basically BECKY blog

  • Rebecca Branle

I feel like the last few years have been the years of stolen words. Patriots, Liberty, Freedom - all these words have been co-opted by swaths of ignorant and angry white folks. Like children having temper tantrums, they’re acting out against the idea of progress.

They’ve stolen our words but they won’t steal our cities.

On Saturday night a group calling themselves The Patriot Front came to Philly, carrying banners that read “Reclaim America.” They jumped out of Penske trucks and vomited their hate onto the streets of Philadelphia. It wasn’t long until Philadelphians said their piece, showed their collective muscle, and chased these cowards out of the city. But not before children celebrating the Fourth saw them. Not before they made their statement, showed their numbers, and proclaimed their pretend patriotism.

On January 6th those fragile egos called themselves Patriots. They used flags to beat and bludgeon police officers. Throughout the pandemic, those claiming to love Liberty have marched through city streets with long guns. Today, the "Free" PA movement continues to grow its white supremacist base, claiming to adore freedom so much they’re trying erase Trans kids, strip our schools of books like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and block our ability to teach history fully and truthfully.

I know, I know, they are ridiculous and have nothing to do with your values - even if you had their "Open PA" sign in your yard, because that was just to protest Wolf’s pandemic response, right? Wrong. That was just their opening; white supremacy is their end goal. These folks are now in the pockets of your local Republican officials; we’re already seeing state reps pivot on policy to appease them. Congressman Lloyd Smucker is having meetings with them where non-disclosures are signed at the door and "discreet" donations are requested (discreet because there will be no tax deductions, because nothing these people do is ethical or safe). As crazy and off-the-wall as they seem to you, they’re organized. They’re fundraising. They’re in our local churches (because, you know, racism is what brown Jesus would do). Republican friends, if you’re not writing your reps to say these people don’t represent your party, you’re handing your party to them. You are them.

Let’s take back our words so that these folks never take back our cities and towns.

Patriotism, for me and maybe for you, is love; not love of our brutality or our colonialism or our mistakes, but love of us - of Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman and Langston Hughes and James Baldwin and Fannie Lou Hamer…of indigenous leaders and immigrants and refugees, of every protestor who marched to move our country forward, of my pappy, and of you.

Freedom and Liberty - they’re for ALL of us. It always strikes me, that the white anabaptists and evangelicals who came here to escape religious persecution are, too often, now practicing persecution. The power they fled has become their own poison.

I dunno. I just think that sometimes paradigm shifts can save the world. Narratives can heal, or destroy, us. I wanna write the story where we create an America that lives up to its ideals, where we celebrate ALL of our stories, where we tell the truth and face the past and build an equitable future.

Where we choose love.

Where these guys, these “Patriots,” are suffocated by our celebrations of acceptance and love and progress.

It’s time to take back our words.

It’s time to create a new us.

I've never been a big fan of fairytales. Not even as a kid. Seems my 6-year-old Anna feels the same way. She started watching Rapunzel and had to stop. She was like, "Why doesn't she just cut her hair off, tie it to something, and scale down the tower herself? Having that boy climb up her hair is stupid." Same goes for Cinderella. Their connection was so tight that he could only identify her by a shoe? Puh-lease.

I've been thinking a lot about fairytales and how they're lazy stories. Imagine if we all modeled our life after fairytales. We'd be waiting for the magic to arrive, or for the prince to save us, and we'd never accomplish anything. That's kind of the way Republicans want us to raise our kids.

I know Critical Race Theory is a hot button issue. But do you realize it's been around for 40 years? 40 years and no one felt compelled to ban it, or, if they did, they were immediately identified as a racist simpleton and dismissed. Today, Republicans want you to believe Critical Race Theory teaches that white people are bad and it aims to make poor little white children hate themselves; that's just not true. Critical Race Theory works to unearth the truth, the full truth, so we can learn from it and grow beyond it. Critical Race Theory isn't saying white people suck, it's simply working to include race in the discussion.

How many times have you heard someone say, "Slavery is over! Don't blame me for it!" Okay, let's talk about that. Fellow white people, we have to stop feeling personally attacked when we talk about race issues. Just be objective. Take a deep breath; take yourself out of it; and listen. Instead of being defensive, be a part of the solution. There is a multiracial solution that will welcome you. Promise. Racism didn't end with slavery and the reason we aren't having productive conversations about fixing our problems is that there's a lack in our education about all the things that have happened since slavery. Jim Crowe and its prison work camps, Segregation, Redlining (so many white folks have generational wealth because of property ownership. If one race was held back from being able to generate that kind of wealth, we need to understand it), Rosewood, Tulsa, the inability for black and brown tradespeople to join unions, black and brown veterans who didn't receive the GI Bill, the way our infrastructure cut through neighborhoods, separating black and brown neighborhoods from the heart of the city, schools that rely upon taxes that result in poor kids getting inferior educations and continuing the cycle of poverty, and so much more. A similar timeline can be made for the absolute horror that's been inflicted upon Native Americans since the dawn of the exploration of this land.

