Noticing

looking photo
Photo by timlewisnm

One of Dr. Eddie Moore’s challenges is to notice the world around you. Ask yourself why you don’t see certain things. A metaphor I heard recently is that for white people, racism is like being a fish in water. You don’t realize you’re swimming in it. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, and I haven’t really watched TV today, but here are the answers to a few of the suggested questions Dr. Moore poses.

What are the last five books you read? What is the racial mix of the authors?

I’m currently reading Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (Black author) and Notes from a Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi (audio) (Black author).

To be honest, what I read and who I read is something I reflect on quite a lot, and if we were not in the midst of a pandemic, I would have chosen a different question for reflection, but I haven’t left the house all day, so I have not interacted in person with many people. I did check in virtually with the Safe Homes crew this evening, and most of the attendees to the virtual drop-in tonight identify as White while two identify as Black.

What are you reading? What were your last five books? Tell me in the comments.

What is the racial mix of people pictured in the photos and artwork in your home? In your friend, family, and colleagues’ homes?

This is easy because I don’t have a lot on my walls, but what I do have are family photographs and one of my own watercolors, so everyone is White. I am not sure about friends’ homes (I haven’t been to many friends’ homes in a while). Family would be the same. Even family who have more art and photographs on the wall, I can just about guarantee no art by Black artists, and no photographs of Black people. I know some friends and colleagues whose homes are different, and those colleagues and friends identify as Black. Honestly, I do love a lot of African-American art, and I have wanted to do more to enliven the walls. Thinking about this has inspired me to do something about it when I get the chance. Feel free to drop some recommendations in the comments.

Notice how much of your day you are speaking about racism. Who are you engaging with on these issues? Who are you not? Why do you think this is?

These days, I am spending a lot of time on Twitter engaging in these issues and talking with my husband. Honestly, I stopped discussing these issues with most family and certain connections (friends might be too strong a word) a long time ago. Why? I sensed nothing would change their minds. I have learned that I really cannot control how others will respond to what I say. It’s possible they won’t change their minds. I can’t control that. What I can control is whether or not I’m silent. I have been working really hard on not being silent over the last couple of years. It is a learned response to trauma. It’s what I did to protect myself. It’s not an excuse so much as an explanation. There is not the same level of threat involved in engaging with people I know agree with me, but it does feel threatening to engage with others. I am working on it. I am making myself respond more. A good case in point is the other day when a person I have known since second grade posted what she thought was a joke on Twitter. I won’t call her out here since I already did it on Facebook, but I didn’t get a response to my comment that her post was interesting and I was curious about her thinking on the topic. But she didn’t unfriend me, so that’s a start, I suppose. A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have engaged at all. I struggle to figure out how to engage, and the best advice I have received so far is to sound curious. Why do you say that? What do you mean by that? Why do you think so? etc. Invite people to explain.

Who are your ten closest friends? What is the racial mix in this group?

This is a weird question for me because I’m not sure if the feelings are mutual. People I might number among my closest friends—would they say I’m one of theirs?

It reminds me of Nellie Bertram from The Office when she says she thinks that she is Jo’s best friend but that Jo is not her best friend.

However, I will be fair and say that among the people I might consider my closest friends—whether they reciprocate those feelings for not—those people are predominantly White, and that is largely because my occupation is predominantly White (and female) and so is the place where I live, though it is more diverse than many nearby towns. I tend to find my friends at work. Aside from work, the only real socializing I do is with Safe Homes.

If I think back to childhood, most of my friends were White. When I was in middle school, I actually remember there was a racial split. We said it was about the kind of music we liked, but it was hard not to notice that most of the kids on one side of the divide were White, while most of the kids on the other were Black.

Obviously, noticing is the first step. After we pay attention and notice things we tend to overlook, we need to take action. I am going to think about my answers to these questions and what I need to change.

What about you?

This post is part of the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge ©.

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