for such a time as this

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Image from Huffington Post

As an American citizen, the bulk of my education revolved around our country’s history.

We started at the beginning–or at least, what we were told was the beginning: Christopher Columbus discovers America. The Pilgrims come for religious freedom.  Did you know they became friends with the Native Americans on Thanksgiving?!

Soon after came the Revolutionary War. Later on, the Civil War. We were fighting over slavery, but we were also fighting over states’ rights. A century later, racism is still rampant and the Civil Rights movement is underway.  Oh, and don’t forget about Rosa Parks: the brave African American woman who did not give up her seat on the bus. She was tired, after all.

Obviously, Christopher Columbus did not discover America. There were already people here.

But I was thirteen when I learned that Christopher Columbus was not the first white man to step foot in the Americas. In high school, I learned that the Pilgrims and Native Americans did not celebrate the Thanksgiving we now hold so dear. I was an adult before I learned that Rosa Parks had planned on not giving up her seat. She wasn’t just tired. She was an activist.

I was an adult before I realized my education had sanitized the uglier parts of our history.

I have spent so much time re-learning what I already thought I had learned, but I know there is still so much work to do.

I am an American, but I am also a Midwesterner who now lives in the South. I lived mere hours away from Ferguson, Missouri. I now live in the vicinity of Confederate memorials, and hours away from Stone Mountain, Georgia. The NAACP recently issued a travel advisory for Missouri. In the South, there are conversations about taking down Confederate memorials. Both have opened my eyes, and I hope that knowledge and compassion can spark some progress.

But it shouldn’t have taken this long.

It shouldn’t have taken a white supremacist march and violence and death to realize that the way we talk about our history is hurting fellow Americans.

Listen: there is nothing wrong with being white. 

But it is wrong to be complicit. It is wrong to stay silent. It is wrong to stay ignorant. 

My whiteness is not something to be ashamed of, but it is something to deconstruct.

Charlottesville proved that we are re-living history, but we are also creating it.

Let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with our own beliefs and prejudices. How did they get there? What can we change?

I have compiled a list of resources about race, anti-Semitism, and how we can respond. I hope that we read these articles while we drink our morning coffee or afternoon tea; I want us to peruse them when it is slow at work or when we need something new to read. I want us to revisit them when tragedy strikes–but more importantly, I want us to read them on the days that seem ordinary and otherwise uneventful. If racism and prejudice can become ingrained in us, then love, mercy, and justice can become ingrained in us, too.

If you have any resources (online or otherwise) that you would like me to include, leave a link in the comments at any time. This will be an on-going list–and they don’t have to be in reference to Charlottesville. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me

Resources

The Salt Collective: How To (and not to) Respond When Someone Calls You a Racist

Gala Darling  #blacklivesmatter and what we can actually DO about it 

Relevant Magazine: It’s Not Enough to Just Not Be a Racist

Glennon Doyle Melton: For Trayvon 

Teen Vogue: Women Have Always Been a Part of White Supremacy

Vox: The battle over Confederate statues, explained

Refinery29: We Need To Talk About The Anti-Semitism At The Charlottesville Protest

The Huffington Post: All The Swastikas And Broken Glass Since Charlottesville

Relevant Magazine: Why All Christians Should Celebrate the Removal of the Confederate Flag

The Salt Collective: How We Can Start Asking Better Questions About A Person’s Race and Identity

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Guest Post: Some Thoughts From a Former Charlottesville Resident

 Many of you may remember my friend Ben, politics and journalism extraordinaire!  He was kind enough to offer to write a guest post for my blog this week regarding the recent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Read his article below–if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. 

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I lived in Charlottesville, Virginia from 1996 until 2003, and attended the city’s Venable Elementary School from first through fourth grade.

I mention Venable Elementary because it is named for Charles Venable, who served on the faculty at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and as one of Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s military aides during the Civil War.

It was the controversy over the removal of a statue of Lee from a park in Charlottesville that brought chaos, violence, and hatred to my former home town in the form of a KKK, neo-Nazi, and white supremacist rally and various counter-protests to the town this past weekend that continue to make national headlines.

I say various counter-protests because I think it’s important to draw a distinction between the violent anti-fascist and anarchist elements attacked by President Donald Trump Tuesday as the “alt-left” and the peaceful protestors such as Heather Heyer.

Heyer lost her life when a neo-Nazi slammed his car into her and other protestors. In addition to Heyer’s murder, police officers Lieutenant Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke Bates died responding to the violence when their helicopter crashed en-route.

