Racism’s Ugly Face

20 Mar 2015

3/15/15

Racism’s Ugly Face

Racism has bared its ugly face again. Took off the mask of fairness, and sang its song loud and clear for all to see. That a group of fraternity boys/men, from Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Oklahoma, would stand on a bus and sing a song about “niggers” and lynching, shocked me. And I don’t shock easily.
It just drives home to me the reality of the well hidden racism that is still much alive in this country. Mostly it is subtle. But every now and then, the mask comes off and everyone gets to see its ugly face. I know it is there, like a disease running in the blood stream of the American body. Of course, there are known problems in places like Ferguson and New York City about white policemen’s attitudes toward Black men. I won’t try to address that. And that isn’t the issue of which I want speak.
When Barrack Obama was elected as president, I was jubilant! It felt like a huge step forward in equality between the races. I always said this country would have a woman president before we would have a Black president. And I didn’t expect to see either during my lifetime. When President Obama was sworn into office, I was filled with awe and hope.
My joy was soon dampened by comments some of my students made about the new president. They said they didn’t like him. It was him personally they were against. One of my students, God bless him, told the truth about what he thought: he didn’t like Obama because he was Black (he used another term.) I’ve watched how President Obama’s presidency has played out. The stonewalling by Speaker of the House Boehner and his followers . The opposition by the Republican party of everything the President has tried to do. The Tea Party that has spent billions to discredit and belittle President Obama. And in my little microcosm of our country, the relentlessly negative comments on Face book about our president. It is ill informed friends and family who blame “Obama Care” for everything from high gasoline prices (they had to eat those words when gas prices dropped to all time low this past fall), to the increase in cost for health insurance, and the increase of food prices at the grocery store. Everything bad is Obama’s fault.
We have an African American president in the White House. I still celebrate that step forward for our country. But in some ways it has been a liability. Groups with hidden racist agendas, have used Obama’s presidency as a sword to slash programs that helped minorities and the poor achieve equality in this country. What looked like a step forward has proved to be two or three steps back. Racism is still alive and well: don’t pretend it isn’t.

BAMorris

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Naturalization Exam

20 Mar 2015

3/15/15

Naturalization Exam

Last fall I helped a fellow teacher at our local high school with a project for her eight grade civics students. They picked an amendment of the Constitution to study. They then had to prepare an oral presentation to show their mastery of the concept, and then answer questions from a panel of judges. As eight graders, they were ill prepared to speak in front of an auditorium filled with adults and peers. Most presented their prepared speech robotically. Some came more alive when they answered the panel’s questions: others froze with the “deer-in-the-headlights” look on their face. For me, it was refreshing and amusing.
But one group totally owned their chosen topic. Not only did they speak passionately about the meanings and implications of their amendment, when they were questioned, they spoke from their experiences, their feelings, and their heart. Their topic was citizenship: birth and naturalization.
What touched me the most was their question: could a natural born citizen pass the naturalization exam that immigrants must pass in order to obtain their US citizenship? And should all Americans be required to pass this test?
This is a thought provoking question. I don’t think most American adults could pass the test. Having studied civics for a semester, most high school students probably could. But remove them from a classroom for five – ten years . . . . . then I don’t know. I’ve worked in civics classes as a collaborative teacher, teaching the material to eight graders. At one time I could quote the Constitutional Amendments in my sleep. Being removed from that classroom for three years, I know I’ve lost some of the edge of my knowledge. I think I could still pass the test because I not only studied it in depth, I also created ways to help my students remember the facts for their exams.
Do other adults still remember those facts they once knew? I dare say no. I’m sure some would say, they’re not important now. It was so long ago. I have more important things to remember. But the government of the United States of American thinks they are important enough that they require every person seeking citizenship in our country to know them. So they must still be important. Should we, as American born citizens, have to take a citizenship test before we are allowed to vote and be full citizens?

