img_8899

No. Seriously. Let’s Empty Out That Knapsack. It’s Been Sitting On The Floor Of Our Bedroom For Far Too Long.

(Can I start with a sidenote just to point out that my rage towards clickbait is so strong that I think I’m choosing titles for posts now that might be the OPPOSITE of clickbait? I mean…look at that title! Who in the hell will ever click that title? WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN? This is just one of the many ways that my self-righteousness will be my own downfall. Just like how I’m pretty sure I’m destined to get run over by a recycling truck with how militant I’ve become about waste management.

ANYWAY.)

As I slowly began to wake systemic racism, I stumbled upon White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – by Peggy McIntosh. I love this paper so much that I uploaded it to my server just in case any of my bookmarked links fail in the future. I want to ALWAYS be able to reference that document. I also printed a copy to put in my bullet journal. I reference it often and read it regularly.

Basically, it breaks down systemic racism into small, relatable moments.

12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

This is one of the many things I had never thought about. NEVER. Where to get my haircut? I always go to the place close to Target. You know the place. Because there’s one close to EVERY Target. And it doesn’t matter who works there because the majority of the people who walk through the doors are white women so the people cutting hair there know how to cut white lady hair. It’s not something I’ve ever stressed about. I do, however, breathe easier if the person has curly hair. “They know what’s up.” But really – my hair is not that special. If you set up a camera in that shop I’m certain there’s a decent percentage of white curly-haired ladies that walk in every day so the odds are still good that they’ll know how to cut my hair.

Do you watch This is Us? I don’t love it. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it. It feels manipulative at times. BUT WHATEVER. There was a GREAT scene where Mandy Moore (who has adopted a black son in the 70s) gets approached by a black mother who says something like, “You need to take your son to a black barber who knows how to cut black hair. That’s why he has a rash on his neck.” Obviously something Mandy Moore had NEVER thought about. It was a great moment like I had when I first considered how lucky I was to just walk into the place next to where I buy my groceries and get a trim…NO TROUBLE.

Let’s move to a deeper level, and why I woke up at 3:30am, desperate to write this morning as my brain tried to sort out some pushback I have seen lately to the concept of institutional racism. Here’s two that fit the mold of the type of statements that I see getting that pushback.

27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.

50. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments lately from my Cisgender Straight Trump-voting Conservative Christian White friends/family about how they don’t feel welcome in our society anymore. They feel like their religion is being persecuted because everyone is forcing the checkout people to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” They feel like they’re being looked at as racist because they admit to voting for Trump. They feel like they’re being judged for being successful because everyone thinks they’re only successful because they’re white. Every news source and news channel is bashing the man they elected so they feel very outnumbered.

And I get it. I have seen some online communities gang up on these people in a way that becomes very ugly, very quickly. The internet tends to rally in force, and not always in good ways.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I have to do that sometimes, spend time ruminating on something before I can write about it.

First of all – this really could be an enlightening moment if you are someone who pushes back with your own stories of isolation in any of those ways. Because if you look at it in it’s purest form, you might be getting a taste of what it feels like to be a person of color in our country. That isolation, that desperate desire to find someone around you who is like you, that loneliness when you feel like the world is against you? If you can put aside the “Why?” for a moment and just look at that feeling of solitude even though you’re surrounded by bodies and voices? That loneliness in a crowd? That feeling is the same that your neighbors of color feel every single day. Every time they walk into Zoe’s Kitchen (which I love and eat there once a week, but I jokingly call it the Rich White People Sandwich Shop). If you would really just sit with that feeling of desolation amidst the masses, being the lone conservative in a liberal conversation maybe, you could truly be awakened to that glimpse of life as a minority.

But here’s the difference: You can fake it.

I once found myself in a conversation about church and religion with a bunch of people I really like. I felt kinda left out so I just started talking about my aunt the Nun. She’s my Go To religious person of reference because I adore her (she’s in the hospital currently, if you’d like to offer her prayers she’d appreciate it) and because everyone always feels impressed that I’m related to a Nun. She gives me credibility to talk about religion even as an atheist.

Or if I’m in a new group, people won’t just assume I’m an atheist if they start talking about religion. I might feel a little awkward and out of place, but they don’t know that I’m an atheist as I don’t wear a sign on my head saying such things. I can choose to reveal the thing that makes me different, or I can choose not to. Either way, it is MY choice. I do not fit in, in that moment, but I can hide that if I feel like it will work out better for me in that situation.

img_8899

Imagine if I couldn’t hide the thing that made me different.

