Bone tooth wrong

60 years after being assassinated, the final bone of Patrice Lumumba is supposed to leave Belgium to be carried back to Congo by his children this month. There’s no mention of a second tooth and a bit of one finger that the same Belgian, former military, one time assassin, may have kept in his home for decades.

But rather than simply being allowed to collect the remains, the family and others in the diaspora campaigned for an official handover ceremony.

https://www.politico.eu/article/lumumba-tooth-belgium-unfinished-reckoning-colonial-past/

A public ceremony between two sets of public figures, many of whom are stooges or thugs. So one set of thugs handing some things over to a set of stooges, of a different nationality. But, the public speakers (of all nationalities) will have noted that you don’t speak bluntly about the aggressions of the government you’re ceremonializing with.

I’m cynical about any such ceremony. I suppose a public spectacle is necessary though I don’t know that it’s better than a private exchange. But, the public visage will largely be performative more than symbolic done for the cameras, not for the civics.

Reparations (as summarized by M4BL here) consists of five parts = acknowledgment of harm + compensation + restitution + rehabilitation + cessation with guarantees of not repeating.

The Belgian government does not seem to offer any compensation nor restitution nor rehabilitation. Maybe part of the public ceremony could be some verbal statements of never doing such heinous acts in foreign policy nor domestically.

But, it will be lackluster whatever does happen. And with that, I will feel disappointed by the arrogance of the former colonizers who still inherit the excesses of their grandfathers.

On forgiveness

Ridiculous. Infuriating. Asinine. Callous. Those are some of the feelings as I read an op-ed by Michael Eric Dyson spinning Desmond Tutu’s death and legacy as an alternative to the current calls for racial justice and the reckoning of the genocide across US history and the colonization of North America by European immigrants [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/28/opinion/desmond-tutu-america-justice.html].

I want to jump to and, who is the audience for this editorial? Because why M.E. Dyson writes is preposterous.

I find the processing of whiteness — white guilt about white supremacy and whitewashing to pretend that the record is not as sordid as it is — that passes as civics and domestic politics within this nation state to be depleting and by that I mean exhausting and energy-sapping and life-taking to meet callousness with compassion, to forgive when they willfully forget and perpetuate and perpetrate new lies.

I am not a close student of Desmond Tutu’s public speeches and statements, leadership and political moves and public stances. I’ve done some reading about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission following the end of apartheid but we are far from being in a place where white America will tell their truths.

I want to ridicule Dyson by pointing out the absurdity of being a tenured professor at Vanderbilt University writing about the merits of making it work out. I find it difficult to read because this is more naive than Democratic legislators trying to negotiate with Republican peers who do not accept women and people of color as equals.

I once believed a myth that Black people in the United States could save the rest of the citizenry. But I don’t but much faith in such savior roles or racial dogma at this juncture in my life. I want to judge my younger self for harboring such foolish naïveté, as I did about all the shovel-ready-projects that were supposed to lubricate the stimulus package in 2009. But all that grandiose policy amounted to little of what was promised. It was futile for the president and members of Congress to promise about an 21st century energy grid or rapid transit trains spanning from Florida to the Northeast to California when they could not guarantee governing majorities for years on end. Instead, they made multi-year promises when they rose to committee chairs then were sidelined into minority party status by November 2010.

There’s something similarly amiss when Black Lives Matter is being conflated with cancel culture and then blamed for the inhospitable and dysfunctional and violent state of affairs between races in the United States.

Dyson doesn’t say “turn the other cheek” but he suggests that the well of indigenous and Black redemption of reckless white Americans is a renewable resource. To highlight the forgiveness of family members of the Charleston 9 is unfortunate, if not perverse. To have to hold and accommodate a man who pretended to be coming for prayer group is a tremendous and horrendous burden. Maybe redemption and forgiveness can be infinite but at this stage in my life, they do not feel sufficient for the illness and ailments that plague this society.

Maybe the timeless aspect of the oppressed’s forgiveness is that we are all humans and ultimately, there will/must be some balancing amongst the humans but it is hard to feel that when most of what I see is ignorance and defiance among people who have been accustomed to others suffering being coupled with their indulgence. Even as they learn of their impact, they don’t want to rein their excesses in. They want to continue to be violent and genocidal in their supremacist belief systems.

