White Woman, Interrupted

 

womens-march-poster
[Poster by Hayley Gilmore.]
7 days.

It’s barely been 7 full days.

Some say the world was made in 7 days.

The new US president—aided, abetted, and manipulated by the unholy choir of white supremacists and power-drunk opportunists that surrounds him—seems bent on tying, if not beating, that world-creating record as he sets about the process of destroying it.

Holy crap. I mean…

HOLY CRAP.

How to even begin to resist?

With the Word, I ‘spose. If I’m sticking with tradition, I begin with the word. And in this situation, that word is me. My resistance must begin with me.

* * *

Let me be clear: I want to save myself.

First, last, every day in between. Myself.

So do you. It’s human nature; it’s survival instinct; it’s why we don’t yet breed in cannisters but cling to the fleshy stickiness of bodies and lusts, new life emerging blood-covered and squalling.

I want to save myself most, and so do you.

Now. If I misunderstand this basic fact, I can’t serve justice. It is my own judgment that I confront in the mirror at the end of each day, after all.

* * *

There is a quote on allyship, attributed to the Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson, that often gets circulated and memed among social justice-minded folks. Perhaps you’ve seen it?

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

“But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

It’s a great message that tears down any illusions of a would-be Great White Savior and points directly to the interdependence of both all injustices and all liberations. We are all in this together. Freedom and self-sovereignty are not gifts bestowed from on high but must be wrested forcibly back from the people and systems of power that seek to hoard humanity’s privileges for a limited few. I want to be a part of a vision like this.

But there’s a little problem: Watson herself says she didn’t say it, attributing the words instead to communal work by an Aboriginal rights group she had been active with in Queensland during the 1970s.

Also, one of the likely sources for the quote shows a shift has occurred in the proliferated version: “While attending the 1985 UN Decade for Women Conference in Nairobi, her first international experience, [Kenyan national Njoki Njoroge Njehû] heard Australian aboriginal artist Lilla Watson say: ‘If you have come to help me, I don’t need your help. But if you have come because your liberation is tied to mine, come let us work together.'”

“I DON’T NEED YOUR HELP.”

What could just as easily have been glossed as, “Don’t waste MY time,” spreads instead as “Don’t waste YOUR time.” That one word shifts focus, energy, and concern back to the would-be ally. The would-be antiracist white person. Back to me and the importance of my time.

I don’t think that’s coincidental.

Re-reading this popular quote as, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting my time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together,” gives me a different chill altogether. It provokes for me a different challenge. I do not want to be the one to waste Lilla Watson’s time.

Nor Maxine Waters’ time neither.

* * *

As a white woman, I find intersectional feminism a challenging practice to maintain consistently.

Which makes sense.

Intersectional feminism grows out of the lived experiences of women who do not have my access to whiteness. When legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw first coined the term “intersectionality,” she specifically used it to capture the ways that black women and other women of color experienced violence at the intersections of sexism and racism—and how the discourses and practices of both feminism and anti-racism, each centered on only one of those oppressive systems, fail to address the realities of these women’s lives.

Here’s another oft-memed quotation, from Flavia Dzodan: “My feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.” Though, to be accurate, the quote is really: “MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE BULLSHIT.” As Dzodan explained, “I am screaming this because I want to convince you, I want to get it through you that this is not a choice or an abstract concept or an intellectual exercise… No. My feminism NEEDS to be intersectional because as a South American, as a Latina, as someone who knows certain parts of the Global South intimately by virtue of being a Southerner, as an immigrant living in Europe, as a woman, I am in the middle of what I like to call the ‘shit puff pastry’.” [Last year, Dzodan wrote a sequel piece, “My feminism will be capitalist, appropriative and bullshit merchandise,” after noting how many items one could purchase online featuring her words yet sold by other people for their own profit.]

My own version of a Flavia Dzodan-inspired Etsy tote should probably read: “MY FEMINISM WILL BE INTERSECTIONAL OR IT WILL BE WHITE SUPREMACIST.”

