Followup question: Do I have a future in clickbait?
I had a lovely day today. Nothing special. I had planned to spend most of the day writing and reading, but instead wiled away the hours interacting with folks and art. My journey began at a too-popular bread n breakfast place. Tables freed up one at a time as I anxiously waited for a place to plant my incipient biscuit sandwich. A 4-top opened up when I reached the front of the line, and I took it a little guiltily, checking to see if a nearby twosome was getting up anytime soon so I could swap out my spot. Everyone was settled in, so I picked a corner of the table that made it clear I was open to company, if necessary, and took out my newest book on race theory. I was at the top of my second cup of coffee when an older woman asked if I’d be willing to let them sit with me. “Sure,” I said. “Is it just two of you?” My place hadn’t been cleared and was taking up ¼ of the table. “Well, us and a service dog. The corner is good for us. But Franny will probably insist on saying hi to you, if that’s okay.” “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t have asked, but that is more than okay. This has worked out beautifully.”
I said hi to Franny, an impossibly soft golden retriever, and started to go back to my book, but then decided against it. I asked if they came to this place often, if it was always this busy. I told them I hadn’t been in a long time, but I was in the area b/c I was heading to the Museum of Russian Art for the Chernobyl exhibit. We talked about the museum and they told me of things not to miss and where to get affordable Russian jewelry in the pre-Xmas season. Thoroughly lovely all the way around.
The museum was excellent – 4 great exhibits going on, all of which reminded me that America’s particular brand of White Supremacy is not the only suffering that people have had to endure. Engulfing myself in this particular education means I sometimes forget that. But seeing Soviet propaganda posters, the art of Russian Jews, photographs from Chernobyl, and a surrealist portrait of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn brought me back to our commonality, the human art of pain and endurance and beauty.
I bought a few books for friends at the gift shop, and a few postcards for myself.
I was near home and the work that waited for me there when I remembered there was a used book sale at my local bookstore, so I kept driving.
The sale hadn’t started yet, but a long-time acquaintance/friend by association called me out and we had what was probably the best talk we ever have. I bought 2 novels (for travel reading) and 1 poetry book (for bedtime reading) and bopped back out into the cold sunshine.
It may have had something to do with the sunshine. Now that I think about it, it may have had everything to do with the sunshine. But it may have also had something to do with my anti-racism emersion.
None of my interactions had anything, directly, to do with race. Nearly everyone and everything I interacted with today was White (unless you’re excluding Jews from that amorphous definition) – that’s not my point.
I have spent my entire life ashamed. To be ashamed is to feel that you are wrong, that You, as a Being, are wrong. There are many things that make me wrong, but being White is definitely one of them. I have been personally ashamed of my race for literally as long as I can remember. I deliberately sought out non-White friends when I was in, I am not kidding, preschool. When you are ashamed, when you live as an ashamed person, the worst thing you can do is be yourself. Because yourself is wrong. Anything that comes naturally to you must be wrong, because You are wrong. So you try to act like you think you’re supposed to act, the way you think others want you to act, until they have made explicit pledges to love you unconditionally, or until you’re too tired to hide it anymore, and you become You. While this person is clearly, as we have said, Wrong, you can’t deny that they are infinitely more interesting that assimilated You. However, that doesn’t keep you from trying to hide yourself behind social niceties and blandness whenever you’re thrust into novel interactions or interactees.
But maybe this anti-racist work is softening that shame a bit. maybe openly admitting that your race has made you blind, blindly privileged, blindly othering, blindly uneducated, admitting it and acknowledging it in others, ALL others, and actively working to change that … maybe you have a little less to be ashamed of, a little less to fear from others. We all have so much to feel guilty about, things that were beyond our control (as unwitting consumers of strategic racism), that it’s hard to feel responsible, personally Bad, ashamed, of any of it. Maybe something in me understands that.
I mean, that’s only one item in my closet of shame, but one less is better than one more.