Editor’s Letter

Our Human Family is all geared up for an excellent discussion about racial equity, allyship, and inclusion, and we hope you are too!

Our session:

Saturday, Aug 12, 2023
10:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Register in advance.

If you’d like to help make America—or really the entire world—a better place, this is the session for you, and we have some wonderful panelists.

William Spivey is an absolutely amazing historian and social commentator you should already be familiar with and following. Really, everyone should read him in Florida and across the country. He does meticulous research, he includes the good, the bad, and the ugly, and you can trust him to tell the truth. You might not like what he has to say sometimes, but he’s a highly reliable messenger. If you want to know how something really went down, start with William.

Terra Kestrel . . . wow, what a writer. I’ve had the pleasure of working with her on a couple of projects, and she is brilliant, funny, warm, and empathetic. Although she has been writing less for the moment at least, she was one of the very first people I read on Medium many years ago, pulling me back to the importance of being an antiracism advocate. She’s an excellent resource for thinking about the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality, as well.

You almost certainly know Clay Rivers as editor-in-chief of Our Human Family – a caring and motivated person who is dedicated to the fight against oppression of all types. What you might not know is that he knits and bakes, he’s absolutely meticulous, he takes good care of his mom, he used to be Donald Duck (seriously!), and he’s a funny, silly, religious, thoughtful, generous, and sometimes grumpy but always affectionate person I’m proud to call my friend. Also? He’s an excellent public speaker! You won’t regret tuning in.

Aaand, there’s me, Sherry Kappel. I’m just an aging white woman who cares a lot about humanity. I’ve always enjoyed diversity, whether it’s in the food I eat, the places I travel, or the friends I’ve accumulated, so I’ve surrounded myself with an exquisite rainbow of human beings. My only requirements for friendship are honesty, integrity, and caring for other people, which cross all demographic lines but are sometimes sadly in short supply. I guess I fall in the “ally” bucket (more on that below), and I’ll be happy to help answer any questions about allyship you might bring to our session.

Seriously, Not an Ally

If you’re a Black person or other person of color, you probably have a lot of opinions on this topic already!

If you’re a white person who’s interested in racial equity and equality, you probably know there are categories, or names, for people who are working to make a difference.

One term I’m seeing more and more of is “antiracist” or “antiracism advocate.” What I like about it is that it doesn’t differentiate between people of any color (which is not to say I don’t see color!); I’ve heard people of every background and shade refer to themselves this way and I’d like to think of antiracism as a shared goal even if there’s a shortage of white folks on board. I also prefer the addition of “advocate” because it’s more active—it means (or should mean) the person is actively doing something to improve the situation.

The term you hear more often is “ally,” which applies primarily to white people who are working to support the cause. It’s the most popular term, which is why I used it above, even though I am not a fan of it! It’s a great word on the surface, and who doesn’t want to have allies, but it suggests that the problem of racism belongs to Black people and we white folks are just helping out. Wrong: racism is a white problem! We invented racism, we perpetuate it, we’re the majority of the population with almost all the power, and so we’re the only ones who can end it! We’re not helpers, we are the problem and we need to be the solution. We. Are. It.

Black people are helping us by providing the education and sharing their experiences!

Beyond that, it seems to me that way too many liberals wear the word like a merit badge without really doing anything. (It’s for this very reason that while Black folks encourage people to be allies, they don’t trust us very much. We show up on occasion with pretty signs when the cameras are rolling, then disappear back into the woodwork when the going gets tough.) Antiracism efforts should be an ongoing effort—lifelong, really —or, better yet, way of being.

Let’s think, in fact, about better ways of being. When we imagine our friends and family, we (ideally, at least) see them as mutually nurturing and supportive relationships. We don’t, for example, label ourselves “a great sister” and then do nothing to earn it. We wouldn’t stand silently while someone bullied our brother. We help our children learn and grow in the hope that they’ll have a bigger, better future than we did. We go out of our way to help our friends, and it doesn’t even matter why they need it; we don’t look at them and say, “Bummer you got hurt but I wasn’t driving,” or “Bummer you got cancer, glad it’s not my problem!” And we wouldn’t just show up when they had the cancer, they would know that we’re dependable in case they got cancer.

We need to start thinking about our Black and Brown friends the same way when it comes to racism. If we’d stand up for a white friend when someone talks down to them, we should stand up for our Black friend when they’re confronted by a racist. If we’ll go to bat for our kid when their apartment complex tries to take advantage of them, we should be willing to argue with a realtor who lowballs the price of our Black friend’s house or has an issue with showing them a house in a white neighborhood. And if someone we love questions our motivations and causes us to dig deep into our psyche, we should do the same when a Black person points out that our opinion is tinged with racism.

The issue of racism is always the lone outlier. I know a lot of otherwise wonderful white people who can’t acknowledge or even see the racism in their views, let alone support a Black friend who’s dealing with racism. I believe that those who mean to do well are so aghast at the very idea of racism they’re unable to address it. And many of these same people would call themselves allies.

