Week 12: June 1-7, 2020. Theme of the week: liberation.
Monday, 8:05 AM
I woke about an hour ago to write, but checked texts first and found an alert from the county that yesterday’s police action had been “resolved”. I thought, what the hell does that mean? I went to the Chronicle’s morning digest — it offered a map of big-box stores that had been broken into. (Should I have expected any different from a mainstream paper?!) Then I went on FB; I was looking for on-the-ground accounts but to search those out I had to see thinkpieces, outpourings of grief and rage, stories of affected small biz owners (cover THAT, Chronicle), white people coming to grips with their privilege, non-Black POC sharing resources, Black people’s exhaustion… it’s too much, first thing in the morning when all I wanted to know was whether terrible repression had happened in my city last night. And I still don’t have an answer to that.
I was in a dance class over the weekend where the instructor (who is either white or multiracial) spoke, at the end of class, of the “mood in the air”. It wasn’t much of an acknowledgment but it was better than nothing — which is what we got from my favorite yoga instructor (who’s Asian American).
Meanwhile there was a space launch; god knows how much that cost in money and human hours. Meanwhile in our weekly family chat we actually talked about George Floyd; we’re not usually so direct in discussing racial violence. In mending circle, TR & CA & I shared feelings of despair as well as our sense that this moment feels more of a flash point than previous ones. I had wondered, earlier, whether to cancel mending circle but I felt a weird resonance between that and activism; in both cases you start with what you’ve got and from there, move toward repair and rebirth.
In the evening I thought regretfully that I’ve been such a jerk to Owl lately, but E said I can’t give what I don’t have.
Tuesday, 8:15 AM
I’m grumpy with one of my dearest white friends, beyond furious at our “leader”, irritated that I wasted an hour online when I should have been writing — but I know I was procrastinating because I’m tired and don’t want to sit with my feelings. And now I only have half an hour and it’s definitely not enough and I’m going to be awful to Owl if I can’t get this frustration out of my body.
Yesterday Owl and I made our sign and put it in the window. I probably went in way too hard with my explanation, taking it all the way back to the origins of this country. (AC: “There’s no point calling systemic racism anything but what it is.” True — and I wish we’d all learned it at age 4.) Owl said proudly, “People will see our sign and then they will be nice.” I said, “That would be great, but it’s probably not going to happen. People who do bad things will not change because of our sign. And people who aren’t willing to work to make the world better are not going to start just from seeing our sign. But it’s a way to show that we’re not okay with what’s happening, and to show other people who feel the same way that they are not alone.” It wasn’t a well-thought-out teaching moment, but it was something.
I don’t want to talk to white people if they won’t acknowledge the moment. At dance class yesterday the instructor was wearing a BLM tee and said she’d just come from a huge local rally, and was mourning and angry and wanted to make space for us to be that too. And then I went straight from that into another call where, in the small talk before the meeting got called to order, people were talking about “riots” and businesses losing inventory. I woke at 3 AM wishing I’d said: I know people are impacted by property damage but if we’re not going to talk about racial justice and Black lives then I ask that we not talk about any of this because language and choice of subject matter are not neutral, and if I’m the only person who’s uncomfortable with this, I refuse to keep that discomfort to myself; I refuse, as a racial minority in this room, to be the only one who’s uncomfortable, and if anyone needs to discuss that they can discuss it without me. It would have been unpleasant for sure, but if the meeting hadn’t started when it did, I didn’t feel I could endure it any longer. (I also doubted my right to say all of that, as a non-Black POC: Is it performative allyship? Claiming an anger that I don’t get to claim? I don’t know.)
I talked to a fellow Asian American friend who shared the work they’re doing, and I was very deeply moved and inspired by our conversation. I talked to a Black friend in a way that I hope offered some support, and another Black friend who has done hard emotional labor with me in the past, pushing me on why we never had a BLM sign in our window before. These are the kinds of conversations I need to be in right now. Not this white nonsense.
I baked some cookies yesterday from dough I had in the freezer, and they’re already gone, the whole dozen.
Wednesday, 8:29 AM
I decided last night that I needed some self-care. I was hot, tired, had skipped all dance classes, had sat through another meeting where I was the only POC, was feeling annoyed and hurt with one white friend and then another… I figured if I’ve reached the point where I can’t cut white people, even my friends, any slack for anything, it’s time for me to step back and just take care of myself. Which my (Black) therapist modeled, yesterday, by cancelling our session because, as she put it, she needed to “take care”. I deleted FB off my iPad and will avoid IG today as well, and cancelled some meetings.
