WhiteNOISE artblog

Art, Social Action, Racism, White Privilege

Make America Great Again is Code for—What?

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CALC/SURJ Sponsored Rally, Eugene, OR. July 21, 2016

The bleak picture of America described in Donald J. Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last night had its moments of truth—truth perverted and subverted in order to mirror the fear and bigotry of the convention cohort and a growing number of white folk who long for the “good old days” when African Americans knew “their place,” gays stayed in the closet and immigration inclusion meant there was a new burrito on the Taco Time menu.  “Make America Great Again” is code for “white, male-dominant and straight.” A 1950’s redux, perhaps?

Violence is on the uptick, but not against white folk and police (the Dallas and Baton Rouge police killings are a recent and dramatic exception). However, the horrific incidents of reported and recorded institutional killings and police violence against African Americans is up and out of control.  Trump misled and misspoke in presenting his statistics. Is anyone surprised by his lack of facts and reliance on hyperbole? The twin pillars of a fascist wannabe—great.

Those Americans who have traditionally received white-skin privilege feel under siege and threatened and, in many cases, they are correct. The good life is no longer a given for white blue collar, any-color-collar, folks. However, put on your thinking caps for once and put the white, pointy clan caps in the trash. Yes, globalization is both a threat and a reality for many, however, don’t blame Americans of color, women, LBGTQ and immigrant folks for your troubles. An equal playing field for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and family nationality is not the threat to our democracy and your well-being.

Please—blame the right folks, for once. Focus on the multinational corporations,  those who want to privatize everything in sight, those who want to live in an evangelical theocracy and those who want a law-and-order style police state where the white man’s rules, rule  and “Father Knows Best” reruns are mandatory viewing. In 21st century America, these entities and individuals are the real threat and their destructive impulse based on fear, greed and hate must be countered through deep listening, reason and action.

Get over it, all of you who fondly romanticize past generations—the 1950’s are over and most Americans are the better for it. I know I am. Do you really want to go back to the days of girdles, beehive hairdos and white bread? Oh, and white folks,  let’s not forget the lynchings. Yes, let’s never forget the lynchings. Thank you.

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All Lives WILL Matter When BLACK LIVES MATTER.

At first hearing, the phrase, “All lives matter,” sounds like a no-brainer. Duh—of course all lives matter, right? Who could possibly disagree with this statement?

I do.

As a white woman, I disagree. I disagree because implicit in the rather benign and seemingly rational statement that, “All lives matter,” is an inherent bias that rather simply identifies “all” from a white perspective and experience of life in America. However, this assumption does not reflect the full reality of experience for “all” Americans—African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians, LGBTQ—and must be contested. It’s a deeply coded phrase and yet another convenient “little white lie” that the dominant (but not for long) group soothes itself with and justifies its ongoing control through. It’s a phrase that makes white folks feel good about themselves—a “Hallmark” greeting card-like sentiment for social crisis and institutional racism.  Warm, fuzzy and white. A real kumbaya moment.

As far as I’m concerned, when Black lives truly matter as much as white ones and African Americans are treated under the law in the same way as whites, when the bubble of white privilege and illusion is popped, when absolute equality is a given and underlying racial bias, hate and fear is non-existent, then—and only then—will I agree to use the phrase,”All lives matter.”

Until then, BLACK LIVES MATTER, first.

Duh.

In Memorium_July 8

IN MEMORY – BLACK LIVES MATTER RALLY, UO CAMPUS, JULY 8, 2016

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BLACK LIVES MATTER RALLY, UO CAMPUS, JULY 8, 2016

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BLACK LIVES MATTER RALLY, UO CAMPUS, JULY 8, 2016

Not in Our Backyard.

Who are the Militias and why should we care?

Rallies were held in several Oregon cities today, organized by the Rural Organizing Project (ROP) to bring an awareness of this dangerous sub-set of political radicals to the larger community and to stand up to their criminal, opportunistic and racist agenda.

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ROP Rally, Old Federal Courthouse, Eugene, OR, January 30, 2016

Communities across Oregon who are struggling to maintain services and dealing with an economic crisis are now having to deal with private militias such as the Oath Keepers, 3 %ers and Sovereign Citizens coming in to their towns. At first, they seem like a blessing as they step in to fill the void left by dwindling public resources. However, their veneer of generosity comes with a steep price and the potential for violence and mob-like control.

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ROP Rally, Eugene, January 30, 2016

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ROP Rally, Eugene, January 30, 2016

The militia and patriot groups, while each a little bit different, all have at their core the view that the American government is illegitimate and that they are under attack from anyone who is or believes differently from them. It’s an all in or all out point of view. Many subscribe to or are sympathetic to a White supremacist view of the world and are racist, explicitly or implicitly. I say–not in my backyard, not in my state, not in America.

The Rural Organizing Project is doing great work to combat the militias in Oregon. They need our support going forward as do the people of Harney County and the Burns Paiute People as they heal from wounds and scars left by the Bundys and their criminal cohort.

