Categories
politics racism

Clinging to This

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

Rabbi Tarfon

I don’t really have much else to say right now.

Categories
racism

It’s Not a Sprint

I’ve been talking to my coworkers and a bunch of friends all week, trying to help them come to terms with privilege and racism. I can feel their urgency to know everything and do everything… and I get it.

I saw a tweet the other day that white people are all “cramming for the racism test”, which I think is a great metaphor for that urge to try to learn everything all at once and get right with it.

(the whole thread is great and largely inspired this post)

It’s not going to happen. You will burn yourself out. You’re not giving yourself time to process all this new-to-you information.

I’ve been working on a metaphor for the opposite of that, and I think I have one I’d like to try out on you.

Racism is not new, and the work to fix it has been ongoing. White people, we are late to the work – so very late. We are so far behind the work that it’s not a sprint to catch up, it’s a marathon.

You don’t win a marathon at a sprint. You win a marathon with pace. We need to find the pace for ourselves that allows us to catch up, without giving up, without stopping and deciding it’s too hard.

Marathons take training and patience and practice.

We need to pair up with other people and hold each other accountable for our progress. Look up SURJ and find your local chapter. Reach out to your friends and buddy up. Have regular check ins and make sure you’re keeping a pace that will allow you to catch up. Ask for help.

Your practice might be starting today. That’s OK. Welcome to the team.

Categories
racism

Murder by 911

This Huffpost piece on Amy Cooper is really good and you should read it first before continuing.

It might have been subconscious, but it was attempted murder, and deep down she knew it. Just like Carolyn Bryant knew what would happen to Emmett Till. Just like countless others knew what they were doing when they committed murder by 911.

Racism is in our founding documents. It is in every era of our history. We’ve all been taught it in school, in church, by experience.
Racism is as much a part of our culture as anything else.

And if you, my fellow white people, think you don’t have a “racist bone in your body,” I invite you to rethink that. Do some reading. Do some soul searching. It’s in there.

It’s time to name it. It’s time to call it out. It’s time to do the work to counteract all those narratives that have been placed in our heads by 400+ years of racist indoctination.

We all have racist feelings. If you grew up in the US, it’s impossible not to.

IT IS NOT OUR FAULT WE WERE TAUGHT ALL OF IT.

Admitting you have racist feelings doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It means you’re American. If you embrace those racist feelings and run with them, you’re A racist.

If you work towards curing yourself of those feelings (I don’t even know how to express this) and work against them, then you might be anti-racist one day.

It’s how we grapple with them and deal with them that counts.
We all have to do better. We have to do the work. We have to call it out when we see it and compel our friends, neighbors and family to do better.

I struggle with how to talk about it because I feel unqualified. But, I feel worse if I say nothing. So, please correct me when I’m wrong, and I’ll keep trying to be and do better.

Categories
racism terrorism

Defending the Indefensible

If you’re thinking about jumping into someone’s comments to try to defend three armed men chasing down and killing an unarmed man running on a public street… just don’t.

Their whiteness doesn’t give them authority or agency over brown bodies. Slavery is over. Jim Crow is supposedly over.

They had zero authority to do whatever it is they said they were trying to do.

Before you say anything, and I mean anything, examine what you’re really thinking and why you feel you need to defend them; interrogate your own learned racism.

Read Understanding and Dismantling Racism. Read The Half Has Never Been Told.

Until then, please choose to stay quiet. No one needs your opinion, especially not people hurting over yet another case of white men who think they’re judge, jury and executioner.

Mourn with those who mourn. May justice be done.

Categories
current events daily tedium

One Month and Change

I left the house yesterday for the first time in over 35 days. It was just to take some soup to my in-laws, but it felt weird hopping in the car and driving. Jen’s been doing all the errands because I’ve been working, and since I’m already a mess thanks to my asthma and allergies, it’s better I reduce my exposure to everyting.

