I wrote this in January, and just found it. I didn’t post it then, and I don’t know, now, why I didn’t. I suspect it’s because I was sick, and none of it seemed worth posting. It was a rough winter, and spring; I was sick most of the time, until we realized that the constant coughing and exhaustion from all the coughing had more to do with ducts that were not cleaned before we moved in here than with my lousy immune system. (Check your ducts!)
The ducts are clean now, and have been for weeks. I’m no longer coughing. And, slowly, I’m trying to get back to writing. I haven’t been writing for a very long time. Like most of the other creatives I know, creating under these circumstances is surprisingly hard. So much for hard times yielding great art.
Anyway, here’s the piece I wrote so long ago. And my hope that I’ll be writing more regularly in the future.
It’s been a long, hard time since the last time I posted on this blog, and I have a horrible feeling that it’s just going to get harder for a while.
Like many other creatives, I’ve been unable to write. The one time I tried, the post before this, someone found it necessary to write a very long comment explaining to me that I didn’t actually mean what I said in that post.
They were wrong, of course. I did mean it. I don’t write things lightly, and I think carefully before I say anything, and even more carefully, including running it past at least one other person, before I actually post.
It’s taken me months to decide what to do about the comment. I’ve never just declined to post any real comment before. (I delete spam all the time, but that’s spam. You get plenty of that already, I’m sure.) But this time, although I thought about countering his points one by one, I’ve decided not to. It’s a waste of time and energy that I frankly can’t spare at the moment. So I’m just going to ignore it.
Instead, I’m going to post something I’ve been thinking about all day, as I sit here with the snow falling all around my house.
I have a friend in California. Okay, I have a bunch of friends there, but I have one I frequently exchange weather info with.
She is forever telling me that the sky is blue. That’s what she sees, when she looks out her window. She’s even sent me pictures to prove it.
I tell her that the sky is white, or sometimes light gray. That’s what I see when I look out my window. Featureless, unbroken light gray or white, from horizon to horizon.
Neither of us is wrong about what we are seeing. We’re both reporting it accurately.
Except I’m not really seeing the sky. I’m seeing clouds. All I’ve seen for days and weeks is clouds. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this thing called “sun,” although I’m pretty sure I saw a picture of it once.
But the truth is, the sky beyond those clouds is blue. If I could see through the clouds, I would be able to see that it is.
Privilege is like that. I’m a cis white woman. I don’t have as much privilege as a white cishet man does, but I have quite a bit. From here, behind my privilege, we have always had equal rights, here in the US. That’s what it says in the constitution, in the laws, in the stories we tell ourselves about our country. Once, long ago, we had Jim Crow, but that was all swept away in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It’s gone now. Heck, we had a black president!
People on the margins of society knew that was just an illusion. That was the clouds in front of the sky. In reality, a reality I never experienced from behind my bank of privilege, there has always been massive racism in this country. The laws changed, but the attitudes of the people didn’t magically change along with them.
Ask anyone who isn’t white.
People have been trying to tell us this, ever since the sixties. From where they are, where they are being systematically imprisoned, beaten, and killed, even by law enforcement, it’s obvious that it’s not anything close to over. From where they stand, it’s clear that they have to work many times harder to get a scrap of what we assume we have by right. They are refused housing, refused education, refused simple courtesy, their very humanity and right to exist is constantly questioned. Doctors assume that they have higher pain tolerance than a white person, even though there is no evidence of such a thing, so they aren’t given the same pain meds, if they are given any at all.
They are considered to be “over sexed” through no fault of their own, and so are treated as sexual predators when they are simply minding their own business. Their sexualization a part of white fantasy, not due to anything they have done. The law treats them as if they are adults the moment they reach puberty, if not before, while treating white men as if they are children, not responsible for their actions, when they are 27, or 35, or in their 40s.
At the same time, they are treated as if they can never become adults intellectually, no matter how much experience or education they have. Totally ignorant white people talk down to people of color, because of course they know more; they’re white!
They tried to tell us. They kept pointing it out. They showed us videos, they showed us evidence, they held marches and demonstrations, where they were met with policemen in riot gear.
And then the Election came, and the clouds of our privilege rolled back, and we glimpsed the reality behind them, just for a moment. We saw that yes, indeed, racism is still alive and well, and the evidence is really all around it.
We are stunned. They tried to tell us, but we wouldn’t listen.
So now, please, for our very lives, it’s crucial that we listen.
We might not have any idea how to navigate this world, but they do. It’s the world they’ve been living in for their whole lives. In their place, we might be so angry and spiteful that we wouldn’t lift a finger to help the white people who are now tasting the bitter draught they’ve been forced to drink.
They are better than that. They aren’t really interested in changing places with us; they know too well what it feels like to be in this position.
But they can’t help us if we won’t listen.
So please, please listen.
Show up to all the marches and rallies that you can. Our white bodies offer a level of protection for those with more melanin in their skin. Did you see the difference between the police at the Women’s March and those at any Black Lives Matter demonstration? There was no riot gear, no mace, pepper spray, or nightsticks. There were pink hats, smiles, high fives. That is one of the reasons we have to be there.
But don’t talk. It’s not about us. Besides, everyone has heard our white stories too many times to count. They all know what we have to say.
Instead, let them speak. Hand them the megaphone. They are the leaders here. They are the ones who know this territory. They have lived here forever, and know how to navigate in it.
Respect the sacred spaces of those who have other religions than you. If they kneel to pray, or draw up a sacred circle, or do anything that they are doing as a group, sacred or not, don’t barge in or through. You are not more important than they are.
We are all humans, together, trying to fight through the mire and work our way to a place of freedom where we can, finally, really, be equal.
Yes, when the Founding Fathers wrote “all men are created equal” they didn’t really mean “all human beings, no matter their gender, skin color, religion, or ethnic background.” We know that. But that’s exactly what we mean. We can fulfill their dream, and make it a reality.
It will be a struggle, and it won’t come without cost.
But if we can get there, it will be oh so worth it.
It’s worth fighting for. So let’s fight. As one, with respect for all and malice towards none.
I’ll see you at the demonstration. I’ll be the one listening, not talking.