Misappropriated Tropes: Backlash masquerading as budget cuts

Backlash masquerading as budget cuts
ARTICLE | MAY 25, 2017 – 12:00AM | BY MARK HARRIS
When a trope or metaphor gets popularly misappropriated due to cultural transference, problems ensue.

Two examples often used in mainstream Western culture are “low man on the totem pole” and the “pawn in the game.” Neither of these artifacts originally comes from Western civilization — that civilization in which cultural historical amnesia is a given norm and assimilation is a goal, thereby dooming those who buy into the concept to repeating preventable mistakes, like déjà vu all over again.

On the west coast of Turtle Island, the Tlingit-Haida Nation originated totem poles. Though their political influence at one time stretched down into what we call California, totem poles, like feathered headdresses and teepees, became a recursive meme meant to stand in for indigenous nations that never used them.

Obviously the being represented at the base of the pole, holding every one else up, has to be the physically strongest and, perhaps, the spiritually strongest, and certainly not the least powerful or significant in an artificial hierarchy. Similarly, the pawn in chess is the only piece on the board that, having reached its goal, can transform itself into the most powerful piece on the board.

As both totem poles and chess are originally artifacts, taken from indigenous communities of color, that have been adopted and changed by Caucasianization, we can expect these histories to be erased, and the emic (internal to the culture) symbolism to be misunderstood.

If I were low man on the white cultural totem pole, I might be looked upon with contempt by the ones riding on my back and shoulders as being a lower life form, when I’m actually supporting them.

Similarly, if I am an empowered pawn, capable of shape-shifting and exerting powers of transformation in myself and others, I can do that, even if visibly removed from the game. Just as successive exalted cyclops of Eugene Klan #3 have done by becoming businessmen, educators, politicians, administrators, etc.

In the quarter century I’ve worked at Lane Community College and the two years I’ve been employed at the University of Oregon, I’ve been both forewarned and forearmed. Blessed enough to innovate and make change, only to see such innovations and changes get washed away by various forms of backlash rather than being built upon and protected.

African-American professionals who’ve worked and moved on from both workplaces have warned me: It’s the belly of the beast, it’s a great training ground for institutional racism, it’s vicious, or viscous like mud or quicksand; it will eat you alive like quicksand made of acid.

Of course, I didn’t enter into Eugene’s “progressive paradise” with rainbow-tinted glasses, either. The upside is that here, if you’re patient, you can get things done that might take longer in other places. But it might take you longer to implement what is a longstanding progressive standard elsewhere.

So, while I’ve participated in many innovative projects — at LCC, in the community and, finally, the past two years at the UO — to enhance the infrastructure, nothing can’t be undone by backlash or budget cuts or backlash masquerading as budget cuts.

I like the irony quoted in the UO mission statement: the university “focuses on teaching and research excellence, with a focus on critical, logical thinking, clear communication, and ethical living.” Budgets and expenditures reflect priorities.

As of this writing I’ve yet to be paid by the UO, working as an instructor teaching International Substance Use Treatment. I’m an addictions prevention, treatment and recovery practitioner. While not in 12-step recovery, I promote the “Addiction is Slavery” meme: I’m like Harriet Tubman or Morpheus. I teach addicted pawns caught in the matrix of addiction to become powerfully transformed, addiction Jedi knights and Warrior queens, rather than agents of the addicted system.

During basically the same time period, a drunken white assistant football coach got paid inside of a week for five days work, more money than I would’ve gotten paid if I worked for 10 years in the soon-to-be-canceled substance abuse prevention program.

I was forewarned to understand how the university might value me if that value is measured in dollars and cents. I know how much money football makes, but how many brain-injured, addicted football players are there and who would help them?

If that value is measured in lives saved, improved and extended, and addiction reduced, the consensus might be that the value is priceless. Everything that has a beginning has an end. The end for the substance abuse prevention program is approaching. The problems won’t be going away, and neither will many of us. We’ll still be here, teaching pawns to transform, jumping barriers, and eliminating obstacles to empowerment.

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Progress to Backlash

Notes from the Riverside
Obama to Trump: Reconstruction Progress to Backlash

What if you were born to live in these times, in this place? To be a force for calm, strength, wisdom, humor, even to sing and pray in the face of state sponsored terror, though it might mean your death? I’m talking about the experience of people of color in North, Central, and South America, including Hawaii. I could also be talking about South Africa, and numerous White Supremacist regimes America has sponsored because of profit. If the last eight years of a Black Presidential Administration have demonstrated, the basic structures supporting White Supremacy have never been dismantled, or seriously disrupted.
I liken them to the standard chessboard in which white makes the rules, moves first, knows the hidden legal moves, and the ways to win by cheating, if you don’t know the rules or the history. Progress will always be followed by Backlash. Backlash leads to Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the Panthers, Black Lives Matter, ActUp, Standing Rock, Wellbriety, and a host of others. The movement which brought Obama to power, because of the backwardness of Bush, may have diversified the color of the pieces on the board, but didn’t change the structure or rules of the game, and its underlying assumptions.

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In line with the Great Blacks

“My Sense of Times Intertwined Deep with the Great Blacks.
Standing in my corner, ain’t no way you can fake that.
No way you can shake that, No way you can take that
I reckon that you pace back, and learn to embrace that.”
-”Great Blacks” Georgia Anne Muldrew, A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

I wanted to be white for 3 weeks in 4th Grade (1965), because I was being rejected. Being the only Black kid in class in my elementary school in Bel Air. After three weeks I realized, wait, there’s nothing wrong with me, its them. My home training countered the non-lessons I was getting: Slaves were smart. Slaves resisted every step of the way. We were the slaves that taught ourselves to read, when it was a death sentence. Therefore: Learning to read before kindergarten, reading at least 3 grade levels above where you are, try to excel at everything you can, especially at the multi-racial nation building things Black people have done before…know The Great Blacks, before you go to school. Because you can’t trust the schools to teach you, all you need to know. Know about other people of color too. A movement of multicultural affirmation. Black Lives Matter erupts, emerges, evolves, from the same conditions that James Brown wrote and recorded Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.