I thought I’d write more during this. I like the idea of keeping a journal during this pandemic to look back on. That didn’t happen. I think mostly because not much is happening. The days all kind of bleed together. I have little projects, but nothing I really feel like talking about. I don’t feel like doing more baking shows. My experimentation in the kitchen is now mostly trying to come up with creative ways to use up almost-expired canned goods.

I love that people are being creative within the constraints of our new reality. I don’t know where we’ll end up after this, but I’m hoping that creativity doesn’t stop.

I wish I had something useful to say. I’m just trying to keep going.

Categories
current events

You Are Forgiven

Ever since I discovered Hadestown (the album, not the broadway play, which I would love to see), I’ve been listening to a lot of Anaïs Mitchell. This song came up in a playlist today and it brought tears to my eyes.

I couldn’t tell you why.

Or, maybe I can.

I’m tired, and frustrated, and sad, and angry… and those feelings are stuck in my head and heart. I’m not sleeping much. I’m working a lot… and work is hard, because almost everyone has stopped hiring.

I know I’m lucky. I still have a job. Millions don’t. And maybe that’s why. I’m also feeling ungrateful.

May we all be forgiven for our uncharitable and unhelpful, but totally human, emotions right now.

Categories
current events social media

Good Things in Bad Times

I’m used to working from home. I’ve done it for years. What I’m not used to is the hit my attention span has taken while trying to grapple with what’s going on in the world – both in my home and outside of it. My routine is totally shot, and all attempts to bring it back in line have failed so far.

But, I have discovered (or rediscovered) some good things that have been helpful in keeping up with the news and keeping slightly distracted during all of this.

  • The Your Daily Drive generated playlist on Spotify. It’s a mix of news from NPR and the BBC and podcasts that I’m not familiar with. It’s like drive time radio on a station built just for me.
  • The Washington Post’s live updates page. Short, well-reported, frequently updated stories. I now check it several times a day. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything I need to know about the national news related to the virus.
  • Journalism. This is dumb, but I think I’d gotten complacent with how important good journalism is. With the constant stream of lies, rumors, nonsense and hysteria, having a few good sources of news and analysis has been super important. I already mentioned the Post, but Talking Points Memo, The Daily from the New York Times and others have all been great.
  • Jackbox games. We’ve been playing them at work when everyone needs a break, and I played with my kids and sister over the weekend, and they stream pretty well over Zoom. You can play a game in as little as ten minutes, blow off some steam, have a laugh, see other people’s laughing faces. It’s great.
  • Constraint-inspired creativity. Seeing all the couch concerts, virtual happy hours, 3D printed masks, and the way educators have figured out how to reinvent the entire education system in a weekend, has been inspiring. When people are given constraints, they’ll find creative ways to play with them.
  • My blog. It doesn’t even know what to do right now. Five posts in a week? That hasn’t happened in years. But, I’ve enjoyed coming back and writing here, and using it as a little journal of the current crisis.
  • Twitter. I had drifted away from it over the last year. During normal times, Twitter is a sewer of hate and sarcasm. Now, at least among the people I follow and interact with, it feels like we’re all back in 2007-2010 when it was the world’s largest dinner party.

Those are the good things. I’ll spare you my list of annoyances. You probably have the same ones.

Categories
current events love

Standing

Standing alone in my driveway
On a empty street
On a small island
Next to a big ocean
I looked around at the houses
I looked up at the big sky, pink with dusk

Alone is a trick of perception
Based on the size of your container
Alone in your room
Maybe in your house too
But under that big evening sky now going purple
We’re all together

Categories
family Kevin love politics savannah

On Mister Rogers

I just finished listening to the last episode of Finding Fred, a wonderful podcast exploring Mr. Rogers’ legacy, and impact, and I thought it was time to finally write out these thoughts that have swirled around in my head about him, about love, kindness, thoughtfulness and community since the election that put Donald Trump in the White House. Don’t worry, that’s the last time I’ll mention Mr. Trump and this post isn’t political – it’s about reacting to pain and finding myself wanting.

