Complicit in Oppression: What I, a White Person, Must Do to Stop It

I have not written for this blog in the past year because I was busy being a newlywed. That silence ends today with a post that doesn’t talk about gluten. It talks about something even more sickening.

This post sprouted from a conversation I followed on Facebook. The conversation was started by a beautiful woman I had the privilege of learning from when she was a student at the university that employed me (and also is our alma mater). I still learn from her, ten years later, as she challenges white people me to understand and confront our own racism and its crippling, killing effect on her and all people of color.

She said she doesn’t trust white people. A large number of her friends admitted their distrust, too, a distrust we white people have earned with our mercurial support for civil rights and equal rights. We show up when it suits us, and when we show up, we twist the whole thing to suit us. We want “credit” for supporting Black Lives Matter with our signs and bumper stickers but where were we in the demonstrations and marches against racist police brutality? We marched en masse for women but our pussy hats all were pink (didja think about the colors of women of color down there?)

I’m angered by the political and social climate in the United States, and particularly frustrated with the leaders who demonize people because of the color of their skin, the name of their religion (or lack thereof), the paucity of their financial resources, the country of their birth, who they love, and the bathroom they use, to name but a few of their weapons of otherness.

I’m encouraged by our uprising against this rule of hatred, by the marches and the protests. Like you, I’ve also written letters and emails, made phone calls to my elected officials demanding justice. And yet, our sisters and brothers of color don’t trust us, don’t believe we’ve got their backs. Our actions, quite frankly, give them ample reason to believe this.

Change, real change when it comes to racism won’t come simply by exhorting someone to pass a law or a raft of laws and then congratulating ourselves for fighting for equal rights. This does not mean fighting for legal protection and legal justice is wrong; we must fight to protect what rights exist and we must push for more, but if laws were enough, if that was all we needed, we would not be where we still are today.

We are here because I am the problem. I am complicit in oppression. Maybe you are, too, however well-meaning and earnest you and I are. My life is inextricably linked to your life, to the lives of everyone on the planet. My sin and salvation, and maybe yours, too, depend on what I (we) do (or don’t do).

Every time I don’t challenge another white person for his or her racist remarks, I am complicit in oppression. Every time I vote for someone who exhibits racist behavior or who says racist things, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I choose money (a price break, smaller tax bill, greater profit-sharing or higher stock dividends) over human and civil rights, I am complicit in oppression. Every time I accept not having my bags checked when I leave a store while people of color have their bags checked, I am complicit in oppression. Every time I give my money to/buy goods or services from a company that practices oppression and racism, even sneakily, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I let a racist action by a friend or family member pass without challenge, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I don’t say, “because it’s the root of the problem” to a white person who says, “Why do you always have to bring up race?” especially when it’s said to a person of color, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I don’t ask a homogeneous organization what they did or do to be more inclusive or I support a non-inclusive organization, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I let a white person say, “I’m not racist, but…” and I just smile or nod because I don’t want to fight, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time a white person says, “I don’t see color,” or “I’m colorblind” and I don’t point out that not seeing color means not seeing and not accepting the person in his or her full and beautiful humanity, is demeaning, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I complain about my seeming oppression as a woman or as a short person or as a person with disabilities (or anything) in response to people of color pointing out ongoing oppression of people of color, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I use Eurocentric values to judge someone of color, or discount the values of cultures of color, I am complicit in oppression.

Every time I don’t challenge a white person who says, “Why can’t we just move on?” with a dose of reality: we can’t move on if we keep repeating the same deadly sins, even if we dress them up in patriotic-sounding  slogans like “heritage not hate” or “securing our borders,” or being “tough on bad hombres,” I am complicit in oppression.

It would be awesome if a march could lead to a policy change that magically makes everyone equal or eliminates oppression, but that’s not the way it works. What we say and do every day oppresses or frees. We are the problem and will be until we realize and accept we are the problem and decide to do the difficult work of being the solution. It’s not up to people of color to fix white people or to tell us how to fix us. We know what we must do and we must be committed to doing it every day, every time.

I have to be brave enough to lose white privilege if anything is going to change. I have to be the change or the blood remains on my hands and in my soul. It may be the same for you.

Accessorize Snow Wise

There are so many pretty ways to realize your theme for a wedding without causing yourself to cringe when you later look at the photos. I’d be cringing right now if I’d gone all out, say, with a wedding gown or even bridesmaids’ gowns embroidered with snowflakes. I did investigate options for about a day before deciding classic with a sprinkling of snowflakes was the much better way to go. Looking now at the pix, I am glad I did.

