Both-And

What is a Hymn to Vatos?

Tweet of the Day: @Urrealism: Hey! RT @Aunt_Feather: "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem" by @Urrealism for #PoetryMonth http://t.co/wnuhjm3c via @Latinopia

This YouTube video, retweeted by the author of the poem, Luis Urrea is particularly relevant because Arizona is attempting to erase the history of Mexicans and the indigenous, by banning a Mexican American studies program in Tucson. "Hymn to Vatos Who Will Never Be in a Poem" is one of the "texts" that have been banned, and the video shows the poem being read to students last month. This is not "new" news, but this past week has been especially inane in Arizona. I have been living in California for a good number of years, yet I am still capable of being shocked by the irrationality and hysteria of the power brokers in the state. I am refraining from using the words insane or insanity in deference to real mental illness, rather the current political climate is simply a continuation of a inextricable history of racism from before the beginning of the state.

Last week, the teacher who is the director of the Mexican American studies program in Tucson was fired by the school district. Next, the republican instigator is planning to go after college level education. One of the most memorable aspects of my 4th-7th grades in Tucson was learning the history of the different native American tribes in Arizona. Having started school, Head Start and first grade, with children from the White Mountain Apache reservation, I was interested in the whitewashed, Arizona dry histories. I did learn something, if not just respect for the people who originally settled in the state. The Mexican American studies program had yet to be designed.

I chose to learn much more in adulthood. One would think that banning books would be a bad idea, looking at the history of banning books. When I learned that not only books by Latino authors banned, but Native American books, as well, I was alarmed. Shortly thereafter, my mom called me concerned that her Dad came here illegally. "Mom, he came here before Arizona was even a state." My grandmother was also born before Arizona became a state. The fear fostered by the political climate had come home.

In the 19th and early 20th century, the mineral riches in the territory were exploited, and the political process was used to define who was in the in group and the out group, whether Chinese, Mexican or Native American. Those with brown skin have been in the out group since the beginning. An early example is the a group of Irish American "white" orphans adopted to Mexican American families by the Catholic Church, which resulted in an orchestrated kidnapping by vigilantes on Morenci and Clifton, Arizona.  My grandmother was born in Morenci just seven years later.

 

 

I'm concerned about the consequences of cutting off links to Mexican and Native American  history in Arizona. Only since the 1970s has the program to send Native American children off to boarding schools to "kill the Indian and save the man" discontinued. Many of those affected are are still living. I hope that the youth of today are not doomed to repeat history on the ordinary brown skinned men, the Vatos, as well as the women and children of the state who deserve respect because of their inherent worth.

Note: The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly will be held in Phoenix in June. While I agree with the spirit in which it will be held, I have a great deal of ambivalence in anticipation of attending in my home state.

What is in a Twitter Name?

What goes into choosing a Twitter name? My name is Kathleen Michelle McGregor. I have been Kathleen since the day I was born. Not Kate, Kay or Katie, nor Kathy or Kat, Kathleen is my name. As I was named after my great-grandmother, my family would not have it otherwise. Secretly, I wanted to use a shortened name. As an adult, I began to like Katydid. Never mind that it is a bug. I liked the way it looked in print. On the Internet, Katydid added an aura of mystery. What did Katy do?

Each of my names have eight letters. This made for long email addresses so in the early days of the web, I made up a nickname: kadymac. Kady stood in for katydid, and Mac because I loved Mac computers, and as a nod to my last name. Almost everyone started adding an "a" to my last name after that: MacGregor. Oops.

In 2009, I realized that I could post all of the mostly social justice or green oriented articles that I read without being compelled to email them to my beleaguered friends and family. I hoped someone might find the articles of interest. Plus, I found so many more articles of interest on Twitter. My initial handle was @kadymac.

I have a friend who has a name very similar to mine. His last name starts with Mc, and his mother is Mexican as well. He called us green beans (Irish/Mexican). I already had a strong interest in the environment, so that added a layer to the green part. After SB 1070 was passed in Arizona, I was incensed. Actually, it was closer to a word not used in polite company, but I digress. I changed my twitter name in response.

Beaner is a pejorative word used by whites for those of Mexican descent. Around the time SB 1070 was passed, anti-immigrant fervor was especially high. I wanted to embrace my Mexican roots in the midst of the hate and thus chose to use greenbeaner as a twitter handle. Someone had beaten me to it, so @uugreenbeaner it was. 

Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote the principle that every single human being has worth and dignity. For too long, people and churches who call themselves Christian spread hate and intolerance. Using  the name of Christ ugly words, gestures, and violence are used against those who are not white, not straight, not male, not rich, and not Christian. UUGreenBeaner allowed me to post injustices, and as they became available, tools for advocacy, change, and hope. UUKady functioned as a spiritual anchor for myself. What started as blind posting evolved into a little ministry, simply with a name change.

Waking Up Is Hard to Do

Waking up is hard to do.

I awoke from a seminarian nightmare. Perhaps it was simply a school nightmare. I dreamed that I needed to finish four classes to complete my b.a. in order to complete my divinity degree. Thus I was back at the university. The campus resembled my high school in Arizona, or a high school of my dreams. It was familiar. I was involved with a group of Latino students for which I was the only one qualified to be the treasurer, an anxiety in itself. Running from that meeting I missed the scholarship deadline that would pay tuition. The registration lines were so long, I was reduced to searching through the school looking for a teacher, any teacher, to sign my registration form. I finally found an old wood shop teacher to sign the paper even though the classes were Mexican studies. He made a joke about being his signing of the form being providential, and I revealed that I was taking these classes to complete my m.div.

Frankly, blogging about identity this week made me nervous. Some of the identity issues had been addressed last year on the blog. I planned to write one last blog explaining why I call myself UUGreenBeaner on Twitter, then move on to posts about bullying, a topic that weighs heavy on my heart. But, so too, the Arizona ban on ethnic studies has profoundly disturbed me. I was born in Phoenix. The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly will be there in just over two months. I have not returned to Arizona since my paternal grandmother's funeral in 2008, before the draconian SB 1070 passed. Surgery prevented me from going to protest with other Unitarian Universalists the summer in 2010 when it was implemented.

There were only two children in my grandmother's generation. My grandmother was born one hundred years ago this past November, three months before Arizona was admitted as a state. My grandmother's younger brother moved to California during the Great Depression, while grandmother and grandfather stayed in Arizona. They lost their first born to dysentery in the poverty of those times. My grandparent's goal for their children was assimilation because racism was so strong in Arizona. The California relatives speak Spanish, the Arizona relatives did not learn until adulthood, if at all.  I began to piece the story together as my grandmother began to tell me stories when I became an adult, and my mother and my mother's cousin, told me stories about my grandmother.

I was unable to fully appreciate the magnitude of my grandparent's choice for assimilation, however, until the passing of SB1070. An English-only law passed in Arizona in my early adulthood. Although I voted against it, I was ignorant about the deeper ramifications of racism. Upon moving to California, I distanced myself from Arizona intellectually and politically. Unconsciously, though, the state government's fall from merely unequal to openly hostile to the indigenous, the native born and immigrant Hispanic/Latino population has haunted me.

Time to wake up.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Government Surveys Part 2

Update tweet, later on April 4: Nearly 40 years after the government defined #Hispanic and #Latino, Hispanics still have not fully embraced the terms http://t.co/cex9SDCc via @PewHispanic

I find this tweet very interesting. My question to this statement is why should Central and South American people adhere to the U.S. government imposed labels, let alone embrace them? I just realized that use of those terms give credit to Spanish colonialism. However, a colonialism discussion is far beyond the scope of this blog post. Food for thought.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Government Surveys

Tweet of the Day: When Labels Don’t Fit: #Hispanics and Their Views of Identity #latinos http://t.co/Ugav1WeY

My relationship with government surveys is complicated at best. Pew Research tweeted a report on the Latinos yesterday comparing 2010 census data to their own survey. The census, more than anything, reveals the social construction of race in this country. Starting with the 2000 survey, the government made the act of pigeonholing oneself even more convoluted. There are now fifteen racial categories in the census.

Latino or Hispanic? White or ?

As I grew up, virtually every survey that asked about race used "White (Not Hispanic)" for the white category. My Arizona birth certificate declares that I'm white, since at the time separating white from black was most important. My grandfather was more indigenous than European, but how does one categorize that as race when only "American Indian" is an option. In my undergraduate career, I learned that, in California since the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in the nineteenth century, Mexicans were considered white. Except when they were more often not. Politics in the state of California are nothing, if not fickle. 

Fast forward to 2000 when race and culture were mixed up in the census. The census report and the subsequent news coverage focused on the fact that a large percentage of Latinos consider themselves white. The media also conveyed a good deal of surprise. My reaction to the news was anger. How are people supposed to categorize themselves? When asked by Pew research this time around if Hispanic or Latino is a preferred term, Hispanic was chosen more frequently. After thirty to forty years of "White (Not Hispanic)," Hispanic would be a logical choice for most.

