Thoughts on Racism from Rural America

If you think racism doesn’t impact your life, think again.

I recently moved back to rural Kansas after 15+ years living in much much bigger cities (Chicago and Denver). And being out here while all of these protests are going on has got me feeling a mixed bag of emotions–sadness, anger, rage, grief, regret, etc. And I keep thinking, what can I do? How can I help? 

Then I think about where I am. 

I think about who I am. 

I’m in the middle of nowhere Kansas somewhere in between Kansas City and Tulsa on the Missouri border. A place with a rich civil war history, a place known to have been at the forefront for fighting to be a free state, John Brown, massacres, bloody Kansas etc. it all happened right around here. Cities were burned. People were murdered for having one belief or the other. It was brutal. It was chaotic. 

All in the name of freedom. 

But now? Now I think about how so many of us are afraid. There can be no other explanation. We’re afraid to stand up for what’s right. 

We’re afraid to put a Black Lives Matter sign up in our window, or to call out the racism on our Facebook newsfeed, or invite our black friends to come visit.   

Why? Because we know that makes us a target for violence. It makes us a target for being ostracized, pushed out, abandoned by our ‘people’ aka our family, our community. And though, theoretically we understand that these racist types are ‘not our people’ …  they also are? 

So instead of saying something or doing anything we find ourselves becoming apathetic, avoiding these issues, remaining apolitical for the state of surviving where we are. Minimizing what’s happening or going so far as to blame the victims themselves. 

I think back on why I left, why I moved out of this small town, and it’s because I didn’t feel like I belonged. Of course, I looked like I belonged with my white skin and my german nose and my dirty blonde hair, but I didn’t feel like I belonged because I had different thoughts on how I wanted to live my life, who I wanted to be, ways and desires that didn’t fit within the mold the town has constructed for its people.  

To pretend this construction isn’t a reality for folks in this community is dangerous. It’s dangerous because it strips individuals of their freedom. Turning people away because they don’t fit within your own mold creates fear. Confusion. Anger. Uncertainty. 

If freedom is what so many people believe in then why do we let so much happen that goes against that very idea? Shouldn’t everyone have the freedom to choose where they live, what they believe, who they love– even if it doesn’t align with your own ideas of what that looks like? Isn’t that what our ancestors fought for when they fought for Kansas to be a free state? A fight for a united America–where everyone, regardless of their color of skin would have the right to empower or fuck up their own lives however they saw fit? 

We cannot continue to ignore what is happening because it happens each and every day in our own backyards.

Your silence will not save you and it damn well won’t save our friends, family, loved ones, lovers, children and neighbors. 

What can we do?

Here are a few suggestions that might help you as you continue on the path toward justice, freedom, and equality–wherever you happen to be. 

Little Tips for Big Anti-Racist Action

Turn Toward Your Feelings Not Away From Them.

This stuff hurts. This stuff is heavy. But instead of running, deflecting, numbing, avoiding, we must turn inward. Stop. Sit. Examine what is coming up. Anger? Sadness? Confusion? Where does it stem from? What does it feel like within your body? Where is it located? What is the texture. Can you sit with it fully? Do that. Feel all of it.  

Kill Your Ego

When we come from a place we’re we can listen without judgement we are better equipped to handle the chaos. Note that not every experience is specifically about you. If something provokes you this can often be a reflection of your own beliefs, issues, trauma, and that needs to be examined (see above suggestion on turning inward). Perhaps you have guilt about your part in all of this, that is valid, that is not uncommon, that is to be expected.

When you kill your ego you kill the part of yourself that lives from fear and fear is what works to perpetuate all of this bullshit and keeps everyone from truly living freely. Fear is what keeps us from doing the right thing and choosing the comfortable thing instead.  

Choose Compassion

We only know the depths of our own experiences. For the most part we do not know the full history, experiences, nuances of any one else’s lives (not even the Kardashians!). If people are running around being racist, how can you confront them in a productive way? If you are struggling you can always ask yourself WWJD or apply the golden rule.

Think about the times that you’ve changed your opinion of a matter, did it happen because someone was screaming at you and calling you names or did it happen because you were able to have an open and honest conversation?

If ever unsure, ask questions. Note that you might not get the response you were hoping for, know that all is not lost. Also remember that if you’re talking through these issues on an open social media platform that you’re saying the words you are saying to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people, so you may make a positive impact on someone and never even know it. 

Dive Deeper Into Our History

Race is a social construct.  White people weren’t always white. Working class white people have more in common with people of color than they do their corporate bosses. Ask yourself why, who does this divisiveness ultimately serve? There are SO many resources out there that will aid in your discovery.

