social justice

Especially for White Folx Who Are "Woke" - A Challenge to Try Compassion

Especially for White Folx Who Are "Woke" - A Challenge to Try Compassion

Hi All,

In light of our President's recent comments about some of our congresswomen I'm reposting a slightly edited version of a post I wrote last November. And I'll have some follow-up thoughts coming next week. Would love to hear from you if this resonates - or totally doesn't. Either way, let's have a conversation.

It’s November 7, 2018, the day after mid-term elections in the U.S. 

 

There are great victories and great defeats for both Republicans and Democrats.  I’m heartbroken by some of them, but that’s not what concerns me most this morning. What concerns me most as I see the many, many, close-to-50/50 races, is this vast evidence that we still aren’t able to listen to and understand each other. 

 

In particular, it concerns me that the liberal left—those of us who believe ourselves to be more tolerant and enlightened, more progressive; those of us who operate in circles where mindfulness and compassion and empathy are buzzwords—we aren’t listening to the predominantly white, working class, Americans (and many conservative Christians) who have been crying out for years now that they want to be heard. 

 

I feel concerned in conversations like the one I had with colleagues yesterday, in which they assumed (correctly) that I am a Democrat who would be pleased by the defeat of Ted Cruz (which didn’t happen.)   

 

I’m concerned because I think most of us these days can make generally accurate assumptions about the views of the other people at our tables because we have so little contact with people whose views differ significantly from ours. 

 

Lately I’ve been reading from Pádrig Ó Tuama’s book Daily Prayer with the Correymeala Community most mornings and interestingly today I read this line:

 

“May we populate our tables with all kinds of people.”

 

It reminded me of Priya Parker’s book, The Art of Gathering, which I haven’t yet purchased, but I heard her talk about it in an interview (I think it was on The Good Life Project podcast.)  Two things from the interview stuck with me.  One was the idea of intentionally facilitating gatherings in which we set the stage for deep conversations, rather than focusing primarily on table settings and flowers.  Deep conversations among diverse groups of people, where we know there are truly divergent perspectives.  Can we have these conversations?

Playing in Pursuit of Serious Stuff

When you can’t go forward and you can’t go backward

 and you can’t stay where you are

without killing off what is deep and vital in yourself,

you are on the edge of creation

Sue Monk Kidd 

I don’t know about you, but I sense that I am on this edge of creation.  And I have a gut feeling that learning more about how to play in pursuit of really serious stuff is part of the new thing that needs creating.  Can’t say it makes sense yet, but that’s often the way it goes when we’re creating something new.

As an educator, educator-in-training, or a mom, I’m guessing you are an advocate of play in some way shape or form. 

Maybe your support of play is very personal and private.  You’ve invested in purchasing toys for your children to enhance their play.  You’ve added some Legos to your classroom or 15 minutes of free play to the daily schedule.  You’ve played Candyland or Legos or tea parties for the 97th time because your child wanted to.  Maybe you invest a lot in supporting your child’s love of lacrosse, or dance, or music, or photography.  Maybe you plan indoor recess when outdoor recess is cancelled.

Or maybe your support of play is a bit bigger.  You’ve volunteered at a local park to clean up the space or donated to an organization that builds playgrounds in underserved communities.  You’ve have created active play-centered lessons in your classroom even though you know you could get in trouble for deviating from the standard curriculum.  Maybe you’ve gone to the school board to fight for more recess time in your district.  Maybe you led a toy drive for the local homeless shelter.

If you’re anything like me you are all on board with the idea that children need to play, but do you think that play is an actual need for adults?

If you are hurting and confused right now, try this

This has been a stunning and deeply painful week for me, and I imagine for many (though perhaps not all) of you.  I spent yesterday and much of the night before in shock and sobbing intermittently.  If you did too, I hope I can offer a virtual hug and a bit of healing and hope in my small way.  

Side note:  If you are politically conservative or just didn’t think much about this election, and are genuinely confused about why people are so upset, send me a private message or check out my Facebook page and I’ll do my best to help you understand the grief and fear. I am not here to judge you.  I have conservative friends and family and I know many are struggling to understand the level of grief being expressed.

This summer when so many Black people were killed at the hands of police—and so many white people just couldn’t believe that it had anything to do with racism—I was devastated, like I am now.  The pain felt too great to bear.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I was getting ready to start this blog and I remember saying to my husband, “I actually don’t know how to Thrive for Equity.” 

We self-help types, we create what we need for ourselves. 

