Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: social action (page 1 of 2)

The Human Race

I know nothing and don’t pretend to be qualified to write on the topics of race or racism. I’ve grown up as a white woman in largely monochromatic communities that resemble me. In college I became friends with people with different skin tones, but I’ve not maintained those relationships as part of my inner circle. The people with whom I spend most of my time, and therefore those who I become most like, look just. like. me. This is not something I’m proud of and it’s not something I know how to remedy.

My experiences are limited. But here are the experiences, often of others, that are shaping the way I absorb what is happening in our society right now.

Growing up in a rural white community, I had only 2 black kids in my entire school. Siblings, both were gifted – academically, musically and athletically. At one point Terry had a bet going with a friend, a chicken fight to see who would finally break down and cut his hair. In the meantime, Terry’s unruly afro took the spotlight on the basketball floor. A neighboring school decided he looked like Rufio (from Hook) and taunted him with the Ruf-i-ooooooo chant throughout entire games. I cannot speak for how Terry internalized it all; I can only speak from my experience. I grew up in a time and place where it was okay for large groups of white people to taunt a person because of how he looked, which was largely related to his race.  No one stopped those students. No administrators, from either school stood up and said, “you know, it’s not okay to taunt someone because he looks different than you.” They simply expected Terry to let it roll off his back. I’d bet the knowing adults thought it would make him more resilient or stronger or something.

Now, looking back, I can understand if it made him angry. It makes me a little angry – and I was there and I did nothing to stop it either.

My friend E is freaking brilliant. If you don’t have a friend like this, you should get one. When she starts talking about race and socioeconomic inequality, I sit down and secretly take notes. Y’all, she and her husband share as a family value the work of becoming anti-racist.

She describes current racism in America as a moving walkway, like what you find in the airports. The current of society is going in a particular direction and a person’s race impacts how they experience the world. You don’t have to be actively walking on that path to be moving in the direction of racism – our society will move you in that direction anyway. She says that what it takes is people making the deliberate decision to turn and walk against the current of culture to become anti-racist.

You don’t have to fly flags, wear white sheets at night or make inappropriate jokes to be racist. Really, all it takes is a denial of the general undercurrent of our society to be moving in the direction of racism.

That’s not a direction I want to be heading with my family. (If you chant loud enough, perhaps we can convince E to guest post the ways in which she and her family try to live out their anti-racist values. *Begin slow clap*)

My friend Kia is a young black woman currently living in Tennessee. Not long ago she shared on Facebook that she had been driving through rural Tennessee, alone, and needed gas. It took driving by at least 2 gas stations to fill up, because both had on the premises a prominent confederate flag.

I’ve had my own sketchy-gas-station experiences, late at night and in unknown parts of town (ahem, Springfield) where I get in the car pretty quickly and lock the door. Unfortunately, this is simply part of the way I experience the world as a woman. Even with limited similarity in experiences, I cannot imagine having to drive on, not because you’re philosophically opposed to such a symbol, but because that symbol conjures actual fear.

That symbol doesn’t represent to Kia the “rich history of the south.” It reminds her that she is not welcome because she is black.

Two of the most dangerous words in our language are “we” and “they.” When those arise in conversation, my warning flags go up. As I’ve attempted race conversations in the past, those words are used. Some people want to point out the way “they” act – violence, rioting and the like. Yet when white cops get violent with young, unarmed black girls, or a white teenager open fires on unarmed black church-goers, we just say “he’s crazy.” We treat it like an isolated event, even when a scroll through the newsfeed of the past 2 years says otherwise. That cop didn’t become crazy in a vacuum. He learned these attitudes and beliefs from somewhere, namely the larger society. I’m guessing he had more people in his life snickering at his racist jokes than telling him that they weren’t appropriate.

I was recently driving to a friend’s house in an upper-class neighborhood. It was a beautiful day and many of her neighbors were out doing yardwork. One of her neighbors was black. I thought to myself, this is what I’ll miss: black neighbors who live similar lives to white neighbors.

Where we are moving, there is very little diversity. My children’s primary experience of black people will be when we leave the community, specifically if we’re in a service role. But I don’t want my children to learn that black people need our help and white people live in the nice houses. When much of our experience of racial differences comes when we visit pockets of people who are different from us in all ways, not just in race, I’m not sure we make any progress.

I want my kids to have black teachers, black doctors and black bankers. I know people balk at affirmative action, but until the highest paid roles in our country represent our racial make-up we need to create space for those opportunities to exist.

Does this mean seeking out black professionals in my own life? Is it wrong or okay if I choose to do business with them because they’re black? Does choosing someone based on race actually take us in the reverse direction? Am I allowed to ask these questions publicly?

I hesitate to post this publicly. It’s a sensitive issue and I’m not known for my sensitivity. I’m positive I’ve said things wrong. I’ve portrayed an unfair picture. I know I will get, “yes, but…” pushback. But I also know that sitting by silently won’t change anything, either. I’ve been reading and following the #saysomething campaign and I see other white, female writers who feel as unqualified as I do to write anything about the black experience in America.