What if you had to wear a tattoo on your head that said, “Voted for Trump.” Or maybe, “Atheist.” Or maybe, “Hates Hamilton.” Think of that one thing that often makes you feel isolated in a crowd. What is that one characteristic, that one belief, that sometimes makes you feel judged? What if you had NO WAY of hiding that? What if everywhere you went, everyone knew that one thing?

That’s having brown skin.

Or wearing a hijab.

Or speaking English as a second language.

Or being disabled.

Or…sometimes to a lesser extent…being part of the LGBTQ community. Depending on how your live your life, your ability to “pass” could be somewhere on a spectrum. Some can’t pass at all, some shock the crap out of people when their truth is revealed.

Imagine if that one thing that the MAJORITY of people around you didn’t match up with – what if that ONE THING was obvious from every angle? There was no hiding it.

White privilege isn’t about saying all white people are the same and we never feel isolated or alone or judged. I sometimes decide to wear long sleeves to cover my tattoos so I won’t be judged. I talk about my aunt the Nun so I won’t be judged. I reference my college degrees so I won’t be judged. We all get judged for things and we avoid that when we can. White privilege is the fact that – as a governing majority – we enjoy some privileges that people of color do not. The moments we might get judged by our skin color are few and far between.

Part of the pushback I see sometimes is the declaration that white skin color is a disadvantage because of Affirmative Action. (To which I direct them to this older article about the myths of Affirmative Action or this more recent one about how it seems to help white women most of all.) This is always a strange conversation to me. I would ask you to sit in your own discomfort and really really sit with that belief that maybe you missed out on a job because of the color of your skin. (Often times there’s debate if that’s true, but let’s just allow you to really believe it.) If you sit with that for a moment you could SO EASILY follow the train of thought…Hmmm…Imagine if I felt like this at every job. At every academic and professional opportunity. At every social event. That must be what it feels like to be a person of color in this country.

I mean, you might still hate Affirmative Action, but in that moment? You might could at least recognize the problem it’s trying to solve as you feel the sting of being judged, not by your qualifications, but by your skin color.

The truth is – to the person who refuses to acknowledge their own privilege – it’s always easy to find examples counter to the one in this knapsack Peggy McIntosh writes about. Hell, I still catch myself doing it every time. The resistant white privilege still runs very deep into my blood.

14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

My children have parents that are open atheists, and therefore so are they. Their parents are also open liberals, so any parents-of-friends who know us through social media know that about us. They have had many negative encounters at school because of their denial of God and of their support of the LGBTQ community. So I read #14 and my privileged brain thinks, I can’t! We’re liberal atheists in the heart of conservative bible country!

But I remind myself…AGAIN…we can fake it. My kids can choose to make their beliefs an issue. They kinda like to make it an issue because they like the attention it gives them, honestly. But if they’re really trying to get a teacher to like them or really want to be accepted into a key peer group, they can refrain from discussing anything controversial.

I am constantly having to check my own privilege.
I can hold hands with my husband in public and not worry someone is going to attack us.
I can walk into a restaurant and not wonder if I’m going to be the only white person in there.
I can submit a resume to a job and not worry my ethnic-sounding name could cause it to be put in the “no” pile.

I think Peggy McIntosh’s paper is simply a must-read for every white person. But not just to read, but to really sit and think about it. And every time you think of a defensive response/example, I think you should ask yourself the following questions:

How rare was your incident of judgement or isolation? If you can concretely point out ALL of the examples in which YOU also experience this judgement or isolation mentioned? Then you are privileged. Ask any person of color to list the times they’ve experienced the judgement or isolation and they’d laugh at you. Too many to even bother remembering.

Did you choose to make your unique characteristic that called for judgement or isolation known? Could you have hidden the fact that you were the Trump Supporter in the crowd of Liberals? Could you have hidden the fact that you’re an Auburn fan when your friends were talking football? Maybe not in that one moment, but at other times? Is that thing that made you feel judged or left out something that you could hide if needed? Ask a disabled person or a person of color or a Muslim woman in a hijab if they wish they could – in a moment’s notice – hide the thing that people judge them for.

Is this thing you were judged for…is it deeply rooted in a tragic history of violence and hatred? This is often where the crux of the difference lies. Being judged for being an atheist sucks. Especially when the person seems to think I lack a moral compass because of it. But my family does not have a dark history of abuse for being atheist. The history books I learned from in class didn’t contain stories of lynching atheists. Those history books also did not gloss over some of the darkest parts of how atheists were treated. My family doesn’t have stories of being enslaved because they didn’t believe in God. So, even if I’m judged in a moment for something I don’t really have control over, that thing is not rooted in a history of injustice and violence.

