A message to fellow white people

There’s a lot going on in the U.S. right now. I want to take this time to make it very clear that I support the Black Lives Matter movement, and am doing my best as a white woman to be anti-racist. I’ve been more outspoken on personal social media platforms – but just so that I’m clear and consistent across all my platforms: I am committed to working on myself, working with other white people, and taking action.

While I am now doing my best to be anti-racist, I failed spectacularly in the past. I admit that as a younger person, I said and did things that hurt people of color (including black people, but not just black people), and that’s something I’m ashamed of. I behaved badly and wrongly. I’ve made concerted efforts, as I’ve gotten older, to examine my belief systems, own my shitty behavior, and commit to change. All white people need to do this.

Because here’s something that’s important for white people to understand: I never perceived myself as racist, even when I was saying and doing things that were racist. There was a huge disconnect in my head between how I perceived myself and how I was acting and impacting those around me. I thought racism involved white hoods and burning crosses. Some things I didn’t understand were racist, other things I knew were problematic but didn’t give much thought to – because they didn’t impact me.

This image (not mine, it was sent to me) perfectly explains how I once was:

Most of what I was doing was in the covert category, and what I thought racism was is solely in the overt section. Thus, a disconnect, and me being a shitty person without understanding that I was being a shitty person. That’s not an excuse, and it doesn’t in any way negate the negative impact I had on others. But it does explain why so many white people claim to not be racist but still engage in speech and behavior or support things that are racist – the disconnect between overt and covert that this graphic illustrates is part of the issue. They think not engaging in the overt is enough. It’s not.

The only reason why I’ve been able to evolve and be better is because I had that realization and have been working at continuing to learn and change. Part of practicing anti-racism as a white person is realizing that you are likely still engaging in or complicit in racism, and continuously working to root that out and change it. You may not be doing it on purpose, but it’s an intent vs impact thing – they’re not equal. Impact is what really matters. Ignorance and good intentions don’t mean you’re not accountable when you have a negative impact.

Which brings me to another important point: As a white person, being anti-racist isn’t an event – you don’t suddenly cross the anti-racism line and get a gold medal for it – it’s an ongoing, lifelong process. A lot of black people have pointed out that you can’t ever, as a white person, be 100% perfectly anti-racist. The sooner we accept that, the better we can be – because truly accepting that means learning to not get defensive when someone points out missteps and bad behavior, and being able to self-reflect, reassess, and evolve.

Listening and educating ourselves is important, but action is even more important. Educate yourself, but also…do something. Do a lot of somethings. Do as many somethings as you can, and then keep doing more. There’s a lot of good information out there about ways that white people can take action to be anti-racist and dismantle racist systems.

I’m not going to tell you where to find that information*, because one thing white people need to do is learn to do the research. Learn to find those sources. Figure it out. Don’t bother the black people in your life or wait for them to call you out – do the work yourself. That’s another important step. We need to be proactive rather than reactive.

(j/k I added a page. But it’s not exhaustive and you still need to do your own reserach.)

What it feels like to shiver

Last night as I drove home from my writing class, there was a gentle, lackadaisical snow falling in Denver. The restaurant and microbrewery patios were empty. The homeless had taken shelter somewhere – at least I hope they did – as the temperature dropped. Less people roamed the sidewalks. It was quiet, in that beautiful but eerie way that only snowy nights can be.

I’d forgotten what it felt like to shiver. Suddenly I was reminded of winter, and it was jarring. Something about this past summer felt really long to me. Then September came, with its tidal waves of pumpkin spice, and I felt a dissonance – it *felt* like summer, even though people were embracing fall.

Now fall is here, and winter is creeping up behind it. I feel like I need to embrace every small moment of it, because it feels fleeting and malleable. I work in a field that deals with the effects of climate change, so I talk all day about ‘extreme weather events,’ even though sometimes none of us know for sure what that really means. Hurricanes, certainly. Extreme high temperatures, and extreme low temperatures. Increased precipitation.

I suppose I fear how we’re careening into a world where all of us will forget what it feels like to shiver. Perhaps not literally, but a world in which the changes aren’t slow, or subtle. A world that becomes drastically altered.

For now – there was some snow, and a shiver, and it felt gentle and safe and beautiful. And I want to hold on to that.

“The problem is, these women look normal.”

It’s an eerie day in Colorado as we greeted the arrival of our second bomb cyclone. The day started rainy, gray, and foggy with an impending sense of doom and eventually turned to a heavy wet snow which is much more appropriate for a bleak midwinter than an early spring. The gloomy weather hanging over my home seems the appropriate time to reflect on events that occurred on March 26, 2018 on the northern coast of California, sometime in the early hours of the morning.

This is a story about abuse, neglect, and murder, and it’s been eating at me for quite some time. I had to collect my thoughts, and the point of posting them is to call attention to this case, to these kids, to what they experienced and why they experienced it, and to the forces that intertwined to create a situation in which they never got the help they desperately needed and were desperately seeking.

TW: Tough subject matter ahead. Read at your own discretion.

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Constructing identities

I spent some time at the Denver Art Museum last week, and one of the current exhibits is a landscape exhibit which, according to the DAM, will show how various artists have blurred “the distinction between ‘observed’ and ‘constructed’ imagery.”

Observed vs. constructed is an interesting binary. Has the artist who took this simple (yet stunning) photograph below merely created something we can observe? Or is there an element of construction there?

One could certainly observe and move on. But I think the fact that the photo is in muted tones and that an image was chose that features an asymmetrical breaking wave is an element of construction. It makes me feel like I’m looking at a wild, stormy ocean. It’s beautiful, but fearsome. It should be admired, but also respected.

I would even argue that the color of the wall that the DAM chose to hung it on adds to/emphasizes that construction. Would the photo have felt different if it was hung on the beige wall instead of the gray one? What if it was hung on a red wall? Does that change the context?


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Throwing out sparks

For many of us who live in the U.S., this is a frightening time. I feel the ball of anxiety tightening in my chest everyday, triggering a queasy feeling, an uneasiness that hovers around me. My concern for this country and the people in it is at unprecedented levels – I am, at times, actually breathless when I consider the possibilities that the next few years could bring.

It has not been a surprise that I find myself turning more toward the arts, both to soothe me and to energize me.

Art and literature have, at many times throughout history, been sources of subversiveness and protest. And so I write furiously, building a story that was born from my anxiety and anger. It’s one of those tiny sparks of hope that I have, that some humans respond to calls for conformity and oppression by creating something non-conformist and sharing it with others.

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