Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Day After the March: Some thoughts...



I do not write on here as often as I should.  When I do write, I am committed to writing more frequently, but the reality of my life is that I just don’t have enough time to do all the things I would like to do.  In fact, if I were able to follow through on every one of my ideas, you all would think I am pretty nice.  But alas….

I marched yesterday in St. Paul.  I marched as myself.  I am a bicultural/bilingual woman who looks White.  I am White.  My husband and my children are White.  I am one of the many who benefits from White privilege.  And yet, I am also not White. I am Latinx.  I feel a deep affinity with my Latinx siblings.  I have witnessed how people may treat my mother differently, and my brother and sister because they “look more Latinx” than me.  So ironic because I am the oldest.  I lived in Panama the longest.  Using my Spanish is part of my profession.  But, I am the “white one.”    Whenever I saw a sign in Spanish yesterday, I tried to capture it – many I didn’t.  When Patricia Torres Ray spoke, I was there with her chanting, “¡Sí se puede!”  Being Panamanian is also who I am.  It is in my blood.  I have my Abuelita’s eyes. 

I am a feeling person. In college on our mission to the 1993 Rose Bowl in the SS Honda Civic, my friends, dubbed me Deanna Troi, after the Star Trek empath.   I took a FB quiz recently about which Star Trek character I’d be, and guess what?  I’m still Troi.  I feel things.  Sometimes I feel them too much.  Because I feel things, I want to fix them.   As I grow older and wiser, I’m learning that most times I can’t fix things, but that being present makes them better.

I am a recovered bulimic.  This is tied in to all that feeling.  When the feelings got to be too much, I stuffed them down with food.  Then I purged them all out. I didn’t do this as a teen-age girl.  I did this as a wife and mother.   The day I went in for my evaluation to see if I, in fact, had an eating disorder, the therapist said to me, “Oh honey, it has got to be so hard to be in your head.”  Yes. It was. I thank God that when I was smart enough to get treatment, I had the insurance to pay for it.  How can someone in my shoes have gotten help without insurance?  When I think about someone’s access being taken away, I just want to yell, “Fuck!” Not pretty. But raw and real.  

I am also a Christian.  JC is my guy.  I love Him with all my heart and soul.  Tonight the closing hymn at church was, “We are Called.”  Yes, “We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another; to walk humbly with God!”   This is also who I am.

So, yesterday this beautiful mess that is me, marched. The event was beautiful. It was empowering. It was a giant caring community.  The speakers were inspiring. There were so many people walking together in love and walking for unity. And yet, I as I process the event here and world-wide, I realize that there is still so much work ahead of us, so much work.  The work of bringing those in, who felt they did not belong.

Many of the marchers were there to support Planned Parenthood.  I think PP is great.  It is place where women can go for health care.  I have used PP in my life. They are professional, caring and discreet. I am thankful for this organization.  It is a pro-choice organization.  This means that if a woman’s choice is to terminate a pregnancy, they will support her.
 I am pro-choice.  I have both personal and public reasons for this. This is not a stance I take lightly.  I have struggled with this.  Once I became a mother and felt my children move within me, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was life within me.  

And yet, I know there are women who need to make this decision for themselves.  Given some past circumstances, there have been women who have been desperate enough to take drastic measures that resulted in the horribly negative consequences.  Ending Roe vs. Wade will NOT end abortion.  There are women who for their own reasons need to make this choice. There are medical reasons that a woman might need to consider, that result in her making this choice.  Denial of this choice could end her life.  Who am I to say that I know better than she knows, about what decisions she makes for her own body, and yes, ultimately her own child.  This is her decision to make and not mine.

That said, I humbly respect my friends and family who are pro-life.  I get their stance.  This subject is not an easy one.  Women who are pro-life had just as much right to march as me.  We marched for Human Rights and if one is pro-life, one is pro-human.  So, I was deeply saddened when I read about pro-life and pro-choice women getting into it at different marches.   I feel that groups of individuals who chose to antagonize their opposition and engage in that type of rhetoric, defeat the greater goal of what we, feminists, need to stand for – unity.  Together, we are far more powerful than we are apart.  I believe, we can disagree on that topic and still work together for the benefit of those who have been born into unjust circumstances to make the world a better place for them.  

