Tuesday, July 21, 2020
Meechie Mail #7
Hey, You …
I call her The Goddess Kathi Berry. As if it is her whole name.
The. Goddess. Kathi. Berry.
She is fierce.
She is grace in motion.
She speaks softly, but you will walk away bleeding to death from the intellectually drunk verbal stab wounds she renders, without effort, if you try her.
She is drop-dead gorgeous.
And … she’s my friend!
Kathi and I have been speaking a lot since we met in yoga teacher training about diversity and inclusion. She’s convinced me the issue is really inclusion. “We live in diversity,” she always says, “that’s not the issue.” She’s right.
She’s challenged me in so many ways, not the least of which is my thinking and using the thinking to generate, motivate and create action.
Her Meechie letter to me is a testament to her Goddess pedigree … her solid seat in social justice … and her unshakable will to use all of herself to make this world better for Black and Brown folks, everywhere, one Afro-Latina Textbook-Aries Eternally-Optimistic Black girl at a time.
And … she’s a Goddess.
Dear Meechie …
Once upon the time of Ferguson, I was in a car going to brunch in Annapolis with two friends when one of them brought up the “race riots” happening at the time. The other friend looked at me (the only black person in the car) and asked me “What did he do?”
I was momentarily stunned. At that moment, it occurred to me my friend was (first and foremost) a white man, with a white male view of the world. With all of the shared interests and fun making up our decades of friendship, I’d forgotten. Meanwhile, in the back of my mind, I thought maybe if I hesitate a bit longer, my other friend (also white) would jump in to school him.
When I finally responded, I asked, “What kind of an answer can I give you that would justify shooting an unarmed minor in the street?”
And I left it there. He didn’t respond. In fact, no one in the car said a word until we were seated at the restaurant with menus in our hands. So uncomfortable! To our credit, I later learned each of us struggled in the awkward silence as we grappled with what we thought we knew and what we didn’t know about ourselves and each other. Confronting unconscious bias is not comfortable.
It took a few weeks and his husband’s Beef Wellington for us to have THE conversation. My friend started by re-telling the story to his husband. And then he shared what he didn’t know he didn’t know. How he surprised himself … what he was learning now … (GIRL!! I know! Got to focus on the intention).
He extended a heartfelt apology. My heart warmed when the thought occurred to me “He’s been really thinking about this!” An evening of great food, wine, and conversation and things were back to our normal. In the end, I appreciate he cared about it, me, us.
Now, you and I both know (up until very recently) the social contract calls for him to step over it. And then it’s my job to make sure he feels comfortable while he does it. If there happens to be another BIPOC close by who happens to witness the racism or privilege, then perhaps we can acknowledge shyt via eye contact and/or an eye roll.
But here’s my point, I do not believe there was anything else I could say /explain to either of them that would have shifted their world view. I’m convinced we needed the awkwardness, something to cause the shift in perspective. We needed to care enough about our relationship to allow space for learning to happen – for all of us fumble through an uncomfortable conversation.
Because GIRL! You cannot teach Woke wypipo about racism!
Do you remember how after the Women’s March, all those whyt feminists joined in on the BLM protests?
That’s because despite talking about it, it didn’t happen. So, maybe they are “standing with the families” and there’s a BLM sign on their front lawns, IDK. But (based on results), what I do know is, as incredibly moving as that day was, it wasn’t enough to cause a shift.
It took a pandemic to hold people’s attention while they watched a white cop casually kill a black man for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. I think the shock of it led to a shift. It was harsh.
But to me and many BIPOC, it was just as harsh as watching Philando Castile being shot in the car in front of his girlfriend. Or, Tamir Rice playing in the park one second and shot dead the next.
I have no idea how people didn’t see any of what we’ve been watching for years. How they missed the pattern. But recent circumstances caused the shift and they’re here now. On their own! I’m celebrating this moment.
People are educating themselves about systemic racism, something they didn’t know existed before. And I’m hoping it’s one of those things where once they see it, they can’t unsee it. I’m here for all these people who are seeing it now. I have all the patience in the world for people I encounter who are feeling their way through this uncomfortableness. Because I’m all kinds of hopeful about the possibility of ending racism.
l pray …
Dear Goddess, may you please bless and sustain the attention of our nation’s people. Give them the courage to give up their privilege and the energy to do whatever it takes as long as it takes to dismantle this racist system and replace it with one that is just and equitable.
So, I’ve been cheering your efforts to teach people, share your perspectives on racism. However, I offer a word of caution as you continue on your quest to educate folks.
Be careful of some of the people you encounter in the “love and light circles”; the ones who claim they don’t see color, or otherwise diminish or deny your experience in racist America. I’ve come to believe many people who think that way need to feel good about themselves. And part of that is KNOWING racism occurs due to the deeds of others, not them. If they don’t believe in racism, then the issue is you.
I’ve listened to you share your stories of people who have used your patience and open heart as an opportunity to say and do whatever it takes to maintain a status quo. They expected your agreement as they did it. And when you didn’t give it, they attempted to manipulate you with tears, anger … my heart squeezes for both of us. I’ve been there before.
It stings. What happens next is, given an opportunity, they will step over the shards of broken trust and pretend it never happened. Regardless of how you feel about it, you will allow this to happen despite the bad taste in your mouth. You will tell yourself you’re rising above it. If it is a community, the experience will leave you with the realization your place in it was never meant to be as an equal.
Best to give those people the same space you would give the Klan. Leave them to be gently awakened while they are led by one of their own anti-racist Sherpas through a process of lifting the veils of privilege and peeling back the layers of systemic racism in America.
(God bless the anti-racist Sherpas!)
Maybe during the journey, they might come to a realization they may have unwittingly expelled that crap in your relationship with them, take responsibility, and clean up that shyt so you’re not shouldering it alone anymore.
Or maybe not.
In any case, it’s exhausting. And you might not see it coming because all that shyt is covered in mounds of spiritual whipped cream.
So, I say, skip all of that. Save your energy for good sex, people who are really open to listening, or whoever/whatever else feeds your soul.
Because Goddess knows!
It takes a lot of work for women like us to survive, let alone thrive, in this world. Let’s invest our energy in the good stuff and celebrate what comes of that.
So, I see you! ☆⌒（＊＾∇゜）v
And I SO admire you for the time and energy you’ve put out there!!
I was once a girl with her nose always in a book who dreamed of being like Brenda Starr one day. Then I grew up to be just another free internet loving, downward-facing dogging, K-Drama addicted Woman in Tech.