I missed last week, but I’m back this week. And whew, what a week it has been in this world. I haven’t gotten much writing done, again. In part, it is the continuation of isolation. Both my focus and my partner’s focus on his work from home is wavering. The first month or so was great for a couple of introverts like us, but we’re feeling restless and need outside human contact. We’re brain-fogged, our minds are begging for a change of scenery and new stimuli. My son has also been trying a new medication and it has been severely impacting his mood while we determine an appropriate dosage. This is his last week of school and we’re trying to wrap up his coursework. Also, I’m getting really sick of sitting on the floor to work because Sung kicked me out of the office while he’s working from home (tbh, neither of us can focus on work while the other is in the room).
The other part of my lack of focus are world events, and American events. I have watched, horrified by the brutality being faced by protesters nationwide. Angered by agitators, often the police themselves, who are giving themselves excuses to escalate peaceful protests into riots. There have been protests against police brutality against black Americans for years. I was a child during the Rodney King riots, which happened a couple years after I left California. There have been protests and riots over extrajudicial executions and careless murders of black people over the last three decades. Some of these have led to small shifts in laws and regulations, but it hasn’t addressed the core of of the problem, which is cultural.
A friend of mine said something that made me think. She said, “white folks: don’t divorce yourself from whiteness because you’re not like other white folks.” It’s not uncommon to hear white liberals/progressives who are anti-racist say things like, “I hate sharing a race with other white people,” or “On behalf of white people, I’m sorry,” and other similar statements. You’re not a monster for feeling this way, but you also aren’t helping BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) or yourself. I have felt this way in the past too, and I understand that people who say these things are trying to show their care. However, trying to excise yourself from your whiteness helps no one and by believing yourself removed from it, you are turning a blind eye to the lingering effects of white supremacy that influence your life.
I am white and I am infuriated by the actions and beliefs of those who share my heritage and complexion. But I can’t just deny my whiteness because it has shaped my life, though it was something I was never aware of until I educated myself.
My immediate family was very progressive and anti-racist. My grandparents have often spoken up against racism (and homophobia). My mother carried on this mindset into my upbringing. My father wasn’t much of an impact on my life, though my mother told me that his family was ashamed of their mixed heritage (my great-grandmother was supposedly half-black and half-Seminole, though my DNA test only showed a trace of African ancestry). My stepdad came from a racist upbringing–he told me several times how his parents told him not to touch black people because their color might “rub off on them”–but he rejected their ideas and believed in being anti-racist.
The fact that my immediate family was empathetic and anti-racist was not enough. The moment I stepped outside that bubble, whether it was school, extended family, TV, or just being in public, I was influenced by white supremacy. I still passively absorbed racism from my environment and my lack of awareness. I have committed acts of microaggressions and simply been ignorant because I was isolated in a primarily white society. It’s taken years to unlearn those things and there might yet be more things for me to unpack.
For approximately 15 years, I was in a relationship with a bi-racial man–half-black, half-white. We had a son together. While he is a person who caused me a lot of trauma and that I have many personal issues with, none of that is relevant for this topic. Through him, I observed a great deal of what it was like to be black in America. He told me how he was curb-stomped by skinheads when he was just 12 years old, walking through his neighborhood. How his white friend was pulled over while he was a passenger, the cop coming to the passenger side, looking directly at him and asking him for his ID. A number of other incidents where he was harshly reminded of his “othering” in society simply for his complexion. It left him with traumatic scars. He grew up with a white mother, a white step-father, and a biracial brother, surrounded by predominantly white friends. Racism influenced his entire life.
You hear white people frequently say, “I’m not racist, I have black friends/a black partner/a mixed child.” I had probably said this, or at least thought that my relationship with my ex meant that I was excused from racism. Looking back, after years of self-work, I see how that statement is absolutely false. I still was tainted by white supremacy. I didn’t fully grasp his experience as a black man in America until after we had separated and I engaged in that self-work.
My mother confessed that she had been reluctant to accept my ex at first because he was black, though she was disappointed in her knee-jerk response and took it as a learning opportunity to better herself. My stepdad would make racist jokes in a flippant manner and my ex would just laugh along. I saw a lot of that with him. Microaggressions were shrugged off. He’d laugh off racist jokes. He made himself palatable to white people because he just did not have the energy to fight back for every little slight leveled at him. I didn’t even see this until later. Having a black boyfriend/husband did not excuse me from racism, nor does his relationship to any other white person in his life excuse any of their racism.
White people, no matter how progressive we think we might be, have a responsibility to constantly evaluate our thoughts and behavior when it comes to race. White supremacy is insidious and toxic and deeply ingrained in our society. It lives in the roots and grows outwards. To deny the influence it has on one’s self, as a white person, is to ignore the sickness. To treat it, you must confront it, uproot it, and cut it out. We all have this sickness in us and we can’t ignore it. And this is not just for each individual, because the sickness won’t be cured until we destroy the source.
I see our society on the brink of an enormous shift. I am both terrified and hopeful. Terrified for the violence, suffering, and pain that comes with change. Hopeful because at the other end of this, I can see the potential for a better world. Hold fast, stay strong, and keep fighting the good fight.
Working on Chapter 4 slowly but surely.
I haven’t been working on this since I’m slogging through trying to focus on the other project, but Lianora has been on my mind a lot and I’m mulling over this interpretation of her character, as well as my earlier version of her.
Today is my birthday, but it also would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. Breonna was murdered in her home by police who invaded her home on March 13th in Louisville KY. Without warning or announcement, police entered her home acting on a search warrant in the middle of the night. Believing that they were intruders, Breonna’s boyfriend shot in self-defense and defense of their property. The police opened fire inside the home and struck Breonna eight times. Instead of offering your well-wishes to me, I request that you do something for her family–either donating to her aunt’s fundraiser, joining a protest, or at the least, signing a petition to make certain that those responsible for her death are held to account.