Not quite woke but pissed as hell
Call me a snowflake. I own it.
At some point in the latter days of the 2016 election, some right-wing Twitter users created an artificial identity divide, calling themselves “deplorables” and Trump critics “snowflakes.” If one is a snowflake simply by virtue of anger at injustice, watch me melt.
On the evening of November 8, 2016, as commentators on CNN and MSNBC went from confused to despairing and as I began to realize that the worst could, and likely would, happen, that we weren’t going to have the first woman president, that the horror of a Trump presidency was imminent, I Tweeted “Don’t have enough chocolate or Xanax for this. What the hell is happening?”
I cry even thinking about it now. Yes, I am that special a snowflake. It felt like being given news of a death in the family.
The Women’s March of January 2017 was a watershed moment, for me as well as for people worldwide who refused to get comfortable in their armchairs. I formed an Indivisible group (which eventually unformed itself, alas), educated myself on strategies for influencing members of Congress, met with elected officials and their staff, and attended a rally or two. I, like many other Americans, was learning.
One of the things I didn’t understand with clarity until shortly after the election was the meaning of white privilege. I was familiar with the phrase but I guess I just assumed it had a broad definition, like an acknowledgment of racism or something that simple.
I learned on Twitter. A couple days after the election, a Hispanic colleague had a Twitter meltdown railing against white people, insinuating that all Caucasians were responsible for Trump’s election. I Tweeted in reply that surely he meant white people who voted for Trump. He did not have time for white people not taking responsibility, he replied. Although I didn’t know him well, I knew that he was a writer and activist and smart, not a crazy guy. Because he wasn’t crazy and was neither a deplorable nor a snowflake but a genuinely aggrieved brown person, I decided to try to figure out what he meant.
That’s how I found out what white privilege really is, and how I bear responsibility for it because I have it, even if I don’t deliberately employ it. I still struggle with the idea. It’s easier to understand (if you’re white) if you look at it not as blame-oriented but as result-oriented. In other words, all white people may not be literally to blame for racism, but we do enjoy the results. Once that was my paradigm, I got comfortable enough to examine it without hating myself or hating the people who sounded like they were blaming me for the world’s ills.
I stopped joking that when I started wearing hijab I turned a little brown, because…no. I can take it off. You can’t take brown or black skin off. It’s there, for life. I get my joke but it’s not funny to me anymore.
I further explored the idea of white privilege. I wanted to know what to do with it, something more than enjoying it, something more than loathing myself because of it. I read “Dear White America” by Tim Wise. I joined MuslimARC. I took whatever learning opportunity came my way. I kept my consciousness flowing.
When I went to the Houston March for Black Women three months ago I hoped to get it right, to avoid undeserved pride at taking the chance to laud black women, but instead to celebrate their empowerment. I think I almost did it. When one of the organizers said through a bullhorn, “If you’re a white woman and you’re standing in front of a black woman, you’re in the wrong place,” I took that quite literally and got up and moved behind some black women I had been standing in front of. I realize now that she might have meant it more metaphorically, but I’m still pleased that I physically mirrored the literal segregation black people have endured through the centuries.
Or something like that. I guess.
I may not be fully woke. I may still be a white girl trying to pretend to be woke, or hoping to be woke, or hoping to recognize it if I ever do get woke.
But I am angry about racism, angry about family separations at the border, angry at just how much of the horror we envisioned on Election Day has in fact become reality. So I devoted this year to working for political change. This year I was going to traipse up the Appalachian Trail, doing a long-dreamed-of thru-hike. Then I realized I couldn’t hide in the woods while the country slid into the muck.
So it’s with my half-woke but pissed as hell self that tomorrow I’m driving to Fort Worth for the Texas Democratic Convention. I’ll be blogging from there. Stay tuned as this white hijabi activist trying to get her head straight and change the world for good makes her way through three days of Democrats shouting, singing, talking and – well, dreaming.
Categories: The state of things