All posts by kateinbrightplaces

Missed Connections

To the person in line next to me at the airport:  Lines were long that day, everyone traveling for the holidays.  Everyone busy and tired.  I was busy and tired.  You were busy and tired.  I had my kids with me and about three more bags than we could manage gracefully.  You were stuck in line between someone and someone else.  You looked worried, like you might miss your flight.  I noticed that when our eyes met briefly, before the line moved and I turned my focus back to bags and children.  There was something I wanted to say to you though.

To the person stocking cereal at the grocery store when I was buying oats:  You had on a name tag and black pants.  I was still in my pajamas, but I don’t know if you could tell, because I was wearing a long coat.  You apologized to me, because your cart was blocking the oats I was trying to reach.  I said, “Oh no, you’re fine,” and I waited while you moved some boxes so you could move the cart, so I could get the oats.  I usually get old fashioned, but this time I got steel cut, and then I left.  There was something I wanted to say to you though.

To the person I passed in the crosswalk on the corner of 12th and Division:  You were on your cell phone and walking quickly.  I don’t know if you noticed me.  I had a green backpack on.  I was probably also walking quickly, because it was cold out, and also, I was headed toward falafels.  I watched you walking toward me and wondered about you as you passed.  Then I went back to thinking about my lunch and getting out of the cold.  But there was something I wanted to say to you.

What I wanted to say was this:  Can you believe that we’re both people?!  Here, doing this, in these bodies, on this earth.  Of all the things we could have been or could have never been, not only did we become earth things, we became living earth things, and human earth things.  And we became humans that walk and stock and fly.  On streets, in stores, on planes made by other human earth things.

We have these eyes that come with visions, and ears that come with sounds, and these minds to take it all in.  We have ideas and destinations and priorities and curiosities.  And if you traveled through space, infinitely in infinite directions, and throughout all time, and noticed at every point along the way whether you and I were there, we would almost never be.  It was almost impossible that we would be.

And yet here we are.  Both of us people, right here and now.

If you see me again out in public, I’ll probably look busy and tired.  I probably won’t say hi, because I’m shy, and there are a lot of people.  And you might think I don’t notice you.  But what I really want to do when I see you is grab you and shake you and squeal, “Can you believe this?!  We’re both people!!”

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Bury What’s Broken

Lisa is a doll I’ve had since I was very little.  My grandparents on my dad’s side lived in Kentucky, and we’d go out there to visit sometimes, often for holidays.  I’d guess it was on such a trip, a Christmas in Kentucky, that I was given this doll.  I think my grandmother gave her to me.  I can’t remember for sure.  I want to remember, but I can’t.

But I had Lisa all through childhood.  I kept her through my adolescence and young adulthood, keeping her in boxes when I moved across cities and states.  I kept her when I no longer played with dolls.  I kept her when I had children.  Maybe someday they’d play with Lisa.  I kept Lisa when my children mostly didn’t play with her.

One day, about a year ago, my daughter accidentally broke Lisa’s head right across the middle of her face, so that the top of her head with all her dark, matted hair came right off.  My daughter felt bad and sobbed as she apologized.  I said, “It’s okay.  It’s just a doll.”  I knew it was just a doll.  But it was a doll I’d carried with me through all my years.  And she came with stories.  Stories about a grandmother.  Stories about Christmas in Kentucky.  Stories that were almost as good as the memories I wished I had.

I knew it was time to let Lisa go.  Not only was she an old, ragged doll, she was now also broken.  I could look at her, with her face cracked down the middle, and clearly see that she was no longer useful.  But she hadn’t been useful to me in a long time.  And her usefulness wasn’t why I held on to her.  That’s why I’m writing this today, and not a year ago when she broke.  Yes, even after she was broken, twelve more months passed before I could let her go.

For the first few months after Lisa broke, I kept her on top of my dresser to remind myself to get rid of her.  But I didn’t, so she just sat there.  Eventually I carefully tucked her and her head into a drawer out of sight.  At least if I was going to hang on to this broken doll, I could hide her so that I wouldn’t be constantly reminded that I’m the kind of person who keeps old, useless, broken things.

Lisa’s not the only broken thing I’ve held onto since childhood.  There are so many things, so many attitudes and beliefs and behaviors, that I’ve carried with me all these years, just because they’re mine.  Things that were useful or even necessary to me long ago, so long ago I don’t even remember.  They must have served me at some time, or I wouldn’t have acquired them.  But eventually they became useless.  And then they became burdens.  Baggage.  Even hazards.  But how I clung to them.

