Edacity. Rachel Pennington, The Pie Chest
Welcome to a new community effort by Edacious to showcase the food writing talent in our region! And a new word:
edacity (e·da·city – /ih-das-i-tee/ – noun. The state of being edacious)
Not sure what edacious means? Click here.
Every other week I’ll present a Food Folk who has created something so beautiful and moving and informative all I can do is share it and sing its praises.
Truly, I can think of no one more worthy to launch a new Edacious project than my friend, Rachel Pennington of The Pie Chest, Master of Pie, piecrust, and all things delicious that sit in flaky, buttery circles. Or semi-circles if hand pies are more your thing. You can listen to her Edacious episode HERE.
Rachel has been a staunch advocate for my work here at Edacious. In fact, she was one of the first Food Folk who reached out to say she listened late at night while baking said pies. Which gave me the courage to keep going in those early days. When my BFF Scotty needed help, not only did she offer her friendship and advice, she donated generously to his GoFund Me campaign and even came up with the idea for the Big Love Bake Sale! Scotty is doing much better these days, and that’s thanks to the efforts of people like Rachel. If that’s not living in a state of edacity, I don’t know what is!
Rachel and her partner Tina witnessed the tragic events of August 12th and as a writer, and a stupendous one at that, she felt the need to put her thoughts to paper. Her words brought me to tears. I thank her for her friendship, support, and the opportunity to share her words with you. Big Love!
Are you a Food Folk with a beautiful piece of writing you’d like to share? Drop me a line!
August 12, 2017 – Charlottesville, Virginia
by Rachel Pennington, Baker, The Pie Chest
Ever had that thing happen when you dream something weird or bizarre or creepy and you wake up with this lingering emotion that you cannot locate? And then after a few moments before your eyes completely open you remember you just woke up and that was a dream and whatever those emotions were sort of float away because your rational thought comes in and you dismiss them as fleeting ashes of temporary memory because it reflects something that is subconscious, unconscious?
That is what these past three-plus weeks have been like, only in reverse.
Each morning I would wake up and feel sort of decent, sort of normal, sort of put together, and…wait. just. wait. a. minute…no, no, something is wrong. What is it? What is wrong? Why do I suddenly feel heavy and fearful and nervous and off and worried and anxious?
Give it a moment.
Oh. Yes. Everything is not ok. That non-localized pain sets in, sort of all over, and I remember, it’s not a bad dream this time. I’m not waking up from some strange and nonsensical string of events in my mind. I’m waking up to a reality that beat upon my city with blunt force.
It has been three weeks. Three weeks since the thing that, in my innermost thoughts and quiet moments, I feared would turn deadly. I’ve never wanted to be wrong so badly in my entire life.
When they came in May, it was a shock. It was a grotesque display of shock-and-awful anti-Semitic and nationalistic and racist and supremacist self-endued power. Shouting a historical Nazi slogan – “Blood and soil” – a philosophical rallying cry that the supremacists lift from the Hitler-era German belief that the oppressed must destroy the oppressor (which, in that case, were Jews) because the native blood is tied to the actual land. It is being shouted now to declare that this land, America, is under the natural-born power of the White race. They chanted “You will not replace us!” as they burned torches, eerily casting shadows on the statue of Lee as he cast his shadow upon them, their hatred spilling out of their mouths in screams.
So, the city rallied and held a candlelit vigil, in the same park, hanging a banner from the statue of Lee stating “F*ck White Supremacy.” We attended the vigil as a family, meeting several friends there, taking steps to recognizing the evident, ever-present truth that some of the worst days were not behind us. I could feel it, that night. Something had awoken.
(Caveat 1: The comfortabilities that privilege allow us to take for granted while our neighbors have had to learn to adapt to the way in which the world has already been defined for them, boundaries to be respected, neighborhoods to not visit, behaviors to inhibit – this has been on my mind here and there since moving to Charlottesville and hearing stories of blatant profiling. First confession: I was pulled over for a busted headlight while making a pie delivery this past year and my disposition towards the officer was wildly disrespectful. I’m ashamed to admit that I let my white show by speaking in a manner that, had I been anything other, would have led to much more than getting a ticket that I ended up being able to get out of – I had a rough day, but being white should not allow me to have a bad day without repercussion while plenty of others do not have that luxury.)
