What to do About Prejudice, Color Based Violence, and Ableism

Dear readers,

I’m first going to talk about WordPress related stuff. My friend Hailey has deleted WordPress for now, but I hope she can get a new PC or laptop she can more easily rely on, so that she can still contribute to the blog. The editor is amazing. However, I think it’s rather trying to try and teach how to use this editor to very wide ranges of people. I feel a bit impatient that people don’t learn as quickly as I do, so if I were a teacher, I would have to do a more advanced class of peoples and other sorts of students that are interested in doing advanced stuff.

As a blind person, I want to point out something very blatant in our society and something that needs to change. But first, let me tell my own story of overcoming misunderstandings about people of color and other people who are considered “black” or “brown.” I’ll start at the beginning. I didn’t know much about my own heritage, but I was nine years old, and my mother later told me stories about how my and her family’s heritage affected job placement for her grandfather at the post service in Texas, but that’s a whole other ballgame. My personal story begins at a dorm in St. Augustine, and unfortunately, I wasn’t aware that my roommate was black. Hell we fought like cats, I don’t want to say cats and dogs. But girls are compared to cats anyway. I think cats fight worse than dogs, but still, I went away feeling guilty that I hadn’t bonded properly with the roomie in a way that was satisfactory. I later joined the girl scouts, and things got really fishy for me because I was learning things in the Girl Scouts of America handbook that school wasn’t exposing me to at all. For one, learning about black people and brown people was a moot point at the private school I attended because all they had were lighter skinned rich folks, including several Puerto Rican children from the same family taht delivered my baby brother, my oldest younger sibling that is. I think he did a fine job, otherwise my brother wouldn’t be here, but Dad said that the doctor responsible for delivering his firstborn son was sending his kids to school with me, and I thought it was strange but didn’t think about race and stuff. The brother of the classmate whose father delivered my brother into the world was a science nerd, a big whiz with weird inventions etc. However, that had nothing to do with being Puerto Rican, not at all. I think the doctor provided a steady mentorship for his own son, daughter, and other kids. I’d like to say that no matter who does what, though, race was not taken into account.

While Cubans and Puerto Ricans populated my private school classes, there was something notably missing. African Americans were noticeably out of the school’s student and teacher rolls. There were several reasons for this: money and perhaps the black potential students weren’t attending Catholic church. This didn’t give me any opportunity to learn about Black and African American cultures, so I relied on books and magazines, but that wasn’t enough. I personally wish there had been a better avenue to a gateway to black culture for me. That gateway came when I was in eighth grade, however, or maybe seventh or sixth, but it was the annual Zora Neale Hurston festival, which takes place in Eatonville, barring any weirdness with viruses and such. Thet Hurston festival opened my eyes to something very special, and the first things I was introduced to were black arts, no not the wickedly evil stuff. I’m talking about the African American heritage of many people who were forcibly brought here as slaves, and believe you me, they developed some amazing resilience despite the great suffering the people bore. The same could be said of the Jewish and Muslim peoples, but let’s focus on the african Americans for this story. I realized that the story, craftsmanship, and culinary delights I was being exposed to was not all of the culture together, but it was surely what some whites might refer to as a gateway drug. I ended up reading Hurston’s literature, and thought, well, black or white, we all experience love. I ended up reading books about interracial dating and marriage, and discovered that even after Loving V. Virginia had been decided, America was still hanging on the threads of segregation. I saw it firsthand, and it was mostly my dad, who grew up in a Bostonian Italian family, completely white, no knowledge of privilege and other things. He even went so far as to declare that I had all my civil rights, which was bullshit, on a bike ride we did one evening. My father is learning, as are countless other Italians, English peoples, and so many others, that white privilege doesn’t mean go out and kill your neighbor who’s black. My dad has come to realize that even though he put a stop to me being with a couple black friends, I think he’s coming around slowly but surely because Trenton does get hellos, even though they seem empty to me. The thing to remember about my overcoming prejudice is that I never thought that someone could just grab a weapon and kill someone they didn’t like, whether it was Cassie Bernall in Columbine, or the Mexicans in El Passo. I personally don’t care, I wouldn’t kill a soul, wouldn’t hurt a fly. Not unless that fly bit me in the ass, and then I’d have to either kill it or maim it because bugs are bad, right?

