A Stitch in Time
Surrealism and cultural distortion are a day-to-day occurrences now. I first noticed the world shifting around me in the Summer of 2012. The CG Project was beginning its second year. It was the beginning of an idea that would lead to my Dual World photo series.
It’s tough to remember how we survived it but I preserved some of the emotions we shared over the last few years through something I called Chain Corpse, a combination Chain Letter and Exquisite Corpse. It was a way for me to connect with people I respect about issues that plagued us all. I hope that you find some value in them now that some time has passed.
Today felt like the right day to end this series. The Supreme Court settled some long running debates on the Affordable Care Act and Gay Marriage. Love won over hate. Perhaps the most iconic image to capture the spirit of the moment comes in the form of a comic that shows the today’s victory in the context that may represent a restoration of sanity. No one knows how long it will last but the mainstream distancing itself from the confederate flag for the rainbow flag shows a major shift in American values. This could be the closure we’ve been looking for.
The post below is the conclusion to A Stitch in Time, which is a response to Linda, Jennifer and Camille is a response to Mario and Arlen, which were responses to Sandy’s, which was a response to Fielden’s, which was a response to Mario’s from June of 2012.
Natalie – August 4, 2013
“It’s time to stop using racism as the catch-all explanation for all that’s wrong with the world and just accept that some people are crazy assholes who shouldn’t be allowed to have guns.”
I’d like to address this specific quote:
I say it’s time for white people to stop being so afraid to confront racism and actually sit in the dirty, ugly, uncomfortable feelings it SHOULD give you. In all of my life as a person of color I have never “used” racism as tool to gain sympathy or to explain all the ills of the world. What I have done (and what I believe in my heart most people of color do) is speak the truth of MY reality. And as far as I’m concerned, no one can tell me that the experiences that I’ve had as a person of color are exaggerated or perhaps miscontrued due to an oversensitive nature when it
comes to race. I will never understand how a person can so casually dismiss, question, and ultimately negate another human being’s experience. Is it really so hard to listen? To perhaps try and understand how another human being may see the world through a very different lens?
And sadly, racism is one of the most troubling things about what is wrong with this world. It may not have an effect on the life of a white person on a daily basis, but for a person of color it is a part of your experience. Every. Single. Day. One of “privilege” of just so happening to be born white, is the gift of not having to think about race every day. It simply becomes an annoyance, a thing you want to push down and away so that you don’t have to think about all of the pain or anger or resentment or guilt or whatever you feel when a person of color uses “the race card.” And if I hear another person use that term (the race card) again I may run head first into a brick wall. Enough already. It’s just so dismissive and simple. Not speaking about racism doesn’t make it go away. As with any problem we have to deal with, not talking about it does absolutely nothing to solve it. It is still there, and often comes back later to bite us on the ass.
The Trayvon Martin story is one of those moments where the issue of race has been festering and has bubbled to the surface revealing that the stinking problem of racism is still there. The fact that black people have to live in a world that they see as not valuing their lives as much as a white person’s is not ok. I don’t want to live in that world and I will do everything in my power to change it into a place that values every human life. So, I say we need to talk more about race. Until it hurts. Until you can’t take it anymore. Until you feel it. Really feel it. And I will continue to speak to racism’s truth whenever and wherever I see it. I hope that you do too.
Dee – August 9, 2013
I’m black but I’ve never identified as black
The color of my skin told me that I was a part of a culture and history
I was never able to truly identify with
An Oreo cookie that has felt more like a Vanilla Wafer
Whites fear me cause I look black. Blacks alienate me because I act white
I saw a black boy accused of stealing what wasn’t his
The circumstantial evidence all pointed to him but no one knew for sure
I watched as they patted him down and searched every crevice of his bag
The color of my skin told me to sympathize with him. Guilty or not
But for every bag of weed they pulled out of his backpack
The more distant from him I felt
The more I felt like a white man accusing a black boy of a crime
In my mind I was fighting a stereo type
At the same time doing what I thought was right
I questioned whether I was objectively looking at the evidence presented
I questioned whether or not we questioned him because he was black and young
I questioned the color of my skin
Jay – August 18, 2013
When I began university, at the end of my first week I took an influential class that has stuck with me to this day: History of Film. That Friday morning the professor came in and before he began his lecture gave us a protracted personal appeal. He said that we were all in this class because we were fans of movies and wanted to make them. He paused and added, “that isn’t enough.” He said it wasn’t enough to see a bunch of films, or to even want to talk about them, or consider yourself a movie buff. He said we had to go beyond simply being a fan of film or having fun watching them. We had to ask questions about “how” it affected us and why.
I wrote that down in my little Mead notebook and carried it with me for years. That realization from that course stayed with me. Part of it is because I’m a person who tries to be thoughtful instead of impulsively acting on an emotion. But another large part is that through the years I’ve seen that some of my favorite filmmakers and critics create work that makes me think about philosophy, the world, life, my country, and myself. I’ve expanded that first bit of knowledge–why did you have that reaction?–and tried to apply it elsewhere. I’ve decided that as an artist, I’d create work that is about protagonists having emotional, social, or philosophical concerns or wants, and showing how they sit down and wrestle with important questions and conflicts as they act on them.
In the days, weeks, and months since the Trayvon Martin killing, trail, and decision, I’m finding I’m in a great minority on this. People have emotional reactions and opinions, but are just reacting by blabbing away, and not giving a thought to what they say, or post, or create as internet memes. The case itself (and this reaction) gave me great concern about where our country and our world is heading. The “Stand Your Ground” law was an example of how corporate takeover of government has prevented the will of a people from living out their lives in a basic humanistic way.
