Tag Archives: #52essays2017 #whitesupremacy #equity #coaching

#TakeTheKnee for National Anthem


The US is in a tizzy about Colin Kaepernick not taking a knee during the National Anthem or who is or is not invited to the White House as NBA champions. Not affirming the parody of the National Anthem by standing has long been my practice before these two fine young men began speaking out against oppression. Since my twenties, which means a span of almost 40 years, I have not stood when I hear the opening strains of the song that begins “Oh say can you see…”

I can’t remember the exact dots that connected for me to make that decision so very long ago. I was in college and being steeped in white supremacy culture, like a person in a strait jacket, twisting and flailing desperately to refuse the mandates of perfectionism, individualism, either/or, power hoarding, and objectivity. I was thankfully not alone, having found others who sought the antidotes of deepening our political analysis of racism and oppression.

My relationship to this country was altered for the good as I refused to make complex issues simple. The act of not standing for the anthem emerged. It is often uncomfortable. I have blessedly lived a life where I am rarely in a place the anthem is played. And there are times when I have stood. Circumstances dictate my approach.

When there is little chance of serious repercussions, I stay seated and see it as a choice to refuse the glory associated with a country so far from equity and opportunities for all. It is similar to the choice I make when deciding whether to give a standing ovation or get a better look at something or someone. It is valued based, not herd mentality based.

As in the case of Colin Kaepernick, professional sporting events are a place where I have a choice. In the San Francisco bay area I generally sit, in other places I may go to the restroom when the anthem is played. The few specific times I stand are when I feel the negative impact is not worth my emotional and physical safety. Oppression is real in my life.

I had initially been excited to join the #blackoutNFL movement until Colin was hired by an NFL team. Conflicted about football overall because of the violence and long-term damage to players, I also appreciate the grace and athleticism. I have not watched any football this season and turn down my favorite sports talk radio when they discuss football. Then I read a great article by Roni Dean-Burren, Ph.D. which voiced some of my discomfort with the movement, reminding me of the intersectionality of all oppression and of what gets the attention of men and what does not. She is NOT observing the NFL boycott “because it is steeped in hypocrisy and misogynoir.”  I have not returned to football yet. I have enjoyed more tennis. More importantly, I am taking time to rethink actions that may have become habitual and unconscious to my detriment.

The core antidote to white supremacy culture is to stay alert to the insidious straps that wind their way around my body, heart, and mind. To be conscious and question myself regularly. Not because I am flawed or inadequate, but because oppression is wide and deep and ever present. I have to remain girded for the long haul. While sports, both playing and watching, often given me a chance to enjoy my competitive nature, they can also wound me.

Habits are powerful present moment antidotes to despair and I maintain the discipline of assessing mine as causes and conditions change. It is both the cost of oppression and the true glory of joining my heart, mind, and body for the benefit of all. #52essays2017


Holding Your Truth

I recently trained a 2-day Racial Justice workshop for a mix of ciswomenblack, brown, and white. I did something I do as little as possible. I pushed white people about white privilege and white supremacy. No blame, no shame. Just the facts. One of which is that there is no lack of anything that causes horrible housing, food deserts, inaccessible health care, under-resourced schools and toxic environments. The problem is not crime, poverty, unplanned pregnancies, hunger, disease, climate change, or _____________ (fill in the blank). The actions stem from white and often male privilege and are rooted in white supremacy. When we were problem-solving the root causes of why it is challenging to have productive, authentic discussions about racial justice, the focus turned, as it should, to the white women in the room.

My question to them was: How did you move from the interpersonal level of “I am a good white person who can help you” to looking at inequity from an institutional/systemic level where ‘lack’ is not the issue? They couldn’t answer me. As women, this would require them to step out of their sense of being one down due to gender and step up to embrace their white privilege and own it with white women AND white men. We all agreed that was their work to do so they could be the one initiating and holding the discussions instead of what typically happens – people of color carrying both the negative impacts of white privilege in our lives AND having to challenge it in conversations. Check out this great essay by Minda Honey on doing it in the beautiful outdoors.

Several privileged situations have occurred recently to spark me to write at this moment. I was playing a tennis match at a tennis club with my team. We enjoy our away matches because the amenities are many, and our home courts are Larkspur public courts, in serious need of repair, even in wealthy Marin County. My partner and I were the only women of color on either team. One of the women we were playing doubles against hit a ball out by about 3 inches. “Out!” I yelled, raising my index finger as is the practice in case they don’t hear the call. Yet another ball was hit out so I did it again. “That ball was in. Maybe some parts of it were out, but it was in. And the other call was bad as well.” Out of that pot of rage that is always simmering in people of color, I stood my ground and said: “Both balls were out by a significant amount. If you have a problem, call for a line judge and you will see my calls are correct.” My anger was palpable, so real I imagined my aura was red hot and they all felt it. People do sometimes question calls and I am one of them. The difference I felt and which my body responded to was the clear, unequivocal tone and sound of white privilege. The complete assurance that she was right and the two brown women were wrong.

My inner warrior did not hesitate to leap on her horse and brandish her sword. By slicing through her delusion, she knew I would not accede to her sense of supremacy. She did not question any further calls and did not call for a line judge. It was only afterwards that I understood my quick and sharp response came from that place of knowing, sin duda, what white supremacy feels like, even when dressed in tennis skirts on a beautiful day with smooth, clean courts where I was enjoying my class and educational privilege that so often gets interrupted as it did the day.

The other dynamic is the requests, again and again, to take care of white, alleged allies. A coaching client and I were working through this maelstrom. She did not like a white savior woman who was constantly inappropriate, yet she was struggling to let her go. My response was for her to consider if the shoe was on the other foot. What I said was: “We give so much leash to white supremacists when they would have cut our throat long ago if we had challenged and undermined them the way they do it to us.” My sword again sliced through a delusion of having to be fair in the face of ongoing disrespect. She is on the move now.

We do no one a favor by allowing them an undetermined amount of time to figure out they act from white supremacy. We do it because we are tired and it is not in our work descriptions: “Excellent interpersonal skills in calling out white supremacy.” It should be in the job descriptions of white people! It should be in the required qualifications and in the interview questions and in the evaluation forms of every organization that has words like equity and justice and equal rights in their vision and mission. The question I raised with the white women would be a great interview question and standard by which to hire – how did you move from an interpersonal to an institutional/systemic analysis of oppression? No answer, no job. Punto. #52essays2017