Form Follows Function

#AGreatCityRises and the Toll of Gentrification on Northeast Minneapolis

I stopped at the corner trying desperately to remember the potholes and broken concrete I knew as a child. I creeped the car – like I would have back in the day – down the now perfectly manicured road with its “vintage” appeal, missing the cracked and crumbling concrete.

My family came to Minneapolis after being forced out of St. Cloud by folks who thought that two blind people could not be adequate parents. For as long as I can remember, 216 Fifth Ave. SE represented our roots.

As a kid my dad would take us down to the river and tell us stories about playing there as a child. We would trek into – what felt at the time like the woods – lining the river bank and pretend we were in Sherwood Forest. The rundown mills were a reminder of how the city started and stood as memory to its past. We would walk the cobblestone street towards Hennepin Avenue and Pops would tell me about working as a cook at The Wharf when he got the call that Mom went into labor. The joy in his eyes at that moment would quickly fade as he warned us of the dangers of St. Anthony Falls, telling us about his friends that have died there, and how he almost did. We would laugh and ask questions, he would tell us about Frankenstein’s Castle and how Nicollet Island wasn’t always so fancy. It used to be the place the homeless would gather at. Going up Hennepin, we would hear the stories of my Grandpa drumming at Nye’s and how he would sell pencils on the street to make a little extra money for the family. We would stop at Red Owl and pick up groceries for Grandma. Pops would remind us about how they would let the family keep a tab when times were tight and money was funny. This was my history. This was the landscape from which we were cut. It deserved my respect and honor. And it got it.

Today I drove by 216 Fifth Ave. SE, and saw college kids drinking on the deck. I found a parking spot on the all too familiar street feeling a bit surreal. When my grandfather passed away 34 years ago my family sold the house to The Pillsbury Company but continued to rent it to them. When my grandmother transitioned the house was remodeled and rented out to college kids, the U is big business. The landmarks are the same, but somehow barely recognizable.

Read the Rest at the Twin Cities Daily Planet

I Have a Daughter And When I’m Most Honest With Myself I’ve Been Too Much Like Trump

It would be easy for me to join in the voices condemning the latest (and most overt) vile comments of Donald Trump. And I do condemn them, with everything in my DNA. But when I’m the most honest with myself the sourness in my stomach isn’t about Donald Trump, or even about the complicity of Billy Bush. The sourness in my stomach comes from the bits of myself I see reflected in both. And that is hard to write.

It’s true that Trump’s misogyny is an extra special brand, but it stems from the same patriarchy and sexism which socialized me. It is simply the veil lifted on the rape culture that we are all socialized in.


I had the same girlfriend from sophomore year in high school through college. I thought I was a good guy and never thought about sexism, and certainly not about rape culture. I would never even think about raping a woman so why would I need to think about it? Our relationship was, in many ways, great. In many other ways it was also terrible, and, sadly, it’s the terrible parts that are all too typical.

Like Trump I saw women, and more specifically attention from women, as validation of my own worth.  My friends and I would constantly objectify women seeing them first, and sometimes exclusively, as objects for fulfilling our sexual desires and fantasies. It made no difference that I had a girlfriend, I literally rationalized cheating  by citing Common  ” I mighta got a little head but I wasn’t really cheating.” If I wasn’t the one talking about who I wanted I would, too often, be playing the part of Billy Bush and laugh in tacit approval. It wasn’t until my girlfriend left the country to study abroad that I had to confront this reality. And it got ugly first.

Like most men, I was so insecure, and my ego was so fragile, that when she told me she was going to be leaving I immediately threatened her with breaking up. We were at Chili’s,  I still remember the conversation.  We went on a break, and I went on the prowl. That weekend I hooked up with a coworker. I didn’t “just start kissing her” but the intention was the same. I was hurting and was entitled to feel better. I needed the validation I thought the attention from women provided. I was spinning. I got a membership to LiveLinks and was on there nearly every night, doing my best to “be attracted to beautiful. Like a magnet.”  Of course none of it actually filled me up. That’s how rape culture works.

