Mary Beth Writes

When I’m not here at my desk, I’m outside in the dirt. I have spent much of the past week in my backyard doing cute projects, clearing weeds, planting seeds, moving plants. I even moved a tree! (Granted, it was a small tree.)

In about an hour I will be out there again until all my little vegetable and basil plants are planted. It’s supposed to rain this afternoon.

So that’s part of my quarantine, I’m dickering around in my own yard. Suits my introverted mood.

The most ironic tweet of this morning is from Randy Rainbow. If you don’t know who Randy Rainbow is go to YouTube right now and look him up. We’ll see you back here in a half hour.

His tweet?

“Taking a break from white people today.”

He’s white and so are most of us but we get this.

America’s racism is visually boiling over.

Yesterday we saw the appalling privileged white woman in Central Park threatening a Black man by calling 911 to report he was trying to harm her. All he wanted was for her to leash her dog in an area where one is supposed to leash their dog.

In Minneapolis a white cop killed an African American man by kneeling on his neck while the man gasped that he could not breathe. Three other cops stood around watching. Jesus Christ.

Here we still are in our unending national conversation about racism.

I have two things to add.

1. How did our nation get so mired in the sin of racism AFTER we fought and won the Civil War to end it?

Soon I’m going to walk us through the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments and how Lincoln’s Vice President gutted the victory of the Civil War to perpetuate the racism of slavery. Which is why we are still here. (I do this not because you need me to teach you, but because after I write something, I generally know it.)

If you want to consider this question today, I highly recommend this podcast:

2. My other question regards our personal stories. What happened in our old white lives to make us better than we were destined to be?

Not every one of you who read me are old and white, but many are (I don’t poll but that’s my take on who reads this website).

We remember the racism in which we grew up. I remember the ugly words that relatives used to signify African American people. I remember adults around me saying the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s was stupid, law-breaking (the irony!), and fomented by “outsiders. I remember people “explaining” to me that Martin Luther King was a Communist agent.

When it wasn’t direct and ugly, it was patronizing and divisive. I remember my dad saying he had served with Black men and with Jews in WWII. He admired those fellow soldiers, but his admiration taught me that the situation and my dad’s “open mindedness” were remarkable. Not the skewed way the world worked where the race of men he liked and admired was the thing worth mentioning.

There are so many ways in which we absorbed the ethos of our growing up time and place. We saw and experienced and sometimes participated in direct racism against others. We heard and experienced and often participated in patronizing belittling.

Yet somehow we eventually learned enough to listen. To shut up. To vote for people who talk thoughtfully about racism. To read books and essays by POC. To think carefully about what almost any American experience might feel like when one is inside brown skin.

We’ve read and listened to and watched programing about the ways we have institutionalized racism in our country. If a group of people is going to talk about ANYTHING and all the talkers are white, we have learned to be skeptical and critical.

So the question is this. How did we get here? We know we are not where we need to be, but we aren’t where we were.

What was the key that unlocked us towards a more open, respectful, and listening future? What happened to and around us that allowed us to try to be allies of POC when so many other white people stopped paying attention or stopped caring or became dangerously racist?

When and what happened that helped us become who we are now?

I am not talking about patting ourselves on the back.

I am asking how do we get ourselves and others past and around the institutional racism that is everywhere?

Thanks to a FB post from KM, this is an incredibly good resource going forward:

Whether you comment here or not, what were moments in your life where you began to see and then turn away from American racism?




As a Life Long POC I've experienced the raceism first hand in my 67yrs on this earth but I've never been as in fear of my life as I've been resently... My first experience with it was when my parents were building this house back in the fifty's... When the house was not finished but good enough to move us in it from Chicago, the nieghbor across the street passed around a petition to get the "N" out of the neighborhood... It failed because his family were the only ones willing to sign it... The other nieghbors told us about it... I remember my father and this man spending years trying to out do each other... I've been called the "N" word in high school even though I'm Latino... I remember some senior wanting to beat me up when I first started HS, one of his friends told him not to because I was Mexican and I probably had a knife.... I've been stopped in my car at least 3 times for driving while colored, no infractions just the wrong color in the wrong neighborhood, Mostly at night... Once while driving back from Lake Forest Illinois after helping a friend with a rummage sale I was stopped on my way out of town... He focused his flashlight at some items in my truck and questioned me as to where they came from... I drive around with a copy of my birth certificate in my car just in case I get stopped and threatened with deportation( it's happened to my brother ) This even though I was born e citizen of this country that I'm supposed to have respect for when I don't get the same treatment...