I did plan, for this morning, to just write. But then once I got up, I wanted news from the outside, so I opened an email digest and there wasn’t anything useful so I kept scrolling until I got to a headline about a Richmond man cannibalizing his 90yo grandmother and I thought, OMFG, I regret every choice that led me to this moment!
For now, I’m just going to focus on the immediate concerns of my life and household, taking the day very slowly and gently. And think about what anti-racist work I need to be doing… it’s daunting but I need to stop thinking about my feelings and just make an action plan, which — isn’t that really what we want white people to do? Don’t tell us how terrible you feel, don’t self-flagellate; act, and stand with BIPOC. Straight and cis people don’t need to feel bad; they need to stand for trans rights. Etc. Ok, so: what actions can I take? (1) Donate money, and I saw something yesterday pointing out that we need to be donating year-round, not just when things happen that make the news. So: research orgs, decide whether we want to concentrate our funds locally or not, and then make recurring donations. (2) Keep educating myself. Ideally I’d like to read a history, a more current-events book, and something more literary. I’d like to hear from a Black man, a Black woman, and at least one queer Black person. And if I can buy the books from Black-owned bookstores, so much the better; if I don’t want to keep the hard copies afterward I can stick them in the Little Free Library down the street. (3) Keep disrupting anti-Blackness and racist systems in my daily life. (4) Petitions or phone calls or emails?
It’s funny because I think of the old graphic I made for the blog, years ago: witness / question / think / speak / act. And I guess I’m now at a more intense phase of “act”; I mean, we’ve all witnessed so much more than we ever wanted to (Black people maybe more than anyone); we would all be very happy to never have to witness any more. Questioning is ongoing, thinking reaches a stopping point without further speech or action, my voice isn’t the one that needs to speak in certain settings. I’m not yet taking this fight into every part of me the way I would do if, well, if it were my child. Speaking of which, there’s work to do at Owl’s preschool, and I started that work last year by serving on the diversity committee but it’s not enough. We’ve worked on DEI but not J, and I don’t think we should feel good about that.
Thursday, 8 AM
It was so, so, so the right decision yesterday to delete FB. I had so much more time… and so much more emotional and mental space. It was so restful to not be at the mercy of hundreds of other people’s thoughts and opinions.
This morning I felt this sudden and unexpected wave of love and cherishment for Owl — a deep, awed appreciation for their personhood, for who they are and how they’re growing and learning and becoming, and for the privilege of getting to see that and have some part in helping it happen.
Oh, FFS. A white distant acquaintance just forwarded racial justice action items from a white public official. Sit the fuck down and I sincerely hope the Black and non-Black POC in your life will call you in on the complete inappropriateness of citing this particular person right now. Center Black voices if you have to step onto a soapbox, oh good lord.
Friday, 7:18 AM
Yesterday I skipped dance but went for a half-hour evening walk. That was restorative but I’m still stressing about this weekend: some family members are getting together and I can’t decide whether to go. If it were up to me, I’d be trying to find a way that felt safe; if it were up to E, no way; everyone has their opinions. I feel trapped no matter what we decide.
The NYT made an illustrated guide on how to safely hug. I don’t want to hug my mom holding my breath and then continue holding it for 10 seconds while backing away to a safe distance for exhaling. I don’t want to tense up when touching N because we turned our faces the same direction when we embraced. I don’t want to do the calculus of whether this acquaintance or that friend matters enough to reach for. What is a hug if it has to be made procedural?
So many relationships hurt right now: E and my family because differing risk assessments are keeping us apart, my Black friends (and therapist) because of our disparity of experience, all white friends (parent-friends and teachers especially), Asian friends who are just waking up to their privilege… I mean obviously this is what it feels like all the time to be Black (and, maybe, trans).
Saturday, 9:37 AM
I walked ½mi to pick up breakfast, wearing my homemade mask. Lots of restaurants and storefronts boarded up and Idk whether they were broken into or this is pre-emptive. Lots of BLM signs; some felt more performative than others. With the boards obscuring storefronts, some of the community feeling that came from window signs earlier in SiP is now gone. And now face coverings are mandated if you pass within 30’ of anyone not in your social bubble… it all feels more dystopian than ever.
Breakfast was delicious, even if no longer hot by the time I got it home.
Sending loving thoughts to activists, and those learning how to be activists.