Sunday, August 20, 2017

What’s Your White Privilege Agenda?

This is not a time to be passive. This is not a time to worry about your job or how your employer might react. This is not a time to worry about losing friends or pissing off other family members.

By now, the events of Charlottesville that produced a visual display of hate directed at anyone not in the White Nationalist/Neo-Nazis camp is known to all. If you’re not appalled by what unfolded there, than you might as well go ahead and send in your annual dues to the Ku Klux Klan, The Daily Stormer, The National Vanguard, or any other hate group.

This isn’t a matter of free speech expressing ideas that are beyond the status quo. This is about the treatment of others who are lesser in numbers, lesser in power and influence, and especially those of non-white skin color and not claiming Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

As I search for ways of expressing my views on such matters, I am comforted by those who have made their expressions known already and do it in such a way that there is no need for me to “reinvent the wheel.”

Alex Stonewall, a journalist living in Seattle, Washington had this to say:
1) All the labels aside, what unites these White Nationalists is a belief in turning the U.S. into a White ethno-state. By definition, such a state would undermine the fundamental rights of Americans who aren’t white, and violate our most basic principals.

2) For that reason they’re entitled to the least generous interpretation of the first amendment. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt, an equal seat at the table, a venue at our schools and universities, or special protections by our police for their demonstrations, because they’re not coming to those conversations in good faith — they’re coming with an explicit end-goal of violating the rights of others.

3) Their employers, family members and neighbors have the right to know when they’re actively espousing such a harmful agenda -- what they do with that information (e.g. firing them, ) is up to them, within the confines of the law.

Lastly, the ageless words of Eli Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and—most importantly—Holocaust survivor.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must—at that moment—become the center of the universe.”

In short, this is not a time to be spectator. Consider you neutrality, your passiveness, your willingness to be silent, your comfort, your privilege—your White privilege in particular.

As Philadelphia Eagles defensive end (and White athlete) Chris Long put it regarding his recent actions of support for fellow-teammates protesting during the National Anthem,  “I think it’s a good time for people who look like me to be here for people fighting for equality.”

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Start Background Search Here

It’s no secret that I’ve been looking for other work, in other places. It’s not that I’m unhappy in my current teaching job, but the climate of low enrollments along with the recent cutting of programs and personnel makes it more treacherous than past years. Although I’m am tenured, I’ve never considered tenure an absolute lock on any given job.

So, in the last two years, I’ve been looking a little harder than usual. Mostly looking for jobs beyond the classroom, but not necessarily outside of education. As I see it, I’m probably in the last ten-to-fifteen years of my working life and this is a chance to do possibly one more thing that is a departure from the last twenty-five years.

Admittedly, I don’t look forward to the physical act of relocating. There’s a part of my history where I’ve paid my dues when it comes to moving—not to mention the assistance I’ve provided for others to do the same in my adult years. As a result, if I never succeed in finding a new gig, I’ll still be happy where I am and in the same job. I could do much worse.

In searching and applying for new employment, a few colleagues and friends have warned me about my social media activity. “You better clean up that Facebook page before you put yourself out there,” is a common suggestion. And, I understand how that—as a general rule—is good advice. God knows I have a blog that has more than its share of political monologues, along with Twitter and Facebook posts that are critical of almost anything. So, it comes as surprising to no one that I have kicked my share of anthills.

Yet, as I consider this advice, it is counter productive to who I am. I’ve often asked myself, “Do I really want to work for someone or some entity that finds my critical (albeit blunt and direct) commentaries intimidating or distasteful? Do I want to work for someone who thinks I might ask tough questions on the job, step on someone’s toes, and/or be confrontational at times?”

Well, my answer isn’t just “no,” but “hell no!” If a potential employer is so timid, so thinned-skinned, so pollyanna-esque when it comes to my character and my willingness to call out someone or some policy to be defended or explained, I don’t need them—and they certainly don’t need me. What they need in another “yes person,” and that ain’t me, folks.

Photo by Marsha Stewart

Monday, March 27, 2017

Words About Wind

Polecat Bench Overlooking Badger Basin
27 March 2017

The wind is strong and steady, but there are no visual clues. No tree branches whipping in the air up here—no flags flying, no tall grasses swaying in the breeze.

