A little while ago, I posted about this on Facebook and it felt like something I needed to expand on.
A year ago we were getting ready to screen “Four Days in December” at the Tri-Cities International Film Festival. The changes that have happened since then make it seem like that happened in another life.
The film is available online now.
Things in this country are spinning out of control. Science is not just being denied, but is being actively undermined at the highest levels of our government. Agencies that exist to protect citizens have been handed to those whose only interest is in exploitation for profit. What a woman chooses to do with her own body is being criminalized to the point that women are being threatened with the death penalty. Human beings - children - are still being herded into camps like cattle where they die of neglect. And so many other things…
The messages from Standing Rock - solidarity and fighting for what you believe in, have never been more profoundly important than they are right now.
We who went with Veterans for Standing Rock only glimpsed what the Sioux and other Water Protectors lived through for months. But that glimpse was enough to change every person I know who went. Images and emotions are now burned into us about what rampant corporate greed looks like and government that puts the desires of those corporations ahead of the rights and lives of citizens. Everything I see now, from white supremacists spewing genocidal rhetoric, to denying aid to Flint Michigan and Puerto Rico, I view through a lens created by being at Standing Rock.
The popularized ‘Chinese curse’ says, “May you live in interesting times.” Regardless of the phrase’s actual origins, the sentiment remains the same. And we are living smack dab in the middle of that curse. Security, understanding what is going on, and trusting our institutions to do what they are supposed to are now things of the past. And what does the future hold? No on can predict.
With this, I wanted to address something straight on - Racism. As a guy who pretty much looks like a poster boy for white privilege I wanted to speak directly to all the other White folks out there.
Racism is NOT about individual acts of aggression toward People of Color. Racism is no more about individual acts than misogyny is about cat calls and grabbing Women’s asses. Racism is about a system that every white person participates in whether they acknowledge it or not.
I can already hear the hew and cry. Any time we talk about systemic racism, White people lose their minds because we have been taught that racism = acts of aggression. This translates to a knee-jerk reaction where people feel they are being accused of those acts - just by talking about it. We have ALL been indoctrinated into this way of thinking. It is a method that prevents us from addressing the actual issue, which is that the US, like most Western European countries is BUILT on systemic racism. Most White people do not think about their privilege because to them, it’s just the way the world works. The system that allows us to not feel like we might be killed when being pulled over by police, or that it’s only natural for us to have a place at whatever table is set before us, is the problem. That’s Racism.
We don’t consider that the way the world works for a Person of Color is that when they walk into a job interview, somewhere in the back of their mind the question lingers of whether their skin color will play a factor in their chances to get that job. We have no understanding of the necessity for mothers to teach their children how to behave if they are stopped by the police so they don’t get shot. It seems silly to us that there are products being sold specifically so that a Person of Color doesn’t have to reach for anything if they are stopped by police. Most White people aren’t even aware of the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous women, who are ten times more likely to be murdered than ANY other subset of the population in the US. Why is that? Because law enforcement agencies have failed to look into the issue. If thousands of White women went missing or were found murdered the way Indigenous women in the US and Canada have been, people would be up in arms. But because of systemic racism, we are barely aware of it.
If we as White people are going to break the cycle of Racism we need to face it head on. It is up to us as individuals to change the system by changing ourselves. The first step is acknowledging that systemic Racism exists and that we benefit from it. And we need to be open to conversations about it, as uncomfortable as they may be. Talking about racism isn’t attacking us. Just like talking about misogyny isn’t attacking men. Racism a system we exist within and we have the power to change it. And when we understand that, it is empowering. WE, as individuals can make this change, we just have to step up and do it. If you want to know more about why it is so hard for us to talk about systemic racism, I suggest reading “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.
Keep fighting. Stay strong. Resist what you know is wrong. Look out for one another. And know that there are thousands upon thousands of other people, if not millions, who feel exactly the same way you do.
If you want to get a much better idea of what went on at Standing Rock and continues to go on elsewhere, I encourage you to watch Myron Dewey’s film “Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock.” (It’s available on Netflix) It tells what happened at Standing Rock from a Native American perspective and goes into the spiritual battle they were fighting then, and continue to fight now.
Also “Black Snake Killaz: A #NODAPL Story,” a film done by the folks at Unicorn Riot. Without their choice to release their footage as Creative Commons (available for use by anyone so long as it is properly attributed), our film could not have been made.