In my opinion..that’s really…deep down…what people who fight over the concept of privilege have not yet been able to come to terms with yet. If you think you didn’t get that job because of Affirmative Action…if you feel like you’re a minority in this country because you’re a Trump-supporting Christian and the media makes you feel like you’re an anomaly…none of these feelings of persecution or judgement or isolation are even remotely backed in a history of violence passed down through your blood.

Every time a person of color feels that their skin is the cause for a negative experience, that moment is backed with images of slavery and abuse and lynchings and segregation and violence. If you are white and feel judged or ridiculed or isolated because of your political beliefs, or religious beliefs, or economic status, or even your skin color…none of that is backed by a traumatic history that haunted generations before you.

The debate stops there, in my opinion. The familial history and the cultural history that backs every racist experience that a person of color has in our country…that is the line where a white person’s experience can not cross. We have no idea what that burden is like. And that, in itself, is the root of our privilege.

4ca1002affd9d971de02d39df52ebdb6

“At least I hair good!” – The title of my forthcoming memoirs.

It’s weird that yesterday morning I wrote about leaning into the whole Imposter Syndrome thing and then later I experienced a moment where I received several pieces of criticism (from more than one person) about something I thought I was really good at.

So…um…am I the person I was complaining about yesterday? Did I somehow achieve overconfidence as the least confident person the planet? Is that…like…a magic trick?

Look at Kim! She of terrible body image and low self-esteem! Watch her develop too much confidence for once in her life! How did she do it? Was it slight of hand? Was it invisible wires? Is she just…MAGIC?

To say it hit me kinda hard is an understatement. I’m not confident about many things. I found myself thinking yesterday, This must be how those bad singers on American Idol felt. They walk in convinced they’re going to win and then BAM! Simon Cowell shuts them down.

Is Simon Cowell still on that show? Am I dating myself?

Anyway. I’m trying to get past it. My first method was to eat ice cream and since I’m like 95% vegan you can IMAGINE how well that went over in my tummy. NOT WELL AT ALL. It looks like I had too much confidence in my digestive system too. FOILED AGAIN.

Some of the criticism I was able to kinda talk myself through in the sense of just a misunderstanding on my part. Like two people see things the same way, but I’m thinking that way is expected and the other person is not. And I’m pretty sure it’s something I can rectify if I just take more time to complete the task to begin with. So it sucks, but not anything that makes me doubt my confidence.

But some of it was basically, “This thing Kim does is really bad!” and meanwhile I’m taking the same thing home and bragging about it to my husband.

And that basically kept me tossing and turning all night and now analyzing everything I ever do that I think I do well.

Do I suck at introducing new runners to trail running?
Do I suck at amplifying voices of importance from marginalized communities?
Do I suck at empathy?
Do I suck at talking about boob sweat?

I mean, it’s one thing to find out people think you’re good at that thing you think you’re terrible at…but the other way around? THE DAY YOU WROTE ABOUT IMPOSTER SYNDROME? That’s embarrassing. I mean – REALLY embarrassing. How long has this been going on? Me thinking I’m great and others thinking I’m terrible? I NEED MY EMBARRASSMENT PILLOW TO COVER MY FACE TO MY OWN MEMORIES.

(If you’re new here, the embarrassment pillow is the thing I cover my face with if something embarrassing happens to someone on TV.)

Luckily, I’ve been in a decent headspace the last couple of months so this isn’t sending me down the spiral of self-loathing and depression that I’ve been known to stumble into after a “bad day.” I’m trying to be practical about this in coming up with resolutions (I wish I could write it off as just one person’s perception, but it was echoed in a few ways by others) that will help me do better and maybe look at my work differently. Obviously the ice cream was a cry for help, but for the most part I’m trying to be practical and solve the problem.

I mean – I didn’t cry which is HUGE for me. I wanted to…I WANTED TO SO BAD…but I kept my shit together and spent a lot of time last night really thinking about how to be better.

It just sucks. I never really looked at myself as being overconfident about anything. So not only does it suck to know that I am, but it sucks to know that I didn’t even realize it so now I’m questioning my judgement about a lot of things.

Anyway – this post had no point. Other than to remind everyone the importance of paying compliments to people when you think them. Last night a friend told me my hair was looking really good lately and I almost cried. I NEEDED THAT TODAY! AT LEAST I HAIR GOOD!

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 4.25.46 AM

Celebrating Faking It.

I read this article yesterday about the imposter syndrome (which is one of my favorite syndromes) and it really hit home.

