Christmas Morning, 1982

In December of 1982, I left the armed forces.  I accepted a general discharge because I was very disheartened by behavior I had seen in military personnel and our politicians.  I moved into a very cheap apartment in San Antonio, Texas across the street from San Antonio College (SAC) and San Pedro Park. At that time of year, the area was all but abandoned.  The weather was very clear, but, for San Antonio, it was bitterly cold.  The college was the primary employer in that area, and it was shut down.  There were no dormitories.  SAC was a commuter college.  The campus was empty.  San Pedro Park was empty.  Somewhere in San Antonio, life was vibrant and active, but for blocks around my apartment, the cityscape was cold and empty.  It was Christmas morning.  I was alone and broke.  I had cut my ties with virtually all of my supports for political reasons.  My family was thousands of miles away, and I had no phone.  I knew nobody yet in San Antonio.

I was standing in my kitchen looking out the window over the sink.  My loneliness and isolation were almost overwhelming.  The sky was cold, clear and blue.  There was a dry, wispy patch of clouds far away.  I watched a crow fly across the empty parking lot and suddenly an air raid siren ripped the air.  I have never known what that siren portended, but on that morning when I was so lonely and depressed, it signaled the end of the world.  I thought it was a civil air defense warning of an impending nuclear attack.  I had been expecting it for years.  Now, it cut through my heart and stripped away my last feeble connection with the world.  I was terrified.  I stood with my hands on the edge of the sink, gripping the counter and staring out the window while that siren screamed in my ear.  Sheer, unrelenting, blinding terror came and demanded my soul.  I felt it wash into the room like a cold, black ocean.  I felt it rush between the counters and flood my whole life.  It rose cold and wet and terrible over my feet, then my knees.  It pressed against my stomach, and rose over my chest.  I felt it cover my mouth and rise over my face and over my head.  I stood there pushed and pulled by that cold, black, wet ocean as it covered my body and flooded my life.  I stood there, and stared out the window and fought the panic.  Every fiber of existence demanded that I scream.  The world itself seemed to demand that I open my mouth and let that cold, hateful ocean fill my lungs.

I stood there against the sink and lowered my head.  I listened while that whistle ripped at my soul, and I took it.  I held onto my humanity while the terror washed over my body and tried to force its way to the core of myself.   I stood there, and I waited, and I refused to die.

The siren finally ended.  That cold fear receded.  That dead ocean seeped back out of my kitchen.  I stood there at the sink.  I gripped that counter and I stared out the window.  I waited, and I listened to my soul.  I felt the tentative fingers of panic and self-loathing reach out to make one last bid for my self-respect.  Slowly, I laid claim to all the bits and pieces of myself.  I dismissed the panic and the shame of panic.  I reclaimed my heart and my mind.  I re-claimed my opinions and what they had cost me.  I accepted my poverty, my loneliness and my isolation.  I let go of the sink.  I raised my head.  I looked out the window, again.  The world and all my choices had tried to destroy me, and I had never even left the safety of my own kitchen.  I turned to one side or the other.  I walked away, and I got on with my life.

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Compromise in Pursuit of Racial Justice

When a society sets large goals for itself, inevitably, the question of compromise arises.  Compromise is a process by which parties in opposition reach agreement by accepting changes in the goal which produce mutually acceptable results.  Sometimes compromise is efficient.  For instance, in the question of the state bird or flower, I think we can reasonably expect to find a compromise that satisfies all rational parties.  When the goal is an end to racial injustice, ethical persons cannot be content with compromise that results in the reduction of injustice at the cost of tolerating some injustice. And yet, there remains a dilemma. The process of change is incremental.  Something must be changed.  Something must be compromised. (Don’t hate me yet, give me just a minute before I am burned at the stake.) The challenge is to know what can be compromised without compromising the goal — complete racial  justice.

The question, “What can be compromised” is found in the statement of the problem. The problem is racism. The statement of the problem is, “White people always work to oppress and abuse Black people”. We could add some nuance to the statement. We can change “Black people” to “People of Color”. We can add a qualifier concerning People of Color who side with White people. We can stipulate that some White people are not trying to oppress Black people.  We can tweak the statement, but the simple statement above is sufficient to understand the solution.

The goal is justice. The goal will be achieved when no White person is able or even inclined to oppress or abuse any Black person. We won’t reach the goal if half of the White people stop abusing the Black people. We won’t reach the goal if some of the White people stop abusing some of the Black people. We can measure our progress toward our goal by measuring change in abuse, but the goal is not partial change. The goal is complete change.

