Mix 10 parts White Flour with 1 part racial injustice….

on March 24, 2012 in things that have fallen out of barbie's mind.... with 5 comments by

With 8 days left of David LaMotte’s Kickstarter project for his children’s book, White Flour, I thought it was time I wrote a little something about it on my website.

If you’re visiting this site, you probably follow my antics on Twitter or Facebook, otherwise how would you know that my site even existed?  I’d love to discuss that, but now isn’t the time to determine the answer to the philosophical question, “If Barbie has a website which no one visits and it crashes….will anyone hear it or care?”  Nope, now is the time to discuss the ku klux klan, the Coup Clutz Clowns & what happens when hatred meets humor.

This past week, while I was catching up on Facebook & Twitter, I was horrified to discover that some people find the anti-Obama, “n-word” bumper stickers to be funny.  I was even more bothered by the fact that the rest of the posts were people shaking their head, but not completely outraged.  Have we as a nation become so complacent about racism that we no longer feel compelled to act against it?  Does it take the shooting of an unarmed boy to give us cause to raise our voices?  Do we have to encounter such extremes to become involved?  I think not.  I think we just don’t know what we can do….but I believe David’s book provides an answer and that is one reason I am so fully in support of it.

White Flour illustration by Jenn Hales.

White Flour tells the true story of a whimsical and effective response by counter-protesters to a white supremacists’ march in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2007.  The Coup Clutz Clowns, a group of local anti-racism activists, used humor and non-violence to reveal the silliness of the march, vanquishing hatred with laughter.

The clowns slightly altered the supremacists’ chants to make them a bit… better.  As the hooded marchers shouted “white power!” the clowns joined right in, shouting “white flour!” and pulling out bags of the stuff they had brought from home for a flour fight.  They walked a bit farther and decided they had heard wrong, and that the klansmen must be shouting “white flowers!” so they shouted that, and passed flowers out to the crowd …and it gets better from there (the full text of the poem is below).  The point is that rather than shouting down the shouters, meeting rage with rage, they simply refused to take such foolishness seriously.  Fight and flight are not our only two options, and humor, it turns out, beats hatred.  At least it did on that day. ~ David LaMotte

Do I propose we all dress up as clowns and take a stand if the klan comes to our town?   No.  But I do suggest that we teach our children the values that are so cheerfully and eloquently brought to light in White Flour.   Teaching our children that bigotry is wrong is only the beginning, but what an important beginning it is.   I’ve tried to explain it to my six year-old son, and it is a completely foreign concept.  He kind of understands that some people don’t like the little girl he has a crush on.  Since she is an African-American he knows they can easily see the difference in her skin color, but he doesn’t comprehend how that can be bad.  Explaining to him, however, that some people don’t like me because I’m a Jew, is altogether lost on him.  I don’t look any different than other white people, but I’m hated by some just the same.  As for explaining his Godfather, who is gay, or any of my gay, lesbian or transgendered friends (whom he adores), well, to him that’s just an ungraspable idea.   The fact that they love shouldn’t be a bad thing, no matter who that love is given to.

The other incredibly important lesson in David LaMotte’s poem, White Flour, is that the clowns are not reaching for violence to counter hatred.  They are reaching into their bag of tricks for humor, praise and peace.   David best explains this in an email discussion we had earlier today.

White Flour illustration by Jenn Hales.

Someone sent me an indie press article about the event and I was knocked out by several things: one, that the mainstream press had missed this.  Two, that it’s such a good example of creative nonviolence— finding a third way beyond fight and flight.  Three, that it was so effective. And four, that it’s so creative and funny.  I find it to be an accessible story for lots of audiences, but also extremely instructive, so I wanted to share it.

“Breaking the script” is a fundamental tenet of creative nonviolence.  Responding in ways that are completely unexpected breaks us out of our patterns and opens a conflict situation up to new possible outcomes.  I love what these folks did, and it’s been fun to track them down and have some conversations about it.  The original organizers are really excited about the book.

There are plenty of other examples of this in my own life and in conflict situations I’ve been around, but this is the most entertaining story I know to illustrate that point.

The first time I heard David perform White Flour, I asked him if I could get an audio version of it to send to my family and friends for Christmas.  Being such a wonderful friend and wanting to spread this story far and wide, he agreed without hesitation.  When I learned that this, my favorite poem of all time, was going to be turned into a children’s book, I was completely thrilled.  A few weeks ago, when he launched the Kickstarter project, I felt certain that it would be successful as long as people were aware of it.  This story is so important, especially for children.   It isn’t preachy or condescending, on the contrary, it’s fun and accessible.   It is, in my opinion, the perfect way to educate our children on bigotry and nonviolence.  Most importantly, it’s true.  It’s a piece of history that should be remembered.   Should be celebrated.  Should become a part of our national conversation about putting an end to racism.

