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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



NRA’s Strategy of Blaming the Victims

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A close up of four bronze bullets.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Josh.

I typically find pride in my ability to find words to express what I am thinking and feeling on a given topic. After reading the reaction from Charles L. Cotton, a board member of the National Rifle Association, however, responding to the terrorist act perpetrated against worshipers at a Bible study group at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by a deranged racist ending in the fatal shooting of 9 good people, I fell speechless, enraged, and emotionally overwhelmed. I had to absorb, attempt to grasp, and reflect upon Cotton’s statement.

In my life, when I have felt emotionally overloaded and blocked, I find a way to process my feelings by taking on some kind of simple physical activity, one I can perform that gives me immediate gratification like mowing the lawn or performing housework. This time, I reached under the kitchen sink for the spray bottle of floor cleaner, gathered a cloth, kneeled to my knees, and scrubbed my kitchen and living room floors as my little doggies licked my face with soggy kisses. I then mowed both the front and back lawns, ate my lunch, and took a long and deep early afternoon nap.

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The Cost of Cowardice (part one)

Jun24

by: on June 24th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

The Confederate flag.

Credit: CreativeCommons / DixieSCV.

In February, 2009, then Attorney General Eric Holder, in an address at the Department of Justice to commemorate Black History Month, said we in the United States were “a nation of cowards” when it comes to an honest conversation about race. He continued to speak about the importance of Black History Month and the shame that such was necessary because so much of African-American history has been erased from American history. He thought we ought to dedicate Black History Month to a conversation on race because as the demographics of the United States change, there will be no racial majority. We will need to put racism behind us.

The conversation on race is a difficult conversation to have because it goes to the core of our own identities. While race is a constructed concept with its own history, it never-the-less goes to the heart of the myth of ontological, hereditary goodness. The courage required in this context is the courage to face the reality that none of us is good because goodness is inscribed in our very being. We are not good or bad because our ancestors were good or bad. We are good or bad according to the moral decisions we ourselves make. We cannot inherit moral rectitude.

In the wake of the sad, shocking, heartbreaking, mind-soul numbing murders of nine African Americans at a prayer meeting/Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young man with racist motives, the nation once again faces the meaning of the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia that is commonly thought to be the flag of the Confederate States during the Civil War. It was a symbol that the young white killer used to represent his racist ideals. The flag that flies on the statehouse grounds in South Carolina and in other states in the south is controversial because of its use by whites during the civil rights movement and beyond.

For many Americans it is a symbol of slavery, the bloodiest war ever fought on American soil, legal racial segregation – American apartheid (apart hate) – and a white supremacist ideology. For others it is a symbol of southern pride, heritage, and a way of life. The problem is that the southern way of life is built upon a deception of white supremacy. Let us be clear. Racism and white supremacy are manifestations of a social psychosis found north, south, east, and west in the United States. The problem with people who want to make a confederate battle flag a symbol of southern heritage is that it is love for a fantasy that is not real and that cannot love you back.

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The Path to Defeat Racism

Jun24

by: Cat Zavis and Rabbi Michael Lerner on June 24th, 2015 | No Comments »

A young white girl holding hands with a young African American girl, the text reads "Racism is taught break the cycle".

Credit: CreativeCommons / jamieskinner00.

Racism is the demeaning of an entire group of people and refusal to see them as fully human in the way we see ourselves and those we deem to be “like” us. When we fail to see the humanity of the “other,” we ascribe to them ugly characteristics that somehow justify treating them with less honor and less generosity than we would others who are part of the groups we do see as fundamentally like us. From this place of separation we justify denying the “other” equal rights, benefits, and caring that all human beings deserve.

Racism in the United States has a long history. It was foundational to U.S. expansion throughout the North American continent, allowing white people to justify to themselves genocidal policies toward Native Americans, to allow slavery, and to incorporate into our Constitution a provision that would count African slaves as three-fifths of a human being so that Southern States would have higher representation in the Congress, though racists both North and South didn’t think of them as human beings at all.

