Five Senses Friday: 6.22.18

This week, many Americans (and the world) watched with bated breath as the family separation policy of the Trump administration generated optics that amounted to modern-day concentration camps. An alarming number of us sought justification: If people don’t want their children taken from them, they shouldn’t put them in danger by bringing them to the border illegally; Most adults are bringing minors who aren’t their children to get a free pass; Immigrants are infesting our country.  (A reminder from media critic Jean Kilbourne: Turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step towards justifying violence against that person.)

But I saw another number speak up, shout out, and use their voices in a new way: a friend who just moved to a new state and immediately called her senator; people attending their first protests; acknowledging their own privilege publicly and calling others to do the same; donating, calling, crying out.

It was scary, wasn’t it? While I’ve been incredibly vocal lately, did you know I’ve been scared too? Though I’ve signed countless online petitions and sent dozens of template email forms, two weeks ago, I called my representativesfor the first time – and I left a message. I’m such a chicken shit. This week, I called Roy Blunt’s office during the middle of the day, talked to a staff member, and voiced my opinion on the issue of family separation. The whole exchange took about a minute, but I was shaking like a leaf.

Doing anything for the first time is nerve-wracking. We aren’t born knowing how this stuff works. We aren’t handed the confidence to be a bold ally for the marginalized the moment we decide it (finally) merits our attention. But we press on. We press on. At dinner this week, Brett and I shared some truths we are currently exploring (thanks Layla Saad’s Wild Mystic Woman Podcast for the inspiration). A truth we spent a lot of time on was this:

The world is to be engaged with: press up against the darkness and ugliness and lean into the lightness and beauty; leave your mark on your community and be imprinted upon by teachers, mentors, guides.

6.29.18 EDIT: Damn it. I was re-reading this to grab a quote for a social media post and was struck by and feel it necessary to point out a very common bias here. ^ The association of beauty with lightness; ugliness with darkness. Light and dark are spiritual concepts, but they are also the descriptors of appearance. John A. Powell discusses this with Krista Tippet in On Being and how very destructive it is for a person of color to have blackness consistently associated with negativity. Foot, meet mouth. I’m sorry. This is harmful and I was not being mindful. I’ll do better.

I’m not pre-conditioned to engage with the world in this way. It’s raw and vulnerable and when I’m doing it anywhere else but online my heart beats a thousand miles per minute. Any confidence you might you perceive is the confidence that my words are true, that my words are just, that my words need to be heard. There is no confidence in my saying them. I am afraid.

I’m doing it anyway. Perceived emotional discomfort does not hurt more than the real physical threat BIPOC experience in the face of white supremacy. We press on. If you do nothing more today, take 10 minutes to watch Luvvie Ajayi’s TEDTalk: Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. It’s lifegiving.

Smell: Sniff out the Issues (Research) Now that you know about white privilege, what are you going to do about it? Emptying the White Knapsack by Jaime Grant offers a great list of practical suggestions to “create the workplaces, institutions, neighborhoods and beloved communities to which we aspire” (found via Anton Truer).

fullsizeoutput_19b6See: Read, Watch, or Experience Art from Artists of Color The XCHANGE, is a content series co-created by Nneka Ude and visual artist, cultural critic, and my good friend Shawn Gadley. In the first few episodes, two black founders of Black Tech Mecca talk business strategy, black culture, and startup life.

Taste: Get a Taste of Life (Immersion) Cultivate an Instagram and social media feed featuring people who are black, indigenous, queer, Hispanic, Latinx, biracial, activists, artists, writers, hikers, educators, fat, thin, witchy, Christian, Muslim – folks who will help you better understand intersectional identities and uplift the veil of your own privilege. Here are some of my unmentioned favorites: Ron GriswellJacob Tobia, Rochelle Brock, Jessamyn Stanley, Glennon Doyle, Mona Haydar, Fran Tirado, Delainee Richelle (This is a practice I started almost immediately when I began educating myself about white privilege – it was a suggestion made by Thias Sky and Lindsey Rae in parts one and two of Thais’ Reclaim Podcast episodes “You’re Waking Up to Your White Privilege, Now What?” which are required listening. My personal prophet Rachel Cargle (see below) made this suggestion recently as well).

Touch: Take Action with Your Hands On June 30, rallies are planned around the county to send a message to the Trump administration that families belong together – and free. Find an event in your community (or start one!) here. Not ready for public protest? Use to demand reunification of migrant children that were separated from their families during the past 6 weeks.

Hear: Listen to Voices of Color Rachel Cargle: Unpacking White Feminism on The Kate & Mike Show; Rachel is an academic, a writer, a student, an activist, and a voice that I listen to very closely. She is a no bullshit, community-building, portal of education and a movement maker. To me, she embodies Cornell West’s quote “Justice is what love looks like in public.” This podcast episode is a nice entry to her work. (Support her on Patreon.)

Bonus Resource: The fight isn’t over: Immigration Advocates Say President Trump’s Executive Order Creates Even More Problems, but here’s how you can help.

As a note: I’ll be taking the next week off, so look for another round of resources July 6!