Getting the racism out of this white woman is not a once-and-done proposition, y’see, but an engaged practice I must attend to constantly. This is just how white supremacy works. Without vigilance, it seeps into everything: like an overlooked red sock that stains the whole laundry load pink. That one red sock that makes my whites look as if, pre-wash, I had soaked ’em all in blood.

(Doncha love it when a metaphor ends up going to an even more telling place than you realize when you start it?)

* * *

Part of that practice is being suspicious of any private emotion that I start to grant overmuch political weight. Pride, shame, hurt, anger, admiration, embarrassment, fidelity, younameit: each can cozy up in intimate proximity to white fragility and the white rage it too easily fuels.

White woman tears. White feminism.

The learning task before me each day remains: how to decenter my whiteness, my whitewomanness—(and yours and hers and theirs too)—without decentering myself?

I want to be liked. I want to be a good person who does the right thing. I want to not hurt others.

In contrast, my whiteness demands that I be liked—and insists that whatever I have done, I had good reason. If you are hurt by either my action or my inaction, you either misunderstood or (in all likelihood) you brought it on yourself. And anyway, the hurt I feel at your claims of hurt is what’s truly painful.

My whiteness is an asshole.

My whitewomanness is an asshole who frequently cries.

As much as I repudiate the malignant narcissist squatting in the White House and every jackbooted thug now using him as cover for their own genocidal desires, I recognize the pull of affiliation they invoke. The riptide threat posing as seduction in “Make [Whiteness] Great Again!” Not for no reason did 53% of white women vote for this abhorrence.

I repudiate these women as well.

I repudiate that within them which I know is within me, as well.

Even more than I want my friends to like me, I want to deserve their affection. And also my own.

banatte_womens-march
[photo credit: Kevin Banatte, via]

* * *

“You are wasting my time.”

“You are wasting your time.”

Through the microaggression of a single pronoun swap can whiteness (even liberal and progressive whiteness) pull focus back to its own centerstage tap dance. Through such tiny, seemingly insignificant shifts does power recenter itself.

Over and over, again and again. Each iteration, power comforting itself within a more-palatable version.

Well, one form of power.

The other form of power chooses Holocaust Remembrance Day to enact its “Muslim ban” denying entrance and safe harbor to refugees fleeing war and near-certain death (as well as to a not-insignificant number of US residents).

Because fuck all y’all, that’s why.

(This post, in case it’s not yet clear, is about getting my personal power house in order on the former so I can put all my energy into opposing the perpetrators of such fucking horrors as the latter.)

* * *

In the immediate aftermath of the election, some USians took to wearing a safety pin as a symbol of their opposition and to signal solidarity with members of racial, religious, and sexual minorities. As with all symbols, the freighted significance of the safety pin varied from local community to local community. Several friends considered getting a safety pin tattoo as a reminder to themselves of where their deepest values lay. Ijeoma Oluo wrote a pushback to the idea of safety pins, and then had to write a second pushback to the angry and defensive backlash she received from the first. White supremacists trotted out the idea of trolling pin wearers by wearing safety pins of their own.

Similar debates are now going on within feminist communities in the wake of the massive Women’s Marches around the country, weighing out the function and service of collective protest against problematic racial and gender essentializing, both captured in the symbol of marchers’ ubiquitous pink “pussy hats.” [See The Crunk Feminist Collective and Black Girl Dangerous for two thought-provoking takes.]

I am still weighing out these questions myself: what roles, symbolic and literal, will I place my (white) / (whitewoman) body in service to? What does my embodiment mean for my resistance? What does an accomplice in racial justice work look like, when she looks back out from my mirror?

Regardless of what answers I eventually come to, another important reminder surfaces in these discussions: There is no language or symbol that cannot be subverted and/or undermined. There is no subverted language or symbol that cannot be subverted and/or undermined again.

Put another way: the only unbreakable code is gibberish.

Put another way still: no safety exists that is not also a lie, fucking up is inevitable, and someone somewhere will always hate me, both with and without cause.

Dunno ’bout you? But I find these facts liberating.

With perfection off the table of available options, I can get down to work on the simply improvable.

