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).
See: 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 Griswell, Jacob 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 5calls.org 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!