Here are a few links:

Beyond The Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action In Your Own Life

75 Things White People Can Do For Social Justice

Anti-Racism Resources

Be Kind to Yourself

Take care of yourself. Take breaks when you can. If you happen to be in a rural community like I am, know that there are other people who feel the same way. You are not alone. 

You are beautiful. 

You are loved. 

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But, no, really, what is the matter with Kansas? Part 1

No place like Kansas? Umm… There are actually a lot of places like Kansas. . . .

Conservatives and Liberals, it’s time to take a seat

I’ve been back living in rural Kansas for the last 20-ish days having taken a 13+ year break from the sunflower state with a 3-year-stop in Chicago and decade-long stop in Colorado.

Many people, mostly people not from here (and several from my exact small town) can’t seem to fathom what has gotten into me. It seems strange, absurd, crazy to move back to an area that, to put bluntly, is dying from the inside out. A place that to an outsider, is staunchly and stubbornly conservative with no hope for redemption of any kind –spiritual, economical, physical, mental, etc.

But, I’ve always been down for a challenge. I only gamble on a sure-thing. I play to win. (You get the gist.)

I wouldn’t have moved back here if I thought it was completely hopeless.

Every time I’ve come back to visit I’ve driven through these small towns and I’ve thought, ‘Wow, what the fuck happened here?’ Downtowns deteriorating, plywood up over historic building windows, movie theaters no longer showing, restaurants no longer serving, even the bars are washed up dry in many places.

If they’re not dead, they’re dying.

I’ve often asked myself, can rural America be resuscitated?

Most economists say no.

But when have Kansans’ ever gave a fuck about what economists think?

What I’ve always loved about the people from this state is that we’re all a bunch of weirdos. We’re free-thinkers. We’re rebellious. We’re strong as fuck.

The people here have always been innovative, they’ve always been able to DIY EVERYTHING, they’ve been tough and wild and funnier than anyone really anywhere outside of here. Not only that, but they’ve been fucking kind as fuck. I mean, real thoughtful folk that will give you the shirt off their back if you ask.

And yet.

Here we are.

All of us here, fucked.

Tell me you’re not.

Come on. Prove to me that everything around here is going real swell.

I’m not here to go into some sort of political rant that continues the polarization of our community. That’s useless.

I want to know if the people here can get back to those traits that are so rooted in our blood? And can these traits of strength, DIY, rebellion etc. be used to their fullest potential for positive change?

I do not care about your morality.

I care about your reality.

What is your reality?

Fuck democrat. Fuck republican.

Liberal, conservative, something in between, or outside of that– your morality could in fact be in direct conflict with your reality.

Put that bullshit aside. Take a minute and reflect on what your issues truly are.

I’m only through part one of What’s the Matter with Kansas? And though the book is like 16-years-old, not much has changed, mostly if anything, it has just gotten worse. The most vital take-away thus far is to REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE YOU COME FROM.

Take Populism as an example.

  • People v. The Elite
  • Marginalized groups v. dominant power structures
  • 99% v. 1%
  • Poor v. Rich

This section of the book stuck out to me:

“This is not far from how the Populists saw their movement: as a sort of revelation, a moment when an entire generation of “Kansas fools” figured out that they’d been lied to all their lives. Whether it was Republicans or Democrats in charge, they believed, mainstream politics were a ‘sham battle’ distracting the nation from its real problem– corporate capitalism.”

Could it be that the main issues people are facing here are financial in nature? Or is everyone who lives in Kansas secretly into being financially dominated* and role-playing as pay pigs to the government and corporations and anyone else who asks for money and I just missed the memo?

Are we really going to sit around and play the part of the masochist in this brutal BDSM scene?

Just because we can handle the pain doesn’t mean we have to take it.

It’s time to change the rules of the game. It’s time to own our strengths, our weirdness, our rebellious nature. If no one else is going to do it right, it’s time we DIY.

I’m ready to work on the actual problems, the reality of the situation we are all facing. I’d love to hear your stories, your opinions, what your action-plans / thoughts are for improvement / empowerment / resuscitation are. Or, if you think I’m wrong, bring it on. I’m open to dialogue. I’m also okay with being wrong, if that means more things are right than I realized.

More to come soon on:

  • How political polarization has infiltrated our daily capitalistic purchases
  • Fucked up yet badass Kansas historical leaders and what they can teach us
  • The best of the best crowd commentary + clapbacks

*Financial domination is a fetish in the kink community based on power exchange where people (mostly men) enjoy having other people (mostly women) take their money (large sums of money) from them. If you are one of these people send me all of your money, I deserve it more than you. I’m at least going to do something useful with it. AKA change the world.

Here’s the link if you too want to read What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America