The Story of a World Changing Failure

Welcome!  So glad you're here!  This is the first post in my Thriving Thursdays blog.  Would love to hear what you think!  If you don't see the comment box right away click on the title above and then look again.

 

I don’t remember exactly how it all started.  I know that as a white, middle-class sophomore in high school my favorite poem became Langston Hughes’s “Theme for English B.”  I know that before that, as a shy 10-year-old military “brat” living at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky I became fascinated by a set of cassette tapes about Martin Luther King.  I remember that the librarian seemed to think my interest was strange. 

I remember how uncomfortable I felt the first time in my life at age 15 when I moved to a new school where I was one of only three white students in a class full of African Americans (life of white privilege - anyone?  I was used to being "normal," not standing out.)  But I don’t remember thinking much about how it was that this school was clearly so much less challenging than the one I had attended the previous year in a different state, one that had a very few African American students in it.

Those questions would come later.

I was brought up in a loving, conservative, evangelical Christian household where I was taught that service to the less fortunate was expected.  “To whom much has been given, much is required.”  I went off to a conservative evangelical college somewhat resistant to total servanthood—God seemed to have been a bit of a killjoy in relation to life in high school and I kinda wished I could have had a bit more fun before being saved from hell—but still I had a profound sense of moral responsibility, and perhaps some resignation about my role.  I didn’t want to go to Africa to save the world, but God would probably drag me there kicking and screaming because it was what I least wanted to do and what I most feared.

After all “to whom much has been given much is required.”  You get the idea.

I wouldn’t go to Africa until decades later (and, it was a great joy to do so, but that’s another story), but I I found an even scarier place to go—THE INNER CITY.  For many people, scary is being OUT of the city, not in it, but in my world at the time cities were places to be feared and avoided. I tutored a few kids in “the projects,” one night a week, then I applied for a summer of “urban ministry.”  

As I remember it, I actually stated in the application process that my main reason for applying was to face my FEAR OF THE CITY, a fear that caused me to avoid it. 

My father’s words echoed in my ear: “You be the boss of Fear, don’t let Fear be the boss of you.” I didn’t want to be controlled by Fear—even if my father himself, along with the U.S. media and multiple other sources no doubt—had contributed to my generally negative view of “the City.” (And to my father's credit, he didn't try to stop me.)

Flash forward 3 years or so and I was moving into Chicago to teach at the Good News Educational Workshop—a small private school that paid its teachers very little in order to provide a warm, safe highly creative educational environment for very low tuition.  The images that come to mind when I think of my first year teaching are of chaos, failure and many, many tears.  After having received stellar grades when I student-taught in a predominantly middle class suburb, I was clearly not prepared.  I pretty much cried all the way home each day, then curled up in a ball in my bed until I could force myself to get up and plan for the next day all the while chastising myself for having trouble staying within my $15/week grocery budget work and feeling sorry for myself because I couldn't afford new clothes.  After all, so many people around me had much less. 

In the midst of yuppie culture at its highest point, I was committed to being “downwardly mobile.”  I was going to sacrifice everything and save the world.

But here’s the thing.  I couldn’t do it.

And all those messages I believed about how I SHOULD sacrifice and serve, all the shame I felt about the riches and privileges I had and have—they didn’t help me to do what I longed to do—to make a difference, to bring healing and justice, to relieve suffering, to make the world a better place. They also didn't help me to recognize the strengths of my students and their communities. It wasn't my job to be their savior, but it would take me awhile to figure that out.

Later I tried the stay-at-home mom thing, also highly regarded in my cultural context—same problem.  I could't do that either.  

It seemed I was a bit to fragile, too inclined towards depression, perhaps too selfish, to do what a REALLY GOOD person.

As it turned out these failures were gifts, because they forced me to look for new ways to live . . . and I've found some.  That's why I'm here.

I haven't given up. 

I just no longer believe that one has to STRIVE and STRUGGLE or just try to SURVIVE to bring more equity into the world. 

In fact, for me at least, none of those options is even possible.  I’m pretty sure I would have committed suicide, literally, if I’d stayed on those paths.  So in this next chapter of my life I’m experimenting with THRIVING FOR EQUITY. 

If this sounds good to you too, join me here on Thursdays (Thriving on Thursdays - cute, huh?). If you want more, watch for announcements about my coaching programs.

Looking forward to connecting. 

Deb (aka Dr. Valentine, for my favorite SJU students, which is all of you!)