* * *

Each day, I use the tools available to me and do my imperfect best to resist the destruction of my nation’s best principles, to hold the most vulnerable at the core of my concerns, to (lovingly, compassionately) get out of my own damn way. I forgive myself for doing these things imperfectly. I vow to do my imperfect best again tomorrow, hopefully a little better.

Now.

Who’s with me?

73 thoughts on “White Woman, Interrupted

  1. Pingback: Stepinsidee
    1. I’m glad to hear it came across that way — my intent was certainly respectful, but we all know the challenges of conveying tone online, absent all the social context cues we rely on in off-line conversation.

      I appreciate your reading, and mulling over, the ideas I’m working through here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As a senior white guy I have some idea of what I should do each day. I get up and decide which incompetent or arrogant or stupid member of Congress to call today. There are plenty of issues that
    Mr. Trump creates on a daily basis which warrant my outrage. I prefer to call because some human being has to pick up the phone and speak to me. I am sure this is unnerving to whoever answers since I recently relocated to a red state where calling to complain is unheard of. A Senator or Representative never speaks to me except through the dribble of form or routine letters but a person does have to move or get off his ass and maybe complain to the legislator of so much work. We can not change the orange man in the White House yet. We can let those cowardly, suck up legislators know we are watching, we care about a common good and will remember their BS today, tomorrow and everyday up untill 2018.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great read! What you are describing is the process of White racial identity development, where the final status is autonomy. My guess is that you are already aware of the psychological model that exists to explain the process. To be White in a society where Whiteness is directly linked to privileged status and fully developed in terms of racial identity requires a lot of hard, sometimes painful, work. You’re right in that it is a job that requires daily attention.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is indeed!

      My background is in cultural studies, literary analysis, and education — not psychology — so I’m not familiar with the specific model you reference, but in broad strokes, every field is unpacking the same process.

      Like

      1. Absolutely. My background is in communication (gender studies) and education (instruction and curriculum-diversity studies). My dissertstion was on white racial identity development, so I was excited to see how much your writing reflected the model. It’s awesome to find other people who are interested in the same subject matter.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoy being a part of a world where everyone can believe differently. I don’t have to agree with everything that you said and I don’t feel the need to “bash” you because we may not agree on all things. I love that we are all different and can express it! I loved reading your blog today.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I have sat with your comment for a full day now, and I must confess: I’m baffled. Y’see, I read over a number of your own posts, including the political perspectives that you were writing at the same time that I was writing this — and I. am. baffled. Please believe: I feel neither need nor desire to “bash” you either (or anyone else, for that matter), but I am unclear how what you think you read lines up with what I think I wrote? I am most emphatically not saying “everyone has different beliefs and isn’t that great.” Not even close. Because there are many cases where I *don’t* believe that, and this post contains a number of ’em.

      I DO believe that white supremacy — which this new administration embodies in its most nakedly violent and murderous form — is an infection that degrades and pollutes the humanity of us all.

      I DO believe that white supremacy is a cancer upon the world that rots the souls of white people even as it kills the bodies of people who are not white.

      And I DO believe that it is my obligation, both human and moral, to do the hard, daily work of rooting white supremacy out of me — and of opposing the white supremacists currently running my government.

      Are these the ideas that you disagreed with, or the ideas that you loved reading me express? I do not see how they can be both.

      (It’s a sincere question, sincerely asked. And if I’ve misunderstood you, I am happy to be corrected!)

      Liked by 2 people

        1. I make it a point to read posts from other bloggers that are completely different than my own. How else will I learn new things? My grandfather is 91 years old. He amazes everyone with his ability to still work, golf, drive himself, and live alone. I couldn’t have a better role model. With that said, the one thing that I feel he didn’t do was keep up with the changing times. Born in the twenties, he is set in his ways and in his beliefs.
          I want to always keep an open mind. Be open to new things. Respect another’s view and ALWAYS- ALWAYS learn. I will quit learning new things when I am dead.