What’s the point of taking the moral ground when the ground is being seized and taken or plundered? Rather than prescribe maybe he could acknowledge the anguish and disgust that people of color feel. The pain that more whites acknowledge and empathize with and can acknowledge rather than argue or avoid. But there’s no reconciliation without going through the agony and saddling the burden of that leadership on people of color and other oppressed majorities is not how we rectify the brokenness of the powerful.

The American way

pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/12/18/us/airstrikes-pentagon-records-civilian-deaths.html

This from staff within the Pentagon. Where senior officials did their damnedest to prevent these observations and documentation from being seen and known.

Military. Corporations. Schools. Government social programs. Consultants on COVID relief over the last two years, some of who are retired military brass.

Plutocrats plundering for the sake of their own enrichment. A timeless series of acts of collusion and nepotism and corruption. Some people want to perpetuate beliefs of American exceptionalism but this conduct is no different than hundreds of other nation states and regimes.

Picking on the youngest ones

That mark, David Shor, has the audacity to chide the 20-something volunteers, temporary workers, part time workers, interns and entry level employees for the Democrat Party.

Shor picks on the young adults, when there’s layer upon layer of the Old Boys Network in campaign consultants, lobbyists and other industries that orbit around partisan political.

Shor picks on the young adults when there are the incumbents and first time candidates that come from the traditional places resulting in the likelihood that they will get their blessings and backing of the bloated Establishment of the Democratic Party.

Shor picks on the young adults when there are the donor class who invest in disappointing mediocrity that enshrines modest tweaks to the status quo rather than robust interventions and interruptions oc systems that are broken for most families, adults and children, but systems that serve the plutocrats.

And this wunderkind wunderkid is heralded for concluding that 18-29 year olds are more progressive and more liberal and more radical than the typical Democratic voter. Note: there’s an aspect of confirmation bias considering the swaths of adults eligible to vote who are to disgusted by Democrats and Republicans to identify with either of the two main political parties.

But this Obama campaign acolyte is being repurposed and repackaged because the Democratic Party knows that it faces multiple existential crises. First among them, that the older voters who preferred HRC in the 2015-2016 primary are dying while tge teenagers coming into voting age are much more likely to vote for Bernie Sanders abd AOC types of candidates.

And, the Old Boys Network can’t stand it.

In part because the white guys in power, who benefit the most from nepotism and it’s-who-you-know patronage, don’t want to share power and have to adhere to equity. The white guys don’t want to have to give up half of all the seats at the table and half of all the positions to women. The white guys don’t want to have to give up 20% more of the seats at the table to men of color. The white guys don’t want to have to give up another 5% of the seats to gender nonconforming and non-binary people. The white guys do not think that their slice is only 35% of the whole.

That said, the white guys in power do not believe in equity, fairness, or representation. The white guys in power do not believe in this basic form of democracy.

Too many white men in power who put the letter D after their name will collude and conspire with Republicans to defeat or thwart changes coming from the reluctant Ds, those of us who pick that affiliation as the lesser of two evils and a compromised, hollowed political audacity.

Shor looks to the history of the likes of Bill Clinton, John Corzine, Chuck Schumer, Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper, and Steny Hoyer. He trusts that there will be plenty more doors and floors for him to rise to, as the Democratic Party has plenty of seats for just his type.

June is Reparations Month

Turns out that M4BL has decreed that June is Reparations month. Yesterday, I was cringing at the prospects for something substantive, something that was more than performative bullshit. And I wrote about that. Today, I feel like reparations month is taking root in my soul.

It must be Reparations Month as I’ve read two stories in two days on the Politico website, that bastion of two-sided storytelling trying to paint both political parties as decent and honorable endeavors.

Tonight, I learned that, according to the United Nations, all reparations have five components: 1) Cessation, assurances and guarantees of non-repetition. 2) Restitution and Repatriation. 3) Compensation. 4) Satisfaction. 5) Rehabilitation.

Learn more from the M4BL Reparations Toolkit.