I can thank my my dearly departed mother, who had strong and wise opinions about how far to take a theme. I remember her planning a Halloween-themed birthday party for my sister one year when we were kids. She went all out on the decor but drew the line on serving guts in blood (spaghetti and sausage in tomato sauce). It’s all fun and games, she said, until a kid runs home crying about being forced to eat a bowl of guts and a piece of bone meal cake. Who wants to answer that call, my mother asked, especially if the little party-goer ended up barfing on the new sofa once she got home?

I never forgot that bit of advice and it’s served me well.

For the wedding attire, I had the idea of giving each bridesmaid a sparkly snowflake brooch that reflected her unique personality. I found them on Amazon. I thought the brooches would help keep the criss-cross neckline of the gown from gaping plus add some sparkle to the simple yet elegant dress. I think they looked good (and look how nicely they complement the snowflake barrette in my hair!)

party

To make sure the ladies didn’t freeze during the reception, I also got each lady a silvery shawl, also on Amazon. It’s hard to know what kind of wrap goes best with midnight blue mesh, which iA18 TnMeRs similar to jersey but much lighter. These wraps were lightweight but warm and could be used on other occasions.

My beautiful sister and matron of honor further accessorized with silver snowflake earrings and a snowflake pendant her son had given her for Christmas a few years back. Perfect! And see how the silver wrap nicely accents the gown?

A quick word about my jewelry. The watch on my left hand was my mother’s. She had it for many, many years before she died in 2012. It stopped working not long after that so it seemed fitting not to return it to working order, but, rather, to wear it as a symbol of how time froze in some respects when she left this corporeal world and, yet, how she still is with me.

The earrings are from Swarovski and were a wedding gift from my longtime friend who served as honorary mother of the bride. They feature a single drop pearl evocative of a snowball dangling from a narrow band of crystal-accented silver.

I love the silver snowflake barrette adorned with crystals in my hair–the only snowflake I wore. That came from Allure Wedding Jewelry on Etsy. I also got snowflake hair pins for my niece’s hair from Allure. You can see them in the shot from the wedding ceremony (she’s on the far left).

No post about wedding fashion would be complete without dishing on the shoes. I reallyIMG_7810 love Poetic License shoes from London. If you don’t know about them, check them out! They’re fun, wearable works of fashionable art that don’t cost a fortune. I normally buy Poetic License shoes on Amazon but they didn’t have quite what I envisioned. I had to hunt and hunt to find white Poetic License shoes but finally tracked down a vintage pair on eBay. The clincher was that the style name is Spitfire, which is my husband’s favorite, favorite World War II fighter plane. He loves everything Spitfire. How awesome to wear shoes honoring him! I love the silk shabby chic bows and the white polka dot silk fabric. They deconstruct a snowball, I think. Plus they had a modest 2-inch heel, essential because the post-hysterectomy abdominal pain made high heels too painful–you don’t realize how much you use your abdominal muscles to walk in heels until your abs aren’t fab.

The most beautiful accessory for the wedding wasn’t bought in a store or online. It was life itself, which explains the seating of our bridal party. We wanted the wedding party to sit during the ceremony because one bridesmaid recently broke her foot, one sprained her ankle, one had a pre-cancer removed from her ankle, and one has Sjogren’s which makes her feet go numb after a while. As for the groomsmen, one recently and successfully finished chemo for cancer, and another just finished six months oIMG_6225f rehab for a shoulder damaged when he fell off a ladder.

That each person was willing to don fancy clothes and stand in support of our commitment to love, honor and cherish each other forever meant and still means the world to us. Brave and beautiful survivors they are who more than earned the right to sit!

And we, the bride and groom, are survivors, too, deeply grateful to have a second chance at life and to fill that life with such beautiful love.

A Little Flakey on the Decor

With Winter Wonderland as our wedding theme, and our wedding scheduled for January 3rd, we made things easy (and inexpensive) on ourselves with respect to decor and accessories. Planning the wedding during the Advent season meant both online and bricks and mortar retailers were all flaked out, and willing to discount, for the season.

The ridiculous popularity of the Disney movie Frozen contributed even more snowflake-themed products to the marketplace, both a boon and a bear. Sure, there were  more flakes available in September and October, but the aqua and purple hues didn’t quite  complement our wedding palette of midnight blue, silver, and grey, nor did the ubiquitous character visages. “I do and Olaf does, too,” just didn’t seem romantic…or age-appropriate. Talk about the need to let it go.

