Category Archives: Something to think about

As We Gently Nudge the Facebook Cats

[This post is for my white friends. We are learning together. This time of convulsion is overwhelming and energizing, wrenching and combative. We are lucky to be here. These are the swells of change and we are doing it together. I’m always open for your thoughts.]

I was talking with a friend who is white today and she was disheartened. “So that was it? One week?” She was talking about her white friends’ Facebook feeds. It appeared to her that the solidarity with Black lives was basically over. I didn’t think that was the case, but I went on for my nightly scroll around and the cats and the pasta and the golf and the birthdays were everywhere. Those are all important things. New pets, a child’s birthday in pandemic, a bit of joy in a really challenging time. We need breaks. We need space. We need comfort and rejuvenation and affirmation in not normal times.

I want to gently nudge us to get back to it—to dismantling racism within ourselves and within our schools, neighborhoods, cities… I’d like to offer this space below for you to share what you’re thinking and what you’re learning. Maybe this feels like a great awakening and it’s too much of a change to post about it all the time. Maybe you are depressed seeing immense pain now that you didn’t see before. Maybe the internal work you’re doing is shocking and exhausting. Maybe you are afraid of making mistakes and saying the wrong things because you’ll be called out by people both more radical and more conservative.

And still, I gently nudge you to get back to it—to being uncomfortable and talking about it. You may gently nudge me back, too.

Right now I’m reading “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. She asks you to have a journal as a companion and write in it with each set of reflection questions. I decided I would reflect in my head. I don’t like to handwrite things. On one of the most recent lessons, she wrote to me directly on the page about white exceptionalism, “White exceptionalism is the little voice that convinces you that… because you have an intellectual understanding of the concepts being presented here, you do not have to diligently write out your responses to questions. That you can just think about it in your mind, and that is enough.”

It’s time to get out the journal because the journey is still beginning and it’s mostly inside me. Have you Googled about what defunding the police means, sat with your discomfort and questions about it, read about it from the Black activist’s lens? Are you in on what the Black wealth gap is about and how to fix it? We feel safe with police; We think reform is enough–why do we think these things?

“White exceptionalism is what convinces you that you don’t really need to do the work. That you are doing it because it is a commendable thing to do but that you do not have to dig as deep as you are being asked to go.”

We are being asked to go deep. The lives of our non-white friends and peers depend on it. And we will be more free ourselves.

Two upcoming dates to think on:

June 19 – Juneteenth. If you don’t know it, Google it. I only learned about it last year because 1) racism & historical erasure, and 2) lack of internal work.

June 20 – Poor People’s Campaign Mass Poor People’s Assembly.

Today Is Pentecost

[This post is for my White friends and peers of faith. I write from a Christian lens, but I’m imagining that other faith traditions with martyrs will have connection points.]

The tongues of fire are here, and they are speaking every language, and we are here to listen.

Pentecost is rooted in Easter. And watching the tongues of flame head for the heavens yesterday on the Falcon 9 completed that arc of Easter for me, and made me think again about our Christian Easter story. It’s a tough look into humanity—the crowds calling for Jesus’ death, the betrayal, the torturous murder on the Cross.

When you think of the Easter story, who do you imagine yourself as?

I would always imagine myself as one of the disciples, not one of the ones whose name rolls off the tips of our tongues like Paul or Thomas. Not one of the betrayers, either. We don’t like to put ourselves in stories as the antagonists. Although, a few years ago, I started to feel like I would have been Peter, because I have a strong self-protective mechanism. I could have told a white lie about not knowing Jesus a few times.

And then the last couple years I started to feel most like I’d be one of the people yelling for Jesus’ death. I have a comfortable life and I wouldn’t have been throwing it away to follow a crazy person. I would have noticed injustice, but tried to “work within the system” to fix it. I wouldn’t have wanted a revolution. Jesus was revolutionary.

The interesting thing about this moment is that we are putting ideas about what kind of people we are—justice-loving people, kind people, people who want us to all work toward equality, people who follow Jesus—up against the discomfort in how we feel about what’s happening around us. We share words that may not be words of justice—they might be words that lay blame on others and protect ourselves from having to do the work of gaining equality and giving up our own privilege.

Equality sounds good, but the work is scary. Windows are broken.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

As White Christians we have a lot of reckoning to do with how we’ve upheld racist systems in the past and continue to do so with our judgments, our inactions, and our self-protections. Luckily it’s Pentecost, and the flames of the Holy Spirit will speak to us in a language we can hear. Let our hearts and our lives be open to receiving the message.

Imaginary Things

A close-up of a bright pink rhododendron in full bloom with a bee nestled in deep to collect pollen.

There is pollen swirling in the street like a flocks of swifts. It’s caking the bottom of our shoes with its yellow chalk. It’s smearing my brain like muddy hands on glass. It’s trying to slow me down, change my pace, make me old.

I’m not good at taking nature’s lead.

I want to be out in the world. I want to prune my garden with the swift strokes of a thousand shears. I want to drive up the Gorge and put my cheek on the necks of the horses I love. I want to see my friends and hug them so tight they lose their breath, but not quite so tight I crack their ribs. I have to say that last part out loud to remind myself of the line of restraint when the time comes.

Do you ever in your pandemic-brain rabbit holes think about the fact that the screenplays for our next ten years’ worth of movies are being lived right now? Wretched heartbreaks, death, solitude, some sort of mash up super-casting of marshmallow storylines. Will they tell the stories of how racism and sexism built a castle out of inequality that crushed some and let others make sourdough bread?

I feel like I’ve been sucked into a pool of glitter. The glitter is up my nose and in my hair. The silver linings aren’t the bright edges of puffy clouds, but a thousand reflections of sunlight on cut and colored metal. I can’t take my eyes off the dancing light, it’s breathtaking, and at the same time I’m desperately picking it out of my toes and washing it out of every crack but it stays and stays.

The Best Day of 2019

There were many. And if I catalogue them my heart will fill with the helium of gratitude and fly off into the sky until the sun or the air pressure bursts it into a thousand vaguely biodegradable pieces. This is the gift of memory and nostalgia.

But one day.

There’s a favorite spot for hiking the boys and I have in Hood River. We don’t actually hike. We adventure to places that have interesting views or nooks and meadows to explore or hills for sledding. To get to these payoffs there may be a mildly noteworthy amount of walking.

We went to our favorite spot. When I say “our favorite spot” in relation to anything, it refers to a place I take my children that they cannot opt out of. Their actual favorite spot is the arcade. I hate the arcade.

Our favorite spot is up high, over the river. There are little paths and hills to scramble up. There are drop-offs. I do not like heights. But it’s fucking beautiful.

K-Pants begged to go to the top of the triangle hill that juts out over the meadows.

There’s this thing I do when I find something terrifying. I yell to myself in my head, “YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING! YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING!” I’m more open to terrifying things now. They are eye-level with the rawness and stimulation of parenting.

At the top of the little path of the scramble-up hill K-Pants’ soul left his body. He wanted my phone to take photos and video. I hadn’t brought it with us. I could see the car like a beetle down below in the parking lot—phone inside.

There are so many streams of consciousness and so many little decisions in living each day. As a group we decided Boy Woww and I would go down to the car, leave K-Pants on the hill, and come back with the phone. “YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING! YOU’RE DOING SOMETHING TERRIFYING” leaving your child on a hill.

Hill

I love him. Very very much. He doesn’t admit that he loves me except in Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards. He took this photo of me from on top of the hill.

Hill down

I love him.