Check out ROP at their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/RuralOrganizingProject/?fref=ts

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ROP Rally, Old Federal Courthouse, Eugene, Or, January 30, 2016

 

 

 

 

But, All Lives Matter–don’t they?

Attending the MLK JR Day Rally and March today at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium was both encouraging and fitting. It is only right to remember and celebrate the life and work of perhaps the greatest American of the 20th century, a true giant in the social revolution that we call democracy. In addition, it is only right to remember that Dr. King did not die peacefully in his sleep after a long life but that he was gunned down in his prime and assassinated  for his vision of a new American way–a way of peace, justice and dignity for African Americans. His voice both motivated positive change and held a mirror up to the institutional racism so deeply embedded in our culture. It is only right.

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MLK JR Rally & March kickoff, Autzen Stadium, Eugene, January 18, 2016.

I was encouraged by the several hundred individuals who showed up to honor Dr. King and demand justice–right now–for African Americans in our community and across the nation. There were infants and elders, People of Color and Whites, LGBT and Straights–a real cross section of the increasingly diverse Eugene/Springfield populace. Don’t get me wrong–the area has always prided itself on being different, special. It’s just that in the past most of those folks were White; different, perhaps, but still White. That’s changing and that’s good. Very good.

 

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MLK JR Day, January 18, 2016

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MLK JR Day, January 18, 2016

 

As I listened to the speakers I started to think about the value of life, liberty and the pursuit of–well, at the risk of being cliche’, happiness. There is the argument that “all lives matter.” Well, don’t they? I’ve heard this more than once from seemingly sensible, well-meaning White people who really don’t want to acknowledge their White privilege. Why differentiate, they say, based on race–“all lives…” includes African Americans, of course. Of course?

Tell that to Tamir Rice’s grieving mother and family. Tell that to the countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and families of the numerous African Americans who continue to die at the hand of a system of institutionalized violence based on race. Is there anyone out there who really believes that Tamir would have been rolled up on by the Cleveland police and shot dead without question if he had been White? If so, hey–I’ve got a bridge and some beach front property to sell you (in the middle of a desert, of course).

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MLK JR Day, January 18, 2016

Obviously, everybody’s life matters. Duh…However, when a society’s unspoken norm or base-line is White, the inclusive “all” is disingenuous and dangerously false. “All” just doesn’t make the cut. “All” is a feel-good, get-out-of-jail card for those well-meaning White folk I mentioned earlier. Read between the lines and “all” often subliminally codes for “White.”

     But here’s the deal–I’ve looked in the mirror that Dr. King held up for White Americans to reflect upon and I’ve seen the potential for equality and justice in it. I’ve seen that this country must, as instructed by Dr. King, uphold the dignity of African Americans if it is to be truly great. I know the dream is still possible and alive. And, I know that I live in a country that is sick and suffering under a long history of active (and passive) violence, ignorance, bigotry and fear, i.e., the sin of racism that stains our current culture and, if we don’t get it together, our future.

     And, it is because I know these things, I stand with African Americans and say

“BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

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MLK JR Day, January 18, 2016

 

 

Bodies on the Line…

As a White ally, I participated with two incredible friends in the Black Lives Matter rally and march held in Portland, OR at Halladay Park on “Black Friday,” November 27th. My friends usually take me to a “15 Now” rally the day after Thanksgiving, but this year the urgency of racially-based and institutional violence against African Americans took precedent. The speakers were dynamic, passionate and, in terms of my political sensibilities, right on. They addressed most eloquently and honestly the critical issues of our time–institutional racism, police violence and the inherently unjust economic system that, for all practical intent and purpose, preordains poverty for millions of Americans of Color.

As an ally, I was there to listen, learn and give support. Along with others I was asked, as a White person, to surround the Black Lives Matter speakers and participants and to create a protective barrier of White supporters against the hateful speech and threats of the White Racist counter-protesters whose purpose was to disrupt and intimidate the Black Lives Matter rally.

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Black Lives Matter March PDX, November 27, 2015

 

I was scared, period. Scared. I have lived my life within the societal  “normalcy” of my Whiteness. I have lived in my White body and experienced the safety that my Whiteness has afforded me without even thinking about it. Talk about White Privilege!

I was scared and felt under threat–for a few hours. A few hours and then I could slip back into the social safety of my Whiteness. However, for the rally’s courageous Black activists and, the millions and millions of Black Americans just trying live life the best they can and get through another day–they can not take similar refuge in the color of their skin.

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Black Lives Matter March PDX, November 27, 2015

It would be presumptuous and downright insulting to even suggest that my few hours of discomfort, though real, gives me true insight into the day-to-day experience of being a Black American. How could it? However, what I did get was a glimmer, an insight into and an appreciation for the stress and violence (psychological and physical) that is the status quo for Black Americans.

