My buddy Steve has sent two announcements the last few days concerning U.S. Representative Julia Carson (1938-2007).
Confronted with barely-veiled racial prejudice in the halls of Congress by a peer who did not recognize her, Carson queried, “What’s your point?” Thus sums up the Indianapolis Star, in a special report called “A warrior for the city.”
I paid no attention to state politics the years I lived in Indianapolis, being invested in the cultural and linguistic politics of the Deaf Community (which was a pioneer in the revolutionary bilingual-bicultural movement in Deaf Education), and working on issues of access and ableism in the lesbian community. Hence, I learn of “Julia” in retrospect, and am particularly drawn to the news story because of its invocation of “war” by labeling her a warrior.
“Her weapons of choice are blunt talk and a dollop of charm,” the Congressional Quarterly’s Politics in America once said of her.
Weapons. Words as weapons counterposed with “charm.” I am not disputing these characterizations nor their utility as skills, what I am puzzling over is if/when we can learn (or teach ourselves) to speak of such determination and ferocity in a way that honors the power of negotiation, period. (Tary and I started a conversation about “centering” a few weeks ago.)
“A lot of people get elected to positions and forget that they serve all the people,” said John M. Thomas, former president of Community Action of Greater Indianapolis. “She never forgot that.”
Steadfast memory. Conviction. Blunt talk. These are the tools and skills of those who seek foundational peace, of those who intend with each word and every action to change the most basic operations of our institutions from subtle mechanisms of privilege/discrimination to equitable and just treatment of and for everyone.
I do wish I had known her. 🙂