Where Do We Come From?

Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
Where - do - we - come - from? 
Mystery. Mystery. Life is a riddle and a mystery.
Where do we come from? Where are we going?
Singing the Journey, Hymn #1003

The first line of the Brian Tate hymn in our turquoise Unitarian Universalist hymnal, Singing the Journey, is taken from the title of a late nineteenth century painting by artist Paul Gaugin. These questions are common to the human experience, and often religion is used to answer them. As I've journeyed through seminary, one of the most important lessons is or knowing one's "social location." By knowing where I come from, I will continue to know why I must speak out in the face of injustice. So what does this mean for my ministry?

Where do I come from?
 I was born in Phoenix, Arizona to a Mexican American mother and an Irish/Scandinavian American father. My paternal grandfather was thrilled to see his first grandchild with her eyes open. According to my mother, he compared his own children to kittens at birth. "They didn't open their eyes for weeks!" My maternal grandfather had passed away the year before. According to my grandmother, the full head of black hair that I was born with would have thrilled him. I was the first of the sixteen grandchildren born at that time who was dark like him. 

                               

Bob and Sandie(Olga) McGregor      Jennie(Juana) and Paul(Porfirio) Huerta

What am I?
As I grew up, the differences that my grandparents and step-parents focused on helped me become aware of the difference in how people were treated. One by one, racism became real, as did sexism, classism, and homophobia and religious intolerance. My adult social location is that of a queer, working class, Unitarian Universalist, feminist/mujerist multicultural woman. As I found myself other in each category, I could not help but see the injustices perpetrated by those who were the dominant culture. I had that ministry moment of clarity when I realized that those in power identified with the punishing God, the oppressed identified with the suffering Jesus. The politics around those caught in the increasingly unraveling social net is theological.

Where am I going?
Upon realizing that injustices are built into the system of this country by those who make the laws, I saw that politicians have been influenced by a form of Calvinist punitive theology. Self-righteous Christian politicians and media personalities blame the poor, the sick, the hungry, the underemployed, the imprisoned for their circumstances. The current election cycle has only served to escalate the hate. The common good is no longer a priority in politics, and what was once considered liberal has been dragged to the center right of the political spectrum just in my lifetime.

I have a passion for our seven Unitarian Universalist principles. As a person who grew up Catholic, the poor and the oppressed are never far from my heart. As a critical thinker, I search for stories beyond the distractions of the mainstream media. As a person who lives on the margins, I am responsible for providing a rational voice on the religious left. As I begin to blog regularly to Both/And, I hope it will reflect my "free and responsible search for truth and meaning," for life is a "riddle and a mystery."

How does your social location inform your own spirituality?

How Will Social Media Impact LGBTQI Muslims?

I found the article, "How Will Facebook and Twitter Impact Islam?" of interest because it was highly critical of social media in the Muslim context. Dr. Guessom referenced an article, "Twenty five reasons why Twitter is Spiritual," that was a list of spiritual practices from different faith traditions. As a Unitarian Universalist(UU), I appreciated the breadth, and what amounted to a vision of twitter's potential. Guessom dismissed the list entirely. I will acknowledge that the list does not fit within the aims of Islam. 

Still, just in the past several days I have been witness to, and peripherally involved in one such transformative experience that the author Frederic A. Brussat wrote of in the "Twenty Five Reasons..." article. The conversations, facilitated by Twitter and a blog were poignant and beautiful.

A young Muslim is opening dialogue about different aspects of Islam on her blog. She posted interviews with a number of  LGBT Muslims. The comments section includes the usual comparisons of LGBT people with pedophiles, practicers of bestiality, rapists and serial killers. These arguments were not original by any stretch. What I did find original was an interview with a UU that I've met on Twitter. He wants to convert to Islam. 

After at least a year of reading his tweets, I have observed that he truly loves Allah. He loves Arabic music. He loves to  give thanks and praise. It's genuine, not forced or fake. I remember when he was utterly heartbroken several months ago, after he was rejected by yet another imam for being gay.

There was such an outpouring of love from the blogger and numerous other Muslims who signed on to the love letter she wrote. A
n imam in his area would like to meet with him. My Twitter acquaintance was brought to tears. In a side conversation, the blogger told the imam she wished she were local to study under him, and the imam responded that they teach each other. I watched this unfold over the past couple of days with awe. A gay man finally found an online community, and has a real possibility of finding an embodied community with which he can worship in the way he desires. A brave young woman was affirmed for her own contributions to her religion.

