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A Canadian fertility clinic doesn’t want to create “rainbow families” so it refuses to match clients with donors of different ethnicities, claiming that children should be able to easily identify their “ethnic roots.”
A 38-year old white woman named Catherine (she didn’t want to give her last name) told the Calgary Herald that she was looking into the process of in vitro fertilization and was shocked when the Regional Fertility Program, a Calgary clinic, told her that she could only use sperm donors who were also white in order to avoid “creating rainbow families.”
“I was absolutely floored,” she told the newspaper.
Catherine believes that because of the clinic’s policy, many of the same men have been chosen by different patients in the area, which was one of the reasons she cited as having wanted to broaden her search to include other races.
“Frankly, it’s appalling how many people have the same donors, probably because of this policy,” she told the Herald. “A friend of mine just went through this process and used the donor that I would have picked.”
Dr. Calvin Greene, the administrative director at the Regional Fertility Program, told the newspaper that his stance on race mixing is firm and noted that the policy has been in place since the 1980s.
“I’m not sure that we should be creating rainbow families just because some single woman decides that that’s what she wants,” Greene told the Herald. “That’s her prerogative, but that’s not her prerogative in our clinic.”
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It’s no secret — the Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride killings have striking similarities. Both were young black victims and in each case, the killers claimed self-defense. But despite the parallels, it appears that the two cases are being treated differently — even within the black community.
Although the Martin case elicited strong opinions and outrage from various communities, these same circles seem to have stayed quiet about McBride.
“I haven’t seen a lot about this in my newsfeed. I haven’t seen a lot of people posting about Renisha, said Brittney Cooper, Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University.
As Cooper explained in a recent HuffPost Live conversation, much of the reactionary difference could be explained by the sheer number of African American killings that have taken place recently.
“A lot of it’s fatigue. I mean we’re all heartbroken this week over the killing of Eric Garner last week,” she told host Marc Lamont Hill. “So, you know, it’s like every other week we’ve got somebody else being hemmed up by the police. Two weeks before that it was the detaining of Ursula Orr and slamming her on the ground in
Arizona…” she said.
Fatigue aside, there may be another reason that could explain why McBride’s story hasn’t had the same impression that Martin’s did.
“While there is a historical narrative that shows black men have faced violence from their white counterparts, we don’t often acknowledge that “black women have these violent encounters with white folks too,” Cooper said. “I don’t know that we know how to think about, fully, what happens when the kind of violence that we’d usually think would happen to a black man, then happens to black women.”
But the question of gender in McBride’s situation runs even deeper.
“Studies show that black women are frequently misperceived as black men or are often thought to be masculine and stronger than they actually are physically, Cooper said. “So there’s all kinds of stuff here going on about the misperceptions of femininity.”
Watch the video interview of Professor Brittney Cooper here.
Read more Breaking News here.
When we talk about the gender pay gap, most of us are already familiar with the fact that women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. While this remains true, not all women are even that fortunate. For African-American women the wage gap is even larger. African-American women make just 64 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts.
This discrepancy is unacceptable. And we need better policies and more leaders who will fight for policies that will begin to change this imbalance. We need women in elected office who will speak up for the millions of women across the country who are working hard while not being paid a fair wage.
And here’s what the wage gap really means: It takes a white man and an African-American woman vastly different amounts of time to earn the same amount of money, regardless of the fact that they started working on the same day. If they both began work on Jan. 1, 2013, he would earn a full salary by Dec. 31, 2013—while it would take until July 21, 2014, for her to earn the same amount.
That’s why today, July 21, is her Equal Pay Day.
But her paycheck doesn’t reset today. Every day the wage gap pushes her earnings further and further behind. That gap keeps growing, putting her and her family’s future in jeopardy. If we allow continuance of the pay gap, she’ll never catch up.
That’s why Democratic women in Congress are fighting to make sure Equal Pay Day is not an annual occurrence, but every day. That’s why Democratic women have been championing policies to end gender discrimination in pay for years—because we understand the economic and social consequences of allowing the pay gap to persist—discrimination that hits women of color the hardest.