Today I buried Lisa in my backyard.  I buried her with a note saying goodbye, to her and to every other broken thing I’ve carried since childhood that I could think of.

Perfectionism. 

People-pleasing. 

Fear of failure. 

Shame. 

I ended the note with, “I don’t need you anymore.  Thank you for being there when I did.”

Burying Lisa was messy and difficult and anticlimactic.  Maybe that’s how it is when you finally release the baggage you’ve carried since childhood.  Is that how this all goes?  You pick up something in your formative years and soon it becomes yours.  You carry it past when you need it, because it’s yours.  You hold on to it and make space for it and repeat stories about why it’s yours.  When you can no longer justify keeping it, you move it out of sight, to somewhere dark, and hope that’s the same as giving it up.  But then one day, you decide you’re no longer going to carry what’s broken just because it’s yours.  You realize it doesn’t have to be yours anymore.  Then you thank it, toss it in a hole, throw some mud on top, and without any fanfare, you walk back into the house and get on with your life.

 

 

This felt like an appropriate gesture for this time of year, with the calendar year turning over and so much focus on fresh starts and clean slates.  Out with the old.  I’m grateful to Lisa for being my doll and also for being a lesson in letting go, moving on, and growing up.  To anyone reading this, I wish you a lighter load in 2018.  May this be the year that all the broken things that burden you finally get left in the mud.

New Years Resolutions You’re Dying to Make

I made a list of suggestions for anyone out there who can’t decide on a New Year’s resolution.  (If you haven’t heard, Sunday is the very last day of 2017.)  The resolutions I’m suggesting should be relevant to anyone reading this, because they don’t presume to know anything about you, your habits, your family life, your social life, your work life, your health, or anything else that varies from person to person.  They only depend on one thing being true about you, and I already know that it is.

Before I tell you what that one thing is, I want to show you this picture of a puppy…

Aaaawww!

The thing that these resolutions depend on, and that I know applies to you, is the fact that you and everyone you know will die.  Now, if you think you should click away from this post now, because it reminds you of your impending demise, I urge you to look back at that picture of the puppy, and then go ahead and read the list of suggestions below.  You might be really glad you did.

It can be hard to think about death if you’re not used to it.  But doing so intentionally, even just for the few minutes it can take you to get your priorities in order, can make the rest of your life more meaningful and beautiful and satisfying than you ever thought it could be.  So without further introduction, here’s the list:

 

 

Suggested New Year’s Resolutions:

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When I feel angry, I will spend only as many moments dwelling on that anger as I have to spare in my finite life.

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When I feel angry at someone, I will talk to them the way I would talk to someone who is dying, because they are.

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I will only procrastinate on things that are important to me when I know for absolute certain that I have more time to do those things in the future.

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I will go outside and look at the sky and the trees and the birds and the stars and the clouds on any day that could possibly be my last day alive.

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When faced with hard decisions, big or small, I will ask myself what I will want to have chosen when on my deathbed, and I will do that.

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When stressed out, I will consider my inevitable death and decay, take a deep breath, and chill.

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When I can’t have what I want, I will look forward to the moment right before my death and notice what I will want then.  Then I will notice whether I have that now.

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I will limit my TV watching and mindless internet surfing to moments I have to spare, given that I might die any day.

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If I love someone, and they are not going to live forever, I will tell them that I love them.

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When making conversation, I will say things that are appropriate and meaningful, given that everyone present will die.

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I will only get drunk or high on days that are unimportant for me to experience, given that my days are numbered and irreplaceable.

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When I look at art or listen to music or taste food or watch the sunset, I will do so as if it is the last thing I will ever do.

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I will only be greedy with money that will be useful to me when I am dead.

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I will treat people who serve me food and/or drinks and/or who clean up after me the way I would treat someone whose whole family was dying, because theirs is.

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I will be the person I want to be remembered as.

 

 

That’s the list.  Hope you all have a very happy new year, and that you have many more to come.  Make this one count though, just to be safe.

 

P.S.  Since people generally don’t want to think about death, I knew that a post with a title that was obviously about death would not be eagerly received.  But I felt like it would be dishonest to not include anything about death, hence the title I chose.  And I think I still felt a little guilty for misleading you, so I tried to make it up to you with pictures of cute baby animals.  I hope you enjoyed looking at them.  And I’m sorry to say, they will die too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To The Racist in the Mirror

Hey, there!  I saw you in the mirror today, staring back at me with those wide, blue eyes.  Innocent expression on your pale, pink face.  “Who, me?” your look seemed to say.