But, as a friend recently told me, it’s better to say jumbled yet well-intentioned words than nothing at all. The willingness to fumble my way through it is my best attempt to do the right thing.  I don’t have answers, but I know silence won’t bring about change when it comes to race issues in America.

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Bottomless Pit

I love to eat. I enjoy healthy food and junk food, salads and McNuggets (though I certainly have tried to curb the latter). I even accepted Indian food into my life again earlier this summer after avoiding it for 8 years following my trip there. (Turns out it I didn’t dislike the food – it was the aroma of dog and feces which invaded my experience that turned me off.) I snack frequently and look forward to social interactions because they likely include food.

Should I be so surprised that my kids also enjoy it? I’m thrilled about this. So far, they eat with a broad palate. We make lunches of sliced bell peppers, cucumbers and hummus or soups. A bean and rice bowl is met by willing mouths. And, like their parents, my kids enjoy dessert. I try very hard to approach all food – even those made of dairy or including gluten, which we avoid – as gifts so we don’t have “bad food” and “good food”. It’s all good. Some of it makes us feel crummy later – specifically H boy and mama.

This evening Lady C tried to convince me that we didn’t eat lunch. Which is completely false because today was McCommunion. Then we went to a picnic with church family for dinner. I reviewed with her our gluttonous menu plan, reiterating we ate 3 full meals plus snacks and daddy generously gave her one of Grandma’s Monster Cookies before bed. Yet the girl insisted that we missed a meal. (Come on. As if her Mama could ever do that.)

As I repeated our 3-meal-2-snack life, I couldn’t help but remember the many kids (and adults!) in places near and far who ate a quarter of such food. I’m guessing that research could provide evidence that we ate more today than most people in the rest of the world. (I tried a basic google search to find a statistic which would catch the eye of you numbers-driven people. However, I got dizzy and a little depressed after my first search result from the World Hunger Education Service).

We walk a fine line with our kids when it comes to waste and abundance. We want them to know they will never be in need – their family will take care of them. That’s not a worry for them to take on themselves. However, we also want to instill in them a sense of responsibility that comes with our privileged place in society.

“Starving kids in China” didn’t really work much for our generation – I wanted to send my mom’s roast over as an offering of my concern – but I don’t want my kids to leave the house thinking that food is a limitless supply. In our circumstance, yes, we can always buy more. But not everyone can. And when we do that – when we toss it in our garbage instead of our mouths, we are removing it from the shelves and changing the economics involved to get needed resources to the people who need them most.

In general, if a full meal is presented yet not consumed by one of our children, it waits on the table for snack time as a second chance and no snack will be served until most (a word defined only by mom and dad) is eaten. I simply can’t bear to throw away one bowl of food only to refill it immediately with another.  Is it so bad to allow my children to feel hunger once in a while? They’re much easier to deal with when well fed, and I’m not advocating a 40-day fast in any sense, but is our easy access to nutritious food standing in the way of naturally learning the virtue of self-control and perhaps even generosity? Just feed one

The Report said that nearly a third of the world population is living on a diet equivalent to $1.25 each day. Now that Wendy’s jacked up their Value Menu, you can’t even get a single sandwich for that, let alone 3 squares and 2 snacks. And we’re not talking about produce. That budget will get you a bag of organic apples for the entire week and nothing else. Can you imagine your week’s groceries consisting of a bag of apples for each person?

A friend of mine pastors a church that spends the end of the Lenten season in a Week of Solidarity to gain an understanding of life for the poor around the world. They use the season of fasting to eat only what $1.25 will purchase and spend time praying for those in need and giving their remaining grocery and food budget to organizations devoted to feeding the hungry. After this evening’s brief discussion, I’m wondering how I might differentiate that for the children so they can begin to understand that the joy of food doesn’t come just in cookie form.

How do we begin to make a lifestyle of acknowledging that our satiation isn’t a reality for all people without heaping guilt upon them every time we sit at the table? I feel a healthy tension is required, one that doesn’t result in worried souls but rather compassionate and aware little humans. I want them to keep their healthy appreciation of food and eat so their little bodies grow strong. It’s not the food that is the enemy: it’s our casual indifference to the waste of it.

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Ways and Means

I cannot tell you how many times in the past 5 years I realized everything in my life is more a result of where I come from and the safety nets associated with my upbringing, as opposed to the results of my own good works.

Sure, I’m bright enough to do well in school, but it didn’t earn me enough to pay for my schooling – my father did that.

I’m a hard worker – I like to get things done. But honestly, I’m scared of ladders. Even corporate ones.

We take chances on investments but that’s because we have access to means to make the gamble.

We already had one foot in the race when we started this thing called life. Generations that passed us the baton ran hard, getting far enough ahead in a race we had no idea we were running, starting from birth.

I believe 2 kinds of words to be detrimentally dangerous to humankind: Always/Never language and Us/Them differentiation. It’s not They, Those people. Because so often, they are just like us. More so than we would like to admit. They simply might not have the same roots holding them up when things get hard.



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