Tuesday, June 02, 2020

What's Even the Point?

For the past few days, I've really been struggling with what to post here given the events of the past week or so. On Sunday, I didn't address those events because I didn't yet feel like I'd fully gathered my thoughts to say something coherent. I'm still not sure I'm there yet -- nor am I sure I ever will be. What's become apparent to me -- brutally, painfully apparent -- is that this country is very much broken and that what it means to be an American is very different depending on the color of your skin. We've seen that the coronovirus pandemic has disproportionately affected people of color, just as they've been disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, housing availability, substandard education, lack of opportunity, and so many other things for so many years. Added on top of all this is the violence that has led to the deaths of African Americans at the hand of police and the shocking lack of accountability.

At this moment in time, I am feeling very helpless and simultaneously very guilty. I know that as a white person, any benefit I derive from the privileges I get simply for the color of my skin makes me complicit in upholding a racist system. I've been working on confronting that reality for the past year or so by educating myself, by listening and amplifying BIPOC voices, and by helping where I can by donating to causes that are working to change things.

But it all feels like not enough and like what I'm doing every day is completely pointless. Why should I be worrying about comma placement at work when people are dying? Why should I be going for a run for my own health benefit when doing the same can result in others' getting killed? Why should I be talking about yarn and fiber when people are suffering, starving, being beaten? Why should I be getting lost in a book when there's already a dystopian reality around me?

I can see where this is going if I'm not careful. I can see the black dog of depression bearing down on me. And I won't let it. So yes, I'm still knitting and spinning -- because I know that it helps me to relieve anxiety and will keep me from getting so anxious I can't be of use to anyone. Yes, I'm still going out to run and walk every day that I can -- because I know that it's good to relieve stress and keep me healthy, and staying healthy and strong will make it easier for me to help others. Yes, I'm still online and using social media -- because it's a tool I can use to amplify the voices of others who have better, more effective things to say than I do. Yes, I'm still reading -- because reading is a way I can educate myself.

If you're feeling like me and want to get some ideas of how to help, here's a very incomplete list to get you started:
  • This article has a number of links to ways to help monetarily as well as ways to help that cost nothing but a bit of your time.
  • Here is a list of books for white readers specifically to educate themselves about the role we play in white supremacy and how we can help to dismantle it.
  • Children's book author Karina Yan Glaser (Rainbow loves her Vanderbeekers series) tweeted a list of 100 children's books by African American creators. This is a great place to start if you have children at home who you're trying to educate to be anti-racist.
  • VOTE! Today is primary day in Pennsylvania. I already sent in my ballot by mail last month, but in-person voting is still an option. Remember that while the big federal offices get a lot of attention, local races are just as important. If you feel that your leaders do not have the best interests of all citizens at heart, vote them out and replace them with people who will make changes to ensure the equality of all.
I was thinking last night of the last big community gathering I was at in the aftermath of the Tree of Life shooting. One of our local rabbis spoke and reminded us that the Star of David, or Magen David, so many of us were wearing wasn't a star. The meaning of magen isn't "star" but rather "shield." Be a shield, he reminded us. That's something I hope to keep in mind going forward.

If you have additional resources to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you for reading and, if you're going to be out protesting, please stay safe.


  1. I'm ashamed at how little I know, but I can learn, be better, and do better. And we can also knit, spin, read, run, exercise, donate, etc. at the same time we are learning about racist systems, inequality, antiracism, and lack of accountability. If I had to pick a flaw in your argument (and I'm sure you already recognize this), it would be that what you are doing is NOT pointless. Worrying about comma placement is what allows you to earn money so you can donate, and that is not a small thing. We may never see any effects from what we do, but we still must educate ourselves, listen, and help others as we can because that is the way forward.

  2. I think we're seeing just HOW important those local races are. I'm glad to hear you were able to vote!!

    Thanks for all of these links. They are so helpful!

    And I'm glad you were able to write a post about this because I know it's hard to do. I love your thoughts about being a shield for others - it's so perfect. It occurs to me that you probably live near The Tree of Life? It must have felt so close to home. Thank you for your perspective!

  3. I saw a quote yesterday on Instagram, posted by @Lindss_tastic:
    "Resistance is NOT a one lane highway. Maybe your lane is protesting, maybe your lane is organizing, maybe your lane is counseling, maybe your lane is art activism, maybe your lane is surviving the day. Do NOT feel guilty for not occupying every lane. We need all of them." It helps me to think that there are many roles out there - and that we all can do something. Thank you for the excellent links, Sarah.

  4. vote, vote, vote! Thank you for all the good links (and thank you Kym for the quotation - I love that!)

  5. I get what you're saying, Sarah, and I feel it often these days. Every single thing I do--and don't do--is rooted in white privilege. Tonight I wrote an email to a friend who is a grassroots community organizer of almost 40 years, and I asked her for some guidance. Because it feels like an abyss, and even when we want to contribute to what's right, it's hard to know where to start or how to FOCUS that energy to truly contribute to change. But voting--always voting. That's always a right place to start!

  6. These links are so great, thank you! I have been sitting with my thoughts which have been filled with some urging to get off my privileged backside, roll up my sleeves, and do the work for my black and brown brothers and sisters. I started by writing letters to *all* elected officials representing me, stating clearly how I feel about the lack of justice that exists for far too many in America. I will keep pestering them until they "get it" too. And my church just announced a task force to work for Racial Equality in our community that I am joining.

    Kym is right though, it is a big highway with lots of places to help! :)

  7. Gah! I think about/see my white privilege lately with just about every single thing I do (it never seems enough) or don't do... and I feel guilty, sad, and depressed, which is also white privilege, but if I follow that road I'll be no help to anyone. I keep plugging away and remind myself that it's OK to feel happiness and joy. Maybe. Thanks for the links. All of the comments on this post are very wise, too.

  8. This is a very articulate post. I feel much the same way. I do think taking care of ones physical and mental health means we have the energy and stamina to help someone else. White privilege seems to thrive. Thanks for the links.