There are moments in my clarity about cluelessness when I get to witness a remarkable thing. A coworker makes a brilliant point. My co-parent practices superhuman patience with our angry toddler. A friend performs an act of extreme generosity. When that happens it’s like a flash goes off in the room. You see it. When someone does something truly good when you understand that no one knows what they’re doing, you notice. You appreciate. You feel like you’ve leveled up just bearing witness to the thing. These are the moments you think, Humans are awesome. Anything is possible. I have a lot to learn. It’s a good feeling.

I love this idea even when applied to ourselves. That if we find the truth in our ineptitude and not shy away from it, we can also find true pride in our successes. If you’re trying to convince yourself you’re awesome at everything, you might miss when you are really truly awesome at something.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the minutes in my day and how I spend those. I’m valuing self-care a lot more, not trying to pack it all in to the point where the anxiety of “it all” paralyzes me and I do nothing. Nope. I’m avoiding that trap now, but I’m still trying to find that balance. That balance between productivity and peace. I sleep better knowing I’ve done something important with my time, but if I try to do too much important I don’t sleep at all. And part of trying to find this balance is really trying to find truth in my talents and my faults. I don’t want to waste time by doing something I’m terrible at, no matter how much I think someone else wants/needs me to do it.

It’s the first day of December and I want to use the next 31 days really trying to forge new habits so that I call allow for greater effectiveness in how I change the world. I’ve been driven to action since the election (see here: http://northalabamaprogressives.com/) but I don’t have a lot of spare time so I’ve been really thinking about that balance and how I choose what to give attention to. I don’t have a real formula yet – but I’m definitely working on it 🙂

Here’s to not being afraid of our faults because none of us really know what we’re doing.

blm

On Racism and Fires

Wesley’s mysterious asymptomatic fever that popped up on Thanksgiving returned last night, I made a bad food choice and had some stomach cramps (I eat plant-based but am also super-sensitive to vegetables so that makes life interesting), and my childhood playground in the Smokies started burning…all three of which gave me a very restless night and this morning I feel all sorts of terrible.

Not only did my family like hiking and camping in the Smokies as I grew up in nearby Knoxville, but I spent many years attending a summer daycare that gave us season passes to Dollywood (except I went when it was still called Silver Dollar City) and Ogle’s Water Park. The daycare took us to each place once a week all summer. We didn’t take many beach trips going up but I have a lifetime of memories associated with the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. Watching the footage from the fires last night sent me into a low mental state missing my Dad who tortured us with hikes through the Smokies our whole childhood.

(I didn’t look back fondly on those hikes until I was well into my 20s. As I child I found them terrible. I’d rather be at home reading Baby Sitters Club and thinking about boys.)

So today will be a sleepless day. Hopefully Wesley wakes up feeling okay, and hopefully I can function on minimal sleep.

I did want to pop in and share reading material with you guys. I share out tons of stuff on Twitter and Facebook but I want to be better about sharing stuff out here. Jodi Picoult (who I’ve never read but will now) wrote this great piece for Time and this quote really jumped out at me as it reflects the most concrete change in my life since I woke up to systemic racism.

A woman of color my age asked me how often I talked about racism with my kids at the dinner table. “Occasionally,” I replied, which—to be honest—was an overestimation. I asked her how often she talked about racism at the dinner table. “Every night,” she said. It is no surprise that the voice of the protagonist in my novel was woven directly from the words and stories these women generously offered to me; or that I turned to them to vet that voice for its authenticity before publication. Source

We talk about race ALL OF THE TIME in our house now. We talk about challenges and awkwardness and pain and microaggressions. We talk about how and why people of color use the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and I tell them how our poorly managed criminal justice system has taught them their lives don’t matter. This is probably the thing I can put my finger on the easiest in our house: We See Color. I used to do what Picoult did, try to teach “colorblindness” – but that’s easy for me because I’m white. My skin color does not play into my every day life. People of color can’t make teach colorblindness to their kids, so why should I?

No wonder we actively avoid discussing racism—it requires us to completely restructure the fictional narrative we’ve created of our lives. But then again, unlike people of color, we don’t have to talk about race. For us, it’s not omnipresent and it’s not a matter of life or death. We avoid the topic because we can. Ignorance is a privilege, too.

I’m the queen of social awkwardness and yet I’m trying to talk about race and racism the best I can because it’s a privilege to choose NOT to. This has conditioned me to now look at bigger pictures in my life. Not just with race but with poverty and religion. The fires in Gatlinburg are a great example. What about the poor people? Remember the terrible scene in Post-Katrina New Orleans? That was back when I was NOT woke to systemic racism and I naively thought, “Their own fault for not heeding the evacuation orders.”

