfortunately for him, I wasn’t going to stay silent.  Instead, I rolled my eyes and I railed on him for about two minutes, explaining to him that by creating a crisis of “bombing the crap out of Iran,” would only increase gas prices even more and where would he be then.  Why don’t people get it?

Perhaps my political explosion in Amarillo lead to some bad karma because right before arriving into Oklahoma City, I ran into a bit of a “problem.”  Around mile marker 99, heading east on I-40, I had what some people might call, a bit of a flat tire.  Fortunately for Herbie, a few minutes prior to this flat tire, I happened to notice a sign outside of Oklahoma City which read, “dial *55 for Highway Patrol.”  So, as someone not knowing anything about changing my tire, I decided the Highway Patrol was necessary and needed to save the day.  Well, fortunately for me, I only lost 15 minutes because a nice Oklahoman stopped and helped me out and changed my tire within minutes, not having to really need the patrolman.  But as he arrived, he did what I guess any other patrolman would do…put on some white gloves.

Seriously?  He looked down on me and my Obama bumper stickers with some trepidation. Which is why I convinced myself he was not going to help us out and he didn’t.  He just stood and stared and said not one word to me. Whatever, the Oklahoman gent was great so he redeemed my faith in the people of this great state.  As I coasted through the state in my fixed tire and Bruno Mars blaring from my speakers at my mom’s expense (she came along), it was between Tulsa, Oklahoma and Joplin, Missouri that a guy in an older black Honda Accord passed me full-speed, honking his horn and flipping  me off.  I was driving a a cruise controlled 70mph, VW Beetle,  so my only  reasoning behind it was yes…the Obama bumper sticker with the words “Latino’s for” before Obama.  Oh well.  I still believe in Oklahoma hospitality.

So there is a reason for this narrative and that is, how well will President Obama do in these states?  I mean, Oklahoma isn’t racing to be a blue state, that’s for sure.  But my question is, what will ever get them to become purplish?  I don’t know.

I’m also still wondering why people are undecided.  We’re less than 40 days from election day and people still don’t know who they’re going to vote for?  You either support the President and want to see him re-elected (and succeed) or you’re ready to go on with the next guy.  You’d think the last few weeks of funny and deplorable comments from the Romney campaign would help in making that decision, but apparently that’s not the case.

The conventions held last month were pretty interesting.  Up until then, things were just politics as usual.  However, despite the apparent differences in reception from both sides, I think we have all come to the conclusion (at least I think we have) that the Democratic party is not facing an enthusiasm gap at all, like I once feared.  Perhaps it has something to do with the opponents Dems are facing rather than the progressive candidates themselves.  Nonetheless, the last few weeks have been interesante because during the ongoing post-convention punditry, it’s apparent that President Obama has held on to a significant bounce, which has sustained this far in the game.

Unfortunately, this optimism coming from the President’s camp and progressive campaigns across the country have really worried me a lot in recent weeks.  Yes, President Obama is ahead in the polls and Democrats are gaining speed against their various opponents in Congressional races across the country.  But really?  Declaring a win, less than forty days before the election, is incredibly stupid.

Polls are great because they can be very telling.  They have the ability give us a general idea of where we are.  The problem, however, is that it can also lead voters to become very complacent.  I’m sorry, but American’s don’t get as excited about voting the way they do when refs screw up a call during a Sunday night football game.  I’m sorry, but that’s just reality.

(Which is why I have such an issue with the electoral college during election night when pundits declare California blue when the polls haven’t even closed yet…but that’s another blog post)

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Voter registration deadlines will end in less than two weeks and get out the vote efforts are so important because we need to keep those people we’ve registered, engaged enough to go straight to the polls.

It’s not over.

Presidential debates begin next week and these will be a major events for those independents not yet sure whom they’ll be voting for to evaluate the candidates and see who will be their choice come November 6.  Will President Obama be as successful in the past?  Will Mitt Romney continue to bury himself?  We shall see Wednesday, October 3 when the first debate takes place at the University of Denver.

As I drove up to Colorado yesterday, a guy in a silver Toyota passed me, honking his horn and giving me the thumbs down…I’m assuming it was my Obama stickers (again).  I was sad about it for a seconds until I realized.  I guess it’s better than being given the bird.  That’s progress.