How to deal with Racism, Ego, and Pink Autographed Boxers
Let’s begin with the odiousness of Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio. From there we’ll quickly segue to the process of truly becoming an ally in the movement to end racism.
Trump has blown another dog whistle to his white supremacist base. Under the cover of a Hurricane.
This case is not ambiguous. Arpaio’s office encouraged the profiling of Latinos. Latinos were regularly stopped and detained, in the absence of any evidence of laws being broken. LISTEN TO THIS PART: Detainees were subject to deplorable conditions, inedible food, and were forced to wear pink underwear. He even USED this detail in his fundraising efforts for his own book. Joe is a proud man.
Arpaio either invented or stood by all of these tactics to dehumanize, humiliate, and destroy the psyches and lives of his fellow human beings. He forgot to be a good Christian, or perhaps never was one.
ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler says “the racist practices that Arpaio implemented and Trump foolishly admires are illegal and immoral and no pardon will ever change that reality.”
This sucks. Law enforcement holds a particular responsibility to defend the vulnerable. That includes anyone who is vulnerable to crime, obviously, AND includes anyone who is vulnerable to prejudice and bias.
If you don’t care about this case, or find it ambiguous, or you are sympathetic to the idea that Arpaio was just doing his job, trying to uphold the law, it may be because you do not have any personal relationships with people of color, and specifically immigrants. I implore you to widen your circle. If you are not a person of color, you perhaps cannot understand this case until you’ve had personal experience being an ally of someone of color. Not in a general, intellectual sense, but in an intimate sense. Until you become enough of an ally to a person of color, to the extent that they feel safe being totally honest with you about their experience of prejudice, you cannot see the truth of this story.
If you are reading this and you are feeling shame or guilt, that is not my intention — who am I to guilt trip anyone??? I’ve basked in privilege my whole life. I’ve had a lot of adjusting to do, since my man is black, and Cuban, and life simply is very different than it would have been had I ended up with a white guy. I do have to/get to think about racism more. I face my own privilege more directly. I worry about my bi-racial kids when I hear about black boys being gunned down. But the fact that my family is biracial and bicultural does not erase my white privilege and never will. My family of origin was white, so I walk through the world with an invisible shield of privilege around me. I can relax more than a person of color ever can. If I get pulled over, all I have to do is speak respectfully to cops and they relax and smile and laugh with me. We can go out for donuts!
I digress! My point, I get it — the phase of guilt is normal as we wake up to the reality of racism, inequity, and our own history of oblivion and passivity in the face of it. The best way to move through the guilt is connect with and engage in the conversation and become an asset to the movement. That’s all I’m doing, and you can do it too!
Back to Arpaio. Open up to what must have been going on in the mind of whoever decided that those men who’d been unlawfully detained should wear PINK UNDERWEAR, tee shirts, and even handcuffs.
First, obviously there is massive, deep homophobia embedded in this policy. Second, let’s all remember that homophobia stems only from the self-hatred that conditioned mind tries to flee from by projecting it out on to others. In other words, if you haven’t totally learned to love yourself you are subject to subtle and not so subtle self-contempt, shame, guilt, and insecurity. If you haven’t learned to recognize that that self-hate arises from conditioned mind, or ego, which attempts to build a shell around you to keep you out of the flow of life, you are vulnerable. That’s true of all of us.
Then say you land in a homophobic sector of society. Somewhere in Arizona. And from a young age you sense that society hates gay people, and seems to hate people of color. And you are deeply afraid of the judgement of others, because when you feel judged by others your own self-hate gets activated and you are subject to a storm of negative, hateful voices from within. You haven’t done any awareness practice, so you don’t realize that this is how ego works — this is how ego divides us. So you become a homophobe too! There, that feels better. Ego feels more solid. The terrible vulnerability diminishes. Then rinse and repeat, and you’re a racist. And anti-immigrant. Then, if you’re Joe, you realize (kind of unconsciously) that a lot of immigrants are also homophobes! Great, a weapon! You can use that against them to de-humanize them even further after you’ve already taken away all their basic human rights. Now we’re talking.
This is how true mental sickness happens. You can argue that anyone with a moral backbone would avoid this trap. But that argument does not hold water, when you look at how divided people are along party lines, and how consistently people side with racist/homophobic thinking and policy in red states. This is about tribalism, whose roots are in fear and egoism. And we are ALL subject to that. So while we MUST repudiate white supremacy and anyone who supports it, and stand up in any way to demonstrate our support for diversity, inclusion, tolerance and plurality, we also have to get really real about what we are dealing with. Right alongside facing and fighting racism and prejudice as it expresses in others, we get to DO OUR OWN WORK simultaneously.
Arpaio was probably a sweet little kid. His mom died in childbirth. That sucks. Then he gets sucked into the military, and then law enforcement. Then he became the man who was proud to provide the cheapest prisoner meals in the U.S., at just 15 cents each. Time says, “Inadequate meals were one reason a federal judge ruled against Arpaio and the county in 2008, finding that they violated prisoners’ constitutional rights by depriving them of appropriate health care and housing them in unsanitary conditions. The judge noted that many inmates were forced to eat moldy bread and rotten fruit.”
The New Yorker shares the salient detail that the investigation conducted in 2011 “found that sheriff’s department officers addressed Latino inmates as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans,” and “stupid Mexicans.””
And then Trump pardons the man. And then we’re pissed. Pissed at Trump, pissed at the American electorate for falling asleep at the switch, and pissed at Arpaio. But seriously, are you going to waste emotional energy hating Arpaio for being a real asshole? Because really, why bother? Hate will not free you. It’s like Ghandi said, “hate the sin, not the sinner.”
I sound sarcastic, but I’m really, really not. Redirecting this hatred is the only way to save ourselves. Instead of hating Trump, or Arpaio, hate the process that ego-centric karmic conditioning and uses to take over the life force in people that could have been free. Getting ourselves free is the best way to ensure that we can be at all effective in the movement to get hate-filled people out of power. Self-hate is the root of tribalism.
Trump is a perfect example of self-hate projected outwards. Look at his deep tribalism; that is the core thread in midst of his unhinged randomness. I’m not suggesting that we feel sorry for Trump or try to see his good side or re-habilitate him or anything. Trump is tooooo far gone. He is ensconced in hate and pride. But we too have to stop broiling in hatred if we want to survive the rest of his presidency. A lot of us are getting less engaged, paying less attention as the months of insanity tick by. And when we do engage deeply we tear our hair out as we watch the insanity. That won’t help.
If we start to recognize that the process we are watching is the process of ego-centric karmic conditioning taking over, a process which has been with humans from the beginning, and has fueled all tribalism and all wars, then we stop writhing and start realizing we have to start within, and keep marching forward… without hatred, and with deep conviction.
Please hear me. The truth is, we need all the energy we can muster to pull ourselves back from the brink. So we can pay attention, mobilize others, and funnel resources to organizations that are leaders in the field of social justice and change. And we need to take back congress. For more on that, read my dad’s posts. He writes a lot on how constituents can empower ourselves to control our members of congress effectively.
Meanwhile, I’ve gotta say, John McCain is the patriot here, condemning the pardon:
“No one is above the law,” he said, “and the individuals entrusted with the privilege of being sworn law officers should always seek to be beyond reproach in their commitment to fairly enforcing the laws they swore to uphold.”