When I got a package from Sabrina Ward Harrison recently, a thank you for a GoFundMe project of hers I’d donated to, on the back of the enclosed thank you note was the above — most likely it was a practice sheet or something that didn’t turn out quite how she’d imagined. In that way it was a reject of sorts, and yet ever since it came in the mail, I’ve had it on the shrine that’s on my writing desk. The “real” artwork she sent is still safely tucked in it’s envelope, but this is out.
This is where I am: at the beginning. And any time I feel discouraged, like I don’t know what to do or that what I do is never going to be enough, I remind myself — simply come back and start again, let go and come back, (which is what my teacher, Susan Piver, always says), and to lower the bar (that from the brilliant Rachel Cole), all the way to the ground if necessary, meeting me wherever I happen to be.
I can’t really do much more than rest and heal right now, after my surgery. And I won’t lie, even though I’m doing okay, it’s not easy — I’m tired and sore and can’t really get completely comfortable to fully rest. This is my “work” right now, and it is workable. And yet, even with all this stillness and rest, my mind keeps on going, continuing on in confusion and contemplation.
Here’s what I feel like I know: After all the overwhelm of the first initial weeks of the new administration, all of the frantic scrolling and reading and listening I did, meeting with other like minded people to do a lot of “wtf?” and “what do we do now?”, I’ve narrowed down all the issues to one core problem — white supremacy.
Every single action taken by this new administration has been an effort to maintain white supremacy, to strengthen systems already in place and to dismantle anything that contradicts them, including engaging in the ongoing oppression of people who don’t happen to be white.
I’m not gonna lie, this is hard to acknowledge when you are white. When there is no way to opt out or undo your whiteness, your privilege. At first, I literally couldn’t see, having worked so hard to maintain blind spots, put so much effort towards being willfully ignorant. Once I chose to see, the weight of that reality was overwhelming. Then once I decided to do something, it can feel like I will never be able to do enough, no matter how hard I work at it.
So I come back to the one thing I can do: begin. That has required a lot of deep listening, specifically to people of color. I’ve also been reading a lot, doing the work for myself rather than asking someone else to explain it to me. It’s meant being uncomfortable and confused. It’s meant joining classes and communities where I can get support for doing the work, where I get assistance understanding from people who’ve already figured it out and want to share. It’s meant helping, even before I’m entirely sure what the right help is. It means I make a lot of mistakes. It means I allow my position to be decentralized. It means I step back and let others speak. It means that even when I feel uncomfortable or confused, I don’t make it someone else’s responsibility to fix that. It means I show up. It means I don’t give up.