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For the Sake of Heaven

Jun23

by: Melissa Weininger on June 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

Close up of a flame.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Oliver.

According to reports, when a young stranger walked into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church last Wednesday night, the senior pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, invited the young man to sit next to him so that he would feel welcome. It was literally an article of faith that the church should embrace the young man, though he was not a regular member of the community, though he was white in a historically black church. These things didn’t matter to Pinckney and the other members of the Bible study group that met that night. What mattered to them were tenets of faith and the standards of their community, a congregation built on the premise of inclusion, particularly inclusion of the marginalized and rejected.

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In-Between “Racialized” Category of European-Heritage Jews

Jun19

by: on June 19th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

An older Jewish gentleman.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Thomas Hawk

Sometimes I don’t know which side of the wall I’m on.
—Wladylaw Szpilman, The Pianist

On numerous occasions, I have attended the annual National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s “Creating Change” conference, bringing together grass-roots activists from throughout North America as well as other countries around the world. At one of the conferences in the early 1990s, I was a participant in a well-attended workshop titled “Activists of Color/White Activists Dialogue” facilitated by two highly-respected activists: a woman of color and a white Christian man.

When the workshop began, the woman outlined the agenda for the next one-and-one-half hours: the workshop would concentrate on the concepts of “race” and dialogue across racial divides, and include two separate panels of participant volunteers: one composed of four people of color, the other of four white people. Panel members were to each, in turn, answer four questions put to them by the facilitators, first the people of color panelists followed by the white people panelists. The questions were: 1. “What do you love about being your racial identity?” 2. “What has been difficult for you growing up this racial identity?” 3. “What do you never want to hear said again about or seen done to people of your racial identity group?,” and 4. “How can people of other racial groups support you and be your allies?”

As she explained the intended focus and agenda, great confusion came over me: Should I volunteer? Well, maybe, but I really can’t because I’m not sure if either of the categories on which the panels are organized include me. I know for certain that I am not eligible to volunteer for the “persons of color” panel. But, also, I feel as if I somehow don’t belong on the “white persons” panel either. Maybe I should just listen to the panelists, which I did.

But, what caused my bewilderment? What got in my way of self-defining as “white”? From where was this feeling of not-belonging on either panel, or my feeling of in-betweenness coming? Thinking back, I came to realize that it stems, I believe, from both personal and collective experience.

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To Evangelicals: “Can We Forgive You?”

Jun15

by: on June 15th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A hand reaching towards a gray sky.

Credit: CreativeCommons / roujo.

I noticed with interest and, quite frankly, surprise an article headline on the front page of The New York Times dated Tuesday, June 8, 2015, which stated: “Evangelicals Open Door to Debate on Gay Rights.” Laurie Goodstein, the author, covers an apparent emerging trend, which she summarizes in paragraph 5:

“As acceptance of same-sex marriage has swept the country and as the Supreme Court prepares to release a landmark decision on the issue, a wide variety of evangelical churches, colleges and ministries are having the kinds of frank discussions about homosexuality that many of them say they had never had before.”

The article goes on to state that evangelical institutions are attempting to navigate a middle terrain between staying “true” to their previously stated positions on issues around homosexuality while simultaneously attempting not to alienate especially younger congregants who increasingly support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights. This latter point cuts right (no pun intended) to the core of the questions of “Why this?” and “Why now?”. We can look for the answer in the work of Dr. Derrick Bell and his pioneering work in critical race theory.

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One Year Sick & Then Not: On the Social Construction of Homosexuality as “Disease”

Jun12

by: on June 12th, 2015 | No Comments »

City hall lite up in rainbow.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Tom Hilton

June is LGBTIQ Pride Month. I share with you a piece of our history in which I had the honor of participating- WJB.

We had been jointly planning our tactics over the past month. I and my compatriots of the Gay Liberation Front and Gay May Day collective, friends from the Mattachine Society, and members of the newly formed Gay Activists Alliance were to gather on this bright morning during the first week of May in 1971, and carpool up Connecticut Avenue in northwest Washington, DC to the Shoreham Hotel. Also uniting with us were people from out-of-town who joined us as part of “Gay May Day” as we attempted to shut down the federal government for what we considered as an illegal and immoral invasion into Vietnam.

We parked about a block away since we didn’t want hotel security and attendees at the annual American Psychiatric Association conference to notice a rather large group of activists sporting T-shirts and placards announcing “Gay Is Good,” “Psychiatry Is the Enemy,” and “Gay Revolution.” Half the men decked themselves in stunning drag wearing elegant wigs and shimmering lamé dresses, glittering fairy dust wafting their painted faces.

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Band of Brothers: Healing Wounded Hearts by Finding the Light Within

Jun11

by: on June 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

Sepia picture of soilders with "Band of Brothers" written above their heads.

Once again six combat veterans with PTSD realize their life has really been a QUEST to re-discover the light within themselves- in seven weeks- by participating in Healing The Wounded Heart (Band of Brothers) Workshop # 16. Through the power of love and gratitude their hearts are awakened from a long slumber as they realize their military experience, regardless of their individual trauma, has been another important step of service in preparation for the ultimate service from their soaring hearts: Allen L Roland, Ph.D.

“What happens when people open their hearts – They get better.”Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

In my role as a volunteer heart centered consultant, advisor and mentor, I have recently assisted in the heart felt inner healing of six more combat veterans with PTSD who found the courage to go within and beneath their pain and anguish and found, in the process, their original innocence, joy and delight as well as a need to be in service from that very same place of love and gratitude, and all within seven weeks.

Make no mistake about it, the keys to the magic kingdom of the soul as well as soul retrieval is gratefulness, and gratefulness and eventually forgiveness ends with our self. Each one of these participants with the assistance of their adjustment counselor complete a Life chart- a chart which clearly shows their whole life, relationships and war experience as a Quest or journey to where they are now.

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Pay to Play II: Testing and Punishing Students, Testing and Punishing Teachers

Jun10

by: on June 10th, 2015 | No Comments »

A stylized open math workbook with a pencil.

While wealthier schools give teachers leeway for creativity and local emphases, standardized tests, Common Core, and the cookie-cutter approach to curriculum are forced on poor schools and students. Credit: CreativeCommons / Bill Selak.

What happens when you close a struggling school “for the good of the students” and farm the kids off to charters? Very few researchers have talked about public schools as a source of precious jobs in desperate communities. What happens to the student whose mom used to be a “lunch lady,” a job with benefits, who now is unemployed? What happens to the children of the custodians, the school secretaries, and teachers’ aides, now unemployed? How does the parent’s loss of a good job affect the student’s education? This question came up at a Working Class Studies panel at Georgetown University recently where Jose-Luis Vilson, a teacher and education blogger, pointed out that the loss of public employment hurts the black community especially.

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Honesty, Transparency, and Power

Jun10

by: on June 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

chinese honesty Some time ago I was approached by a person who’s been studying and teaching Nonviolent Communication in China for some time. He posed a simple question: “What is the difference between honesty and vulnerability?” Although I had been thinking about this area of human experience for some years already, I didn’t have an immediate and crisp response to give him. How on earth could I differentiate between the two? And what happens when authenticity, or transparency, which are also close cousins, are added to the mix? I couldn’t find my way through it. And, more than anything, what’s the point of making all these distinctions if they don’t translate, in the end, into actual practices we might embrace in our lives? After all, the purpose, as Marx reminded us a long time ago, is to change the world, not just to understand it. What can I tell the person in China, myself, anyone, about what practices can support us in moving towards a more collaborative future?

In particular, I want to know, and to be able to teach others, how to discern what to say and how to say it in each moment based on what is most likely to support the purpose at hand and to do so with the most care possible.

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