          Liked by 3 people

  5. Interesting article, though I’m struggling to get a clear sense of what you mean by ‘intersectional feminism’ and other complex terms in your writing. Probably just not a good time for trying to read but the extract in ‘Discover’ grabbed my attention and curiosity hopefully doesn’t kill the cat! I might be interpreting your expressions wrongly, but find it intriguing that you seem to exclude pale-skinned people from ‘people of colour’ as if we (white people/white women) are excluded. All people ‘of colour’ that I’ve ever encountered use the term as an inclusive phrase rather than as a way of excluding those described by some as ‘white’. I don’t identify with being ‘white’ – that suggests aristocratic vanity and arsenic, and all nationalities have problems with hierarchial elitists, regardless of skin colour. Anyway, maybe I’ll try to read it again another time. Cheers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I included a link in the piece to Crenshaw’s grounding work on intersectional feminism; if you’re curious or confused, that would be a good place to start. It’s also a quite google-able term.

      While it might be comforting to think of racial categories as something we pick and choose, based purely on how we *feel* about ourselves internally, our realities are deeply affected by entrenched structures and systems of power. The fact that you feel free to “not identify” as white? May have far more to do than you are acknowledging, with being a white person in a world that privileges white people. Just a thought to ponder…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. i don’t think of myself as a “white” feminist. I am a humanist who happens to be a woman. I am empowered because I treat all on an equal par. Well–almost all.

    I despise those assholes in the Republican/conservative/teaparty/trumplovers circle. And the ONE woman I actually despise more than Satan is Kellyann Conway. She’s a fucking pig. She doesn’t even deserve the label “woman” or “human”.

    Trump. He’s a modern day Adolf Hitler. My French husband’s family was torn apart by WW2 and Hitler and his merry band of nazis. Well–Mitch McConnell, Ryan, Pense–all those “fake” Christians” they are the new Nazi party. The POPE (my buddy Frank) can’t stand Trump and his minions! The Pope is well-aware of their fake Christianity.

    Nobody. And I mean NOBODY has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body. PERIOD! All those pro-lifer’s. They are full of shit. They are “pro-fetus” and only to make themselves look good. Once that fetus pops out, they are no longer pro-life. Look what they are doing with the refugees. Look at that “wall”.

    I have to stop. We ALL need to band together against the political cancer that is now in the Whitey House. We need to study history and take a look at the French Revolution…’nuff said!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. In my own ways, I vibrate with similar rage. I am working to channel it into productive work, while at the same time not letting anger overtake or change me at the core.

      Like

  7. Just passing through, good read. Just wondering, what do you think a man’s role in this resistance is? It’s hard to find a good balance between, “Sitting back and listening, letting marginalized voices lead” and feeling like I’m not carrying my weight.

    Not trying to hijack the actual focus of this post, just interested as the “If you have come here to help me…” quote you discussed would seem to have a slightly different resonance for, say, me, than it might for a white woman.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree — the inner work varies for all of us, based on both broad categories (race, gender, class, etc) and also on the paths of our individual experiences. But the broad goals remain the same: dismantling white supremacy, male supremacy, etc.

      I would encourage you to challenge the idea that being “led by marginalized voices” equates at all to “sitting back.” Read like your life depends on it (cuz for sure somebody’s does). Go into the spaces that you already occupy and work to make them anti-kyriarchal. Find and join a justice group led by someone other than other white men — and then contribute out of your strengths to making that group’s efforts successful. When another white man is talking over voices that need to be heard, use your own white male privilege to intervene and shut that sh!t down. Expect to fcuk up. Try to do better next time. Wash, rinse, repeat…

      Thanks for the question!

      Liked by 6 people

      1. Alice,
        I agree about the necessity to “Read like your life depends on it.” White women feminists need to listen more and talk over other women less. We don’t need to speak in one voice, but we need to learn to sing the same song. And that takes practice.