A word about snowflakes. The snowflake seemed the perfect symbol for our wedding. Each one is special, with its own design and its own purpose. One snowflake by itself is nothing much but when it joins with another snowflake its power and purpose are multiplied. Like the snowflake, we are stronger together than we are on our own, yet we retain our unique purpose and design within the relationship. We are snowflakes and even when it gets warm and we might melt, we simply change shape and flow on. It’s an imperfect simile but it worked better for us than guns and grosgrain. Continue reading A Little Flakey on the Decor

Let’s Makeup

When’s a good time to try new makeup? A) When the dermatologist tells you the ridiculously itchy, scarring rash on your elbows, knees, shoulders and shins is dermatitis herpetiformis, an autoimmune disease linked to celiac disease; B) when the gastroenterologist tells you the DH diagnosis is spot on because the biopsies of your small intestine plus the blood tests all say celiac disease; C) it’s the holidays; or D) you’re getting married.

I go with E) all of the above.

When dermatologist said I had DH, I had no idea how radically my life would change. When the GI doc handed me the celiac disease diagnosis–wait, he didn’t hand it to me or even tell me face to face. I got the happy news in a form letter sent by snail mail: “the results are consistent of a celiac disease diagnosis. Start the gluten free diet,” was all it said.

Given no guidance by the doctor, I dug up everything I could about the two diseases on the Internet. I ordered books from IMG_7865Amazon. I subscribed to magazines like Living Without, the Gluten Free Living, and Simply Gluten Free.

I learned that I had to change not only my diet, but also every pot, pan, utensil, and dish with which I cooked and ate.

After a month of constantly being glutened and having no idea how it happened, I realized I had to change all my health and beauty aids, too. Some posts and pamphlets I read said not to worry about your soap, shampoo, body lotion, facial moisturizers and even makeup, except for lipstick, because you don’t ingest them. Others said absolutely be fanatical about them because, honestly, how many times a day do you touch some part of your skin or hair without even thinking about it and how many times do those same fingers put something into or touch your mouth?

Plus, how do you keep the rinse water away from your mouth when you cleanse your face or wash your hair? I can’t.

If there’s a chance that even tiny bits of something could end up inside me, it has to be gluten free. End of GF soapboxing. Continue reading Let’s Makeup

Gut Reaction to Fashion: Choosing a Painless Gown

Twenty-one days after my reproductive organs were yanked through my birth canal, I  accidentally went wedding dress shopping.

I don’t recommend this.

I don’t recommend any kind of shopping three weeks post surgery, unless you traverse said shopping emporium by way of velvet-lined, pillow-packed coach and are accompanied by people who fetch what you want and bring it to you. Bonus points if they pay for it, too.

I especially don’t recommend jamming yourself into couture created by camouflaging cinching corsets with swaths of satin and silk that some commission-currying consultant will clamp so snugly to your corpus you can’t cough, all to show you how to look like a million skinny bucks. Continue reading Gut Reaction to Fashion: Choosing a Painless Gown

Receptively GFree (No Cross-Contamination)

Finding a caterer who not only understands what gluten free means (it’s not, “just avoid the  couscous on the buffet”) but also has the knowledge and expertise to cook 100% gluten free is a challenge. Finding a caterer who can cook delicious AND affordable gluten free food–no $2 upcharge per GFree roll–sounds like an impossible task.

When planning my wedding, I queried a dozen independent caterers as well as in-house caterers at special events facilities in and around metro Atlanta. Several didn’t even bother to answer me. A few seemed to confuse gluten free with the Atkins diet. “We’ll do an all meat and no carbs dinner,” one offered.

Another said I could just take the rolls off my plate and they wouldn’t put gravy on my chicken breast but everyone else should have the gravy because not having the gravy would made the dish less spectacular.

Uh, no, thanks.

My favorite response was, “Well, the bride never eats at her wedding, anyway. You could just bring snacks for yourself and let us make an unforgettable banquet for your guests.”

Really? Continue reading Receptively GFree (No Cross-Contamination)

Piece of Cake!

Finding gluten free cake isn’t as difficult as it used to be, thanks both to entrepreneurial bakers yearning to share with others the tasty spoils of their kitchen wars and big food factories eager to cash in on the gluten free “craze.” Too often, however, the cakes look less like dreamy confections and more like clumsy claymation.