Not only that, I had so internalized toxic masculinity  that while my girlfriend was out of the country I racked up hundreds of dollars calling her internationally because I was so worried she was cheating. I never thought of her as my property, but I was clearly acting like it. Because, well, patriarchy. I never said I would “move on her like a bitch” or “grab her by the p**sy,” but I was sure operating from the same line of thought. This all came to a head when my girlfriend came back and I assumed we would pick up where we left off. That’s how patriarchy and rape culture work, what’s yours is yours, and you are entitled to it no matter what.

I was working at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage in a temp position and coaching at Hamline. Facebook wasn’t what it is today and I didn’t have a page, but I had her login. Of course I logged in. I don’t remember exactly what I saw but I remember leaving work right away and driving to hers. I sat in the car until she got off and furiously accused her of lying and cheating; I was throwing all kinds of guilt on her about betraying me. All this while doing more dirt than I can even remember, but that didn’t matter because, patriarchy. I don’t know how long it was after that when her and I got into what would be our last argument. I was going into what had become my typical lines when she interrupted me by telling me she knew I was calling LiveLinks. I remember for half-a-second trying to deny and defend but then feeling relief at accepting we were over. When I got in my car I sobbed for what felt like hours. I was terrified, ashamed, embarrassed and, I thought, alone. Looking back that moment saved my life.


Today I picked my daughter up from daycare. When I opened the door to her classroom she smiled, laughed, screamed daddy and came running to give me a hug. How I love her is going to teach her how to expect to be loved from men. And that scares me. I know I’ve done work since that breakup, but I don’t know if it’s enough. The more I learn about patriarchy the more I recognize it in my reflection. The more I learn about rape culture the more I realize how embedded it is in the very first socializing of our children. Brock Turner is out of jail, and at least one panelist on CNN is defending Donald Trump. My fear is that we are not as outraged as we may appear. My fear is that we are ok with this being “locker room talk” and are simply outraged at it making the public eye. I’m afraid that we are ok with “boys being boys” and then becoming men.

As I check on my daughter sleeping in her crib I promise her that I will never remain silent again. I won’t ever regret the words I never said. I won’t ever laugh at the expense of her, or anybody’s, humanity. Most importantly, I promise to love myself — and other men, like the ones who loved me through my worst times did, I’m so thankful for them– through the patriarchy and into vulnerability and compassion and, ultimately, full humanity. My ego is not so frail as it was once.

The Need for Courageous Reimagining in our Schools #AnimateMPS

I was visiting with my parents the other day and checked Facebook on my phone. My mom commented that the world sure had changed since she was a kid. I thought about that for a while. Even since I was a kid the everyday experiences of young people is drastically different. I remember trying to save Snoops Doggystyle album because the stereo ate the tape. I thought I was balling when I upgraded problems and need to know how to keep the Discman from skipping on the bus. Not to mention how cool I felt when I got a pager! I memorized important numbers and had to actually be home to not miss whatever my favorite show was at the time.

That is all ancient history to my students. They all have a cell phone with access to the internet right there in their pockets. All their music is streaming and they can just on demand any show they missed. The internet has changed the world. There is one place, though, that remains far too familiar, the classroom.

Walk into almost any school –even some of the “innovative” and “cutting edge” ones – and you will see much of the same things that defined education decades ago. It is still top down banking style education which emphasizes rote memorization; the only things slightly new are the standardized tests hoops students are required to jump through.

It’s not that education doesn’t require memorization or that assessing progress and having accountability around learning isn’t important, it is. The problem lies in the fact, as I wrote about here, that schools are meant to reproduce peoples place in society. Working class families go to school with other working class families. Professionals with professionals and so on. This was true when we were still an industrial nation and it is still true today. And as long as it is true there is no chance we will see significant improvements to the state of education in our city.

The time has come to demand a courageous reimagining of what education should be. The time has come to demand that the production of knowledge be beneficial to communities. There is no better time than right now. As indigenous people and their accomplices come together to protect the water and remind us the earth is sacred, Black people around the country are asserting, what Marc Lamont Hill calls their “somebodyness”, and an increasing number of white folks are awakening to the realities of white supremacy it is finally time schools reflect the ideal of justice.

