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AVM Survivors Network

Question and Answer

Hi all,

I have to apologize, there have been at least three or four posts that I was reading through them on my phone (great way to wait) and I thought, “Oh, I’ve got a lot of thoughts about that. Or “this” happened to me too…”

And I’ve been way too busy trying to deal with emotionally struggling 18 & 19 year olds where all the changes in life are very BIG. And a wife who wants to get the house ready to sell if we find a condo.

It might be a bit, but I’m going to go through the newer posts and pull the sections out that I have thoughts on and turn it in to a great big “stream of consciousness” post where I attempt to post the comment and my. “Take” on it.

Be patient please, I will get to it, but it might take me a few days depending on how my headaches behave and my eyes focus or not. But it’s writing that I want to do and I wish I’d had someone who had a lot of experience to share what they learned on their journey.

TJV

Hello, hello I haven’t seen you for a bit. Good to see you’re still around.
You take all the time you need TJ. Your insights are always welcome and if there’s one thing I’m more than VERY aware of is pacing self. Even years on and I still haven’t got that pacing thing sorted. When all of the planets align ie headaches, eyes and timings we’ll be waiting for your views.

Merl from the Modsupport Team

Pacing is a major hassle isn’t it? 2 1/2 years into it and my wife and kids still need to be reminded of it. “Hey A, since Dad helped I fix the headlights on his car, we’ll have to wait for your next driving lesson until tomorrow.” Just an aside - why are the headlights on my 19-year-olds’ car so important?

It’s not pretty but it’s very simple. My two youngest kids were adopted from Haiti 16 years ago tomorrow. They are black, I am white. If, when I was 19, i was driving down the road with my windows down and sound system cranked, i might get a few grumpy looks but that would be it.

Do the names George Floyd and Trayvon Martin mean anything to you? George and Trayvon are two black men who died strictly because they were “Driving While Black.”

Now don’t go thinking, but wait, Trayvon was walking. The point is that both of them were hassled, argued with and eventually murdered and the only reason is because they were black.

Because of situations like this. Because of white people who think it’s okay to harass black men and if they get shot, oh well. Because of white people, white police who think it’s okay to kill someone by putting their entire body weight on their knee which is cutting off all oxygen to Geoge’s brain and eventually murdering him.

Because of people like that, because of murders like that, I have to have conversations about Driving While Black and the 'NO Hoodie" rule. Driving while black means that you don’t do anything that could give the cops an excuse to pull you over. You don’t speed. You don’t drive with a busted tail light. You have all of your headlights working. And if you do get pulled over, you move slowly and explain to the officer what you are going to do. “Sir, my license is in my coat which is in the back seat, i’m going to reach back there and get it, is that okay?” And then you do it slowly and carefully. I could go on and on about what it means to be DWB and i can never ever possibly do it. I was born with a privilege my kids will never have. And it hurts to say that.

My daughter said, ‘Dad, that’s not fair, it’s like we are getting punished for them being racist.’ Yes, I’m afraid that is true.

What’s the “no hoodie” rule? It’s basically a different version of the same thing. The only time you are allowed to wear your sweatshirt with the hood up, one of two things has to happen:

  • You are outside and it is cold. Not “you are cold” but “it is cold”
  • You are at home, either inside or outside of the house (unless of course, there is a major drug war going on, then stay inside.)

Why? As my son has said before, “Just cuz they say it, doesn’t mean i have to do it.” NO, you are right, you don’t have to. But the reality of life in this screwed up messed up world is that if you are inside and wearing a hooded sweatshirt and you’ve got music going on the headphones and it’s not cold and you aren’t outside, someone is going to look at you as a threat. They are going to follow you around the store, they are going to make sure someone is always watching you because they don’t trust you because all thugs dress that way.

It’s a sad world we live in. It’s sad that I have to tell my kids - including my 4 ft. 9 inch tall 18 year old that people in this world and people in our town are threatened by their existence and by their being part of the community.

And that’s what i’ve been spending a lot more of the writing time I can do - pushing back against the evil that has pushed racism so deeply into our world.