More and more, I'm thinking people of color (and women) in positions of power, whether local government or federal, is the answer. We need a diverse crowd when rules are being made, enforced, challenged, and rewritten. We need to SEE diversity on the "stage of life" and so do our children and so do the people in our country who think America used to be "great." And those of us who aren't IN power can use our power--just like you are and I am and a whole lot of other people are--to expose acts of racism that continue to happen to anyone who's not white in our country.
Leonard's picture

I asked. According to Lieutenant Gregory Kaepernick of the Waukesha County Sheriff, "We do not." According to Chad Pergande of the (City of) Waukesha Police Department, "We do not have body cameras, however, the City of Waukesha has squad cameras in all of their marked patrol units. Officers carry microphones to capture audio when the camera is activated."

Christian Cooper (almost) had to pay the price for his accuser breaking the law by not having her dog leashed. I am a retired mail carrier and I thought I had heard every excuse in the book for a dog running loose but never have I ever seen a law breaker call the police on someone requesting they obey the leash law. It is so painfully obvious what she was attempting to do by using this man's dark skin against him. Thank God for cell phones.

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Quarantine Diary #308 1/15/2021

My life is pretty fine, and I bet yours is, too. Warm place to live. Food to eat. Friends to share and laugh with - even if we have to do it via Zoom.

At the same time, who isn’t feeling anxiety and dread? Will the white supremacist insurrectionist knobs attack the inaugural? Will they screw up state capitols and infrastructure? One lone guy blew up Nashville a mere three weeks ago. What the hell is going on?

Quarantine Diary #307 Brain Names

Remember when there was no autism? Sure, there were kids in our schools who were weirdly able to remember stuff, or were hard to control, or whose emotions triggered at the oddest time. We generally ignored those kids. Those of us who were kind did, anyways. Others bullied. 

Remember the mopey kids in high school who knew too much about depressing art and angsty music and sometimes killed themselves?

Quarantine Diary #306 Hunched Over & Paying Attention

I am going to write some Quarantine Diary entries again. There’s a lot going on and sometimes it helps to hear a small voice as well as the big voices of journalists, pundits, networks, the other public media we follow.

I have had a small headache off and on for days. I worried that I might have contracted Covid, except dang it, I haven’t gone anywhere! And then, thinking about it, I realized I am hunched over my phone much more than usual. These mild on-again, off-again headaches are from eyestrain and weird posture.

Rime and Treason

These photos were taken by Len on Monday in that other time and world that existed before the Trump gorgons mobbed the Capitol. (Gorgons existed in Greek literature. Gorgons are the poisonous siblings with hair of living snakes. Those who beheld them face-to-face turned to stone. Or were killed by being beaten by a fire extinguisher.)

I have been trying to write about that but it is too hard. There is so much that is clear and is informative. You are reading it as much as I am. Blessed be the journalists, right? 

Quarantine Diary #292 New Year's Eve

Many of us feel as if we are in limbo until Biden takes office. I don’t think you need me to say a lot about how long and hard this year has been; we’ve been in this dentist’s chair together.


Did you see how many days quarantine has lasted? 292 days.

So far.

This week I read a remarkable essay. On Natural Landscapes, Metaphorical Living, and Warlpiri Identity, by Barry Lopez. Life is weird. The day after I read it, Mr. Lopez died.

Advent Light Post 12/24/2020

Judy Saunders. Photo of a Rose.

Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
From tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming,
As folks of old have sung.
It came a flower bright
Amid the cold of winter
When half-spent was the night.


Len and I were delivering presents to Chicago yesterday. Social distancing, with masks, but we did it and we saw our kids’ faces and there’s your Christmas, Ma’am.

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