The messages from mainstream society despite assertions of equality i.e. All Lives Matter, is that White Lives Matter More. Whitewashed historical evidence suggests, the best thing you can do, is adopt the values, including historical and cultural amnesia, and acquire the trappings of wealth and success. Emulate American successful exemplars displayed on street signs, buildings, tabloids, reality television, fashion magazines, and school curriculum. To counter that, a larger story needed to be told, and the Ethnic Studies movement evolved from Negro History Week.

I Too Am Eugene: A Multicultural History Project, broke the story of Eugene Klan #3, nearly 20 years ago in the Eugene Weekly, LCC’s Ethnic Studies, and Rites of Passage. Cheri Turpin, sat down in the microfilm room, cross referenced archives, and found the Klan / UO connection, Klan membership lists, and statewide Klan activities well past the purported death of the Klan in 1925. In 1937, meeting in Portland, (Reported in The Oregonian but not in the Register Guard) the Klan claimed 16,000 members statewide and wanted Eugene, (again), as its state headquarters. They decided to recruit in law enforcement and again be politically active. The Eugene Klan didn’t die, but embodied the Invisible Empire: political, news, business, education, law enforcement, and justice system infrastructure. There is nothing to show that they weren’t successful and that anyone stopped them from those goals. Or more cogently, subsequently eliminated their influence from the businesses, organizations, and institutions they inhabit today.

Post-war the Klan focused on the growing Black community, including cross burnings, at least one lynching, and practices of legal and illegal housing, job, and lending discrimination. In effect making Eugene both a redlined, and sundown town. A place where skilled millwrights like Willie Mims father, could not find work in the timber industry because of their race. A place where business owner Sam Reynolds, could neither get a business loan for a new business, nor rent or buy a home within the city limits.
Gathering personal accounts by Black & White community members, we were able to establish Klan influence from the post-war period into the 21st Century. Since experiences affecting people of color, are not regularly reflected in Eugene, the University, the Register Guard, can maintain the fiction, that the Klan has been dead for 90 years. Institutional historians may use the standard that if we can’t produce membership lists, then its not Klan activity. Even if cross burnings, and lynchings occur, we can’t say it’s the Klan that did it. If a toy gun is treated the same as a real gun by the police and military, then crosses burnt on Skinners Butte, in front of the West 11th Community, in front of a home on Friendly street, or a home in Springfield one week after 9/11, are going to be considered the genuine article.
The Klan is a secret fraternal organization that infiltrated news, schools, business, law enforcement, and politics. They learned from their past mistakes, but they could and did act through the institutions they infiltrated, as “Red-blooded Americans”, a Klan phrase indicating racial purity. Doing that, they could order the incarceration of American citizens of Japanese descent. Order the termination of Native American tribes. Question Latino-American citizens on the basis of race alone.

I Too Am Eugene as activist historians produced school, college, and Rites of Passage, curriculum, a historical bus tour, trained K-12 teachers, and acts to make communities of color historically visible: Wiley Griffon Historical Monument, Sam Reynolds St, MLK Blvd, helped facilitate Talking Stones, and other projects, because we feel as a multicultural history project its more than just a story in black and white. Activist historians operate outside of classrooms, books, curricula, into the community, to meet real human needs, not operate in some academic remove.

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Shooters to Shao Lin

Originally published in Eugene Weekly Nov 12, 2015

Notes from the Riverside
Shooters to Shao Lin
By Mark Harris

Paul Robeson once observed: “The man who accepts Western values absolutely, finds his creative faculties becoming so warped and stunted that he is almost completely dependent on external satisfactions, and the moment he becomes frustrated in his search for these, he begins to develop neurotic symptoms, to feel that life is not worth living, and, in chronic cases, to take his own life.”

Or yours. America is adept at producing young white men in particular, who find their only outlet of either sexual or meaningful life expression, in murderous violence, ending in suicide, or suicide by cop. Either way, lacking courage to create a life. Easier to destroy, than create and our society makes that normal.

Normal, is what occurs with predictable regularity — there’s an infrastructure producing “normal”.  For me what happened at UCC, was about where and when, not if. In some communities this kind of violence is a daily occurrence.
Every day 90 people a day die by gun violence in America. By October 1st, the equivalent of the entire population of Roseburg, plus about three thousand, had already died. Put another way, the annual death toll from gun violence equals the entire student body of Lane Community College, plus all but a few thousand students of the University of Oregon.

Normal and predictable, supported by infrastructure, also means preventable. By example,the illegal drug problem in America, is normally generated by un-arrested, unprosecuted, wealthy white Americans. Relaxed drug laws, reduced incarceration of people of color, aren’t going to make a dent. Stricter gun laws, without increasing general humanity, compassion, culturally competent mental health skill building therapy, will not make a dent either.

Many of my clients, who have already been dangerous people, want to be less so, and “give back”. I feel no danger from the people who’ve killed for our government, or for their street organizations. The former killers who now want to “give back”, become addictions / social workers, are not the dangerous ones. After receiving 3 death threats (Two from Supremacists, and one from a mentally ill person) I like to keep aware of my surroundings. I see it’s the ones who lose their humanity in cyber addiction, in fantasy, in garden variety dehumanizing insanity. The system that doesn’t recognize racism as a normalized recurring dual diagnosis (an addiction and a mental illness) which affects white shooters, like Dylann Roof, and Black shooters like Vester Flanagan, alike, won’t begin to address the normal generators of such madness.
The shooters don’t find sanity in the reality of helping less fortunate others. Giving themselves a more noble life purpose, in the face of barbs and slights from others. What if access to deadly force, was not simply a consumer choice, but an earned privilege, like a samurai sword? You must prove your capacity to heal and make peace, adhere to a code of honor, before acquiring deadly force, in the manner of a Shao Lin Monk, or 18th Dynasty Medjay Warrior. Old school and naive perhaps, but when did expecting people to become more human, not less, and nurturing them on that journey, become more rare and less normal?

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I Want My Country Back

I want my country back.

