not the only one…


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Will America ever really share the wealth?

Talked with a good friend yesterday about the drug war, specifically about marijuana legalization in our home state of Washington. My husband worked on the initiative 502 campaign to legalize. Our friend, a black woman, expressed her concerns about how legalization will hurt black people in our state while white people will profit from legalization. She understands why we support ending the drug war (because it issues arbitrary long sentences for possession of an illegal substance, destroys families and communities, and is racist in its implementation), but she is fearful of the repercussions this new law may have on the black community. We talked about how new laws that aim to “level the playing field” or “end racist policy” can sometimes create new oppressive systems and how white people can end up benefiting more than black people. And just to be clear, its this whole “white people benefit more than black people” thing that keeps racism in American (and is the definition of racism!).

The prison system in our country is very profitable. This system relies upon people filling the jail cells to make money. Our jails are overcrowded and filled with people who have non-violent drug charges, and a disproportionate number of these people are black and brown. The owners of private prison companies and the many companies who rely on “prisoner labor” will not stand to lose profits because a state or two has legalized marijuana. With a history of chattle slavery, Jim Crow segregation, red-lining by banks to withhold capital from black families, sub-prime mortgages and pay-day lenders preying on communities of color… what will our country do next to disenfranchise black Americans?

If we look at the new emerging marijuana market in Washington state, the recipients of retail licenses are overwhelmingly male and almost exclusively white. When will we have an economic market that is available and profitable for black women and men? When we compare the net worth of households in the USA along racial and ethnic lines, the wealth of black families has remained stagnant since the 1980’s, while wealth amongst white families has risen by almost 11%. With this wealth gap between white and black communities, its no wonder that black individuals and families are starting fewer businesses. Fewer young black men and women have wealthy family members who can lend or invest start up funds for new ventures… such as, a new pot selling store!

I’m not hating on the many people who have received licenses in Washington, I’m happy for you and I’m even happier about the revenue our state will collect from this new market. But I do want to call attention to the ongoing “white supremacy” within America’s economic markets and I am calling for it to end. We will never “level the playing field” and close the “opportunity gap” if we do not address the heart of the matter, which is money and wealth. Access to capital is the only way to “succeed” in “capitalism.” When large communities within our society are consistently stepped on and ignored when it comes to “wealth gaining” activities, these groups will never “rise” within this system. When 50% of all African American boys do not graduate high school, these individuals do not have access to wealth, and may never access a living wage job. Thus, their families will remain without wealth and will struggle financially. Half of black American boys do not graduate high school!  That has a ripple effect and will affect all members of their community and their families. That is roughly a quarter of the black community that is not getting an education. Education is supposed to be the “ticket out of poverty.” A third of all black men will likely see the inside of a jail cell at some point in their life. Where is the effing outrage?!?


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love & community w/o religion?

Today, I responded on facebook to a local pastor at a liberal church who was talking about why he thinks christian liberal churches are in decline but conservative churches thrive. His answer: christian liberals have given up and conservative churches simplify their message so much that it provides a safe haven in a world that is often overly-complex.

Here is my response:

Hi [pastor], I was raised as a member of the UCC 1st congregationalist church of Bellevue and I share your world view, and that of the church, that life is good and so are humans. I still have respect for all UCC and liberal churches. I have thought about returning in recent years (its been about 12 years since i’ve been involved) because I believe that community and love are missing from our world, missing from local communities and missing in everyday interactions. But there is something keeping me from re-engaging with a church. I work for social justice in my non-profit job everyday and volunteer for several organizations working for justice, dignity and equity for all. I would like to push back against the idea the “christian liberals” have given up, and instead offer the idea that liberals are dropping the title of “christian” because it no longer resonates with them. So many horrible things have happened in the name of organized religion, that, for me, I would like to find a new way to express love and community to the people around me. A new path to justice that welcomes all people, but is not rooted in a dedication to any deity. Instead, to work toward justice, peace, love and community because they are well worth fighting for on their own. In peace, Natalia

I am happy for this opportunity to express my views in this area because I have been recently struggling with the idea of returning to a church, but something is just holding me back. I am very interested in the idea of finding truth, peace, love, community and justice without having to under-pin this work in a faith that is rooted in a man-made persona, named god or jesus christ.

I believe there is a strong spiritual force in the universe that surrounds us and I believe that nature is a powerful force. I believe that if we listen closely and pay close attention to the present, we will learn much about the pulse of our world. There is so much happening every second. If we are too loud or distracted or focused on the tiny material details of our consumerist culture, we miss so much beauty, truth and love. I believe that putting our faith in the universe and acknowledging there is a force running through us and everything surrounding us that is much, much larger than we are is necessary if we are ever going to find peace as a society. In this sense, what Christians call “prayer” is a powerful force, because it is a recognition that something larger then us is pulling the strings. Writing is a form of “prayer” for me. Its my way of putting my concerns into the universe, letting go of my anxieties so I can slow down and realize all the beauty and goodness in my life. And, I do talk to the universe too. Christians would say, we are all “blessed.” Seculars like me say, we are “lucky.”  I believe we are addressing similar phenomena but just in different, and often separate, paradigms, complete with separate language.

I realize I have been speaking in a “christian context” because that was the context of my interaction above. But I would like to acknowledge all religions and wish for all religious and secular people to come together to realize that one way is not better than the other. We are all on this planet so we should do our best to enjoy each other and make our world the best we can for everyone. To me, we are put here to learn how to trust and love each other — and, it can seem like at every turn society is trying to block this from happening: stereotypes, competing religions, corporate profits valued over people, classism, hatred, war, fear, and our constant desire to divide ourselves by groups (gender, race, sexual orientation, class, ethnic origin, age, ability, religious affiliation, political party and on and on).

My wish is for people to slow down, get to know each other better and learn to love each other more because of our differences as well as our similarities. After all, humans are much more similar than we are different.