If we consider the goal, a complete end to oppression and abuse of Black people by White people, we can find the answer to the question, “What can be compromised”. In a society where no White people are abusing Black people, and assuming that no Black people are abusing White people, the color of people’s skin will not be a factor in social interaction. “Race” will not determine a person’s role in life. “Race” will not have disappeared. People will still have white or black skin, but they won’t be racists. Achieving the goal will not change the color of people’s skin. Achieving the goal will change the way the color of people’s skin is perceived. What can be compromised is the way the people in the process of achieving the goal are defined.

Nobody fighting to achieve the goal can change the color of their skin. No Black person, however committed they are to the goal, can change the color of their skin. Their “Race” will always be in plain sight. They will be identified to every White Supremacist who sees them. Similarly, no White person, however committed they are to the goal, can change the color of their skin. Just as the Black person cannot cease to be a target of White Supremacy, the White person cannot cease to be a beneficiary of White Privilege. The compromise is not to accept 50% more justice. The compromise, the change, that must occur is to accept the incremental change in a specific population.

The goal is to achieve a population where no person judges or abuses or even wants to abuse any other person on the basis of race. We are not going to flip a switch. There will not be some magical day when all of the racists suddenly disappear. The goal will be achieved one person at a time. As the population of people who are not racists grows, the goal draws incrementally closer. So, what’s the problem. Start changing. The problem is twofold. First, the individuals must be recognized and second they must be accepted.

The only strategy that will succeed in the abolition of racism is a strategy that transfers individuals from the populations of Black or White to the population of anti-racists. The only population that can achieve the goal is a population that ceases to define itself by race. (Now you can hate me, burn me at the stake whatever.) The individuals who join that population will never be free of the burden of racism. They can’t change the society around them. They can only change themselves, resist the racism around them and recruit others to join them. This is the compromise. The individual who wishes to see the end of racism must cease to identify themselves by “race” while remaining keenly aware of the burdens imposed on individuals by racism. You can no longer be White. You can no longer be Black. You must be a person without race against racism. If you want to see the absolute and uncompromising end to racial injustice, you must be prepared to reject your own racial identity and fight for the end of racial identification.

The challenges for the population in question are enormous. I will not try to write about them now. The broad strokes are obvious. The process of racism is to impose an identity on an individual with or without their consent. The white person who decides to reject their race cannot cease to be a beneficiary of White privilege. The black person who decides to reject their race cannot cease to be a target of White Supremacy. Each of these people, regardless of their skin color, will be an object of anger, ridicule and hatred by individuals who continue to define themselves by “race”. The anti-racist’s only advantage will be their unity. Racism uses the power of the many to impose its will on the individual. When the population of anti-racists is small, the pressure of racism on it will be enormous. As the population of anti-racists grows, its ability to resist racism will grow. Eventually, with sufficient courage and tenacity, the balance of power will shift and the psychic weight of a population of anti-racists will impose their will on the racists and racism will be destroyed.

This is my compromise.  I will not settle for a partial victory.  I will not stop resisting because we have made some progress.  I will not accept the politically expedient solution.  I will resist racism and all its affects.  I will reject my racial identity, offer my unity and accept the unity of every other person who fights as I do until we have achieved the absolute end of racial injustice.

 

The Cornerstone of the Confederacy

I am going to let this speech made March 21, 1861 speak directly to the goals and intention of the Confederate States. On the date given Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy, delivered this speech supporting the Confederate constitution, and the way of life that constitution was written to protect. The full text can be found at –http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~ras27…

“Mr. Mayor, and Gentlemen of the Committee, and Fellow-Citizens:- . . . We are in the midst of one of the greatest epochs in our history. The last ninety days will mark one of the most memorable eras in the history of modern civilization. . . .

I was remarking, that we are passing through one of the greatest revolutions in the annals of the world. Seven States have within the last three months thrown off an old government and formed a new. This revolution has been signally marked, up to this time, by the fact of its having been accomplished without the loss of a single drop of blood. [Applause.]

This new constitution, or form of government, constitutes the subject to which your attention will be partly invited. . . .

