Monday, June 15, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Follow

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


Friday, June 12, 2020

When the blinders come off

I remember the first time I was accused of being racist. I was new to the condo board and Cyrol and I had begun to battle over his treatment of other people. In a rage, after I pointed out that he wasn't being fair about a situation involving the property manager, he responded that I was being racist and not respecting his cultural viewpoint. The goal of throwing out "racist" was simple: it was meant to shut-down the conversation and allow him to win, but at that moment I remember being horrified that a label I found so abhorrent was being applied to me as that was not how I saw myself in the world.

The past few weeks have ripped the blinders off so many, forcing them to confront their privilege and racial viewpoints. The response has been mixed on this front. One camp is hearing the call to begin educating themselves, focusing on listening and approaching the situation with curiosity despite being painfully uncomfortable with the truth. Then there's the other camp, where the focus is on justify their stances, fighting to maintain the labels and self-identification that allowed them a level of comfort in the world. What been interesting about this camp is watching to see how their fear drives them almost to the point of absurdity; maintaining their arguments even when it's clear that doing so is harming others. And that one very easy way to win this argument is to distract, playing a card about victimization or being harmed themselves.

It's no secret that humans struggle to talk about unpleasant truths. Racism definitely falls into that category, but so does gender identity and sexual preference. But this problem is more pervasive than these topics, present in any community where some hold power (social or political). Substitute "racist" with "radical," "judgemental," "sinner," or "oppressor," and you end up with a similar outcome, where those doing the screaming hide behind some moral justification they have for why they are threatening others. What it really is is an exposure of fragility and an awakening that what they hold true is in danger of being proven wrong.

One truth I learned to embrace is that being called "racist" isn't the worst thing that can happen to me. The worst thing that can happen is that I allow my fear of being labeled to prevent me from removing the blinders and finding learning from what's happening around me. True learning involves pain and failure, making mistakes, and stumbling. It means having to apologize for not knowing better and being embarrassed while being corrected. True learning means looking incompetent and weak; feeling like one is failing despite efforts made to do better. It's often an uncomfortable and demoralizing process, especially when the stakes are so high. And yet, not doing this work and leaving the blinders on is far more destructive. I believe that it's generationally hazardous.

On my end, my moments of misstep had good outcomes. With Cyrol, his accusation masked his own racism and bigotry, which ultimately lead to him stalking me for close to 11 years, ending with a judge warning him that his behavior was punishable (he would later be fired from the Seattle Public School District for racist statements inside the classroom). This week, I watched as other rallied around Samantha Francine as she refused to back down while being attacked by an aggressive man during a peaceful protest. And then there's been the outpouring of support for the transgender community on the heel of J.K. Rowling's essay denouncing the transgender community. Despite her claims that she is protecting women from becoming victims, people have been holding her accountable for her words.

My hope is that the good people are seeing will help convince them to keep the blinders off and take risks with learning and growing despite the fear of revealing some uncomfortable truths. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Shut up and listen

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

It's been a week of listening. From conversations with connections inside and outside higher education to reading about anti-racism, a lot of my free time has been processing everything I allowed myself to be blind to. It's been hard to confront, but already rewarding as I've been starting to fit pieces together that previously didn't have places in the puzzle. 

But with all this good, I've been frustrated by side conversations that have been happening about feminism. And though I consider myself a feminist, what has left me angry is listening to those who embody privilege within feminism trying to align their own experience with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

In 2018, Rachel Cargle, a black feminist activist, wrote a piece in Harper Bazaar about toxic white feminism and how it's drowning out the message from anyone outside the white feminist mindset. It's a hard piece, as is this follow up one, but what was striking is that the same thing that happened then is happening now, with co-opting and silencing of the message by those who see themselves in certain lights who are finding themselves challenged and the backlash that follows. Instead of listening, probing deeper, and exploring, the result is to drown out or attack. 

To those who are deviating from the Black Lives Movement message, adding their tangents on feminism, I want to remind you that Amy Cooper considers herself not racist and a liberal feminist. 