Five Senses Friday: 6.15.18

I’m starting a practice called Five Senses Friday. I’m big on themes (if you know me personally, this shouldn’t surprise you). I’ve been unsettled lately. I’m unstuck. And with Five Senses Friday, I’m inviting folks to join me. I want to wiggle out of, chip away at, and disrupt the quiet but pervasive forces of injustice and oppression.

By engaging all five “senses,” my hope is to commit, with my full self, to doing “The Work.” What is “The Work”? It probably depends on who you ask, but I’ve come to understand it as this.

Rooted in humility, respect, and curiosity:

  1. Spend time in self-reflection to understand how our identity informs our impact (and how this differs from intent);
  2. Lean into the discomfort of our revelations, despite how vulnerable it feels to face the harm we’ve done; and finally,
  3. Advocate for, align with, and act in the best interest of racial and social justice.

The third step is critical. It represents the transformation from ideas to accomplishment, from knowledge to understanding. I have spent a lifetime talking about what I might do; believing I was already doing enough claiming labels for myself based on no evidence, no action, no allyship. When I started to dig into my own self-work a little deeper, a writer I follow on Instagram posted this image:


It is profound in its simplicity. It allowed me to realize that in my segregated world, almost every room I enter is full of white people. It’s time for me to start speaking up.

And so, Five Senses Friday. These are simply resources to stay educated, to take some action, to make a small step. Whenever possible, I’ll share resources written, created, or developed by BIPOC (that’s an acronym for black, indigenous, and people of color). There are resources developed by other white folks I have found particularly helpful, and I’ll share those from time to time too.  I’ll always credit my sources and do my best to credit where I discovered the resource as well.

If you’ve done a little of the work yourself, you might think, “she’s not saying anything new.” That’s right. I’m not actually that interested in saying much new. If I add some colorful new commentary, it’s unfortunately likely my interpretation will be shared, reposted, and praised because our culture loves a “woke, blonde, white woman” A LOT and it will overshadow the intellectual, meaningful, and original work that a person of color (probably a woman) did to stay alive.

What I will share is my own experience, here, at what I hope is the back of the crowd. I will do my best to not speak over or for a person of color. There’s a good chance I’ll fuck this up. I expect my community to hold me to a high standard and to call me out when I make a mistake. This literally doesn’t work any other way.

The first resources are for beginners – many are articles I read and revisited when I decided this topic didn’t scare me so much I had to simply run away.

Smell: Sniff out the Issues (Research) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh (found via Anton Truer) (If you’re not quite sure about the concept of “privilege,” try Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is by John Scalzi; it’s a good primer.)

See: Read, Watch, or Experience Art from Artists of Color 5 Tips for Being an Ally (found via Rachel Cargle’s Social Syllabus: How to Be an Ally; Rachel makes so many resources available for free, but do consider becoming a Patreon supporter so she can continue to do so.)

Taste: Get a Taste of Life (Immersion) I got the idea for this “sense” while listening to a conversation between Brene Brown and Deray Mckesson on Pod Save the People (Joy & The Gift and We’re Not Going Anywhere). Brene and Deray discuss how proximity to people different from ourselves is one way to battle hate. However, white folks have to tread carefully here. Our history is one of colonizationappropriation, and disrespect. So, before we move in close to others, we need to first understand our implicit biases to reduce the risk of harm. And we do have them. We aren’t colorblind, you know. Project Implicit (which is mentioned in the podcast episode with John A. Powell) provides a series of tests developed by scientists to measure implicit preferences, which are related to behaviors we make in the workplace, the medical office, and in our criminal justice system. Take a test, understand your biases, and spend some time in reflection before exploring this sense next week.

Touch: Take Action with Your Hands Update your voter registration to your current address, mark your calendar for the upcoming primary (or general election if it has already passed in your state!), and familiarize yourself with candidates and upcoming ballot initiatives. (Hint: Rock the Vote and your state’s Secretary of State’s website are great places to start!) You cannot be an effective advocate if you are not an engaged voter.

Hear: Listen to Voices of Color Opening to the Question of Belonging with John A. Powell, On Being with Krista Tippett; Powell (the scholar, not my father-haha) profoundly names the two “parents” of our current considerations of race as slavery and The Enlightenment – which brought us the myths of individuality and independence. If you find yourself in conversation with “Pull Yourself Up By Your Bootstrap” folks (like my own personal John Powell, for example), you’ll be glad you’ve listened to this podcast episode.

Bonus Resource: Racism against white people doesn’t exist in America, and here’s why it never will; TL;DR: Racism = Prejudice PLUS Power. A person of color being an asshole to a white person while never, ever strip that white person of their cultural power. So, yes, a POC might have been a real dick to you once, but no, if you are white, you’ve never experienced racism.

There ya have it! If I didn’t piss you off, confuse you, or alienate you completely – I hope you’ll ask questions if you have them and share your journey with me if you decide to undertake it! And if you are pissed, confused, or alienated, know this . . . I’m placing my value in relationships that will evolve alongside me. I anticipate there are some that will not grow at the same pace. There is work to be done and I won’t wait any longer. The risk of staying silent is far greater than the risk of speaking up. I’ll be back next week with more!