Everything is stunted and low to the ground. The harshness of this environment has no appreciation for ornate or abundant extremities. The world up here is all about modesty—except for the wind.

You have to look close at short blades of Buffalo grass—specifically the cured out growth from last season. There you can see the wind’s power. 

But you’ll never see it driving at 65mph, or 45mph, or 25 mph—not even at 10 mph. You must be still, and only then you can hear it.

You’ll hear it whipping along the contours of your vehicle. Turn off the engine and you can even feel it rocking the truck. As strong as it is, the sensation inside the heavy machinery is gentle and soothing.

Step out into it and you hear even more. Feel it navigate around your body and head, creating audible turbulence as it works around the odd shapes of your non-aero-dynamic ears.

You sense a lull, perhaps it has finally tired. But no, it is only inhaling another breath of atmosphere into its Wyoming-sized lungs. This next blast is even greater. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Flagpole of Spurn/Squat

There’s this flagpole on our campus that seldom flies a flag—of any kind. On graduation day, an American flag is hoisted up the mass of straightened metal and flies for the day. I’m told that it flies again sometime in the summer when Girls State is in town for the week. So, in all, it might fly a flag for a total of 1 week out of the entire year.

This flagpole of spurn is located in front of our gym which is also the same building of the art offices and classrooms. This January, my office was moved to the art department and it was then that I became acutely aware of the flagstaff’s abandoned state.

I contemplated its under-appreciated existence several times as I pulled up to the building on my Sears single-speed bicycle in the mornings. And then slowly, I started considering the idea of what it would take to dress it up—short of requiring the attendance of a color guard everyday.

These thoughts were totally innocent and had nothing to do with making a statement when it comes to flag-flying. It was a proposal rooted in bringing color to an empty and under-appreciated space on our campus—nothing more. However, if someone had accused me of being “politically correct” in this proposal, I suppose I would have absorbed that charge as well.

Flag Laws
The first thing I did was look into the legality of flying a non-American flag on a college campus. I didn’t think there was anything illegal about it, but nevertheless I did a bit a googling.

There were a few things I didn’t know and many things I already knew. The new knowledge I gained about flag flying had to do with the flag-flying laws of each state—and almost all of it was in the context of the American flag. For example, did you know that…

• On Memorial Day, the flag is to fly at half-mast until noon.

In my search to find anything wrong with my proposal, I found only the following:

• The American flag should be displayed daily on or near the main administration building of every public institution.

• In North Dakota, public display of other than the U.S. flag, a State flag, or flag of a friendly foreign nation is prohibited.

• In California, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Idaho the display of the red flag or any other flag in a public place is prohibited. A plain red flag is associated with socialist or communist rallies—think International Workers’ Day. It is also an unofficial symbol for socialism, communism, and left-wing politics—going all the way back to the French Revolution.

However, when it comes to Wyoming, I could only find the following: “prohibits state military organizations from carrying other than U.S. flags.”

The Proposal
Following my semi-exhaustive research into any flag laws that might bite me in the arse, I sent my proposal out in an email to the campus community:

If there are no objections, the Art Department would like to be the caretakers of the flagpole in front of Cabre Gym. In case you’re wondering, it only flies a flag (the American and Wyoming flag) on graduation day. We would like to give it something else to do for the remainder of the academic year (perhaps even summers) as well.

As its caretakers, we would like to fly a number of different flags—a new one every week if we can muster it. National flags where some of our students come from, other states where our students come from, professional organization flags that are active on our campus, flags that represent humanitarian causes, and of course, flags that simply celebrate art—hopefully generated by our students. (Hey Del Nose, how about sending us a NIRA flag for this spring?) We’ve even considered having a contest to see who can identify a not-so-common flag now and then.

And fear not, we’ve established a checks and balance system: any flag that flies must be agreed upon by all members of the Art Department before it is hoisted up the pole.

Lastly, during the entire week of graduation, we agree to fly Old Glory and the Wyoming flag only while lowering them each day at sunset (unless we get lights for it).