I want the country where “All My Relations” whether in Lakota, Hopi, Aztec, or Taino,  meant an expanded humanity that lived in kinship with other lifeforms as relatives, not resources.

That recognizes that all humans in particular, are relatives to be nurtured and cared for, not resources to be enslaved, exploited, or feared and hated. When you are the target of enslavement, exploitation, and terror that the solution to oppression, is to become more humane than your oppressors.

It’s partially the country that existed before 1491: Pyramid cities, intercontinental and interracial trade and commerce. Though slavery, and war were not unknown here before Columbus, we found ways towards democratic civilized resolution, through remembering our common strengths and gifts. Among those gifts were the insights given by those variously named two-spirits who brought us wisdom beyond binary gender, and physical / spiritual duality. Its not the country or culture that would build a Walmart outside those pyramids cities, nor that a US corporation could claim ownership of rainfall in Bolivia.

The country that came after that (whether 1492, or 1776) was predicated on certain types of violence. The targets were indigenous people and their demonstrated allies from other continents, which included historically respectful Europeans.  The country that practiced and practices massacres, lynchings, church burnings, concentration camps, and other forms of sociostructural violence, must fade into historical memory, before my country will emerge.

I asked Robert Kono, at the time, a local veteran (442nd) and survivor of the concentration camps, “Why would you fight for a country that incarcerated you because of your race, while allowing major corporations to trade and profit from doing business with the enemy: Nazi Germany?” He said, he didn’t fight for politicians, or his family, or the soldiers next to him, (All Japanese-Americans). He’s fighting for an America that doesn’t exist yet, that would never do the things that happened to him and others. If he doesn’t fight for it now, it will never exist. I could pledge allegiance to that America. I could celebrate that country’s birth.

It’s a kind of a dual consciousness, similar to what Dubois referred to in in “The Souls of Black Folk”: Remembering better, experiencing worse, and working for better in the face of worse. Being a mandatory reporter for a system I wouldn’t entrust a single blood relative to, unmonitored. Supporting institutions that regularly betray you, and your kind, and that “kind” is continually expanding.

In the “Free State of Jones” white men join self-freed slaves in a rebellion against the Confederacy. A Confederacy based on conscription of poor people, while stealing their crops, livestock, land and property,  to fight for the benefit rich people (who are exempted from fighting if they own slaves). Who use the illusion of white supremacy, and white privilege to enforce oppression of Black people, or as they refer to them: Niggers, an English corruption of the respectful word Negars, which means a person from Africa. As in Schwarzeneggar which means in old high German: Black and from Africa. (Like Schwarzkopf means Black Head, as portrayed on the 18th Century coat of arms.)

The reality is that poor whites are as much niggers, in the Confederate system, as Black people. And when they find common cause, and fight to end their common oppressor. This is still true in today’s America. When the indigenous democracy was peopled by people who represented racial, gender, sexual, and other types of diversity, a Wall was built on Manhattan Island, not so much to keep Natives out (It was in the middle of Indian Country), but to keep Black and White slaves and indentured servants from joining the Six-Nations indigenous democracy, where they would welcomed as allies. Rich White people building walls on traditionally indigenous lands to gentrify them (to use the modern term for the process), is not new. Trump uses the same tactics, using verbal violence, to condone physical violence. So what was once done by the state, or allowed by the state, the state now facilitates by allowing weapons of war to be a consumer choice, not an earned ethics bound privilege.

Its not so much where or who will perpetrate the next attack? I come from a people whom the state was the main perpetrator, or allowed the attacks to happen. Electing a Black President (Whose received more death threats than all the white presidents combined) didn’t change that.

Improved technology for killing, without deepened humanity, means that a single person, normally socialized (Where violence against Others was normalized and legal), can kill as many people as a state. The worst massacres were state sponsored or facilitated: Washita (“103”), Sand Creek (“163”), Fort Pillow (“300”), The Red Summer (“293”), Tulsa Black Wall Street (3000), Rosewood, Florida (150). (Numbers in quotes are the official white numbers. Non-quotes are the people of color count). Dylan Roof was following an American tradition: internally hating yourself, then externally hating others. Omar Mateen while saying “’I don’t have a problem with black people….You guys suffered enough’”, while killing people of color, including Black people. Killing people of color while being a person of color, is displaying a sort of mental illness commonly undiagnosed in America, racial self hatred, with gender identity dysphoria. (According to APA internalized racism doesn’t exist). If he was taught to hate himself and natural aspects of his being, with no heathy resolution for the inner turmoil, then no amount of FBI background checks could predict or prevent his attacks. In fact the healing could occur from within the community he targeted, just like Dylann Roof. Communities who suffer, in the absence of healing from the mainstream, must and have developed their own healing ways. Individually, then collectively becoming more humane than their attackers, and the society that generates their attackers. How would one become a healthy gay Muslim man, or a recovered White Supremacist? Not through cognitive-behavioral therapy and anti-depressants. Such healing ways were once widespread in my country, embedded in the culture, as it were. They were largely suppressed by this country, there needs to be, and is a more vigorous resurgence. For a new country to emerge, backlash is predictable, but resistance is fertile.

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Rescue Yourself

Fanon wrote of Sociostructural Violence, where violence perpetrated by systems, was normalized. As a Fanonian, I don’t expect loyalty from institutions which were born and bred to betray me. Whose raison d’etre is betrayal, however much I depend on them.

More recently there have been writings regarding Institutional Betrayal. When I raised the question “Why should you trust institutions that were designed to betray you?” I was told, that design was besides the point. You come to depend, or are forced to depend on the institutions, and that’s where the betrayal comes in. That produced in me a familiar doublethink, DuBois once called Dual Consciousness. Peter Bell referred to it as being successfully schizophrenic. Loyal to America and the American dream, but not surprised when she fails you. Like the Delaney Sisters…”I love my country, but my country doesn’t always love me back.”



Institutional Betrayal

The term “Institutional Betrayal” refers to wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution. The term “Institutional Betrayal” as connected with Betrayal Trauma Theory is discussed in more detail in various publications, including in a section starting on page 201 of Platt, Barton, & Freyd (2009) and in a 2013 research report (Smith & Freyd, 2013). Institutional betrayal is a core focus of the book Blind to Betrayal, by Freyd and Birrell, 2013. Currently the most definitive exploration of institutional betrayal is presented in the American Psychologist (Smith & Freyd, 2014).

Betrayal Blindness

Betrayal blindness is the unawareness, not-knowing, and forgetting exhibited by people towards betrayal. The term “betrayal blindness” was introduced by Freyd (1996), and expanded in Freyd (1999) and Freyd and Birrell (2013) in the context of Betrayal Trauma Theory. This blindness may extend to betrayals that are not traditionally considered “traumas,” such as adultery, and also to institutional betrayal. Victims, perpetrators, and witnesses may display betrayal blindness in order to preserve relationships, institutions, and social systems upon which they depend. (Also, see Eileen Zurbriggen’s essay on Betrayal Trauma in the 2004 Election.)

The reality on the ground is that those with privilege are often perceptually impaired: blind, deaf, unfeeling, non-empathic, to those without privilege. So they construct systems, institutions, policy, procedures, to cover the contingencies which affect them, but no one else.

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A Luta Continua: Civil Rights Struggle @ Lane in the 21 Century

There is an inherent conflict that amounts to Civil Rights Struggle, in the on-going efforts supporting Diversity at Lane. One of those conflicts often revolves around whose rules of order should be in operation. I suggest Longhouse Rules.
Longhouse Rules of Order

“We bring our de-colonized human Selves into spaces that have been colonized, whose intent is to specifically deny our humanity.” – Jim Garcia

From a communication about the difference between a predominately white organization which uses Robert’s Rules of Order, attempting to engage with an older Sovereign Indigenous Nation: “Funny, how when you are with people who respect each other there do not need to be “rules of order.” There is the respect of interaction that is inherent in the relationship and the interaction. Those who are respected simply remind others on how to treat each other, if the need arises and all is good. The rules are there because there is power in conflict and the only way to “try to contain the devil” is to make rules. But, alas, you can’t unleash the devil and expect him to behave.” – Ruth Bichsel, Ph.D. (Dine’), FABPS, FACFEI, AHTA, HS-BCP CERT

I witnessed a historic event at the Diversity Council which met on Martin’s actual Birthday, Wednesday January 15th 2014. In short, the historic event was the attempt led by two or more white men, to expel or disempower two or more ethnic minorities from membership in, and leadership of, Diversity Council. In all the decades that Diversity Team, and then Diversity Council existed, no one had ever tried to expel another member for any reason, because no one ever saw a reason to until now. The following meeting, in Black History Month, brought proposals for creating term limits for members. Where following the Longhouse custom, term limits had never been applied. Those who are on a Council serve as long as they are willing, able, and share the respect of other council members. Other council members who do not try to remove them, because of a disagreement.

Diversity Council’s charter allows for it to expand its membership as necessary to achieve its goals. To me it was utterly predictable if it ever happened, who would attempt to, counter this tradition. I hate being right. In the spirit of what I call CCK, Columbus, Cavalry, Klan, certain demographics come with a historical and current dehumanizing predisposition. This in effect, denies history, agency, credibility, and occupies a stance of assumed superiority. This stance can negate traditional or longstanding practices, by which formerly dehumanized groups, use to assert their humanity, and practice equity, in what amounts to Civil Rights Struggle. The creation of the governance system, allowed for the initial exclusion of some of those who had down foundational diversity work, and allowed those who had never actively supported beleaguered diverse “others”, to be appointed on the council.

Knowing the meeting was going to be contentious, girding myself for battle, putting on my game face, before the meeting, I decided to check in with Jim Garcia, who as the first Diversity Coordinator, facilitated Diversity Team meetings, collaboratively developed Diversity Plans, and set certain standards for the college like Terry Cross’ Cultural Competency Continuum.

“We bring our de-colonized human Selves into spaces that have been colonized, whose intent is to specifically deny our humanity.” – Jim Garcia

While General Henry Martyn Robert, was the son of a man opposed to slavery, who became the first president of Morehouse College, i.e. not explicitly colonialist, racist, sexist, classist, his rules of order do not explicitly recognize similar, more inclusive older rules of order among civilizations and civilized nations older than Europe. These forms of democratic governance, which existed among indigenous and other nations, practiced degrees of inclusion, that I would name as Longhouse Rules of Order.

Robert’s Rules, have not exactly been used to advance the purposes of Diversity, either in America, or at Lane Community College. I would advance the notion that any technology or process that doesn’t interrupt colonialism, perpetuates it. Diversity Council, has traditionally operated in a way to interrupt colonialism

Longhouse Rules of Order are based on Indigenous Democratic principles formulated on this continent around 1100 AD when Europe was in the Dark Ages. They required inclusion and consideration of human and non-human points of view, and did not recognize exclusion on the basis of gender, gender expression, race, class, disability, age, religion, spirituality, national origin, or other systems of discrimination prevalent in cultures based in European and Western Colonialism. Indigenous Democracy required that you build relationships based on honesty and trust, as well as knowing the history, strengths, vulnerabilities, and opportunities for growth, in yourself and your fellow citizens. Even if you have a historically adversarial relationship, you are expected to reasonably work out your differences towards shared agreed goals. The realpolitik of “All My Relations” is different from that of “We The People”, in that All My Relations includes in the polity all recognized intelligences including non-human ones, and We The People only recognizes a polity composed of wealthy white men.

Longhouse Rules of Order require an inclusive engaged diversity to operate. One that is mindful of past, present, and future, strengths, alliances, and opposition. Without articulating Longhouse Rules explicitly, Diversity Team, influenced Diversity Council, to cleave closer to Longhouse Rules of Order, more than Roberts.

