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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Let the names begin


This is a young poet from Queens named "Skim."

Her poetry is powerful. His honesty is painful.

The work of dismantling systems of prejudice and oppression can be crazy-making. It takes persistence and tenacity that can leave the mind numb, the soul depleted and the body exhausted.

I had a conversation recently with a Chatham mom (who, just in case you were wondering, drives a mini-van ;~). Her middle school age daughter has two best friends in her 'posse' - another girl and a young man who, since the age of 10, knew himself to be 'gay.' The three have been BIG buds since elementary school and they absolutely adore each other.

Recently, some insensitive remarks about 'homosexual couples' made by a teacher in the classroom were very upsetting to her daughter. She confronted the teacher (bless her heart), without much effect. She came home and told her mother, who, after applauding her daughter's courage, called me to ask what she could do to help support her daughter.

I gave her the name of a member of our congregation who is on the school board - oh, yes, who also happens to be a lesbian - who put her in touch with the superintendent of schools.

Long story short - they had a great conversation and the superintendent, she reported, said "all the right things." She was feeling really great.

Until the next day, when the mother of the other girl in her daughter's posse said to her, "I'm so over all these gay people being 'in your face' about their sexuality."

My friend's 'contact high' from the few whiffs of justice she had gotten from the school superintendent the day before quickly evaporated.

"Welcome to my world," I said.

Justice takes vigilance and patience and persistence. Ignorance and Fear are ancient, skillful bandits. A small victory today can be robbed tomorrow. The Dance of Justice can sometimes be two steps forward, sidestep, sidestep, three steps back.

To wit: Proposition 8 in California.

The poetry of Skim from Queens reminds us of the interconnection of all prejudice, as well as the aching reality of its persistence.

12 comments:

Barbara said...

Thank you for Skim. That was VERY powerful.

ROBERTA said...

such a powerful poet - and so were your words re the crazymaking work of dismantling systems of prejudice and oppression. thank you.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

It's long and ardous, isn't it?

Muthah+ said...

She touches me because I haven't been honest, because I haven't reached deep at times when I needed to have stood tall to protect the small.

But ain't it great that the young can speak when we could not. When they cry foul when we were living in desperation. They give us voices that we never had. And the freedom grows and gives inspiration.

If there is anything that the young and old have in common is that the journey still stings and the path is not yet trodden by all the dykes that pass by. We still are told,not by words but by manner, that we cannot lead or carry the banner for what it means to be woman in our world.

Two steps forward, four steps back. The dance goes onward but at least the dance goes on. We no longer stand beaten mute. We brave our spike and dosedoe our leather. "Take that", we say a little bit lighter on our feet that we were before. Integrity strengthens our spines and God'grins. WORD...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I take courage from the words of MLK, Jr. "The arc of history is long, but it always bends toward justice."

susankay said...

Sigh -- It must have been over 30 years ago when my parents' UCC minister proudly announced that he wasn't prejudiced against gays -- he just was offended to see them display affection in public. (I had a loud hissy fit)

And still it goes on ...

Malinda said...

Justice takes vigilance and patience and persistence. Ignorance and Fear are ancient, skillful bandits. A small victory today can be robbed tomorrow. The Dance of Justice can sometimes be two steps forward, sidestep, sidestep, three steps back.

To wit: Proposition 8 in California.

Thank you for these words as I head into a required and welcomed anti-racism training in my diocese. It will take ALOT of time out of my parish work, but I will come out of it "trained to be at trainer"which I hope will be to the good of all.

I do wonder how we really train to and live into diversity, how it happens with any real meaning for those of us who fall into the categories of the demographic majority? I know I have always learned the most and the best when I was in the minority. It just doesn't happen enough.

Sara said...

Thank you! My daughter says very little about what she's been through. It made me sad listening to Skim. I'm going to share it with my daughter next time I get to see her. I made my husband watch it and he read your post. He was silent afterward for a long time. Thank you so much.

I have to tell a story. We were visiting with my mother last year. My daughter shaves her head and wears a baseball cap much of the time. When we arrived my mother announced that while we are staying there, my daughter would go to church with her. Respecting her grandmother, she said she would. The next morning she came out of her room sans baseball cap. My mother said, "you're not going to church with me unless you wear a wig". We laughed until we cried. Mom didn't see the humor.

Lindy said...

Prop 8 is very bad, that's for sure. But, let's not gloss over B033 which is even more hateful because it comes from people who were supposed to love us.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Right you are, Lindy. Unfortunately, right you are.

Jim said...

"I made my husband watch it and he read your post. He was silent afterward for a long time. Thank you so much."

Which leads to the old Yiddish proverb: A silent husband is a gift from G-d. And of course in these turbulent times there is the ancient Zen koan: If a man speaks and there is no woman to hear him is he still wrong?

Or something like that. This thread needed a little levity I think :-) On a serious note:

Injustice should silence us all for a moment and then lead us to make a lot of noise!

FWIW
jimB

IT said...

AWESOME piece. Thank you for posting it.

Some things are generational, SusanKay. I remember, as a child, hearing my dad saying "I don't care what they do in their homes, that's fine, I just don't want to see it."

My dad. Walked me down the aisle 30+ years later to my wife's arms with a big-ass smile on his face.

Just sayin'.