Earning 64 cents on the dollar is the national statistic for African-American women. But in Alabama, that gap is even larger: African-American women in Alabama make just 56 cents for every dollar earned by their white male colleagues.
These women will not reach their Equal Pay Day until Oct. 13.
According to studies, there are more than 177,000 African-American women in Alabama working full time, year-round, making an average annual income of less than $28,000. Their annual wage gap is more than $21,000. Many of these women bring in half or more of their families’ incomes, which means that when these women lose income, the economic security and stability of their families is diminished.
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Joseph McGill, a descendant of slaves, has devoted his life to ensuring the preservation of these historic sites.
“Now that I have the attention of the public by sleeping in extant slave dwellings, it is time to wake up and deliver the message that the people who lived in these structures were not a footnote in American history.”
– Joseph McGill, Founder of the Slave Dwelling Project
At a bygone plantation in coastal Georgia, Joseph McGill Jr. creaks open a door to inspect his quarters for the night. He enters a cramped cell with an ancient fireplace and bare walls mortared with oyster shell. There is no furniture, electricity or plumbing.
“I was expecting a dirt floor, so this is nice,” McGill says, lying down to sample the hard pine planks. “Might get a decent sleep tonight.”
Some travelers dream of five-star hotels, others of visiting seven continents. McGill’s mission: to sleep in every former slave dwelling still standing in the United States. Tonight’s stay, in a cabin on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island, will be his 41st such lodging.
McGill is 52, with a desk job and family, and isn’t fond of sleeping rough. A descendant of slaves, he also recognizes that re-inhabiting places of bondage “seems strange and upsetting to some people.” But he embraces the discomfort, both physical and psychological, because he wants to save slave dwellings and the history they hold before it’s too late.
“Americans tend to focus on the ‘big house,’ the mansion and gardens, and neglect the buildings out back,” he says. “If we lose slave dwellings, it’s that much easier to forget the slaves themselves.”
A century ago, the whitewashed cabins of former slaves remained as ubiquitous a feature of the Southern landscape as Baptist churches or Confederate monuments. Many of these dwellings were still inhabited by the families of the four million African-Americans who had gained freedom in the Civil War. But as blacks migrated en masse from the South in the 20th century, former slave quarters—most of which were cheaply built from wood—quickly decayed or were torn down. Others were repurposed as toolsheds, garages or guest cottages. Of those that remain, many are now endangered by neglect, and by suburban and resort development in areas like the Georgia and Carolina Low Country, a lush region that once had the densest concentration of plantations and enslaved people in the South.
McGill has witnessed this transformation firsthand as a native South Carolinian who works for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Charleston. But it wasn’t his day job that led him to sleep in endangered slave cabins. Rather, it was his weekends as a Civil War re-enactor, wearing the uniform of the 54th Massachusetts, the black unit featured in the movie Glory. Donning a period uniform and camping out, often at antebellum sites, “made the history come alive for me,” he says.
Re-enacting the 54th has also drawn public attention to the pivotal role of black soldiers in the Civil War. So in 2010, when Magnolia Plantation near Charleston sought to publicize restoration of its neglected slave cabins, McGill proposed sleeping in one of them….
“I’m not trying to provoke people to anger,” he says. His missions are preservation and education, and he needs the cooperation of the owners and stewards of former slave dwellings who might be put off by a more strident approach. He also feels blacks and whites need to talk openly about this history, rather than retreat into age-old division and distrust. “I want people to respect and restore these places, together, and not be afraid to tell their stories.”
This has happened in gratifying ways during a number of his stays. He tells of two sisters who had avoided any contact with the Virginia plantation where their ancestors were enslaved, despite invitations to visit. After overnighting with him at a slave cabin on the site, and realizing there was genuine interest in their family’s history, one of the women became a volunteer guide at the plantation. Local students, black and white, have joined McGill and written essays about how the experience changed their views of race and slavery. “Suddenly, what I read in textbooks became something I was able to see in my mind’s eye,” wrote one teenager in South Carolina.