But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong.They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind — from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics; their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just — but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”

Confronting White Privilege

The past and the future are beyond our reach. We must live and act in the present. Now, today, in our daily lives, it is the duty of every American, and particularly white Americans, to confront White Privilege. It is not enough to see it in the past; we must see it, recognize it and confront it today.  White privilege is all around us. We are not looking for racial epithets. We are not looking for overt racism. We are not looking for men in white hoods or signs that say “Whites Only”. We are looking for indifference. We are looking for race neutrality. We are looking for the choice that says, “I treat everybody the same regardless of color” and ignores the fact that life is not the same for everybody in America based on color.

Race neutrality is the new American racism. Racism is alive and well in America today because too many white people have chosen to ignore racism rather than confront it. When white Americans pretend that they can’t see the differences of race in America, that is a tragedy and an act of cowardice. But, when white Americans pretend that their feigned ignorance or indifference does not accrue to their benefit, that is an act of racism. White Privilege is the benefit that accrues to white people as a result of racism in America. The only way, regardless of who else does what else, the only way that we will end racism in America is when white people actively oppose, dismantle, destroy, obliterate the privileges that accrue to white skin.

White people in America have got to accept their personal responsibility for proliferating, propagating and extending systemic racism. Racism exists in America because white people allow it. I am not advocating White Guilt. I am advocating for White Responsibility. A person cannot benefit from an unfair system and then deny that they are responsible for the unfairness of the system. Whites in America benefit from racism. Whites in America must begin to actively and deliberately oppose racism in America today. Race neutrality is the new racism. Stop being neutral, and start solving the problem.

To that end, I have posted below a series of letters that I have exchanged with a company with which I do business. The company is not overtly racist. They believe themselves to be race-neutral, and are acting accordingly. They are propagating racism. I began today to actively confront that racism. I will continue to confront that racism where ever I find it. I invite all of you to join me and do likewise. These examples are not hard to find. They are literally everywhere.

This particular company is CodeCombat.com. Please, visit their webpage and address this issue with them, then look around and address the issue, again, every place that you see it.

___________

Michael Gradin, Customer Advocate –

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 8:44:34 PDT, Grgc61 <grgc61@gmail.com> wrote:

Hey,

I have a subscription (georgechristovich@yahoo.com), and I also pay for my son to play(Crunch??). He really enjoys the game, and I am very happy about that. However, I recommended the game to a friend of mine and kids asked me a question, “Why don’t they look like us?”

Its a damn good question. The first clearly black character is locked and remains locked for who knows how many levels. Almost half the kids in America are black. Why do they have to earn the right to have a character that looks like them when every kid, boy or girl, who identifies as white gets to start with a character that looks like them?

I suspect that this only sounds like a silly question until it is your kids who want to know. Well, my kids want to know, and they deserve an answer.

Sincerely,
George Christovich

_____________

Hello George,

We don’t consider the question a silly one at all!

We agree that this is an issue and we’re working to find a way to fix it that would not unbalance the early game (the later characters all have extra abilities that would make them too powerful for the early levels).

We’ve started creating additional art for use on our website and made sure to include a more diverse set of characters in those requests so at least there should be more equally spread representation on our web page.

Maka

__________

Maka,

I understand your technical dilemma, at least in broad strokes. I know the solution is going to take some effort and some planning and cost some money. I am sure that nobody at CodeCombat is overtly bigoted. I am sure that nobody at CodeCombat would stand by a watch a black child be abused especially for their race. I applaud that sentiment, but it ain’t good enough.

This kind of color-blindness is what people mean when they talk about White Privilege. How many hundreds of thousands of man hours have gone into programming CodeCombat? How many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to create and support CodeCombat.com? How many schools has CodeCombat tried to enter? How many classrooms has CodeCombat impacted? How many dozens or hundreds of people are involved in this project? With all of these resources, why are black children an after thought?

Why, when the original artwork was approved, did nobody say, “Hey, where’s the black kids?” Why, if somebody did notice they were missing, were they not immediately represented? Why do they have to stand in line and wait to be served last? Why, if the first characters couldn’t be diverse, could the first characters not be black? If you could only represent one race, why did it have to be the white race?

Our society is not race-neutral; our society is not color-blind. Race neutrality, the idea that we can ignore color and just “treat everybody the same” is the new racism. Life is not the same for everybody in America. Black children in America are an after thought. Nobody cares enough to think about them in the beginning. They are eternally standing in line. White kids show up and BOOM! the party is on. Welcome to the world of privilege and opportunity where everybody looks like you. Black kids show up and its “Hi little fella, grab a white face, and we’ll be with you as soon as we can.”