As you know, I had just been playing a game of Spot the Racist.  Stuck in late afternoon Portland traffic, I had been troubled by seeing three separate cars drive by with (US)American flags flying out their windows.  It scared me.  Now, normally, I wouldn’t equate American patriotism with racism, but I couldn’t help reading those flags that way today.  They didn’t have swastikas on them or anything, but  just days after the president of the United States compared Robert E. Lee to George Washington and defended a mob of white nationalists and neo-nazis, choosing to display that flag is, at least, suspicious.  And that this appeared to be a pattern made me uneasy.

So I decided they were probably racist, and I started looking around into all the cars.  Who else here is racist? I thought.  Could I tell by looking at them?  Let’s see how many I can spot.  I was looking around, driving down the freeway at a snail’s pace, sizing up the other drivers for signs of racism.  I leaned over to adjust an AC vent, and my eyes caught the rear view mirror.  And I did a double take, because there you were.  Blue eyes.  Pale pink.  Who, me?

That’s not what a racist looks like… is it?

Now, I’ve thought about it, and I’m afraid you’re not going to like this.  I know you don’t like to think of yourself as racist.  You think everyone is the same on the inside.  You support affirmative action, prison reform and immigrants’ rights.  You’re committed to politically correct language, inclusion, intersectionality.  You didn’t vote for that evil clown in the white house.  Surely, you’re one of the good guys, right?

But you seeing yourself as some benevolent ally just because you don’t personally want to kill black people is not doing anything to dismantle white supremacy in this country.  Here’s how I could tell that you’re racist:  You’re white.  You’re a white (US)American.

(And now, let’s pause for a second while the words “NOT ALL WHITE PEOPLE…” echo across the internet.  I’ll wait.)

See, racism is not a feeling you have in the privacy of your own mind.  You can, and probably do, have racist thoughts and feelings.  But racism is bigger than you, bigger than any of us.  It’s a whole system of oppression, a hateful web that’s tangled all over our culture and our country.  A self-perpetuating system that runs like clockwork.  And it’s a system that benefits you.

To say that a white person in our culture is not racist is like saying that someone who does not personally kill animals is a vegetarian.  Many people who eat hamburgers have never (and would never) kill a cow with their own hands.  They let other people do that for them.  But they still eat the burgers.  They still enjoy energy and comfort and flavor and sustenance that is a direct result of a cow getting killed.  Just not by them.

In our culture, bubbling with subtle (and not-so-subtle) racism in every corner, white people enjoy relative safety, power, health, wealth and freedom, at the expense of people of color.  Whether they believe in the system or not, they thrive on it.  There are white people who really do everything in their power not to participate in that system.  Just like there are actual vegetarians.  And I would say those white people are not racist.  But there are very, very few of them.

And, my friend in the mirror, I don’t think you cut it.  I know it hurts to hear that, but you’ve got a lot of work to do.  To you, and all your well-meaning white friends, it’s not that you’re bad people.  You grew up being fed burgers and thinking of yourself as an animal lover ’cause you walked the family dog.  Change is hard.  So don’t beat yourself up.  Just remember where your dinner came from.  And then get to work.

 

 

Afterthought:  I don’t actually think it’s particularly helpful (if at all helpful) to call people “racist.”  Racism is a system in our country that needs to be destroyed, but name-calling doesn’t do that anyway and tends to divide people.  I’m standing by this post though, because if there’s one person we (white people) could each stand to consider calling “racist”, it’s the one in the mirror.

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I Hope You Get There Soon: Love in a Traffic Jam

I have a new trick I’ve been using to help myself through hard or uncomfortable experiences.  I discovered it in a traffic jam, in a cloud of rage and rush and nerves, when a helpful thought happened to pop into my head, like a lucky little lightning bolt.  I had been worrying myself sick about not already being where I was trying to go, stuck behind a row of cars as far ahead as I could see, and knowing that I was supposed to be home to my kids by now.  I really, really need to be there, I thought.  Right now!  Bad things could happen if I don’t get there immediately.  And all this traffic, all these cars, all these people are getting in my way! 