(Caveat 2: I confess here and now that, in general, I have allowed my bottomless optimistic and altruistic naivete to take over and have, at times, been lulled into romanticizing this city without truly grappling with the areas that are not so tidily wrapped up. More generally, I remember after the election, after that long nightmare of a campaign season, I realized that I had also been lulled into a false peace that believed that humanity, while still really f*cked up, was at least walking toward a more civil place. Progress had been made on certain fronts. Progress that was something I could personally, tangibly see and feel.)
Not to be outdone by a peaceful vigil, these groups decided to place Charlottesville in their sights. I keep getting asked why and just as many others have noted, it’s not about the statue (well, it sort of could be – for a much deeper and layered explanation than I can give, this is worth a read: (https://charlottesvilledtm.com/…/why-charlottesville-how-a…/). Lee is being used as their Trojan horse. Lee sits in a park where there is enough space to ostensibly hold a protest against his removal. As noted on the outstandingly bold and honest VICE News piece (8/14), these rallies are more reflective of these groups desiring to assert their raw power-in-numbers, to display a false unity that only is brought together by the common bonds of hatred, fear, intimidation, and yes, terror.
And since the May display of terror, all summer, it felt like the atmosphere of “Do the Right Thing.” I remember reading a piece written by Spike Lee that he attempted to portray the hottest day of the year. The extreme temperature was the set piece and backdrop for intensity that devolved into violence. When it was announced that not only there would be a permit granted for the Ku Klux Klan from North Carolina to protest the removal of the Jackson statue, but that a permit was granted for one of the largest, if not the largest, assemblies of white supremacists in recent history to, once again, ostensibly protest the removal of the Lee statue, the city started to brace itself. At first, the conversations were meandering and wandering because there was seemingly no matrix of interpretation on which to model our response. I mean, how do you confront this sort of thing?
(Caveat 3: I have heard and read so many opinions and stories in the past several days about how naive and blinded we are to have thought that we were not a racist city. In my circles, at least, no one is denying that truth. But the intensity and threshold have deepened. I was actually heartened by reading an article posted recently by a NY Times writer who called Richard Spencer for an interview – she thought she had seen/heard/felt racism all of her life until talking to him – then she realized he was to be classified as a new breed of racist altogether (http://www.nytimes.com/newsletters/2017/08/20/race-related…). It is worth a read because Spencer actually states in response to the reporter challenging him that Native Americans laid claim to the actual soil that they “should have fought harder.”)
The responses were all across the board. Some leaders in our community tried to hold alternative events as a form of protest, some decided to counter-protest, others avoided the entire thing. There was even a protest-by-way-of-knitting, perhaps one of my favorite responses. But the dialogue had started. On the day of the Klan rally, the impotent gaggle arrived over 45 minutes late and made a pathetic and placid display of protest. They were drowned out by more than 1,000 collective voices. Their costumes were outrageously silly. They had one community member supportive of their agenda. Honestly? The entire thing was a joke, just absolute nonsense. This kind of racism is fairly easy to identify, classify. KKK = bad. That is not hard. The stupid uniforms give it away. That day, we designated the shop as a safe space for the community and counter-protesters and all day I felt a kinetic sense of energy against this ugliness. When it was over that evening, there was this feeling as I walked up and down the Mall, that, fragmented as it may have been, the City had effectively drowned out those paltry 30-or-so voices. Maybe, just maybe, my growing sense of dread about August the 12th was unfounded.
(Caveat 4: The SPLC classifies the KKK as America’s oldest hate group. I remember growing up with a general sense of awareness that the KKK was a terrible thing. If I think back hard enough, I remember that “Fried Green Tomatoes” may have been my first exposure of a portrayal of the group – specifically the scenes of intimidation and terror. But I never remember learning about the origins. Shrouding their faces with hoods and wearing robes, they hid their identity for a duality of purpose – self-preservation, and intimidation of the other. I am encouraged by the fact that these costumes are now something openly mocked across the board, as is the KKK as a whole. But their foundational purpose of existence, to prohibit Blacks, Jews, GLBTQ, Immigrants from realizing, exercising, and enjoying civil rights, has found its way into the mouths of the new wave of White Supremacy.)