Black bodies are on the line every day, 24/7, including holidays. They don’t get a break or a day off. It’s time for more White allies to stand up and to support racial justice in America and to put their bodies–their White Privilege bodies–on the line.

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Black Lives Matter March November 27, 2015

 

Tamir Rice Anniversary

Tamir Rice has been gone almost a year.

November 22nd is the one year anniversary of when Cleveland police officers gunned down 12-year-old Tamir Rice in a playground. The police who killed Tamir still haven’t been charged.

Tamir’s family is asking people to take action in Cleveland and across the country on the anniversary of his death. Now is time to show our outrage, and stand with the family’s demands.

This Wednesday, SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) is hosting a conference call to share an update on the case how you can take action to get justice for Tamir.

Tamir’s death at the hands of police was senseless, unnecessary, and preventable. When police kill unarmed children, we expect them to be held accountable for their wrongdoing. We need to act to make sure these officers are prosecuted.

Register here for the phone conference:

http://myaccount.maestroconference.com/conference/register/64EMMPXGLMG8JIHD

Portraits–a response

I propose to commemorate and reflect on lives recently lost to racially-motivated and institutional violence through the creation of portraits of those killed. Actual, digital static or a media-based interpretation of static interrupts and becomes the filter through which we see the individual. The static is our own insulation against the reality of such violence (especially if we are White) and the representation of the media’s coverage of such events that simultaneously brings those actions to light and takes advantage of the tragedy.

These two portraits–of Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice–are beginning thoughts on the project and are done using powdered graphite on paper applied with a Q-tip and erased.

Sandra Bland portrait

Sandra Bland portrait

Tamir Rice portrait

Tamir Rice portrait

White Noise/The Peacekeeper Collaboration notes…

“WhiteNoise/The Peacekeeper“ is a sculptural, digital media installation that explores institutional racism and the disturbing trend toward militarized policing in America. Viewers are presented with the opportunity to consider and confront race- based violence against African Americans in relationship to the benefits of White privilege.

Media coverage of events, from Ferguson to Charleston, bombard every news source across the nation. Yet many feel far removed from the reality of that violence. By staying quiet do we send the message that these occurrences are okay? What grounds do we, as White artists, have to make work commenting on this? As intergenerational, White, female collaborators we bring these questions to the work.

Kathleen Caprario-Ulrich created “White Noise”, a digital audio/visual media installation, and Marissa Solini created “The Peacekeeper”, a 50-plaster gun installation balancing on a 60″ wooden pedestal. Both works were created independently by the respective artists, but joined together in a partnership installation upon realizing the common perspective and issues that both Kathleen and Marissa were addressing in their works. It is their hope that by uniting forces, they can send a stronger message about racial injustice and White privilege in today’s society. The fifty white plaster replicas (molded from a toy gun) are stacked as a cairn. The namesake toy is designed for children and available at many major department stores. America claims itself as a melting pot, yet the recent acts of violence towards the black community have only further divided the races, which begs the question—who is keeping the peace?

The abstracted static, the White Noise, that is digitally projected at The Peacekeeper’s base, has a metaphoric duality. The accompanying, looped audio, comprised of extended static buzz and scripted dialog, invites the viewer to consider their response to the complexity and cultural dynamics of race in America. Does one speak up and out against racially motivated violence or remain silent and insulated from the reality of institutional racism? We all have a choice—WNTP asks, what’s yours?

Marissa Solini is a recent university art graduate and Kathleen Caprario-Ulrich is Marissa’s former art instructor.

WNTP

WNTP

WNTP_Detail

WNTP_Detail

WNTP Sketch

WNTP Sketch

White Noise PSA

White Noise explores institutional racism and the disturbing trend toward militarized policing in America from a White point of view. Viewers are presented with the opportunity to consider and confront race-based violence against African Americans in relationship to the benefits of White privilege.

Media coverage of events, from Ferguson to Charleston, bombard every news source across the nation. Yet many feel far removed from the reality of that violence. By staying quiet do we send the message that these occurrences are okay? What grounds do we, as White artists and consumers, have to make work commenting on this? As a White, female, I bring these questions to the work.

The abstracted static, the white noise, that is positioned at the beginning and the end, has a metaphoric duality. The scripted dialog invites the viewer to consider their response to the complexity and cultural dynamics of race in America and all White-dominant societies. Does one speak up and out against racially motivated violence or remain silent and insulated from the reality of institutional racism? We all have a choice—WN asks, what’s yours?

Written after the shooting of Walter Scott on April 4, 2015, it is a response to that violence as well as the lack of response from my mostly White, liberal Facebook friends. The silence I received was deafening, and instead of engaging a discussion on race and institutional racism, images of arugula salads and sunsets were the response given to my outrage. What to do? Write a script, find a crew, talent, shoot, edit and get it out–make some noise–White Noise!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/White-Noise-PSA/992019460838316