McGill has also found that older white Southerners who own or operate properties with slave dwellings are much more receptive to his project than they might have been just a decade or two ago. In only a few instances have his requests to stay been rebuffed. More often he’s been enthusiastically welcomed, dined with his hosts and even been given the keys to the big house while the owners go off to work. “Sometimes I sense guilt is part of what’s driving people, but whatever it is, having me visit and acknowledge their preservation of these places makes them feel they’re doing the right thing,” he says. “It’s not a cure-all for what happened in the past, but it’s a start.”…
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By VERENA DOBNIK, bigstory.ap.org
NEW YORK (AP) — Four emergency workers involved in the medical response for a New York City man who died in police custody after being put in an apparent chokehold have been barred from responding to 911 calls, the Fire Department of New York said.
The two EMTs and two paramedics removed from the city’s emergency response system are the latest public safety workers to face reassignment as questions mount about Thursday’s death of Eric Garner. Two police officers — including the one who put his arm around Garner’s neck — have been put on desk duty…
Video of the arrest shot by a bystander shows one officer wrap his arm around Garner’s neck as he is taken to the ground — arrested for allegedly selling untaxed, loose cigarettes — while Garner shouts, “I can’t breathe!”
The restrictions on the medical personnel came a day after the police department said it reassigned Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who used the apparent chokehold on Garner, and another unidentified officer while prosecutors and internal affairs detectives investigate. Chokeholds are banned under department policy.
The department said it stripped Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of the force, of his gun and badge.
Court records show that within the past two years, three men sued Pantaleo in federal court over allegedly unlawful, racially motivated arrests…
Earlier Sunday, the Rev. Al Sharpton demanded justice for Garner and accountability from citizens who attack police officers during an appeal from the pulpit at Manhattan’s Riverside Church.
Garner was “choked by New York City policemen,” the Harlem preacher told the congregation. “What bothers me is that the nation watches a man say ‘I can’t breathe’ and the choking continues, and police surround him and none of them even say, ‘Wait a minute, stop! He can’t breathe!'”
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ABHM is collaborating with the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion in their “Building Thriving Community: Beyond Segregation” Community Dialogues.
This dialog project is the response of our two organizations to the yearning for deep conversations on this topic that we’ve both experienced this year. Milwaukee is the most hyper-segregated urban area in the nation and has the largest black-white employment gap. Wisconsin has the highest black male incarceration rate and also has the poorest record of protecting the well-being of African American children in the country. (See the Report Card to get the full stories behind these facts – and many more.)
The dialog will take place in small groups of five and will be led by facilitators trained in managing civil discourse around tough topics.
When: July 30th, 5:30-8:30pm
Where: In a Riverwest arts facility (TBA)
How: To reserve your place, you MUST RSVP HERE (include your phone #) no later than July 23rd. It’s filling up fast!
There is no charge for dinner and dialogue, but free will offerings to defray ABHM’s food costs will be accepted. Please plan to stay for the entire two and a half hour program.
We look forward to being in conversation with you on July 30th!
ALBANY, Georgia (AP) — The first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Alice Coachman Davis, died early Monday in south Georgia. She was 90.
Davis’ death was confirmed by her daughter, Evelyn Jones.
Davis won Olympic gold in the high jump at the 1948 games in London with an American and Olympic record of 1.68 meters, according to USA Track and Field, the American governing body of the sport. Davis was inducted to the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1975 and was inducted to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 2004.
“Going into the USOC Hall of Fame is as good as it gets,” she told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview. “It’s like Cooperstown, Springfield and Canton,” she said, referring to the sites of other prominent Halls of Fame.
Davis was the only American woman to win a gold medal at the 1948 games. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Coachman was honored with a 280-kilometer motorcade in Georgia when she returned from London. However, the black and white audiences were segregated at her official ceremony in Albany.
