Tuesday, April 27, 2021

We carry on

I met up two dear friends in Central Park's conservatory gardens on Sunday. It was so good to be with them outside. The park was crowded, as it was seventy degrees out and spring blossoms are starting to laden their branches. One of my friends had come from a psychology conference that morning on "whiteness" and she very much wanted to talk about it. She said she was frustrated at the ways in which white people fail to interrogate assumptions that their perspective is the only one. Even good white people, she said, often seem more intent on trying to prove they aren't racist instead of exploring the ways in which they might be. She is white herself, and she argued that white people need to acknowledge their privilege and sit with their shame. A discussion followed as to whether the recognition of white privilege must be accompanied by shame. I told her I'd settle for inquisitive awareness.

In other news, I had a second Zoom call for a possible new project yesterday, so I dressed all the way up again. Here's another picture of me Zooming. It is interesting to me, after a naked faced year, how different one looks with foundation and lipstick on. I have decided that I very much would like to be chosen for this work, though I will be at peace either way. I've shown up to the best of my ability, even if I've been thinking since our Zoom call of all the things I could have, should have said. Now the waiting.

When I was a child, my mother, seeing me become anxious in advance of social occasions, said to me in a voice like dappled light, "Dress yourself nicely my darling, and then just forget about yourself!" I still hear her in my head, and it's the reason why, as stressed as I get beforehand, once the engagement starts, I do forget about myself, it's showtime. Bless my dear mother for the gift she gave me, simple as her words might seem. 

Meanwhile Black people continue to be killed by police, new deaths every day. I hear the names of the dead on the news and wonder if the case if an old one or brand new. I can't keep up. It is as if a mandate has gone out to police to execute Black people every chance they get, and they'll receive paid leave in return. It's no wonder I seem to have fallen into a social justice writing niche. It seems an important subject to engage in this moment. Honestly, the blatancy of racism in this country, from voting rights travesties to health and wealth gaps to police brutality, has become absurdly surreal. 

Good morning, friends. We carry on.


  1. Good morning, dear friend. Absurdly surreal. That's for sure.

    Although I've come a long way from the racism that was embedded in my childhood, there is the rest of my life to be open to becoming aware of the racism that remains in me. Given that I was shamed by my parents for simply existing, I appreciate the alternative to shame that you suggested -- inquisitive awareness.

    It's occurring to me that beginning from the time I was a preschool child watching the first television programs in the 1950s, I witnessed years of cowboys killing Indians on a regular basis as well as "good guys" killing "bad guys." At that time, the "bad guys" were Indians, Nazis, "criminals," and "outlaws." It wasn't until I was 7 years old that I was in the presence of anyone who wasn't white, except on television. I lived, for the most part of my childhood, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Black people lived separately from white people. The Chinese lived in Chinatown. "Indians" (mostly played by white people) were only on TV. I attended grade school, junior high school, and high school with fewer than a dozen Japanese people and people from Mexico. The first black person I remember hearing and then turning to see on television was Mahalia Jackson. That would have been between 1954 and 1956. Seeing that Mahalia had my full positive attention, my mother remarked that Mahalia was "a bit much." Those weren't my mother's exact words but whatever her words were, they were clearly dismissive. I remember thinking that my mother was wrong. I had never been so deeply moved by the voice of another human being as I was by Mahalia's voice. The first black person who spoke to me was a man who took care of horses where I was taking riding lessons. What I remember is the warmth and kindness in his face and in his manner and that my mother was not dismissive of him. That would have been in 1957.

    By 1970, when my youngest sister, along with a handful of students from her high school, was given the opportunity to attend a high school that had previously been attended only by black students, my mother had become an active reader of books arising from Civil Rights Movement. My mother became a volunteer at the high school, wanting to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. However, when a Black student wanted to date my sister, my parents said, "No."

    Along those lines, I'll stop here. Thank you for suggesting inquisitive awareness.

    It is clear that your mother lives on through her words, giving you the ongoing encouragement that brings you to this day when you are one of two being considered for a yet another writing project that will make a difference in our troubled world.

