Unsettling Librarian

Fin? Fine? Forward.

I don’t want an apology; I don’t want anyone to make it up to me. But I do want people to be accountable for their roles in oppression, and to respect me as the arbiter of my own experiences. I want people’s conversations with me to force them to think, rather than be defensive. As the late poet and activist Audre Lorde wrote in her essay “Uses of Anger”: “my anger and your attendant fears are spotlights that can be used for growth in the same way that I have used learning to express anger for my growth.”” – Rebecca Carroll

Though I knew from the outset that this would be a process and a painful one at that, I’ve been feeling mired and impatient to be across this burning bridge and done with it. As is so often the case, my impatience seems to serve no end other than to exacerbate my suffering, both in the Stoic/Buddhist/my mama sense of the word and in the plain old pain&suffering sense. I have grief. I am lonesome. I am heartbroken. I am angry. I am saddened. These things do not become less true because I am impatient with the experience of them.

The other day, I came across this potent piece by Aya de Leon that spoke to me of the fundamental, and it seems, foolish hope that I had around how the folks I’m stepping away from would’ve responded to their responsibilities as presumably-good humans in a white supremacist context. This passage in particular –

I will learn what I need to learn, change what I need to change, braid what I need to braid, move where I need to move, build community with whom I need to build, and confront what and whom I need to confront, even in my own family. I can see that the real problem here is racism.”

resonated with me on a number of levels.

Too often, I’ve had conversations about what it means to parent children of color in a white supremacist-context in which my experience and perspective and ongoing efforts at self-(re-)education were pushed aside in favor of excuse-making for white-identified parents and grandparents and caregivers who don’t bother to educate themselves, provide essential contexts of validation for the children of color in their care, or do fuck-all to equip them for or defend them against the racist shite, micro and macro, merely wearing or actively life-endangering, that is coming their way on the daily. And of course, the whole topic of the responsibilities of white-identified parents raising white-identified children was avoided or elided assiduously. Each time, I began the conversation with the same frail hope of solidarity and ended with the same intense fatigue, pain, disappointment, betrayal, and yes, anger.

Humans will disappoint. Humans will not live up to their own standards of human decency, and yet will insist that you are violating those same standards when you call them on it. Humans are too often self-interested cowards with little to offer each other except shared lies. I know this. I’ve long known this. I learned it at my Ma’s knee, though I’ve been running from the knowledge of it for almost as long as that.

So, why have I insisted on pretending otherwise so often for so long with these particular folks? Why am I wallowing through this grief as if it is the first such mire I or any other human has encountered? Why do I keep circling ‘round to compassion for the pain my boundary-setting will likely cause these folks should they ever actually read my words despite not expecting that they will actually do so given how much of what I’ve had to say on these topics has been shoved away or stepped over in face-to-face spaces and utterly ignored in virtual ones? Why is their pain staying real to me when I had to draw this boundary because I could no longer ignore the real pain – and danger – their insistent passivity brings to the lives of my children, grandchild, partner, self, and more folks than I can count? Is this in itself evidence of how successfully socialized in white supremacist ideologies I’ve been? Internalized racism at work? Is it genuine compassion that I need to find a way to balance with that I have for those of us endangered by such shirkings of reality? Is that especially true given that white supremacy and the larger kyriarchy it’s part of and the violences necessary to maintain them actually threaten our entire species and certainly poor folks, women, and neurodiverse folks whether or not they remain ensnared by the lies of Whiteness? Or is it merely the reflexive priortizing of White feelings over Black and otherwise non-white lives?

I don’t know. I don’t feel that I have any satisfactory answers to these questions. I do feel that even asking them is in some way a betrayal of my children, my grandchild, my partner, myself, and all those more immediately in danger from the brutality of inequality, of actual death and unrecoverable loss in a culture built on an utter disregard for black and otherwise non-white lives and humanities. Some part of my interior conversation about all of this includes a voice carrying all the caustic sarcasm inherent in me (which is quite a lot). That voice keeps snarking about what a good handmaiden I am to be so concerned about the well being of Miss Ann and her children even at the expense of my own. What am I resisting here? Is it just my own foolish sentimentality? Or is it an inculcation to favor Whiteness that runs so deep it shames me as a mother?

Again, I don’t know, and perhaps I won’t know. Perhaps what I can do now is simply keep my life moving down the newly-fenced road I’ve made for myself, my daughter, and the rest of my loved ones whose humanity never quite made the cut on that old, boundary-less path. After all, “Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” ~ Megan Devine via Tim Lawrence

Sooner or later, the price of those tickets to Whiteness may well become too much for the folks on the other side of this divorce to pay any longer. Or it may not given that “The force of self-deception is strong within” them as Son of Baldwin so eloquently addressed recently. I can’t wait any longer, though. If they ever want to catch me up, the path I’ve taken is clearly marked with those sturdy fence rows now, so I’ll be easy enough to find.

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