“Be strong of mind, O chiefs: Carry no anger and hold no grudges. Think not forever of yourselves, O chiefs, nor of your own generation. Think of continuing generations of our families, think of our grandchildren and of those yet unborn, whose faces are coming from beneath the ground”.- The Peacemaker. The Peacemaker as he as known in the Iroquois Confederacy, over 800 years ago brought warring tribes of the Northeast together to form the Iroquois Confederacy. The Peacemaker’s work is preserved in the Confederacy’s traditional constitution, which had a largely unacknowledged (by mainstream historians) impact in shaping the American Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. The teachings of the Peacemaker remain vital today, offering an inspired model for consensus-building among nations and peoples throughout the world.

The Chiefs, the Peacemaker is addressing, are selected (And / or unselected) by the Clan Mothers, who see to it the Chiefs serve not only the people, but past and future generations. In addition to feminine leadership, there was explicit incorporation of human diversity in all its senses. These are the people of the Eastern Longhouses, (There is also a Western Longhouse tradition native to Oregon), and also some of those who follow the Code of Handsome Lake, which among other things requires living a revivified sober indigenous life (Wellbriety Movement), counter to the alcoholism, addiction, classism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism supported by mainstream American society. Roberts Rules of course, address only temporal efficiency, the issues of equity, and justice, are unquestioned by Robert’s Rules of Order. The process by which we meet and do business, must free us, make us fuller human beings, and undo the damage being done by our larger society which attempts to and often succeeds in processes and procedures which dehumanize us.

Because those of us who were not wealthy white men had to fight to regain the recognized equality we possessed before colonization and slavery, part of our strategy as American citizens, was to recognize our own forms of democracy, which were present before our exposure to European Contact, Colonization, Genocide, and Slavery. Indeed, since many Europeans (Irish, Scots) had some nascent forms of inclusive egalitarian democracy before conquest by more patriarchal cultures, these ones could also feel welcome in Diversity Team. Diversity Team at Lane Community College was composed of committed students, employees, and community members to form a place to support remaining and thriving at Lane, a place we were not always experiencing as diversity friendly, even to certain types of white people. Diversity Team membership was open, inclusive, and volunteer, there was no need to be selective, or to set term limits. If you showed up, and were willing to learn from the pain and experiences of others, work through your own pain and suffering, and teach others to learn from you, you were welcome. A good deal of time could be spent hearing people’s experiences of workplace pain and suffering, which could not be, or was not being alleviated by the complaint processes.

The unions, as part of the college community, minimally or negligibly participated in D-Team, whose issues and purpose for existing, they historically ignored, even though they had a legal mandate to protect their vulnerable members from known modes of discrimination, in a hostile work environment. A number of us, found D-Team to be a refuge and a place we could vent and problem solve our frustration with union negligence, or the slow pace of change at Lane. We in BASE (Black American Staff, faculty, and Employees of Lane Community College) had formed our own informal ethnic specific organization in 1999, to deal with this internally, as well as formulate self-care responses, and policy and system change to benefit, students, employees, and the community. It was informal because we were refused both an inclusive seat on the board, nor were we approached by either bargaining unit, to understand why African-Americans might form such an organization at Lane.

Twenty Five years ago, a number of faculty of color, community members, students, and staff, following the principles laid down in Cross’ Cultural Competency construct, felt some sort of training was necessary. We felt this would be predictably resisted, and began our own R&D to be implemented independently. Mandatory training has its limits, particularly with the resistant. But for those who were early adopters of advanced culturally proficient technologies, certain initiatives like the Longhouse, weren’t simply symbolic, but representative of the type of active refuge we sought.

This refuge feature of D-Team remained part of the conditions when D-Team members were originally excluded when the structure of Diversity Council was first outlined in detail. This initial D-Council structure, included the unions which had ignored our concerns and working conditions and excluded those of us from D-Team, who had put in many person-years of effort over the years, including myself . I publicly asked the question “What kind of structured process creates a “Diversity Council” with no Black people on it?” “And think that’s normal behavior, and purports to be credibly using the term Diversity?”

A union, and (I use IATSE as an example) assumes and supports basic skill maintenance (stage craft, carpentry, electronics, audio, video, computer literacy, scientific and technical literacy) as well as physical, emotional, and psychological, safety procedures (show up sober, rested, not under the influence, respect your and the artists crew regardless of gender, gender expression, race or class). A union, bound by law, representing us except within a grievance process, which can only respond to the legal remedies, i.e. illegal overt discrimination based on evidence, is still a culturally blind response and less than the full support mandated by the science. They stop calling you nigger, kyke, or faggot, and illegally discriminate in hiring, in the workplace, or engage in microaggressions as detailed in the literature, both psychology and desegregation case law. The answers to here’s what happen when you desegregate, diversify, and here’s what you do to desegregate, are not “rocket surgery”. My medical student daughter, used the meme rocket surgery, to illustrate that in order to do rocket surgery, you have to know anatomy, engineering, physics, and be a creative interdisciplinary generalist, because some things aren’t in the “book”. In the Longhouse Book, we expect resistance, we plan for conflict, the obvious retention problems and often hostile meeting climate, often serve to thin members who wish simply to have their projects continue.

When we finally merged with D-Council, our previous culture of inclusion merged with it, and we never saw the need to set term limits (which come from a colonized sensibility in any case), nor did we see the need to develop a process for exclusion or expelling members because of our historical working relationships and mutual respect, trust, and skill in discussing difficult issues that could not receive a hearing in any other council. Indeed our charter allows for expansion of membership if our council deems a person or position necessary to do its work. Given the evolving and inclusive definitions of Diversity, this is a necessary feature of our council. Many employees of color feel our unions are at best culturally blind, if not culturally blind, allowing culturally destructive behavior: i.e allowing illegal racially discriminatory hiring, or racially hostile work environments, to exist. Knowing these patterns and places exist, one could reasonably point new hires of color, to be mentored by more senior employees of color, at least where such networks exist. Since neither the college as a whole, nor the bargaining units do this, nor recognize that discrimination exists and is ongoing, many employees of color rightfully assert, the unions do nothing to protect them. The comments which the led to the attempted deposing of Elizabeth Andrade as D-Council chair, on Jan 15, 2014, were not her own thoughts in isolation, but echoed by a great many of us, including myself. Since my position on D-Council derives from the same D-Team, D-Council merger, 10 years ago, therefore my membership is of the same basis as Elizabeth, an attack on her, is an attack on me. Which those of you who know me, know I will not be passive against such incursions on my sovereignty.

