Hannah texted me a photo of our family this week. It is the six member version and it was taken on a Sunday before we took her to the airport. We all have morning faces, droopy clothes, and are sitting close to each other on our new sofa. I'm looking at this picture today– flicking through my phone, fixating on my little boys draped across our laps, Truly's awkward camera face behind Paul, and Sam leaning in wearing his red "Malcolm Martin Huey" shirt. I look tired (or maybe just forty). I am smiling in a half way that is the way we smile in my family.
How are you feeling, friends of mine? Are you worried, are you harried, are you assuming this will all pass? Are you engaging in arguments of false equivalency? Do you feel like your friends and family have become strangers to you? Do you wish you could go back to not knowing or not seeing? Do you think this is all being blown out of proportion? Are you googling the wikis for Antifa? Do you march? Do you think marching is an inconvenience?
I have laid on the floor in my kitchen, face to the laminate, and tried to will away the suffering that I inflict on my family. What happens when White Supremacy has built your family like it has built mine? How do I fight fascists and stand in the truth, when I cannot ease the heartache of the people that I love the most? What happens when I am the author of the heartache?
Yeah… I don't know.
We let August play football this year and he loves it and it soothes his heart to be with adults who believe in him and children that look like him. He can make the perfect French Press of Coffee. This is a gift beyond measure.
Sam learned how to hurdle in track and we joked that he PR'd every meet. His coach pushed him from believing he was not capable of jumping and running to watching him fly over these devil hurdles while we screamed from the stands. Last year was rough for him. We talk a lot about the negative effects of "peaking" in Middle School.
Manny found his voice and is growing out his hair and chooses all the Shirts About Blackness. His best friend hurt his leg on the last day of school and he hoisted him onto his back and carried him across the Sport's Day field toward the cupcake table.
Truly is starting full day school and Paul and I will miss her and worry in the same way we have worried about all of our boys, although slightly less given her eagerness to please and her Whiteness. She says impossibly funny things every day. She worries about the tantrums (her boys and mine) and puts herself to sleep singing.
The big boys are coming home in a few days and I am going to be kinder and softer and hope that we are helping and not hurting.
Next week we will become eight again and in reality, probably much larger if we think about the ways we have chosen family or the family that has chosen us. We are, as you are, directly impacted by the policy and practice of this country and our community. You might not have sorted out how yet– or more realistically, not had to exact a price– but it is coming. I am trying to love this family and our sleepy faces and love my people who are like family. These people include our Black, Brown, Queer, Transgender, Refugee and Undocumented brothers and sisters and best friends and neighbors. The folks that choose to stand in the way of their happiness and their safety will have to reckon with our fury and answer for their words and actions. Figuring out what is best for the 6 or 8 or 20 people in our family photos is a tricky business but it most certainly doesn't mean staying home or staying silent– it never has. I'm going to believe that our love is strong enough to weather this crap but I'm not going to assume it is enough.
To that end, I'm filling my life with people who hold me to what a friend calls "a high moral standard" that centers race and racism as a moral obligation for our shared humanity. I'm going to do what another friend does and "assume best intentions" when I see how harm lands in my kids' classrooms and then call it out in love. I'm not going to buy the narrative that says that comfort is divine or that preserving innocence is the best defense. I'm going to resist the urge to defend myself when I should apologize and to speak up where I should let someone else have the floor. I'm going to stare at those five other faces– the ones I committed to first and always– and try to do better.
A Chart! I love charts. This one is especially good if you are trying to place a certain feeling or experience into a framework or give language to a "not quite right" moment experience of racism or coded language. I find this especially helpful in naming my own shitty behavior.
I hear and read a lot of well-meaning people talk about how we are "legitimizing" the alt-right or the KKK by talking and recognizing who they are and what they are doing. Like maybe they are just children playing a dangerous game. Maybe we should ignore this as a fringe movement in hopes that they go away. But these folks are our lawyers and coaches and realtors and board members. These are class presidents and soccer moms as much as they might be felons or gang members. They are organized and focused. And they are not going anywhere.
"Costumes tell the viewer that the thing the wearer is trying to do is cultural, that it's not a political or violent attack," she says. "They suggest that the wearer is trying to convince, or engage. If you're wearing a costume, you're thinking about the viewer, you're imagining yourself in conversation with someone else. But what people fail to understand is that cultural control is a question of power." The playful outfits give the rest of us a false sense of security by tricking us into thinking the performers are acting within the liberal symbolic order. They indicate an expressive speech-act is occurring. "Costumes tell us that they're performing, that they can come back from what they're doing," Parsons says. "But why should that be reassuring? Military uniforms are costumes in the same way." Just because it's a performance doesn't mean it's not real.
What are you reading right now to help you make sense of the world or help you fight or pull you back from the brink?