Saturday, June 20, 2015

You #StandWithCharleston, you say? Prove it.

Nine innocent lives were recently lost in #Charleston, South Carolina when a white supremacist entered a historically black church, was welcomed into an evening Bible study, and announced after an hour that he hated Black people and had came to kill the people who were there. He then opened fire, murdering clergy persons, college graduates, mothers, fathers - pillars of the community - in a despicable act of domestic terrorism for the sole reason that the people were Black.

Dylann Roof's murderous acts of hatred were certainly racist, but they are indicative of a larger problem that exists in society. People of all races are understandably horrified by these murders, but few are horrified by the pervasive anti-Blackness in our culture. The Dylann Roofs of the world are not born; they are made. It's past time for us all to acknowledge the insidious ways racism is not only tolerated, but sustained in our communities. It's past time for people - NOT just Black people - to call it out. Not only for egregious actions like this, but consistently in our homes, workplaces, schools, social circles, the media, etc. 

As a Black Autistic woman living in the American South who is a Christian and attends church, including Wednesday evening services, I am numb and wounded. It could have been my children and I if circumstances were different. It could still be, one day. 

Friends. Allies. Colleagues. Activists. Brothers and sisters in Christ. All of you. I need you to speak up. I need you to stand up. Yes, I'm talking to you. If you're not Black, I'm talking to you. We do it for you. Now you need to do it for us. 

Don't bother to #StandWithCharleston if you won't stand with us every other day of the year.

Morénike Giwa Onaiwu

Photo credit: @LeslieMac

Photo credit: @Michelle_843

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Will you fight with me?

(As an FYI, identical version is cross-posted on my advocacy blog [Advocacy Without Borders]; thanks!)

In a LOT of ways I am a "minority." A LOT. But in other ways, I also have a lot of privilege. I live in a resource-rich Western nation. I speak English. I have US citizenship. I am educated. I am cisgender. I am heterosexual. I am married. Despite the various aspects of my personhood in which I am clearly marginalized in multiple ways, I can - and do - acknowledge that there are many areas where I have it a lot easier than others, and for the most part by sheer circumstance. I happened to be born where I was the way I was; I didn't orchestrate it or work for it. I benefit from it nonetheless.

I can admit my many areas of privilege; why is it so hard for people to realize their own? Not just with the #McKinney, but all the time. People always want to "play devil's advocate" or whatever and search for the most random, miniscule, nonsensical ways to justify something as being ANYTHING than the bigotry that it is. People are always quick to scream out, "I'm NOT (insert term here, i.e. "racist," "anti-Semitic," "ableist," "homophobic," "sexist," "promoting HIV stigma," "transphobic," etc). Ironically, many of the people who say that seem to be VERY MUCH those things. However, let's not talk about them. Let's talk about you. 

Let's say YOU'RE not any of these things (above), or at least you sincerely try not to be. That's a good thing. But that doesn't mean much of the world isn't those things...and part of the initial steps to fixing that is by being real with ourselves and acknowledging privilege and bigotry - and using the areas where we ARE privileged to fight for those who aren't. 

And by "fight," I don't necessarily mean protests and/or marches and/or expert-panel presentations if that's not your thing. There's ALL types of ways to fight; one way isn't lesser than the others. They're just different. Teaching your kids the right things? That's fighting. Calling out discrimination when you come across it? That's fighting. Gently but assertively educating someone who is misinformed? That's fighting. Using respectful terminology and pronouns? That's fighting. Sitting back and listening so that you can learn and grow? That's fighting. Apologizing when you "miss the mark" and working intentionally to improve? That's fighting. Loving yourself enough to engage in self-care? That's fighting. Demanding less stigmatizing/more inclusive media terminology and/or images? That's fighting. Advocating through art, sports, writing, social and/or mainstream media, volunteerism, mentoring, teaching? That's fighting. Living and speaking your truth? That's fighting. Contacting supervisors/legislators/superintendents/other decision-makers to try to effect change? That's fighting. Overcoming obstacles to be able to live your authentic life, even when the world seems to want to destroy you? That's fighting. 

That girl in the #McKinney video? Who was insulted, hit, dragged, and sat on by a police officer while he held her face in the ground? Less than a year older than my daughter. And not too different from her in appearance, actually. Marginalized people need you to fight. That girl needs you to fight. My daughter needs you to fight. The world needs you to fight. I need you to fight. 

Will you fight with me?

Photo credit: WadesWords Blog