Mothers, Memoirs and White Supremacy
I'm in a season where I am being stretched. I guess that is to be expected as we learn to navigate a pandemic and all it means for each of us. I've been reading a lot. And I've recorded a few podcast episodes of a new series for Reframe Your Life. Author and writing coach Patti M Hall and I have teamed up to bring you twelve episodes where we interview women writers about their books and lives. I've already been inspired by the stories and I am grateful I can bring you this content. Each of the women we interview has a powerful story of personal change and transformation.
We kicked off the series close to home. Patti's own memoir, Loving Large, was released this month. We were both in tears in this interview. Her life was changed dramatically when her son was diagnosed with the rare disease gigantism at sixteen. You will find more details and a link to the episode at the bottom of this email.
I love memoir. It is my favourite genre. A theme I have discovered both in memoirs I have read and also in the stories I have heard is that we reach a decision point or crisis where we recognize that life something has changed for us.
It is often a solitary moment and it usually involves the loss of life as we knew it. There is frequently a moment where we need to stop worrying about what other people are thinking and choose how we will navigate our new reality. (Hmm...sounds like life right now.)
I know I’ve experienced this in my own life. The beautiful part of each story is that the transformation that comes through the pain and suffering is so rich that given the opportunity to go back to who we were, most of us would choose to be the new version of ourselves. (That realization often comes much later - not in the middle of the story.)
As I’ve been writing my own story I can see defining moments where I had to choose between my need to be liked and my need for truth. Ultimately I chose truth. It cost me something and helped me recognize that people-pleasing was so deeply ingrained in me that it was holding me back.
Facing the truth often meant looking at ways I avoided taking responsibility in my life. I would minimize the importance of a situation because it didn’t impact me personally. When I went to a church that didn’t support women in leadership I would say that I wasn’t being held back because I didn’t aspire to serve in a leadership capacity. I felt smug in my belief that I would speak up if the situation impacted me personally. Of course now, in hindsight, I see that was a very flawed way of thinking.
This past week I found myself at another juncture. I’ve been horrified by the Ahmaud Arbery shooting in Georgia. I watched the news and read many of the stories being shared on Instagram. I wondered if I could make a donation in his name to an organization working against racism. I ‘liked’ posts from people who were writing and running to create awareness and support his family.
I didn’t post about it. I didn’t write about it. I don’t know if I talked to anyone outside my four walls about it. I told myself that as a white woman it isn’t my place to say anything. I let my fear of saying the wrong thing hold me back. It was easy to see it as an “American problem.” I wondered why other people weren’t doing more.
Here is the truth. We are the other people. We are the ones who need to say something. We are the ones who need to step up even if we don’t believe we are personally impacted by racism and discrimination. We are connected. What impacts any of us, in some way impacts the rest of us. If we have eyes to see.
This week I started a twenty-eight-day challenge in the form of a book called, “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad. You can view her website here. I’ve been following her on Instagram for some time. Each day I will read and journal through questions to help me understand the privilege I have as a white woman. It’s not enough for me to say, “I’m not racist.”
Just like men don’t see the privilege they have in a patriarchal culture I don’t see the privilege I experience as a white woman. I have never had to worry about my son being short when he goes out for a run. I’ve never had to sit down with my kids and tell them that because of the colour of their skin they need to be cautious. I want to be honest in this area of my life. I can't say, 'it doesn't matter to me because it doesn't impact me."
It's my deep desire that we live truthfully and that means facing the reality of the systems we live and benefit from. We need to become aware and take action. Our united voices as women have power. Feel free to email me your thoughts.