Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Conversations about Race: It’s a Start

I’ve led an extraordinary life. I’ve felt loved and secure and had the opportunity to grow up unconcerned about my safety. There was no question that I would get my education and have a career. In my lifetime, I’ve been in countless situations in which I was the only Black person, or one of the few enough to count, in the room. That’s never been a problem for me. My experience, or any one person’s, is not everyone’s reality.

Today I feel the anguish, devastation, frustration, and horror of being Black in America. I worry about what might befall my young nephews, sons of friends, any black youth. And, nowadays, I fear for any Black person who is stopped by law enforcement or encounters armed citizens bent on brandishing their weapons.

This past year, we’ve been inundated with the images of Black people -- men, women, and kids -- thrown to the ground, screamed at as if they are inhuman, shot and killed, or dying in police custody. The reaction of far too many Americans that this is “okay” shows a need for real dialog that creates more questions and opportunities for each of us to share our thoughts, feelings, and dreams -- a chance to create understanding.

A safe place for conversation, people talking and people listening. That’s communicating in a rational way. With understanding comes change. There may be emotion. There may be tears and frustration. The opportunity for growth, understanding and peace are limited only by our openness and by our willingness to step outside our comfort zones.

Today’s blog post is my attempt to begin a conversation. It’s a start. No one has all the answers -- I sure don’t -- but we can begin. Questions and thoughtful, respectful comments and dialog are welcomed.  Communicate with me and others through the blog. Share a post with someone else as a conversation starter. The aim is to create the possibility for insight and perspective. And understanding. We ARE all in this together.
~ xoA ~


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  2. yes, Annis we are all in this together... all lives matter and what is happening in our world brings me to tears.. It seems to me, not only a race issue but "respect for life" in general.. so many are at ease with ending another person's life.. How will this end?? Thank you for this writing...

  3. Your new blog here adds to the gradual but sure flow of society into a better place. Where exactly to start, well, could be anywhere, but I would choose worker right to fair wages, meaning actual living wages.

  4. Annis, Thank you for opening the conversation. My heart hurts for what we see (and don't see) going on today. One would think everyone would enjoy the same rights by 2015, sadly we seem further away than before.

  5. It's been a long time! I seldom comment as I follow your world travels and experienced the heartbreak of your saying goodbye to your beloved motorcycle. Yet I feel impelled to do so this time.

    I completely identify with your first paragraph, Annis, even though I grew up in "inner city Philadelphia PA". My parents (both of whom I was fortunate to have in my close-knit, small family until their deaths at ages 87 and 99) saw to it that I was inculcated into the world beyond my neighborhood starting at a young age. Girl Scouts, all-city choir, all-city middle and high schools, summer camps, travel...all were part of my youth, and all involved my being the only one of one or a handful of Black people in the room. In my own neighborhood I was consistently asked by my peers why I talked and acted "so White". I grew up being ostracized more by my own race than least openly and as far as I knew. (I wrote a book titled "Why You Talk So 'White'?" years ago - still available @ Amazon should anyone be interested - addressing this very issue.)

    My first real recollection of encountering a personal issue with race was in the corporate world, while building a career at a very prestigious Fortune 50 company, when colleagues expressed concerns that my rapid advancement was only because the company wanted me "in the front window" as management rather than my competence and hard work earning my rapid advancement.

    I'm in a mixed-race marriage, and have no offspring. As we watch the disturbing developments in society that have taken place in the last year and more, I can't imagine how I would counsel my kids if I had them to thrive in the world today.

    The irony of the negative image of motorcycle riders is that as a motorcyclist who belongs to a couple of motorcycle organizations (note...not "biker clubs"), when I ride in poker runs and ride to lunch at places where people mama warned me never to be caught with hang out, it's the bikers who are most open to a demographic mix as long as they see I'm on two wheels, with 1100cc+ under me and a helmet in my hand (off the bike!).

    Perhaps the world needs to ride more and riot less!

  6. Annis, thanks so much for opening this conversation! I have so much to say, I hardly know where to start. So I'll start at the beginning. My parents raised me to believe that people of all races were all just human beings, deserving equal treatment and dignity. My first exposure to overt racism (that I was aware of) came with a move to Houston, Texas in 1961 where I first encountered "colored" drinking fountains and had my first real conversation about race with my parents. I was shocked and disappointed to discover the quiet racism in my older relatives when I learned that my grandfather was quite upset that my husband's black friend was going to be the best man at my wedding. (This did not cause a family rift or anything. My grandparents happily came to the wedding and never said a word to me...only to my mom.) I chalked it up to his being in a different and less enlightened generation, but it was still disappointing to learn.

    Even more disappointing and very disheartening are the events of the past couple of years. I honestly thought that, after the civil rights movement of the late 60's, we had made genuine progress in this country in our attitudes toward race. Certainly some things have improved, at least under the law. But when Obama was elected (an event of great significance and a cause for celebration for many of us) and then was treated with such blatant hatred and disrespect by so many people, I think racism really raised its ugly head again. (People can say it's "just politics" all they want...Their comments online indicate the real root of the disrespect.) As Joan said above, we seem further away from racial harmony than ever before.

    Then the police actions of the last year happened. Here is where I get less confident talking about it. I absolutely recognize that the police target black men (and women) far more often than they do white people. And there is no doubt that some of the deaths caused by the police were completely my view, worthy of murder charges in some cases. The "problem" I have is that, in SOME of the cases, the police were definitely reacting to threats from the person they were pursuing. Because of their overreaction to the actions of so many black people, they tend to be blamed for their reaction in which their actions might be justified.

    That being said, I do fear for the safety of my former black students who have grown into fine young men. It is obvious that they are at greater risk for being stopped, targeted, mistreated. I am not sure of the best actions to take to stop this.

    And that leads to my final comment. I have been in a few situations where I have been able to discuss racial issues with a mutlicultural group (such as the multicultural institute I attended some years ago at Harvard University), and basically, I was told that I was racist simply by virtue of being part of the privileged class (at least, if I didn't recognize my privilege.) I guess hearing that helped in terms of being more aware of what it means to NOT have to think about race, but I think there are many white people who genuinely want all people to be able to "live together in perfect harmony." (Thanks, Paul and Stevie!) Are ALL white people part of the problem just because they were born white? Maybe I'm misinterpreting what I was supposed to hear from that conversation, but again, I'm not always exactly sure how to approach discussion on race.

    Thanks again, Annis. I look forward to seeing this conversation continue!