This is not a fun post to write. I am likely going to screw this up, but I feel deeply, strongly that this is something that needs to be said. One disclaimer: If you find yourself feeling a stinging feeling as you read, stop, breathe, reflect and ask yourself, "How might this be true about me?" Here we go...
We white folks sometimes do too much. The worst culprits of all are the ones of us who think we have seen the light. We are open minded. We are progressive. We bought in long ago. Trust me. I am one of them. I didn't need Robin Diangelo to tell me that I have been seeking affirmation and validation that I am anti-racist from the BIPOC that see me or know me. Nope. My daughter told me. One of my beautiful, Black friends told me when she stepped away from her overly needy white friend. Me. My mood and my energy level told me after days and nights of furiously posting on Facebook all the things I was learning from the book White Fragility. Another Black friend told me, "I wouldn't spend time with you if I thought you were racist, Amy."
I have been so sickened about what I have seen on the tv the last decade. All the lives lost. All the men and women whose lives were immediately judged meaningless, then judged meaningless again by the media who dug into who they were at 14 years old only to find Oh my God, he smoked a joint! My rage is nothing but a grain of sand in the galaxies of tears and screams of all the people of color whose lives and future generations have been slain, literally and figuratively, by my people. My people.
Does it matter to the BIPOC in my life that I read and watch and ask questions and grieve and pray and protest? Yes. What matters more is that I am the Amy they fell in love with. They love the Amy who embraces and relishes their uniqueness as a people, but mostly as individuals. They love the Amy who can't wait to hug, hang out, toast, break bread, laugh, cry, reminisce and even pray together. They know me. They know I am their ally. They know I am there for them at the party and in the protest. As my daughter said, I have nothing to prove to them.
So, why do I feel like I have something to prove to the world of BIPOC who don't know me? And, why do I feel like if I scream loud enough on social media I will make a difference? I know why. My heart is breaking, absolutely breaking over the lives that have been lost, but more for the lives of BIPOC that I know who have to watch this every day happen before there eyes and still hold their heads up, go to work, feed their children, and who choose to pick up the phone to call me because they love me despite always having to wonder when it will happen in their community.
My heart is breaking, and I cannot do anything to stop it. I cannot protect anyone. I am sitting here in the burbs of DFW where it seems nothing is going on and I cannot prevent anything like the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and so many others. So, what do I do instead? I rage at the wind. I hunt down and take out anyone and everyone I can on social media. I subtweet and subpost on all the platforms I can. I post quotes and memes and videos to educate my circle of influence. I do all of this thinking I am making a difference while knowing the algorithms are all working against me anyway. Meanwhile, the BIPOC in my life, the ones actually in my life, are quiet these days. I don't see them posting what I am. I don't even see them liking the things I post all that much. I see recipes they cooked, family pictures, celebrations of graduations and birthdays, and normal things. Why is that? How is that possible? Amy, don't you know? This is how it has always been. We must go on.
My daughter and I even had a huge, screaming fight during our vacation at the lake, no less, that boiled down to all of this emotion, all this rage. She exploded exhausted from having to justify herself to both Black and white people. Both groups telling her she wasn't enough of either race to have opinions on current events. She has been marginalized by both sides of her identity. Resented for having a voice. Resented for having some imaginary choice to be less of who she is whenever she wants to be less Black or less white. Mocked for her whiteness and her white mother. Unfriended for her Blackness and her quest to embrace it. Lost because she now doesn't know what to do or where she belongs, and here is her mother campaigning, reading day and night, trying so hard to be the mother she deserves, when all she really wanted was to have fun at the lake with the mother who raised her. When she interrogated me about the book I was reading, I was wounded and walked away feeling like she thought I was a joke. All I heard was, "Just sit your behind down somewhere already!" All I felt was how I must be embarrassing her. Hours of yelling at each other passed before we cried, both of us, just wanting to be understood, wanting the other to hear us and see how hard this all is for each of us in our own way. Her fighting for herself; me fighting for her.
After all of that, I had to step back and take a hard look at all of the energy I was pouring into watching the news, staying on top of Facebook, keeping up with the tweets and videos, reading the books and repeat. This is what BIPOC resent about us as a people. We do this every time. We work ourselves up like rabid dogs for whatever cause comes up in the moment and we use up all of our energy so quickly fighting amongst ourselves trying so hard to show the world how down we are, how woke we are, how much we are different from all the other white folks out there. Mostly we wind up arguing amongst ourselves and picking fights rather than being good allies. We alienate ourselves from friends and family before we ever have an opportunity to really talk and make a difference at all. How do I know? Because I am talking about myself. Sometimes we come for each other not even knowing what that other person is thinking or feeling. Without asking the other person where they are in this moment, and without finding out what Work they are doing in their own anger and grief.
White people, white teachers, THIS is what we should be doing right now. This deep reflection. The beauty is that we have the time RIGHT NOW to stop, be quiet, reflect, journal, pray, process and listen. We don't have students right now. We don't have meetings to attend or papers to grade or lessons to plan. Between summer being here and the COVID19 quarantine, WE HAVE TIME. We don't have to solve this. We don't have to have the answers. We don't have to pick fights. We don't have to tell anyone anything. The BIPOC are watching us and they think we are, to a great degree, silly. More than that, they think we are doing what we typically do. I am not making this up. Go read Twitter. BUT. Stop reading Twitter to look for the next thing to retweet to educate your followers and read Twitter as if it is talking to you. Read it, then stop, breathe, reflect and ask yourself, "How might this be true about me?"
We cannot walk into this school year this cocked and loaded. We will burn our own classrooms and workrooms to the ground if we do. We cannot write curriculum that will solve racism. We cannot even know what this will really look like when we are with students again. NONE OF US. Imagine for a moment what the dynamic will be for students in the same room together after all of this. Can you? I cannot. I cannot wrap my mind around this at all, but maybe that is the whole point. We need to sit our behinds down somewhere already. We need to be quiet. We need to leave each other alone and stop provoking each other. We have more learning to do than we have things to teach. We have generations of programming in our own brains that we have to work through, and could our efforts right now just be, once again, us centering ourselves?
I know this is my teaching blog, but I keep hearing this over and over in my head. It is one of the most poignant Bible scriptures I know, yet so very simple: Be still. I think it is time for some stillness, but do not be confused. Stillness is not apathy. It is not inaction. It is not shirking responsibility. It is the posture of waiting on wisdom. It is being a seed planted and waiting to sprout and bear fruit. It is seeking real and trustworthy direction. It is listening with your heart and soul. Being still is a transformational act. It is humbling yourself to make room for a power higher than your own, a voice louder than your own, and plan better than your own.
We do not have to damage each other to do this Work. We do not have to pick sides at all if our hearts are pure. The only people who will have to pick sides are the ones not on the right one. That was the point of the non-violence movement. Let evil reveal itself. Let hate expose itself. Let racists identify themselves. We CAN sharpen each other's iron without cutting each other in the process. IT IS POSSIBLE. When we are still, when we are quiet, the moment will arise and we will know what to say and how to act. We will make a bigger difference because we will have saved our energy for the moment of greatest impact. All these other moments are for show. I'm sorry, but it is true. I learned it, I am learning it the hard way.
I leave you with this. Read, stop, breathe, reflect and ask yourself, "How might this be true about me?"
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