We all are precarious and fragile every day

A dear friend was in the emergency room twice and made a call to 911 yesterday. Enabled by corporate health insurance as we wade and drown through a medical peonage system that tars and feathers and sullies us all when we seek to live. Or in the proximity of the ER, seek and hope and pray to stay alive. Or at least, those who love us and we are in touch with to know of an episodic venture to and fro a hospital and brinks of death.

I learned of these medical immersions a day after we exchanged words about the joys and bizarre inane of fatherhood with two children. Becoming a parent is more than double the fun. More than double the work. Double the pee, doubled the poops to supervise and scrutinize when not cleaning derrières and scraping diapers.

Fitting that poop thoughts leads me to how we live so precariously, always a few steps or select circumstances, largely unseen, from death. We are fragile like an eggshell and salad greens and fragile like the bud that becomes the flower that morphs into the unripened fruit that becomes the fruit that will perish by spoiling in short order. Fruit may be furthest from death when it is hard and unripened, which makes me wonder if we are furthest from death when our bones are more pliable and bodies are limber in some span of the early years of childhood. We are such fragile beings walking and waking and eating and defecating upon the Earth’s crust.

I don’t take for granted that I will see friends and family members when I travel away from them or they travel away from here. Rather, I cannot hold the probabilities of all who will live and who will die in the window of some unknown amount of time — be it months or years — before I see them again.

From more than 3,000 miles and three hours separated by the international time zones, I offered some ceremony later today once I am home. I don’t know what combination this ceremony will be. One certainty will be to name some blessings and gratitudes before dinner. One option will be to pull out one of our favorite books at home, Byrd Baylor’s I’m in Charge of Celebrations (ISBN: 0689806205), illustrated by Peter Parnall and published in 1995 by Aladdin Books. For all the baking and recipe swapping that I’ve done with this friend, I ought to bake, if not tonight, then something sweet and delicious in the next four days. And to find some laughter and be in charge of such laughter so I know that I’m doing so ceremoniously.

It is not just the proximity of his death, but the tender, vulnerability of all of these living things that constitute this plane and this world and this word as I know it through my current belief systems that i am reminded to celebrate and offer love and truth to today.

When facing racism, undercut and expose

I wrote an email on Wednesday with a subject of: “About Black hair & portrayals of Blackness” to the mother of another child in the 3 and 4 year old class. What propelled, if not compelled, me to do so was having read a helpful article on microagressions by Ruth Terry in the October 2019 YES magazine a few weeks prior. In it, Terry describes how Derald Wong Sue responds to microaggressions with:

 By “naming” a microaggression, a concept Sue borrows from Paulo Freire’s seminal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, we are able to undercut its power and expose metacommunication behind it.

I’ve had mixed feelings about microaggressions for years, yet the article provided me with some new perspectives of how to name what happens with ignorant interactions and how to deal with them, leading me to conclude that this was an opportunity to practice confronting the petty bullshit that white people spew and do in the faces and over the days and lives of people of color.

Simultaneously, I have been doing work this year where a big piece in the group dynamics work is to “name the thing.” Having to practice what I am preaching, I sent the “portrayals of Blackness” email in order for me to name to one white mother how whites — in her family and in the world — need to figure out how to talk about and tell stories about whiteness, family histories, and experiences with race. And when I say race that is shorthand for racism and racial differences and race-based consequences be they in school, in workplaces, or in society.

I had to name the thing for myself because to not do so would be to placate and accommodate ignorant, hurtful conduct. I was deliberate about writing how this other parent’s behavior was racist as well as name some of the larger implications of racism and the heft of what it is to be Black in the United States; though, I could have said Black in the world, but that would have been a bit too meta and likely abstract for a white person that I had never had a conversation about race before Wednesday’s email.

I made a clear request for corrective action and also asked that they let me know of their choice. I made that request not assuming that they would definitely respond or even acknowledge my missive. On Thursday, I did get a response from the husband saying two things: that the corrective action had been done and that I should not (maybe it said never) contact them again.

