I Dissent: Reflections on RGB and Leaving No One Behind
Last night, the news arrives, RGB is dead.
This morning, I awaken from a deep sleep praying the rosary.
During business hours every day, I find myself whispering to the dead.
We are living into a mass extinction, yet continue to behave as if the poles haven’t already melted, the fires aren’t already burning.
Here in the U.S. the political coup already happened.
Every home you’ve ever lived in was likely built on stolen land.
Not only as a culture, but as a species, we appear woefully unprepared and unable to meet the urgency and complexity of this moment.
My friend Israel, a Chicano man, was the first one to use the phrase “white liberal supremacy” to me several years ago.
He was speaking about a mutual acquaintance and while I would have liked to focus exclusively on another, I immediately recognized a blind spot, me staring back at me.
I’ve worked to shift this story yet I still know that it runs through the blood of me, white supremacist and colonial tinted DNA that I carry.
Living near the end of a dirt road that became official pueblo land (it’s all pueblo land) in New Mexico for the last two years before I left to be with Cid, changed my relationship to that DNA, to my molecules and bones.
As I walked daily in the shadow of Black Mesa, I was led into an unexpected connection to my ancestors, who were once Indigenous to place: Scotland. Ireland. France. England.
Rather than appropriating another’s culture, I was shown how to retrieve my own.
Living in El Rancho taught me a about complexity and paradox.
As I walked daily to the little Catholic Church on the pueblo and sat on the step looking over the small graveyard, I began to absorb the teachings of the bones.
This tiny place where I lived for two years is a crossroads, a vortex that holds memory of ancient conflict at the heart of New Mexico, a place that embodies colonization.
The road leading into the pueblo is called El Rancho, and the pueblo is San Ildelfonso.
In New Mexico, the monuments to the colonizers are only now, just beginning to be taken down. Every September, the entire town of Santa Fe is taken over by Fiestas which is a re-creation of De Vargas’s massacres, genocide known colloquially as “entradas.”
In that small boneyard, in the shadow of the adobe sun, I read the names on the stones:
Gonzales. Montoya. Martinez. Roybal
The colonizers and the colonized, insiders and outsiders, the entanglement, the dead all stacked on top of each other as family, as memory.
As I walk home that day, I hear traditional drumming up the road.
I understand the multi-generational abuse of the Catholic Church and it’s role in this colonization story.
I get in my car and drive North east, to Chimayo, kneel down in the dirt and pray. I go in the gift shop and buy cheap plastic rosaries which make me feel safe.
Several Native friends dissent on the canonization of RGB on my feed this morning.
“Do not be so quick to canonize” they caution.
“Her record on Native rights is abysmal.”
“Look up her ruling on Sherrill.”
“We are harmed and forgotten by white supremacy always”
“She called taking a knee, a right, but stupid.”
I look the last one up, having read about her record before:
“Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Kaepernick protests:
‘I think it’s dumb and disrespectful”
Our culture is so extreme and we’re really bad at complexity.
Can we hold two truths at once? That she did incredible work for decades for SOME women’s rights and still had a colonized mindset?
We are not all good, not pure, and neither was she.
The lie of whiteness is a deeply conditioned mindset, a weakness, posing as strength. It will continue to morph and present itself in more nuanced and insidious ways.
Un-learning is the work of a lifetime and does not lead to sainthood, but to embodied humanity, a reconnection to our souls.
It’s uncomfortable. It’s humbling. It’s painful.
It involves a willingness to say, with great humility and love: I dissent.