Most Americans don’t mean to be racist, but we sure as hell are. Black kids should not have to wait in line every time. If you can’t post a set of racially diverse characters today, then change the color of the starting characters to black and let everybody be black until you can find a way to fix this issue. While you’re at it, don’t keep this a secret. Tell the world what you’re doing, and challenge — demand — that every business with which you are in contact do the same.

It is time to change this shit today.

Sincerely,

George Christovich

Four Steps to Ending Racism in America

  1. Stop judging people by their race.  In America, this means stop judging people by the color of their skin.
    1. NEUTRALITY IS NOT ENOUGH.  Race neutrality is not going to end racism in America, it is only the first step.  We will not end racism in America with race neutrality because the races are not in, and have never been in, equivalent positions.
  2. Address the disparate impact of racism in America.  Face the reality.  Blacks and people of color have never been treated equally in America.  It is wrong.  It is a betrayal by America of millions of Americans.  This has to stop.
    1. WHITES: It is not enough to be colorblind.   It is time to be angry.  Our society is not colorblind.  We must recognize, understand and fight to the death the impact of racism in America.  The unequal treatment of race in America becomes a White person’s fault when that White person fails to fight against the injustice committed against millions of Americans because of the color of their skins.  When a Black person is targeted because of the color of their skin, and you aren’t angry, you are part of the problem.  Black Americans have a right to see White America rise up and fight for them.
    2. BLACKS: You have a right to be angry.  If you’re not angry, you don’t understand the problem.  Be angry; feel it; own it, and still, do not judge others by the color of their skin.  That is a fair and righteous anger.  You have a right to destroy a system that has systematically attacked you and millions of other Americans that look like you for centuries.  You have a right to see Americans of every race rise up and fight beside you to end racism.  Be angry, fight back and demand support.
  3. Develop a system for recognizing each other and telling the world where we stand.  Taking a stand against racism will change your soul, but it will not change the color of your skin.  We need to flood America with a symbol that says, “I hate racism and will fight it wherever I see it.”  That symbol needs to mark the army of Americans who are tired of this shit and will fight together against anyone who propagates racism.
    1. We need a symbol.  I don’t have one.  Please, one of you creative types step up.
  4. Seek out, cooperate with and support one another to the greatest extent possible.  Racism is an attack on Americans by America.  Stop tolerating racism.

The Two Fold Issue of Labels

Limiting the problem to race in America, the problem that I see whenever we talk about race relations is what I call the two-fold issue – today and tomorrow. Today we live with racial disparity. We have to choose either to always live with racial disparity or we have to choose to work toward a world of racial equality. Today we have a terrible situation. Tomorrow, we could have a much better, much fairer world. There is no way to travel from this “today” to that “tomorrow” without a lot of people bearing a lot of pain.  The struggle for racial equality is a fractal element of the struggle for gender equality which is also a fractal element of the struggle of economic equality.

In every element of these struggles, there are two groups – an oppressed and an oppressor. The two roles are historically valid, and both roles are played out every day in the personal lives of millions of individuals. As each person chooses whether to resist these oppressions, they inevitably face a choice of strategies. Each person must decide whether or not to reject the labels used historically by the oppressors.  These labels are a double edged sword.  They come in sets, one label for the oppressed and one label for the oppressor.  When the oppressed take their label upon themselves, they can seek solidarity with other oppressed.  The label becomes their identity and their shield.  Further, they can identify the oppressor.  These are powerful tools.  To know yourself and your allies, to know your enemy, these are critical in any struggle.  That is an edge worth having.  The other edge is just as powerful, but not nearly so desirable.  The labels are de-humanizing.  Whether we pull these labels over ourselves as protection or we cast them over another to expose our enemy, we are dehumanizing ourselves and those we label oppressor.  Whether we wield these labels or we yield to these labels, these labels strip away a portion of our humanity and the humanity of those around us.

Rejecting these labels is a lifelong and painful effort.  The oppression is real.  The struggle is real.  The labels do not cause the oppression.  The labels are part of the oppression.  Whatever personal choice an individual makes, others will still wield the labels.  In rejecting the labels, an individual becomes the target of both sides of the conflict.  The oppressed will label those who reject the labels as oppressor or pawn.  The oppressor will label those who reject the labels as oppressed and toss in an “uppity” for good measure.  The only benefit that accrues to the person rejecting the labels is that they are free to live in a sea of humanity.  Tragically, humanity ain’t a pretty bunch.  Those who reject the labels must still bear all the weight of the struggle.  They must bear the malice of the oppressor.  They must bear the anger of those who feel that they have been betrayed.  They must bear the loneliness of walking away from the balm of an easy solidarity.  Those who reject the labels must find their solidarity among the stinking crowds of humanity.  They must find their allies among the frail and often disappointing multitudes, and they must do so under the weight of the daily struggle, the daily oppression.  The only comforts that I know that accrue to those who reject the labels are the knowledge that they have made the only choice that can possibly lead to an end of the oppression and the company of those other flawed and battered souls who stagger with them to a goal that can only be hoped for but that they will probably never live to see.