BAMorris

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Immigration

20 Mar 2015

3/14/15

Immigration

I understand why some people are so passionate about illegal immigrants. They fear that those who come here in secret will endanger the US work force, take jobs that Americans need, devalue the minimum wage, and get some preferential treatment that hardworking citizens don’t get. They don’t want the way of life they have worked so hard to create endangered. I get that.
But I think there is an underlying fear that few can articulate, that most don’t admit, and some aren’t even conscious of. They fear the unknown. And “these people” are the unknown. They talk funny, in languages we can’t understand. This fear borders on paranoia. I’ve heard it dozens of time from family, friends, and students. “I know ‘they’ are talking about me. I don’t know what ‘they’ are saying, but I’m sure ‘they’ are talking about me!” People fear other ways of living. Just today I had someone tell me a house on their street was for rent. “I hope Mexicans don’t move in,” this person said. “You know they move ten or fifteen people into a house all living together. I don’t want that next to me!” This person equated having large numbers of people under one roof with things illegal, immoral, and evil.
People fear the loss of their language. When Maryland produced it huge “WELCOME TO MARYLAND” sign in both English and Spanish, some people were up in arms. “If they live here, they should learn to speak English,” they said. Heaven forbid we should make it easier for them to navigate our streets, our stores, our way of life. When I was teaching in Maryland, I even heard a teacher object to a student from Japan using his electronic dictionary on tests. He was afraid the student would somehow cheat on tests by being able to more easily decode our language.
I get fear. It is irrational. It often renders us crazy. However, it is real. Some people think illegal immigrants have a master plan to overtake the United Sates and make it theirs. I think their plan is much simpler. Come to this land of milk and honey. Find a job. Make some money. Create a better way of life for their children than anything they could provide for them if they stayed in their home country. It’s the same dream we as Americans have for our children.

BAMorris

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Mother/Daughter

20 Mar 2015

2/20/15

Mother/Daughter

I came to motherhood late, assuming the role in an adoptive sort of state of mind. “I chose you,” vs. you were what God gave me. I was ill prepared for that job. I’d thought so many years of teaching, years of godmothering friend’s children, were education enough. It wasn’t. I though being a child myself once was a road map of sorts to help me navigate this new journey. It wasn’t. My childhood of compliance and trusting adults knew best did little to prepare me for nightly tantrums, subtle espionage behind the scenes, or a child suckled by a self proclaimed witch. But the worst handicap I had was my own mother’s descent into dementia at the same time.
The woman I had depended on my whole life to guide me, to advise me, to watch over all my endeavors, to share everything with, was no longer available to me. She had disappeared into her own private hell, a place I could not follow. She could not listen to my frustrations with the new inhabitant of my house, and caution me to be patient. She could not give me words to sustain me for another day of battle with the tiny being I wanted to love. She could not tell me it would get better. She could not even hold me as I cried because I was filled with fear that I wouldn’t do it right. Instead I was forced to be her caregiver, her advocate, and her “mother.” It’s not wonder I couldn’t successfully be mother in two places. I chose my mother, and the daughter suffered, I’m sorry to say.

BAMorris

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Spring Hope

19 Mar 2015

3/9/15

Spring Hope

Slept in yesterday. Rose to brilliant sunlight. Walking the dog there was a hint of Spring in the air, even though there were piles of snow still on the ground. The birds must have felt it, too, for they sang joyously all around me. The bright sun’s sparkle; the warmer air temperature; the melodic calls of the birds; all filled the earth with the hope that Winter has departed and Spring is on its way.

BAMorris

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The Toucher

19 Mar 2015

3/19/15

The Toucher

She was a toucher, laying hands on everyone she encountered. I watched the small figure of the Black woman work the room. Her long corn-rowed braids swung around her shoulders and down her back like a queen’s Robe of State. She made everyone else in the room look like pale, faded dishwater. Her milky tea colored skin lit up the faces of those she greeted as if she were some fairy come to give them magic.

BAMorris

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