It saddens me to think that many women chose not to march or did not feel that the march represented them because of this issue.  And, I get that for many women, this is the only issue that matters.  This is their cause.  I know pro-life women have many questions of those of us that are pro-choice.  My question to those that are pro-life is : if you are pro-life, how are your actions making the world better for the humans who are already here – the unwanted babies, the crack babies, the babies born into poverty, mothers who feel they have no choice?  Work with us to make the world better for the women who default to abortion because they have no other choice.  Help us make the world a better place for those children who made it into this big bad world and need our love.  You will feel the impact of your actions making a difference in the numbers of abortions performed.  I have nothing to back me up on that, but my gut. Take it with a grain of salt.  However, eliminating Roe vs. Wade will not eliminate abortion.  

I am not naïve enough to think that there are not women out there who use abortion as birth control.  I cringe at those stories.   I have heard them, too.  But for every story that makes me cringe, there is one where I empathize and think, “thank goodness this woman had a choice.”  Do we stop caring for the sick and the poor because there are those people out there that abuse the systems put into place to care for the sick and the poor?  Yes, I know that is an entirely different can of worms, but the parallels are there.

As an aside, my friend, Heather, posted an article on FB this morning that got me thinking about our feminist Mothers, many of whom did not support abortion.  I think it is important to know this fact. I didn’t know it. Not all feminists were pro-choice.   Before we go off rattling the names of our feminist mothers, assuming they stood with us on all “21st century ideals” we need to learn about them and what they actually stood for.   

I also know that many women of color chose not to participate yesterday because they did not feel embraced by the cause of white women/white feminism.  I read one account where a Black woman was blocked from getting on the train by a White feminist in her pussyhat. The pink hatted woman was protecting her “baby,” a daughter almost equal to her in size.  I was on a train yesterday and we were packed like sardines.  We let people on until it was impossible to get on. We sang, we chanted, we rallied together.  So when I hear that someone on a different train blocked another sister from getting on, I am so angry. I’d like to give that pink pussyhatted woman a “chancletazo.”

These words are from the woman who blocked:

I have never felt free enough to touch a white woman. I am scared of white women, if I'm being honest. And for good reason. White women's tears get people who look like me killed (or best case fired). Can you imagine calling the cops and telling them you were defending yourself against a white woman? Have you seen what happened in Ft Worth when a white grown man laid his hands on a black child? Having been in the reverse of this situation, the boldest I've ever felt is to just now attempt to move when a white man/woman tries to push onto a crowded metro train. I have never in my black life, in all my burnt sienna years, extended a member of his sepia toned body to block a white person's path. I'm not that trill yet, but I hope to be someday. 

I want to give this woman a hug and cheer her on.  Let’s all get in one another’s path if we see someone using their power over another. 

This woman mentioned the White woman’s tears. I share this academic, but fascinating article on this particular power.  I highly recommend my White friends read it and consider what this means for us as individuals and for Women of Color.  What does it mean for a movement with the following belief statement:  We believe in justice, equality and human rights. We believe we are the true majority and change happens when all voices in our diverse community are heard.  We cannot be a true majority until our sisters of color feel included. We cannot be a true majority until our sisters of color know that they are a part of "we" and "us" due to our actions and not just our words. 


Along these same lines, my friend Melinda posted the following photo on her FB wall. 

                                                                                                                     (that last word is, “forget.”)

So, let’s look at our power and our privilege.  It is difficult to acknowledge, but we have it.  How do we use it? 

We, as intelligent and educated women,  must engage in very important and very difficult conversations with one another.  We must have those conversations with those that disagree with us.  We must learn that these very difficult conversations may not resolve anything right away.  But, but…they are so important.  They are the first step in acknowledging why there is a crack in our movement.  Maybe once we all feel heard by one another, we can begin the process of actually becoming one big united group of women…. women of many different colors and many different beliefs who all feel embraced.  Let us join hands to work together for the greater good of humanity.

We will surely get to our destination if we join hands. 
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Aung San Suu Kyi
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