This is not some abstract utopian ideal. There are tangible, practical and immediate things that schools can do to align with the demands of the community. These ideas include but are certainly not limited to:

  • Required ethnic study courses
  • Green energy and sustainability courses
  • Investment in wrap around services to facilitate healing from the traumas of poverty and white supremacy
  • Fully funded restorative justice programs and an immediate end to police in schools
  • Community boards that provide accountability
  • An explicit focus on the various manifestations (including financial payments) of reparations for Native and African Americans

These are the things I will be looking for from the candidates for school board as part of the Animate the Race campaign. The next event is tomorrow night at the Central Minneapolis Meet & Greet at the American Swedish Institute from 6-7:30pm. It is a free event and open to the public. Come here for yourself what the candidates have to say.


When white families avoid talking about race, families of color shoulder the burden of respectability

The first thing I was taught about race was that it didn’t matter. Like so many others I was taught to ignore the color of a person’s skin and to judge people on the “content of their character.” This was the extent of my racial formation. This color-ignorance became the dominant approach after the Civil Rights movement, and has only gained steam in the supposedly post-racial world the election of Barack Obama ushered in.

The problem with color-ignorance is that it erases the reality of racism and leaves white folks incapable of understanding the experiences of people of color, and therefore incapable of contributing to justice in meaningful ways. Nothing illustrates this inability better than the phenomenon of respectability and what it signifies depending on your race.

Stacie Nielsen-Bortel, who identifies as white, was visiting family in Michigan when social media informed her about the shooting death of Philando Castile. Nielsen-Bortel’s upbringing was not too different from my own. Her parents had said all the right things, “There are bad people who are white and there are good people who are white. There are bad people who are black and there are good people who are black.”

Read the rest at the Twin Cities Daily Planet


I was recently chosen for a fellowship dedicated to elevating the School Board race in Minneapolis. I’m looking forward to sharing with you all and building education in our city. Here is an excerpt from my first writing where I talk more about what the fellowship means to me.

I believe in education. Truly, I do. I believe in the production of knowledge. I believe that when we produce knowledge in community that we can solve the world’s problems. I don’t have a lot of faith in schools.

In the documentary film Precious Knowledge there is a scene where a teacher is complaining about how dysfunctional the students are and educator Jeff Duncan-Andrade responds by saying “I have never met a kid with a dysfunctional relationship to learning. I’ve met a lot of kids with a dysfunctional relationship to school.” In my years as a classroom teacher I can personally attest to the truth of Duncan-Andrade’s statement. So often I see beautiful, powerful young people being told that they are broken. Being told that what they know, what they have lived, what is in their bones, is a lie. Too often the expectation is that these bright shining stars dim their light and contort themselves to fit into a way of knowing which is openly hostile and violent to their truths. And they are expected to smile and say thank you.

This is wrong.

Click here for the rest of the piece

The 11th Hour: reflection on racial justice work with white folks

When I read the post my stomach dropped. I could feel my chest tighten, forcing me back in my chair. I must have read it three times before my next breath.

Maybe it was the precision with which it cut to the heart of the matter. Maybe it was the fact that somebody else—somebody who had experienced, as he calls it, the worst of my people—was asking the question that has been haunting me. Probably, though, it was the fact that I didn’t have an answer.

When Kiese Laymon posted: Nearly two thirds of white folks support Trump. 40% of white women ride with this dude. He got way more college educated white support than we think. I have no hope for white men. None. Not an ounce. So my questions are: can white folks be fixed by white folks and why are white women doing this. These questions may be rhetorical. I wanted to hear a call to action, and in many ways I did. Mainly, though, I needed an answer. I needed to know that white folks can save themselves. I also felt fear. Fear that any action is going to be too little and too late. Fear that we are too far gone, that we are beyond saving, too disconnected. Fear that we are too in love with too much pain.

That idea, the idea that we are in pain, is essential to understand. The work of racial justice is fundamentally healing work. Many of us, though, don’t understand it in those terms. We see this work as sacrifice, as something we do for people of color evidence of our moral fiber. We frame it as the ultimate selflessness. And that is fucked up. We have a stake in this. Racial justice is in our interest. White supremacy is eroding our souls, and we need to heal with a quickness.