I kept wrestling – internally in thought and externally in conversation with some of my most trusted friends. The Downtown businesses began to communicate with one another and form first impressions of just what it was that we were dealing with when it came to the Unite-the-Right rally. Again, the responses were varied. As a business community, no unified decision for businesses to open or close came to fruition, but again, conversation was happening. Many of the individuals I talked with agreed that there was just this sense of heaviness surrounding the Rally that was not like the KKK. I struggled with trying to be honest about my intuition, which was strengthening, that something terrible could happen and others’ claims that I was overreacting. I am not one who chases down the worst possible outcomes in my head, but something about this caused me to do that very thing.
The cloaking and masking with hoods and robes that used to hide identity as atrocities were committed are now walking around openly, unshrouded, unmasked, clad in polo shirts and khakis. Before the rallies, before the permits, before the demonstrations, we also had a flurry of activity on the Mall with the Proud Boys – yet another hate group, full of white and impotent men who use raw intimidation and attempt to goad onlookers into violence by antagonizing and attacking – in fact, two initiation rites are the group physically assaulting a pledge while they try to name five breakfast cereals and conversely, that pledge needing to incite violence with a counter-protester.
These were the sorts of things happening this summer.
(Caveat 5: I am not a natural risk-taker. In fact, I’m the opposite. My mom often told me that I didn’t take my first step to walk on my own until I was over a year old. I’m extremely risk-averse.)
The week of the Unite the Right Rally, the conversations started to build momentum because we were entering the reality of what would happen versus just the theories of what could happen. We contacted our insurance agent to see if we were covered for rioting or acts of terror (file this under “Things I never thought I would have to do No. 172”). All week, Tina and I would bring it up with one another and one day to the next the answer about whether or not we wanted to be open that day would change. We were leaning toward closing, but quite honestly, I felt a little bit of unintentional pressure from all of the badass business owners Downtown who wanted to face this situation head-on. I did not want to let these people who feed on hatred and intimidation to do the same to me, to us, to our shop that has become such a beautiful expression of a safe community in this City. I felt emboldened by the unity that I could sense among my peers.
Then this other thing happened.
An organization in the city hung a banner right above where the Rally was to be held. It read “Diversity Makes Us Stronger.” In response, stickers showed up in several places Downtown that read “Diversity is a code word for White GeNOcide.” One was posted close to the shop and we removed it and placed it in the trash can. Word gets around, so fairly quickly a reporter showed up to ask to see it and then tweeted a picture of it along with a caption that suggested we were trying to make a statement by trashing it. That possibility aside, it put a target on our business.
Because this piece is coming out of me – because what I truly learned for the first time in my life what it means to bear witness, I want to share some of the comments on the tweet’s thread, however moronic, insulting, hateful, etc. they may be (replica of what was tweeted, grammar/spelling errors in full form):
“‘Diversity’ means less white people. No reasonable person can deny that.”
“Then we need to call them and make them understand that Whitegenocide (sic) is a real thing. Thank you for letting us know.”
“excellent. the more instances such as this, the better. UNITE THE RIGHT. SMASH CULTURAL MARIXISM. HEIL OUR PEOPLE. HEIL SUPREMACY.”
The first one is mild. I disagree with the statement, of course, but it’s a level of discourse that seems to have at least an inch of opening in which to engage the premise. Yes, I suppose diversity does mean less white people, but what it actually means is less of a concentration of white people, less of a supremacy of white people. But this is only if these things are not defined as zero-sum games where there are a limited number and already determined set of pieces (and, forgive the movement into my line of work) of pie.
The second one is moderate. In fact, that is exactly what happened. We began to receive messages and calls with attempts to explain White Genocide to us and threats of boycotting by the entire Conservative Party and anyone who wears that label. Getting these calls and messages is what pulled out that childhood risk-aversity that I had buried in hopes of solidarity and courage.
