not so isolated…

not so random…

#TBT Throw Back Thursday (January 2011)

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From another isolated incident newsletter archives

Another Isolated Incident

I decided to name this monthly newsletter Another Isolated Incident because that seems to be such a common turn of phrase to dismiss our responsibility for oppressive patterns in our communities. Another one is Random Acts of Violence. Please note that words have meaning. Words have impact. Any “shock” you might be feeling in light of the shooting in Tucson, behaviors of your children or Congressional Representatives, or even of your own reactions, actions, and inactions — use this “shock” as a moment of understanding for those in your community who feel that emotion or lack thereof every single day. Each of us are complex beings. We deserve to be seen and heard as complex and not one simplistic reflection of another’s perspectives. We live, compel, and maintain systems of oppression with our words, beliefs, sentiments, acts of kindness, blind spots, and marginalizations of self or others. When is it enough?


Reflections from the Road: Cheese

While on the treadmill, I had this image of a cheese grater pop up in my mind. Those who know me, shouldn’t be too surprised by this — I do love me some dairy products — but hang in there with me for this…

A cheese grater takes a large hunk of cheese and shreds it down into tiny shards of cheesy goodness. These shards may vary in size, but are roughly uniform and can not ever join back together on their own. With a little heat, these shards can lose themselves and literally melt into a new larger mass, but there may be consistency variations from the original large hunk. Other ingredients can be added to literally hold the shards together, think mayonnaise and the makings of pimento cheese spread (yum). The shards of cheese are still visibility different from one another and have become something entirely different from the original large hunk. Are you with me? If you need to get a snack I totally understand.

I thought of this image because this is how the members of dominant groups treat people — including other members of their dominant groups. When grating cheese, at the very end there is a pile of shards and a little bitty nub of cheese from the original large hunk. We are fighting to be a part of the little nub at the end. The shards are what is left when we look at others as one two-dimensional identity. Once two dimensional, they can stack up on each other, but cannot be a part of each other. Once we have experienced grating of any kind, we are force to shift between our complex identities and communities of membership to the one identity we guess is relevant to the other or to the space we are navigating. The nub at the end is still part of the original large hunk and we are shards of that community.

Perhaps the tragic events of early January can act as heat and we can actually unite our sense of self with our purpose and collectively our communities can claim responsibility for tolerating violence and unchecked language for so long. We will never be the same again. Or, perhaps in light of the horror that must have been experienced in the grocery store parking lot, we can apply a new ingredient and make something new together that holds us united.

I am responsible I would like to offer, that I will claim responsibility for my language, actions, inactions, etc., to return a sense of civility to my discourse full of respect and empathy. I ask that you do the same. Forward this article to others. Steal this image and share it with your Facebook friends. Black out your profile picture. Monitor your word choice and pay attention to how the shooter is being described. Let’s not shred him down into a “whack job” as heard on PBS’s News Hour. Make this commitment within the next week. Make it again in the future. Set a calendar reminder. Do what you need to do to remember to work against the grain, be a full complex person, allow others to be the same. February 8th will be one month since the tragedy in Tucson. Let’s reclaim our responsibility if not before, then by February 8th, 2011.

From Tucson – Thursday, January 13, 2011
By Hannah Lozon, M.Ed., Coordinator of Social Justice Education, Residence Life, The University of Arizona

I am sitting on an airplane, on my way to CO to lead a social justice retreat at the University of Northern Colorado. I am wearing my “Together We Thrive” shirt from last night’s memorial service for those fallen in my home city of Tucson, AZ. I am exhausted, drained, and coming off an emotional week, one that had more impact on me than I ever could have imagined.

It was around 12pm on Saturday, January 8 when I received a text message that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had been shot. I remember the complete disbelief as I thought, “no, it can’t be true!” as I ran to turn on the TV, grab my laptop, and start thumbing through Twitter on my phone. I felt air fill my lungs again when I learned that Giffords was still alive, but sat in dumbstruck horror as I learned how many others were dead or injured. How could this be happening, just a few miles across town?

It seemed the rest of my Tucson friends were feeling the same as I was. People immediately took to Facebook and Twitter with messages of “Speechless,” “This cannot be happening,” and “praying for Gabrielle Giffords and all those hurt and wounded.” I could not bring myself to break away from the TV, desperate for updates about people I had never met, but somehow felt like family.