As a maroon in the tradition of Al Hajj Al Malik Shabazz, I believe in self defense in meeting verbal violence assertively, articulately, on the levels that it occurs, and this creates peace. Also, while meeting such incursions, maintain a safe place to retreat to, like a Longhouse.

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Rites of Passage

It’s summer, and that means Rites of Passage time, when I do workshops for African-American related youth on preventing addiction and problems related to sexuality, whether or not you’re under the influence. I combine 21st Century knowledge with 25th Dynasty wisdom, i.e. African Old School. It’s keeping your spirits, your wits, and your body safe, as well as safeguarding those around you. It comes down to and improving upon “Who Raised You!?” Among my peeps, that phrase usually means you had absent or questionable home training. Or conversely you had good home training and you “actin’ like you ain’t got no sense” aka Motherwit.

Watching the UO Basketball Player Sexual Assault situation, Rites of Passage and “Who raised you?” come to mind. I played, what if they (males and female) were my kids?, in my mind. A source told me the athletes played hooky from a structured “rites of passage” program, to go to that party. If so, I’m thinking maybe the approach wasn’t African Old School / Motherwit enough. It’s probably not reasonable to expect the UO, and Eugene-Mayberry to replicate Black Old School, but neither they, nor the young woman can go back “home”. My exemplars for Black Basketball player behavior are: Paul Robeson, my father, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. They exemplify that college athletics is merely a gateway through an intellectual life, into one of service and activism. Kareem recently wrote in Time magazine: “You can’t go home again.” …”Wolfe, who took that title with permission from writer Ella Winter, used it to mean that after we leave home and are battered about by our adventures in life, we are changed. And in our disillusioned mind, “home” becomes a romanticized symbol of our innocence, in which we dreamed limitlessly and were loved unconditionally.”

Speaking of losing innocence through battering adventures, if two guys take one woman into a bathroom in someone else’s house, while one stands outside as lookout, and one acknowledges that he wouldn’t want what was done in that bathroom to happen to his mom, or sister, is it shooting beyond their conceptual arc that this woman should be treated as if she is a daughter, a sister, a potential mom? I’d say they knew they were doing wrong, by anyone’s standards. To say they’re being lynched… white folks…Pleeze.

I have relatives who were actually lynched, I was raised with Emmett Till as a cautionary tale. A Black Man, married to a white woman, was lynched in Eugene (half his body was found in the Willamette). I’d say the use of the term lynching is being made by people whose families weren’t targets of actual lynching, therefore their home training did not include how to conduct yourself as if you were a target. Black women, living in Eugene during the time of that lynching, faced rape, broad daylight attempted kidnapping and abduction, racial attacks, and had no recourse to police, nor could they appeal to the district attorney to prosecute, as the Eugene Klan was quite active, yet less overtly violent than in Mississippi.

Paraphrasing Frederick Douglass, it is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken adults. Having raised daughters and sons in this community who’ve avoided being either targets or perpetrators of sexual assault (but who have not avoided being racially targeted). I have tried to pass on the collectivist adage, I was raised with: When you are out in society you are not there representing yourself, you are representing Us (Black Americans specifically, and the best of humanity generally). So hold yourself to a standard of behavior better than those around you, particularly when they’re acting like they ain’t got no sense.

What role should the UO Community take in its culturally competent in loco parentis avatar, in raising what the Old School Black Community, would call an upright strong Black Man? A dangerous Black Man i.e. law abiding, intelligent, articulate, activist, armed with a college degree?

I’m glad attention is being paid to the experience of the victim, without overt regard to her race. But whatever privileges a woman might have because of her race, her gender often makes her an unprotected target, prey to white men, and “honorary” white men, like certain Black Male Athletes, who are not held to culturally specific aspirational standards of behavior. A salient set of questions for women of any race or gender expression, is how do I detect whether this person will harm me? Its not like serial rapists of any race in college settings can’t simulate being harmless, before abruptly turning on you.

My kids, (And the vast majority of LCC Rites of Passage kids) have so far successfully avoided being criminals, perpetrators or victims of sexual crimes, or even accused of such. Our upbringing prepares one against the inevitable targeting either as a victim, or a perpetrator. We are taught to make appropriate adjustments in character and action as if you’re an active target. My hope for the “sister” in this incident is that she comes back strong, like Maya did from similar circumstances: “Every human grouping, whether its just two people, a family, people in the neighborhood, people in the city, in a nation, a tribe, a species; people live in direct relation to the heroes and the Sheroes, they have. – Maya Angelou

My Sheroes and Heroes, taught me that being the best we can be, when the world expects the worst of you, often makes you more of a target. Therefore, you don’t get a second chance to redeem yourself after a mistake. So learn from the others around you, and don’t make certain predictable, and avoidable mistakes. That’s why police are called “One Time”, because the one time, you think you can get away with it, is the time they get you. So don’t give them any opportunity. None, Zero. Zip. Don’t waste an opportunity to excel, for us. We need you strong. Stay Strong, Stay Ready. Come Prepared.


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30 Years an Oregonian

30 Years an Oregonian


This year marks my 30th year in Oregon. To celebrate, I took in a double feature which exemplifies the two poles of my Oregonian experience. 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity. Both films, helmed by directors of color, one served to ground me in reality, while the other took me up to my favorite fantasy, a world without borders, that isn’t so heavy or weighted down. The reality of space though, is that it has no breathable atmosphere, extremes of hot and cold, and is always trying to kill you, nothing personal.

Perhaps it is fitting that a British director, and British leading man tell an American story, which resonates today in contemporary Oregon, and the rest of America. Britain did end slavery before America, an monarch of African descent sat on the British throne during our Revolutionary War (Charlotte Mecklenburg-Streilitz), and her granddaughter (Queen Victoria) decreed that any American slave who made it into Canada had the protection of the British military.