Sit with that for a moment. 

This woman, who wore a mask and embodies so much of what we believe feminism should look like, made a false police report on an African American man solely because he asked her to follow the rules and leash her dog. This same woman likely has joined in discussion groups about patriarchy and how suppressed women are, advocating for "leaning-in" and equal rights. 

One of the hardest things about confronting one's own racism as recognizing one's own discomfort and learning to shut up instead of drowning out the conversation. Is patriarchy real? Absolutely. But many who are writing about it at this time aren't risking their lives to do so. They don't give a second thought about whether they will end up dead from raising their voices. And they don't seem willing to understand why diluting the message from this movement is a problem. That white fragility is very real and damaging, adding to the harm those who are risking their lives to speak out face.

It's time to shut up and listen. Suppressing the urge to align your views of life with those who are raising their voices. I can guarantee that doing this listening and reflection is going to make you uncomfortable, making you face your privilege. But the work is long overdue. Remember that Amy Cooper never owned her racist act, choosing instead to hide behind the defense of "not being racist" and playing the victim. Frankly, I don't want to live in a world where this response is seen as okay, because Amy Cooper doesn't represent the type of feminism I want to support. It's time to give the stage to those who do.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Leveling

This past week has been filled with uncertainty. Living on the east side of the Bay Area means that we've had a curfew and been on high alert for potential violence and looting. My neighbors, many of whom have lived in suburbia their entire lives, have been experiencing a new level of anxiety as the protests have come into this place they have called home. It's been interesting to watch as being able to leave isn't an option and most have never experienced the reality of that.

On our end, both Grey and I have been conflicted. If Maddy and Teddy weren't here and still so young combined with the pandemic and us not knowing whether we've already been infected by SARS-CoV-2, we would be marching. In the absence of this, we've been donating to organizations that support this movement and making a point to support those in our community who have been harmed. All of it feels minimal, meaning we've decided it's overdue to begin looking outside ourselves and learning more.

Admitting that my thinking is flawed is not something new to me. When it came to parenting, I knew from the beginning that I didn't have a healthy foundation given the abuse I suffered as a child. So from the beginning, I worked to reframe what it meant to be a "parent," actively working against the defaults and instincts and seeking help to restructure how I viewed children, not only my own but others around me. A process of leveling that meant debunking myths and half-truths with data, counterexamples, and information that has led to a healthy mindset. It's not been easy, given that there are 30+ years of programming I've had to mindfully confront and there have been many moments of extreme hatred I've felt towards my parents for not doing this work (another topic for another day). But the work has been important as I knew from the beginning that I couldn't continue the generational practices that were passing on harm. If I wanted things to change, it meant that the work had to start with me.

With this mindset, I've begun to actively explore anti-racism literature and teachings, with the goal not only to learn about also to begin this conversation with Maddy and Teddy. Ibram Kendi has long been someone I've read, but it's time to dive deeper into his essays and to expand to the writings of others. Similarly, we're overdue to find authors to help us with this discussion with Maddy and Teddy. Meaning I have a lot of homework to do.

The final component, though, is Grey and I need to explore our own racism. This means admitting some hard truths about what we were taught by people we love and trust and confronting the messaging we were feed for so long. It's not easy because no one wants to be seen in this light, but I also have experience with being on the other side of privilege and being forced into silence because the message that was harming me made someone who was benefiting uncomfortable. The memory of that trauma and pain is still very real, making it easier to empathize and be open to the realities of the privileges I benefitted from.

So begins the processing of leveling: of bringing to light the message that has been suppressed for too long and silencing those who have dominated the conversation. Of not allowing those who have had privilege to hide behind the myth that they have "earned" it, despite their blindness to the advantages they had to even begin earning. And to begin rebuilding.

It's not going to be easy, but as before doing this work isn't solely about me. That makes it all the more important.

Monday, June 1, 2020

#MicroblogMondays: Noise

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


I grew up outside Minneapolis. As a teen, I spent many a weekend or summer day venturing into the city, exploring the Uptown area and Nicollet Ave. I have fond memories of walking around Lake Harriet and Lake Nokomis. 