But the AVM world calls too - more to come and if you want to talk about either of them - let me know. Or go over to my blog at http://tomvanderwell.net and you can read more there.

Stay tuned,
TJ

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My kids are native, and yes we have had “the discussion” Its been a bit easier for me because I’m old, my Dad was old when I was born, as was his. So I have some direct family history.

My great- grand mother was a slave based on the “one Drop rule” (freed when she was very Young) She and my Great Grandfather an indentured Irish Miner left Virginia for Kentucky so they could be together (her heritage of course never came up.) When my grandfather was born in the late 1880’s he had the very “first discussion” when a teen. He left Kentucky for Montana and never again had contact with his family nor was his family ever mentioned again.

Not until he was on his death bed did my Dad ever know about his “one drop” or his family history. The secret, though I am no more black that Elizabeth Warren is Native American, was passed on to me (and kept until I had “the discussion” with my kiddos) in the 60’s when I came home with my very own confederate flag. I thought Robert E Lee was very cool… (For those of you who don’t know the Confederate Battle flag didn’t appear until the 60’s during the racial strife and civil rights movement) needless to say it went out with the trash. Intresting that a hundred years earlier, that one drop would have made me a slave.

I was hoping all of that was behind me. Now we are raising our 6 & 8 year old granddaughters Native mom and Hispanic dad. Its time for the discussion again… They don’t know Dad ad mom is number 153 in The Missing Montana Indigenous Woman’s List. from what the FBI has determined, it is very unlikely she is alive. We have that to deal with…which no Kid should ever have to. But it is time also for “the discussion” Anyone who doesn’t believe the evil we live with needs to walk in Your shoes @TJ127 or mine for awhile. In some ways, we experience that evil more than do our kids. I’m not equating the two positions in any way. But parents feel the pain of their kids, they also deal with the inability to do anything with it and have to ADD to it with the “discussion” You mentioned TJ that “I was born with a privilege my kids will never have. And it hurts to say that.” I have an answer for that and all who were born with that privilege: With privilege comes responsibility. Its time ALL with privilege own up to it…

The other TJ

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We live at a very interesting time and I hope George Floyd’s untimely and dreadful death leads on to real change. I learned the other day that racism and micro-aggression (i.e. often a high number of what might by some be taken to be low-significance jibes or slurs) have increased in recent years in the UK, so we are not as well off here as I thought. I have a number of neighbours and work colleagues who are black or Asian and all of the interactions I have or see are good, so I had assumed we had made good progress from when I last came across poor behaviour in the 1990s and things were getting better but it seems they are getting worse. I did think it was a rather 20th century phenomenon. I’m sorry it is not. It’s a good thing to expose this, though, and sort it out.

I’m really rather white, so my experience of what you describe is almost nil, save that I went to India for work a number of years ago and India being a very hierarchical society, I was seemingly top of the pile with fair hair and fair skin. It isn’t something I expected and it isn’t something that I want. I’m a very egalitarian chap. It was very strange to be approached differently than my Indian colleagues; and apparently I saved them from a driving ticket on one occasion! Not good at all.

My other experience of minority ethnicity was when my wife and I went on holiday to the Caribbean. On one occasion, we took our guidebook and went to discover the real town by visiting sights outside the zone where the expensive shops are and tourists are expected to stay. It was only when we sought food in a KFC that we properly realised we were the only white people in a place thronged with black folk. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was our turn to be stared at and it was a little uncomfortable to be so different. An interesting experience to have, especially for an able-bodied white person who looks very average and completely doesn’t have that experience daily, weekly, monthly or even in a year. And when I say “minority ethnicity” I mean of course that we were experiencing being a minority.

How can I help?

At the moment, if I see some folk in the street, I’m currently wishing them “good morning!” or “good afternoon!” even if they are keeping very much to themselves and would have passed by without saying a word. I’m not sure if it helps. I hope it shows someone is on their side and keen to be polite.

Somehow we need to go out of our way to build a relationship with each other and show love, or at least open a door.

Those are my thoughts. If I’m off target somewhere, do tell me gently.