Monday, February 16, 2015

Responding to hateful actions with grace

This weekend I had a tiny enlightening experience. Sitting in my room over a busy intersection I heard unintelligible yelling that went on for so long I looked out the window. There was regular car traffic and a young woman walking on the sidewalk across the street. Three teen boys were waiting for a ride or something under my window and one of them was yelling, presumably harassing the woman. She was not responding. Without hesitation I leaned out (wearing a white ribbed men's tank top) and asked loudly if they (boys) were okay. They looked up, alarmed, and replied in the affirmative. Inside I told a housemate about it and she cried, "Not on my street!" and went to watch them from the porch. There were no more incidents.

I think in this case I incorporated the all-smiles-and-curiosity tone I use at work and my adult male privilege to recall the innate moral compass of youth entangled in social posturing. My body just did it with very little cerebral guidance. My habit was to shrink back and be horrified in silence. 

My housemate hit it on the head. I am now an acting member of a community that maintains a new norm where hateful actions are never acceptable and individuals are reminded kindly but firmly of their own capacity to choose right actions. We stand together. I feel such gratitude for the communities that have empowered me to use my power and privilege to fight oppression and break down unearned privilege.
As if that alone weren't enough to demonstrate the power of a few committed individuals, I experienced a walking meditation with about 30 men of color through the heart of downtown Oakland. We walked, two by two, concentrating on our feet, gazing gently forward, focused internally. We crossed streets and passed parents with strollers, loitering youth, and much traffic. I felt so protected and powerful in that group. We radiated pure heart. 

Our navigators afterward reported many looks of astonishment and even inquiries about what we were doing and how much it cost! Kudos to the Men of Color Deep Refuge group that organized this support group style daylong.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

No Self meets Climate Change

The biggest mistake is to believe oneself separate from all beings and one's life separate from all life.

My teen brother, witnessing my sacrifices of sense pleasures (such as disinterest in treats packaged in plastic), decries the futility of one person's choices in the face of global misconduct. What such a protest fails to account for is the body of reforms, work begun by our ancestors, whose benefits we now enjoy. At the same time scale our work will be continued by generations to come.

I make one exception in the current body of work whose consequences could set back the pace of progress in our lifetime: climate change. Already climate disruptions disproportionately kill people of color and historically colonized people. When agricultural disruption impacts food supply the first to suffer will be the poorest -- again disproportionately people of color.

Yesterday I saw a joyful, creative show of support for responsible energy policy in downtown Oakland. Missing was awareness that the consequences of wimpy policy change and market regulation are racist.

My one-a-day this month will be to identify two self-sacrifices, one I do and one I miss, that reduce my carbon footprint. I will send it to an elected representative and post it on social media. We have to unite against racism with the urgency of the extinction of peoples, cultures, and living systems.