When I went to high school, I met many a black person, white, Hispanic, etc. No more hanging out with the select private school group, and in the cafeteria, I could try and make friends with the jocks, I didn’t care who it was. I had my band friends, of course, and I had my chorus friends. But there was still something nagging at me. I wondered why de facto segregation still existed. I observed at THS, on no uncertain terms or conditions, that the black students always hung out together. This included a subgroup of the black jocks, the Nazarene folks, and countless others, but I felt out of place and there was no diverse hanging out at THS. I hate and still hate to this day the fact that THS just doesn’t have enough diverse hanging out. If I were the principal, I would have instituted rules to encourage classes in social sciences and any other life skills selection that allow students to talk to one another blindfolded, and I’d have to break down the racial barriers that plague the school, but it’s a statewide problem. Racism is structural, built in to the system sadly. I could do nothing for the students, even though I spent one lunch with Orien, and we shared a bag of funions, oh well. However, Orien and I have since matured and he got a slick job as a flight attendant. He’s also survived cancer, and his family supports his every decision. I’m glad Orien has gotten through life itself, and Ii’ve seen my parents realize that I now love my current, and I didn’t care if Trenton or his family had been black or white or polka dotted or purple or orange. Color means nothing to me now that I see whawt humanity needs to do.

With the recent killings of black men, as recent and as old as 2010 that I’ve observed, I’d like to offer a proposal as to waht to do with all the police officers involved in shootings with minorities, how to prevent such shootings, and what we can do to better humanity all around.

