Gratitude is a word I have neglected these past few weeks. Not entirely. That’s not my nature, but I haven’t felt much like being mindfully grateful. Police brutality, racial injustice, and a nasty virus that won’t go away have given all of us good reasons to feel sour. That’s putting it mildly.
But this morning, I woke up. I walked my new puppy, Birdie. I unrolled my yoga mat and did some stretches. In a bit my oldest daughter will drop by and we’ll go for a hike. I had breakfast. I’ll have lunch and dinner, too. I will not insult you with platitudes here. I’m so sick of hearing We’re all in this together I could scream. We are not together! I want to shout at the television. We are apart, and that’s the problem. This is coming from an introvert, no less. A true INFJ if you’re familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality test.
The truth is I miss people. I miss sitting around a table with friends and eating chicken salad sandwiches. I miss the good feeling of coming home to my quiet, relatively calm (pre-puppy at least) house after being someplace noisy. There is no transition, you see, no clear distinction between one day and the next. It’s an issue of balance, I suppose.
Lately, I’ve been reciting Emily Dickinson poems in my head, specifically, the poem I’m Nobody! (260).
I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! They’d advertise — you know!
How dreary — to be Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one’s name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!
There is something about the line “Then there’s a pair of us!” that feels like a meeting of minds, a kindred spirit, a partner in crime. “A pair of us” means we’re not alone. Why is Emily coming to me now? Why is she the resident poet in my head these days?
My seemingly incongruous thoughts usually correlate in some way if I bother to sit down and write about them. We’re all in this together is a paradox for Covid and quarantine and social distancing perhaps, but it’s quite literal when it comes to the Black Lives Matter movement: We are all in this together.
Some will march and protest and stand at the head of the line, holding the lantern and leading our way. Others will go along, albeit begrudgingly, and a few will be dragged, kicking and screaming (and probably not wearing masks), but maybe they will get there, too. Maybe. Change is coming, however. Change is inevitable.
What difference can a White woman in her fifties make in the Black Lives Matter movement? And who cares what I have to say about these struggles anyway? As I type, I question this myself. All I can tell you is silence on the issue of Black Lives Matter feels cowardly and dastardly. Not to speak is to condone violence. Yes, that means you, nice White lady. It means me. It means all of us White ladies and girls and women have to speak up. Why? Because our silence and “politeness” and “good girlness” are part of the problem. We have to examine our own biases. We have to look at systemic racism and consider our complicity in its ugliness. We must educate ourselves, and then instead of feeling smug and holier than thou, we have to go out and have difficult conversations with difficult White people. And when Black people post their stories or write about their experiences or call us out on things that make us uncomfortable, we must listen with a growth mindset.
To brush aside the anguish of our fellow Americans, Americans who truly made this country what it is today, is its own brand of violence, and it is particularly cruel. Have I been guilty of just wanting everyone to get along? Yes. Have I felt too tired to listen to protests or watch horrific images on the news? Yep. Have I naively thought none of it had anything much to do with me? Lord help me, but yes.
Posting a black square on Instagram was too small an effort on my part. Reposting the thoughtful messages of others borders on plagiarism. I must use my own voice, too. If you’re unfriending/unfollowing/snoozing, then maybe you especially need to hear this message. I am writing this post because I need to hear this message.
Black Lives Matter.
Beyond this, I’m giving myself some reading assignments. After listening to Professor Brittney Cooper’s (pictured below) recent talk on Instagram, I ordered a few books, and I’m going to read said books.
In the coming weeks, I’m committing myself to difficult conversations and personal reflection. I’m going to do better. I’m going to show up. I’m going to listen. I’m going to learn. I’ve attached Dr. Cooper’s Instagram link if you’d like to check out her account. https://www.instagram.com/professor_crunk/?hl=en
Maybe Emily managed to get her message through to me loud and clear, after all. There’s a pair of us, you know. If you’ve read this far, it means we’re in this together (I swear that’s the last time I’ll ever use that catchphrase). Even if we’re White women in our fifties or sixties or seventies or eighties, we must do our part to understand and support the Black Lives Matter movement. Finally, I strongly encourage you to listen to Dr. Cooper’s talk on Instagram (the link is below). I’ve also posted her book recommendations and highlighted the ones I’ve already ordered.
- Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
- Good and Mad by Rebecca Traister
- Sula by Toni Morrison
- Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
- Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
- So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Dressed in Dreams by Tanisha C. Ford
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
- The End of White Politics by Zerlina Maxwell
And if you’re feeling weary as a White person, know this. You are not as weary as the Black people in this country. It’s time for us to help carry this burden. It’s time for White people to do better. No excuses, nice White ladies.