When I logged in they were already started. I had been looking forward to this webinar, Healing Toxic Whiteness, for a couple weeks. I really thought it was important whiteness was being named as toxic. It was exactly what I needed to ease my own uncertainty. But, as I listened and followed the chat anxiety started to grip my throat. What I was seeing was beautiful –people, my people, acknowledging their pain and wanting to heal– but it was nowhere near enough. It was reformation. This, like most of the conversations I’ve had around justice, fell short of the simple truth: there is no other form of whiteness than toxic. I know why it was framed that way: the belief that we, by and large, are not ready to hear that whiteness is nothing but evil. But we have to be. If white folks are going to save ourselves, if it isn’t too late, I believe we need to begin by talking about whiteness. More than that, I think it is the most effective approach to take.

Too often the logic around talking about racial justice is: 1) introduce race and racism as systemic 2) jump into talking about privilege and then, if you haven’t lost everybody 3) you talk about whiteness. The rationale behind this is that if you start by talking about whiteness it will turn to defensiveness and you won’t get anybody. I don’t believe that is true. In fact, I think it will be more effective if we turn that logic on its head. I believe that we should start by talking about whiteness and use that to illustrate the complex and sophisticated system within which it operates. Race and racism were invented to protect whiteness. Highlighting that fact illuminates the systemic nature of racism and the fiction of race in a way that can’t happen by skipping over whiteness. Starting with an analysis of whiteness will make it easier to highlight intersections. Perhaps most importantly, understanding whiteness is the only way we will actually deconstruct white supremacy and begin healing. Why not start there? There are two major critiques to this approach 1) people will get too defensive and 2) it is simply too devastating to our sense of selves to hear the truth about whiteness. I reject both of these.

First, let me address the defensiveness argument: yup people will be defensive. Those will be the same people that are defensive about the systemic nature of racism so we aren’t really losing anybody there. We can, however, gain people. When we start with whiteness we are beginning by validating the connection that we all, at one point, shared: our humanity. A common distractor in conversations about racial justice is “well aren’t we all human.” As it stands now the answer often does not sufficiently deal with this question, it says “yes, but…” and goes on to imply things about whiteness, but avoids just diving in. When we start with whiteness, when we start with “yes we are and then we became white” we kick the door open for reconnection. We open space to heal. We name the problem from the start and then everything else  orients towards solving that problem. It becomes easier to see how systems worked and evolved to protect whiteness, this made up thing. It becomes harder to conflate prejudice with racism because whiteness is explicitly positioned as a social construct from the beginning. This is a major difference from racial justice work that positions race as a social construct and waits to tackle the issue of whiteness, allowing whiteness to remain de-raced.

Another common critique I’ve heard about starting with whiteness is that it strips people of their identity. To that I say, yes. All the yeses. And ain’t that the point? If we truly believe that whiteness and white supremacy are hurting our people shouldn’t we want it stripped? While that is a scary thought to wrap our minds around it can also be exhilarating. It gives us endless opportunity. We will then have the space and freedom to craft a healthy identity that works to honor and respect the humanity and dignity of all people, ourselves included. It opens the door to reimagine an economy not build on competition, exploitation and consumption. It opens the door to honor the love people share regardless of their gender. It paves the way to rethink what gender even is and how it (if it is even a thing) informs our everyday practices. All the things racial justice work is supposed to be about become much more attainable when we begin by naming whiteness. The fact of the matter is by positioning the conversation around whiteness as somehow too sophisticated for the average white person we are catering to our fragility. The truth is we all know, instinctively, that whiteness is a thing and that we have a group consciousness and interest, Donald Trump’s candidacy is exhibit. We need to stop acting like that consciousness and interest has ever been, or could ever be, healthy and just abandon it completely. We can then get to work on developing a healthy identity to replace it. Anything short of naming that reality is itself an injustice.

