Today, I Choose Hope

Today, I choose hope. My beautiful writing partner grounds me. I work from home now and can curate, for the most part, my interactions with the world. North Dakotans are generally nice enough to keep their racism limited to a few looks or whispers on occasion. So I don’t have to see racism daily unless I choose to. I am privileged with being able to live in my bubble. My safe bubble, filled with people who love me. Wonderful white people who understand that our experiences of the world are different. Who respect it when I say something isn’t for them. Who never question when I wonder if a look, stare, attitude or bad costumer service is racially motivated. Although 95% of my neighbors who voted, voted for the current administration and 60% as recent as a few months ago still support that administrations destructive, hate-filled rhetoric, the people I let in my bubble understand. Even if they support the current administration, most are nice enough not to mention it around me. Those who are vehemently opposed to the current administration love and support me. This is my reality, my privilege.

My bright shiny Latina writing partner doesn’t have this privilege. She works with children and has seen how they are effected by the hate, anger and anguish of adults in response to the current administration. She calls me and we talk. Recently I told her something that has resounded in me since. I’ll paraphrase below for you.

Love is something that you have to choose. I have been married for almost four years and each day of marriage solidifies this belief for me. In this same way, I believe you have to choose hope. This is not to say that you stop feeling anything you might be feeling. Being sad is often not a choice and those who say so are wrong. But despair is a choice. Despair is an attitude and you can change your attitude. So you must choose hope.

I went on further explaining that as women of color, when we choose despair it is one more thing we are giving over to White Supremacy and the structures and institutions of racism/sexism/homophobia and so on. It gives these things a win. It is one more thing stolen from us. As a Native woman, these things and the people who support them or are complicit in them have already taken so much. Add to that the things stolen as a Black woman and things start to get heavy.

Today I chose hope. I hope to do so tomorrow too.

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I wish I was White

Three days of the new world after the US election…

Day 1

In the early hours of November 9th  my priority was consoling my friends and family. I wasn’t shocked. A deep fear came true. My paranoia had ensured that we had some semblance of a plan. Failing to console those I love, sleep found me around 3 am.

Waking up very late, my Facebook feed found me. The rush of pleas for action from my liberal white friends were too much. My bedroom closet held me as I tried to prevent the sobs from finding their way out of me. I had work to do. I had to go to work.

I was able to get my husband to work and myself. At 3am we were leaning toward leaving the country. This had been the plan. My husband thought I was crazy at 3am but before I left him at work he mentioned that Malta would be a good choice. I told him that I felt myself wanting to fix it, the country. Not for me but for my mija yet to be named by our pregnant friend. Who will protect her? I wondered. I promised him I wouldn’t act on anything.

The world felt different. Every white person was now a threat. Hyper vigilance flooded me with anxiety. Paranoia fueled the hyper vigilance. All white people are now a threat. I live in a place where 216,133 people voted for Donald. We only have 570,955 eligible voters. Over half of the people here voted for Donald.

For work, I had to do some shopping. I found myself not making eye contact. A white man in a suit came up behind me in a coffee shop and I jumped away. What would happen now if he tried to hurt me?

Is this how white people have felt all the time? Fearing that people of color might hurt them. Assuming that people of color are always a threat until proven otherwise. It was exhausting.

A flower shop I visit often was my only respite. I knew I was safe there. The owner came and gave me a hug and then gave me flowers before I left. But…

I had to go back out. To prevent from hyperventilating I came up with a way to difuse the fear. “They’re robots. They are all robots. Cops are robots with only one gun and I can see it. I can see the gun so it’s ok. They look like droids from Star Wars. Those droids are harmless. They’re robots. They’re robots. They’re robots. They’re robots…”

All day, if I didn’t know you and you were white you were a robot. My own racism moved from passive to active.

I left work early because I could. I couldn’t keep the sobs back anymore. At home and knowing I was safe I released the sobs.

After work, my husband and I headed to a friends. I needed to play with my mijo. It was a nice night. I received an apology for being called crazy for having thought through what we would do if this happened. That was nice.

There was a moment. My pregnant friend was truly terrified. She is pregnant and moving somewhere where she couldn’t get the right care for her children was not an option. But…

My mija is going to have beautiful olive skin. She is going to look closer in skin tone to me than to her mother. My friend knows and understands what this could mean for my mija. I could see the fear and uncertainty in my friend’s eyes.

Coming home the deep sadness found me again. I asked my husband what he needed. Should we stay and fight or go? He was on the fence and we agreed to take our time to make this decision. Then he asked me what I needed. What did I want? What did I desire?

I could have lied, but I just said, “I wish I was white.”

Day 2

After a day of trying to avoid eye contact and feeling like I was traveling back in time. A time when raping women was done by gentlemen regularly. A time when you could lynch a black person for having the wrong look on their face. I wanted to try to be me. Loud, bright, radiant, vibrant me.

Driving to work, I turned up my music and sang and danced. Work was quick, my last day at the job. I received many thank you’s and compliments.

My boss, a large emotional joyful strong man said he was proud of me. I love him and his hug was a huge comfort.

Then off to work with kids at an after school program. It was rough but ok.

