Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘cultures’

Museums Connecting Us All

Dear Gabriel,

Museums aren’t just rainy day activities. They shed light on accomplishments and cultures. They give us all a chance to encounter “celebrity” items while giving them contextual significance. In many cases, museums are the best available tools to truly connect the past to our present.

One exciting new museum will give us a chance to learn about American narratives too often shunted aside. Learn more about how you can help make African American history come alive for our country and for future generations.

Unfortunately, museums like this one are few and far between in America, despite the diverse available content. As far as I’m concerned, that’s all the more reason for us to show how much we celebrate treasures that illustrate African American history and culture!

As Americans, we all share the responsibility of preserving African American history and culture as best we can. Show your support for the celebration and preservation of African American history and culture today.

Thanks for taking action,

Claire K.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Permission Granted: A Woman’s Loss

“Emotional, tearful, talkative, weak, dependent, scattered, illogical, over-reacting, out of control and hysterical.” These are some of the judgments and labels that women are painted with when they react to the loss of a loved one.

Some times women (and men) do react to a sudden or expected death with a great deal of emotion and cry, talk, scream, wail and/or moan. Thank God that they do, for by doing so they are teachers for both sexes of how to honor and acknowledge a natural, human response to loss. If people are not allowed to “let go”, “collapse” or “lose it” after the death of a loved one, when on earth can they? When is there ever a better time to release the anguish and pain of having someone or a number of people ripped out of your life?

There is nothing inherently “weak” in allowing the true depths of our suffering to surface. It takes a lot of strength to allow oneself to be so vulnerable and honest. It takes incredible energy, support and awareness to do something that most Americans have pathologized, minimized or tried at all costs to “get over”. Yet, more often than not, women are the pioneers in taking this journey of mourning, of walking through the valley, stepping on the sharp rocks and finding their way back to life; often with a new found respect and appreciation for the preciousness of life.

In some cultures, both here and abroad, there are women who are the “designated mourners” at funerals and are the ones that show up at families’ homes when there has been a death. They hold a place of honor in their communities, because of their ability to connect with, hold and release the individual and the communal pain of loss and separation that has occurred. Like midwives at births, these women are held in high esteem, as strong, aware healers who have their feet planted solidly on the earth, while their hearts compassionately open to both the suffering and the pain.

We, as a society, have slowly begun to recognize the power of grief and mourning and are starting to realize that such reactions are normal, for both women and men and that to not have such outward or visible reactions to loss is also an acceptable way to mourn.

Because of past conditioning by families, institutions and media, women have often bought into the stereotypes of how they should or shouldn’t grieve and mourn. If they aren’t crying, sad, depressed or screaming after the death of a loved one, they often think something is wrong, that they’re “weird” or “abnormal”.

Just as there is wide variance in men, with regards to how we react, process and think about loss, so to for women. There are no universal women or universal men with exact, programmed responses to life and death. There are countless ways in which we mourn. How we react to loss is the outcome of hundreds of factors, including, but not limited to, our relationship with the deceased; how long we’ve known them; how we have dealt with past crisis; how old we are; how they died; whether we were with them or not at the time of death; how we were told of their death; what kind of support system we have or don’t have; other responsibilities; financial or health concerns; what our belief systems are; and the messages we have received from others on what is or is not acceptable.

I have met women who were in great turmoil because they were not proceeding as “planned” by their and/or others’ expectations of when, how and where they should be at a given time, in regards to their grieving or reactions to the loss of a loved one.

One woman had not cried since the death of her father six months previous. She thought something was “wrong” with her. Yet, after describing everything she had had to do in the last six months and the kind of relationship she had with her father, she realized that she had been doing just what she needed to do in order to survive and function. Once she was acknowledged and validated for doing what she needed to do, in the way she needed to do it, she was then able to acknowledge and express her conflicted emotions without fear of judgment or “being crazy”.

Another women said she never mourned or cried for her sister, whom she had loved dearly. Upon further reflection she realized that she thought about her sister every day when she jogged and was inspired by her sister’s life to continue teaching and helping others learn.

And some women (and men) tend to avoid their grief and pain by avoiding such emotions as much as possible. They stay busy, work twelve-hour days, drink excessively and/or use drugs. They jump from one relationship into another and/or become so focused on a particular goal or activity that they are, for a time, able to compartmentalize, push aside, numb out or ignore the feelings, thoughts and impacts of having someone die.

These are all natural reactions to pain, to not wanting to hurt. Usually, however, such reactions end up causing more complications and don’t take away or change the pain of loss that remains.

I would ask that you take a moment to think about the women in your life. Think about their personalities, differences, relationships and families; how they interact with others; how they mourn and see themselves. Ask them which roles, lifestyles and behaviors they feel have been imposed or expected of them and which ones they have chosen or made their own. They may be emotional, stoic, afraid, silent, loud, tearful, strong, confused, clueless, aware, insightful, isolated or social. They may be your partner, your sister, your mother, your grandchild, grandmother, aunt, colleague or friend. I invite you to see and treat each of them as unique, creative human beings, who have the right, the power and the prerogative to deal with and react to life and death on their own terms.

