Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Race, Ethnicity, Social Justice and The Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Exercise

U.S. households are becoming more diverse in racial and ethnic composition. As the number and variety of immigrants increase, the ways in which we relate to one another becomes more complex.” 

(Benokraitis, Marriage and Families, Pg. 78). 

Although racism is sadly nothing new, this ongoing issue in American society in regards to racial minorities continues to detrimentally shape the lives of families in several ways. For example, financial and educational status, and how the criminal justice system operates, affects families of color, resulting in higher rates of poverty, health problems, and stress. The ethnic groups most affected in America by racism are African Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Latino's and Middle Eastern Americans. 

Racial profiling, or the use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense, is by far one of the largest judgmental issues in society that must cease. Racial profiling often affects hiring and promotion, interracial marriage and relationships, and how one is treated in society. 

More extreme forms of discrimination such as Jim Crow laws, or any of the laws that enforced racial segregation in the South between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and the beginning of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, all lend to inequality and grave injustice to people of color, a term signifying any person who is not white. It does not solely refer to African-Americans; rather, it encompasses all non-white groups and emphasizes the common experiences of systemic racism.

To determine various groups in society that intersect racially and determine the balance of power, one must look at minority and dominant groups. A minority group is a group of people that are treated differently by the dominant group due to physical or cultural characteristics, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and/or skin color. 

A dominant group is any physically or culturally distinctive group that has the most economic and political power, the greatest privileges, and the highest social status. This group is predominantly white, or Caucasian. 

Minorities outnumber white people, yet generally have less power, privilege, and social status. Most white people, in contrast, are privileged only due to their skin color. This is referred to as white privilege.

In order to relate to how the balances of power intersect, one must consider a continuum, or a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.  One part of the continuum is assimilation, or conformity of ethnic group members to the culture of the dominant group, including intermarriage. 

The other end of the continuum is pluralism, maintaining many aspects of one’s original culture, including language and marrying within one’s own ethnic group, while living peacefully with the dominant culture.

There are also groups of people in the middle of the continuum, those that blend into society through acculturation, or the process of adopting the language, values, beliefs, roles, and other characteristics of the dominant culture.

Racism is a set of beliefs that dominate a racial group in society making the dominant group superior to other groups of people. Numerous people, both Caucasian and African American, view race relations differently. 

For example, in general, African Americans view racism as an ongoing issue without resolution while many Caucasians view racism as a problem that never existed or has been solved. In turn, some Caucasians believe that anti-white bias is a bigger social problem than anti-black bias. Examples of these movements can be seen with #WhiteLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. 

What these movements create is a pro-white agenda that continues to fuel prejudice and discrimination, in an attempt to silence the causes of movements like #BlackLivesMatter. 

Prejudice is a negative way of thinking that automatically prejudges people simply because they are different. This may be due to race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual gender. While all human beings can be prejudiced, minorities are vastly targeted.

Discrimination is more harmful because instead of a way of thinking, discrimination is a learned behavior where people are treated unfairly only due to their difference from the dominant group. Discrimination is responsible for lack of or loss of employment, non acceptance to a club, university, religious group or social class. Discrimination is responsible for hate crimes and death.

A history of inequality and racism in a society affects families of color in several ways via individual and institutional discrimination. Individual discrimination is harmful behavior to another on a one to one basis from a member of a dominant group in society to a minority group. While institutional or systemic discrimination is being treated differently as a result of society’s laws, rules, policies, and practices. 

Whether past or present, racial inequality is similar. Jim Crow laws do not exist however, white privilege still does. The forms of racism are different only in how they are presented in society today. For example, there are no longer white and black water fountains; however, an African American man walking down the same side of the street may cause a discriminatory white person to cross the street. Even though laws and rights have changed, behaviors and actions of people have not changed. 

All of these experiences shape families because society as a whole affects employment, financial status, education, and the right to exist alongside everyone else, peacefully, without inequality. 

Children that are raised in either environments, a discriminatory household, or a household where being taught to bow down or bend to the dominant culture is practiced, are equally harmful. A household that teaches equality, understanding, compassion and peace is ideal. 

