Tag Archives: racism

2020: the year of my disgust

Disgust

From the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus itself to George Floyd’s death and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement to the country’s rising unemployment/wealth disparity to the lack of concern for global climate change – and everything in between and beyond – 2020 has revealed the role that Disgust plays in my life.

My family was recently discussing Pixar’s “Inside Out” and who exemplified each character emotion the best.

When the discussion got around to me, my husband and 19-year-old daughter, in unison, said Disgust.

What?! Disgust?! My response was apparently even in character.

The first time I watched the movie, I loved Joy. Who doesn’t want to be her? It’s joy, after all! Happiness, delight, well-being, success, good fortune.

I worked for a community newspaper for over 13 years and wrote an occasional column which I titled “That they might have joy.”

I so wanted to be Joy. I always have. That’s the goal in this life, right? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

But Disgust? No way! I think I’ve been ashamed of my disgust, or parts of it, for much of my life. Or what I thought it meant. But in the weeks since our family discussion, I have begun to embrace my inner Disgust.

Disgust

In the beginning of the movie, Joy introduces us to the Disgust character: “She basically keeps Riley from being poisoned, physically and socially.”

That sounds like a pretty good thing.

When her parents try to get her to eat broccoli, Disgust heroically sweeps in and knocks the green veggies away.

“I just saved our lives,” she says. “You’re welcome.”

In describing the character, Jill Koss (MS, CCLS at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth, TX) writes: “Disgust is impatient, sassy and sarcastic; but she is also honest, well-meaning, caring and protective.” (‘That’s disgusting!’ What ‘Inside Out’ teaches us about disgust, 7/16/15, checkupnewsroom.com/thats-disgusting-what-inside-out-teaches-us–aboutdisgust/).

I love that. I am impatient, sassy and sarcastic. But I’m also honest, well-meaning, caring and protective.

I care. A lot. And because I care so much, in a world that seems to be increasingly troubled, I’m disgusted a lot.

Koss continues: “Disgust in the role of acceptable social behaviors has the potential to be very important. If we teach our children there are certain values that are important, and morals to follow, they have the potential to be offended (disgusted) when behaviors opposite to their values are displayed.”

Research by University of Kent psychologists in 2016 has shown that expressing disgust can be motivated by moral concerns.

“Participants themselves were more likely to choose to express disgust when their goal was to show that their condemnation of an act was morally motivated… The findings suggest that disgust is not just an expression of an inner feeling, like nausea or contamination, but a signal that advertises a moral position.” (Disgust is way of communicating moral rather than self-interested motivation – sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161219133831.htm)

What are some of these issues that I have been “disgusted” about in 2020? There are plenty. Racism, the criminal justice system, the death penalty, LGBTQ+ rights, global climate change, poverty and disproportion of wealth, homelessness, refugees and immigrants, growing unemployment, government leaders, healthcare disparities, mental illness, gender inequality.

It’s not enough to just be disgusted, though. We need to figure out ways to use it to create change. The COVID-19 pandemic has people questioning how we get back to normal. Some have suggested, however, that instead of going back to normal we should move forward to something better. I agree. With so many issues to be disgusted about, let’s work for a better way.

In Inside Out, Disgust incites Anger to help accomplish her purpose – she fuels his anger with her words until he bursts into flames and breaks open the window to save Joy and Sadness.

Disgust

Instead of avoiding or denying or being ashamed of our disgust, let’s embrace and channel it through “honest, well-meaning, caring and protective ways” in an effort to help our communities move forward to something better and ultimately to help save lives.

Then we can all sit back, sassy and sarcastically, and say, “You’re welcome.”

 

 


‘There’s still work left to be done’

written by Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader, March 2015

When I was a kid, everyone wanted the Crayola 64-pack with the built-in sharpener, even though the school supply list only required us to have eight crayons.

Not just blue and green but cornflower, sea green and aquamarine. Not just red, orange and yellow but mahogany, magenta, salmon and goldenrod.  Bittersweet, burnt sienna, periwinkle.

That 64-pack was a beautiful array of possibilities.

***

“Remember the Titans” shares the true story of the TC Williams High School football team, which was integrated in 1971. In one scene, Coach Herman Boone takes his players to Gettysburg.

“Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fighting the same fight that we are still fighting among ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red, bubblin’ with the blood of young boys… Listen to their souls… Hatred destroyed my family. You listen, and you take a lesson from the dead. If we don’t come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were.”

We’ve come a long way, but we’re still fighting the same fight.

I watched the Selma 50th Anniversary ceremony over the weekend and was saddened by the images I saw from our history, but inspired by the words of Rep. John Lewis, who was brutally beaten on that Bloody Sunday in Selma.

“We must use this moment to recommit ourselves to do all we can to finish the work. There’s still work left to be done…

“We come to Selma to be renewed. We come to Selma to be inspired. We come to be reminded that we must do the work that justice and equality calls us to do.”

There is still work to be done.

Just this week, the University of Oklahoma closed one of its fraternities after a video emerged of the chapter’s members engaging in a racist chant.

