“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
– Audre Lorde
What keeps me from writing about racial justice? What stands in the way of articulating both the inequities in higher education and a vision for building structures of inclusion? While the fear of getting it wrong looms large, looking foolish worries me far less than doing harm. What I write could galvanize those who prefer white campuses and the insidious myths of individualism and meritocracy.
Back in November, an Admissions officer at the university where I work shared his reactions to the election on his personal Facebook page. His harsh post went viral, prompting conservatives across the blogosphere to point to his words as evidence of “liberal intolerance” propped up by the higher education system. This one employee’s private views became fodder for efforts across the country to gut inclusion initiatives. This is not hyperbole. Remember when the Tennessee legislature voted in April to cut all funds for the university’s diversity office?
At my Unitarian Universalist church, we’ve been grappling with a similar constellation of concerns. A polarized national climate has illuminated the deep and widening fractures in our communities. The choices we make matter. Each time we come together, we have a new opportunity to understand and undo the structures of white supremacy in our traditions and in our congregation.
Indeed, every setting in which we find ourselves offers up avenues for taking steps on racial justice.
Continue reading “The Question of Courage”
If I hold a room the way the sparkling statue lady does tonight, book-touring her paleo-pedicure-CrossFit happy meal of neoliberal feminism, how will I use my voice?
I too could propitiate the gods of privilege. I might tug loose one rough thread of the story and call it struggle. Might forget to notice who inhabits the room. And the design of it. How thick the walls. Who cannot breach them.
Will I preen?
Or will I speak truth to power?
Continue reading “Question in Action”
While little has the power to shock these days, 45’s evisceration of climate change rules still horrifies. Here in America, it’s a matter when-not-if we’ll start donning face masks to walk the dog. Also, when-not-if we’ll look back with something like fondness for such a quaint inconvenience as a face mask. This week marks yet another threshold moment we’ll someday read in history books about humankind’s relationship with its home.
Sweet notion, isn’t it? That we’ll have books? That anyone’s left to write them?
I understand that we need to fight back. Win at least one chamber of Congress. Jail another white supremacist or two, block the next attempt to gut the ACA, block the cops in riot gear with our cameras and bodies.
What I don’t understand is why we still insist on paper plates.
Continue reading “How Carrying More Weighs Less”
The main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart.
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi
A handful of friends and neighbors gathered for a second time. We got together in my living room to share ideas and support each other in our efforts to become more politically active.
Our first meeting took place in early February. We kicked off with drive and energy and a fury of commitment. In the intervening six weeks, our national disaster escalated and many of us lost momentum. Speaking candidly with friends and peeking into my own heart, I notice that many are experiencing the outrage fatigue we predicted. The Republican administration continues to throw all its might into dismantling regulation, research, democratic checks, civil liberties, protection of the commons, and social safety nets. Those of us committed to these institutions as well as to the values that undergird them have lost our sense of direction. How do we respond when everything is a crisis?
First we admit the sense of loss.
Then we remember that these power mongers win if they paralyze us, so we must keep moving.
Continue reading “Action 7: Kitchen Conversation”
When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
– Audre Lorde
I buy the house for the future. Political variables do not enter into the equation. Of course the system will stay healthy enough to sustain my son and me. Housing markets rise and fall. Financial markets swing from bear to bull. Social security may last or disappear. Through all this, my house is insurance. The same is true of my education, my work experience, my retirement savings, my kid’s college fund. The road will have its bumps but we’ll be okay, more or less.
(But for how long?)
My decision fails take into consideration that truth is only assumption and that nothing is fixed.
Now a fear takes root, a fear bigger and more eclipsing than any I’ve ever experienced. Inside this fear swim all the possibilities of a much darker future. Inside this fear dawns a recognition of the fragility of my security.
Privilege, as it happens, will not protect me.
Continue reading “Ask Fear Out”
The most unethical of all means is the non-use of any means.
– Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals
At the end of January 2017, the chilling term “alternative facts” entered the public lexicon. For a brief moment, reading humans around the world collectively remembered a literary dystopia that looked uncomfortably prescient. George Orwell’s 1984 rose to renewed prominence in Amazon’s bestseller list.
Now in the first weeks of March, 1984 has fallen out of the top twenty. In its place, Portraits of Courage by another clown of a president for whom, at this moment, we would trade this entire administration plus vital organs and firstborn children to have back in office. Also up on the list? The Five Love Languages. In the midst of rising fascism, romance still drives the bus.
Continue reading “Action 6: Read the Rules”
The women arrive carrying ceramic bowls of muffins and popcorn. They introduce themselves and shrug out of winter coats, peel the backs off name tags, jot words on green post-its and find seats around the room.
We set up the easel, the flip chart, the clipboards, the jar full of pens.
We share our names, our role models in the movement, the things that make us smile.
After skimming Parker Palmer’s Circle of Trust touchstones, we give a collective nod to a tenor of inquiry and welcome.
Then we begin.
Continue reading “The Women Have Arrived”