Recollecting her career in the 2004 interview, Davis speculated that she could have won even more Olympic medals, but the Olympics weren’t held in 1940 or 1944 because of World War II. She retired at age 25 after winning the gold medal in London.
“I know I would have won in 1944, at least,” said Davis. “I was starting to peak then. It really feels good when Old Glory is raised and the National Anthem is played.”
Davis attended Tuskegee University and also played basketball on a team that won three straight conference basketball titles. She won 25 national track and field championships — including 10 consecutive high jump titles — between 1939 and 1948, according to USA Track and Field.
Growing up in the deep South during the era of legal segregation, Davis had to overcome multiple challenges.
The New Georgia Encyclopedia says she was prohibited from using public sports facilities because of her race, so she used whatever equipment she could cobble together to practice her jumping.
“My dad did not want me to travel to Tuskegee and then up north to the Nationals,” Davis told the AP. “He felt it was too dangerous. Life was very different for African-Americans at that time. But I came back and showed him my medal and talked about all the things I saw. He and my mom were very proud of me.”
Davis won her first national high jump title at age 16, according to USA Track and Field, and worked as a school teacher and track coach after retiring. An elementary school in her home town is named in her honor and opened in August 1999 according to Dougherty County schools officials.
Vera Williams, a secretary at Meadows Funeral Home in Albany, said Meadows will be handling Davis’ memorial service, but plans haven’t been finalized yet. Davis’ cause of death was not immediately disclosed.
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In this tour you will learn about organizations and individuals currently working to heal our nation from slavery’s tragic legacy. You will be exposed to a variety of ideas and methods being tried in communities around the country – and to personal stories.
We recommend starting with the Overview. Then move on to Take the Tour, visiting those four exhibits in whatever order suits you. The exhibits contain links for you to follow for additional information, and the tour ends with a little Further Reading.
Please return to this page at the end and leave a comment about your tour experience and any improvements you would suggest. Thank you!
This exhibit provides a review of the topic through text and videos. It samples processes for repair and reconciliation in use around the country, along with links to books, videos, and websites for deeper understanding and action.
Stories of how people around the country are facing history and working to heal themselves, their communities, and their nation:
DeWolf, Thomas N. and Sharon Morgan. Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade. Boston: Beacon Press, 2013.
DeWolf, Thomas N. Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History. Boston: Beacon Press, 2008.
Robinson, Randall. The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. New York: Plume, 2001.
Shearer, Tobin M. Enter the River: Healing Steps from White Privilege Toward Racial Reconciliation. Herald Press, 1994.
Wise, Tim J. Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2009.
I have a distinct memory of a backyard, not my own, and a large dug hole with mounds of dirt piled all around. I’m with a friend and her mother is yelling at us, hysterical. “What have you done?” she’s screaming. “We’re digging to China,” my friend says. We never got there, the only thing we found in our search was more dirt.
It’s an amusing memory, but one that also gives me a pang of discomfort when I think of it, especially since I’m a parent now, and I have a garden that I enjoy quite a bit. The thought of one of my children digging a bathtub-sized hole in the middle of it makes me feel a bit anxious as well. Memories of childhood do that. They bring smiles and tears, and elation, and nausea. We find strands that connect them to ourselves today, and the branches of our family tree become much more connected in turn.
The last time I recall having had any interest whatsoever in researching my family history was when I was in the fourth grade. We’d been assigned the all-too-familiar “chart your family tree” assignment and I was forced to sit down with my parents and ask for the names of my ancestors. Together, we were able to plot names as far back as my great-grandparents, with one “great-great.” It was a short activity and an even shorter tree.
For one reason or another, it never occurred to any of us at the time to actually phone my grandparents and research further. Perhaps I’d begun just ten minutes before my bedtime; maybe my father was in another of his cranky moods. At any rate, a couple of twigs got labeled and I was finished with the assignment.
By the time I was seventeen, three of my four grandparents had passed. Five years later, my father’s father died and it would be another eleven years before I was infused with the curiosity to look behind my present generational information.