12 Years a Slave was directed by Steve McQueen, and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Solomon Northrup. Solomon Northrup, an African-American citizen living in Saratoga New York, who in 1841 was induced to go below the Mason Dixon line, to Washington D.C., drugged, and kidnapped into slavery, in Louisiana. This was not an uncommon fate for free men of color, living under White Supremacy. They were particularly targeted because their intellect often made them more threatening, because they dared to think of themselves as equal to whites. Northrup was a man of intellect, gracious manners, and means, musically inclined, well traveled, and of course literate. In slavery, other than his musical talent, his pride, and his literacy marked him for death, thus had to be hidden.

Northrup is portrayed as a tender husband, a loving gentle father, and a man well known in his community. While McQueen is not heavy handed with his subject matter, slavery. He doesn’t shy away from the casual hairtrigger brutality, nor the attempts of enslaved people to maintain their humanity in lovemaking, or simply staying alive, while being whipped for the crime of acquiring soap after being raped. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a “Good Massa”, while Michael Fassbender plays “Bad Massa”, the difference being the former can stand by and allow brutality to occur, while the latter is sadistic and inventive in his drunken cruelty. Alfre Woodard does a turn as a former slave turned mistress of the plantation.  While it was never shown, the Confederate flag symbolizes all those activities.  Oregon is essentially a Southern State in the Northwest.

As an American citizen of African descent, it would have been illegal for Solomon Northrup to come to live in Oregon, it was the fact of his intellect, cross cultural competency,  that made him, and people like him threatening to figures like Samuel Thurston, Joseph Lane, or their contemporary equivalents. As it remained llegal for him to live within the Eugene City limits before 1965, or be on the street after dark in Springfield, could he find employment as a music teacher? Could he remain 30 years an Oregonian?


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Paul Robeson and Wiley Griffon: Two Different Role Models

This is the full version of the article published in the Eugene Weekly, on Thursday March 7th 2013.

A play celebrating the life of Paul Robeson, will occur on March 8th & 10th at LCC Main Campus will benefit the Lane Community College Black Student Union, scholarship fund.Dr. Stanley Coleman a director and actor, now faculty at Lane, plays Paul Robeson in the one-man Broadway play by Phillip Hays Dean. Said the New York Times:

“Of all the imposing figures who have strutted across the stage of American culture in this century, none has been more invested with a superman mystique than Paul Robeson…and…Phillip Hayes Dean’s play PAUL ROBESON should do nothing to diminish his stature…PAUL ROBESON conveys an inspiring moral fervor.”

LCC’s BSU, has provided the lion’s share of the funding of a historical monument honoring the earliest named African-American resident, Wiley Griffon. The monument is expected to be installed this spring, in the Masonic Cemetery where Mr. Griffon is buried. Historically Lane’s BSU has been a source of activism resulting in Oregon’s first Black, Ethnic, and Interdisciplinary Studies programs, as well as supporting MLK events, and local Black History Events.
Though these two historical figures never met, they nevertheless represent and role model two distinct Eugene African-American survival modes. Paul Robeson, athlete, lawyer, singer, actor, and outspoken labor and Civil Rights activist, was not Wiley Griffon: ‘ready smile’, ‘devout Christian’, ‘obsequious Chesterfield’ or more plainly in one of Mr. Griffon’s obituaries: “what a Southerner would call a good n****r”.

The term obsequious Chesterfield triggered my Microaggression Anansi Sense. (Anansi aka Aunt Nancy, is a West African trickster in the form of a spider. In other words my “spidey sense” for racism and its various tricks was tingling). According to the dictionary, Chesterfield is either a style of sofa, or an overcoat. As this reference was clearly about Mr. Griffon, and he was neither a piece of furniture, nor clothing, I dug further, because like Robeson’s sojourn to Eugene it seemed implausible and cryptic at best. Though no African-Americans were featured in Chesterfield cigarette ads, more African-Americans smoked Chesterfields than any other cigarette until World War II. In fact (similar to targeted marketing of menthol cigarettes to minorities, and their association with minorities, to this day within prison) the brand loyalty was so strong, that in an early version of dog whistle capitalism, Lucky Strike cigarettes featured an ad campaign that cast Chesterfield as a “n****r” cigarette, causing #1 Chesterfield to drop to #3 behind Lucky Strike. So to refer to Mr. Griffon as “ebon-hued muleteer, and obsequious Chesterfield”, is to engage in a microinsult. Microinsults are defined as “Communications that convey rudeness and insensitivity, demeaning a persons racial heritage or identity. Subtle or not so subtle snubs “frequently unknown to the perpetrator, but clearly convey a hidden insulting message to the recipient of color.”

Segregation was the law of the land during Mr. Griffon’s lifetime and Robeson’s rise to international prominence. Overt discrimination and later microaggressions were raised to a high art, when Robeson visited Eugene, Salem, and Portland. Robeson was an American patriot, and a citizen of the world, who spoke 46 languages, performed in 25 languages, who believed in holding his nation accountable for the legally promised equality to all its citizens. In that, unlike Wiley Griffon, he was reviled by some, as an alleged Communist, and beloved by many more who love freedom more than racial supremacy. Robeson’s exemplary response to discrimination, inspired some prominent historical Oregon figures like Senator Mark Hatfield, to action. Those qualities would certainly cause Southerners among others to refer to Robeson and those like him as “uppity”.

Robeson was born in 1898, when Mr. Griffon was operating the tram here in Eugene, to a slave who had freed himself at 15 and became a college graduate and firebrand minister. His mother came from an abolitionist Quaker family. Two years after Mr. Griffon’s death, Robeson won a four-year academic scholarship to Rutgers University in 1915. He received the Phi Beta Kappa key in his junior year, graduated as class Valedictorian, and despite suffering racist physical violence against him by his teammates, won 15 varsity letters in three sports (baseball, basketball, and track), and was named twice to the All-American Football team. He was posthumously named to the College Football Hall of Fame 19 years after his death.

