Wednesday, August 4

Tuesday’s Temptation

I think I finally found the new name for praying on Tuesday: Tuesday's Temptation. I frame it in temptation because temptations are the things we either need to claim or to circumnavigate. Because not all temptations are can or should be avoided. Like chocolate. Chocolate should not be avoided. But there is a line that can be crossed.


The temptation I fell into recently is the drive to make myself look better to others rather than to just let it be. Last night, I offered my experience of working with deconstructing white supremacy as a white person, and the work that I do with white folks up to an African American woman so that she would know I was a "safe" white woman.

Pshaw. Really, I've hung out with her enough. It is up to her to decide if I'm "safe" or not and the small groups I lead to deconstruct whiteness are not going to change that. And then there is this thing. What is "safe?" Are women of color ever "safe" with white women? Or is it a constant effort of being brave?

Maybe it is a mixture of both. However, the onus to be safe and/or brave is put on the woman of color. Because there is a whole lot of white stupid happening in the world and there is no way to know if you are going to end up meeting white stupid or white compassion. And even white compassion has its limits for safety.

I have seen conversations where a white woman has set limits for acceptability of expressing experiences on women of color. HuffPo has a great article on white liberal racism.

Denial (i.e. color blind),
shame/hurt rather than apology,
checking out of race conversations because it gets uncomfortable (people of color cannot check out)
over-compensation (becoming the savior of them all)
apologies rather than listening
oppression olympics (well, my family is ... insert marginalized group here...)
racial resume (the thing that I did...see this important anti-racist work I did!...)
white guilt (i.e. that's horrible, but what can I do about it?)
intellectualization (i.e. but we have prominent black leaders, how can there be racism?)


Anyhoo. The drive to make yourself look better by using words rather than actions is real. For me, it was centered in work around whiteness and anti-racism last night. But that is not the only time it has happened in my life. Years of lack of validation in my childhood needed to be compensated for. It was only after my mother died that a co-worker of hers came to me and said, "Your mother was so proud of you." I was quite surprised. It would have been cool if she said those words out loud to me. Especially as a young adult.

My adulthood has been a quest to still the urge that is to externally shout "look at this cool thing that I did" and to sit with internal satisfaction. A self-soothing of the soul. It is a hard habit to break and the temptation is strong to fall into old tapes. Tape #1: Shout to the world the cool thing. Tape #2: Shout to my own soul the cool thing. You know, tape #2 is much more effective. The question is how do we jettison the ineffective tape and start listening to the best one?

And you never know who you will hurt when you trumpet your own successes. Whether it is inadvertently hurting women of color who have to navigate a world of white supremacy every day while white women can drop in or drop out of whiteness conversations at will or whether it is hurting your very own self by not relying on self-soothing and self-validation, the pain is compounded. We see the evidence in our political structures now where clearly our President has not learned when enough is and has only learned that he needs more in order to be validated.

The challenge is in answering the temptation. Will we ever learn to be enough? Enough for ourselves? Enough for one another? Have enough? Or will we continue to participate in systems of oppression that begin with ourselves and emanate outwards to harm others?


That will be my prayer for today. To counter Tuesday's Temptation, let each of us be enough.

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