But as much as I loved this region, one thing I knew was odd was the lack of diversity. My high school and neighborhood were primarily white, with only a handful of kids who were African American. This absence of cultural diversity led to an insularity, with the naive assumption that racism was a thing from my parents' generation. It wouldn't be until I left home and began college that I would begin to see how wrong that assumption was. And it wouldn't be until I began working with under-represented populations that I would actually hear the stories first-hand, witness that damage of racism, and learn that the work is far from over.

Over the weekend, one of Grey's coworkers found himself being profiled after he had to evacuate his home due to the violence from the protests. Grey didn't hesitate to give him the day out to recover from the trauma of that experience, but it led us to reflect on the privileges we grew up with and how the teachings of "color-blindness" and "white silence" have exacerbated the problem. Adding to this conversation is that our town is in lockdown due to the violence only a few miles from us with a curfew in place to curb that violence. All the while I'm well aware that no one would bat an eye if I was out solely because of my appearance the color of my skin.

It's hard not to be angry with all of this. I'm worried sick for the people I consider friends who could easily be hurt if they say or do something that is considered "wrong." I have nothing by violent feelings towards the man-child who was elected to lead the U.S. But the thing I'm blind with rage over is that so many are trying to use this movement for their own gain, twisting a message that very much needs to be embraced, which is that no one, no matter their age, skin color, ethnicity, or creed, should fear for their lives simply because they are walking down the street or engaging in daily activities. 

So, despite how unpopular I know I will be, it's time to begin making noise again. It's time to start embracing the message of spreading anti-racism, acknowledging privilege, and focusing on the work needed to be done. It includes holding people like Amy Cooper accountable and making sure that those who murdered George Floyd are brought to justice. And it means being okay with uncomfortable silences. Because one thing is very clear after the pandemic and this recent round of senseless murders: it's time for change.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The end and the beginning




We're currently in the tail-end of a heatwave here in our region of the Bay Area. For the past 2 days, temperatures have been over 100 degrees F (39 degrees C for all of you who use the metric system) with today being 10 degrees cooler (only 32 degrees C). I've been tempted to place a frying pan on the sidewalk to see if I could actually fry an egg, but I've been too physically drained to do much more than what you see Jaxson doing (and he looks a lot sexier than I do while doing it).

In the midst of this, Maddy and Teddy have been finishing their last week of school. Though they are both ready for a break from distance learning and super excited about completing 1st grade, there's an element of sadness as they want to see their teachers and their classmates. Video conferencing isn't filling that social need for either of them, resulting in a happy/sad experience as the school year closes. The added layer is I've been running trainings twice daily, with learners all over the world. I've got 2 more sessions, so the end is in sight, but it's not over.

As I've been working with both kids to wrap up the school year, I've been thinking about this happy/sad that comes with being in the middle of the end and the beginning. When the shelter-in-place orders first came out in March, no one could have imagined the world we knew would forever be changed and that we'd be entering a new normal. Though I've extremely proud of how well my whole family has been weathering this, Grey and I also have acknowledged that we're only just seeing hints of the beginning of what this new world will look like.
  • Masks are now the norm, with me only not wearing one when outdoors where I can put a good amount of distance between myself and others. I don't see this changing for quite a while.
  • Laptops are now are a requirement to learning, with me learning how to adapt asynchronous learning for learners with ADHD.
  • Grey and I are very proud to be working for a company that is one of the first to implement testing for COVID-19. Leadership has gone to great extents to make sure all of us are safe, taking additional precautions so that Grey can continue working in the lab without fear of becoming sick.
  • Additionally, I've been impressed by the community surrounding us. It's not perfect, but many are trying, working to be patient with each other, and finding ways to help one another.
  • That said, we know that fear is still very high. I watched a man go into a full meltdown the other day because someone asked him to put his mask about his nose. It took a bit to calm him, as it was clear this was the final straw. 
  • Earlier today, I got an email from the school district about the projected budget shortfall and the plan to cut funding despite the crisis. It hasn't fully registered how bad all of this is, but the part that has registered is already scared about what is coming as I think this will be enough to break the system,
  • All the while, the news has begun focusing on social media and how there's about the be a political fight. I wonder if this will mark a change in social media as we know it.
There's an oddness that comes with being in the thick of a transition. The uncertainty and unknown for the road ahead usually initiates grief, but if one stays in the thick long enough, reflection and processing begins to happen. A lot of which I've been starting to see. People are writing about the lessons learned from this experience, reflecting on their lives from before, and facing what demons they can no longer ignore while shedding things that they thought suited them but actually don't. I love hearing about ways others are trying to come together, whether through phone calls, doing social distancing get together, spending time enjoying each others' company, etc. I also love how people are learning to love being alone, finding ways to just be without embracing expectations of "self-improvement." Not being able to escape the thick can actually be a blessing.

