by Judy Helfand
When a new member of Racial Justice Allies asked why there wasn’t more posting on our blog given all that is going on, I replied that we’d been too busy to write. But the question lingered and I reflected more deeply on what I’ve been doing over the past month. Coordinating at-home care for a dying sister-friend by a circle of her friends and family and then her death on November 20 plus the following home vigil certainly occupied much of my emotions and attention. I navigated this major change to my life alongside the presidential election and the explosion of reactions and analysis following.
Being surrounded by so much shock and despair was eerie: what has actually changed? Welcoming the article that described white shock as a micro aggression, I felt less alone, more sure in my perception that what had changed was that many white liberals and even radicals could no longer shelter themselves from the reality of white supremacy in the US. At Racial Justice Allies we received more inquiries about our group and requests to get involved than we normally receive in a year. Our Facebook page climbed to nearly 650 members. Our email list spread notices of new-forming SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) groups and local actions. Meanwhile, as Facebook co-moderator, I found myself searching out writing by people of color on what the election meant to them, on how this event is no anomaly in US history, on how to sustain ourselves spiritually and build community—in short, not alarmist news stories but life-affirming personal narrative and analysis based on experience.
And in my own life I was reading Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, something to put this all in perspective, alongside Citizen: An American Lyric and, for the second time, Between the World and Me, books to open my heart and remember that white supremacy is the air we breath, the water we drink, the warp and weft of the fabric of the United States. The election of Trump does not mark a return to a racist past. It merely continues a racist present. Those of us devoted, for whatever reason, to trying to dismantle white supremacy, need only continue our work and find ways to welcome and educate the newcomers. Those of us who receive white privilege, whether or not we claim to be “white,” must bring this struggle to the center of any social justice work we undertake.
I am so grateful to the many black activists/writers/artists who are sharing their insights and feelings. I am grateful to the group that organized the December 4 Standing Rock Vigil in Santa Rosa with native leadership and requests for prayer and silence during the march. I am grateful to my friend who invited us for misery soup dinner after the election where we sat around the table and looked up nude photos of Melania Trump and welcomed a sex worker to White House (and I do not mean this as a put down but as an acknowledgement). I am grateful to all the women and men in my life who have stepped up to help me understand my own whiteness and wake up from the Dream so carefully described by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
This moment post-election is for me a period for assessing my actions, my commitments, my community, my self-care. I hadn’t seen it as such until I began to work on these reflections. I was aided in the process by the Opportunities for White People document and the latest Deep Times Journal. I’m looking forward to the Racial Justice Allies organizing committee meeting this Sunday where I will meet with friends and comrades to assess and plan and step up for our community of Sonoma County.
Some blogs and online journals I follow
- Feminist Wire
- Black Girl Dangerous
- Aya de Leon
- John S. Blake
- Steve Locke’s Art and Everything After