The third one? Go back and read it again.
Are you aware of any other use for the word “heil” than the one that is associated with the genocide of an entire race of human beings?
(Caveat 6: I want to share another response to the tweet that a reporter made:
“No, they brought it inside and took a picture of it. Why lie about something so stupid?”. I’m going to make a case for the triumph of social media exposing the actual truth of what transpired on 8/12, but before that I also want to look at the flip side, only so I can make the point that there is, of course, a responsibility that comes along with what is posted on said social media, no matter the forum or venue. We did not take a picture of the sticker, the reporter did. We did not post the tweet (we don’t have a Twitter account because I personally cannot philosophically get behind any medium that limits the language we speak to 140 characters as a gimmick to continue to feed short-attention spans, nor can I promote or participate in the chosen medium of the fake president who uses it as a forum for consistent spewing of ignorance, unabashed racism and xenophobia, lies, insults, threats, nonsensical thoughts), the reporting medium did. I’m arguing that speaking truth to power is a means by which we can DO SOMETHING, and that is important right now, identifying what we can do, but not at the cost of responsibility for what we choose to say and speak and be online. We must remember that at the end of the day, these tech companies and forums do not exist to bring us closer together. They exist to make money. These apps and venues and media all compete for our attention all day and night – “media,” as such, is a conversation that takes place through a “mediated” forum. Twitter condenses that forum to blasts of statements with a constantly updating feed that funnels our thinking into #hashtags. Facebook can lull us into thinking the entire world agrees with our opinions and views because we control who (and who not) is in our Friends list. Instagram offers us filters with which to polish what the reality is of so many of our moments and days – ordinary. And we get releases and “hits,” as it were, of chemical rushes in our brain in our pleasure centers – a retweet, a like (or love of sad or angry or haha), a tag, a mention – hit, hit, hit – all of these individuals agree with how I feel – hit, hit, hit – we then begin to see how we are defining the outside and external world according to the virtual world that we have a hand in shaping and creating for ourselves. This scares me.)
We discovered this tweet and the response thread the day before the rally when we started getting the messages. This changed my perspective and Tina and I literally stayed awake the night before for hours. It was one of the most deep, textured, honest, and transparent conversations we have ever had. I want to say here and now that Tina is the antithesis of inertia. It is all about action for her. She made a point to march up to the KKK rally so she could physically model looking them in the face and turning her back and walking away. Sort of a nouveau-yet-ancient example of shaking the dust off of your feet when you have walked in a place that you want to make a strict separation from, a cutting off. But this was different. This Unite-the-Right rally was not a group of 30 or so men (and a few women) wearing dresses. This was a movement that was evidently being fueled by violence and physical intimidation.
We were quite possibly putting lives on the line by being open.
We had actual messages of intimidation (however actual vs. “mediated” through a social media forum).
And the million dollar question: what would we accomplish by not only opening the shop but attending the counter-protest demonstration lined up by one of many groups and individuals that opposed the Rally?
How were either being open or attending the counter-protest going to change systematic racism that thrives on unchecked and unchallenged inherent and woven-into-the-fabric white supremacy (or white-normative, an entirely different problem but one that births philosophies and beliefs that are far more nefarious because they are accepted as genteel) of our culture and society?
My spirit that night – it was just on fire. It was like metaphysical heartburn.
Earlier, on our way out of Charlottesville that night, we had heard there might be some kind of a surprise march, but there was not a definite location, and I think we assumed it would be Downtown. As the next several minutes unfolded, the word was that it was headed to a statue of Jefferson on the campus of UVA. We started viewing live feeds of the rally. A now-leaked memo of the plans for both the Friday night torch march as well as the Saturday rally indicate the following (and, in full form: http://www.unicornriot.ninja/…/u…/2017/08/OpOrd3_General.pdf):
“Torchlight Rally: The Torchlight Rally will be at the Jefferson Monument near the UVA campus on Friday the 11th under cover of darkness. We will meet at 2130 in “Nameless Field” and march with our torches lit to the monument. DO NOT show up early to “Nameless Field”. Each person should bring their own torch which can be bought from a local Wal-Mart, Lowes, Home Depot, etc. Tiki torches are fine. Once on the grounds of the monument a speech will be given, we do some chants, then sing dixie, then put out the torches. We will then return to “Nameless Field” and back to our cars. DO NOT mention this torchlight beforehand outside of extremely vetted circles. DO NOT post about it on social media until after.