The Internet has been revolutionary for LGBTQI folks since the advent of the World Wide Web in  the 1990's, because people who were isolated and alone have been able to find others like themselves. Whereas moving to a city had been the main strategy in the past, LGBTQI folks could find one another and become a part of online communities. The explosion of the social media onto the scene should enable more folks to find their voices and find each other. 

I suspect that there are individuals who have been isolated and by social pressure forced to work within the dominant culture of Islam. LGBTQI Muslims may be just such a group. Social media may prove to be a Godsend to LGBTQI Muslims.

Ah, So That’s Where They Are

I am a person with a border consciousness. Reading Gloria Anzaldua was liberating for there was a word beyond mestiza to describe me. I have a European American surname, which makes a huge difference in life. I see the injustices, yet often being mistaken for being white, I regularly find myself in awkward situations.

The latest went something like this:

After a philosophy class that has students from my school and the graduate school that is across the street, a fellow student asked,

"Can I be sarcastic?"

"Sure."

"So this is where all the white guys are."

I looked at her blankly.

"In our other classes there have only been about three. So this is where they’ve been hiding."

"Uh yeah. I guess they are more interested in philosophy."

The first thoughts through my head were: “The faculty?” “The administration?” We were near the dean’s office.

Oddly, I was happy to see a fellow Latino in class and happy to see more diversity in this class. I had not noticed the white men in the room, because I am primed to look for other women and other people of color. After ruminating a bit, I think that maybe she was looking at a larger pool of datable men…

Identity on the Margins

This year I met numerous fascinating people at General Assembly. In fact, I spent a larger proportion of time talking to others. I am an officer in DRUUMM (Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries), and volunteered to be at the table for some time each day in the exhibition hall. I roomed with a woman I met at a DRUUMM event several years ago, and we were able to deepen a friendship that has continued to grow as we see each other each GA, since we live on opposite coasts. The DRUUM folks have been like family, and I love them.

A life changing meeting was with a Chicana sociologist from San Diego. She told me of her work, and how she applies sociological methods to different questions. She modeled how to ask questions in dialogue with someone, as she greeted people at the DRUUMM table. For negative self dialogue, she told me to tap into my inner grandmother. Her participation in the Chicano/a movement in California inspired me to claim the identity Chicana. Depending on the grandparent, I am third or fourth generation Mexican American. My grandmother was born in Arizona before it became a state. Latina and hispanic never felt right, but when I was much younger Chicana was "too political." Claiming "person of color identity" is a political act. I am in solidarity with the struggles of all people who are marginalized due to their culture or skin color.

The word Chicana is distinctly Mexican. Years ago in an undergrad philosophy class, there was a reading about Tucson, and the author wrote that she did not want to send her children to public school because of all of the "Mexican children." I did not question anything but the racist tone of the article, because that was my lived experience. My classmates were other Mexican American students. Numerous students in the philosophy class, from countries like Guatamala or El Salvador,  spoke out against the assumption that the kids were "Mexican." Up until this point, I was thrilled about the diversity in Los Angeles, but I learned that Mexican nationals and Mexican Americans are on the bottom of the social hierarchy in California not only by race (a social construct), but by culture as well. I still love the amazing diversity of Los Angeles, but took too many years since for me to claim Chicana.

As we go into next years justice oriented General Assembly in Arizona, I will go with less reticence. I have been boycotting the state with its racist politics, even though my family lives there. At GA I learned that by going in at the invitation of indigenous groups, we UUs will strive to make more of an impact than simply taking our money our money elsewhere. The folks from DRUUMM are taking a particular chance to be arrested. I will stand in solidarity with them, the "Mexicans" I grew up with, and the others who are targeted by the policies.

Ethical Eating: Produce

On Friday, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly overwhelmingly passed the Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating. I had been practicing the principles, imperfectly, since it's inception. What I've learned is to remember that it is just that, a practice.

I live in a predominantly Latino and Black neighborhood in a medium sized city in Southern California. I just completed ny second seminary year which included field education. Before I took the internship (not UU), I did have a part-time office job. I was earning the same hourly wage that I did 15 years before, but with full benefits back then. To be clear, the last year and a half, I've been living on my spouse's death benefit, taking a full load in seminary, and only doing the internship once it became clear that I could not keep my grades up and work, as well.