Unfortunately, once the child is subject to the American educational system and American society, there is a chance they succumb to what society mirrors, extreme left or right behavior. 

The middle way or a way of existing without discrimination and racism towards one another seems like a utopian dream; however, with education, understanding, awareness, advocacy and solidarity, it is indeed possible. 

Linked here and below, is a LIVE Interview with Jane Elliott and myself over a landline before the days of Skype. Jane is an internationally known teacher, lecturer, diversity trainer, and recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education. She exposes prejudice and bigotry for what it is, an irrational class system based upon purely arbitrary factors. 

Jane is a brilliant, brave woman and the audio and documentary will blow your mind when you see how easy it is to teach judgment, discrimination, and racism.

If you think this does not apply to you, you are in for a rude awakening. During this conversation, Jane and I speak frankly away from what the documentary below depicts. Both are necessary for all people to watch and listen to in order to understand how EASY it is to teach discrimination.

In response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Jane Elliott devised the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise. This now famous exercise labels participants as inferior or superior based solely upon the color of their eyes and exposes them to the experience of being a minority. Everyone who is exposed to Jane Elliott's work, be it through a lecture, workshop, or video, is dramatically affected by it.

Jane taught this in a 98% white Anglo-Saxon town, Riceville, Iowa, 1968. The effects are monumental. Jane and her family paid dearly for initially teaching this exercise. After 1968, this exercise has been taught professionally to all adults regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual gender, orientation and religion.  


You can view the PBS Frontline Documentary here: 


Nijole Benokraitis. (2011). Marriage and Families. Seventh edition.  Pg. 78. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West

This book is the most factual, historical accounts of all of the wars and conflicts between the white man, U.S Army, colonization and Indigenous tribes, as well as the wars and conflicts within Indigenous tribes. It is the ultimate book on Indian Wars for the American West, occurring after the Civil War.

Peter Cozzens, a fine historian and author, managed to take the most integral parts of Native Indian history and become a storyteller in the process. He objectively tells the truth. When we think of war, we often think of Vietnam, Afghanistan, WWII, however, the wars fought on this land often go unreported and neglected.

The uninterrupted armed conflicts between the U.S. Army and Indigenous tribes of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains from the 1860’s - 1890’s were Americas longest and most tragic wars.

Wars/Conflicts/Murders covered:

1862 - Dakota Sioux Uprising: Minnesota. 

1864 - Sand Creek Massacre: Colorado. 

1865 - Military command of Missouri, Little Arkansas River Treaties with Southern Plains tribes

1866 - Red Cloud’s War: Montana Territory, Fetterman fight: Montana Territory

1867 - Pawnee Fork Village burning: Kansas, Kidder Massacre: Kansas, Hayfield fight: Montana Territory, Wagon Box Fight: Montana Territory. 

1868 - Military command of Missouri, Battle of Beecher Island: Colorado, Chief Red Cloud: Fort Laramie Treaty, Battle of Washita: Indian Territory.

1869 - Battle of Summit Springs: Kansas, Sitting Bull elected head chief Lakotas.

1870 - Massacre of Piegan Village: Montana.

1871 - Camp Grant Massacre: Arizona Territory, Staked Plain: Texas campaign. 

1872 - Battle of North Fork, Red River: Texas, Clash on Lost River: Oregon, Modoc War, Battle of Salt River Canyon: Arizona Territory. 

1873 - Assassination of General Canby, Sitting Bull: Lakota and Custer battles, Captain Jack hanged.

1874 - Death of Cochise, Apache Battle of Adobe Walls: Indian Territory, Black Hills, Custer: Gold Rush, Battle of Palo Duro Canyon: Texas, Battle of McClellan Creek: Texas. 