Dixie: At the torchlight rally we will be singing the song “Dixie”. It is VERY important for everyone to learn this song and the lyrics. In announcements we will put out the version we are using.”
Now, I am not aware of which version was intended to be sung. Again, I point to the excellent piece by VICE News for footage of the torchlight rally. The reason why we do not know their intended version of “Dixie,” a song fraught with racist under-and-over tones? A song “written by a Northern composer, starring a black protagonist, intended as a dance song during a minstrel show” (Irwin Silber)? Because their “rally” devolved into violence. As the torches were lit and the flames burned, the cries of “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” echoing across the campus and our city, a group of courageous students rallied around the statue and tried to shout down the hatred.
I want to bear witness to the hatred that I saw, that I heard, that I physically felt.
After discussing every inch of every possible scenario we could think through, little sleep came. I kept checking feed after feed and private messages were being sent by fellow business owners. We found out that the alt-righters were planning to arrive at Emancipation Park as early as 10am (the permitted event was to begin at noon). The sky that morning was beyond dismal, if there is such a word for that. I don’t even remember driving into Charlottesville – I just remember walking to the shop from where we thought we were safe to park. We had decided on a safe location to flee to should we need, so we parked close to that spot. There were very few people on the mall that early. We started setting up the shop, trying to just function but there was a pit of uncertainty swallowing up the oxygen in the room. Right around 8am or so I walked down from the shop to the other end of the mall to deliver items to The Whiskey Jar, and because it was so early and no crowds had yet assembled, I decided to walk back on Market directly parallel to the statue of Lee. In the bank parking lot across the street, there was a large group of camo-clad men with semi-automatic assault rifles. I immediately grabbed my phone and just started taking photos, as many as I could. They lined up in a loose formation, the man in the front said something to the group, and they filed to the park where the ended up lining the sidewalk to act as a human (and assault-weapon) barricade between the alt-right assembly and what would be the counter-protester area.
We opened the shop. The air was thick, churning. It was not our normal Saturday where we see early-morning customers coming over from the Farmer’s Market, coming in from a run, to read with a book from the library or Daedlus, to socialize. We were constantly tense, triple-checking every person who came in to our door – what are they wearing? Facial expression? Mannerisms? Is it one of “them?” I hated what I was doing but it felt necessary to do.
Here is the truth – we went to bed the night before thinking that someone was going to do something, something was going to happen to take the decision out of our hands. When we realized that the situation was going to be allowed to unfold as it would, we remembered that our shop had become a spot of respite and comfort, belonging and being in the Downtown area, specifically on 4th St. Maybe no one would care if we were open, but it was about continuing to be, not allowing imminent danger to sway how we go about our daily presence as a business.
So, that was what we were to be. Word got around that we were a safe space – bathroom, water, etc. We had served the same purpose during the KKK rally/protest. We had a moderate number of members of our community, including several regulars, come in for morning coffee before going to attend the counter-protest. One of our customers was an individual who was seriously injured in the yet-to-happen terrorist attack at the bottom of our street. That morning I got the chance to tell her to her face that she was a badass and to thank her for her act of courage.
I had yet to figure out what my purpose was that day. I wasn’t with the clergy who were to courageously link arms directly in front of the armed militia and the entry stairs of the park. I wasn’t among the many counter-protesters, of whom the majority were my city’s residents. We just owned a pie shop one block away from the planned site of the rally. What else could I do?
