Friday, July 19, 2013

On Not Being Nice

I have been sitting with the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial all week. I have been sitting with it, creepy mournful ghastly thing, hunkering on my shoulder and poking its poky tendrils through my brain, and it is a nasty tear-making creature. Ignoring it is not making it go away.
Many people have written about the murder of Trayvon Martin and the context of this case, far more eloquently than I could ever do. The vilification of Trayvon, whose side of the story we will never really know, has been sickening. People attribute and project all sorts of things on this dead boy that it is impossible to know. I have been reading all different viewpoints, and it has been eroding my stomach lining, and I just have to stop.
However, among the many, many pieces I read this week, two really struck me as useful:
 (1) At Native-Born, Faiqa Khan writes (and btw, hat-tip to Kristen at Rage Against the Minivan for her amazing roundup of links, via which I found this):  We acquit each other when we look the other way when a remark is made about “those people” and why they are “that way.” We acquit each other when we accept the idea that “race is not an issue.”
I want to tell you all, for your own good, stop saying that. If you think race isn’t an issue, then race is most definitely an issue for you. When you pretend something does not exist, you give it power. …You cannot destroy that which you think does not exist. You cannot heal a sickness if you refuse to believe that you are sick. You deny a sickness, though, and it only grows. 
(2)  And over at Mocha Momma, two old posts which are not related to Trayvon, but which gave me a lot to chew on: one, where Kelly Wickham recounts going to BlogHer in New York and having to tell off aloud-mouthed woman on the bus; and two, where she describes overhearing a loud racist conversation and how she responded. (Warning:  this second post also later contains one of the most heartbreaking stories that you might ever read about her dad’s ugly encounter with racism as a child. It wrecked me.)
This week I have been thinking a lot about the moments when I have been confronted with prejudiced behavior and I have not wanted to confront the behavior because I am at work or at a party where I don’t know many people, and I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable. But *I* am uncomfortable. It is this socialization to be quiet, not to make a fuss, which allows behavior like this to continue. Unabated, because I don’t do my part to abate it. I can’t wring my hands about racism continuing to exist if I am not actively doing my part to help erase it.
I am a white black woman. Both of my parents are light-skinned black folks. Many people in my family can pass for white, and many have (they don’t talk to the rest of us). In the day-to-day, black people for the most part recognize me as one of them – because most African American families run the gamut of skin color, and inevitably I am told “You look like my niece,” or “You remind me of my cousin.” Most white people do not realize I am black unless I explicitly say so. I have the privilege of being able to fly under the radar, so to speak. I recognize this is a privilege, but I have never enjoyed it. Sometimes people act like I am playing a nasty joke on them when they discover I am black.
At any rate, I know where this silence comes from, and it is hard to get past. Many members of my immediate family are “ethnically ambiguous,” and they have learned it is better to be silent in the face of prejudice, to go along to get along. And that worked for them, I guess, but at the price of their own self-worth. Because to ignore what you are, to deny what you are, means that there is something implicitly wrong with what you are. And that is just bullshit.
There are times when I do speak up. There are times when I am already so weary of the person in question (for other reasons) that I don’t feel like making it a “teachable moment.” There are times when I am so shocked by what someone has said that I can’t speak. But the times when I don’t speak up? They eat away at me. It’s poisonous.
Coming back around to my point: this week I’ve decided to stop being nice. I’m not going to be nasty, but I’m not going to keep my mouth shut. This way, over here? It’s the way forward. And it won’t reverse the verdict, and it won’t bring Trayvon back to his family. But it will help me move toward a world I feel more comfortable in.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Fighting the Funk

I am in a bad place, for a variety of reasons, and I have cut back again on blogging even though I want to do it. I seem unable to come up with a coherent interesting post. Added to that, today I got some bad news which is very personal and not something I can share - not just here, but with hardly anyone but Sweet Dub. He is already stressed out - we have some scary health things going on in our extended family - and I don't want to add to that, so for the moment I am keeping it to myself.

I am awash in anxiety and can't talk to anyone about it. It's very lonely. So I am feeling very anti-social and while Sweet Dub had arranged a full day of activities with friends for the 4th, I decided to sit this one out. He took the kids out and I have spent the day alone for the most part.

Some people when they are anxious turn to drugs or alcohol. Me? I turn to Windex and the vacuum cleaner. I clean house, perhaps because when things are more orderly I feel more calm.

My apartment is nice and tidy. I am exhausted. Periodically today I have burst into tears several times. Crying and cleaning is quite tiring.

I am frustrated and weary with the onslaught of obstacles thrown in my way. I know I am blessed and rich in many things: my little family is intact, healthy and fairly happy most of the time; I have a steady job; we have food and clean water and a roof over our heads. I know this and I am grateful for these things every day.

But. BUT. We are struggling financially and it is testing our marriage. We remain committed to each other for better or worse, as the vow goes. But it has changed the way we interact with each other. June was horrible. We snapped at each other a lot, and we fought without really making up fully afterward, which is very unusual. We don't fight. We disagree sometimes, of course, but we rarely fight.

This shift in our dynamic is only making me more anxious. So around we go.

Why am I writing this? To make sense of it myself, I suppose. I believe we will pull this car out of the ditch even if we have to do it with our teeth. But I am suffering right now, down here in this blasted hole. It's down and dirty and not in a fun way.

I hope to post again soon from a better place. On this Independence Day, praying for freedom and the return of good humor, and potato salad. The best to you and yours.

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