Saturday, July 17, 2010

standing up...

and calling it like it is.


first, a family story from yesterday that left me beaming when Ewan recounted it...

so my 3 and a 1/2 year old neice Sequoia's in the park with her mother Miriam and her younger brother Lochlann yesterday...

as is her usual style, she walks up to a kid she doesn't know (a 7 year old boy in this case) and says "hello! do you want to play with me?"

Ewan says had the boy said no she would have been fine. she never really gets upset if a kid says no and says hello to everyone they meet on the street. but the boy does say yes. and so they start playing.

the boy's older brother and some friends (all about 9 years old) approach. they start mocking him: "what are you playing with HER for? she's a BABY! you must be a BABY too!"

then to Sequoia, "you're a baby! you must wear diapers!"

and so they jeer and taunt them, "you're both babies!!!! you. are. BA-BIES!!"

Ewan says Sequoia is very good at ignoring another kid who is mean when playing together and Mir decided not to intervene unless necessary. but
this was the first time significantly older and bigger kids (and a groups of boys she didn't know at that) had so openly been mean. so she was concerned. she knew Sequoia's new friend might turn on her too as a defense against his brother's taunts. but Mir held back. and she was astounded at what happened next:

Sequoia looks straight up at the boys, puts her hands on her hips and shouts back,

"well YOU'RE being BULLIES! ner ner ner ner!! YOU. ARE. BULL-IES!!"

well it seems that shut them up good and proper, and with that she went straight back to playing with her new friend, who despite the taunts proceeded to carry on playing with her.

we are all, as you might well imagine, rather impressed and proud. she stood up for herself and her friend, and we look forward to seeing her learn how to stand up for others, even when she is not the direct target of the bullies calling names.


And then, there's this. Much more serious issues: a blistering reponse from Ta-Nehisi Coates to the virulent racism of Tea Party Movement Spokesperson Mark Williams'. Williams, (angry that the NAACP passed a resolution stating that the Tea Party movement needs to expunge racism from its ranks) wrote on his blog what he describes as 'satire' - a fictional letter from the NAACP to "Mr Lincoln". it's inexcusable vile. nothing less. and his excuses (see the comments here) only compound the racism.

Today, following the letter and after numerous discussions about the story this week, on his blog at The Atlantic, Coates paused to reflect on his own measured approach this week and his uncertainty as to whether the NAAPC had made the right move with their resolution. He wrote:

"I have, in my writing, a tendency to become theoretically cute, and overly enamored with my own fair-mindedness. Such vanity has lately been manifested in the form of phrases like "it's worth saying"  and "it strikes me that..." or "respectfully..."

When engaging your adversaries, that approach has its place. But it's worth saying that there are other approaches and other places. Among them--respectfully administering the occasional reminder as to the precise nature of the motherfuckers you are dealing with."
                                                                               - Ta-Nehisi Coates
the complete piece is worth reading. 


Say nothing, whatever one's approach... by not calling out the 'precise nature' of those shouting taunts, then the social and political discourse just keeps descending unchecked into further vacuous content-free and substantive policy-free soundbites based on fear, into hatred, racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance. And civility, humanity, welcome, social justice, compassion - all are undermined by the disregard and bullying persecution of minorities and the vulnerable by those with power who willfully seek to manipulate people who are ignorant to their own privileges and who are encouraged to live under the delusion that it is they who are under threat.

"We live in a society that suffers from historical amnesia."
                                                        - Cornel West



  1. That's a brilliant one Cary. I'm very impressed with Sequoia too and I'm going to tell Ana that story. :)

  2. Can't say -- as in "really can't express" -- how grateful I am to be marrying into Sequoia's family. And Cary's. I watched a great program in Germany last night on international children's television and read this morning that Sesame Street was banned at one time from Mississippi because they felt people weren't ready for it. Which of course some aren't. Thanks to Sequoia, Cary, and so many others who keep telling me and the tea party how to get to Sesame Street.

  3. What an AMAZING story about your niece!!! Love it! Absolutely priceless...