  1. First, we need to think about the gifts of color and vibrance. How do we use them? I read the Giver more than my share of times, and in the book, spoiler alert, Jonas learns about colors, and learns why his community can’t or won’t see them. In the communities, the sameness applies to everything: clothing, skin tones, hair and face complexion. Jonas has a different appearance but nobody talks about it because it is deemed rude. However, the community does have its flaws. The more important part though on my mind is the use of colors and how we can better ourselves, and how it is dangerous to have sight and see the colors with our eyes. Yes, a rainbow is pretty to look at, but the darker colors are always seen as undesirable, and the eye is taught to see the darker color as “black”, the brain then registers the color as “bad” or negative in some way. There’s also a lot of prejudice because people have the ability to see colors. I can say, if I were a sighted person who could see the color blonde for instance, “I don’t want to associate with blonde haired girls.” What does that statement show? Now I do have smart blonde friends, dumb blonde friends, but do I care? No, but I could care less what blonde hair looks like. Blonde doesn’t mean dumb or smart either, it just has this golden hue in your hair. However, it took me a while to set aside my blonde jokes, and I now ask if it’s okay to even speak them because it brings attention to blondes. Black haired people get the same attention in some other cultures, but color of skin and curl of hair should never be considered in hiring of jobs either. Hijabs, either the ones worn by Muslims or other such cultures, should also never be a kicker when hiring people. If we see that a person in a profile pic is black, however, I think it really needs to be duly noted that it doesn’t mean you should be afraid of them. One way we could stop police brutality against darker skinned blacks might have to involve taking away the colors, going to Sameness like in the Giver, and I wrote about this in a post to a friend whose sister died in such a confrontation. Sadly, the person who died was disabled and multiracial, which really doesn’t help the other side. There are good cops, but that’s hard to find in terms of black people trusting them. I would rather see a community that trusts based on the content of character and not color. Educational curricula should be changed to reflect the pros and cons of taking and using colors. Should we be able to bother learning about and perceiving color? Sure, to a degree. However, I don’t want any child of mine to look at a pale skinned woman and think, why does that lady look like she just came out of the freezer? The other thing I don’t want is that same child looking at someone darker than them and saying, did they put dirt on themselves? I would calmly explain that skin has different hues, and that if your face isn’t dark, it is disrespectful to copy a darker person’s look. For example, when you play Harriet Tubman in a play, it’s fine to wear the shift tunic that slaves wore, give the audience some sort of authenticity. However, black children should be recruited in that effort, not a white child, because it would allow a black family to see their roots in that child’s authentic portrayal of such a wonderful hero. Education and schools must integrate, and for kindergartners, I want to see kids learning songs in different languages like Swahili, Somali, Masai, and other african tribal dialects, and not just English. There’s a very simple Swahili song called Jambo Bwana, which literally means, “welcome”, and my choir director taught this to her students. The youths sang it well, and I must admit it was fun hearing it sung. Jambo was done to the accompaniment of drums. The djembe drum is very important and still plays a very important role in many African tribal ceremonies and dances, and all kids, from two on up, should learn to drum and dance like fools if they so desire. When I say dance like a fool, I mean just go with it. Feel the rhythm, dance like you never danced before. Trenton plays the djembe drum, and I can’t wait to get to my drum so that Trenton and I can one day play in the park. We’d drum all day if we could, but this excitement about drums did not start in music classes till fourth grade. I did learn about Australia, Beethoven, and many other things in Christy Scheiner’s elementary music classes, and I’m glad to say she taught me to be the best pianist I could be … and that was besides my regular piano teacher, who was really excited about me playing Beethoven, and Mrs. Scheiner chose me to play the Beethoven pieces because I exhibited good skill at the piano. I had always wanted that, and I got that. There was a fourth grade program we did that incorporated the life of said composer, and the third grade that year did a story about the Capeti Plane, and it was about an African rainmaking thing of some sort. They learned a simple African folk piece that accompanied the story, and Mrs. Scheiner narrated the rest, which was fun, and it involved a lot of percussive instruments, this befitting an elementary music school class. Why am I talking about this? We’re losing all this to testing demands, and if we talk about it, it might come back. I want to archive my memory of such things in this blog so that people can understand what culture education does. In high school, Professor Husted, the Spanish instructor I was assigned, taught us not only language, but culture. Yes, he threw in a few expletive words, but taught us about Spanish speakers and how they normally use expletives, not so much the words themselves. He also taught us about how to love in Latine cultures, which believe it or not, whawt we say as “I love you” really means, if translated more direct in Spanish, it means, “I want you.” Love is serious in Latine cultures, as I learned later. Te amor is one way to say I love you, but then there’s more precise words for like, love, and want in the romantic sense. All this I wouldn’t have learned if it weren’t for Spanish class, even though I received a B. Spanish has too many verbs, but I’m glad I took the time and effort to learn a bit of that language. I confess my Spanish sucks, and I have since lost some. However, thanks to a Cuban friend of mine, I now understand a bit of reggae tan, what it talks about. Again, a culture lesson was learned. This helped me overcome a lot. Now I could tell my Puerto Rican friends that “Okay, I know you love this kind of music, but it sounds a bit cheap. Let’s try some more formal Spanish ballads if you want a good party.” I’d especially be able to help someone plan a quinceniera for a daughter if I knew anyone currently having one. This is cultural integration our children are not getting. Okay, on to the next item.
  2. Cops are using militarized weaponry. What if we encouraged law enforcement to put down your arms and pick up books and stun batons only? Yes, if a really out of control criminal drives you bonkers, you can stun him with a taser, and I wouldn’t recommend Aunt Lydia’s little electric cattle prod. Those things are dangerous, but tasers or just light stun guns would be okay but not to be used in certain circumstances. If a cop walks into a classroom with black children, he is to calmly escort the recalcitrant person out of the room without handcuffing them as well. Perhaps for a six-year-old, cops should never be used, however I must say that middle schoolers do have raging hormones. There are ways to neutralize kids without violence, however. Instead of cops, why not hire only one school officer to protect the campus from outside weirdos like the guy who shot up Parkland that one year? However, we need more counselors and evaluations so that kids can get help, not be punished for being dark skinned. Let’s incorporate Brian Crosby’s idea of eliminating the Malcoms in the Middle thing. No more middle schools, so we would have the seventh and eighth graders doing things with kindergarten children, and the kindergarten teacher watching over the older kids might encourage them to behave properly. Smaller schools might also be the key to fighting policing of kids’ behavior. For one, if you put too many people in a space, they’re gonna fight, go violent, and perhaps go bonkers on each other. Teenagers are highly sensitive individuals with hormones, brain cortex shrinks and expansions all the damn time, and changing bodies and their changing voices. I couldn’t recognize my seventh and eighth grade boy classmates when their voices changed. It made me nervous, and then my brothers’ voices dropped. Oh no. Teenagers need lots of space, and tracking educational routes might be needed in this case. For example, Trenton would have a huge aptitude for math, science, and computer information tech, so why not throw a guy his type into those classes? Tech classes would involve coding, computer basics to start with, but coding and language and programming and development of apps, something I never saw growing up. Trenton would have benefited from tracking, and staying in one room at a computer station while the teachers moved about the school grounds instead and no bells ringing. All this would then lead to my next proposal.
  3. What if we still have police brutality and officers still kill children, arrest little ones, and shoot black people? If we don’t go with the first two items, the third item I’m about to propose might not work as well, but at least the Minneapolis police force is four officers down, and they had been fired after killing the latest victim of the brutality pandemic in the United States. Don’t blame the Corona virus, it’s worse than that. My own partner is afraid of being shot by the cops, and it’s obvious in some of his demeanors and speech when I bring it up. Here’s another idea.
  4. If we train our children to respect different cultures, colors, hues, etc., and demilitarize the police, and then go as far as changing the structure of education, we might be able to do about 75% good on this promise. However, we also need to be mindful of laws and law school. Black lawyers are in short supply, and I want to see more of those people in law. When someone is brutalized by the police, the officers should indeed be fired and then charged with murder, prosecuted by an impartial jury of their peers, and sent to jail if found guilty, which should be the case anyway because the evidence is not something that would lie as easily.