I still don’t have an answer for Kiese. I don’t know if white folks can save ourselves or not. I do, though, know I am going to live everyday trying to do just that: save myself. Every day I am going to try to save myself from this thing called whiteness. This thing which is so toxic to my humanity. My hope is that others join me in encouraging others to  start here as well, before it’s truly too late.

The Trojan Horse of Unity: how the Seahawks betrayed justice.

Sunday the Seattle Seahawks locked arms in a sign of unity during the National Anthem. Leading up to their demonstration (if you can even call it that) many leaders of the team took to social media and implored folks to #BuildABridge. This was all in response to Colin Kaepernick and the handful of players such as Brandon Marshall, Arian Foster and others who have chosen not to stand during the National Anthem. The Seattle demonstration has been much more palatable than the others because it was ostensibly a call for unity. The truth, though, is that these calls for unity are nothing more than a Trojan Horse  meant to protect the social order and reassure well-intentioned whites that nothing too radical is on the horizon.

Unity is the perfect Trojan Horse; it reinforces the rhetorical contortionism of American exceptionalism and the myth of E Pluribus Unum while erasing the rot at the foundation of our social system. Unity is the rose colored glasses that eases our collective conscious while shinning a spotlight on the real problems: those that point out systemic oppression. Calls for unity in our current situation suggest that such things like the disproportionate killing of Black people by police, or the underfunding of inner city schools, or the ever growing wealth gap would all be remedied if we could “all just get along.” Calls for unity suggest that slavery and segregation have no lasting effect other than hurt feelings. Calls for unity now, before justice, are bullshit.

Real unity requires real connection. And, this is the issue many have when it comes to understanding Kaepernick’s protest, Black Lives Matter, and racial justice in general: a lack of connection. stereotypingWe have been conditioned to accept our hyper-segregated lives through the consumption of the gross stereotypes the media is constantly producing.
In this environment we are encouraged to stay with those most like us. This is the real division. This is the real enemy of unity. Instead of truth-telling and listening to understand across lines of differences, which builds relationships and community, we retreat to our silos and the dominant narrative which reinforces our disconnection.

So, to those who want unity, who want to #BuildABridge, I’m with you. Let’s start by organizing a campaign demanding reparations and a redistribution of the wealth accumulated from slavery. Let’s put an end to the destruction of Earth and stand with our Native brothers and sisters in demanding an end to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Let’s (begin) to put an end to the exploitation of workers both here in America and around the world and put people over profits by supporting $15 Now . Let’s demand an end to predatory lending. Let’s demand an end to militarism and drone strikes. Let’s demand a massive education budget the size of our defense one. Let’s demand everybody has a home and healthcare. This would be unity.

Real unity will only happen when those with power –those who have been systemically advantaged — turn their backs on those systems and rediscover their humanity. Anything short of this is a Trojan Horse not to be trusted. I know its tiring to be so diligent when the allure of this fake unity shines so brightly. Arian foster.jpgIt feels good to hear about people coming together. And we all want to feel good. I get that. I want that. And that is precisely why we must reject the mirage. American society is set up to pillage, and there can be no unity in that. However, there can and must be unity towards a fundamental restructuring of American society. A restructuring that includes all voices, especially the ones left out of the original vision: women, people of color, poor folks, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ communities. Until that time there must continue to be protests and disruption. We must heed the words of Frederick Douglass, “power concedes nothing without a demand.” The Seahawks had a chance to make a major statement, they had a chance to make a demand, and instead they locked arms and rode a Trojan Horse into the heart of far too many Americans.

What Colin Kaepernick reminds us about Patriotism.

When Colin Kaepernick, with the country still high off Olympic hyper-patriotism, refused to stand for the National Anthem he struck a cord with many Americans. Some felt pride in his actions and unapologetic explanations. Others felt outrage and disgust conflating Kaepernick’s stance into an anti-military and veterans protest  (even though Kaepernick has repeatedly articulated why he is doing it which has nothing to do with the military, and many veterans have spoken out in support of him). There are all kinds of think pieces out there that dive deeper into all that. Most of these pieces are framed in a sort of 1st Amendment-protesting is the highest form of patriotism- he loves the country so much he wants it to be great rhetoric. I get that, it certainly is his right to protest. It’s also true that, some people believe, wars have been fought to secure that right. But none of that is why I support Kaepernick’s stance.