How and why is this still happening? Angered and disgusted, I remembered Rep. Lewis.

There is still work to be done.

“A just-released Census Bureau report shows that by 2044, whites will no longer comprise a racial majority in the United States,” wrote William Frey in a Los Angeles Times op-ed recently. “By then, the nation will be made up of a kaleidoscope of racial groups, including Latinos, blacks, Asians, Native Americans and multiracial Americans.”

How beautiful — a kaleidoscope of Americans.

“This ‘no racial’ majority scenario, even three decades away, provokes fear in some white Americans: fear of change, of losing privileged status or of unwanted people coming into their communities. But it is a change that should be welcomed.”

I agree. I grew up in a Christian family and church that taught me God created all of us and loves each one of us. From a truly Christian perspective, racism doesn’t make sense to me.

“God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35).

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).

What makes even less sense to me are the people who profess to believe the same as me but their words and actions speak otherwise.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

Regardless of your religious beliefs, racism is also a moral issue.

In “Long Walk to Freedom,” Nelson Mandela wrote: “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin… People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Rep. Lewis concluded his remarks in Selma by saying, “We are one people, one family, the human family.”

Each one of us is a beautiful part of the kaleidoscope. The cornflower, the sea green, the aquamarine. The mahogany, magenta and goldenrod.

***

Interestingly, Crayola now sells the Ultimate Crayon Case with 152 colors. They’ve added things like mountain meadow, pacific blue, royal purple, wild strawberry, scarlet and sunglow.

With more color brings more beauty.

Maya Angelou said: “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.”

I couldn’t agree more. Teach them young. Teach them old. Teach them all.

There is still work to be done.


‘The appalling silence of the good people’

“That they might have joy” column written for the Nodaway News Leader, January 2014

In December of 2012, our family traveled to Washington, DC, for Christmas. We had just been there that summer, but like most any trip, we didn’t get to see as many things as we would’ve liked.

We had visited the National Mall during the summer, but with our frantic pace to “see everything,” we somehow missed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. So it was at the top of my list.

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December 2012 trip to DC … at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with our exchange student, Yuki, Hannah, Hunter and Larry.

It’s a relatively new memorial, dedicated in 2011, and contains the Mountain of Despair and the Stone of Hope that also has a sculpture of Dr. King. There are 14 of his quotes engraved on the wall surrounding it including a couple of my favorites:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.

Like much of what I saw in DC, the memorial moved me. But there, with the inspiring words of Dr. King surrounding his statue, I was also filled with hope. And also with anger.

Sharing this family road trip experience is timely, with King’s birthday on the 15th and the national observance on the 20th.

But the real reason is that the injustices he fought for and ultimately died for 50 years ago are still an issue today.

To think otherwise is ignorant. And to simply place the blame on the past is appalling.

This past month, Jamelle Bouie, writer for The Daily Beast, wrote: “Just because we don’t face the racism of the past doesn’t mean we’ve solved the problem. We haven’t.”

And in November, writing for The Nation, Mychal Denzel Smith said: “It sounds harsh, but I truly believe ‘Are things better?’ is one of the most useless questions in a discussion about racism. By reframing the conversation around how much progress has been made, we further the false narrative that racism is a problem that belongs to history. While we pat ourselves on the back for not being as horrible as we once were, we allow racism to become further entrenched in every aspect of American life.”

A 2013 Pew Research poll revealed there is still a “persistent belief that discrimination and unfairness remain a part of life for African Americans in this country” and 88 percent said they believed there was either a lot or some discrimination against blacks.

Just last week in The Guardian, Chris Arnade wrote: “We as a nation applaud ourselves for having moved beyond race. We find one or two self-made blacks or Hispanics who succeeded against terrible odds, and we elevate their stories to a higher position…. We tell their stories so we can forget about the others, the ones who couldn’t overcome the long odds, the ones born into neighborhoods locked down by the absurd war on drugs, the ones born with almost even odds that their fathers will at some point be in jail, the ones born into neighborhoods that few want to teach in, neighborhoods scarce of resources. Gone is the overt, violent and legal racism of my childhood. It has been replaced by a subtler version. It is a racism that is easier to ignore, easier to deny and consequently almost as dangerous.”

What’s more is that we think it’s only bad people treating others badly.

In March of last year, Ta-Nehisi Coats wrote in the New York Times: “In modern America we believe racism to be the property of the uniquely villainous and morally deformed, the ideology of trolls, gorgons and orcs. We believe this even when we are actually being racist. The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion.”

We can no longer blame it on the evil generations of the past. It’s you and it’s me. It’s relatively good people being extraordinarily ignorant.

So stop. Stop being ignorant. Stop the knee-jerk reactions when we see something or someone and judge them. Recognize it and stop it. Let’s educate ourselves and move forward, beyond ignorance.

And then, have the courage to take a stand, to speak up during “times of challenge and controversy,” or even in times of quiet, when we’re alone with someone we know who is speaking words of hate, maybe not even consciously. Have the courage to no longer be silent.

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.

The appalling silence of the good people. Let’s not let that be us.