No escape: balancing listening & breaking silence

I want to escape. I want to look at pictures of cute pit bulls and cats, the ocean and deep space. Galaxies thousands of light years away, where light seems suspended in a darkness so beautiful and vast I can’t even comprehend it. I imagine a stripping away of the menial banter surrounding the serious news and politics that burden us, some much more heavily than others as we have so vividly and violently seen this week. Because I am white (along with other factors) I have the choice of escape. I can internalize my mourning and pain and leave it up to the people I love around me to hold that burden publicly because they don’t have the choice. They are coded by the society I live in as death, as fear, as less than human, where I am not.

I’ve spent years thinking about intimacy, vulnerability and racism, but I normally never write publicly. But today I’m writing and it feels hard but necessary. I’m not saying anything new, instead I’m hoping it acts as more of a reflection and a resource to draw on.

The shit storm of the past month has added to an already traumatic urgency taking place, making the news feel just that much more intimate and intense for me. After weeks of discussing and reading articles on Orlando, mass shootings, and gun laws, to Turkey, Dhaka, Baghdad, BLMTO and Pride, Alton Sterling, police brutality, and racist injustice; to hearing of friends breaking down crying at work, at home and in the street, to yesterday morning waking up to the recording of, Diamond Reynolds, who sat in the car pulled over by police and forced to watch her lover /partner / boyfriend, Philando Castile, be killed with her daughter consoling her from the backseat; to today learning my close friend has called into work ‘Black’ (see article below for more explanation on what that means) because of the racist trauma and intense disappointment she is holding – I feel writing about it in clean language with proper grammar and spelling (I know there are mistakes) for my 5-person academic audience is not how I should go about processing my immediate intimate rage and supporting people, such as my friends and family who are attempting to do some serious self love and care right now. They don’t all have time / energy to educate those who need assistance in understanding the deep historical connections with the present murders and terror, and they shouldn’t have to.

I want to hug those in pain and smash things simultaneously, but I also want to (hurt but mostly) help people who are having difficulty seeing the connections between how Black, Indigenous, Brown, and all People of Colour are forced to bear witness to and wear the scars of colonization, slavery, and capitalism with what is happening RIGHT NOW. This is the continuation and maintenance of white supremacy. PERIOD. Not 200 years ago, not 50 years ago, but right fucking now. It is no different, it’s just shifting and adapting in the shadows of our daily reality. The construction of whiteness and all that is attached to its persisting and pervasive power relies on the demonization and criminalization of Blackness, of Queerness, of women, of Indigeneity, and fear. So much blind, ignorant, unjustified, complicit and complacent, sickening fear. Its pathology divides people along lines of difference that are wholly social constructs but that have deeply dangerous and deathly consequences. If you don’t understand that, you need to take the time to listen and learn. There are people in your life, people that you love and who love you, that you work with, that you sit next to on the bus, that you brush up against in mundane ways, people you build community and share ideas with, people you have loved in the past and who you’ll love in the future whose health and humanity depend on it. Needing help to make these systemic connections (and more) is not a thing of shame or a reason for defensiveness, instead it’s an opportunity to take action and accountability.

It’s a struggle to find the right balance between listening and breaking silence. I will make mistakes in how I give support and challenge systemic oppressions. That is a given, but should never be an excuse. This is a process of learning to be vulnerable in the face of horrifying demons (social and personal). But this is a powerful vulnerability, one that is painfully and necessarily transformative. I’m sharing these thoughts today for the people I love and for those I don’t. To take some responsibility and action around my ‘white tears’ because wow they are there but letting them consume me with inaction is letting white supremacy win a little. This is an attempt to balance listening and silence with voicing my anger, sadness and disappointment, through also creating a space to share articles and videos of voices I think are integral to hear and learn from right now.

I start with the voice that created such waves inside me the first time I read her words, that I was changed forever. Over 3o years after they were first written they are as loud and as important as ever.

“I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness. … I have no creative use for guilt, yours or my own. Guilt is only another way of avoiding informed action, of buying time out of the pressing need to make clear choices, out of the approaching storm that can feed the earth as well as bend the trees. If I speak to you in anger, at least I have spoken to you: I have not put a gun to your head and shot you down in the street; I have not looked at your bleeding sister’s body and asked,”What did she do to deserve it?”” (Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider, Uses of Anger, 1984, p. 130)

The links below are in no particular order. Thank you to all the people writing, speaking and sharing them online so that I could read them and reflect. Just because I post them doesn’t mean I agree with every word that is written. The point is the read, listen, reflect, think critically about the reactions they cause in you, sit with them, question, and change. That’s what learning is. And it should be constant.

These are only a handful of resources – please read, share, and add more if you wish.

Skye xo

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