It is my turn to write a blog post this week and I had a cannabis post (mostly) ready, but I just didn’t feel inspired.
I did, however, wake up this morning thinking about language and words, so, in an unusual spur of the moment decision, I am going to write about words instead.
I have always adored words. As a kid I devoured books and I loved the words as much as the stories. When I heard a word that felt nice in my mouth, I would use it as much as possible. Once, I read a book about a neonatologist, and I told everyone that was what I wanted to be when I grew up – mostly so that I could say that word over and over because it felt magical in my mouth. (And, confession time…..I also very much appreciated the way big words impressed grownups…)
Here are 5 words I have been wrestling with or thinking about in the past few weeks. What words or phrases have you been working with lately?
White privilege/white supremacy:
I am learning to talk about race and whiteness and these words have been two I have journeyed with for a while now. I like the punch of white privilege – it reminds us of the unearned benefits of whiteness – but I know that for some, it feels incongruent with their experience. I use white supremacy as often as I can – I like that it is a bit startling and that it can sometimes create room for a conversation - about how this word does not only mean folks in white hats, but it is the culture white folks learned and were raised in. We are supreme. To unlearn this, I must face this. I use the word, even when it feels scary or hard, because it pushes me along this journey of unlearning my own white supremacy.
Never been a big favorite of mine. I have tried to be a lady a number of times throughout my life. It is not a very good fit for me. I bristle when, in an order to be more personable, someone calls a group of us “ladies.” I know that this is an attempt at familiarity (think restaurant servers) and we learn it early in our lives (“Ladies and Gentlemen!”), but genderizing folks is actually creates distance for many of us. Moreover, it reinforces the idea that biologic sex and gender are binary, which we know they are not (see here and here). But I digress…..despite my ambivalence about the word lady, I was raised as and to be a white woman. So, again, in my journey to disrupt white supremacy, I must look deeply and reckon with the white lady inside me. Even if some days she feels like an imposter.
I have been teaching myself more about immigration in the US and the communities we call “illegal immigrants.” Before I continue and just for clarity - I do not care for this term. Saying someone is working illegally or living here illegally is preferable to me. And I really object to the term "illegals" as a noun. I do not believe people, in and of themselves, are ever illegal. Even if they participate in illegal activities.
I have learned a tremendous amount about this community but want to highlight just one - the idea that these undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes. This simply is not true. The US government estimates that at least half of undocumented immigrants pay income tax, and analysts told VICE News the population will contribute at least $12 billion to the federal government this year, and at least $10.6 billion to state and local governments via income and payroll taxes (see more here.). Undocumented workers pay their part despite the fact that they are explicitly banned from taxpayer-funded programs such as Social Security, Medicare, welfare, and food stamps. Undocumented immigrants contributed about $12 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration.
This term is in the press regularly lately, but one recent story caught my eye. Mack Beggs, the transgender wrestler forced to wrestle girls because girl is listed on his birth certificate, was booed as he entered the arena for the final match (see more here). This expression of hate didn’t surprise me, but what lies underneath it scares me a lot. Texas’ regulating wrestling agency won’t allow Mack to wrestle his peers and then we, the sports viewing public, criticize him and surround him with hate for not wrestling his peers. Mack Beggs asked to wrestle boys and would like to because he identifies as “a guy,” but Texas won’t let him because he doesn’t exist in their legal books. And then when he does exist, and he WINS, we want him to choose to go away. To decide on his own to stop competing to address the discomfort we created for ourselves. Just like with bathroom bills, what we are really doing is creating an environment that attempts to make it nearly impossible for trans folks to exist in the public arena. In the most horrific example of this erasure, there have already been EIGHT transgender people murdered in 2017. #saytheirnames: Mesha Caldwell, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, JoJo Striker, Jaquarrius Holland (Brown), KeKe Collier, Chyna Gibson, Ciara McElveen, Sean Ryan Hake.
This could be an entire blog post. One of my favorite definitions of resilience is “the decision to bounce back and try again” and this has been on my mind regularly and especially since last November. What does resilience mean to you? What role does intentionality play for you?