Confessions of a Liberal White Woman
I stay informed.
I was part of the Women's March in 2016.
I send messages to our representatives on issues that are important to me.
I give money to political campaigns and causes I support.
I bring my own bags to the grocery store (when I remember them).
Why do I have a nagging feeling isn’t enough? Most women I know feel like they are falling short in one or more areas of their lives. This one, we’ll call it “Making the world a better place,” has been an area where I always feel discontent. When I start to look at options for getting involved, or more volunteering, my pattern is to get excited, then quickly get overwhelmed. After all, there is life, kids, a husband, friends, my business, my studies… so many things to think about.
But that nagging feeling persists. So I am faced with a choice. Either pretend I don’t know better, or step up to the plate and take action. But then, what action?
Through the example of some spiritual leaders I admire, I’ve been drawn to following, reading, and watching more women of color. I realize more than ever what bubble I live in. I realize what an incredible privilege it is for me to keep issues of race, poverty, ethnicity, and sexism at arm’s length.
I have been asleep, and when I begin to stir, my country and culture pat my head, tell me to hush, and assure me that everything is ok; to let the grown-ups handle it.
In the past year I’ve done some research on my father’s ancestry, as part of a book I’m making in his memory (he passed away in 2011). I have wrestled with competing ideas of my ancestors. One story (the one I’ve been told) portals them as salt-of-the-earth, hardworking, god-fearing simple folk. Another portrays slave owners, Confederate soldiers, and poor whites in the South, undoubtedly benefiting from and supporting the system of white supremacy.
This is where the real work starts. There are truths in the past and present that need to be acknowledged, absorbed, and understood.
There will be no absolution. I won't be awarded a medal, designating me a Good White Person. But there may be freedom in truth, bit by bit, word by word, as I wrestle with these facts of the past, and take power in determining my future.
This will be lifelong work, rather than a checklist to complete. I must seek out perspectives different from those I have always known, even if they make me uncomfortable at first. I recently read a line in a book by James Lester, where he notes, “More recently I’ve been telling friends I want to learn to see.”
I need to risk my own preconceived notions and understanding and seek out perspectives, teachers, and voices different than those I’ve heard all my life. I need to work through any discomfort that arises in this process and keep going. There is healing to be done, for myself and my ancestors.
I must learn to see.
Just a few of the sources that I have found helpful on my quest, thus far, include: