In Which I Seek Water

“Now is the time for you to be listening more, talking less, spend time observing, taking in media and art created by people of color, researching, and unlearning the things you have been taught about this country. You should be reading our books and understanding the roots of racism and white supremacy. Listening to our speeches.

You should be drowning yourselves in our poetry.”

-ShiShi Rose:

Black Lives Matter first scared the hell out of me in 2012. While I knew I should be trying to understand what was happening, I didn’t have the courage to try hard. It should not have taken me five years to start actively unlearning the things I have been taught about this country. Hell, it shouldn’t have taken Black Lives Matter to tell me there was unlearning to do in the first place.

Nevertheless, here we are. Donald Trump has been elected, Steve Bannon is on the National Security Council, Jeff Sessions is in the Justice Department, and I am a white citizen of the United States who heard ShiShi Rose. This year, I am taking in media and art created by and starring people of color.

Here is what I’ve loved most so far:

Luke Cage

 It seems silly to say I loved a show about superheroes, but god, I did. It shouldn’t be so new and glorious to see great representations of men and women of color. My hope is that this, and other things like it, work on my unconscious bias while I’m focused on other things. Like action sequences. And great music.

 The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander) + The Corner (David Simon and Edward Burns)

I know the authors of The Corner are white. If there’s another good look at a similar place that’s written by non-white people, please tell me so and I’ll read it next. The New Jim Crow blew the top of my head off.

I also read Between the World and Me, and while I cannot say I was comfortable with it, it’s one of maybe 10 books I’ve kept out of boxes in the move so I can go back to it again and again. As a white person I am accustomed to being the center of things, or at least to being overtly addressed, but Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote this for his son. He didn’t seem to consider me at all. This confounds me. I believe that’s to the good.

I’ve asked trusted friends for recommendations. Here’s my current list:

We Should All Be Feminists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)

Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)

The Sellout (Paul Beatty)

Boy, Snow, Bird (Helen Oyeyemi)

And After Many Days (Jowhor Ile)

Negroland (Margo Jefferson)

How Should a Person Be? (Sheila Heti)

This Bridge Called My Back (Cherríe Moraga, Gloria Anzaldúa)

I have also discovered Powell’s Black Lives Matter Recommended Reading list, which you can find here:

What about you? What are you reading? What are you watching? I am a neeeewb, y’all. No suggestion is too remedial. I’ve missed a lot of TV, but if it’s on Netflix or if it’s worth tracking down someone with On Demand capabilities, lemme know.

Also, obviously, I have no poetry on my list. Please fix that for me.

Thanks and love,



3 thoughts on “In Which I Seek Water

  1. Oh, my gosh.

    The last two weeks especially, I’ve felt a little quieter. The best I can figure, I’ve reached the point of knowing enough to be able to listen more and speak less … exactly as you said. It’s not that I won’t speak, because I believe we need to engage and work with material to actually understand it, versus only listening. Now that I’ve engaged enough, I’m closer to understanding the enormity of power and justice imbalances here. To go further now, I must listen more between speaking.

    I have one post brewing. I’ve known it was brewing for days, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was until last night, when its various pieces started coming together. I’ll probably start writing it next weekend, knowing as I do it will hopefully soon enough be a relic of an older period in my personal political growth. I have a little more listening to do.

    I’m only about thirty pages into From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Revolution by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, the final speaker in the podcast I messaged you. I’m trying not to be annoyed with my life that I have to, y’know, do non-reading stuff in between busts of reading … but, man, do I wish I could just read straight through. (Probably better absorbed in digestable bits though, huh?)

    I love that you’re reading and asking and listening. So many people say, “You haven’t found just the right words to persuade me!” Holy crap! People have been shouting about injustice for decades. They’ve whispered, and cried, and murmured, and talked, and roared. So if someone is, at this point, saying the reason they don’t understand is that one blogger didn’t make a strong enough case? I despair that they will ever introspect enough to understand how their demands for “better, kinder words” while retaining what the believe is neutrality … is really siding with the powerful, as folks like Tutu and King, Jr. have been trying to tell us for years. To demand the powerless find just the right words–to pierce through someone else’s denial–is to say, “I’ll just stick with power for now.”

    But, hey. I’m getting ahead of myself! Still lots to consider before I can hope to express any of this well.

    Love you. Love that you’re seeking. It’s not fun and it doesn’t feel good, but it’s critical for a world in which more people get to feel anything like good.



    1. All my love to you, my dear. And SO much agreement about tone policing. Just … shut it, y’all. It is not the job of oppressed people to be super super nice so we like them enough to work for their freedom. It is the job of people with power to work for the freedom of everyone, period, regardless of whether each individual oppressed person individually passes our Sweet Enough tests.

      I figure there are different amounts of talking appropriate for different contexts. When another straight cis white person says something busted, then I’m in a uniquely powerful position to respond to that without fear of, you know, death, so that’s a good time to talk. On the other hand: there’s so much I need to learn about what life is like for people who aren’t straightciswhite. Times when I can read or watch things alone are times I am now planning to turn to Project Poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

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