My dad called to check on me. Before the election we had a conversation. He believes that I am overreacting. One of the many people who think/thought I am crazy. “Now you know where you live,” he said. It was hard to hear him. I felt broken. He was trying to reason with me and my emotional brain couldn’t hear the words.

Quick dinner with my hubby then off to play board games at another program with kids. I submitted an application to a leadership program. I so deeply desire to not lose momentum. I want to keep growing for as long as I am able and still breathing. Then a late night movie with my hubby and friends.

On the walk in, I was trying to get my husband to explain to me how it is to be white. Is it possible that being a white person means that you can’t see the world the way I do? Can’t see that there exist many America’s depending on who you are? At the concessions counter, I tried to engage the cashier in conversation. I was trying to still be me, a person who cares about people. My voice was too soft for her to hear. She didn’t hear me.

We made it just in time for the previews and found our seats. The people behind us kept placing their feet on our seats. The first time that my seat was kicked I tried to rationalize. Maybe it was a kid, maybe it was a person who had really long legs, maybe…maybe…maybe.

When no apology came I tried really hard to just stay in the movie. When the second kick came I decided to move seats. I told myself that it didn’t matter who this person was. When the movie was over though, I had to know. I looked up to see an adult female with dark hair.

She and the man with her had put their feet on and kicked my and my husband’s seats throughout the movie. Maybe it was purely an accident. Maybe they were just grumpy. Maybe…maybe…maybe…

When they left the question I asked was, “Did they see me?” On the walk to the car, my husband said that he didn’t want to say anything because he wondered if the seat kicking had to do with the color of my skin. He was afraid of what might have happened if we said anything and didn’t want the trouble.

As we walked up the stairs to our apartment I apologized. My husband is white and if I could just be white too maybe we wouldn’t be having these problems.

I wish I was White.

Day 3

Deep sadness found me again. I didn’t want to do anything. This was the first day of a chosen time of unemployment. It was supposed to be a joyous day but I didn’t feel joy. It was my freedom day.

I wrote a little while my husband slept. Then I tried to laugh with my snoozy husband. I asked him what he wanted to do today. He said he wanted for me to enjoy my Freedom Day. He got up and headed into the living room.

My writing partner and I touched base. We had been doing this almost constantly since election night. She had found the most profound sense of strength while I was still swimming in deep sadness. She shared with me images of Kamala Harris; a woman who had inspired my writing partner. We agreed to meet later in the day to talk about the future of our writing. We agreed that we were both different people now and that this was a new world.

My husband cooked breakfast while I watched TV. Then we enjoyed Hamilton’s America. It felt good to feel something other than sadness. I felt jealous and inspired, but I couldn’t write. I choose comfort instead. My husband and I cuddled and napped until the afternoon.

When we finally woke up my husband headed to the living room. I drew myself a bath and then met with my writing partner. We talked about who we are now. We talked about planning our next moves. We talked about a desire to take an aggressive stance toward our writing. There was work to do and we we’re going to do it.

Coming out of the meeting I noticed an email response from a friend. There was a group of Lutherans meeting about race relations. She had invited me. Feeling super vulnerable I wanted to know what I was walking into. In her email, she stated frankly that she didn’t know if this meeting would be a safe space for me.

I talked to my husband. He instantly said he would come with me. I didn’t want to put him in danger. I want to protect him and all the people I love and now my skin more than ever puts them at risk. I needed him to know that if we stayed this was the new reality. From here on out we would be at risk. Not like when we lived in the city. In the city, we were rarely ever truly alone or isolated. If a person wanted to harm us there was the chance of someone helping. Here, where we are now that is not the case. You can go on a walk in a neighborhood and not see another human the entire time. Then he said, “You would not be putting me at risk. The hate and racism of the other people would.”

No decisions were made. We headed to dinner and planned on a movie after. We talked about a novel we are in the beginning stages of writing together. During dinner I was still on edge a bit. Everyone around us was white. My new paradigm meant they were all a potential threat, but I had my new shoes and looked great. I felt like me and that kept the fear at bay.

We came home deciding to save the movie for tomorrow and build a fort. Instead we headed to bed and fell quickly to sleep.

 

+ + +

 

Now it is day 4. I still wish I was white. I don’t want to have to fight. I don’t want to have to live through history. So many have said over the past few days that we are stronger. We being people who have been marginalized, killed, oppressed and other wise beat down. Surviving that makes us stronger. Having something to fight for makes us more powerful.

All I want though is to be safe and be me. I love people and believe in them. As my faith in God grew I went from saying “I believe in the good in people” to “I believe in the God in people”. Adam’s creation story tells us that God breathed life into him which means that each of us has a little bit of that inside. Now that my faith is in a wonky space I think it’s both. I believe in the God and good in people.

This means that I don’t want to walk around life feeling that everyone I don’t know is a threat even if that’s true. I’m sure on some levels it is. You never know what a person is capable of and I choose not to limit the potential of anyone.

Moving forward I don’t know what my husband and I will choose, to stay or to go. I know which way we’re leaning but I don’t want to commit that to the written word until we’ve decided. I don’t know many things about the days to come. I don’t know who I am now.

I wish I had wise words to sum up this post, but I don’t. I guess I wanted it out in the world to serve as a view into one person’s experience. This is what it has been like for me. Hopefully that’s useful to someone.