I decided that I wanted to walk down and just feel the atmosphere, take some pictures/video, etc. As I walked down the street, I heard drums and chanting, it reminded me of the sounds of the Women’s March in D.C., but the tone could not have been any more different. Instead of a group of people coming together to protest peacefully, to exercise the right to assemble and free speech, this had all the signs of a situation that would reach a boiling point, and fast. I didn’t see very many people within the actual confines of Emancipation Park, maybe just a few milling around here and there. The majority of those assembled were the lined militia facing off the Clergy Collective, and behind the clergy were counter-protesters. There was another group of clergy who were marching in to assemble themselves on the stairs to make a human chain to block entry – I walked over to the entrance of the park and started to video them and thank them for doing what they were doing when someone behind me grabbed my arm and pulled me away very abruptly. I didn’t see who had moved me but they were trying to push me safely away from the first large wave of Unite-the-Righters. most of them clad in white polos and khaki pants (in fact, an online directive circulated days before the Rally encouraging the alt-right to wear a very specific dress code so their image in the media could be, well, “mediated” and controlled). I moved to the other side of the street, directly facing the group that had started to descend. They were marching in droves by way of Market – line after line after line of mostly white, young men, carrying bats, clubs, shields, wearing helmets, flying dozens of large Confederate flags and large Nazi flags with swastikas.
I almost could not believe what I was watching, except I was actually watching it, hearing it, feeling it, seeing it.
It’s only now that I can watch the videos that I took and really study them.
The first thing I heard was a group of men chanting “Fuck you, faggots!” repeatedly. Another woman screaming to bring “Kike Signor here!” A man commenting “It’s heatin’ up right now.” The clergy, filing to the stairs, led by a minister who declared “They are coming.” Then, a war chant. Silence. Smatterings of chants with a beginning but nothing carrying through.”Nazi scum, off our streets!” A man screams “Go fuck yourself Cornel West! Suck my dick, Cornel!”
(Caveat 7: These words were actually said, therefore I’m typing them to be read. Because that matters. They are offensive, of course, but these are the things that are being said and demand to be heard and dealt with.)
I was there the moment the alt-right army began marching up the stairs to the park entrance, blocked by clergy. They were not letting them in and a man started shouting “Walk through those fuckers, now!” singing “This Little Light of Mine.” The line of alt-righters continued to grow and grow up Market Street.
This was like putting dynamite inside of a cinderbox.
I actually was having a hard time breathing. I have never, ever felt hatred like this. As I walked back up Market, right across the street from the lines of human hostility, I just started to cry, except it was much more than that. My chest was heaving. I felt so utterly heartbroken that this was happening, that this was being allowed to happen.
(Caveat 8: Speaking of what happened here, I was struck by the people that I saw or heard through some sort of media claim that they knew what happened in Charlottesville, including the fake president (you know, his “many sides” of violence load of total bullshit and outright falsehood). If you were not here, don’t tell us what happened here. It’s that simple. I even had a friend share an article written by some politician somewhere in Arizona with the headline “What Really Happened In Charlottesville.” Sir – you are going to tell me what happened in my city, to my city, to my customers, on my street, in front of my shop? You’re going to tell me what happened in front of my very own eyes, try to reshape the narrative to fit whatever point you feel the need to make? Just don’t. Please, do not. Your reshaping of a narrative does not help anyone or anything – it muddles the situation further. Allow those who actually witness a thing to speak of the thing. Make whatever point you want to make another way, please. Because denying the truth that this was a race war in the streets that led to a terrorist attack against a group of peaceful counter-protesters does not change that that’s exactly what happened here.)
After we were safely home that evening, after we had learned of the attack on our beloved Fourth St., after the evening hours were spent monitoring social media and watching our own city featured on CNN, MSNBC, etc. I looked at Tina and thanked her. She is the reason I found the courage to open the shop. And had I not opened the shop, had I stayed home that day, I would not have had the opportunity to witness the things that I did. I was able to see, hear, feel, and experience the hatred first-hand, not mediated through a source that would seek to sway my opinion. All of the pictures, videos, witness accounts – they all matter so very much, because we are living in an age where the phrase “fake news” is touted anytime someone does not agree with something being reported, an age when the actual, verifiable truth can be shown to someone and there is still a refusal to believe that truth.