For three days, 24 hours a day, it was the only story the local news media covered in Tucson. It was as if all life had stopped; the entire Tucson community had been rendered silent as we waited for updates on the wounded. I was overwhelmed by the strength of my emotion at the carnage that had occurred, and yet I could not shed a single tear. I vacillated wildly between sorrow for the families of the victims, wanting to scream as political figures started pointing fingers and blaming whoever they could, and sheer numbness as more details were released about the loss our community had suffered. I simply could not believe the strength of my emotion for these people I had never met — yet, being a Tucsonan, it was as if someone had attacked my family.

When I learned that the Obamas would be coming to Tucson for a public memorial service, I was incredibly grateful. As my campus prepared for the arrival of the Commander in Chief, I kept saying that I wished the incident which precipitated President Obama’s arrival hadn’t occurred, but that I was grateful our leader was coming to help provide solace for Tucson. I managed to make it into the McKale center Wednesday night — the service itself was nothing short of healing. As President Obama remembered each of the victims, and talked about the need to let our words heal rather than divide, I finally felt a tear trickle down my cheek. The service itself allowed Tucson to both honor our fallen, and rally together. I know many watching on TV across the country were dismayed at our incessant cheering — the truth is, we desperately needed to cheer, to scream for something we could believe in. It had been four days before I was able to feel anything besides numbness, and someone had finally given me permission to release.

I returned home that evening and watched the President’s speech again on TV — this time, I openly wept. It was as if someone had finally put into words everything that I had been feeling about the situation, but had been unable to tap into. He gave us permission to grieve in a way we had not been able to. The horror that happened to my city is nothing short of that — true horror. But I want to honor what President Obama said, about not using this as just another excuse to turn on one another. As a social justice educator, I have always believed that love is stronger than hate — I have to believe that in order to be able to do this work.

As I leave Tucson behind for the weekend for my trip to Colorado, I am grateful I was able to connect back to my emotion before I lead a retreat that is all about connecting to our emotional cores. Our work as social justice educators is about helping ourselves and one another create a human connection and learn to dialogue across difference. “Together we Thrive” is more than just a theme for a city working through a tragedy — we truly are all better when we work together to create change. We will learn from this tragedy, we will move forward.

A Cisgender Privilege Checklist

Cis-” as a prefix of Latin origin, meaning “on the same side [as]” or “on this side [of]“, with several derived usages:

  • In chemistry, cis- refers to cis-trans isomerism
  • In molecular biology, cis- refers to cis-acting
  • In gender studies, cis- refers to cisgender

The funny thing about privilege is that typically the privileged are mostly unaware of their privileges (it’s part of the privilege). The way the world treats them just seems normal until they get to hear other people’s experiences.

This checklist was developed as resource in relation to Peggy McIntosh’s “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Much of the source matter comes from: Cisgender Privilege.

Government/Bureaucratic issues

  1. When there are boxes to check on various forms, my gender will definitely be included. I do not even need to acknowledge that there are other genders than those listed.
  2. I can expect my government-issued identification to accurately represent who I am. If my identification does not, I expect to be able to remedy this quickly and easily, without added expense, undue delay, arbitrary criteria, or a necessity to present evidence or medical documents.
  3. My gender is not dragged into everything that happens to me. If I am involved in a lawsuit or attempt to access government-services that are not related to my gender, I can assume my gender will not be brought up, if it is, it will generally not be a hindrance.
  4. My gender will not make me immediately suspect to those with government sanctioned power (lawyers, judges, police, bureaucrats, etc.).
  5. My gender does not make me necessarily unfit to be a parent in the eyes of the law, regardless of what state I’m in.
  6. I expect my gender to not unduly affect my ability to travel internationally.
  7. I expect access to, and fair treatment within sex segregated facilities such as: homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, drug rehab programs, prisons, hostels, and dorms.
  8. I never have to wonder what to put down on legal or official forms when they ask for “sex” or “gender”.
  9. In no country in the world is it illegal to be my gender.

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Copyright 2015, Jessica Pettitt. Jessica Pettitt is the “diversity educator” your family warned you about. Through teaching, writing, and facilitating tough conversations, she has figured out how to BE the change she wants to BE. Now it is your turn!
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