If You Believe That All Lives Matter…

If you Believe that All Lives Matter, You Must Believe that Black Lives Matter.

If your response to Black Lives Matter is that all lives matter, you are lying either to yourself or to the world.  The only rational response of a person who believes that all lives matter is to be angry because Black Lives Matter.  All lives matter; granted, stipulated, broadcast to the world and blazed across the sky in neon colors.  All lives matter, so how can you not believe that Black Lives Matter.

Black lives in America matter, because not all lives in America are the same.  The statistics are there for anybody to see.  The history is there for anybody to study.  For more than 200 years, Black lives in America have not mattered as much as White lives in America.  If you believe that all lives matter, and you are not angry that all lives are not the same in America, you are either a coward or you are too stupid to understand the problem.

When I was a boy in South Mississippi, 9 or 10 years old, my parents were divorced.  My mother was a barmaid or stripper or who knows what.  We were dirt poor.  Whatever my mother was doing, it didn’t pay enough for us to live in our own home or even to live with our mother all the time.  We lived for the most part in a place called North Gulfport with a friend who agreed to keep us while my mother worked.  North Gulfport was a Black community on the North side of Gulfport, Mississippi.  There were four siblings; I was the oldest.  We were the only white residents of North Gulfport.  We weren’t there long.  A year or so, and then the economic tides changed, and we moved on.  While I was in North Gulfport, I was a second class citizen.  I was hated, despised, and attacked for the color of my skin.  One group of boys tried to blind me, another hunted me through the woods.  I heard shotgun pellets pass my ears before I had hair on my balls.  I was beaten and chased and hated while I lived in North Gulfport.  I was despised by many, but not by all, for the color of my skin, and then we moved on.

I did not understand the significance of this for decades.  We moved on.  We moved out of North Gulfport.  In Gulfport, we were still poor, white trash.  In Orange Grove and Saucier, we were still poor, white trash.  To many of my own family, we were poor, white trash, but we were white.  I was no longer a second class citizen.  I was despised for my ignorance and poverty and for the filth that I lived in, but I was not despised for the color of my skin.  We moved on.  I was still ignorant and poor, but we no longer lived in filth.  There were ups and downs.  There are no happy memories of my childhood, but we moved on.  The day came when I moved on.  I was no longer a child; now I was a man.  I slowly shed my ignorance.  I fought for decades not only to have an education, but even to learn what an education is or where and how one procures an education.  I earned a degree; I learned to think.  I eventually earned a doctorate.  For a time, I even shed my poverty and lived in the upper middle class.

I am not the first to have walked that path.  Many have walked that path before me and shed their ignorance and their poverty.  Many have done it and worn every shade of skin.  Many have done it, but there is a difference when your skin is white and you do it in America.  All I had to do was move.  When we left North Gulfport, my second class citizenship vanished.  I was still poor, white trash.  I was low class, but I wasn’t second class.  My family learned a little; we earned a little more money; we moved again.  Nobody knew us.  We might be poor and ignorant, but we weren’t poor white trash.  Every step of the way, all I had to do was move.  My white skin and my newly learned manners where all I needed to move up in society.  That is the difference in America.  The problem is not that people of color can’t move up in our society.  The problem is that in addition to all the problems that anyone moving up in American society must face, people who are not white, face one more.

In America, race still matters.  Race in America is a better predictor of social and economic factors than virtually anything else.  Race is the best predictor of an American’s level of education, wealth, and happiness.  Race predicts where Americans live, how Americans live, how long Americans live better than any other attribute across the populations of Americans.  White skin predicts a greater likelihood of education, wealth and happiness.  Black skin predicts a greater likelihood of incarceration, poverty and misery.

If you believe that all lives matter, you should be angry that all lives are not equal in America.  When you hear that Black Lives Matter, and you respond that All Lives Matter, you are either a coward, a bigot or an ass.  It is impossible to be an American and believe that all lives matter without being angry because Black Lives Matter.