That’s when the lucky thought came.  I thought about all those people, and I realized that it was very, very likely that one of those people, in one of those cars, there in that traffic, was actually in a greater hurry than I was.  There was probably someone who desperately needed to get where they were going, and awful things might happen because they were stuck.  I thought about all the reasons someone might be in a hurry.  An interview for their dream job.  An oven left on.  A relative dying, waiting for them to come say goodbye.  Whoever it is, whatever the reason, I thought, they must be worried sick.  They must be suffering so much right now.

I decided to try and send them a message, telepathically.  I’m not usually much of a believer in telepathy, but I had limited tools to work with, sitting in my car.  So I focused real hard (which I imagine to be an important component of telepathic communication), and I thought this message to them:

I’m so sorry you’re stuck in this traffic. 

I know how worried you are. 

I hope you get where you need to be soon. 

I hope everything’s okay for you. 

I’m here with you.

I don’t know if they got the message, whoever they were, but I do know that shifting my focus from me to them turned my whole experience around.  I went from feeling trapped, out of control, burdened and stuck, to feeling empowered, helpful, purposeful, and like I was right were I needed to be.  I can’t explain why it worked like this, but I’m telling you, it did.  It felt like medicine or something.  Somehow, that adjustment in how I was thinking had an effect that was soothing and energizing and liberating.

I’ve since tried this with other hard or uncomfortable experiences, and it consistently works well for me.  I strongly recommend trying it yourself.  Worried about money?  Imagine someone who’s in an even tougher financial spot than you are, and spend the energy you use to worry about your own money instead on hoping that other person gets everything they need.  Have a headache?  Imagine someone who’s in even more physical pain than you are, and focus on hoping they can be comfortable soon.  Fighting with a relative?  Imagine someone with an even more strained relationship with their relative, and wish them peace, space, validation, resolution.  Basically, whatever you need, wish it for someone else who needs it more.

This is not just remembering that there are other people worse off than you.  This is seeing yourself in someone you don’t even know, and actively loving that person.

Because you’re not alone in your suffering.  You’re not the only one who feels how you feel, and in all probability, there’s someone else who is going through whatever it is, having an even harder time with it.  You’re probably not the person who, even in that way, is the very worst off.

And if you are – if you’re really pretty sure that you’re in the worst position, the worst traffic, the worst heat, the worst poverty, the worst pain, out of everyone in the whole world – just think of me.  Know that that I’m out there somewhere, or someone else like me is out there somewhere, sending you support, trying to will things better for you.

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On JK Rowling and Orphanages

 

I just read that JK Rowling has asked people to stop donating to, or volunteering in, orphanages.  As someone who has volunteered in orphanages, I have some thoughts about this.

You can see see what Rowling said and why here, from the Huffington Post.   One of the reasons cited is that orphanages drive family break-up, because most of the kids in them are not actually orphans.  Orphanages being involved in trafficking is also a reason mentioned.  But another reason stood out most to me, and it’s that children thrive in families, not in institutions.

And one quote in particular, from the article:

“The stream of foreigners coming in and out of children’s lives for short periods ― it has a negative effect, creates attachment issues, and doesn’t help them form long lasting relationships with caretakers that they should be forming,” Orit Strauss, founder of volunteer site Giving Way, told The Huffington Post.

It was almost 20 years ago when I gained personal experience with this.   I spent several months volunteering in orphanages abroad, one in Kathmandu, Nepal, and one in Calcutta (now Kolkata), India.  Both were run by the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order.  The one in Nepal was a home for orphaned children.  The one in India was one of several MoC homes in the city, and it was the one for malnourished and/or disabled kids, and a few adults.

I would like to offer two stories to illustrate my experience, as it relates to the Huffington Post quote above.

Me and M

In Calcutta, the orphanage I volunteered at was never short on volunteers.  People travel from all over the world to volunteer in Calcutta, and on any given day, you’d find an international smorgasbord of volunteers.  While I was there, I worked with volunteers from Italy, France, Japan, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Canada.  And a few of them stayed long enough to learn the kids’ names.  But most didn’t.  I’d guess the average time a volunteer spends there is about a week.  Many come for just a few days.

At the time, as one of the relatively longer-term volunteers, this annoyed me.  Frankly, it felt like it took more energy to explain everything to the in-and-out volunteers than it would have taken to just do whatever they were there doing.  While I’m sure most volunteers had only the best intentions, their week-long token trips to the orphanage were hardly beneficial to the kids they were intending to serve.  The story of one little girl, who I’ll call “M”, demonstrates this.

