Another Brick in the Wall

Hard Stuff, Power/Privilege, Rants, Social Justice, Systems, Uncategorized

Despite all the tensions between the police and so many citizens of Portland,  The Portland Police Foundation decided it would be cool to host an invite-only, $1000 per head play date with whomever they deem desirable. It is impossible to comprehend how an organization that supports a police bureau and union that publicly wail about how badly we (the citizenry) misunderstand and misinterpret its motives could think this type of event is appropriate, or even useful.

Am I on board with PPB offering a look into their training and operations?  Sure!  It would be great for them to host regular tours and visits for people who want to understand how officers are trained, how policy is determined, what resources are available, and build relationships with the Bureau.  It would provide more transparency, humanize both police officers and civilians, and maybe start to ease some of the tensions we’ve seen building over the last decade.

But an invite-only, $1000 per person ticket to exclusive police access?

The price alone is prohibitive for most people, and who knows how they’re going to select their “special” playdate invitees.  Regardless, the event seems designed to give a select group of people privileged access, thereby removing even the facade of police neutrality in dealing with citizens.  The fact that it’s hosted by the Foundation (and not the Bureau) is almost irrelevant, special access is special access.  Wanting to re-open the community academy is an admirable goal, but they honestly couldn’t come up with a different fundraising idea?

In many organizations, the recent DOJ investigation (which found significant problems with a variety of bureau practices and policies) would have spurred initiatives designed to start rebuilding trust with the communities who have been most affected by police violence and brutality.  Even when individual officers do good work, their efforts are undermined or overshadowed by a system of racist practices, excessive use of force, and seeming disregard for the welfare of black and brown communities.

An event that caters to the wealthy and offers privileged access not only deepens the divide and corrodes what little trust may remain, it feels like a giant “fuck you” to the rest of us.  Oh, and before I forget, who’s paying for this exclusive fundraising romp through publicly-funded police time and equipment?  Yes!  Us – the taxpayers!  I wonder how many other private foundations get the same benefit – a fully functioning public entity available for its personal fundraising use?  That the Foundation would do something that seems so contrary to the best interests of PPB (and its public image) and the people who live in this city makes the dig even deeper.

police public comment-wqs

For my black friends

Change/Transformation, Hard Stuff, Obstacles/Challenges, Peace/Conflict, Power/Privilege, Reflection, Social Justice, Systems, Uncategorized, Writing

The names of the victims:  Clementa Pinckney, 41, the senior pastor at the church; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, an assistant pastor; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; Cynthia Hurd, 54; Myra Thompson, 59; Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49.

There is no good way to write something like this. Everything feels wrong and awkward and pandering, none of it feels quite on point. I grew up in North Carolina, with a few years each in South Carolina and Virginia. Make no mistake, NC and SC are both southern states, with many of the attendant  attitudes, ignorance, and hatreds.

I keep going over what I want to say and it doesn’t get any better. Apologies mean nothing if the same brutal acts keep happening. I can’t keep my black friends and loved ones safe, they can’t keep themselves safe, and a significant portion of our population deliberately pretends not to see the reality of racism, hatred, and domestic terrorism that’s happening.

When President Obama simply mentioning that the suspect had a gun and that, again, access to guns has rendered a terrible result, has a whole chunk of people are angry and screaming about their violated rights. When another group of people simply refuse to acknowledge this hate crime as racially motivated and instead insist that it was an attack on Christians, and proof of the pesecution of Christians, and I am left with my mouth gaping open, jaw swinging in the wind. When these things happen, I am ashamed and embarrassed that I share any human biology with these groups of people.

We just watched the trial of the remaining man involved on the Boston Marathon bombing. We immediately agreed that he was a terrorist, and that his was an act of hatred toward people simply because they were US citizens. He targeted them based on something they couldn’t control, some portion of who they are.

Why are we so fundamentally broken that we won’t even acknowledge this fact in this case? That white man was radicalized and groomed, then sent on a suicide mission to terrorize and kill the people in that church. That he is still alive is almost irrelevant, it’s a physical state only. That depth of depravity can’t leave much alive inside his mind and heart, there is probably only a black, bleak wasteland of hatred and isolation.

There is no way I can apologize for this, no way I can comfort, or reassure, no way I can see to promise it won’t happen again, or that you and your family will be safe. I can continue my work of being an ally, of addressing white people’s issues, and transforming our minds and hearts, but that is cold comfort in moments like this. I have long been in awe of the black community’s capacity for moving forward, and aware that there is so much that, as a white woman, I don’t know and will never know. Maybe one day that will change, and the world will be safe enough for us to share more deeply.

Oblivia in Portlandia

It's Personal, Power/Privilege, Rants, Systems, Uncategorized

I moved to Portland in 2004 and couldn’t believe I was living in the same country. Everything here was different – strange and unfamiliar.  The architecture was different, the trees, plants, culture, streets, food, clothing, everything.  The one familiar sight was cigarettes.  When I saw my first smoker, I was shocked.  My only explanation for my shock is that I had completely unfounded expectations that Portland was a healthy, green-y kind of place, a place I would never expect to see cigarettes.

I was tempted to walk up to the smoker, grab the cigarette, and say “you don’t live in a tobacco-producing state, why are you smoking?” but I didn’t.  It took about a month before that urge went away, but it did and now I only notice smokers in order to walk up wind.  But I digress, so let me get to the heart of the matter:  Portland and its educated, concerned, oft-oblivious denizens.

There are times when living here is wonderful, but there are also times when I wish I were the size of a planet so I could give Portland the proper level of side-eye.  I’m talking about a city with a culture of self-awareness and social justice that goes about an inch deep – enough so that people feel a proper sense of outrage, donate money or clothes, maybe write a letter to the editor, march in a protest or sign a petition, Share or Like a Facebook post, and feel like they’ve done their part to throw a wrench in the machine, stand up to The Man, and support social justice.

By comparison, people here probably are more aware and more involved, so why do I say they’re oblivious?  A couple of years ago, a friend invited me to the symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall downtown.  The symphony is, almost by definition, a middle/upper class experience.  It’s usually spendy, the music is more appealing to a certain level of cultural literati, and there are expectations around clothing and appearance. [Yes, I know this isn’t *always* true, but it’s true enough]

So.  We’re sitting in hard, tiny seats, kind of squashed up on the people near us, getting ready to enjoy some type of musical performance.  This was just after Occupy Wall Street began, maybe early 2012.  A woman came onstage to go over the program and introduce the conductor and then, I’ll never forget this moment, then she said “Occupy the Schnitz!” and the audience roared with approval.

What. The. Everloving. Fuck?

Did no one but me see the phenomenal irony in a theater full of symphony-goers, many in (at least) the top 5-10% of Portland’s wage-earners, yelling in support of a movement challenging individual accumulation of so much wealth and the means used for such accumulation?

My mouth fell open and my eyes almost rolled out of my head.  Here was the epitome of the Portland paradox. [Portland paradox:  people who are simultaneously self-aware and interested in “issues,” but have minimal interest, desire, or motivation to critically examine their behavior or its impact on the very “issues” they support.]

I’m sure the people in the theater meant well, but did any of them go home and immediately divest themselves of stocks in those financial institutions responsible for the economic devastation?  Did they quit buying from businesses with sketchy practices, or doing business with all those unconvicted Wall Street criminals?  Did they go to shareholder meetings and demand accountability from CEOs and top decision-makers?  If they were CEOs, did they immediately take an inventory of their business practices and make sure they’re doing right by their employees and their communities?

Who knows?  I doubt anyone but me even remembers that evening.