I don’t feel protest is the highest form of patriotism. I don’t feel a deep love for the country and want it to be as great as I know it can be. It’s actually quite the opposite for me. I ain’t patriotic at all. I don’t love this country. I don’t find any pride in saying I’m American. I know the blood that the flag has soaked up. I know the crimes that the flag has spun into tales of honor and glory. I know the way this country has interwoven patriotism and poverty in order to manipulate folks into killing and dying for it. I know how my uncles, my friends, people from my neighborhood, and my students come back after serving. I’ve seen the un(der)treated PTSD. I’ve seen the bogus recruitment promises. I watched a senior in high school sign up for the Guard while this country deported her family. I’ve seen the abandoned and foreclosed family homes, some of which had lived there for generations, as politicians and bankers got rich.

I don’t hate this country either. It’s not that simple.

I understand the desire to want to be a part of something bigger and better than yourself. I understand wanting to be part of a community, and to be proud of that community. I think, at its core, that is what patriotism is about. Still, the reality of patriotism is, ironically, the exact opposite of unity: division.


Patriotism consistently urges people to silo themselves with others who are defined by increasingly rigid and narrow definitions of their countrymen. The resulting archetypes are labeled exceptional and we are expected to strive to be more like them. Of course, those with power define the archetypes and set the parameters for who gets to be patriotic –who is on the inside– and who is left out, who is other. Nothing illustrates this dynamic better than Donald Trump’s reaction to Kaepernick’s protest. Trump said Kaepernick should find a “country that works better for him.” This from a man whose campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” implies that America’s increasing diversity and any of the gains made by movements such as the Civil Rights, Women’s Rights and Gay Rights Movements have somehow weakened America as opposed to moving it closer to its ideal. Tragically, this is much more than a different construction of who is or who isn’t American. If it were simply that Kaepernick’s protest wouldn’t be necessary: we could just vote for the candidate that conceptualized a more inclusive definition. No, the problem is much deeper. The problem is systemic. The problem is Trump is right, America is far from the “greatness” the founders envisioned. It is far from the imagined America which is the root for so much of our patriotism.

When the founders conceptualized America they did not imagine a beacon of freedom. They imagined a slave holding aristocracy that would hierarchialize humanity in order to rationalize amassing incredible amounts of wealth through genocide, slavery and class oppression. James Madison, the architect of the Constitution, warned his fellow WASP’s of the danger of too much democracy. The Constitution was designed as a system of checks and balances against not only government tyranny but a “tyranny of the majority.” The founders, those wealthy, white, men –many of them slaveholders, none of them workers– were cognizant of how to systemically protect their position. The brilliance of the Constitution, then, is not its egalitarian vision, but rather how folks bought into that vision when the reality is the exact opposite. The answer to that, of course, is patriotism. And, we must never remove our conversations about patriotism from that context. s-l300America is built on a foundation of heinous acts and crimes against humanity. Any conversations about patriotism that ignore this history are merely attempts at protecting the position of white males who feel threatened by movements for justice. Furthermore, any conversations that redress and attempt to heal this history fall outside the parameters of American patriotism which leaves patriotism as we know it an empty gesture at best, and a hateful, violent one at worst.

When Kaepernick refuses to stand for the National Anthem he is refusing to forget our history. He is refusing to look away as this history is played out in the present with the same outcomes: death and oppression. He is reminding us that patriotism is largely a tool of social control and distraction. He is reminding us that we must love people. All people. These imagined and false borders we continue to place on maps and on people only serve to keep us from each other. Rather that build the community that so many are earning for when they embrace patriotism and nationalism, borders isolate and disconnect. Kaepernick is pointing out that “patriots” are chanting “Build that wall” while burning bridges. Bridges we so badly need.

A Matter of Our Souls

Growing up Irish-Catholic and going to Catholic schools from kindergarten through 12th grade I couldn’t help but think about my soul, often. I remember Sister Bev leading sex ed class in 8th grade. It was essentially her telling us to leave each other and ourselves alone or we would go blind. I remember confessing everything from swearing to premarital sex and feeling so relieved while saying my ten Hail Mary’s. I thought about my soul often. And, while I am no longer Christian, I still find myself thinking about my soul. Thinking about our soul.


