What parenting a baby teaches us about joining the anti-racism movement

Dear Tunester,

 

I’ve been going back and forth all week on whether to write this post, and, if so, how to do it. There are so many voices we need to be listening to right now. I keep asking myself, “Who am I to add one more? And what if I say something wrong?” 

 

And then I realized, that’s part of the WORK ahead of us; to bumble through this, learn what we need to correct, and be willing to have the conversations to get us there. So I want to put it out there right away: If there is anything in this post that is offensive to anyone, please do write back. Tell me where I went off course. I want to learn.

 

I’ve been hearing a term these days that I resonate with: The Imperfect Ally. To me, it means having our intentions in the right place, wanting to work toward social justice and anti-racism, but also being completely aware that we don’t know exactly how to do that. 

 

It may take time to learn, but we are in this for the long haul. Many have reminded us, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

 

It is going to take a while for us to unlearn ways that feel normal; the mistreatment of people of color (whether unintentional or not) ingrained in our system, the exercising of white privilege daily. And beyond the cerebral understanding, the major shift will have to be cellular, in our bodies. We hold generations of presumptions. Shedding those habits will be painful and will take time.

 

There are plenty of actions to be taken now. I know you’ve probably got a list of them . But this post is about the action in the inaction.

 

Do you all remember the exercise we did in class called Passively Present? We challenged ourselves to be fully present with the experience of our baby. We got down to their level, laid in their position, and let them lead the play. From the outside it didn’t look like we were doing much. But what we were doing actually demanded a lot of effort—we were pushing ourselves to stay fully PRESENT with our baby’s experience. We put our own to do lists, desires, and distractions aside, and we followed our baby’s exploration.

 

There is a step that needs to happen in order to do this anti-racism thing right that cannot be rushed.

 

The other night I was in bed with my husband and we played out the cliche man/woman dynamic. I told him about something that was troubling me and he immediately went into offering solutions. My body tensed, I wanted to turn away and shut down. I didn’t want ideas for action. I needed him to acknowledge my sadness. I wanted to express my dark feelings and know that he saw my pain.

 

We are in a moment in our history when we need to fully absorb the Black voices around us and acknowledge the experience they’ve had in our country for generations. We need to be Passively Present to their experience. It demands our active listening and it takes effort to do so.

 

And you know what might creep up while we try to do that? Our good friend GUILT. And that may cloud our ability to listen.

 

For the White readers here, and that means most (I’m hoping  to change that,) you might be feeling like me. I’m coming to terms, not just with opening my eyes to reality, but more than that, to realizing that I DID see what was happening before but that it was comfortable for me not to change things. In fact, I’ve come to see almost every choice I make as one of privilege. 

 

But guilt is not a productive feeling. It makes us act impulsively. We want to demonstrate, to ourselves or to others, that we are good

 

But guys, as I said earlier, we’re in this for the long haul. There is no need to burn out, fueled on guilt. Our intention, collectively, is not just to change things for our neighbor, although that is a great start, but for our kids’ generation and their kids’ generation.

 

Guilt shifts the conversation away from the victim. So how do we break out of it? We go back to being passively present. We absorb the words and the emotions of black speakers, writers and leaders. And we allow for our own response, in our bodies, to happen without covering them over with shoulds and shouldn’ts (aka guilt.)

 

Many of you have been saying in class that you are feeling distressed about what is going on in the streets. You want to join the effort, but you are busy taking care of a baby.

 

That’s ok. You won’t be in this survival phase forever with your baby. You will once again have the mind space and physical space to head out into a protest or to join local activist groups if you choose. But for now, there’s also work to be done from home. 

 

I’ve never been an early adopter. I know this about myself. It is going to take me some time to figure out exactly how I can create change with my own hands. At the moment, I have my eye on putting my efforts into the elections this year. 

 

Meanwhile, I’ve got work to do. I need to feel the sadness of my Black neighbors, the anger that the young Black leaders I watch on IG are expressing. I need to cry, shake, meditate, take deep breaths, and let the work happen in my body as well. I need to acknowledge my fear of losing certain comforts in order to gain humanity. I need to sit with my sadness of having let down my fellow humans.

 

And when I feel compelled to add my voice to the conversation, I’ll do so, knowing that I will make tons of mistakes, but I’ll listen and learn as I go. That’s the work.

 

Here is a list of some of the voices I have been listening to and feeling with. These are on IG:

@soniareneetaylor

@Whitneyrmcguire

@privtoprog

@brandonkgood

@laurenwesleywilson

@professor_crunk

@austinchanning

@osopepatrisse

@ericacourdae

@luvvie

@taranajaneen

@rachel.cargle

 

So tell me. Do you think I’m right on this? Should we take a moment to fully FEEL or is it just a way to avoid the action that must be taken? COMMENT below and let me know your stance.

 

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2 thoughts on “What parenting a baby teaches us about joining the anti-racism movement”

  1. Vered-
    I have always really valued your opinions, as a parent, musician, teacher,etc and so thank you for sharing your opinion about these times. I find that I am currently busy listening as well. It feels like a crucial step in understanding how best to help. I know that silence is not the answer but I also feel like it’s not my time to talk right now. I do that plenty as a fifth grade teacher myself. I will continue to have challenging discussions at home and with my students and I will continue to examine my own implicit bias and the lens through which I see my community, and the world. For now, I want to pay attention and focus on others voices. I have always found the word “passive” to have a negative connotation but I think the notion of being passively present is such a positive way to use the word. So perhaps it is time for me to reframe my perceptions. Again, thank you for your thoughts.

    1. Hi Lauren, thanks for your take on this. Yes it is so complicated. And even now as I write this a while after you wrote it (sorry! I didn’t see!) I feel like so much has changed. But yes I think we will be listening for a while. And will each find a way to act in a way that still feels present and authentic.

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