        Liked by 6 people

  8. Yes. As a white feminist I completely understand. I did a video on the importance on feminism and all i got was comments was saying how I don’t know what I’m saying because I am a white 14 year old feminist who hasn’t seen how bad other people have it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. don’t let them shut you up emma, as Audre Lorde said, ‘the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house’ and repression & silencing is a tool of domination. We need all voices right now and we need to stop shutting each other up.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks for the thoughtful writing. I feel like on the left we have a huge deficit because we don’t have the commonality of being inspired by accumulation of money (or/and apocalypse) as an end result of our labors. As such we have nothing to unite us. I owned “This Bridge Called My Back”, and many similar books and poetry collections back in the day. Holding up a sign that white women voted for Trump while standing in front of a huge mass of HRC voters (and probably some Stein voters and some HRC by default Bernie supporters) is symptomatic of the reason why the left lost this election. We can’t unite, our factions grow more and more Utopian.

    I believe in reincarnation. I’ve had several spontaneous and terrifying past life regressions. I have lived in the far east, the middle east, and also in Europe if these are anything more than hallucinations. In this life, I am from appalachia, dirt poor, disabled from multi-predator child abuse. This election result says to me more than anything else that if we decide that anyone but the overwhelmingly ’empowered’ rich male of any shade is the enemy, that male is going to win in the end. And Win He Did. We cannot apply the politics of multi-culturalism studies and diversity theory to national elections. Many tried, and now we all will pay. I may lose disability and health insurance. In the end I may end up homeless. There are bad white people, if someone wants to say we are all bad by virtue of hue, and then there are really, really bad white people like the one in the white house. It is time to come together when it matters, or this is the result that will fall into our hands. Organized religion has robbed us of the spiritual truths of the universe, that reincarnation is a spiritual given. This was done deliberately in the early centuries of the common era by religious scholars when all mentions of reincarnation were taken out of bible translations. I may be a slave-owner in one life and a slave in the next, a pimp in this life and a prostitute in the next

    .I have zero doubt from your writings that you are a profoundly empathetic person. However, you cannot atone for the sins of other people, and existing in the form in which the gods planted you in this life is not a sin nor an afront to god, it is an instruction to use what power and advantages you have been given to take back the world from apocalyptic death cultism, which is the real threat to our planet and the survival of our species. You have something to say, say it, and don’t let anyone shut you up. I won’t be shut up. I recently had someone on social media accuse me of coming from ‘a position of privilege’. At the time I had just finished eating my lunch, an artichoke-stuffed chicken breast, three of which I had just pulled out of the dumpster the night before. And yes, it was delicious. People can tell NOTHING about another person’s life by their skin color, and the people who are claiming that white people have nothing to contribute because of the ‘privilege’ of our skin color would be horrified to hear the same claims leveled back at them. To take these kind of politics and try to win a national election with them where we are all divided into these elite factions of ethnicity/nationality/religionism with each group thinking the others should shut up, had predictable results. I want to completely move on from this extreme apologetics for my existence like what I am reading here. It. Doesn’t. Work, and we have Trump as a result of our fractionality on the left. Well I think I have just written my blog for the day unintentionally. Copyright 2017. Starshine Kerr. All Rights Reserved.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Starshine, I appreciate the strength of your feelings and your very real concerns over what is coming down, as a result of this election — fears which I certainly share. I’m not clear that much of your comment is addressed to me (you seem to shift into an argument against points that this post does not make), so I will simply say: I see the goal as one of SOLIDARITY, not of unity. I think that working through and with our diversities — across race, gender, religion, class, sexuality, region, documentation status, age, etc. — makes us stronger, and more human.

      It is hard work, this process of opening myself fully to another’s humanity and to my own vulnerabilities. It is also the only work on which I want my politics to stand.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had an argument on social media with a black woman once who called me a black racist because she thought I was black. It was in response to my comment that Arthur Ravenel Sr. was being racist when he quipped on “Southern Charm” (a Bravo reality show) that he “wasn’t fond of Abraham Lincolns” while paying for a meal. Google Ravenel Bridge to see a picture of his architectural namesake in Charleston, South Carolina, the famous Ravenel bridge. She seemed to want desperately to believe this man had a personal dislike of the five dollar note.

