I've learned (through observation, research, and lived experience) that the best thing I can do right now to productively contribute to the anti-racism movement is educate myself. Knowledge is power; without it, I'm not helping this at all.
I encountered my first conversation with someone exhibiting racist thoughts this week. I didn't handle it successfully. I've analyzed and here is why I think that happened:
- I was unprepared for it. I'd become used to the fact that most of the people in my social and professional circles support this cause. Most of my conversations over the last week have been something like "This is horrible. I want to help. Here are the things I've been doing. What have you been doing? Any other ideas?" That was the conversation I expected to have when I entered this meeting. This rosy-colored attitude is a sign of my own privilege and I see that now.
- I was surprised by the nature of their comments. I'd hear about, but not yet encountered, "nice people" who shielded their racist thoughts with optimism. They were very friendly when they said to me, "But things are so much better now! Look at how far we've come!" At first, it was unclear to me what point they were trying to make. As they went on, I understood that they were dismissing the importance of this issue by suggesting that things are not as bad as they previously were. It got worse the more they spoke.
- I wasn't educated enough to offer a successful counterpoint. While I made it clear that I disagreed and that we still have a lot of work to do, I was not prepared with the knowledge I should have had to educate this person about why things are not as "better" as they were making them out to be. I sat there, in that moment, thinking "Wow, this is it. This is where I should be showing up in support and I recognize how unprepared I am to be having this conversation." This person was older than me and male; he was mansplaining things to me right out of the gate and without evidence to support my argument, he walked all over me.
Without accurate preparation, that person walked away from that conversation feeling as though he "won" the argument. And you know what? I think he did too. This will continue to happen until I learn enough to speak about these issues intelligently. It's not enough to say to someone "You're wrong because I said so." We must say "Actually, you're wrong because several hundred years of history have shown us that x, y, and z have evolved over time but they have not gone away. Here is how those exact things manifest themselves in today's society."
So I will continue to read, listen, and watch material that can teach me these things so I have better conversations in the future. I know that I screwed this one up. I'm sorry.
That said, I have been doing quite a bit of reading and learning (both before that conversation and after it). My recommendation for this week is that you watch 13th on Netflix. I wish I'd have seen that before my conversation. That one documentary alone has taught me much.
A Business Update
Related to the post about reduction from two weeks ago, I wanted to briefly discuss the topic of prioritization. There is no reduction without prioritization. Without prioritization, this exercise is just 50 different kinds of organization. This is what I do. Instead of removing things from my list, I just order and reorder and reorder and reorder them, thinking that "maybe this time," I'll get everything done. No, Monique. No. There are too many things on the list. Some things need to come off. Too many tasks, too many inputs, too many choices.
I tried to make a priority list for this week. That worked reasonably well. I narrowed it down to:
- A freelance project with a quick timeline that I just accepted.
- Some kind of exercise or body work daily.
- Some amount of drawing daily.
- Fold my laundry.
- Write this blog post. (Check.)
- Continue to educate myself about anti-racism.
This still feels like a lot. BUT it got even worse when I started scheduling my day today. Why? Because I added a million other things to the day that aren't actually on this priority list! I have a limited number of hours each day to devote to this stuff given the fact that I have a full time job, so why am I filling it with over two hours of things that are not on this list? Because I'm prioritizing them even though I claim that they are not priorities. That's why.
The hardest part about prioritization for me is and always has been the idea of saying "no" to stuff. I have no problem talking about why things are important. I can do that forever. The problem is saying "this thing is not important right now because of ___" and then choosing to drop it off the list without guilt. That is so effing hard.
My task coming out of this discussion is to look at the schedule I wrote for myself for today, determine which things are not serving those priorities, and CUT. THEM. OUT.