So, if you have a flag that you believe is worthy of this cause and you’d like to see it fly in front of Cabre Gym, send it our way and we’ll fly it some upcoming week. Let’s put some colorful leaves on that tall, gray tree.

—Morgan Tyree
Asst. Prof. of Graphics

The Reception
As expected, the responses from this timid, little campus were few—probably about five percent of the entire campus faculty and staff (if that). The first responders were all very favorable. But one community member was against the idea unless there was another flagpole. Another chimed in saying that flying other flags “would be asking for some unwelcome response.” One staff member wondered if the flagpole and whatever flag was flying might “become a bully pulpit for any particular way of thinking.” He also asked, “Is the Art Department willing to offend both sides by giving equal time on the pole?”

But the biggest stink came from a middle-management administrator, who was vehemently opposed.

Despite her opposition and informing me that it was illegal, she proved to be no better than our President Trump when it came to citing facts. Here’s the back and forth via email that transpired.

She said:
I do have an issue with other country’s flags being flown on the American soil without the presence of the Old Glory….it is downright disrespectful and I take offense to it.

There is a code of conduct when it comes to displaying other nations’ flags on American soil….as was suggested in your email regarding international students’ country of origin flags being displayed without the American flag. 

There is a code of conduct when it comes to flying the American flag and as Americans we need to respect the symbol of our nation.  Keep in mind the people of this community provide financial support to our College and I am sure many will be offended if they don’t see the Old Glory respected properly.

You may want to refer to U.S. Code, Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 7 regarding the display of other nation’s flags on American soil.

My response:
I couldn’t disagree with you more. There’s no law that says you can’t fly another flag of nationality on a Wyoming college campus. Those laws have to do with flying other nation flags alongside the American flag. The flagpole in front of Cabre Gym is not an “American only” flagpole. This isn’t about being disrespectful to the American flag or marginalizing it in any way, and I’m sorry if you take it that way. It’s simply about flying other flags for the sake of brightening up a campus eyesore. But, if there’s enough noise about this, it’ll stay barren because I don’t have the energy for making this into a political/patriotic debate.

She said:
There are laws ESPECIALLY for public buildings such as our College and it would be beneficial for you to research it a bit.

My response:
Show me the language. Cut and paste it.

She said:
Research flag code for the state of Wyoming

My response:
This is all I’ve uncovered…

Wyoming “prohibits state military organizations from carrying other than U.S. flags.” See section on “forbidden flags” by state.

She said:
Research further on the code regarding the flag for public buildings.

My response:
Quit wasting my time. You show me. You say it’s there, cut and paste it for me.

She said:
As a scholar you know how to research so enjoy researching. : )

My response:
I’ve looked and found nothing that verifies your claim. Time to put up or shut up about it. Prove me wrong.

She said:
Morgan, I don’t appreciate your rudeness towards me. Your email started with “if there are no objections”…….I had objections and shared them with you in a civil manner and have tried to hold a discussion with you. I don’t appreciate being told to shut up.

My response:
My apologies, but you still haven’t supported your claim.

She said:
Morgan, whenever I want to start any project, I make sure to do my research before I present it.  I am not obligated to prove anything. However since this is your project, the burden is on you to do thorough research.

My response:
Ha! So, you really have nothing. I shared with you the little bit of related research I could find on this subject. The onus is on you now to prove otherwise since you have disagreed with my findings—skimpy as they may be. I’m sure if you really had something concrete and convincing, you would have schooled me properly on matters of research by now—which I would humbly accept. You would have done well to simply object on your own merits without referencing some obscure/mysterious/non-existent flag law that you are unable to verify.

She said:
you made me laugh out are funny :)

My response:
You’re pretty hilarious too.

What a time-waster. In the end, having this “civil” discourse with one of my educational colleagues was an educational bust. Instead of just simply saying that she would find it offensive, she defended her blind patriotism with a made-up-in-her-mind flag law, all the while citing the importance of doing educational research. Yet, in the end, she couldn’t produce a shred of evidence that backed up her claims. Reminds me of a defenseless parent who resorts to saying something like, “Do what I say, not what I do!” 