I was leading a workshop on white privilege a while back as part of Poetic Assassins. I had read Tim Wise and some others and was pretty confident I was prepared to lead this workshop. I did the workshop and felt pretty good about it. After, one of the the participants asked me what whiteness was. I was taken aback by the question. Not because it is a bad question. I was taken aback because I realized I did not have an answer. At least not one that was good enough. I don’t remember my exact answer to him, but I remember leaving there with an understanding of the work I needed to immerse myself in: understanding whiteness.

As I read about whiteness a familiar feeling came over me: concern for my soul. It became clear to me that this work was, at its core, work that was spiritual. Not in the hippy, new age, spacey kind of way; this work was and is spiritual in the most concrete and real ways I had ever known.


Whiteness can be summed up with that one word: disconnection. The initial disconnection being from the creator and creation. As whiteness has matriculated and evolved into the global system of oppression we currently find ourselves subsumed by we must understand that it is disconnection. While humans have been bickering and fighting with one another and separating themselves into hierarchies for millennia never before has the disconnection been so complete and so thorough as the creation of whiteness.

Whiteness is a uniquely American invention. Yes, people with white skin have existed for centuries, but whiteness is relatively new. I should be clear it didn’t just happen out of nowhere, there was build up and warning signs i.e. colonization of Ireland which Ronald Takaki calls practice for the genocidal colonization of the Western Hemisphere. But in Virginia and Maryland and the other colonies, whiteness is born.

The need to rationalize slavery and maintain the economic social order led our ancestors down a path of disconnection from which we have yet to recover. And, I fear we may never recover. We are just now experiencing the slightest collective consciousness around the way the police kill brown and black folks with impunity. That ain’t new, just the cameras are. We are so disconnected from our brothers and sisters that collectively we have ignored, or blatantly refused to acknowledge, the reality they have been telling us about. We talk about the wealth gaps, crooked politicians and corrupt CEO’s and bankers as if they are natural phenomenon that must be tolerated as opposed to the logical outcome of a system built on genocide and slavery which murders and steals to protect its interests everyday. Still, the clearest example of how utterly disconnected from humanity and creation whiteness has pushed us comes in how we are treating the earth.

The earth must be sacred. Whiteness, though, has commodified and exploited it with no regard for the consequences. Our disconnection is so thorough we are actually killing ourselves and resisting the calls to stop. While I am certainly talking climate change, which has real and immediate effects hurting us all right now, I am also talking about the lead in our water from Flint to my hometown Minneapolis (and everywhere else).  I am talking about the daily destruction of the rainforests, the historic drought in California, and the islands of trash in our oceans. Most presently, I am talking about oil pipelines and cutting off water to Native Tribes protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.


“The past is never dead.It’s not even past.”

I’m sitting here at 4:45am thinking about my ancestors. I’m thinking about the Standing Rock Sioux and the other tribes protecting what is left of their land from the insatiable appetite for destruction of whiteness. I’m thinking about the disconnection and legacy necessary for the Army Corps of Engineers to actually say the Standing Rock Sioux “failed to describe specific cultural sites” that would be damaged by the pipeline. As if the water and land is not a “specific cultural site.” I am thinking about our soul.

How did we get to this place? How do we return?

As a kid, I always appreciated the relief I felt after going to confession. I think we need something like that. We need to begin with truth-telling and then work at reconnecting. We need to understand if the earth isn’t sacred, nothing is. It will be a journey, this reconnection, but it is one we must pursue with urgency. Jack Forbes calls whiteness an illness: the Wetiko Disease of Exploitation. I do believe whiteness is a sickness. I believe this is first and foremost a spiritual sickness. I also believe there is a cure. Go out with an open mind and heart to learn and love others. Ask questions and listen to the answer. Be in community. Find out what matters to others and why, then have it matter to you. Reject the individualism of whiteness. Reject the disconnection. Our souls depend on it.


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