That said, it's still uncomfortable. And my body is ready to be done with this period, moving on to the next check-point on this new road. But I also know that despite what I want, it's not in my control. All I can do to continue to exist in this middle between the end and the beginning. Soaking in the lessons so that when the beginning comes, I'm ready.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Burnt

I cannot believe it's the end of May. For the past 3 weeks, I've been in a full sprint with teaching, creating content, and editing, all while juggling distance learning for Maddy and Teddy. Despite the end in sight for this madness (last week of school and I only have a few more days of training), I'm exhausted. Knowing that I still have a mountain of work to complete doesn't make this a good exhaustion.

Which led to Grey finding me outside in the backyard this morning, staring at these guys.
Bit of a back story, these doves moved into the back patio last summer and began building a nest. Given all the information on the internet about how difficult it is to host doves, we tried being quiet the first couple of days so that they could build their nest.

This also meant trying to keep Jaxson and Daisy inside. Given what I've previously written about Daisy, one can begin to imagine how well that one went over.

Over the next few days, despite me being very nice, I learned what crappy guests doves are. Though supposedly loving parents, they are terrible nest builders and frequently left debris scattered all over the backyard. Additionally, though I was trying to give them space, they didn't reciprocate and kept invading mine. The final straw was discovering Daisy had gotten outside and was in full hunting mode, to which the doves responded by flying to the ground within inches of her face. What should have been a blood-bath was actually her pouncing on the bird only to decide that clocking it over the head was more fun. I figured after that incident the doves would be long gone.

They were back the next morning, waking up the house.

The rest of the summer was spent either cleaning up after these birds or trying to get them to relocate. But the more we tried to discourage them, the more they insisted on returning. My kids beat their birthday pinata in front of this pair, which only seemed to amuse them. The cats regularly batted them around, only to have them show up with more material for their failed nest. And they started landing close to me, something that just left me confused. By autumn, they were gone, only having managed to put together a few twigs and (thankfully) no eggs, but it left me wondering how this species was successful given this pair's propensity to ignore danger, if not openly mock it.

So finding these two today, with both cats looking up at them with expressions of disinterest (been there, done that), all I could do was sit down and stare in defeat. And reflect how this situation mirrored so much of what was happening in my life at the moment.

To be clear, though I'm insanely busy, I am excited about the work I'm doing. There's a lot going on that is having a positive impact and I'm well aware that I'm the driving force. But part of being that driving force is also realizing that being nice doesn't get me anywhere other than frustrated and exhausted. All of which is second nature to me. What's not second-nature is saying "No" or "Not now" as I feel guilt for not doing better. And yet when I do, suddenly there's a level of respect I'm given that was previously missing. Like the doves, my superiors seem to show more interest when I'm not breaking myself.

I don't have any clue what I'm going to do about the doves. Other than to record Jaxson and Daisy interact with them for anyone who wants to scream at me about how cats are destroying the local bird population (I swear they all are scheming against me). But I do know what I have to do, which is figure out how to structure in a break after I'm done teaching next week. Otherwise, I won't be able to make my deadlines as I'll be burnt to a crisp.


 
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