1875 - Slaughter of Southern Cheyennes, Sappa Creek: Texas, President Grant's war with Lakotas

1876 - Battle of Powder River: Montana Territory, Lakota/Northern Cheyenne Sun Dance, Deer Medicine Rocks: Montana Territory, Battle of the Rosebud: Montana Territory, Battle of Little Bighorn: Montana Territory, Battle of Slim Buttes: Dakota Territory, Lakota Reservation relinquish unceded Indian Territory, Battle of Cedar Creek: Montana Territory, Destruction of Dull Knife’s Northern Cheyenne Village, Red Fork of the Powder River: Wyoming Territory. 

1877 - Battle of Wolf Mountain: Montana Territory, Crazy Horse surrenders, Fort Robinson: Nebraska, Sitting Bull enters Canada, Battle of White Bird Canyon: Idaho Territory, Nez Perce War, Battle of the Clearwater: Idaho Territory, Battle of the Big Hole: Montana Territory, Crazy Horse killed, Fort Robinson, Battle of Bear Paw Mountain: Montana, Territory, surrender of Chief Joseph, Nez Perce. 

1878 - Northern Cheyenne Exodus.

1879 - Northern Cheyenne Outbreak: Fort Robinson, Chief Little Wolf surrenders, Battle of Milk Creek: Colorado. 

1880 - Battle of Rattlesnake Springs: Texas, Apache Chief Victorio killed: Tres Castillos, Chihuahua, New Mexico. 

1881 - Sitting Bull surrenders, Fort Buford: Texas, Battle of Cibecue Creek: Arizona Territory. 

1882 - Battle of Big Dry Wash: Arizona Territory.

1883 - Crook’s Sierra Madre Campaign: New Mexico, Sitting Bull “agency Indian” Great Sioux Reservation.

1885 - Geronimo breaks out of White Mountain Reservation: Arizona Territory. 

1886 - Crook & Geronimo, Sonora: New Mexico, Geronimo surrenders, Skeleton Canyon: Arizona Territory, Chiricahua Apaches removed from Arizona Territory. 

1889 - Sioux Land Commission breaks up Great Sioux Reservation.

1890 - Sitting Bull killed on Standing Rock Reservation: North Dakota, Wounded Knee Creek Massacre, Pine Ridge Reservation: South Dakota. 

1891 - Brule & Oglala Lakota surrender, Pine Ridge Agency: South Dakota.

The reason I list the battles, massacres, and murders, is this book allows you to read of one or several at a time. Harrowing. Not for the light hearted.

This book will break your heart and enlighten you, simultaneous. Extremely difficult to read without feeling like your own heart has been ripped out of your chest.

The start of the book recounts President Lincoln and peace treaties with Lean Bear, to the immediate slaughter of Lean Bear by U.S. Army. It ends with Wounded Knee. The most horrible inhumane massacre that aligns with Standing Rock Water Protectors today.

This book strengthened an already known fact, that the U.S Government has and continues to use these same tactics they did with the Indigenous during all war. While Indigenous history is a class unto itself, the actions of this government are universal and nothing new.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege [Book Review]

Based on twenty-seven years of original archival research, including the discovery of previously unknown documents, this day-by-day narrative of the hysteria that swept through Salem Village in 1692 and 1693 reveals new connections behind the events, and shows how rapidly a community can descend into madness. 

Marilynne Roach opens her work with chapters on the history of the Puritan colonies of New England, and explains how these people regarded the metaphysical and the supernatural. 

It is crucial to recall that during the years 1692-97, there were numerous political issues. The Puritans distanced themselves from England, not yet having recognition as a “church” forming their own society away from Britain, the war with France was occurring that included the aid of the Indigenous, later left to survive and/or die when the war ended and after that, the Treaty of Ryswick obliged King Louis to finally acknowledge England’s Protestant succession.

The Puritans, who left England due to "religious persecution", feared their religion was under attack again and worried they were losing control of their colony. The political instability and threat to their religion created a feeling of uneasiness and discontent in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

During these years, this small village started an anxiety ridden hysterical hunt after mostly women, and several men, based upon their dealings with the “devil” claiming innocent people were “witches” responsible for the antics of villagers coerced by their minister, Parris and other villagers.