The reasons for this are less interesting than the reasons I hadn’t looked before. While I had occasionally wondered about my ancestry, the people who could have given me the greatest wealth of information were no longer available. By the time the wonders of the Internet began opening this up for many people, I had lost much of the desire to research at all. I had been estranged from my father for many years; the reason being that I was pretty confident that the only things I’d dredge up on my namesake’s side would be further examples of how the cycle of dysfunction had continued through him. I honestly felt that any justifications for his malformed character had no resonance for me.
In addition, by this time my partner Shayne and I had adopted our son Dmitry. Given the emphasis on “bloodlines” in genealogy, I had a difficult time finding the pertinence and usefulness any longer of a family tree for my family. Genealogy was all the rage. It seemed like every friend I had was trying to charcoal rub the far-reaching generations of his or her ancestors. I had no interest—not for me, not for my son. What possible interest, I wondered, could Dmitry have in the biological history of his adoptive father? Given the magnitude of my love for this child, with whom I shared zero strands of DNA, and the significant absence of similar feelings toward the man who contributed to my initial creation—what purpose would a genealogical search serve? In the end, a chance conversation with an aunt piqued enough curiosity that I began a half-hearted attempt at some semblance of a family tree. It began as whimsy, but quickly metamorphosed into the unraveling of a deeply complicated puzzle—with a disturbing, surprising twist contained within.
As my research had spread to my maternal side, I discovered a mounting frustration with the lack of information out there. Night after night, I alternated my searches for “the Foys of Mississippi” (my mother’s mother) and “the Dondinos of Minnesota.” (my mother’s father). While my data entries turned up plenty of Foys in the deep south, I never was able to make the correct connections I needed. I tabled these and moved to the other side.
The muddled search for my mother’s father’s family was even more astounding and frustrating. One would imagine that with a name like “Dondino” it would be quite simple to isolate specific information. However, while I found references to grave sites of those who appeared to be great uncles and aunts, I still found absolutely no mention of my great grandfather, Louis.
I had been spending from four to six hours a week on this quest, and was quickly finding myself stuck in an endless roundabout. I had made the determination that whatever was out there, I had already found.
One night, I tried a search engine I hadn’t used before, entering simply, “Dondino, Minnesota.” Suddenly, I found myself looking at a series of links that were completely new and unfamiliar to me.
Puzzled, I could tell at a glance that each was a reference to a lynching occurrence in Duluth, Minnesota at some time. I took the first link to an article entitled “Duluth’s Lingering Shame,” which chronicled the night of June 15, 1920, in which three young black men had been dragged from their cells in the town jail, and lynched from a nearby streetlamp by a vigilante mob.
The story went on to explain the background of the event: A young couple, not beyond their teens, had come to police to report an assault on the woman of the pair. They’d claimed that, while visiting a traveling carnival nearby, three of the workers there had attacked and raped the young woman. Police responded by bringing the young man with them as they stopped the train of departing workers. They ordered all of the black male passengers from the train and commanded the young man to identify the assailants. When he began to falter and show a reluctance to identify any offender, the officers encouraged him to “pick ones that look like they might have been around the same height and build.” By the end of the night, six men were brought to jail—three as suspects, three as potential witnesses.
These details, as well as the fact that a doctor’s examination showed no evidence of any assault whatsoever, were unknown to the mob of 5-10,000 Duluth citizens who eventually showed up at the jail the following night. Members of the mob overtook the guards, broke into the jail, smashing through brick walls, and dragged three of the young men from their cells as they screamed and proclaimed their innocence. One by one, they were hanged by a rope from a nearby streetlamp and, in a final act of humiliation, photographed while surrounded by dozens of smiling, proud white faces. This image would later be sold as a “postcard,” as was amazingly common at the time.
What really happened the previous evening will likely never be known, but the fact that three innocent men were killed for a crime that didn’t exist is well-documented. No one was ever convicted for the hangings, though three men were eventually convicted of helping to incite the riots. One man, a 39 year-old single father named Louis Dondino, was mentioned rather prominently in the story. One of the few men in town with a motor vehicle, Louis did transfer work for the city with his pickup truck. That night, he apparently used his truck as a vehicle for carrying rabble-rousers from the west end of Duluth to the jail downtown.
