Yes, I know.
We all have US Midterm Elections emotional hangovers this week, and maybe you don’t want to hear anything more about it for a few days. It’s OK. I get it. It was a lot to take in and you are allowed to take a break from all of it.
But before you do, I want to share with you something that happened in my world post-election coverage.
Today, I had to call someone IN.
What the heck does that mean, you ask?
You are likely very familiar with what calling someone out means, i.e., the public shaming often done via social media to someone for their behaviour or words or actions that hurt others. A call-out can be necessary at times, but, in my opinion, is not always the best way to get someone to change their behaviour or to see the error of their ways.
Calling someone IN, on the other hand, is done from a place of love, from a place of wanting the best for this other person and it is asking for them to sit back and reconsider how their words or actions affect others.
I prefer to work from a CALL-IN frame of mind when I can.
Back to the elections.
The numbers coming from Texas Tuesday night in the Senate race between Beto O’Roorke and Ted Cruz were especially disheartening. As we all know, Beto lost and this was a big blow to many people, some whom I know personally and were on the campaign trail with him. I posted this status on FB before I collapsed into bed with post-election-viewing-exhaustion.
What's on my mind Facebook?
59% of white women in Texas. That's what's on my mind! And OH. MY. GOD. do I ever want to give every single effing one of them a giant piece of my mind!!
Below is the updated graph and breakdown of how folks voted in Texas. And yes, I know it isn’t just white women, but for today’s lesson, let’s pretend it is. (‘Cause, IT IS!)
I went to sleep and when I woke up Wednesday, I checked my FB notifications. Yes, yes, I know, terrible habit to have first thing in the morning, but whatever…
And I saw it.
And I cringed.
I knew what I had to do.
But I avoided doing it right that moment. It was uncomfortable, I didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings first thing in the morning, I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it.
I put my phone down and went and had a shower and got dressed and made the kids lunches and then drove them the 2 minutes to school because for some reason snow pants INSIDE the backpack makes so much more sense to tween-agers than on your actual body when it’s -14 degrees outside.
When I came back and had made my coffee and reopened Facebook to try to figure out how to address this comment, a WOC had done what I didn’t (have the guts to) do earlier and had already called out the hashtagger. The exchange had started to get ugly as these things often do in the impersonal world that is FB.
I don’t want to mention names, because they don’t matter to the grander conversation. What I want to do is point out are the key take-aways from this exchange, that happened both in public and via private message, in the hopes that going forward, we can all be better at Calling In our people when they err, and also at understanding why we feel so personally attacked when we are called out.
First point: ANY iteration of the #notall hashtag (#notallmen, #notallwhitewomen, or the ever popular #alllivesmatter) is hurtful and not at all helpful. It is the equivalent to pulling out your DIVERSITY BINGO CARD and waving it around screaming, “Look at me, I’m one of the good ones!”. And in case you think I am being preachy, let me tell you, I did this once and OOOOOWWEEEEE, did I ever get called out! So, yes, I know first hand that it doesn’t feel good to be told that you are actually not the special unicorn you think you are because you did the most basic/decent thing.
Point two: Instead of the knee jerk reaction of pointing out how YOU didn’t do “the bad thing” and are therefore not to blame, this is the moment to sit down and think about WHY so many people who look like you DID do “the bad thing” and try to figure out what to do about that. If you aren’t part of the 61% of women who voted for Cruz, good on you, just don’t expect special cookies for your vote for Beto. (Although, I bet he would probably give you a cookie - because he’s that GOOD!)
HEAR ME MY FELLOW PROGRESSIVE WHITE WOMEN, it is up to us to realize that even if we are not part of the subset of our group that is being criticized, in this instance (and many, MANY others), the white women who voted for the white man who is actively working to HURT so many people, we don’t get to point this out. The people being hurt do not need to hear this and see us patting ourselves on our own backs. What they need is for us to put on our big girl pants, and possibly some safety gear, and dive into the shitty mess of all these other white women and try our best to pull them out of the literal poop they are swimming in.
When I took this particular convo with my friend offline and into private message, she expressed how, as a white women, it is so frustrating to feel as if she can’t be mad too, or can be blamed for the actions/inactions of others. She was upset because she felt that framed that way it all feels hopeless, and no matter what white women do, it will never be enough.
I think we both had an #AHAmoment then and realized that THESE FEELINGS RIGHT HERE, are EXACTLY what is meant by the term white fragility. It’s not comfortable. It makes us feel ICKY. It’s not easy to acknowledge that we have benefited from the white supremacist patriarchal system that upholds our whiteness above all else.
No one likes to feel icky.
For those of us who want to see REAL CHANGE in our world, we need to come to terms with this as our new normal. These uncomfortable icky feelings. We have to GET comfortable with them. Or at the very least, get to the point where we recognize them for what they are. And yeah, truth be told, it may NEVER be enough to make up for everything that has been done in the name of whiteness.
For my part, it also means we deal with this stuff as soon as we see it. I messed up in this situation by letting a WOC start a conversation I knew I needed to and I own that mistake. I want to apologize to her and to so many WOC who do this on the regular for white women.
POINT THREE: NONE OF THIS MEANS WE GET TO SIT BACK AND GIVE UP EITHER.
It means we suit up and get ready for a long swim in the poop-water.
We’ve got a lot of sister-collecting to do WHITE LADIES!