A part of me has embraced this outcome because it’s pretty much what I expected from such a weak-kneed and unimaginative community (as a whole). All it took was a minuscule, but vocal few to drown out whatever numbers of quiet support there may have been.

No doubt I should have listened to a friend who texted me and told me to stay out of it with the following…

I don’t mean to be Debbie Downer here, but if you’re serious about a career move you don't need to be distracted by shit like this. Focus grasshopper. If you’re getting out of NWC, it’s time to turn your back for good. Don’t post this flag stuff on your blog either. And yeah, I expected some sort of reaction like this when u told me about it. 

And, I don’t always make the right choices either. 

Folding it up
In the end, I suppose it’s truly symbolic (since we’re talking about flag-flying) of this community that an empty, barren and cheerless flagpole turns out to be preferred over flying a few harmless rags of color. Think about that symbolism.

Ironically, this brief discourse has come and gone with very little input from a significant membership of the community—it’s students. But, since the newspaper has been taken down, what other means do we have to engage the student population on such matters?

There’s much to read into about a community that is hesitant/unwilling to fly any flag other than the national flag. Perhaps they don’t want to be labeled unpatriotic, but if I were a betting man, it strikes me as textbook xenophobia. Nevertheless, I suppose it’s a fine line between the two.

Lastly, in contemplating political correctness, in the run-up to Donald Trump’s presidency, he and his followers in the national spotlight railed on the whole political correctness “thing,” claiming it was getting in the way of looking out for America’s best interests (albeit “White America”). I wouldn’t have thought the same message would resonate so far down the food chain to our minuscule, local level—but indeed, it has.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Death to the GOP

Donald Trump has delivered. We can not act surprised in this man of action and the promises he has made and carried out thus far. However, just because someone makes promises and delivers, doesn't make them noble, ethical or magnanimous. He is simply a man of action with a diabolical agenda—not a role model for any decent human.

Despite my unhealthy views for the orange-faced dictator, I have even more contempt for those who continue to support him and prop up his agenda in what is known as the Republican party.

I’ll confess here, that I've never gone out of my way to vote Republican, but I've never ruled them out completely. And yes, I have voted Republican a few times in my voting life. But, after today—after the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education—I never will again. No more. Nada. I’m finished voting for these political whores of the rich and powerful. I’ll vote an independent-write-in before I vote for another Republican. I’ll make up an opponent before I vote for a fucking Republican again. Anyone who chooses to run under the same flag that is propped up by scoundrels and frauds like Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence, John Barrasso, Mike Enzi, Paul Ryan—and yes, Donald Trump—are guilty by association in my book. The GOP has become a shameless party fueled by pure unapologetic deceit and unabashed hypocrisy—camouflaged in Christian values and the American flag.

The Republicans have become a desperate bunch who know the glory days of the “grand old White party” are waning, and they’ll do anything they can to hold on to power. Welcome to the early stages of America’s Apartheid. Hopefully it is short-lived.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

He Is My President

Donald Trump is my President, and I think he is a fuck-wit.

I may not like Trump, but I really do have to accept him as my President just like he may not like me calling him a fuck-wit, but he’s going to have to accept that too.

So, for the next four years (and hopefully it won’t be that long) I intend to doubt everything about him based on his past. Give him a chance? No way—he’s a calculating jackass. And who gives a calculating jackass a second, third, or fourth chance? I saw all I needed to see during his campaigning—which was disturbing to say the least. I have all kinds of adjectives for Trump—none are favorable, and I don’t see anything on the horizon that will make me think differently. I’ll never rule out the possibility of having something good to say about the douche, but I’m doubtful. He’s dug himself in pretty deep as I see it.

But, for the record I am willing to admit I’m wrong about anything to do with Trump if it ever comes to that. In fact, I would prefer such an outcome. This is one time I don’t want to be right.

Which reminds me; people don’t like to admit they are wrong and they don’t like to say “I’m sorry.” In this day and age, it seems more true than ever. And that’s the scary part. Too many of the proud Trump voters will probably stick to their guns even when the most casual observer has concluded Trump is every bit the fraudster we said he was. When the economy tanks, when the good-paying manufacturing jobs never materialize, when crime starts rising again—and God forbid—the nukes come raining down on the world, the mouth-breathers of the United States will find someone else to blame. I betcha Obama will be the scapegoat. 

