underlying white anxiety

Deep, deep down, I think most of us white people are scared of the idea put forth in this tweet:

That is to say, most of us white people know on some level that we’ve got it better than Black and brown people. If you doubt it, I’ve seen the following exercise used: ask yourself, would you freely and happily be willing to be a Black person in America? If you say yes, you’d be happy to do that, I question your honesty. Most white people will recognize how difficult being Black in America. We white people must be afraid on some level that what’s not fairly earned might be taken away if we really work for justice.

Maybe things will change for us white people as things improve for others. And, sure, maybe we’ll lose some stuff. But the fact is, if we use resources responsibly, there’s enough for everyone.

I need a spiritual solution for this work. I need to be reminded regularly that everything will be okay. As long as I live my values in solidarity with people who are marginalized and oppressed by white supremacy,* as long as we work together for justice, everything’s gonna be okay. It might not be easy, and I have no doubt people will be hurt (they’re being hurt now), but ultimately it’s going to be better for everyone than it is now.

 

 

*loosely quoting bell hooks, I define white supremacy as unchecked patriarchal capitalism built on the social construction of race

 

 

my addiction to white supremacy

I keep wanting to write a long post about how I treat my whiteness as an addiction. By that I mean I am impacted by something beyond my control (systemic racism) and I have lived in denial for most of my life — even as an anti-racism activist. I was sick and suffering but I didn’t realize it until I started recovering.

But I haven’t taken the time to write it all up and it keeps bursting out at times when I’m not near a keyboard. So I’m going to at least put down on paper (keyboard/screen) a few highlights of what I’ve learned:

  1. Making mistakes while learning about racism will happen, it is unavoidable;
  2. Fear of making mistakes will prevent me from making any changes;
  3. Asking people of color to help me understand racism will almost always be a mistake (unless they are being paid specifically to answer questions/provide advice), it’s not their job to help me and asking them to do the emotional labor of educating for free would be an example of being part of the problem;
  4. In my innermost thoughts, down even below thoughts about which I am aware, I held really gross and discriminatory thoughts about people of color (I still do!), we call this implicit bias and it’s unavoidable. Let me repeat that: implicit bias is unavoidable;
  5. It’s been my experience that fear of those implicit biases was blocking me from being fully human;
  6. I didn’t realize I was lacking in humanity until I looked really really really deeply into my racist beliefs (message me privately if you’d like to talk more about this);
  7. Examining my own implicit biases required a spiritual solution (this is where I get into connecting it with my recovery from substance use disorders) because it was terrifying. I had to know that it wasn’t all up to me, that my higher power (who I choose to call god) would carry me through it;
  8. It turned out my implicit biases were much, much louder and more problematic when I was trying not to have them;
  9. Keeping on myself on the path of full humanity, rejecting white supremacy and the benefits it affords me, requires daily practice, enlarging my spiritual life, and examining almost everything I do (good news! it becomes an almost imperceptible habit much of the time);
  10. The freedom I have experienced after facing my ugliest underlying racism (implicit biases held by people holding power is related to racism) is, as we might hear in recovery circles, “indescribably wonderful.” I want to share this with white people wherever I go. I didn’t realize how much humanity was missing until I started recovering it!

Because I want to be a part of changing our racist systems, I need to work on myself as an individual and this involves my feelings and my whiteness. I do this work with and around other white people. Sometimes I do this work with people of color if they are really good friends (like, we share meals together) or if we are in a situation where the point of the interaction is to deal with racism. Mostly, though, I do my offline racism work with other white people. Online, I write about it a lot. Writing as I have on blackgirlinmaine.com has helped me try to learn how to write about racism without centering on whiteness. But, I’ll admit freely that I really don’t get it. How can I write about racism as a white person without centering on whiteness (my experience?). I’ll keep trying, though.

And that brings me back to #1. Making mistakes in anti-racism work is unavoidable. I’m not sure who said this, but in the handouts for a “Racial Dialogue Capacity-Building Workshop” put on by the New England Yearly Meeting (Quakers) Challenging White Supremacy Working Group I read a quote I like as it sets a good tone, rather than judging ourselves harshly for how we are living within white supremacy, we must face where we white people are and change: “Wherever you are is fine and Beloved—But it’s not okay to stay there!”

 

PS Look at that, I did write a relatively long post afterall. :-)

 

post-concussion syndrome recovery update

This week, I will “graduate” from the Bayside Neuro-Rehabilitation Center where I have been working to address the symptoms brought about by post-concussion syndrome. In June of last year my daughters and I were rear-ended; our car was totaled. My daughters were not physically injured, but I sustained a concussion. I’ve written about it quite a bit, and have been sharing periodic updates about my recovery.