The violence, carnage and hatred has stunned the nation, and is a sharp reminder that lethal racism, bigotry and prejudice still exist in America.

The stark scenes of neo-Nazis chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” as they marched with torches down the streets and fields I grew up playing on is chilling to say the least. Unfortunately, the KKK-like scene Friday night at the University of Virginia was just the beginning. On Saturday, the protests moved into downtown Charlottesville.

After the dust has settled from a violent and disturbing weekend and a week of introspection, the big question going forward is what should be done about Lee’s statues and indeed, all the confederate statues across the United States?

Statues may been seen by some as just marble, but they have long been seen as more than that. I can remember growing up in Charlottesville reading about the protests against putting a statue of Lincoln up down the road in Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy.

Lee himself recognized the danger, speaking out after the Civil War against putting up confederate statues by saying it would “keep open the sores of war.”

Yet Confederate statues continue to dot the South as reminders of the men who served in the Confederate army and their leaders, despite serving as painful reminders of a government and military that fought to preserve racially-based slavery. Many were put up long after the war not as memorials but as reminders of white supremacy.

Since the removal of the Confederate flag from the state house in South Carolina in 2015 (an event I attended), cities all across the country have re-examined whether and how the Confederacy should be represented. Should these monuments be seen as historical symbols for remembrance, or as statues honoring and glorifying men who fought for racist ideals?

Not to mention, there are Confederate generals and soldiers, and then there is Robert E. Lee. Lee is revered in Virginia, the state he chose to serve over an offer from Lincoln to serve as commander of the Union army. Lee’s birthday is still a state holiday in Virginia, for which we got off school.

In my personal opinion as the descendant of a Confederate soldier, Lee is the least morally repugnant Confederate general. But he is still morally repugnant, just like all the men who fought for the right for humans to own and abuse other humans. All these statues should come down.

These issues – the role of the Confederacy in our history, the role of race in our politics and our society and the role of our leaders in condemning racism and bigotry – are all intertwined.

Every American must wrestle with these issues, but those in southern towns take a special perspective and interest in them. It’s the reason why Charlottesville found itself in the crosshairs, and it’s part of the reason why the follow-up to this tragedy has continued the pain.

Charlottesville may be on the path to recovery, as students led a beautiful candle-light vigil to reclaim their grounds from neo-Nazis and the city has emerged as a community willing to stand up to bigotry despite a racist past. But the nation is still reeling, thanks in no small part to the president’s abject failure to address this incident appropriately.

Yes, Trump is right that their was violence on both sides of the protest. Yes, Trump is right that there are those on the left who are unfairly lumping in George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with Confederate leaders in wanting to see their statues removed.

However, despite owning a house near Charlottesville and claiming he understands better than the rest of us, Trump is dead wrong on everything else he has said related to this situation. No wonder Klan leaders and neo-Nazis like David Duke and Richard Spencer are cheering his remarks and CEOs and decent-minded Republicans are fleeing his side.

There is not blame on both sides, as Trump has suggested. There were no “very fine people” in the pro-statue rallies in Charlottesville last weekend. The neo-Nazis, KKK and their friends brought the violence and hate to Charlottesville they are solely to blame for the violence. The fact a president cannot condemn these groups is a new low in our political discourse.

Just because the president refuses to learn the lessons of the events in my old home town this past week doesn’t mean the rest of America has to.

Bigotry, racism, and hatred are alive and well in America and with the Internet and the rise of political figures willing to court their support, these evils very well may be on the rise.

The bright side is there are people willing to stand up against these forces. People like Heather Heyer, who gave her life. People like Susan Bro, Heather’s mother, now carrying on her daughter’s legacy by speaking out. And people all over the country who are willing to peacefully protest these evil forces and have these difficult conversations about race and American history.

I encourage Southerners and non-Southerners alike to hold elected leaders accountable on these issues, fight for the removal of these statues, and have difficult conversations on race. But take the time to learn the history, reject racism, and racist revisionism; as Susan Bro said to the president on television this week, “think before you speak.”

If we do these things, we can help to stop events like those in Charlottesville last weekend from happening ever again.

A Time to Mend

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A single man in possession of a good fortune may be in want of a wife, but he may not realize that the wedding industry kind of sucks.

That fortune is going to come in handy, Mr. Bingley.

