To be anti-racist and White. Or, A snapshot of an anxious mind
By Imagining America | May 18, 2015
By Elyse Gordon, PAGE Co-director
Good grief. I am overwhelmed by what is going on and my responsibility to act.
But I am so stretched right now: deep in my research, so near the end; in the struggle of personal wellness and some long overdue healing.
Forget that! I don’t get to lean on my Whiteness as an excuse to opt out. The mere fact that I get to opt out means I can’t opt out.
But self care is radical. It is the most important thing. Can’t care for others unless I care for myself.
And, you know, this isn’t a war. It’s a journey, a change of consciousness, a new paradigm is rising. It’s ok to sit out this chapter if I need to. And I think I need to.
But I have rarely been one to just sit things out. I may not participate, but I usually direct my energy around somehow else. How will I direct my energy this time? And I still feel responsible to do something.
Oh yeah! The salon series – that’s putting my energy to work in a really concrete way in a small little microcosm of action. Who knows what the ripples will be from engaging other White folks in these conversations.
And I live my value of justice all the time, or at least I try to. My lens for the world is one of racial justice now. Once you have that analysis, it isn’t going anywhere. So everyone I talk to, everything I study, it will have that perspective.
Ok, ok, ok. But is that enough? What’s enough?! People are being killed. Folks don’t feel safe in their cities, in their neighborhoods. Other folks are so frightened to give up power that they sling racist and hurtful words and deny White Supremacy as if it wasn’t the very thread of our nation’s institutions. And folks are finding themselves in stark, material poverty after months of being on the streets of Ferguson. And still justice hasn’t been reached.
And why isn’t anyone really talking about poverty, anyway? I mean, that’s not entirely true. In Baltimore, it is clearly being framed as structural violence, systemic oppression, dispossession. People understand that what we’re seeing isn’t an individual thing, and it isn’t just about the Police. These are deeply intertwined with the history and geography of that city and its people. But I’m talking more about the actual experiences of poverty; how movement work reproduces poverty; who gets the money when we direct money to black-led organizers; how we convince people to give their money to Black liberation instead of the Boys and Girls Club… How we direct money so that the people fighting this fight on the front lines aren’t having to choose between food, shelter and cell phone bills.
And then this crisis in Nepal! And my neighbors and their daughter who died in an avalanche, and the heartbreak of bearing witness to their process. And just feeling like there can’t possibly be more pain in the world! How can I make space for all of this? And where can the joy be brought back in?
But then there’s food, and cooking, and art, and friends, and colleagues, and hummingbirds, and sunshine, and yoga, and breath.
Breath. I sometimes wonder if I just let all of this go if things wouldn’t be simpler. If I really embraced Buddhist principles, then would I be so distraught? But is that just supremely selfish?
And what am I making for dinner??
Being in my own head about all of this is a privilege of its own; its a sign of my whiteness, my tendency to analyze, to over think, to dwell, to worry, to ruminate.
My exercise in collective liberation today is this: When People of Color have power, I will benefit by not being plagued by anxiety and concern about how to be in the world as a White person.