Since the “accused witches” were considered dangerous prisoners, they were kept in a dungeon chained to the walls because jail officials believed this would prevent their spirits from fleeing jail and tormenting their victims.

English law at the time dictated that anyone who refused to enter a plea could be tortured in an attempt to force a plea out of them. This legal tactic was known as “peine forte et dure” which means “strong and harsh punishment.”

The torture consisted of laying the prisoner on the ground, naked, with a board placed on top of him. Heavy stones were loaded onto the board and the weight was gradually increased until the person either entered a plea or died.

Many modern theories suggest the accusers, starting with the young girls [who were apparently being attacked by “witches” and partly responsible for the witch hunts, along with adults that coerced, threatened and beat others into believing this rubbish] were suffering from epilepsy, boredom, child abuse, and/or mental illness.

This book is fantastic if one seeks a day to day account of what life was like during this time. It is not a book to be picked up and simply read, rather, studied. The author, Roach, is a historian and this book is an exemplary example of her work. This is THE “go to” book on all you ever need to know about the Salem Witch Trials.

The interesting aspects of this era and village is that divinatory methods, herbal healing, healers, folk medicine and “psychic” abilities and practices were commonplace. That alone is proof enough that mass hysteria and mental illness were responsible for the trials and deaths.

This historical account blatantly shows that this village and the people living in it, were beyond naive and filled with fear, hence, the horrid slaughter of innocent people based upon collective fear, judgment and the absolute insane mindsets of people where common sense, sense of self and self respect was never present. 

Everyday illnesses, deaths, random occurrences, noises, visions, marks on the body like moles, were all blamed on “witchcraft” and in todays world, the things that occurred are able to be explained medically, scientifically and spiritually.

This account has taught me that most, if not all of the people living in this village were beyond mentally deranged. Instead of needing a “religious” leader and community, perhaps psychiatrists, psychotherapists and trained mental health professionals would have recognized mass hysteria and prevented the sweeping fear that overtook Salem Village. 

Sadly, the accused had their land, livestock and all possessions taken from them. It points to a larger motive, not just fear and control, but land grabbing and greed.

As for why these victims were targeted in the first place, historians have noted that many of the accused were wealthy and held different religious beliefs than their accusers.

This, coupled with the fact that the accused also had their estates confiscated if they were convicted has led many historians to believe that religious feuds and property disputes played a big part in the witch trials.

To date, 120 people [88 women, 32 men] were suspected of “witchcraft” between 1638-91, most on trial repeatedly concluding in 121 trials involving 85 women and 36 men. 38 cases were slander suits brought against accusers.

Of the 83 witch trials, not the slander trials, which includes “spotty” record keeping, there were roughly 11-17 executions [all women, two men] occurring in Connecticut and Massachusetts, where the majority of the English population lived.

Others who were not hanged, but tortured to death, including suspected animals, evaded punishment, escaped jail, found not guilty, were pardoned, or died while jailed, added to the above numbers. 

There was never “burning at the stake” as most people assume.

In 1703, families, 21 people, of the accused and murdered started legal petitions to the General Courts. The Courts found all evidence against the murdered and accused to be weak and insufficient.

It was not until 1712 that the names of the executed and accused were cleared and their families given reparation based on testimony from living accusers and the financial gains of Reverend Parris, now made public. The Courts decided that “original charges came from people influenced by evil spirits then, and [some of them] “of profligate and vicious” lives now.

Legally, it was not until 2001, that the state of Massachusetts amended a 1957 "apology" in addition to the initial 1712 reparations, and legally cleared the names of the remaining unnamed victims.

The true evil existed only within the people that lied, allowing the innocent to be brutally killed. True evil exists only within those that lead the naive into the dark. 

 You can find this book at your local library or HERE 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lessons From A Sparrow

© Susan Marie

Birds are interesting creatures. I adore them so.

Thankfully, I live around varied wildlife, however, the birds simply astound me. 

Every morning I am greeted by birds. They flit about, landing on my balcony, hovering in trees, on branches, gathering atop chimneys, swan-diving off the balcony, and choosing to settle in the crawlspace in my bedroom ceiling during cold weather. Those are the starlings. I do not mind this at all, nor do they cause a problem or damage. I enjoy it.