Finding a baker who can produce yummy, truly gluten and dairy free cake suitably beautiful for a wedding is no easy task. The gluten free bride can go with a strictly gluten free bakery or go with a wedding cake baker who offers both traditional and GF cakes. She also can make it herself or have a family member make it, or she can go to the nearest GF food grocer and purchase frozen confections to serve.

I quickly crossed off the bakers who make both traditional and gluten free cakes. I just don’t trust anything made in the same building where durum wheat wafts in the wind. I’m so sensitive, I once got glutened at a tasty national sandwich-bakery chain and I didn’t eat anything. How do they prevent flour from settling into the crevices or coating the work surfaces even if they clean the place with a fire hose and thick suds? How are they segregating ingredients so they don’t commingle on the apron or in the oven?

I also wasn’t going to make my own cakes. I already was DIY’ing the planning, the flowers and the decor, plus relying on family for hair and makeup. The cakes had to be professionally done and done so well no one would say, “Well, they’re that weird gluten free fad stuff; of course they taste like cardboard iced in muslin.” Continue reading Piece of Cake!

Planning a Gluten Free Wedding on a Budget

Apologies for the dearth of posts the last two months. I wasn’t sick or in jail, thank goodness. I was super busy planning a wedding. My wedding. Yes, I planned and pulled off an entire wedding—from appetizers, bridesmaids, and cake to tuxedos, underthings, a veil and white gown…and everything in between—for 100 guests in four months.

It wasn’t that hard. I mean, what else is there to do while recovering from surgical removal of one’s womanly innards and resulting complications thereof?

Sure, I could have wallowed in self-pity: woe is me (or, more correctly, I) for being in pain for five months and counting (I have gotten a bit peevish about the pain on a few occasions). How awful to be in menopause when I’m not even fifty (I got over this pretty quickly). Rue that I’ll never have children of my own (this does prickle me with sorrow from time to time and then I think of all the kids I’ve helped as a teacher or adviser in the past twenty years plus being an aunt is pretty danged awesome). Wallowing is boring and surprisingly exhausting. I prefer to look on the bright side of things.

There were and are a lot of bright sides to the surgery. Number one, I don’t have cancer. We can end the gratitude list right there. What else do I need to feel immensely grateful? The surgery and cancer scare reminded me that life is unpredictable and short. There are no guarantees that I’ll have next year or any years after that, or even next week. Life can change in an instant. The doctor could have found cancer and I could be dying or dead right now.

Given that uncertainty, as well as the good news that, at least for now, I’m not dying, why not go for it and get married to the most wonderful man in the world? And why not do it sooner than later? Continue reading Planning a Gluten Free Wedding on a Budget

What? Sparkling Cider Is Not Gluten Free

The holidays call for festive beverages to toast the season. Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy New Year! Weddings also call for festive beverages to toast the happy couple, the father of the bride, the DJ, and whoever else makes the party rock.

When alcohol isn’t an option, sparkling cider fits the festive bill. In our family, we break out the Knudsen sparking cherry and sparkling pear cider. It looks so lovely in my parents’ etched wine glasses. For an extra splash of special, I put a frozen cherry in the bottom of each glass. My niece and nephews have grown up tipping glasses of Knudsen Family’s sparkling cider at every holiday dinner. They look forward to it.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a large display of new Knudsen specialty flavors at Sprouts: caramel apple, green apple, cranberry, and glogg. I got really excited, especially about the glogg, which we tried for the first time last year when Crate and Barrel offered a pricey non-alcoholic, gluten free, non-sparkly version. We waited until Crate and Barrel slashed the price in half and then we guzzled eight bottles. It tasted best when served warm. Why not try this new sparkly version, which had a much more palatable price tag of $2.99 per bottle? Continue reading What? Sparkling Cider Is Not Gluten Free

Drink This

Contrast tastes terrible. Flavor it berry, banana, vanilla, even Thanksgiving Dinner, and it tastes like, well, nothing like berry or banana or vanilla or anything remotely like food. It tastes so terrible, it makes one hate berry, banana and vanilla, whichcontrast is not fair because berry, banana, and vanilla are quite tasty as ice cream or pudding and don’t deserve such bilious wrath. It’s liquid chalk, aptly named contrast because it contrasts starkly with anything you want to put in your mouth and swallow.

Okay, the gallon of saline laxative you have to drink in preparation for a colonoscopy is worse, so I’m grateful that this is only a pint of berry chalk. Continue reading Drink This

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