When the White Flour project surpassed its goal of $18,500 in 12 days, I was amazed.  People really embraced this story.  They fell in love with the idea and wanted to share it with their friends, both in real life and online.  There were so many folks out there just like me who believe in something so fiercely that they literally have to tell everyone about it.

You may think that the story ends here, but it doesn’t.  David has gained some pretty impressive attention with this real-life story, turned into a poem, turned into a children’s book.  There is now talk of this book becoming a part of the 5th grade curriculum in schools in Texas.   He is in also in contact with a national publicist and has learned that several well-known artists in the music industry are planning to give testimonials about his book.

White Flour illustration by Jenn Hales.

Given all this inspiring news, White Flour is no longer going to be a little project that inches its way up a tiny hill.   No, that plan just isn’t what this book wants to do.   This is now the Little Book That Could and, with the help of 401 backers so far, this book fully intends to climb a mountain.   I truly believe that it can.   The original goal of $18,500 to print 2,500 copies of White Flour is a distant memory.  The top of this mountain is now $39,000 for an initial printing of 10,000 copies and a national publicity campaign.  This means that we need to continue to spread the word.   If this money is brought in strictly through pre-orders, at $25 each, we only need 680 more to reach this goal.

That $25 on the Kickstarter page not only orders the book and includes the shipping, but because of the way Kickstarter works you also get whatever was included prior to that level.  In this case, it would include:

$1 – SMILE! I will look up from my computer and grin and be thankful for your kind support. Then I will celebrate that there are people in the world who are happy to trade a dollar for a smile, and to help with an effort to tell an inspiring story with no tangible reward to themselves. You rock.

$5 – LAUGH! Loads of gratitude, plus a digitally (i.e. magically) transported scan of some book art to use as wallpaper on your computer screen.

$15 – CLAP! We’ll send gratitude, digital wallpaper and an e-book version of White Flour.

And, of course,

$25 – STAND UP! We’ll send the physical book and pay the postage (please add $5 if overseas) and we’ll send you the wallpaper image.

There are many other levels for this book, including autographed copies of the book, David’s award winning album, S.S. Bathtub, VIP tickets to one of his release parties and even the opportunity to have him perform for you.

I’ve gone on long enough about this book….and so I leave you with David LaMotte performing White Flour.  This book will go far, mark my words, The Little Book That Could will climb unimaginable mountains and become an essential tool to help keep bigotry out of the hearts of our children.

as always, thanks for playing. : )  you can find additional information about White Flour at www.whiteflourbook.com

You can find David LaMotte at www.DavidLaMotte.com
on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DavidLaMotte
on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DavidLaMotte
and if you’re really lucky….at a venue near you.

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5 comments

  1. posted on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:05 PM  |  

    Beautiful post! I love how you bring your own experience to bear on this, & how you make David LaMotte’s poem & the story behind it so much more relevant by doing that. & thanks both for the link to RFBanjo & for all your help over there as we’ve used the blog this month also to promote “White Flour.” : )

    • Barbie Angell
      posted on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:30 PM  |  

      thank you. : ) this piece took on a life of its own. i had fully intended to write it in a completely different way, but i do like how it turned out.

  2. posted on Mar 24, 2012 at 2:25 PM  |  

    […] beautiful pieces about the poem/book and how it intersects with their own lives, faith, etc. This one by Barbie Angell came out […]

  3. posted on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:28 AM  |  

    Well said, love. Maybe the fact that your six year old and my eight year old see this as a “foreign” concept shows that we are making ground in raising a new, kind, and open minded generation. There will always be bad apples, but I take pride in the fact that our children love all. My son doesn’t understand why people made fun of me for walking funny because of my Cerebral Palsy. He says I’m normal and it’s their fault for missing out on something great because I’m awesome. Yeah, he’s partial, but I’ll take it. :)

    • Barbie Angell
      posted on Mar 27, 2012 at 1:49 PM  |  

      thank you so very much. your comment means a great deal to me. i know exactly what you mean. i firmly believe that the best thing i can do for my son is to teach him to be a good person. he’s always described people by what they’re wearing. “the green girl” or “the black boy” are because of the shirts they have on. i love that he chooses to differentiate them based on that rather than unintentionally derogatory statements. the absolute worst thing he can do, in his mind, is to hurt someone else. it breaks his heart if he accidentally hits me with something or if i tell him that a comment wasn’t nice. i hope he never loses that empathy.

      thanks again for your sweet & lovely words. your son is quite lucky. : )

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