one aspect of my anti-racism work as a White woman (or, the racist White woman in the park)

Surely most of you by now have seen the footage of the White woman in Central Park calling the police on the Black man who asked her to follow the law and put her dog on its leash. We White women have a long history of getting Black people killed. I won’t write much about that here, but that’s a truth we White women need to face.

I want to share with you (my fellow White women) one small aspect of anti-racism work I’m doing in response to this latest example of White women putting the lives of Black people in danger. I’m noticing how I feel, in my body and mind, when I think of that woman and her reprehensible behavior. I’m noticing the draw to distance myself from her; I find myself wanting to focus on the fact that I’m not like that.

Digging deeper — and I’m noticing feelings of shame as I write this, knowing it’s ugly and I’m sharing it publicly — I also find I’ve had brief flashes of “I wonder if she’s mentally ill, perhaps we should have compassion” or other excuses.

I’m relieved to be able to say honestly that these pulls towards racism (excusing her racist behavior) are only flickers. Barely milliseconds, more of a whiff rather than long inhales of scent. I’m almost entirely centered and clear about the truth: this White woman responded to a Black man’s request with violence; she was entirely in the wrong.

But, as a White woman, it’s been my experience that one of the most powerful ways I can be a better human being is to interrogate the full experience in my body and mind when I consider other White people’s overtly racist behavior. Do I look for excuses? Do I “other” the White person so I can feel less a part of the problem?

The reason I want to notice these tendencies in me is that it is whiteness, the support of white supremacy, wants to keep me (a White woman) comfortable. It wants me to feel like the problems aren’t so bad. It wants to soothe me when I’m faced with racism so I don’t get too upset about it (which might lead me to wanting to change it). Whiteness is a seductive opiate-like drug.

This noticing is just one part of anti-racist lens I use to live my life (to be clear: I try to live my life through that lens, I never do it perfectly). But, I’ve found it emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually freeing. I’ve been able to get more active in anti-racist work since I’ve incorporated this noticing into my everyday life.

I look for ugly truths in myself. I listen to myself, I feel my body’s response. And, these days, I simply notice them and let them go. I know those tendencies are my addiction to whiteness rearing its devious head, wanting me to not continue working in solidarity with other people on the paths to liberation for everyone.

Getting to the point where I simply notice and let them go has required some years of practice and study, learning from Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color how our systems in the USA are built on racism and how I benefit from the systems. Noticing what’s really happening in my mind and body has been one of the most important steps in bringing anti-racism into my daily life.

As Rev. angel Kyodo williams says: “”love and justice are not two. without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters.”

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If you are interested in Buddhist ideas, I recommend highly Rev. angel’s Radical Dharma. It’s through Rev. angel that I got clear about the racist junk in my mind/heart’s closet that I needed to clear away.

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* I usually capitalize White just like Black is typically capitalized, following the lead of some Black people I’ve read online. These are socially constructed labels, and it seems right to treat them the same. On the other hand, I don’t capitalize “whiteness” or “white supremacy” because that doesn’t feel quite right. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve made these choices. There’s not a standard consensus about how to do this, though, so if you are not White and have feedback about it, I’d be grateful if you’d share it. If you are White and have feedback that you’ve learned from BIPOC, I’d love to hear that, too. (Thank you!)

With no claims of moral purity, I’m quitting Facebook

Perhaps quitting Facebook will begin a cascade of new choices that leads me in the direction of living my intended values. Perhaps. That is to say, quitting Facebook feels like the ethically and morally right choice for me but I’m not on any high horse. I use Amazon Prime way too much, for example, and am not ready to look at quitting that (yet).

Why am I quitting Facebook? Here are some of my reasons:

Greed. I believe greed is at the root of all evil. The desire to have more more more more more, is what drives Facebook. What started out as a simple (disgusting) little application was then fed by the poison of selfish capitalist greed. Facebook will never be a part of the way of life I aspire to: “just enough, and not too much.”

Addiction. I don’t even *enjoy* using Facebook for the most part, but I keep doing it. I don’t consider myself an active user, despite checking it many (many!) times each day because I know others who use it even more. But I do use it a lot, so many “just checking” visits. Ugh! This compulsive behavior leads me off a spiritually-centered path.

Control. It drives me bananas that the site determines whose posts I will or won’t see. As its algorithms try to “customize my experience” (vomit!) I suddenly get lots of posts by one person or another, typically folks I don’t know all that well. It’s super-frustrating. Yes, I could create lists or whatever, to see just the people I’d like to see, but I’d rather see *everyone’s* stuff as they post it without having to spend time manually customizing.

Ads. Ugh, again. Sponsored posts and other ads. Even with ad-blockers, that garbage comes through. Sometimes I have more sponsored posts than posts from friends.

Fear. It makes me angry that when I considered quitting Facebook, I felt afraid. I felt like my business might suffer, that I’d miss out on important socio-cultural events, that “these days we ‘have to’ have a presence on Facebook.” Because my business survived and thrived before Facebook, I know it’s a lie that I need it now. The truth is, I get new clients via word of mouth, not from Facebook.

Surveillance Capitalism. This is where I know that quitting Facebook won’t solve the problem, but it is part of why I’m quitting. I heard an interview with Shoshana Zuboff, author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power” and her argument that our personal information is a new commodity. As she says, rivers and meadows were turned into “real estate” and our personal information is now a commodity being bought, sold, and traded. I’m currently in too deep (see my mention above of using Amazon Prime), so I’m not free of this. It simply feels like deleting Facebook will be a step in the right direction.

I will miss the people. I will miss the former high school classmates who I got to know through Facebook better than I knew them back then. I will miss seeing people’s children on the first day of school, and sharing photos of my own. There’s quite a bit of good in the people who are using Facebook, for sure. I’ve been gathering snail-mail addresses from as many people as I can so after I delete I will at least be able to exchange annual updates with folks.

