The goal is a better world and we need as many people on the team as possible. So, what do we do?
What's clear is that conversations on Facebook with folks who are playing the role of trolls with disturbing accuracy are likely not our most highly leveraged activity for creating change. There are so many more things we might be able to do that might help build and foster sustainable movements for social justice. But, along the way, you'll likely find yourself facing a post on Facebook that jars you with its racist overtones and implications and you may find yourself wondering what to do about it.
Perhaps one of the biggest privileges of being white is having the option about whether or not we want to deal with these issues or have these conversations.
“Don't be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn't do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today.” - Malcolm X
The Story of Joshua and The Peasant Woman.
“I feel like they want an apology, but it’s a lie.” Mike Daisey and I were sitting in a Brooklyn restaurant. He was a big man and he frequently dabbed the perspiration from his face with a handkerchief that was always within reach. “It’s a lie because they don’t want an apology,” he said. “An apology is supposed to be a communion - a coming together. For someone to make an apology, someone has to be listening. They listen and you speak and there’s an exchange. That why they have a thing about accepting apologies. There’s a power exchange that happens. But they don’t want an apology.” He looked at me. “What they want is my destruction. What they want is for me to die. They will never say this because it’s too histrionic. But they never want to hear from me again for the rest of my life, and while they’re never hearing from me, they have the right to use me as a cultural reference point whenever it serves their ends. That’s how it would work out best for them. They would like me to never speak again.” He paused. “I’d never had the opportunity to be the object of hate before. The hard part isn’t the hate. It’s the object.”
"You can truly grieve for every officer who's been lost in the line of duty in this country and still be troubled by cases of police overreach." - Jon Stewart
“Let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before us will demand nothing less.” - Naomi Klein, address to Occupy Wall Street
Years later, I see Joshua posting memes in support of BlackLivesMatter and he and I have fostered a deep affection for each other.
Twenty Three Thoughts on The Long Game
It's important for me to say that I'm not suggesting this is how anyone (especially women of colour) should proceed - that it's their role to save white men from their racist and misogynistic demons and bring them back into the fold of humanity and that they should be really nice and respectful about it. This is just what I'm sitting with and have been experimenting with. If anything, I'm saying it's likely a better job for white men to take these conversations on with other white men for reasons I'll got into later.
But, in the spirit of knowing these words may only be for me but with the hope that there might be something of value for you, I offer them up.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” James Baldwin
“Do you think it’s an accident that you were born at a time when the culture that gave you life is failing? I don’t think it is. I think you were born of necessity with your particular abilities, with our particular fears, with your particular heartaches and concerns… I think if we wait to be really compelled by something… something big, well… we’re going to wait an awful long time and I don’t know if the state of our world can tolerate our holding out until we feel utterly compelled by something. I think it’s more like this, that we have to proceed now as if we’re utterly needed given the circumstances. That takes almost something bordering on bravado, it could be mistaken for megalomania easily, though I don’t think it is. It had a certain amount of nerviness in it or boldness for sure, something that’s not highly thought of in the culture I was born into unless you’re a star or something… regular people aren’t supposed to have those qualities. I say they are of course. That’s what we’ve got to bring to the challenges at hand, not waiting to be convinced that we’re needed but proceeding as if we are. Your insignificance has been horribly overstated.”
"Clever men place the world into cages, but the wise woman ducks under the moon and throws keys to the rowdy prisoners." – Hafiz
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?" - Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
A conversation that has never happened in the history of the human race: "You have unexplored privileges and are pulling rank," said you. "Thanks for helping me see that!" said no one ever.
"There is no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to a folly." Daniel C. Dennett
It is, as can be imagined, a spirited conversation in which divisions and convergences of politics are emerging. Sitting to my left on some hay bales are three young women of colour. They are the youngest people there and the only people of colour. They raise their concerns about money and capitalism as a whole. This, of course, engenders some resistance from others.
Sitting on the balcony above us on the balcony overlooking the unlit fire pit we are circled around is Rob in a chair with his newborn child, listening. Rob is a middle aged white man and one of the undeniable god fathers of the permaculture movement in Alberta. He’s the reluctant Don who, the more power he tries to give away and the more other projects he empowers, the more respected he becomes. It’s a no win situation for someone who doesn’t want to be in a leadership role.
He stands up, knowing we’re already late for lunch and the kitchen had given us shit yesterday, and closes the conversation with the words, “Ok. There’s nothing wrong with money or making money for what you do. We have to go to lunch.”
I reply, “oh my god. Joshua. i am so incredibly, heartbrokenly sorry. i can't imagine how painful this is for you. i know you love your daughters so, so, so much. i have never been through this myself and can't imagine what it would be like other than that it would be totally devastating and awful. sending prayers your way for your strength through all of this.”
“The only way you can help someone is if you know they are already perfect.” - Cindy Teevens
Healing from Whiteness Blog: the blog where I put most of my thoughts around race, whiteness, and decolonization as it pertains to white people.