Needless to say, my mind was spinning. Could this be the same Louis Dondino—the man to whom my mother affectionately referred as “Pa”? The absurdity of the question hit me almost as soon I formed it. Of course it was. The age was right on, certainly the location was indisputable. And then there was the name. After months of searching and finding no information, no context in which this name appeared, then suddenly here it is—did I really believe that there could have been another Louis Dondino in Minnesota at the same time and same age?
Instantly, my mother’s face flashed through my mind, as did the gummy grin of her grandfather, his rumpled fedora dipped over his dark eyes. My gut churned, and my heart felt like it was fighting to burst from my chest. Looking back, it was as though I had been looking at a framed family photo my entire life, and now, suddenly, I had discovered a crack, right down the middle. And through that crack appeared the tiniest images of a completely different world—a world that not one of us knew a single thing about.
I continued to read article after article, well into the late hours of the night, absorbing as much detail as I could, knowing that when I broke the news to my mother, I would have to have as few loose ends as possible in order for her to begin processing it.
Along the road of my own spiritual quest, I’ve found that discovering new concepts and taking on new beliefs can be as exhilarating as letting go of old ones can be difficult. As a youngster, the ideas that I had of “eternal life” were often very comforting when struggling with issues of my own (and others’) mortality. Death is a gentler conclusion when accompanied by the vision of spending eternity sitting on a cloud, sharing my harp with my favorite family members and friends. But over time, that picture became less vivid for me and I came to believe that the concept of “eternal life” had to mean something less ethereal.
Here is what I imagined: If a person’s legacy is that thing which “lives on” long after his or her physical self has returned to the earth from whence it came, then in some sense, cultivating and recognizing a legacy could be one way of stretching our existence beyond our physical one. Through the memories and stories passed from my mother to me, my great-grandfather had always lived on though his legacy as a man of enduring love, kindness and—ironically—racial tolerance. (One of the most oft-told stories was that of Louis and one of his best friends, Bill, the only black man in the small town in which my mother grew up.) But now the edges of this image were becoming curled and faded. It was clear to me that the picture to which I’d grown accustomed was not fully developed. What had once been a sense of admiration and warmth toward my great-grandfather was quickly becoming layered with a film of anger and disgust. I was ashamed—of him, of myself, and my entire family name. I felt myself wishing I had never searched, or that I could wipe the name clean from history.
I had laid the groundwork for my mother over the phone. I told her I’d found out that her grandfather had done some time in prison, involving a mob lynching of three men, when her father was a young boy. I had a good many details to show her. When we finally met, she took it in with a surprising level of strength. In fact, I was surprised at my her overall response—at the lack of emotion and seemingly defensive way in which she took it in, almost minimizing the event by putting it in the context of “another time and place.” I wanted to shout, “Are you kidding me? The man was a monster!” But in the end I realized she was processing feelings that I couldn’t begin to share. This was a man she loved dearly, who had often been a safe harbor in the storm that was her young childhood.
That night, however, I made a crucial decision on my own. In my readings of the lynchings, I’d come across several mentions of a committee and the work they were doing to create and install a memorial to the three victims. I knew, without a doubt, that I had to contact the committee and offer whatever support I could to help them in their endeavor.
I’m a public schoolteacher, and one of the science topics with which my fourth grade students must grapple is a basic chemistry unit—the final lessons dealing with the concept of PH. Far from being an expert, I always struggle to explain the complexities of the PH scale, what it means, what “PH” really stands for. What I do know and share with my students is that the PH scale runs from 1 to 14, the lower numbers increasing in acidity, the higher numbers increasing in alkalinity. Either end of the scale can be caustic to humans and restricts the forms of life that can survive in that environment. Basically, most plants and animals can exist in an environment whose PH is between 6 and 9. Those of us who garden or keep fish (or a hot tub) know that the slightest things can set the level off balance and we then need to take measures to bring the environment back into balance.
