It's possible I might lose friends over this post.
But it's something I've been thinking about, and it's been more illuminated by a book I've been reading.
But first some backstory. Or explanation. Or something.
I'm a pretty sensitive person. I think that has been clearly demonstrated in the past, but for those of you who are new here, feel free to check out some of my responses to criticism I have received. I don't think I always handle this in the best way possible. But I do attempt to be honest and vulnerable here. Hence this post.
A few years ago, I was on vacation in Las Vegas with a friend of mine who is ethnically Chinese. (Australian in citizenship) We were stuffing ourselves on some awesome buffet we'd managed to get tickets to for free and as she gazed around the dining room, she remarked, "I really do love the diversity here."
I think I said something smart about how I'd heard Australia was more diverse and she responded, not like this. Somehow we started talking about incidents of prejudice and I was really surprised. "I had no idea it was still like that," I said in disbelief. She studied me for a minute, and responded..."You know why? Because you're white."
I can't tell you how that impacted me. It was like someone had thrown up a blind I didn't know existed in my perspective of the world and the truth ground itself into my heart. I've never been able to forget it, and I'm pretty sure I've told some of you this story before. It was the first step, the beginning for me realizing that the way I saw the world (in regards to race and racial relations) wasn't necessarily the way the world was.
I can't say I was immediately reformed and aware of what I now know is called my white privilege. But I was starting to realize that I could be wrong about how I saw things and that genuine grievances existed.
Fast forward to last summer and the Liar cover controversy. To be completely honest with you, I was at Comic Con when it all exploded and was only reading tweets and the like and I didn't get it. I think I probably said some stupid things. But when I came home and read the posts in more depth, I realized what the problem was and that yes, it was a problem. And I began to think about the ways in which I myself used race as a basis for discrimination in what I read.
But the thing is...it's possible that none of that would have happened if it hadn't started within the context of a relationship. If I hadn't had a friend who was able to tell me matter of factly and without judgement why I didn't get it. If she hadn't been able to communicate what her daily life was like as opposed to mine. If I hadn't cared first about her.
I watched with interest as a new cover controversy came up this weekend. But I'm sorry to say things have not been as smooth sailing this time. I don't feel like the book blogging community has united. I'm watching instead, a bunch of fingers get pointed. "Why didn't you say something?" or "Why am I wrong for not noticing?" More than ever, we need to love each other. Change does not happen with loudly shouted words. It does not happen with boycotts. (sorry!) It doesn't happen when we turn a blind eye to a truth. It doesn't happen because we have the best most beautiful words to articulate our point. It happens at a restaurant in Las Vegas in a simple conversation. It happens when we open ourselves up to what others are saying. It happens when allow ourselves the possibility of being wrong. It happens when we watch someone we love get grief when they come out, or we let our hearts break over what our choices have cost others.
And I believe with my whole heart that this can happen on blogs. It has happened for me. Shaun opened up my eyes to the ways of nonviolence and social justice. Brant made me realize what the church could be. Ana challenged how I see gender and feminism. Stephen made me realize the little choices I make every day matter. Liz has challenged me again and again on issues of professionalism and ethics. Beth helped me to see that savoring the little moments of life is both beautiful and necessary. Renay helped me see the depth of my white privilege. I am in debt to each of these individuals in ways I feel I can't repay.
And at the end of the day, in one way or another, I never felt disrespected by them, I always felt, in varying degrees, that they cared about me.
But that doesn't mean that I didn't sometimes feel offended or put-off by their posts. It doesn't mean that I didn't feel a flash of anger when I read their words. It doesn't mean that I didn't wrestle with their points for days.
What it means is that the offense was less than what I knew to be true....they wanted to share a perspective with me (well not just me, all their readers but you know what I mean) to make me a better person. They wanted me to dig deeper into how I see the world and why. They wanted me to ask questions of myself, so that the door to change could be opened.
Shame is not an agent of change. Neither is fear. Love is. It is always love. It has always been love.
And now I want to say this openly: to "Susan", Doret, Ari, Ah Yuah, I know that I suffer from white privilege. I know that you deal with this on a daily basis in a way I don't, and I know the pain runs deep. And I know I've seen you around and sometimes we've had some conflict. I want each of you to know that I do respect you, that in fact, I have mad respect for some of you. I want you to know that I will try to do better. In return, I ask that you will give some of my fellow book bloggers the space and grace to be offended. I know that this isn't something you have to do. I know that it isn't something you SHOULD have to do. But I'm asking it anyway because I think, at the end of the day, we all want to see good diverse books published. We want to see a gorgeous array of covers and we want young people, ALL young people to have that moment when they find themselves in the pages of a book, when they see a cover and know that book has a character that shares at least, if nothing else, the color of their skin. And we want to see books published where a young person can see, even though the character's skin color, religion, or sexual orientation is different that they still relate and find that thread that binds us all together. Humanity.
And to all the other bloggers and readers, I ask that you start reading Susan's blog, Ari's blog, Doret's blog, or Ah Yuah's blog. I ask that you seek out books with people of color as characters or maybe more importantly, authors. Again this isn't something you have to do. But I think...I think that if we work just a little harder at loving one another we will make change. But first we need to understand the depth of our white privilege. We need to know that, in fact, our perspectives might be wrong. We need to let ourselves feel offended, but only if we are also willing to realize why we are.
Perhaps this will come across as being too sentimental, I don't know. I only know that I believe the book blogging community is stronger when we're united, when we care about each other, and when we have a common goal. In any case, at the end of the day, I hope you all know that this is written out of my love for you, and if you're offended...I hope you know I'll be waiting for you here as you process it out.
Truly, sincerely, with all my love.
Monday, January 18, 2010
It's possible I might lose friends over this post.