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Our rental house burned down yesterday. You can see it on the news. It was hard watching that standing on the street in front of our house with all of my artwork, references, research, inventions, writings, 3×5 cards of years of notes toward blog posts and prototypes, music making keyboards and music, sculptures, business paperwork, backup digital files, photographs, computers, laptops, printer, cameras, projector, art supplies, oil paints, watercolors – children’s toys, clothes, furniture – but most of all, my Legos – as it all burned down in the house.

That said, we were a white family living in a mixed, but predominantly black neighborhood of lower income means in Staten Island. And, as I sat on the sidewalk with three of my grandchildren, watching our house and over 30 yrs of work burn to the ground that I had brought to New York City from Georgia, I couldn’t help but notice that people we did not know, cared about us and that it didn’t matter to most of them that our skin is white.

We had left without any shoes, families from around the neighborhood gave some of their own children’s shoes, so our children could have shoes (and socks) to put on, with a lot of the sidewalks covered in glass – oh my god, I don’t even want to think about it. Someone brought us a cloth shopping bag with juice and cups and bottles of water. Someone else bought a pizza and some dinner for us, some yogurt, plates of rice and pasties. I don’t think we ever got to even thank anyone properly, but their generosity is beyond all words that I can express.

And yet, racism is alive and well in America every single day. My neighbors are pushed to think that way about me as a white person, and from a multitude of sources, my family and I are pushed to think that way about every race, and religion, and difference anyone might have from us.

It so happens, that I am disabled. Frankly, I’ll talk about it if I can’t get around doing it, but most of the time, I’d rather not talk about it. I do know what it is like when everyone, white black orange and in between discriminates against someone, because it has often been me that was the someone at the receiving end of that discrimination – and no one seems to think that it is not okay to be prejudiced and discriminate against a person with disabilities for some reason, but that has been my experience with it. In fact, it almost seems that everyone finds it “understandable” and agree with it being okay to be shitty or to do shitty things to anybody with any disability, when I’m being discriminated against or treated as less than because of my disabilities.

But last night, as I continued to sit on the sidewalk up the hill a ways from my house where the police told me to stay until the Fire Marshall cleared the scene and the Red Cross came, one of my daughters sent her sunglasses for me to wear because the fire trucks flashing lights had become strobes of danger that could case a seizure to me – AND NOBODY ASKED ME WHY I WANTED TO WEAR SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT! How about that. Isn’t that amazing? Nobody said any snide remarks about me trying to be a rock star or demanded that I explain why I needed to wear sunglasses at night to their satisfaction in order to receive the real freedom to wear them. Nobody asked me if there was something wrong.

People all day and all night came by and asked how we were doing and if we needed anything – which I wasn’t much help answering. Someone came that my daughter sent over to walk me to where someone else had agreed to keep the children in their house and watch them. The person helped me find my way, to step through and around and over to get to the block next over where there weren’t any flashing lights or watching the burning houses anymore or seeing the firemen sickened and overcome by the noxious fumes and heat of it all – which upset me more than words can describe.

I had been on twitter just before discovering the fire next door to us across only inches from the eaves of our house when I had to scream out, get out, get out now and grabbing the children to get out of the house and to the other side of the street because embers were raining down on us from next door and our roof had already begun its lapping tongues of fire.

I had been accused on twitter by a Trump supporter of being a racist against white people in response to something I said which was (paraphrased), it isn’t right to use my white race as an excuse for their racism, sexism, intolerance and bigotry. That is the truth. Bigotry was, at one time, tolerated – it still wasn’t right. And, it isn’t right now. People make a choice to be racist, bigoted, sexist, discriminatory, prejudiced.

It isn’t because a person is white that they are racist. It is because they have proclaimed the right to be racist and proudly made a choice to do so despite knowing it is wrong. It isn’t because a person doesn’t know any better in this day and age, they are making a choice to be racist, intolerant, sexist, or engage in whatever basis of intolerance they’ve decided they like for whatever reason they like. So, don’t tell me people are racist because they are white, or because they claim they are standing up for white people – because that is bullshit. “They” don’t speak for all white people. And the same thing is true for people who say all black people are racist against white people, or Mexican people, or foreigners, or Asians. That is bullshit too.

The other part of choice is responsibility and here is the part that is missing. When a person or group of people choose to be racist or sexist or excuse their intolerance of others using race or gender or religion as that excuse, the person choosing to be that way and act on it is responsible for it. And that kind of thinking has way too much cost and very little positive return to show for it.

Maybe everyone in our neighborhood where we had not lived an entire year when our home, our business and our studio burned down yesterday all in one fell swoop, saw us sometimes around the neighborhood going to the store or getting on the bus or sitting on the porch with neighbors talking.

And maybe they hated us and anyone else in a five block radius who was there and white at the same time – maybe. Maybe they thought we were privileged whites with whatever connotations that could bring with it. Maybe.

BUT the one thing our neighbors did that was different than that “narrative” which may have been thrust upon them by many, many things and many, many experiences – was to set it aside and meet us as human beings with the grace of God’s outstretched hand helping in a time of need beyond all measure of basic human compassion. AND, it was amazing!

When people can look me in the eyes and say, are you alright? – and it not just be the words you are supposed to say, but really genuine, I can hear it, you can year it, anyone can hear it. It is the truth, that in that one moment two human beings saw one another genuinely, spoke honestly, cared in a way beyond themselves, used common sense and shared human decency in a real way, and then there was a touch of LOVE that sparkled in that moment between them.

– cricketdiane
08-20-16
(Apologies if I didn’t say this right – but it is the best I can do with what I’m thinking right now about everything.)

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Massive Staten Island fire destroys three houses; 17 firefighters among the 21 injured

Massive Staten Island fire destroys three houses; 17 firefighters among …
New York Daily News · 18 hours ago

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/fdny-battles-fire-ripped-staten-island-houses-article-1.2757169

A raging fire tore through a crowded Staten Island block Thursday night, laying waste to three houses and damaging four more. Flaming debris poured …
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FDNY: Children Playing With Matches Cause Of Staten Island Fire

FDNY: Children Playing With Matches Cause Of Staten Island Fire
CBS New York · 2 hours ago

FDNY: Children Playing With Matches Cause Of Staten Island Fire

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A massive fire that destroyed several homes and left dozens homeless on Staten Island …
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Staten Island fire started by children playing with matches, FDNY says
Staten Island fire started by children playing with matches, FDNY says
am New York · 9 hours ago

http://www.onenewspage.com/video/20160819/5339028/Residents-Displaced-In-Staten-Island-Fire.htm

Children playing with matches sparked a six-alarm fire on Thursday that displaced 10 families and ravaged homes in the …