  2. When Henry Louis Gates Jr. on "Finding Your Roots" focuses on black heritage/history/ families found/ families lost- getting real historically speaking- we are held in awe. The learning curve for white folks is steep. As well as "Untied Shades Of America" with W. Kamau Bell , Henry Louis Gates Jr, opens all of the doors- no white washing here! I think that black folks have been "Lynched" regularly- just that now it is being filmed and the lying bastard police brotherhood can no longer hide their horror behind "serve and protect" . It is a critical time right now. There is a glimmer of hope, though there are SO many states I would not care to visit or even change planes at their airports- Scary AF USA. The slime oozed out from their cover during the orange gass era having been given permission- they are out there without their white robes and pointy hats- they are everywhere. I still think that leaving the country may be a good idea- run away run away! And, yes, I know that racism is world wide but there are places where one can relax a bit more. As I said, this is a critical time!

  3. Oh and I meant to comment on your attire and perfection! Well done, you! Your mother was right, as mother's generally are...

  4. You look fantastic! I'm sure you were erudite and articulate and they would be foolish not to choose you. Your conversation with your friends sounds interesting and does raise many questions. I suspect anyone with inquisitive awareness would also feel SOME degree of shame almost by default -- certainly of injustice.

    As for the police shootings, I suspect there are two problems: 1) Racist police are killing black people, and 2) the media is now very, very focused on these killings, so we're hearing more about them than we ever used to. Which is not at all a bad thing.

  5. I'm sitting in shame. I do acknowledge my privilege. When we were in Astoria, WA, a small town, a cop stopped me for driving erratically, which I wasn't. Although the stop annoyed me, never once did it cross my mind that I would not survive the encounter.

  6. Hey, gorgeous! Well, you know how conflicted I am as a white person in this society. I DO feel shame and don't understand how every white person doesn't. Racism and racial injustice are braided into the very fiber of our society, our culture, our country. And as much as I think I understand that fact, I am sure I barely grasp the basics of it.
    I'm not even sure that it's possible for us to make the changes, the reconciliations, the reparations that need to be made to begin to see any sort of the equality we so proudly proclaim ourselves to believe in.
    I do see small changes. I belong to a FB group about historical Florida, mostly photography from eras past. Many people submit photos of Black families and the comments are always positive. So often these groups only focus on white history when the fact of the matter is, no state in this so-called union would look anything like it does if it had only been white people to make the history, even if everyone else is mostly left out of the history books. I assure you that the house I love and live in was built by Black men and although I'd love to believe that they were free, its age (pre-civil war) and its location make that hardly possible.
    I have so much more I could say but what's the point? The point is- my opinions and thoughts don't matter much.
    I guess I have inquisitive awareness. I'm certainly aware that there sure is a lot I don't know.

  7. I have never been seen or treated as a white person my whole life. Being born with brown skin awakened me to that world of "the other", despite my 99% Ashkenazi genes. People who are white do not understand what it means to look different, suspicious, and like the other. That's probably been true for as long as we humans arrived in different shades of skin color. What has become horrific in this current time is the wanton violence directed at the Black community by the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. It's the 21st century and we're still having this conversation. ENOUGH! This has to change. I'm worried that the unhinged White Nationalists are going to secure more power. I'm not sure how this all gets solved. I'm worried all the way down to my rickety old bones.
    You look absolutely beautiful. I love seeing your face!

  8. To me it feels very real. nothing surreal. It's been going on forever and just now getting widespread publicity. The kind of conversation you had would be so draining to me these days.

  9. Surreal for sure. Exposing the truth must address the wrongs in our extremely troubled world. Holding people accountable for wrongs is very important. There is much work to be done. Let's make the world a better place with true liberty and justice for all.

  10. I follow this vlog of a young black girl from America living in London, and I feel guilty for doing it because she's black and I'm white and I feel I shouldn't be a fan or subscribed to her channel because I feel she may not want me there. I feel guilt for being white and wearing clothes and enjoying music from black culture. I never used to as a child because I grew up treating people equally, and never really saw the difference, but now I do, and realised I should have, and saying or feeling that "I never even noticed their colour" is wrong.