When I listen to the 911 call, and hear a grown ass man bypassing logic, reason, and empathy from an operator who says, “We don’t need you to [follow the kid].” I get concerned. This is a man showing zeal, furor, and paranoia all because he’s seen a “suspicious” young black man. He’s put aside logic and is now thinking with that gun. He’s not thinking about “why” he had that reaction.
The police force and court system who dragged their feet on pressing charges on Zimmerman didn’t think about “why” they had that reaction. It took activists and organizers engaged on various issues, and a news media dedicated to trying to get facts to put pressure on even getting the question asked. And then the jurors in the trial–based on their own words–weren’t even trying to be Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men, and trying to force the other jurors to question their assumptions. They decided to be thoughtless and carefree as they literally rushed to judgement. Only days later did one go forth on the news and say that she “probably” made a mistake.
That all shows what my professor told us about: having an emotional reaction. The way average movie goers do (and should). But some folks who should be doing more–having some thought into things–aren’t stepping up. And I’m getting a bit shocked. Some reactions, even in this chain, haven’t given me much hope that we can have a meditative, contemplative, or thoughtful discussion or deliberation of these things.. Maybe I’m asking too much out of people. Maybe this is all too raw, and too soon, especially after the Amadou Diallos, Sean Bells, and Oscar Grants of the world. But at some point there needs to be some thoughtful exploration of, “Why?”
Why are people so quick to jump to defend a grown ass man who stalked, followed, and killed (all by his own admission), a kid almost half his age? Are you this in love with the Constitution and the set of laws that you’ll follow this logic down this rabbit hole? Appreciating a piece of paper or the life of a human being? Are you willing to admit that maybe just some of you have a hard time connecting with Trayvon and his right to “Stand His Ground” because he’s a young black kid?
Why is the reaction of “I don’t want to talk about this?” so strong and prevalent? Is there something wrong with having an opinion or an emotion on this case?
Why are some folks–in the white community and black alike–willing to point to tropes like, “Zimmerman wasn’t white” or “Black kids murder black kids in Chicago everyday!” as a be all and an end all when this comes up? Why is your emotional reaction to automatically remove yourself, your race, and your role as a citizen from this? What makes you think that solves the problem of a dead kid shot through the heart?
And why does your own history, baggage, or unresolved mental health problems with race worth bringing into this discussion? There’s a kid that’s dead, and again, we don’t want others like him popping up anytime soon. And if you’re an Obama or a ?uestlove and you think that sharing your stories with America (or White America) can provide a conduit and an entry point for people to realize that what happens to Trayvon happens every day, that’s fine. I commend you. But your own internal conflicts about the n-word, “cracker”, or not being black enough, or whatever, have NOTHING to do with what happened to this young man and what his family is going through.
What I learned in school stuck with me as I hear conversations, see Facebook posts, or watch the news now that we’re trying to have a nationally focused conversation on race. But just like that teacher told me about wanting to study film in order to make film: please know your shit, and ask a question or two about why you’re reacting before you decide to engage the rest of the world with your bitchy whining.
Em – August 18, 2013
Our history, baggage and unresolved mental health problems are the Why in this equation. The nuance of human existence exists in the grays, between impassioned, polarized prophets that are comfortable in the shade of their own skin. Many of us don’t have that privilege, so we swing like a pendulum.
“Have you ever noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff?” – George Carlin
When I hear Dee’s story, it sounds like my own. I grew up as a coconut even though I just learned the term a few years ago. Brown on the outside but white on the inside is how people saw me. Now that I know about this term, it isn’t one I wear with pride. I had a hard brown shell that held soft creamy meat, the most valuable part of a coconut. Once that part of me went rotten, I stopped hearing things like “You’re the whitest Mexican I know” or “Why do you wanna be white?”
“One of us. One of us.” – Freaks, 1932
That shell was just a cocoon though, armor to get me through the battle that is adolescence. Inside this Coco Loco was a hollow core with fluid swooshing around inside. I recognized the path that would lead to an easier life, but chose the uphill battle of self-identifying as a Chicano, or American with indigenous roots. I resigned my title of whitest Mexican for that of Hypersensitive Racist with a distorted view of reality. Folks walk on eggshells around me, for fear of saying something that will send me into a rant. I can turn a party into a classroom within seconds if someone pushes the wrong button.
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” – Hamlet Act 3, Scene 2
When my fuse does go off, it’s usually because someone’s point of view is being ignored or invalidated by “the truth.” My home lies outside the truth. My experiences of racial profiling need to be reviewed by each new jury before my race card is validated for the discussion. This goes double when judge considers that I could pass for Italian by hiding from my real name. Triple when my backwards hat and busted license plate light are submitted as evidence that I should expect to be questioned. The history I accept to be truth largely is due to being brainwashed with socialist propaganda. The injustices I witness in the world around me are all in my head. I live in a different America, I’m part of the 47% that sees themselves as victims and wants Big Government to solve all my problems.
“Opportunity looks a hell of a lot like hard work.” Chris Kutcher
What strikes me about Jay’s reaction to Dee is that it sounds like the responses I get when I step outside my echo chamber. As a brown man, I’m a tourist in their particular struggle but it looks, smells and sounds a hell of a lot like what’s happening on my side of the fence. The hard part is that we all have to listen to one another and search our own souls to arrive at where we’re headed. That’s the How, we heal one painful stitch at a time. With honey instead of vinegar.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I sent this entry to someone else who was gracious enough to respond, but before I post that mystery person’s piece of the puzzle, I’m giving you all a chance to respond to my piece. I’ll give you all this opportunity to contribute after each installment. Let see how this all plays out.