The first item on my list might sound a bit darn radical, but let’s face it. We have a problem with ableism of all kinds for disabled people. We need to have disability studies courses available to children as young as sixth grade, and then maybe as young as kinder, put the children together with special needs/disabled kids in the same room. While developmentally disabled children need an extra boost in learning basics, there are many blind people who run the gamut of geniuses to the dumb as a fence post types. I have many friends who run the gamut of easy to explain things to to harder to teach things to, and I confess I’m nuts about some things and many others about blind people, but they are a microcosm of the sighted universe, and that’s a fact. There are radicals, apologists, and weirdos of every kind in every community. Oh well, I confess I am weird in some ways, but weirdness should be the law to me at least. The thing I hate about the community of blindness is the inability to work together. To stop police brutality, we all, disabled or nondisabled, black, brown, and white need to work together. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you are, where the hell you come from. We need to put privileges in check, work with people we don’t necessarily like or respect, and furthermore, we need to overcome the prejudices. We need to separate the words “liar and cheater” from the word Italian, for example, and other such associations with black people. Try this exercise as I close this entry.

There was a list of ethnic groups in social work class, and our task was to associate words with those groups, and it didn’t stop there. We talked about disabled, religion groups, and other such subgroups of human beings. So think about every manner of human being and classify some things in your head that come first when you think of words like black, Africans, Asians, white, Italian, Irish, etc. What word comes up in your head at first? It might be a sign of bias, and if you are struggling to overcome such bias, that’s okay. You have a lifetime to do something about it, so why not research the groups you’re concerned about: Somalis, Native First Nations/Americans, Spanish, Mexicans, and other things you could associate with words depicting bias. Thank you all for reading this post, and I hope to start a good discussion, albeit a good one, in the Facebook or Twitter threads.

One final note: I can’t forget to mention that disabled people come in all shapes and colors, but if only one word comes up for disabled people in your association evaluation exercise, you might want to spend time with disabled people. Same applies with black, gay, and other minority groups. Get involved with GALA choruses, pride orgs, and disability related volunteer or paid work.

Thanks again, and have a great rest of the time I haven’t written much. I might write some more depending on the news.

Beth