If you follow me on Twitter or are #blessed enough to know me IRL, you know that I find the wedding tax extremely frustrating. Like the pink tax–which makes everyday items like razors, shampoo, and body wash more expensive just because they are marketed towards women, even though they do the same damn thing–the wedding tax charges more for…well, basically everything, because it’s for a wedding.

It’s a pain, yes, but it’s something I’ve (mostly) come to terms with. Weddings are just expensive. Like avocado toast.

But Drew and I are lucky. Our parents are kind enough to help with the bigger expenses, and our own bank accounts are in decent shape, so it isn’t the actual price tag that bothers me as much as the inherent consumerism of the wedding industry. Diamond engagement rings, for instance, are only popular because the diamond industry told us that REAL MEN propose with diamond rings that cost 2 months’ worth of paychecks.

Then there’s Pinterest. Do I need a shirt that says I’m about to get ‘meowied?’ No. Do I want it? Yes. Yes, I do.

In the end, I bought shirts for myself and my wedding party. But they have unicorns on them, and mine says that I’m a unicorn bride, so obviously I’m going to wear it until the end of time…even though I’m technically only a bride once.

Is that shirt completely amazing? Yes. Do I need it? Not really. No. I don’t.

I want our family and friends to celebrate with us, and I want to celebrate our future together during our honeymoon–so at the end of the day, I don’t mind spending money on these things, because they are important to us. The ‘extras’ that don’t impact our actual marriage are often harder to justify. Even if I end up buying these fun things, I feel a little guilty. There are real problems in the world (to put it mildly), and here I am, planning a wedding. There are countless people who don’t have the luxury of worrying about ties or cake; what right to I have to have an emotional breakdown because of wedding planning?

And yet, there is something beautiful about marriage that seems to make the world a better place.  My guilt began to subside when I listened to a recent episode (Book 3, Chapter 19) of my favorite podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Vanessa explains that in Judaism, mercy is shown through action:

“There’s the famous idea of tikkun olam, which is the idea to heal the world…It’s a story in the Talmud that the world gets broken into infinite pieces, and that it is each of our responsibilities to try to mend those pieces. And there are lots of ways to mend those pieces. In fact, by falling in love with somebody… you help heal the world…And the idea is that even just by marrying someone, you are helping to heal them, because you are bringing them a benevolent listener and partner.”

It reminded me of a chapter in A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which the author focuses on charity:

 “While the word charity connotes a single act of giving, justice speaks to right living, of aligning oneself with the world in a way that sustains rather than exploits the rest of creation. Justice is not a gift; it’s a lifestyle, a commitment to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam—‘repairing the world.’”

– Rachel Held Evans

If falling in love can help piece the world back together, can a wedding do the same? Perhaps consumerism is not the issue; perhaps it is the way in which we consume. And like I mentioned earlier, we consume a lot during weddings.

Let’s go back to jewelry: aside from the fact that the diamond industry invented the diamond engagement ring, the diamond industry is notorious for human rights violations. Drew is wonderful and found an engagement ring from Brilliant Earth, a company that uses ethically-sourced diamonds (including lab diamonds!) and recycled metals.  They also donate 5% of their profits to communities that have been harmed by the diamond industry.  And my hand is super sparkly! We just purchased our wedding bands from the same place, and I couldn’t be happier. WIN/WIN/WIN/WIN/WIN.

Drew also had the idea to ask our guests to donate to our favorite non-profits instead of buying us a gift from a registry (in case if you haven’t figured it out yet, Drew is a really good person). Pinterest, while leading me to shirts I definitely don’t need, also introduced me to a site that inspired me to ask if we could donate leftover food to a nearby homeless shelter. Even the pre-wedding parties can be a way to spread the love: my maid of honor kept telling me she was going to get a stripper for my bachelorette party, and I found out that she instead donated to BeLoved, a program in Atlanta that provides for women who have been victims of sex trafficking or looking to escape the sex industry.

Weddings are also an amazing opportunity to support small businesses and artists! Catalyst lists some amazing vendors and has plenty of resources for planning ethically-conscious weddings.

Thanks to Rachel Held Evans, I’ve realized I should strive for ethical consumption in all aspects of my life–not just my wedding,that  or holidays, or occasions when we tend to buy the most.

We aren’t perfect, of course; I’m sure that not everything at our wedding will be ethically sourced, and not everything we spend will go back to charity. Not everything I’ll buy after our wedding will be 100% ethical, either. And as much as that sucks, I know it’s a process. I am still learning. We all are–and maybe this awareness is the first step to mending the world, piece by piece.