Whose Life Matters: Privilege, Policing, and the Distribution of Trauma

cop holding baby 2

One block from home after a Black Lives Matter event, blue strobes flash in the rearview mirror. The irony does not escape me. I bend to pull my wallet from under the seat. Beyond irony, a stunning privilege. I feel around the floor. My hand closes around leather. I pry it out and set it on the passenger seat.

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Reading Beyond

tinho book mural

This time last year, I decided to change how I read. Or, more accurately, to change what I read. It was one small way to keep breathing expansiveness and hope at a time when despair threatened to suffocate both.

As is true for any bibliophile, reading fills up swaths of the time I’m not working or sleeping. Certainly other activities populate the days — eating, dancing, hanging with the kiddo, chilling with the girlfriends. Church and family. In fact, I trip and tumble over the heaps of stuff comprising our days. It’s a wonder stories make it in here at all.

Nevertheless, as is also true for any bibliophile, I find a way. The rare hushed hours, those still stretches, most deliciously belong to books. Bedtime, summertime, solitary dinners. And not always solitary. Sometimes my boy and I read side-by-side at the table weaving tendrils of languid conversation into the quiet. Even at eleven years old, Bug still wants me reading aloud every night at bedtime. We travel through the fantasy worlds we’ve entered together. Having only just acquired a TV after nearly five years without, the universes of film and television hold little appeal. Our secret indulgences almost always involve the page. Continue reading “Reading Beyond”

The Question of Courage

typewriter if not now

“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.

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Question in Action

speak the truth

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?

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How Carrying More Weighs Less

girl carrying lunch pail

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.

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Action 7: Kitchen Conversation

NOW poster makers

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.

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