We have to find the means right now to bear witness. Before this experience, this totality of experience, I had never thought about that phrase – “bearing witness.” In psychological-speak, bearing witness is sharing experiences with others, particularly traumatic experiences. Now I see that not only is the one speaking bearing their witness of an ordeal, but when it comes to trauma, the individual who is listening also bears witness to that ordeal. It is not a light or easy task but one that is necessary, especially right now. But it requires both speaking and listening. It requires that I be abundant and generous, not only in what I witnessed or continue to witness, but in listening. I have to trust that transmission of “bearing witness” from the witnessed experience to the witness of listening will lead to some sort of action. That is the takeaway – bearing witness through to emerge to the other side with scar tissue that tells a narrative, tells the story, shares the experience. I have to listen and actually hear the things that maybe I don’t want to hear or subject myself to but need to in order to understand something, anything outside of my own experience which is more and more subjected to “media”-ted influences that do not reflect reality. Even the history that we were taught is suspect – the simple narratives that we were taught and tell ourselves then teach to another generation, they just do not add up. These threads of stories and experiences and realities have to start to be exposed in the telling and hearing, the facing and realizing, the embracing of what others have “bore witness” to so I can “bear their witness.” Isn’t that the least that we can do, those of us who sit in the seats of privilege while others stand because all the seats are taken? I cannot change my privilege. But what I can change, even if it’s in increments at a time, is my perception of how my privilege not only affects me but its affect on others around me local and global. And maybe once I realize those privileges, I can work on trying to change the systems that perpetuate the privilege.
Some things that you are raised believing never leave you, or at least stay with you and transform within you at different times in life. Language and words will always be thought of through the prism of the following two adages from the faith of childhood/adolescence/young adulthood: the power of life and death are in our words (Proverbs) and we can give life or destroy by those words that we speak (James).
Richard Spencer, upon threat of being arrested once the Rally was declared an unlawful assembly, kept pleading with the police, insisting that he “just wanted to talk!”
“We just want to talk!”
Over and over he states this, as if the words that were to spew out of his mouth, out of Jason Kessler’s mouth, out of David Duke’s mouth, were innocuous. “Just” words. But words are our witness. And they will be full of life or death, full of the power to heal or destroy. When your words have birthed a gathering of individuals who are literally wearing helmets, wielding shields, flying flags with symbols of genocide and hearkening back to the good ol’ days of slavery, they are not “just” words.
(Caveat 9: When someone runs for president and speaks words that promote actual physical violence during campaign rallies, bombastic bellicose bullying, there will be a reaction to that, which becomes its own action. When the fake president first stated that the violence was multi-faceted (excuse me, sorry, I had a moment where I tried to insert an intelligible phrase into his elementary-school-level vocabulary, forgive me, it’s a habit with him) – “many sides” – .then holds a press conference where it is clear he is reading scripted lines decrying the violence that stemmed from “white supremacists,” then the very next day triple-backs on any centimeter of a shred of humanity to remind us all, once again, how completely repugnant and just-in-bed-he-is with the alt-right movement, the white supremacists and nationalistically-fervent men (and a few women) who indeed supported his campaign and continue to support his presidency – when all of that happened, I found myself traversing the terrain of Kubler-Ross’s first four steps of grief for the 1,000th time since Election Day. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression. I’ll never make it to the final stage of acceptance because I refuse to accept this. Dr. Cornel West has said many, many incredibly profound things that I have read and heard him say – but perhaps the most practical, helpful-in-the-moment thing he said in response to a reporter asking him his thoughts on Drumpf’s narrative of events (given that Dr. West was physically there to witness what happened): “I have no expectations of Donald Drumpf.” Amen, Brother West – neither do I. And if I can remember that I expect nothing of him, I’ll realize I cannot wait for him to do anything human or decent – I have to do that myself and by joining efforts with others to do that.)
Words are never “just” words. Words said, words not said – they matter. Where words come from – that matters. And speaking those words will lead to some sort of action – even if that action is a reaction or inaction or being proactive. Words are the roots of what is to grow.
Here are my words. Here is my witness. I make pie for a living, but I want my being-on-this-earth to have the essence of bearing your witness and you bearing mine.
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