  © Susan Marie

I can hear them up there scurrying about with their little bird feet trying to stay warm in frigid temperatures. They sing to me and talk to one another and I hear them through the ceiling and that brings me peace. When that first occurred years ago, I thought: You are finally going stark raving insane

Not so.  

I think.

Observing wildlife this morning, birds specifically, brought profound existential realizations. We are not separate from nature and wildlife as so many humans think and feel, in fact, we are a mirror of nature itself. I have always felt this way, however, most do not. Today, this was proven to me. 

Let me explain. 

© Susan Marie

I live in a park-like setting. There are Japanese maples, maples, elms, oaks, ash, pine and cherry blossoms, to name a few. There is one particular tree, an adolescent among the rest, where all the birds attempt to take control of daily. Sitting here now, watching them, as if a thunderbolt struck my right temporal lobe, I thought: The birds are doing exactly what we do to one another in society. 

© Susan Marie 

I watched all the birds present, Coopers Hawk, sparrows, starlings, crows and bluejays and noticed that only certain birds were on the balcony rail or in a tree at the same time.  
The Coopers Hawk is typically in control of everything in this micro-sphere. Unless the hawk snags a baby crow, then all the crows go after the solitary hawk. In turn, the crow is then in control when the hawk is not present so far as going after squirrels and bullying other birds to remove themselves from the tree or balcony.  

 © Susan Marie

After that, the starlings are in control. They come in flocks and take over whole trees and my balcony all at once. If another bird happens to fly on the rail or on a tree branch, the starlings make sure that bird removes itself. I saw two starlings snuggled up with one another on the rail and then one pecked at the other.  

A single bluejay hopped up onto the rail and the starlings chased it away. Bluejays are not birds that easily give up either. They can be quite aggressive. The bluejays are new this year. They live in one pine tree, an entire family. There are about 5 of them right now compared to 20 or so each of sparrows and starlings. 

 © Susan Marie

Today was different. 

Today, I noticed something quite impressive.

The sparrow is able to move within all the birds and critters.

I was watching the tree that all the birds attempt to control. It was full of starlings. The crows were strutting about as they do, flying from one tree to another and cawing on the ground in the snow, but the starlings and bluejays were vying for control of this one tree. One bluejay flew into the tree, then another. When two were there, the starlings dispersed. Another bluejay flew into the tree. They had control of this tree. Then the starlings gathered around and all of them flew into the tree chasing away the bluejays. 

The sparrows remained in the tree throughout this fiasco. 

The sparrows are always there, on the balcony, the rail, in the trees with squirrels, bluejays, crows and starlings. Not the hawk. I saw the hawk carry away a robin and a small crow once, however, the sparrows are not out and about when the hawk appears. They hide deep in the thorny bushes where the large hawk cannot fly into. Smart.  

Meanwhile, all the other birds are out there flitting about trying to control everything.

 © Susan Marie

The sparrow is a small non aggressive bird compared to the others but that is not why the sparrow is different. The sparrow exhibits the middle way. You see, the sparrow is concerned about now, collecting food, making nests, gathering what is needed for existence. The sparrow is not concerned with control. The sparrow is mindful.

The sparrow is able to communicate and be around all species, birds and critters without being a threat. I have yet to witness any creature attack a sparrow or cause a sparrow to leave. I have never witnessed a sparrow being aggressive towards another living thing.

 © Susan Marie

To me, the sparrow represents those of us in this world that do our best to walk the middle way.  The other birds represent those of who have no control and attempt to take and gain control of others or those perceived as weak. 

Observing birds this morning, I witnessed all of us, society everywhere, pecking at one another, attacking each other, trying to control one another. Then I witnessed the sparrow, going about its day not bothered by the chaos of the other birds. The sparrow is not affected by this repeated game the birds play, the games that we, humans, play. 

The sparrow, to me, is by the far the strongest bird of them all. 

Today, I learned lessons from a sparrow.

 © Susan Marie