Despite reading about and focusing on racism for many years now, my opinions continue to evolve and I continue to refine my thoughts on allyship. What are your views? Where would you agree or disagree? My main concern is making progress against this disease that has harmed so many innocent people and is tearing apart America. If you are able to attend our panel talk, let’s discuss!

Love one another.

Sherry Kappel
OHF Weekly Managing Editor

New This Week

Respect and Love

We need to remember everyone is trying to figure out this life. Everyone has challenges. Everyone struggles. Everyone is simply human.

By Lecia Michelle

Photo by Tiago Felipe Ferreira on Unsplash

We all deserve kindness.

An older Black gentleman stands at the end of a freeway off-ramp. When the light turns red, he slowly shuffles down the hill toward the line of waiting cars. He doesn’t stop to ask for money. Instead, he walks past each car holding his “Please help” sign until the light turns green and the cars begin pulling away. Every once in a while, a hand waves him over and presses money into his hand. I’ve seen him there for about a year. I make sure to get in the lane closest to him so I can give him a few dollars. He always takes the money and grabs my hand as if I’m saving him from drowning. I stare into his eyes so he knows I see him. Perhaps I am saving him from drowning.

He doesn’t know his gentle smile has saved me many times. His kindness makes me happy. Each time I see him, I wonder about his story. I wonder if his family knows he’s homeless. Does he have children? Grandchildren? A wife? I don’t ask because it’s none of my business.

If I can bring some sunshine to his spirit, I’ll do it. No one grows up wanting to be homeless. Yet here he is every day on this off-ramp silently making his trek up and down a hill hoping for a little kindness. Everyone needs kindness, and no one deserves to feel invisible.

We all deserve to raise our children without fear.

The current political climate might say differently, but people generally want the same things. Every parent wants to raise their children in a carefree environment. No parents should worry about whether their child will be gunned down in a place of learning or in their own neighborhood. Parents want to believe their children are safe playing outside, walking to a friend’s house, or sitting in a classroom.

Every day parents give their child “the talk” in the hopes they will make good choices about their sexuality. No parent wants to sit their child down to give them the other talk—the one that goes, “If you’re stopped by the police, do what they say. Don’t talk back.” Too many parents make this hard decision. Do they tell their children about a world that will hate them because of their skin color, or do they stay silent and pray their children to adulthood? How can these parents not die a little inside as they tell their children about racism, knowing they are killing their innocence and forcing them to endure hatred they’re not ready to face? Every parent wants their children to have a carefree childhood.

Unfortunately, for some parents, keeping their child safe means awakening them to the reality that their skin color might mean their death. No parent wants to be Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin; or Samira Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice; or Charmaine Edwards, the mother of Jordan Edwards. While we may parent differently, we love our children the same. I cannot imagine the pain these mothers must feel, knowing they’ll never see their children again.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Read the complete article at OHF Weekly.

When “Nurture” Is Anything But

By Sherry Kappel, OHF Weekly Managing Editor

Photo by Marco Bianchetti on Unsplash

I imagine most of us have a few insecurities of one type or another—as well as a few transformative events in our lives that can raise us up or knock us to our knees. Oftentimes we may know that we’re perfectly fine on an intellectual level, but it’s still hard to convince ourselves emotionally when the world says otherwise.

Genetics (“nature”) is certainly a factor in who we are. But there is also a whole lot of “nurture” that goes into who we become, whether the world shapes us or we shape ourselves in defiance of the world.

My parents were born during the Great Depression, my dad never went to college and my mom didn’t finish until after three children, yet I am sure they meant it when they told us kids we could be anything we wished if we put our minds to it. There was the assumption that we’d go to college and possibly further, regardless of gender.

When I think about everything I’ve been given that enabled me, though, it would be hard to dismiss my whiteness—a false construct of race that has been far less kind to the Black community.

Of course, as much as parents would like to believe otherwise, a parent’s influence wanes a fair bit when we start school and the other kids like us or they don’t, the teachers call on us or not, the subjects come easily or we struggle. We might be decent athletes but few are Olympians, and yet that’s the standard too often held up: “Work harder. Don’t you want to be Simone Biles?” We play a chord or two on the piano, at which point someone mentions Carnegie Hall.

It’s not enough to build some coordination and learn to be a team player, or have an ear for music; one must aspire. And even if you’re a star sprinter or you can play all of Beethoven’s concertos, those don’t compare to being the starting quarterback or the lead singer of a rock band. There’s a hierarchy to everything, and it all goes into who we become as adults and where we go from there.

I have been blessed, I dare say, with as much as one could hope for in life with middle-class roots. I could not be a Kardashian, even if I wished, but we’ll come back to that. Certainly, this life has had ups and downs, but again—it’s been good enough. When I think about everything I’ve been given that enabled me, though, it would be hard to dismiss my whiteness—a false construct of race that has been far less kind to the Black community.

Read the complete article at OHF Weekly.

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