As part of the learning, I do an experiment with my students in which I add some indicator to tap water; they marvel at the sudden blue that overtakes the water. Then I take a small straw and begin blowing into the water and what they then get to see is that the water soon turns to a bright yellow. The lesson being that carbon dioxide gas, coupled with water, creates an acidic solution. We then go on to discuss other aspects of ourselves that fall on one end of the scale or another—namely the gastric juices in our stomachs. Students are impressed to know that their stomachs are able to withstand a substance that falls below two on the scale.
Much like life in general, I’ve long believed that it’s crucial as a temporary resident of this earth to help facilitate that balance that will best ensure the optimum conditions for healthy life. When we take from the earth, we upset the balance and have a responsibility to give something back. When we say a hurtful thing to another person, we recognize that we have upset the balance in that person’s life and it is upon our shoulders to try and facilitate a move back to the center.
Anger and stress over the conditions around us churn the stomach, kick in those gastric juices and the balance is offset. We can seek to level it out with meditation, problem solving or maybe just by chewing on a Tums.
We become frustrated at a coworker, our partner, our kids, the person in the lane next to us and we exhale words that turn a calm, blue moment to an acidic, sharp yellow. We know that it’s in our hands to “oxygenate” things, bring it back to the blue.
Unbeknownst to us, my great-grandfather’s legacy was out of balance—both in our minds and in the minds of those who knew of the lynchings. Our own realities sat on opposite ends of the scale. In Duluth, the name “Louis Dondino” brought images of racism, instigation and hysteria-inciting. In our family, the same name conjured feelings of love, gentleness and affection. Our Louis was on a pedestal; theirs was a footnote in a tragic story.
So as I put together the pieces of this story, fitting them into my own life, I recognized that on that night in Duluth, a huge withdrawal had been made from humanity that had greatly thrown it off balance—so much so that the community in which it had happened was still struggling, over 80 years later, to bring things back to the center. Only an equally powerful, positive event would do this. I knew without a doubt that I had a responsibility as a member of the “human family” to do what I could to weigh down that scale.
Webster’s defines a “tribe” as “a system of social organization comprising several local villages, bands, lineages, or other groups and sharing a common ancestry, culture, language and name.” Each of us can claim membership to a tribe of some kind, whether it be our home or extended family, our place of work, a club or interest group to which we belong, a minority (or majority) group with which we identify or even a common experience—glorious or tragic—that links us with others.
The group putting the memorial together shared membership in a tribe of concerned and feeling citizens, committed to honoring a group of victims and facilitating healthy, open dialogue about race relations and historical violence in their community. I had the distinction of being able to include myself in a much smaller tribe—a tribe of families directly linked to the lynching. And by this measure, I was in the unique position of giving a more direct and meaningful element to the process.
So in October of 2003, I attended the unveiling of the incredibly beautiful and moving memorial in Duluth, having been invited as a keynote speaker. As I stood before the amazing monument (a life-sized bronze relief of three young, black men, surrounded by various engravings extolling tolerance and forgiveness) I faced an audience of over 2,000 people. I shared my mother’s memories of her grandfather, hoping to illustrate that whatever it was that had led him to the horrific acts that night did not continue in a cycle. I shared the story of Louis’ African American friend Bill, and an incident in which he and my grandfather Ray stood up for the man in a moment of tension involving other tavern-goers. I talked about the message of tolerance and respect that had been passed down from grandfather to daughter, and from her to me. I also reiterated the need to view the knowledge of that night, and the memorial, not with shame, but as an opportunity to teach and learn. That only a failure to recognize and learn from what happens should warrant shame.
But there was more that needed to be said, more I needed to give from my family.
Crafting and presenting an apology is to provide repair and renovation. While there is certainly a wealth of injuries that cannot be remedied just by saying “sorry,” there are those that may only be repaired by an apology. This is the power of a sincere apology—one given without justification or qualifier. It is the reparative mechanism available when relations have encountered something that can be neither fixed nor ignored.