As a voter who voted for the loser, it’s important for me to point out here that the uproar over this President, isn’t about Republicans winning and Democrats losing. It’s about an asshole running the country. It’s about an asshole fooling a lot of good people. It takes a fool to vote for a fool, but Trump roped many others with his little feat of political sorcery—competent, smart, and reasonable people. Nevertheless, I suspect many of them will come to regret that choice someday.

Had Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, or even Ted Cruz won the election, nothing would be going on like it is today—nothing like it at all. Oh sure, there would be some cracks at one of those new Presidents (no worse than G.W. Bush or Obama), but Donald Trump is in a class all on his own, and it’s a very, very low class—where the greasiest, double-dealing snake-oil salesmen dwell. You voted for Rubio over Hillary, I get’cha. But, you voted for Trump over Hillary (or anyone)! What the fuck, man!

So, as this shit-show of a Presidency unfolds, I will remain optimistic as I anticipate the day when Donald Trump is a broken and demoralized man—more so than the day of Dylan Roof’s execution.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Membership Has Its Privileges

Racism isn’t just politically incorrect, it’s wrong. And sadly, this still has to be said as 2016 comes to an end.

I’m not an expert on racism, but sooner or later we all end up in conversations about it, and like it or not, we end up speaking our mind. I’ve done so before on this blog and after watching a disturbing video recently, perhaps this is a good time to say something about it again—in particular, “reverse racism” since it is gaining traction in light of our new President and his followers.

Over the years, I’ve heard my share of White folk now and then talk about “reverse racism”—stating events where they or someone they know (also White) have experienced it. It kind of makes sense if you don’t think too hard about what they are saying, but I’ve never bought into this fabricated concept, and here’s why.

Racism is something that is dealt out by a majority. Now, if you are White and living in a neighborhood where a minority of our country’s citizens are the majority, you might experience racism at the local level, but you won’t have much to worry about beyond that neighborhood. However, if you’re a minority of our country, you probably have plenty of stories in your life where you have experienced the ugliness of racism no matter where you live.

Many see minority and majority in terms of numbers only. But, those who possess the greatest power easily become the majority as well—see Apartheid South Africa circa 1960s. Here in the United States, Whites make up over 60% of the population and the closest contestant to that are Latinos at a paltry 16%, with Blacks coming in at 12.2%. Given this math and the excessive distribution of power doled out to Whites in government and business, it’s safe to say that Caucasians are indisputably safe as our country’s majority.

It’s also important to keep in mind that racism is based on two important concepts that minorities don’t have much of, and therefore can not exercise: power and privilege. Look no further than the disproportionate arrest and sentencing for people of color vs. Whites when it comes to… say, drug crimes. Further, Whites are certainly less likely to experience racial profiling and when arrested, will almost certainly have superior legal representation compared to those of color. Finally, the odds favor Whites when it comes to talking themselves out of an arrest—especially if it is a White police officer.

The bottom line is this: you can’t make a legitimate claim as a victim of racism providing you’re a member of the majority. 

And while you’re at it, don’t get confused when it comes to angry words, protests or fights for equality as some form of racism. This is simply (and understandably) an unpleasant response from centuries of White privilege and power. Civility is nice if you can get it, but not everyone who has experienced racism is going to be nice about it when it comes up in discussion. Being a pollyanna about such discussions will only confirm how comfortable you truly are in your White privilege—which probably means you are a racist.

Lastly, I read this not long ago:

Making a racist statement is a manifestation of racist culture; being “mean” isn’t. For Whites, it can be difficult to be confronted with the reality of racism, and with comments from people of color about how privilege and power operate. It’s tempting to take such comments personally and to insist that people of color are being “mean,” which is often a hop, skip, and a jump away from an accusation of reverse racism. —S.E. Smith

I’m unsure if there will ever be a time in the future when being a member of the majority won’t be a privilege. However, as long as that’s the case, along with your privilege you should include several good measures of accountability, compassion and an ability to absorb criticism or insults that may not be as personal as you think. It’s a puny price to pay.