My mother asked me this weekend, after I told her am still unable to do many of the activities I did before the concussion, why am I so happy about the state of my recovery? I said something like this to her:

I’m happy about finishing up at Bayside — the rehabilitation center I would recommend without reservation to anyone with brain injuries! — because: 1) I get 2.5 hours back to use as I wish every week (at the beginning I was at Bayside up to seven hours a week); 2) my improvements since I started there last fall have been steady and measurable and significant; 3) I have learned strategies to deal with the ongoing symptoms, the areas in my life that are still impacted; 4) I have hope (much better than despair!) that I will continue improving until I’m back at 100%. I understand I may never been entirely the same, but who could be unchanged after going through such a massive experience?

I’m also giddy because some of my brain functioning that should be “in the background” has returned into the background. One of the most difficult aspects of healing from this brain injury has been a necessary awareness of how my brain works, and what kinds of thinking are required to function in daily living. On most days, for example, I can not only happily cook dinner for my daughters, I can also listen to my very-verbal nine year old tell me about whatever feels important to her at that moment. This multi-tasking, ability to shift my focus back and forth among different tasks, ability to intuitively know (there’s that background brain work!) something on the stovetop needs stirring and getting the garlic minced should be the next step without having to stop and consider, what comes next? All of these returning skills have been bringing my quality of life (and the quality of life of my daughters!) back to the joyful but busy life we had before the concussion.

Thank you to all of you who have been following my recovery. I’ll likely post about it again as I notice new improvements. For now, I’ll just say that I fully expect I’ll be able to plant, weed, tend, harvest and prepare our garden veggies this summer. I couldn’t do it last summer and that was pretty devastating. Living most days full of gratitude is such a better way to live!

 

 

“This Is America” (Childish Gambino/Donald Glover)

Have you seen Childish Gambino’s “This Is America?” I’m not sure of the video’s rating, but it contains both graphic violence and violent concepts. Still, I think all adults (and probably most kids, with adult supervision) might benefit from watching it.

It’s brilliant (thought I won’t try to articulate why that’s how I see it). It’s art. It also feels a lot like it’s none of my business.

I’m looking forward to seeing the analysis and interpretations shared by Black people. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, having available some well-considered analysis by people of color before sharing the video with young people would be a good idea. Like a book club. Thoughts for consideration, etc.

This song and video are not for me like his also-(truly)-brilliant show, Atlanta, isn’t made for me. I will always watch it. And, while watching it, I will know that I’m not really “getting” many of the jokes or messages. Simply being aware of how unfamiliar so much of it is, while it’s also entertaining and disturbing, makes the show worthwhile.

To understand better what I mean, check out this article, “Donald Glover Can’t Save You.

edited to add: The Carnage and Chaos of Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” by ; and Donald Glover’s ‘This Is America’ Holds Ugly Truths To Be Self-Evident.

Here’s the video:

dating for friends?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the commonalities between developing new friendships as an adult and the experience of dating. For a lot of reasons, “dating” isn’t on my radar these days. But, as my daughters are getting older and much more independent, I’ve found myself venturing out into the world in new ways; that includes noticing people with whom I might find friendship. I’m finding it’s a lot like dating.

Here’s what I mean:

hm, that person seems interesting –> maybe we should hang out –> let’s hang out –> agreement/expression of mutual interest –> plan –> hanging out (a walk, coffee, a movie, a meal, or some activity) –> contact following the hanging out –> self-doubt (was my text goofy? overwhelming? too much? not enough?) –> interpretations of responses–> texting (or not) –> one or the other or both make obvious efforts to have a repeat performance of the original hanging out.

Do you see how this could be dating or it could be making a new friend?

I’ve had the experience in the past few years of knowing people about whom I think “we could be totally excellent amazing friends” but, for whatever reasons, they don’t see me in the same way. When that happens in dating, I usually know not to take that personally. It’s not me, it’s that we’re not a good fit. I’ve used hindsight and lessons from dating to heal some of my small wounds from failed attempts at friendship.

I’ve also had the experience in the past few years of people reaching out to me to hang out but I drop the ball. In hindsight, some of those dropped balls were tossed to me from interesting people. So, I’m going back to pick up the ball where it makes sense.

With new friends there are all kinds of negotiations, just like in dating. What does “friend” mean to this person? What level of communication do they expect vs. what I expect? Historically, my closest and most intimate friends have not always been the same people I see or talk to regularly. Because my children have been young, most of my energy is used mothering. And, I’m an introvert (for real! not because it’s trendy!).

As my life is changing, will my willingness to invest in and availability for friendship change, too? I’m not sure. I suspect I’m a bit of an old dog who won’t learn many new tricks. But, I’m keeping my mind open. All I can do is try. As with dating, so with friendships; I will depend on my mantra from the 12 step recovery program I hold so dear: “progress, not perfection.”