Critical Race Theory simply works to include all of these truths into the story of our history. Essentially, it turns our history from a fairytale to a reality. We can learn from reality. We can grow from reality. We can heal. We can unite. The fairytale? It gets us nowhere. It teaches us nothing. It creates broken humans like PA State Rep. Dave Zimmerman who boldly lie about a stolen election and say it was ANTIFA that stormed the capital. Why would we allow someone to lie about an event that left police officers with permanent injuries? That attempted to overthrow our democracy? He lies like he breathes and yet calls telling the truth in schools "indoctrination." He wants to whitewash our history the same way he's actively whitewashing January 6th. Friends, some things are wrong. Just wrong. His new bill to ban Critical Race Theory from our schools? Dead wrong. Racist. Disgusting. He wants to ignite a culture war. He wants to tell you a false narrative about the issue. Why? Because his politics only serve the most radical white evangelicals, the super rich, and the major corporations. He has to distract you to earn his vote. Otherwise, he's got nothing for you. So he's lying and he's dividing us. He's banking on igniting hate within you to keep him in power. Why would we want someone like that to represent us?

I'm tired, guys. I'm tired of the lies and the dog and pony shows and the Republican Party's reliance on our own ignorance of the issues. If we aren't educated, it makes it easier for them to manipulate us. Don't let them. Forget the fairytales. Demand the truth. Let us grow. Let all of us grow...together.

I've promised to lead with love and love is honest; love is kind. Love looks its mistakes in the eye and love works diligently to fix them. Let's again, and always, choose love.

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  • Rebecca Branle

It's been one year. But it's also been hundreds of years.

One year ago we watched George Floyd breathe his last breath, calling for his mom, pleading for mercy. We watched Derrick Chauvin, clad proudly in the uniform of justice, press his knee harder into George Floyd's neck. He didn't care. He didn't see the human being in George Floyd.

The same way they didn't see the human being in Elijah McClain the year prior, or Emmett Till decades earlier, or the countless others in the days between and before.

It's telling, what makes a person speak out. I saw the rage over Colin Kaepernick's knee on a football field. I still see the rage over burnt about buildings and broken windows. But the rage was missing for a knee on a neck from those so aggrieved over a knee on astroturf. The rage over countless lives is missing with those so enraged over broken windows that can all be replaced. But how will George be replaced? How will Elijah? And Breonna and Sandra and Amhaud and Tamir and Trayvon?

If Tamir was your child, 12 years old, playing outside and gunned down by a police officer who had been dismissed from his previous job, deemed emotionally unstable and unfit for duty; if Tamir was your child and he was taken by this broken man and that man wasn't held responsible for his death, how would you respond? Is your child's life more valuable than a window? A storefront? If my child were taken and justice never came, if my chid were taken and his life was placed in a long line of other lives taken, with no justice, I'd light the world on fire. How much longer until we realize property damage is a symptom of a problem, not the problem? Crying about broken windows and ignoring broken lives reveals more about your broken humanity than you know.

I see it. Daily. I see the posts that say, "If you want to help your kids, teach them to respect police officers." It's always posted by a white person, always revealing their ignorance. Because Elijah and Tamir were children. They didn't disrespect, but they're still dead. Breonna was asleep, but she's still gone. George Floyd was unconscious and yet the knee remained.

I see it. Daily. I see the comparisons of the insurrection to last summer's riots. Hear me: riots are wrong. Property damage is wrong. But is a community acting out after hundreds of years of murder the same as a bunch of white folks who believe a lie storming our Capitol building, attempting to overthrow an election, because they're upset that their guy lost? Why don't we talk more about the officers who lost eyes, who suffered heart attacks, who lost fingers, who broke ribs, who had head injuries? Why was the knee on the football field not okay, but beating an officer with an American flag while storming the Capitol is? What would have happened if those folks, with their tactical gear and red hats and Trump flags had been met with tear gas and rubber bullets? Why aren't we talking about the real connection between last summer and January 6th - their root cause is the same: authority run amuck. Lies and injustice. White brutality.

It's been a year and it's been several lifetimes.

George Floyd woke up the masses. Some, some decided to march. Some decided to push back. Some decided to call senators and demand police reform. Some have examined their own biases and have promised to stop racism in its tracks, whenever it crosses their path. Some have done nothing.

Some have become emboldened and have clung more tightly to their hate. Because these folks are afraid. These folks are dangerous. These folks are passing voter suppression laws and trying to make sure our history remains whitewashed. These folks aren't patriots. These folks are cowards.

It's been a year and it's been several lifetimes.

Isn't it time you joined the chorus of voices saying, "Enough?"

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