        I am from the south, I grew up behind enemy lines. I have started a blog about this topic though it is very difficult and painful to write about. It is called “Bad white people vs. really bad white people.” Arthur Ravenel, like Trump, is one of the ‘really bad white people’. The ones that don’t want to dialogue, to embrace diversity, to listen compassionately to the life experiences of other people. They believe in all the horrible racism that people who feel as I do grew up being devastated by the evidence of in our own families. My entire childhood I swore to myself I would would move up north when I was 18 where, I believed, there was ‘no racism’. How wrong I was. I remember the day I realized in the naivete’ of my beliefs, that there was a place where racism didn’t exist.

        I now know we are all culturalists, we all prefer our own culture, we all harbor racism to a degree, and it should be explored. But if we can’t unite together and stop making idiotic claims that all people of a certain hue or statistical characteristic are bad or guilty or privileged or what have you…well, we are going to get Trumped every single time. Unity is what we need right now politically, not ‘bless me mother mary for I have sinned in my whiteness’. We need to accept that the devil exists, and he isn’t us. The devil is Arthur Ravenel Sr. being so isolated and insulated in his extremely racist culture that he can say on a popular reality tv show that he is not a fan of Abraham Lincoln, the man that freed the slaves. Right now we are in insanity, and insanity is a black woman assuming that the only person who would call out his bigotry is another black woman who clearly doesn’t know better & needs to be educated that white people ‘really aren’t like this’. Oh yes they are…not all of us are, but some of us are far, far worse, and maybe Trump will teach us to separate the wheat from the chaff and not paint with such a broad brush, and will teach the good guys (like yourself) not to castigate themselves for crimes they’ve more than likely never even committed. I’m assuming you are not a former KKK member or something like that, that is. There are people who believe that on a genetic level non-whites are inferior. They exist, they are powerful, they have lots and lots of money and humongous bridges named after them, aka Charleston’s Ravenel. And then there are the rest of us, who while limited by culture & life experience, really do have compassion and empathy for our fellow man. I am very, very different from Arthur Ravenel, Sr., Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin. I am an ally to any who oppose men like this, and it is time for people to wake up and realize this, and stop shutting people down.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. “Don’t forget: white women voted for Trump” is a sentiment that I cannot get over. I live in a conservative part of a conservative state where 75% of white women voted for the man. That means that only one out of every four women who I interact with agrees with what I’d call basic morality. I cannot forget this fact. On the one hand it’s unconscionable, but on the other hand it doesn’t surprise me [too much]. These women would laugh at the mere idea of intersectionality, let alone embrace it. Until the privileged are willing to admit such privilege, I suspect that nary a thing will change.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Not with the diehard group, I think you’re right nothing will change with them. Where I think our attention can bear fruit — and why I think of this post as addressed primarily to myself, as well as other white progressive women like me — is in really attending to and dismantling the racist, if not impulses, certainly *blind spots* we all carry.

      Not to relitigate the campaign season, but there was some hardcore, second-wave-feminist-style colorblindness going on among many outspoken HRC supporters. Memes about “100 years after [white] women got the vote!” Celebratory stickers all over Susan Anthony’s tombstone, with no acknowledgment of her explicitly racist arguments for [white] women’s suffrage — or only as an afterthought. Meanwhile, Black women, however begrudgingly #guessimwithher they may have felt, showed up and showed out at 94% for the Democratic ticket.

      It was hardly the most/only decisive blow that threw the election to the fascist. But I do think white women progressives (and again, I put my name TOP on this list) have got to stop conceptualizing racism and sexism as parallel/additive injustices. And that means first facing, then dismantling, our own internalized racism. It’s absolutely necessary work if any of us hope to get out from under this kakistocracy with some good things still intact.

      Liked by 3 people

  11. “First, last, every day in between. Myself.

    So do you. It’s human nature; it’s survival instinct; it’s why we don’t yet breed in cannisters but cling to the fleshy stickiness of bodies and lusts, new life emerging blood-covered and squalling.

    I want to save myself most, and so do you.”

    No. Not even expanded to include my genes or my line or whatever will be left of me in someone’s flesh when I’m gone. Not most. Not even close.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We may not be so far apart as the language I chose here may make it appear. I do not mean the breath in my body; I mean the humanity in my soul.

