June 2, 2020
Today was trying to understand black squares; and constantly readjusting.
Last night people started posting black squares on Social Media. At first people were using #BlackLivesMatter. Then somewhere it was stated NOT to use Black Lives Matter, and rather use #BlackoutTuesday. The idea, as I understood it, was to refrain from posting on Social Media for the day. Other places interpreted that it was a day for white voices to be silenced. It all seemed to make sense, and I am trying to do the right thing. I have a pretty active network on Social Media and I saw a large majority using black squares, albeit with variations on a theme. Some with comment; some with instructions for causes to support; some just posted the black square and let it speak for itself
As the day went on, it was clear there was a lot of confusion. Finally the Los Angeles Times came out with an Opinion piece headlined, “Blackout Tuesday Backfired Spectacularly. Five ways to support Black Lives Matter” I attach the article for those interested.
The take away for me was this constant struggle to know what is the right thing to do. I’ve struggled with this throughout my life and more so in recent years. Before my children were born; I knew I needed to do my best to understand my whiteness, having children of color. When my daughter was 3 years old, I was holding her and reading; and she touched my arm and stopped me and said, “Mommy, why can’t I have white skin like you?”
That made me more aware of my need to embrace my white privilege; and understand racism that was within me and within our society. More so to understand the effect upon my beloved children, and those borrowed children; like my Goddaughter.
My Goddaughter and I had our nightly check in. We shared the confusion of the black squares and Social Media comments we had each encountered in our day. I was surprised and relieved when she said she, too, had posted the black square. And then realized she didn’t understand the intention.
I confessed to my Goddaughter, I am so tired of trying to do the right thing and getting it wrong. I feel like the black squares illustrated this fear of getting it wrong. All day I felt I was getting it and then found it was wrong. It seemed after each redirection of what was the “right thing” to do with the black square; I learned something different, corrected and continued. And then I’d find out again that what I did was wrong, and needed to correct again.
Goddaughter said, “That’s it! You are experiencing what people of color have experienced their whole lives.
Trying to know what to do; trying to do the right thing!”
She said this is what black and brown Americans feel like in their fight for equality. This feeling she has had her whole life…
that she has to “do it” a certain way.
Has to change her hair…
Has to follow the code…
Has to assimilate…
Has to go to certain schools to get a multitude of degrees, to feel a little bit closer, but still not equal to white people with lesser degrees.
And even when she does all that, it never seems good enough. Or she follows the directions she is told to do it right; and then that’s wrong; and she needs to correct.
My Goddaughter is tired. I hear from all my black and brown loved ones; they are tired. I shared with my Goddaughter ashamedly… I am tired. After the black square day and then the Social Media shaming comments from other white people about the black square thing going all wrong and other things. There seems to be some sort of superiority need among white folks about who is more schooled and “woke”. It seems to distract from the need to be tending to our country and weeding out racism within ourselves and our communities. That. and then just the frustration with not knowing what to do, seems to be a cause of people stopping, and NOT stepping up to do the right thing.
My Goddaughter said that she and other black and brown people are tired… and she/they need white people to step up together; and not be tearing each other apart.
She assured me to keep trying; even when I feel I make mistakes. She shared a story of her reminders to be patient with those she knows are trying. One of her white friends called her today and had a question. She said to my Goddaughter, “I’m sorry I’m asking you so many questions.” She wanted to know the right thing to do and my Goddaughter said she knew her friend’s intent; and she knows her heart, so my Goddaughter is not tired of answering questions of white allies like her friend; or of her Godmother.
Even with the black square confusion today; and other comments and conversations, I know from the state of our country; I have to keep at it. I cannot be deterred by the “right” way to do it. I need to continue to be committed to my change; and to our country’s change. And share my voice about it… mistakes and all. If I give up, no change can happen… white people have been giving up for 400 years.
Being aware and working with inherent racism takes constant tending, weeding, replanting… like gardening.
Now is the time to do some extreme weeding and replanting… and keep at it… for those who are truly tired.