As money becomes tighter and tighter, I anticipate the ethical eating part of my life to become more difficult. I do wonder if the resolution on ethical eating, coming from place of privilege, is irrelevant and elitist to a country in the grip of economic hardship and a class war that has a grossly unequal income distribution.

Beans and rice are staples of the poor, and I grew up on them. I do love vegetables. When I was very young, there were pitched and protracted battles regarding vegetables vs. meat, fish and poultry. One particularly memorable battle was over having an artichoke to myself and the expense of said artichoke. That said, here are some thoughts, just on produce:

In my neighborhood there are two major grocery stores, two ethnic grocery stores, and several small ethnic markets. Before my spouse died, we wanted to buy a share in a farm. We just never had enough money to invest up front into a season or more of organic vegetables. The stores in my neighborhood are overflowing with inexpensive, plentiful produce. The first time I met a new dean at school, she asked which Pasadena neighborhood I lived in. She proceeded to enthuse over the cheap produce at one of the ethnic grocery stores.

My theory is that the produce are loss leaders, and every thing that is processed is overpriced. The people that shop there walk, ride bicycles or take the bus. The store has a shuttle to take people home. The cyclists are of the variety that ride the wrong way down the street or on sidewalks, not the pannier, helmeted set. The clientele at the particular store do not speak a lot of English. Beer and sodas are incredibly expensive, as are virtually all other brand name and processed foods. Before a ill-planned condominium complex was built across the street, small items from deodorant to razors were locked behind glass, and cost more than the big name grocery stores. This is the reality in poor neighborhoods. How would we begin to address the inequalities of access, before the pesticide laden produce?

Most of the ethnic grocery shoppers do not have the choice to buy local or sustainable, nor the education to desire or request change. I use the store when I'm not feeling flush, but I have begun to have anxiety over doing the "right" thing since so many issues come into play. When buying, my first thought is food miles. Where did most of these inexpensive vegetables come from? In this neighborhood, they come from Mexico, and further South. With the unfortunate exception of my attachment to bananas, I am intentional about buying produce from California, staying within the season. (By the way, when in the world did garlic begin to be imported from China? I thought the garlic capital is in Northern California.)

The people who bring food to the table have such appalling working conditions. They have been documented not to be given breaks, shade, decent living conditions, fresh water, subject to wage theft, exposed to herbicides and pesticides. Yet, when grocery stores charge more for "organic" produce, I wonder just how much of that extra money is passed on to the farmers and the migrant workers.

About eight years ago, there was a grocery store strike in which the workers lost badly over healthcare and wages. I refused to walk into one of the big name chains until a couple of years ago. I will only go for the very few things that can not be found in Trader Joes, or the store fondly known as Whole Paycheck. I was appalled at the price of produce when I did return. According to Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE-LA), a strike is imminent. We UU's passed an Action of Immediate Witness, but how will that support the workers once they go on strike? Trader joes pays fairer wages, but Whole Foods is anti-organizing and their produce is ridiculously high. However, they have some organic things not found elsewhere. Reconciling these choices is difficult.

At Trader Joes, food miles and packaging come into play, as well. Not only do they sell out of season produce from Mexico and Chile, the produce comes prepackaged in plastic, in a family size. Trader Joes has begun to improve based on consumer pressure, but as soon as one item is sold individually, different prepackaged items arrive. I limited my produce to the staples, organic: carrots, celery, in season lemons, onions and tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower. Squash is plentiful, inexpensive, good and relatively safe in the grand scheme of things not organic.

This leaves the small family owned markets and the farmers markets. This is where I have to be most intentional. I will admit to being exceedingly blessed when it comes to farmers markets in the area. There are several going on each day of the week during the day, with some in the evening. It takes planning to go. There is a small health foods market that is in the next town to the North straight uphill. The farmers market that is in my neighborhood is held on Tuesday mornings, but there are numerous other in the area. As much as I want to support the mom and pop shops, knowing where the produce comes from is more important.

So, the anxiety continues. I have stopped eating quite as large of a variety of vegetables for fear of pesticide residues, perpetuating unfair unhealthy working conditions for those who pick and package produce, environmental impact and the impact on migrant workers of herbicides and pesticides, economic justice for grocery store workers, supporting small business, lack of time to shop at farmers markets being a student, and my own economic well-being. Fortunately, by putting together this post, I found a CSA that was not available before, which allows payment on a week to week basis.

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