I was not looking to make friends with the other parent. If anything, I was undercutting power by exposing what was already in the internet. And I was practicing for my own liberation. And for the liberation of my descendants, both blood and chosen.

Claudia Rankine’s Citizen in the Midst of Grexit

I borrowed “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankine’s 2014 collection of poetry from the library weeks ago. It is full of social commentary written in formats that are part poetry and part prose elsewhere. It is currently overdue, so I grabbed it today to read a few more lines and a few more pages before I return it this afternoon. Fittingly, I read it in the midst of #ThisIsaCoup blasts into our global cyberscape thanks to the failed romance and mounting grievances between Greece and the European Troika. There is so much to read in these 24 hours since a “agreekment” (sic) has been announced through the fourth estate. But, Rankine’s words on page 75 strike me as apropos to the political and economic storm and man-made disaster happening over days, weeks, months and years in Europe:

what faces you, the storm, this day’s sigh as the day shifts
its leaves, the wind a prompt against the calm you can’t
digest.

Blue ceiling calling a body into the midst of azure, oceanic,
as ocean blushes the blues it can’t absorb, reflecting back
a day

the day frays, night, not night, this fright passes through
the eye crashing into you, is this you?

Yes, it’s me, clear the way, then hold me clear of this that
faces, the storm carrying me through dawn

not knowing whether to climb down or up into its eye —
day, hearing a breath shiver, whose are you?

Guard rail, spotlight, safety lock, airbag, fire lane, slip guard,
night watch, far into this day are teh days this day was
meant to take out of its way. An obstacle

to surrender, dusk in dawn, held open, then closing,
then opening, a red-tailed hawk, dusk at dawn, taking
over blue, surveying movement, against the calm, red sky
at morning.

whose are you?

Navigating these storms will require many skilled deckhands working towards a shared goal. It will require that many egos get put on ice or are told to pipe down because their attitudes prevent the key participants from figuring out the terms of negotiation and the chemistry to play well together. That’s why we have the adage of “all hands on deck.” Not doing so, will result in a European Quagmire that will result in the collapse of the European Union — too many opinions, too many differing wishes, and too many demands.

As Thomas Piketty and others stated in an open letter to Chancellor Merkel last week:

In the 1950s, Europe was founded on the forgiveness of past debts, notably Germany’s, which generated a massive contribution to post-war economic growth and peace. Today we need to restructure and reduce Greek debt, give the economy breathing room to recover, and allow Greece to pay off a reduced burden of debt over a long period of time. Now is the time for a humane rethink of the punitive and failed program of austerity of recent years and to agree to a major reduction of Greece’s debts in conjunction with much needed reforms in Greece.

history’s definition of ghetto

What makes the Central District different (special?) is that for a number of decades at least until the early 1970s it was a black ghetto, meaning most of the people who lived there were not allowed to freely live elsewhere in the city.
– Quintard Taylor

Reading the words of Quintard Taylor this morning, I am reminded that what primarily defines a ghetto is exclusion.

Ghetto is about denying people the right to move freely. It is not defined by the constitution or composition of the people living within it. Nowadays, our language and the common usage of the term suggest that the word is more about the people who live within a ghetto not the social forces denying that group of people the autonomy to move, to live, to work or to go to school beyond a confined area. Taylor’s description of Central District as a Black ghetto in Seattle mirror the ghettos trapping Jewish families and communities in Poland and Germany.

This is what history teaches us. And how casual and sloppy use of language shifts blame and blurs who has power and who does not.

Zuma on Mandela’s legacy

a few select lines from South African President Jacob Zuma announcing the passing of Nelson Rolinhlahla Mandela on national television:

a profound and enduring loss.

humility, compassion, humanity, love.
a lifetime of struggle.

what made him great, was what made him human – what we seek in ourselves.
in him, we saw so much of ourselves.

let us conduct ourselves with the dignity and respect that Madiba personified.
let us recall the values for which Madiba fought.
let us reaffirm his vision of a society in which none is exploited, oppressed or dispossessed by another.
let us commit ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, to be a united, nonracial, nonsexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

the deep gratitude of a life spent in service to the people of this country.

In addition to “a profound and enduring loss” his is a profound and enduring love.