On my first day there, I stood next to a crib with metal bars, peering down at a tiny baby with bony legs and fiery eyes.  Someone told me to feed her, so I picked her up, careful to support her head and upper back, because she was so little.  I looked around for a bottle to feed her, before a nun thrust a plate of rice into my hand.  I thought there must be some mistake, because surely this baby wasn’t old enough to eat solid food.  I asked the nun how old this baby was.   She said nine months.

At nine months old, most babies can sit up right, crawl, some can even pull up into a standing position.  And they can feed themselves with their hands.  Not M.  She couldn’t do any of those things.  At first, I assumed M was so tiny and weak from malnutrition.  And that probably was why she was tiny.  While many of the residents at this home were there because of varying disabilities, M was one of the malnutrition kids.  And little she was.  But I soon learned that the reason she was so weak was not, or at least not solely, malnutrition.  The reason M couldn’t sit or crawl was because she was never put down.  After all, every visitor of the day to come in and volunteer wanted to hold the sweet little baby with the fiery eyes.  But when a baby is never put down, they can’t learn to do the things they need to do.  And when the person caring for a baby changes every day, there is no one to notices when their care is harming their development.

I, along with an Italian woman named Lucy (another long-term volunteer who I adored), worked mostly with the malnutrition kids.  There were four of them, three little boys and M.  Every day after breakfast, we’d take them up on the roof for some fresh air.  I had formed a close bond with M, and as soon as I realized why she wasn’t sitting or crawling, I started thinking of what I could do to help.  And of course, there was only one thing to do.

One day I said to Lucy, as we were walking up the stairs to the roof, that I wanted us to let M cry that day.  Lucy agreed.  We got up there, and I lay a blanket down on the floor.  Then I gave M a big hug and set her down on her belly.  She waited for a second, probably sure I would pick her up.  But when she realized I wasn’t going to, she started wailing.  She was mad.  I sat there talking to her, encouraging her, and fending off random volunteers who came over and asked to pick her up.  We did this for several days.  I don’t remember how long it had been, whether it was days or weeks, but one day, M started crawling.  She got big cheers for that.  After a couple months, she was sitting up too.

I was proud of the progress we’d made.  I was proud of her.  I wasn’t surprised that she did it, because those fiery eyes came with a fiery personality.  Despite her slight frame and little squeak of a cry, you could feel that she was a strong person.  I sometimes wondered if she got that from her mother and whether her mother would be proud of her too.  M wasn’t quite an orphan, but she was there, because her mother was in Kalighat, another home run by the Missionaries of Charity.  Also known as “the home for the dying.”  She had tuberculosis, and it was unlikely M would see her again.  I thought about her mother often, and sometimes imagined I could feel her mother’s love for her when I looked at that sweet baby.

During my time volunteering in Calcutta, I felt conflicted about a lot of things.  And discouraged by things.  The constant flux of short-term volunteers was one thing that bugged me.  In that regard, I thought I was one of the good ones though.  After all, I was there long enough to learn the names, needs and stories of the kids, to oversee progress, to train other volunteers.  Surely that was helpful.

But the day came when I left, returning home to my western life.  That day, I became one of countless people who had left M during her short time on this earth.  I will always be one of those people.

In Kathmandu, I had a bond with another child similar to the one I had with M.  I’ll call this child “S.”  On my first day there, I noticed her right away.  She had a sternness on her face that to this day, I have rarely seen on a child.  She didn’t laugh or even smile.  It wasn’t just that she was in a bad mood.  As days and weeks went on, I learned that she did not smile or laugh.  She also mostly didn’t play.  But similar to with M, I felt a quick and powerful bond with S.

So every day I sat with her and talked to her.  I held her on my lap.  I made up songs for her with the few Nepali words I had learned.  I sang to her.  I was there with her every day (except the one day a week that the orphanage was closed to volunteers).  Over time, I guess she came to trust me and feel safe with me.

Here she is one day during my second month there:

She started smiling.  This might sound like a happy ending to this story.  And if it was the end, it might be happy.  But just like with M, the day came when I went back to my old life.  I left S there, got on a plane, and went home.  This sweet little girl, who had had such a hard life that she could not laugh, who’d had so much broken trust that she could not smile.  I left her.  And the fact that before leaving her, I spent multiple months with her, gaining her trust?  Does that make it better?  Or much, much worse?  I want to believe that some love is better than no love.  But I think deep down, I know that what I did was probably more hurtful to her than helpful.

Kids need continuity of care to thrive.  Institutions cannot replace families.  All money and energy directed at orphanages is money and energy not being spent on keeping kids with their families.  Many of the kids have parents or relatives who could care for them, if only they had the proper resources, support and/or education.  I learned today that JK Rowling has an organization that works to keep or return kids to their families.  It’s called Lumos.

Like most people who volunteer at orphanages, I had good intentions.  I just wanted to help, and I wanted to help people who I thought needed it most.  At first glance, volunteering at an orphanage seems like a perfect way to do that.  But what JK Rowling says about this is right.  If you want to serve an orphanage, volunteer at one.  But if you want to serve children, find a better way.

I now remember the beautiful faces of M and S with a knot in my stomach.  I carry tremendous guilt surrounding my relationships with them.  I couldn’t stop crying while writing this.  It’s not that I think they needed me, specifically.  It’s that they needed someone, who would stay.  So much of child development hinges on connection, and on trust kids form with their caregivers in those early years.  I did have the best of intentions when, at 18 years old, I decided to travel to far away lands to volunteer in orphanages.  And I was lucky to get to know those kids.  But I will now forever be haunted by my memories of them.  And by what I did to them.

 

 

 

 

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About the Racially Enlightened Kids

Unpopular opinion time!

You know how it’s only adults who are racist, and how when you hear a kid say something racist, it’s because they’ve heard an adult say it?

Yeah, that’s made up.  Kids are totally racist.  Sorry.

While yes, racism is socially conditioned, kids in our culture are thoroughly programmed for it at a very early age.  It doesn’t take long for kids to learn who’s considered “good” and “beautiful” in their world.  And the prejudices that contribute to racism occur even earlier, possibly immediately.  (Did you know, for example, that our physical brains have different empathetic responses to seeing people hurt, depending on their race?)

nonjudgementalbaby
Example of the popular opinion.

 

Kids are prejudiced, because like all of us, their little brains are operating on dozens and dozens of documented cognitive and emotional biases.  For example, it’s natural to prefer people you see as being similar to you in some way over people who aren’t, because of something called “in group bias.”  That’s not some people, that’s all people, unless we put that bias in check.  Kids don’t yet know to put their biases in check.  Add to that the fact that they’re constantly exposed to a culture that affirms the superiority of one race over others, and what you’ve got are some racist little kids.

The ones we like to post about on social media who seem to be free from racism are the exception, not the rule.  That’s why we notice them and share those images and videos.  They’re exceptional.

Okay, okay, you’re thinking.  So maybe it’s not true that kids aren’t racist, but it’s still a sweet thought!  What’s the harm in saying it?

Here’s one problem:  When we say that it’s children who are the least racist among us, that makes racism something you can grow out of.  It makes the absence of racism in a person seem cute, naive, involuntary.  Yes, we romanticize childhood, telling the story as if children are so wise and enlightened.  But in reality, try and think of any other topic that you honestly wish you had a child’s understanding of.  I’ll give you a minute.

Kids in our culture don’t transcend racism by some natural, God given reflex.  Adults (some but not many adults) in our culture transcend racism through self-reflection, by working honestly with their prejudices and by standing up to the racist conditioning they grew up with.  By choice.

kids

Really, racism is a perfectly childish trait in a person.  It’s an immature, uneducated, unenlightened response to their natural prejudices and to living in a world where they are granted privilege over the people who trigger those prejudices.  Racism is something you grow out of (with work, if you’re conscious about it), not something you grow into.  Like temper tantrums and bed wetting and thinking your parents are magic, racism is a thing we should all aspire to move past as we grow up.

And here’s another problem with the trope of the racism-proof child:  If we believe that children are immune to racism unless we actively teach them to be racist, we think our job is done.  We think we can raise non-racist children just by censoring the N word and smiling and waving at our neighbors of color.  But that’s not happening, because racism is so embedded in every aspect of our culture and so eagerly received by our basal prejudices, we can’t just not be racist.  Not without work.  It takes honesty and struggle and bravery and humility.  Redemption’s not free.  And the work doesn’t stop, because we’re continuously re-conditioned to it our whole lives.

We must look at our children with open eyes, with compassion and clarity.  We have to meet them where they are, and meet ourselves where we are, and then we can begin to heal and grow and unlearn all that bullshit.  There’s too much work to do to go around pretending it will do itself.

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