I got my first hate mail today. It’s 2017 so it was hate email. And it was really only a little hate-y.
It’s not bothering me. I have been taught that the discomfort that I feel as a White person when I am confronted with the hard truth about the prizes and kickbacks I get in this world for having the heritage of a well-traveled Viking ancestor is nothing compared with the discomfort of having the very worth and dignity of your being assaulted on a regular basis when you are a person of color in this world.
That is to say, I have learned that the feeling of needing to defend myself around race is a sign that I need to stop and pay attention to which internal biases are running in the background like a slew of cookies from a clickbait site.
I’m not sure this person has learned that the defensive feeling = pay attention yet. That’s OK. We all gotta get in when we can. If we don’t start speaking out until we are fully “woke” there is no hope of fixing white supremacy.
We have to start where we are. All of us. Each one of us.
This email came to me at my work address. The organization I serve recently backed a Teach In about white supremacy. Well, this woman was not happy at all with me about that choice of phrase: white supremacy. She found it to be angry and not showing interest in dialogue.
This is not about a dialogue where one side talks and then the other side talks. This is a calling in of White folks. We are letting this happen, this continuing practice that all Whiteness is standard and anything else is inferior, abnormal, aberrant. We white folks need to stop it. We don’t need dialogue. We need action. Action! Like a teach in.
I didn’t tell her that.
I’m just a lackey, anyway. I serve a board who makes decisions. I don’t even get a vote on what goes out. (I DO get to actually send the emails/tweets/fb posts and stick things all over the website though….)
What I did tell her was that while I am just staff, I wholeheartedly endorse their decision to support this white supremacy teach in. And then I told her that I had looked her up on Facebook, and we had a mutual friend, so I told her I was going to invite her to be my Facebook friend and I hoped that she would keep an open heart and join with me in a dialogue about this important issue.
Because I’m not “woke” I’m not even out of REM sleep, I think. But I’d like to talk with my hate-mailer about this: that it’s OK to be ANGRY about how the culture of your world devalues you as a human, it’s OK to work against that, that it’s OK to use words and phrases that make the people who hold the power uncomfortable and while I would like to tell her that sometimes dialogue isn’t the right answer, but listening is, that’s maybe too much to lead with.
I hope she accepts my invitation to be friends. We all have a lot to learn. Me, too. Probably you, too–although maybe not about this. Maybe about macrame. Or the literature of Scandinavia.
May we learn and grow and get better at this being human thing. May it be so.