I certainly understand there are many compelling and understandable reasons to keep Facebook. I’m not shaming people who keep using it. I’m just letting you know why I’m quitting, how I already feel lighter just imagining being done with it, and that the costs don’t outweigh the benefits for me.

The Economics of Parenting

Our country’s priorities are messed up. All the talk of “family values” (code words for James Dobson-esque right wing radical Christianity being the Right and True Way) is deeply, deeply anti-family when we look at reality.

The answer to ending bullying (or most serious problems our children face) is a real living wage for all workers and making corporate greed illegal. I’m not anti-profit, mind you. I am, however, quite sure that corporate greed is the root of most of the problems we face in America today.

I’d like to see the Tea Party people spend some time looking at the incomes and bonuses CEOs paid themselves and imagine for a moment that those dollars were instead used to bring minimum wage jobs up to a real living wage.

If families didn’t have to work two or three jobs just to barely make it, they would have more time and energy for more involved parenting. If families could survive on one income, and that income could be made working 40 hours a week, I believe our nation would see radical changes for the better.

As it stands now, if I were to get a “regular job” most of my income would be spent on childcare (daycare for the little one and aftercare for the older one). So, maybe I could bring in a little more money if I worked a 9-5 job. Maybe. That said, as it stands now, my co-parent and I are firmly convinced that the best thing for our children is to make the “irresponsible” choice of my mostly staying home with the little one and our being around in the afternoons and non-school days for our older one. We can not afford to do this.

I’ll say that again. We can not afford to make this choice but we’re doing it anyway because the alternatives not only don’t bring in much more money but also totally sell out our personal values (providing our children the lives we want for them).

I fully recognize what we are doing isn’t what most people will find a reasonable option. It’s totally unreasonable, actually. And when I find myself wiped the fuck out after, say, a two or three day stint of sick children or STBX (soon-to-be-ex) is traveling so it’s 100% me for a few days, or AGHH school vacation comes around, I get tired. Very tired. And the television gets a lot more tempting. The deeper conversations aren’t likely to happen because I’m running around trying to get the minimum done just to keep us all from going totally insane. Too tired to talk, too tired to be fully present with my daughters, and too tired to just “be.”

So I consider what it would be like if every day were like that. (Sometimes I have longer stints of it if my freelance work (hire me!) is particularly busy, but that comes in waves.) If I were a truly single mother, or if I worked a full-time job outside the home and came back at the end of the day and tried to “be there” for my children, god, I get exhausted just imagining it.

Let me be clear here, no matter what a person’s values are, no matter what their intentions, I’m saying that even the best of the best parents are probably going to be too fucking tired to just hang around hand knitting or baking together drifting around unhurried in those times when the rich conversations naturally evolve. But I’m not saying those things don’t happen for those stressed out families. I’m saying that I’m too tired for that kind of idyllic parenting when I’m pushed even a little too hard, so trying to manage that on a regular basis if I were working a job outside the home (and STBX was working a less flexible job) or we were both working a couple jobs, would be nearly impossible for me. As I’m writing this I’m sort of laughing because even though I don’t work a “regular” job I have no “downtime” because of the scramble to try and make ends meet.

Lots of parents do extraordinary things with their children no matter what their financial or work situation. It’s just that I don’t see how it will ever be possible for our society to grow stronger and more secure when we’re all driving so fast we can barely see what’s passing by outside the windows.

There should be tax deductions for parents who want to stay home with their children—not just for people who need “assistance” (which, after I looked into it, is only available in very meager levels and only when people are nearly destitute) but for people who are treading water or better, financially, but who want to make an investment in their children. There should be support systems available for mothers or fathers who want to spend time with their children in their first five years of life, not just the first month or so. Job security. Paid time off. We should be investing in a culture that encourages families to slow down together and connect.

I think it’s a sad state of affairs that we ask our public school system and other social systems (afterschool programs, etc.) to do so much of the family work and then we blame the families for not instilling the proper values in their children.

The way we’re set up right now we need to invest the hell out of public schools and after care programs, into school meals, into bussing, and into lots and lots of adults to provide the structure that children so desperately need.

What I think should happen, though, is a grand shift. We ought to invest in supporting families who want a mother, father, aunt or uncle, grandparent, or close family friend to be home with the children. A family member or surrogate family member if the parents are drawn to their non-family work (I realize there are a lot of people who love their jobs, or want to be at work not at home with their children all day long, full-time on-site parenting is not a job for everyone).

It’s not a lazy or selfish choice to want to stay home with my babies. It’s a shame that I feel embarrassed to talk about wanting to do this, that I fear all the other parents out there who aren’t doing it will think I’m saying they are making a bad choice. No. I am saying our society is set up so we don’t have a choice. If we want to pay the bills, we have to work several jobs. I’m in a minority where I can’t afford to “stay at home” with my girls but I’m doing it anyway. This may be a minority of the stupid (“irresponsible”), but when I look at what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, there is no doubt in my mind that I’m doing the right thing for us.

Our societal structure makes it impossible for a parent or other family member to comfortably stay home with our young children. My psychological makeup makes it impossible for me to look at that logical picture and make a decision based on those facts. I am a lioness style mother. When it comes to them, nothing else matters. Knowing what’s best for my children quickly makes any logical or “reasonable” choice completely moot. Society tells me I have no choice, I have to use daycare and programs to rear my children. For me, though, the word “choice” hardly fits. No. I’m going to be here for my children when they wake up, when they go to sleep, when they need lunch, when they need to go to and from school, and when they want to stop and talk to a worm.

This is them tonight: