“Homecoming (Bluebirds)” by Charley Harper, Cincinnati, Ohio
*Warning: Possible Rambling Ahead. *
Yesterday was the Women’s March on Washington, although it wasn’t contained to DC. By the time I checked my Twitter feed at dinnertime, cities all over the world were filled with people marching in solidarity in the name of women’s rights and basic human rights. It was moving to see all the photos and read the numbers of people who participated. I so wanted to join them.
Why didn’t I?
Oh, I had all kinds of excuses. There was a march in my hometown on Friday evening (Inauguration Day), but it happened during dinner and I wasn’t feeling well. Yesterday, it looked as though all of Indiana showed up to march for women in Indianapolis. I seriously thought of going, but I was afraid of getting lost in the crowd, of not being able to find my way back to my car, of what might happen if the march grew violent. Etc. Etc. Etc.
So, where did I end up? Hiking around a ten acre lot with my family and our realtor, trying to decide if it might be a good building site for our future home.
Yes, that’s right. While people were marching for the rights of women and the underprivileged everywhere, I was traipsing around in the woods, wondering how many trees would need to be cleared in order to fit a two-story house with a full, walkout basement and a bit of a yard. Trust me, I see the irony.
The guilt has been around for a while. It’s been making itself quite comfortable in my head for some time now.
My biggest excuse–the one I keep telling myself is my best reason for avoiding marches and protests–is my family. I’m a wife and mother, and I worry about what would happen to them if I were to get arrested or injured. But that’s really not a good excuse, because there have been countless women all over the world who have sacrificed themselves for the greater good. They didn’t put their families ahead of their fight for justice … or they did put their families first, because that’s what they were fighting for. Or maybe they didn’t even have a choice in the matter. Maybe they were just fighting to survive.
I’m sitting here on my soft bed in my comfortable home typing these words after millions of people risked themselves yesterday to show our new administration they will not accept who and what has been voted into office. I feel pathetic. I should have been there with them. Yes, I sent a donation to Planned Parenthood on Inauguration Day as my own protest, but no excuse should have stopped me from joining in yesterday.
And yet …
Today, my Twitter feed exploded with people praising the marches, but also reminding everyone it was only Day 1. There is still so much fighting to do. Several people pointed out how very few, if any, arrests were made. Several other people pointed out the low arrest rate was due to the majority of protesters being white women. Police policed differently yesterday because of racial bias. I totally got that. In fact, one of my favorite science fiction authors shared several tweets about the differences between the policing of the marches yesterday and the police brutality of past Black Lives Matter rallies. I, thinking I was extending some sort of … hell, I don’t know what I was trying to do, tweeted her the following message:
“I wanted to go to our local BLM rallies and Women’s March. Found excuses not to go to either (my kids, my health). Feel guilty [about] it. 😦 I wanted to be out there representing all women, and yet my responsibilities of wife and mother always seemed to preclude that. Hoping my donations to Planned Parenthood and my art will be my weapon against the injustices this administration will try to push on us.”
Even now, I see how wrong I was to fill Ms. Jemisin’s Twitter mentions with those tweets. Someone, another white woman, called me out, and rightly so. How could I think proclaiming my white guilt to a woman of color could even be a viable option? She doesn’t need to hear me whine about my privilege. As the other white woman (my caller-outer) told me, going into a person of color’s mentions and expecting them to help me process my guilt was unfair and inappropriate of me. Whether Ms. Jemisin saw my tweets and subsequent apology to her doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t have sent her those tweets to begin with. But as another one of my favorite authors tweeted today (I’m paraphrasing), “Do not delete your mistakes. Own them.”
So, what should I be doing? What can I do?
As my caller-outer said, I should be speaking to other white people, and only other white people, about my guilt. True. We should find some way to use our guilt for good. Or maybe we don’t. Because is there anything we can do that isn’t just pointless? Do people of color want to hear from me at all? I doubt I have anything relevant to say, anything they’d want to hear. Because as much as I want to support ALL people from ALL walks of life, how much support do they really want from ME? I’m white, and upper-middle class to boot. I have the privilege of being heard, of being already supported based on the color of my skin and the dollar amount associated with my husband’s income. I can stand up for others’ rights as much as I want, but do they really want me to stand up for them? They don’t need me. They have voices of their own, and they are making their voices heard, loud and clear. So, where does that leave me and my guilt?
God, I gotta get rid of my ego. It’s not about me and what I want.
Like I warned above, this is all just a big, rambling ramble. Or maybe it’s just a big whine from an adult who has no clue what to do with herself. I have no idea if this is even going anywhere intelligent or good. My head’s been all over the place on issues related to race and privilege and lives mattering for a long, long time, probably ever since the Black Lives Matter movement started. Or maybe even before then. I had to quit Facebook because of the number of conflicting articles and friends’ posts I’d read. They started this war within me: the war of wanting to help, but maybe no one actually needing or wanting my help.
I’m trying so hard to shut up and listen. Just shut up and listen hard, Amanda. That’s what Twitter taught me today. I need to shut my mouth and listen hard. But do you really want me to listen? Am I the person you want to hear you? Do I even need to be around to listen? Am I even relevant to this conversation?
Am I thinking too much?
So, in the absence of good enough answers, what will I do? I’ll give money. I’ll volunteer when I can. I’ll keep writing and using my art as my weapon. (Thanks to N.K. Jemisin for that wonderful quote.) I can’t change my past mistakes, but I can keep trying to push forward, hoping to change my and my children’s future. Will that be enough? Will anyone care? Does what I do even matter?
I don’t know.
Thanks for reading, anyway.
P.S. Apropos of nothing, I sent a submission packet containing the first three chapters and a synopsis of When We Were Forgotten to a sci-fi/fantasy publisher this past week. I know I said in my last blog post I’d been waffling about finding an agent, but this imprint takes open submissions directly from writers. I thought, “What the hell? Might as well put myself out there, just this once.” I’m keeping my expectations low, but my hopes high. The story is much more relevant to current world events than when I wrote the first draft three years ago. Scary, but true. I’m hoping the publishers see that and will want to build on that. If not, eh. I’ll self-publish anyway.