At Columbia Law School (1919-1923), where he met his wife Eslanda Cordoza Goode (first black woman to head a pathology laboratory), he taught Latin and played professional football on weekends to finance his tuition. He had a brief career in law, when the white secretary at his firm, refused to take dictation from a “Negro”, and the partner of the firm backed the secretary. Robeson quit, and with the encouragement of his wife Essie, he turned to the stage.

Paul Robeson believed in and practiced a healthy African-American cultural existence as an activist. He tried to choose roles that were uplifting to the image of African-Americans as players on the global stage. He was the first Black man to play Othello, in the 20th Century, as it was usually played by white men in make-up. To practice for that role, he practiced and could perform it in period English, contemporary English, Italian, German, and French to name a few. For example whenever he played the role of an African royal who is displaced into a largely white society, he learned that specific tribes language. While the Russian Court might have spoken French as the language of diplomacy, like Alexander Pushkin before him, Robeson spoke Russian, which when he sang Russian folk songs, endeared him to the people. When he and Essie were traveling to Moscow via Germany, Nazi’s pulled them off the train, because they thought Essie was white. Paul noted the similarities in racism and the affinity of racists between German Nazi’s, and the Amerikkkan Klan. The Russians, didn’t appear to have issues with him or Essie, racially. It impressed the Robesons enough, to consider educating their son Paul Jr. in Russia, because of the centrality of racism within the standard American school curriculum. Many of these omissions continue today, even in Robeson’s case, as an role model example,  which if included would inspire excellence in people of color, and train whites to recognize and be accustomed to excellence in people of color. While Robeson, never joined the Communist Party, he was not the first to note the obscene marriage between Capitalism, Racism, and White Supremacy, noting anyone talking about Equality, particularly Racial Equality, was called a Communist, by the racists.
When War was declared against Japan, the young Mark Hatfield, in college, and watching tearfully as his Japanese American friends were being loaded onto railroad cars on their way to internment camps, was part of a student group at Willamette University, that brought performers like Marian Anderson and Paul Robeson to Salem. Of course, you would put up international stars in the finest hotel. But the hotel owner refused to allow Robeson to stay because he was Black. Embarrassed, Mark Hatfield, borrowed the family car, and drove Robeson to the Benson Hotel in Portland. I asked Senator, “What was that ride up to Portland like? What did you talk about?” Senator Hatfield replied “Oh, he just laughed the whole situation off.” “He was a genius, you know. A great man, and in conversation, he had a way of making you feel as if you were on his level.” “He talked about his life, and his travels, the things he’d seen.”

Senator Hatfield as a Naval officer saw action at Iwo Jima, and walked through Hiroshima after the atomic bombing. These experiences led to his famous anti-war stance, but as an Oregon legislator, he also successfully pushed through a landmark Public Accommodations Bill in Oregon, to end discrimination in public transportation and hotel accommodations. This was done he told me because of his experience with Robeson, and was done before such legislation was enacted nationally.

While he noted Robeson was called a Communist, many Communists, as Senator Hatfield pointed out were “Our Communists” citing Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, and Tito of Yugoslavia. He pointed out the Ho Chi Minh was our ally against the Japanese in World War II. Ho Chi Minh quoted Thomas Jefferson, and the French Rights of Man in his inaugural address. Further investigation revealed that the young Ho Chi Minh, while in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance kickin’ it with the likes of Marcus Garvey, wrote articles against American lynching and the Ku Klux Klan. Particularly because Black soldiers were being lynched, in uniform, in New York City, as well as the Deep South. It was strange that a Communist spoke out about lynchings, but three wartime Commanders in Chief were silent on the issue, not even suggesting that White Americans killing Black soldiers on US soil, might be an act of treason.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognize racial injustice, but two geniuses Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson, signed a petition as part of the American Campaign to End Lynching, and brought it to President Truman, who refused to see them, and disparaged Robeson. Though Robeson, campaigned and performed for the troops at home and abroad, he did wonder out loud, rightfully in my view, whether African-American soldiers should fight abroad for a country that allowed them to be lynched in its streets. Thus it was not a new sentiment when Muhammad Ali voiced it in response to refusing the draft call in the Vietnam era, noting “No Vietnamese ever called me nigger.” Indeed, the leader of the Vietnamese championed racial justice in a way, no “Red Blooded American” (after the Ku Klux Klan symbology) cared or dared to.

I was interviewing the Senator, for I, Too Am Eugene, because a Black community elder Willie Mims, had mistakenly identified him as being the reason Robeson came to Eugene. Senator acknowledged that he had brought Robeson to Salem, but it was the Sandell family who brought Robeson to Eugene, where he sang at the Ferry Street Chapel, in the Ferry Street Community, before it was bulldozed. Mr. Mims remembered that incident as a child, as well as a family photograph taken of Mr. Robeson at that event. Ferry Street was the most well known integrated community built outside the city limits, because non-whites were not allowed to live or buy homes within the city limits until 1965. Imagine WWII veterans returning to Eugene, not being allowed to buy or rent homes in the city, and having a County Commissioner named Christian, signing the order in 1949 to bulldoze a church, a juke joint, and people’s homes. Of course without signing the order to allow American Citizens to live wherever they could afford. This would be exactly the kind of example of institutional racism, that Paul Robeson, on the personal request of local white friends, would come to lend his considerable voice.

While there is little about Wiley Griffon’s commentary about the racism of his times, he reminds me of the line sung by Odetta when she came to Eugene: “You Don’t Know My Mind. And if you see me laughing, I’m laughing just to keep from crying.” One survival mode is to wear the smiling mask and not speak up. That was not Robeson’s way, and he lived longer than Wiley Griffon.

“As an artist I come to sing, but as a citizen, I will always speak for peace, and no one can silence me in this.
“The artist must elect to fight for Freedom or for Slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

“The man who accepts Western values absolutely, finds his creative faculties becoming so warped and stunted that he is almost completely dependent on external satisfactions, and the moment he becomes frustrated in his search for these, he begins to develop neurotic symptoms, to feel that life is not worth living, and, in chronic cases, to take his own life.” – Paul Robeson

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