      I mean preserving that within me that rejects the horrific, nihilistic acts of this illegitimate government with every pulse of my heart.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. I’m with you. I struggle daily too–trying to parse out where I’m using my whiteness for progress and where I”m using it to steamroll over everything else–and both those things exist. The line which struck me the most?
    “The learning task before me each day remains: how to decenter my whiteness, my whitewomanness—(and yours and hers and theirs too)—without decentering myself?”
    And therein lay the constant battle for equilibrium–just as we can’t use our whiteness to steamroll, we also can’t overlook it as part of our own singular narratives. Is it enough not to use it in some sort of ALL CAPS way? Or is it something to be shelved while we all work toward a common goal, something to be pulled out of the cupboard later to be re-examined? I don’t know the fucking answer. Not even close.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The calculus about what we can shelve and what we can’t probably looks different for each of us. Putting aside broader social and political implications for a moment, I think it’s critical to not allow the world-destruction unfolding around us to displace what we each value most about ourselves. And dismantling white supremacy is a line in the sand for me — a focus I cannot sacrifice and remain myself.

      That said, the timing on this piece is unfortunate: between the point that I began writing it and the moment that it posted, this latest clusterfcuk of inhumanity “executive order” shit got rolled out, and the world was on fire in a whole new way. Far from the last time that will happen, I suspect.

      Today my tongue feels turned to ash.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. (Doncha love it when a metaphor ends up going to an even more telling place than you realize when you start it?) — YES. I do.

    How bout, “If one of us is chained none of us are free”? I’ve always liked that one.

    I’m having a hard time right now. I seethe so much, I have to be completely occupied to forget to seethe. I’m seething more than breathing and I hate it.

    I’m with you.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Seething more than breathing — and in between them both, hyperventilating. Yes. YES.

      By the time I start rage-vomiting every hour, on the hour (a point I expect to reach within the week), I am thinking of mailing bags of my upchuck directly to the West Wing. That is, if he hasn’t disbanded the USPS by then…

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Wow Alice! This is one hell of a piece of thinking and one hell of a piece of writing. I wish we were all more able to admit and accept our imperfect selves. The world would perhaps be a saner, safer place if we could.
    Ive been thinking lately of a quote by C.S Lewis who said that true humility is not “thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”

    Solidarity from the UK coming your way

    XXX

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for the solidarity! I wrote this piece in the morning of what has since become the most shameful day in my country’s modern history. I could not have written it by evening, all words turn to ash on the tongue…

      Liked by 2 people

  15. If a person believes them self to have reached perfection then what is there to strive for? If that same person is deluded enough to believe that they have no reason to be better then we face chaos at their hands. Oh wait…this sounds a lot like my world right now.
    We start with awareness, and acknowledgment, and do our best…words stated much more articulately by you in this post 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My concern is less with people who believe they are already perfect, than with the paralysis that comes from believing one must be perfect — make no mistakes — to address an sensitive issue, especially one as oversaturated as race.

      Hugs, darling. “Chaos” sounds like a lot of our worlds right now…

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Yeah, I’m with you – because even though I live in another country, I remember how many people voted Hitler into power; so are the any-all-colour eyes open to the consequences of their actions yet? Wait a few more weeks and maybe . . .
    But also consider how many people didn’t vote – why was it so unimportant for them to not consider the consequences of their non-action? Voting is something relatively new, historically speaking, and MUCH more so for women. The first suffragette who got the vote for women was Australian (Adelaide, my town) – and I am proud of her, and remember the value of what she risked her life for. A few generations down the track, why have so many forgotten how hard it was to get to that point, and how easy it would be to backslide on the greasy words of a person who is all things to all people?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Wait a few more weeks…and this venal and destructive overgrown toddler may have been goaded by his Nazi advisors into launching a preemptive war against Europe. Or Mexico.

      Many people unconcerned enough not to vote (or deluded enough to vote for this man, as if he did not mean exactly what he said) have been yammering on about “checks and balances!” as what would protect us. As if “checks and balances” mean anything when government officials do not enforce them. For all their sanctimonious grandstanding about the Constitution, not one Republican has brought up impeachment — though this man has been violating the Constitution since Day 1…

      Liked by 4 people

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