Choosing To See Color

I grew up in the segregated North, in Redding California. Redding was mostly a lumber mill town when I was a child; a place people only saw on there way to somewhere else. My father worked in the lumber mill for over 40 years. Besides the Native American family from the Hoopa Tribe that lived across the street, white faces surrounded us, including our own when we looked in the mirror.

We played frequently with the “Indian Kids” as people called them and often heard our “good” neighbors’ accusations and insinuations about “those kids” father having a “drinking problem”. “He is Indian after all,” they would say, as if that explained everything. As a child, I didn’t understand the bigotry or stereotyping that was occurring. All I knew was that their father was rarely home and if he was we had to be very quiet.

In the late fifties and early sixties, from the age of about six to nine, my mother started working part time and hired a woman named Alberta to watch my sister and I at her home. Alberta was black and her husband, Lemual, was a Baptist Minister. They had two children, Albert and Brenda. They were probably the first black people we had ever met in person, let alone seen. They lived in a small dilapidated home in a run down part of town. Later, as a teenager, I became aware that most of the black people in Redding lived in a poor section of town, literally on the other side of the railroad tracks.

Alberta was a big, dark brown woman whose loud strong voice could stop us in our tracks. If Candace (my sister), Albert and Brenda and I were outside playing tag or hide-an-seek and Alberta called for us to come in, we didn’t linger, but headed in as fast as our legs could carry us. She was strict, but caring. I remember her giving us big warm hugs that enveloped our little bodies, until it felt like we had disappeared.

Occasionally, Alberta would take us all to her husband’s church and we would play outside while she attended choir practice. We would all moan, along with the other black kids hanging around, about how boring it was and wondered when they would be done.

Albert and Brenda fought off and on, like brothers and sisters do, but never picked on Candace and I. It was in Brenda’s bedroom that I first heard soul music. I think it was The Supremes, The Miracles and “Little” Stevie Wonder. We would dance and sing and laugh at all our dancing and clowning around, until Alberta told us to “Quiet down in there!”.

After three or four years, when my mother had divorced and remarried, our family moved to a bigger home, farther out from town and we stopped going over to Alberta’s. Mom said they kept in touch with Alberta and her family for awhile, but they eventually moved out of the area and she hasn’t heard from them in decades.

In the late sixties, I “went with” a girl who was black in high school. It only lasted a few weeks. At first I just followed her around until she noticed me, then we talked on and off and held hands once or twice. She was easy to spot, because she had a gigantic Afro and was one of only four black kids at the entire school. At the time, I was doing everything I could think of “against the establishment” and this was simply another way to proclaim my independence and spit in the face of convention. It didn’t really mean much to her nor I and I doubt if she would even remember it today.

What strikes me about all these experiences of childhood, adolescents and as an adult, is that I, as a white man, have always had the choice of when and how I chose to interact with or befriend people of color or deal with race. Sometimes I have done so when it fulfills a need, is convenient, gives me a sense of having “helped” someone or fits my self-image of being an excepting, understanding person. It was for my benefit and I had control of if and when.

When I interviewed Lee Mun Wah, a well-known facilitator and videographer, for my book on transforming grief for social good, he said, “We don’t take the time to really look, to really experience. The American Indian is right when they say, ‘You want my customs, my rituals and my land, but you don’t want me.’ What we do is, we use people and cultures. We use them when it’s convenient, for a service, for artifacts. Rarely do we take the time to understand how we relate to each other.”

At times, I too, have not really looked or listened. I have put people in boxes and preconceived easily digestible categories that make life comfortable and lead me to believe that “everything is so much better nowadays than it used to be.” And it is, in some respects, but it shouldn’t stop me from looking honestly at myself and not minimizing or candy-coating another persons experience out of my own need for security.

In Notes of a Native Son (1953) James Baldwin wrote, “The black man insists that the white man cease to regard him as an exotic rarity and recognize him as a human being. This is a very charged and difficult moment, for there is a great deal of will power involved in the white man’s naivete. Most people are not naturally reflective any more than they are naturally malicious, and the white man prefers to keep the black man at a certain human remove because it is easier for him thus to preserve his simplicity.”

I wish things were simple. I wish just talking about race and prejudice was simple. I wish everybody was treated equally and had the same opportunities, but we’re not. The best I can do is not be afraid to look at myself and the person in front of me through rose-colored glasses and tell the truth as I see it, inside and out. Nowadays, my friends who are black or brown are my friends because they are simply my friends and the same is true for our children and their friends. I don’t try to pretend however, to my self or others, that everyone is now treated equally.

In our society (and most around the world), the color of your skin still matters. I’m not going to turn away from this reality and act like the privilege’s I have as a white man in America don’t exist. I’m choosing to look at this reality face to face and call other white men and women on it when they act as if everything has changed and they say things like “We’re all equal. It doesn’t matter what color someone is.”. Race matters. If you don’t think so, try walking around in brown or black skin for awhile and see how you’re treated.

We have to acknowledge and respect our differences and take off the blinders, before we can move beyond difference and see that there is only one of us here.

Tag Cloud