By Tommy Airey
“There is no bad luck in the world but whitefolks.” – Toni Morrison, Beloved
Last weekend, I hiked with friends on traditional land of Watlala people, about fifty miles southeast of Portland, Oregon. At the trailhead, there were a half dozen Chinook Salmon swimming in the cold shallow water below. They were traveling upstream, from the Pacific to the Columbia to the Sandy to the Zig Zag to Camp Creek. The females, returning to the place of their birth, were preparing to lay their eggs – and then die four days later. Despite all the dams that have been built, there are still a few of these Beings, so sacred to Native people here, who have the strength to swim against the current, teaching us how to give up our lives for the next generation.
On my two-hour drive back to the Deschutes River, I was pondering the contrast between Chinook Salmon who swim upstream and those who built the dams, white people conditioned by conformity, always moving with the current, not against it. I was thinking about the white people I know who now refer to “wokeness” as a bad word, as a kind of far-left cult that is extreme and dangerous, existing only to shame white people. The conservative talking points are penetrating the language of white moderates and liberals. Right-wing strategists know what they are doing! Wokeness is the perfect pinata for people unwilling to swim upstream and shed their own whiteness.Continue reading “Upstream”