  11. You look lovely as always. I hope that you get the job. My son had a second interview and was offered the job he went for! ( I mentioned it in a comment to you recently!)

  12. of course we notice if a person's skin is black or brown or white just like we notice other physical features of a person. in my house growing up we had a black maid/cook and a black yardman that came once a week. fortunately, our parents admonished us children that they were not our servants and we were to treat them with respect. they were just Leila and Buster to me. I probably spent more time in Leila's company than my own mother. I won't say I've never fallen prey though. one time in particular stands out. I stopped for gas one night, it was dark, I was alone and it was at a time when there were a lot of car jackings going on in the city and a black man on foot started to approach me and yes, I was afraid. I yelled at him to stay back and got in my car and left. would I have reacted the same way if the man had been white? I don't know. if I'm being honest then probably not. and yet, the few times I've been struggling to get something heavy in the back of my truck at Home Depot while white men walked on by, it was always black men passing by who came to my aid and helped me.

    I do recognise my privilege, I've never been fearful of my life around cops, I understand that my white skin gives me advantages over those with darker skin, even those who are more qualified. this country was founded on slavery, on racism, people stolen from their homes, stripped of their language, culture, family, religion and if they survived the horror of the voyage they were thrown into an alien place and culture, dehumanized, unable to communicate and deemed inferior for the color of their skin. what kind of people does that to other people. I am ashamed of white people, the color of my skin, my pale white blotchy mole covered skin and what that stands for. it is so ingrained in this country, like Ms Moon, I'm not sure it can be fixed. from the beginning of this country white people could kill black people at their whim with impunity, it was just an unruly piece of property after all. those people became the klan then became our police forces and they still think they can kill black people on a whim with impunity and do and even when we watch a white cop kill a black man in daylight in public in front of witnesses filming the entire event, even then too many people think the cop should have been acquitted. that is just plain fucked up. for the life of me, I do not understand why black people love this country so much. but how poor this country would be without them and their contributions.

  13. You look so lovely! I just got your last book from the library, "Heart of Fire". Just started and already sounds amazing - what a woman! (you AND Senator Hirohito)!
    My grandchildren are multi-cultural, having parents from China, Rwanda, and the USA. I hope we do better in the future than we have done in the past. As it comes out into the open more and more, we can work to finally get rid of the violence and hate.

  14. I wonder if it is possible to see what we are not aware of. The only kind of ism I have encountered is sexism. I have been told that because I am a woman, I must obey men, this was an old doc who wanted my pen. I don't go for long walks in the middle of nowhere because I am a woman. There are many things that I won't do due to my gender that I think men can't even imagine. I would guess that it is the same for white people and people of color. Neither of us have walked in the shoes of the other and yet it's what we need in this world, a deep understanding that despite surfaces and religions and language and colors, we are all the same. Humans. Humans separated by fear and hatred and anger. It is always easier to blame the other than to look at ourselves and humans do prefer easy.

    I do know that I am highly unlikely to be stopped by the police, I am an older white lady, a grandma with a face like a nun (which is how one patient put it). I can imagine how angry and confrontational I would become, very quickly, if I was being stopped because of a surface difference.

    I am sorry that it is like this and I always feel guilty that I am white and privileged. I always try to find a connection with others and I am sure there are people who have found my awkwardness off putting and even funny, but I try.

    Sending hugs woman and I hope we get to meet one day.

  15. Love what your mother said - that is how I try to be, with limited success. You do clean up extremely well, judging by your Zoom shot.
    I am white and grew up thinking I was okay with the race thing. Mixed schooling all the way as I lived in Windsor, Ontario, close to terminal of the Underground Railroad. It is only lately that I have learned just how racist my community was when I lived there. I am not sure that 'shame' is the right response. The best thing to feel is that I have the obligation to do what I can to correct things, however that can be managed and wherever it takes us.