Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Centering the Conversation

This was written over a week ago. All time references are therefore skewed. 

Up until a few days ago I hadn't found myself at odds with anyone I know about the political things I post on social media. Ok, not with anyone who engages about that information. Then some folks from the Black Lives Matter movement interrupted Bernie Sanders at one of his political rallies.

In the last 2 days I've discussed race, racism, Black Lives Matter, US History, and the way they all intersect more than I have possibly in my whole life to that point. Not because I'm good at it necessarily but because I wound up in a place where it felt like I couldn't not speak so I did.

Someone I like and trust. Someone I wouldn't think would ever disagree with me (perish the thought!) politely asked me to cite my sources. At first, I'm not afraid to tell you, I felt a flush of anger/fear/panic. I madly slammed my keyboard grabbing links before I took a break and realized, "You have sources. You're not bullshitting. Why so defensive?" I gave links and kept talking and we're not precisely on the same page but we're definitely in the same classroom now and I feel good about it.

Like a floodgate suddenly more people were asking me about my sources and since I felt less defensive I was able to have conversations. However, I was spending half of those conversations hopping around the internet pulling up the sources. I'm going to put them here in case I need them later. You should feel free to use them, too, and to add more in the comments.

I've been starting with this piece by Ijeoma Oluo because it's short, simple, and the people who are asking me for information often come back from it saying, "Those are a lot of the things I was wondering about." My friend, Sarah, has been starting with this Facebook post by Dominique Hazard which addresses the same blocks people are putting up.

The reason I'm not asking those questions this week is because I've been following Elon James White on Twitter for about a year now (since Mike Brown's death) and he's been very clear about how he's not jumping on the Bernie Sanders bandwagon. He's also been generous with his reasoning behind that so it's been an opportunity for me to learn.

White interviewed one of the interrupters on his radio show. I have not listened to the show but I'm told she addresses the interest in her previous backing of Sarah Palin and her religion.

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter responded to many of the concerns surrounding the interruption even though she was on vacation.

This article by Imani Gandy is more strongly worded than most of the things I've posted so far. You might find it difficult to read. It is well worth it for her words and for the many links she provides for further study. Consider this one of many vital quotes in it, "The bottom line is this: #BlackLivesMatter activists simply do not have time to deal with white fragility. It may sound harsh, but Black lives matter more than white feelings. We are dying in the street. 314 of us so far since the killing of Mike Brown on August 9, 2014. Our community is in crisis."

Here's Heather Barmore chronicling the way her feelings changed as she learned more about the Seattle Sanders Interruption.

If you wonder why I keep using the word "interrupt" you should read my friend, Aaryn Belfer's, viral post about how to be an interrupter. That is her white person's guide to activism.

Now this is new writing so the timeline changes. Surprise!

Aaryn wrote another piece and I got into more conversations on social media about that! Keep your eye on Belfer, she'll help you stay informed, too.

Before I list a few other folks I follow on Twitter I want to lay out what I've learned from them. The color of one's skin does not automatically require them to teach you about the equality movement and their experience of it. If someone is generous and able often they will teach but do not go charging over to these folks asking questions like your education is their responsibility. Be kind and realize where your points of privilege lie. If you are a member of a marginalized group (like me, I'm a chick) do not play that card as if it's going to win you the World Series of Inequality Poker.

So, people I'm learning from every day are Feminista Jones, Karnythia, Nettaaaaaaaa, Deray, Bev Gooden, A'Driane Nieves, Kathryn Finney, Ava DuVernay, Ms. Packyetti, Colorlines, Antonio French, BrownBlaze, Vandalyzm, Kelly Wickham, and Prison Culture but to name a few.

While you're at it you can always check out these hash tags, too. #YouOKSis, started by Feminista Jones. #WhyIStayed, from Bev Gooden. #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, by Karnythia (Mikki Kendall). #BlackLivesMatter.

Lastly, if we come from a place of privilege (and if you have time to sit around reading a blog you probably do to at least some extent) we're going to get this wrong once in a while. It's inevitable. If we learn from that and try to keep our stumbling to a minimum while staying in the game I think we can count our efforts as good.

What do you think?

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