After the election, I saw my friends in pain, while I felt little more than disappointment. I didn’t see it coming, but I also kind of thought we deserved it. My friends’ reactions were visceral, full of fear and anguish, and I didn’t get it. Shortly after the Women’s March, I volunteered to live stream an event in Savannah where women who marched told their stories. It was heavy, and heartfelt, and I finally got it.

That night, I decided I needed to work on myself – to make the effort to be more empathetic, thoughtful, cause less harm, and to become more useful in the world to hopefully ease some of the pain, hurt and fear I was seeing.

I got books on meditation, racism, diet and exercise, and… didn’t move very quickly, considering it’s been three years and I’m just now writing this. It took me a very long time to read Understanding and Dismantling Racism, because it was so hard to come to terms with the racism I held in my heart without realizing it. I read books on meditation, but none of it made sense. I just couldn’t grasp the mechanics of it. I’ve always struggled with my weight, so that also made halting progress.

I went to therapy for the first time since I was 5, and started dealing with all the anger I’ve kept around unprocessed, that bubbles up unexpectedly, ruining moods and days.

But, I eventually finished the books, and picked up others. I learned a lot about meditation in therapy, and worked through a lot of my anger. I’ve been trying to be less sarcastic, more thoughtful, and more empathetic – and hopefully cause less pain to others. I’ve been trying to figure out my own emotions, and regulate them so I can better hold the space for other people’s emotions.

And this brings us back to Mr. Rogers. He and I share a birthday, and he’s been a hero of mine since I was a kid, but I could never articulate why. Why would I choose this kind gentle man as a hero?

I think I know now. Mr. Rogers is my hero because he embodied all the things I struggle with. He is patient where I’m impulsive. Kind where my natural reaction is sarcasm. Soft where I can be hard. Understanding where I am frequently clueless.

It was also because Mr. Rogers was the helper he told us all to look for. One of my favorite parts of Finding Fred was the discussion of that famous quote, where Fred told us to look for the helpers. All of us who watched him are now adults. We don’t need to find the helpers – we need to be the helpers and look for opportunities to help, to put into practice the kindness he shared with us, and share it with others.

The other big question from the show was what keeps us from being more like Mr. Rogers?  There were a lot of opinions on the show, but I’ve come up with my own answer: selfishness and thoughtlessness.  And I think that’s why Mr. Rogers is so missed right now.  We’re confronted with selfishness and greed on a mass scale.  We’re literally slapped in the face with it every time we read a news story.  It’s selfishness on a scale that feels like it blots out every other motive and emotion, and feels impossible to solve, since it feels like we’re completely outnumbered.

We are not outnumbered. Like Mr. Rogers, kindness isn’t loud.  It’s not going to grab headlines.  It’s not going to self-promote or rant in all caps on Twitter.  It is small, and quiet, and it means literally everything. 

In this effort to improve myself, I keep coming back to the idea of loving kindness.  It’s a main tenet of Buddhism and mindfulness, and it feels like it encapsulates everything.  It’s the Golden Rule applied to others, and myself.  If I am not kind to myself, I can’t be kind to others.  If I don’t practice mindfulness, I won’t see the many opportunities that come up all the time to be kind.  If I don’t practice mindfulness, I won’t be in the moment and appreciate it. If I don’t practice loving kindness daily, I won’t be able to apply it when it’s difficult – especially when it’s called for in the face of anger.  It requires vulnerability – which I am not good at. It requires patience, which I don’t have enough of. 

I don’t have it all figured out. I still get angry. I’m still sarcastic. I still don’t know what to do about white supremacy, or how to confront people about it. I’m still really uncomfortable with other peoples’ emotions, especially anger. But, I think I’m more useful today than I was yesterday. I think I know a little bit more than I did in January of 2017.

I know that loving kindness is the answer, even if I don’t always get it right. It’s called “practice” for a reason.

I’ll keep working on it.

Categories
politics social media

Toxic Data

The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits.

Nassim Taleb, found on Farnam Street

This is the most concise explanation I’ve seen of the problem of social media, how easily it’s manipulated by bad actors, and how hard it is for normal people to cope with it.

Our ability to manipulate people far outpaces our ability to resist that manipulation.