(BP Letter #4)
Thanks for your recent letter.
[Update:] Though it is less recent now than when I first started writing this response. I've had this as a draft for practically two weeks. I apologize for the delay, and I am confused why I haven't been able to get to "send" on this sooner. Life is busy, but it is usually busy. I can feel tiredness coming, and a slowing down in my approach. I'm reading, I'm listening, I'm learning... but I feel like I am doing less. Constant vigilance. Being held accountable to these letters helps. Anyways, here's what I wrote earlier...
Many of your words resounded with me, but for some reason "public letter" is bouncing around in my head. I'm sure all of my writing teachers told me to keep in mind "audience," yet I often ignore the public audience when I write here. I've hesitated to share this blog with family members. I too digest my feelings and understandings when I write. As you mentioned, it is sometimes as if I don't know how I feel until I put things into words. Organizing my thoughts on the page helps organize it in my mind and make sense of them. I kept journals for many years, but I've petered out in recent years. These letters are helping me get back into that. Thank you for keeping me going.
The pull between "fast" and "slow" still has me in the middle of this tug-of-war.
Your lesson reminded me of this, which I made right after I watched 13th for the first time. The movie came out in 2016, but I watched it in 2017. I used it for the first time in class my first year at BCSM. I had done some anti-racist soul searching at that point, was semi-aware of my privilege, but I never felt like I have executed that activity/lesson well. I had an idea of the WHAT, but not the WHY when I built it. I worry that this half-assed approach has done more harm than good.
I'm in complete agreement with you that "knowing my why makes my what (the actions I take) more clear and more impactful." So.. a moment for introspection.. what is my why? This feels scary to think about. I feel like I'm not quite on solid footing with these thoughts, which is why writing about them is needed. I feel I have benefited from a corrupt (not broken) system, I have so much privilege. I feel I need to give back because I have had so much. (Is this a savior complex?) I see that the world we live in is flawed, and I want to make it a better place. “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” (Lilla Watson). I have felt this way for years, but it has been sharpened by being a parent.
You said, "It takes time to get to the heart of the matter, but when you do, you don’t have to push yourself to act. You are pulled. I would do good to remember this." And I hear it.
Maybe you knew I have a bit of a singing background when you sent that clip about the why. I didn't need to be sold on why the Why is more important than the What. I think I was already bought in. But that is a story that will stick with me. I learned early on that my singing was better received when I connected with the Why instead of the What. But I'm not sure I ever connected that to this idea (the What and the Why) before. Powerful.
[Update:] Since my earlier draft, I've realized there is more than one "why" I need to answer for. Here's my short answer to two why questions..
Why am I doing this Racial and Social Justice work now?
I’ve been aware of the enormous issue of racism for longer than these past few weeks. (I’ve worn a BLM bracelet everyday since 2016 until the small beads and weakened string became a hazard for Elsie.) But I’ve been ignited recently and I think it has a lot to do with my redefining myself as a mother. “George Floyd called all mothers when he called out for his mama” struck a deep chord in me. My (very white) family is far from perfect, and certainly not perfectly anti-racist. But some of my ancestors have been attempting anti-racist work for decades. I am proud of them, and want my daughter to be proud of me in the future. I can’t be still and silent.
What is your why? What are the Why Questions you are trying to answer?
Again, sorry for such a delay. Sending love and light to you and yours. Thank you for everything.
PS. It will keep me accountable if I keep updating my reading progress to you. So, here's some unsolicited information..
- White Fragility - Currently on my Kindle, and hard copy in hand
- Crest of the Peacock - Finally got my copy, finished Chapter 1
- whatever other book our Anti Racist school book club chooses. - Up to Chapter 15 of Ibram X Kendi's "How to be Anti Racist" - Book club helps keep me accountable, and I am double reading, listening to the audiobook while parenting, then skimming back through to highlight and annotate my hardcopy
- So You Want To Talk about Race - Done
- We Want to Do More Than Survive (Abolitionist Teaching) - On the list now, but not yet in my hands.
- Me and White Supremacy - Newly added, and we planned to write about this together when we get there. (Noting as well that you mentioned it is marked as “Always Available” as an NYPL ebook.)