Monday, February 01, 2016

Jay Smooth: How do you keep showing up in the face of an unjust system that has no fear or accountability?

[Again, these are rough notes.  My apologies to Jay Smooth if I made errors or left too much out.]

Jay Smooth -  Keep my hip hop name, keeps me from being too serious.  Hip Hop was a way of carving out space to express ourselves.  And this can become rebellious act, a space for invisible
people to see and be seen.  Whole world was watching, but that world has coopted and used. it.  That's the role it played for me from an early age.  I was a pretty isolated kid, as someone of mixed descent - dad black, mom white - often had the "What are you?" conversation with people.  Now appreciate that conversation about in-groups and out-groups.  When people don't know where you fit, it allows the conversation.  But as a teenager still trying to figure my identity, it was much harder, but then that hip hop world gave me a place to find myself.

That work is what I try to replicate when I speak on other social issues.  To maintain that sort of community, need to learn to speak across differences in that community.  Any adult from the hip hop community has to find ways in your community to call people out when they use that internalized racism.

Showing his video How to tell someone their racist.

Missed a bit here.  Now talking about studies that show racism still happens.  Study of people helping accident victims - black/white victims and helpers.  Show racism is internalized.  What connects us all as humans is our human imperfection.  Hard to do when any mention of racism brings out defensiveness about one's racism.  Oscar events over white nominees - no they weren't consciously excluding blacks, but they just didn't see it.  I had the same problem with hip hop and seeing that mostly we only had dudes and had to consciously get women.

If have some sort of ritual to remind you, it helps overcome that implicit bias.  Just like having a checklist so I don't forget my phone, key, and wallet when I leave the house, to make sure.  Has some effect on implicit bias, but doesn't end it.

I can't be narcissistic in the conversation - am I good?  George Frese yesterday asked important question.  My partner June passed away a few months ago.  It's been very difficult getting back to work, but seeing him yesterday has been inspiration.  Question:  How do you keep showing up in the face of an unjust system that has no fear or accountability?  

Flattening out MLK - making him into a Hallmark card, sanitizing him so he is less threatening.  People today dismiss Black Lives Matter are the same kinds of things they said about MLK at the end of his career  - not organized, lots of energy.  His work defined by tireless work, trying to find the next steps, the last years of his life when he talked about the post civil-rights era - next era of revolution until economic equality, no justice until structure is changed.  No grand victories in the last years of his life.  Book on equality was a flop.  Civil rights for workers didn't work.  People in his own circle told him he shouldn't be talking about economic justice.  He was racked by doubt.  Considered therapy but couldn't because FBI following him meant it would be used against him.  Not that his last years were a failure, but that tireless work with not grand victories, that is the work.  You need to show up every day.  That's the way we take those small steps toward justice and equality.  And he did find inspiration with organizing the poor and the sanitation workers.  Lesson he reaffirmed, even when no moments of glory, to do the work and be with the community is the glory.

This is a 10,000 year* effort without a doubt.  Need to struggle every day and do the work.
*theme of the workshop is "The next 10,000 years."

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