Dr. Aaron Lazare, author of the book On Apology has written, “What makes an apology work is the exchange of shame and power between the offender and the offended.” Through this, a balance of power is achieved, in that the powerful offer their vulnerability, while the humiliated are empowered.
And so I apologized to the three men—Elmer Jackson, Elias Clayton and Issac McGhie— specifically and sincerely. Each man was given his own statement of atonement and unequivocal regret on behalf of my family. As a member of my its tribe and the larger tribe of the descendants of the mob that night, I placed the responsibility for shifting that power—and thus facilitating balance—onto myself. Judging from the reaction of the crowd and conversations I had with several members afterward, feelings in Duluth moved a little closer to “blue” that day.
It’s a given that when digging into the unknown, one runs the risk of uncovering something surprising. It may be unsightly, smelly, or at the minimum, really uncomfortable. Your first impulse may be to bury it and walk away, pretending you never found it. But you did, and it won’t go away just by ignoring it. In fact, it’s now a lot closer to the surface that it was before and it’s only going to get uglier, smellier and more uncomfortable. In the classroom, this is called a “teachable moment”—a priceless opportunity to use the surprise results as a learning tool.
The challenge we each must face is that of seeking ways in which we might welcome surprises and use them to facilitate balance in our world, to take on the task of bearing the responsibility that comes with the advantages of membership in our own tribes and discover the mutual rewards that come with it.
In the end, my mother and I accepted and appreciated this new, complicated picture of her grandfather. I was able, through a series of events that I can only classify as “miraculous,” connect and forge friendships with the descendants of one of the lynched men—Elmer Jackson. The rewards that came from this whole experience have been far reaching. The community of Duluth gained another tool to facilitate deeper learning; my own family has cleared away much of the brambles that had obscured the path that led to our present lives. We learned that it’s all right—in fact, it’s imperative—to take the uncomfortable things that everyone else has jumped over and scrape back the soil. Study it, however unpleasant it might be. Embrace it, even. Sometimes treasure comes in unexpected forms.
Warren Read is a 4th grade teacher who lives in Kingston, Washington with his partner Shayne their three sons, ages 14, 17 and 20. Warren is currently working on his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing; in 2008 his memoir, The Lyncher in Me, was released through Borealis Books. He is currently working on a novel.
© 2013 Warren Read. This article appears by permission of the author to America’s Black Holocaust Museum.
I recently added a new name to my list of inspirational writers: Janet Mock. Her best-selling memoir, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, is a beautiful—at times bumpy—journey through girlhood. Reminiscent of Zora Neale Hurston’s iconic Their Eyes Were Watching God, it is a touching story of self-realization and self-love.
For many it was Mock’s early 2014 interview on CNN with Piers Morgan that drew attention to this young woman’s story. But she is so much more than one interview. Mock publicly proclaimed her identity as a transgender woman in 2011. She has continued working in her community to advocate for women and girls like herself. She has commanded a social media presence through the #GirlsLikeUs hashtag, encouraging transgender women to live freely.
After her many successful years as a staff editor at People.com, writing and advocacy have continued to be her main motivation. Most important, Mock has challenged us all to question our perceptions of challenges facing transgender girls and women of color. She spoke with The Root about her work and how words empower isolated communities.
The Root: Isolated communities of color have been on the forefront of awareness when it comes to issues of gender identity; everyone else seems to be lagging behind. Do you think these communities will lead the social charge for trans people of color—people of color in general—when it comes to differences from the mainstream?
Janet Mock: All of our forebearers—when you think about queer and trans people of color—have always been at the forefront of movements of resistance. I think about Marcia P. Johnson, I think about Audre Lorde. These people have been a part of intersecting movements for so long because they have never had a place. When you never have a place in movements that are supposedly about you, you tend to look at them from an outsider’s perspective. You can tell people about themselves in a way that is powerful and also transformative.
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