I know. I know. That’s terrible.

But I didn’t see the big picture. I only looked at the world through my personal experiences. If someone told me to evacuate I would have savings to allow me to miss the day at work, I would have a working car to load up with my family and valuables, I would have money for a hotel or family in other areas capable of taking me in. OF COURSE I would evacuate. That’s an easy call for me. But not for everyone. And that’s something that is now a habit – but I had to learn – to think outside my scope of experience. What if you can’t really evacuate so you do the best you can do and go to a shelter of sorts but then you lose your possessions. My insurance would replace my house, but if you can’t even pay the bills every month you probably don’t have insurance.

I have a wider lens in my heart now…I see more around me. I had my heart permanently mounted with a 50mm prime lens before. That lens was great for close-up portraits of my life and my family, but everything outside of that scope was blurry. Now I’m trying to rock the fish-eye lens. It makes my family distorted and sometimes ugly, but it allows me to see the world around us in better detail and that trade-off is what waking up to racism is all about.

4ca1002affd9d971de02d39df52ebdb6

Simplifications are not Distractions.

I did a Facebook post yesterday referencing DT’s tweet that said there were “millions of people who voted illegally” and I looked at it as the PERFECT opportunity to remind my DT supporting friends and family that they don’t have to support the man they elected 100% of the time. I even referenced some of my complaints about the Obama administration as examples. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but I guess the rest of the world was screaming “STOP BEING DISTRACTED!” and so now I feel like I need to break things down a little bit because I sometimes feel like people on my side of the political spectrum are unaware of how the other side thinks.

First of all – I’m totally not supportive of our new president and yet…YET…even I get intimidated and confused by some of the pieces written about his business dealings and his Russian connections. Even typing that I feel embarrassed. Are people going to think I’m dumb? If I say some of it is hard to follow do I look ignorant? Am I ignorant?

So me…two degree holding, non-fiction reading, documentary watching, progressive liberal woke white woman sometimes feels intimidated by the anti-Trump press pieces because I have trouble following along.

How in the hell does a Trump supporter feel?

I’ll tell you how they DON’T feel. They don’t see the headlines and think, “Sure. I’ll read that.” And if they do, they’ll get to paragraph 3 and get frustrated (like I do) but because they support the subject of the article they just walk away and refuse to trust the person who shared it or the source that wrote it. Most of them hate all mainstream media already, repeatedly sharing out this stuff is not changing minds.

And do you know what my goal is? To open up the possibility that DT might have faults.

Do I think I can turn my Trump supporting friends and family into haters? No. And honestly? I’m not sure that’s what the country needs. What I want is for his supporters in my life who have doubled down now, I just want them to loosen their grip. I want them to be willing to see his faults. I’m not looking big picture, I’m just looking at my small circle of influence. I want people who voted for him to be willing to see that sometimes – just maybe – he’s not behaving in a way they can support. And am I going to do that sharing out articles about his Russian ties or Conflict of interests? No. Because they’re not reading it.

But maybe…just maybe…if I share out a tweet of 140 characters of his own words that are undeniably WRONG…maybe they’ll be willing to see he has faults? I’m not talking about changing the shift of the Republican party, I’m just talking about the few people in my life maybe being willing to at least admit he has faults. Then maybe we can communicate again. Now it’s very “us v/s them” and in my personal life I’m not looking forward to four years of that attitude. On a national level I’m joining political groups in town and creating action items, but personally? I just want to open up dialog on the possibility that maybe – just maybe – DT does stuff they don’t like sometimes.

Some days I get yelled at by people on MY side. I’ve actually been yelled at a lot. They think now is NOT the time to use kid gloves. We have to call out the misogyny and the racism! And on my public twitter platform? I do. And on my blog I talk about it a lot. But on my personal Facebook page? I’m thinking about the REAL faces reading my words. The REAL people. The people who would bring me food if a family member died. They people who would mow my grass if I was sick or injured. The people who would contribute to my kid’s fundraiser or help me pay a bill if I was jobless. THOSE people also voted for Trump and in your world maybe you can just dismiss all of those people, but in my world? I’d like to find a way to work WITH them. But I can’t while they’re nursing bruised egos from voting AGAINST Hillary. That’s all most of them did, voted AGAINST her. And now they’re having to support DT and they’re scrambling. I’m hoping to reach out to them and just remind them that I had problems with my guy too. It’s okay. Let’s start there.