Get updates from Tabulous straight to your inbox! Just enter your email:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Am From Beavercreek.

I only have a couple of minutes, as it is a marker of my privilege that I am going to my daughter's preschool Thanksgiving party today. Writing this will mean I will go in something slightly nicer than pajamas and I will probably not shower, instead of getting ready for the day and looking like a grown-up.

If that is the biggest sacrifice I make, I should call myself pathetic.

I have talked, before about my experiences with race, about how I grew up, how I'm trying to raise my children better.

I want to talk about where I grew up. Where my family still lives. Where I will probably end up living again, as I weather this ending of my nine-year relationship.

I am from Beavercreek, Ohio. My family moved there before I began kindergarten, so somewhere roughly between Kiedis and Tova's ages. I lived in a total of four places while within the city limits -- in two houses, one apartment, and one condo (the last two being after my parents split). Within that time my grandparents moved from a southern suburb to just outside of the city, in a slightly less well-to-do suburb, right on the cusp of the township of the same name. My aunt also moved from a rural area to Beavercreek when she divorced. My cousins go to the same high school I did, and have had some of the same teachers.

They all still live there. I will be seeing them all in a couple of days.

Here is my giant interstitial, as I wrestle with the anxiety writing this creates for me, which I know pales in comparison to anything being written by any person of color out there today, as my life and my fears and how I understand and am able to move through the world pales in comparison. I am white, therefore I have privilege. It took me literal years to see it, and I try to learn from it daily, still.

I have seen a great deal of Facebook posts about the silence of white allies. And that word, allies, strikes a deep chord in me, as a teenager who watched Matthew Sheppard being strung up and left for dead for his differences, his privilege stripped due to loving differently. (I don't even like saying differently anymore; it's just another version of normal, because normal is a social construct and bears no actual weight and has no actual meaning. There's no such thing as normal. There's hegemonic ideals and morals within sub-sects and groupings in society, but "normal" is a fallacy.) I learned about allegiance through the gay rights movement, so that word means things to me as a bisexual woman and a feminist (and please don't conflate those two things, and yes, hi.) 

So I see the call from my Black friends for their white allies to not be silent and I wring my hands because I see them and I hear them and my heart breaks right along with them and I begin to shake and my breath shallows because you see ...

I am from Beavercreek. Where a high school classmate of mine murdered a Black man in the Walmart I bought my first make-up in, whose father was my DARE officer, and with whom I am (at least I was until last night or possibly now, once this posts) Facebook friends, whose wife I spent years in Girl Scouts with. Where the percentage of Black students is less than one percent in the elementary school that I attended and that, with high likelihood, my children will also attend in the near future. Where the dark irony of the fact that one of the junior highs is named Ferguson has never, ever been lost on me in this. Where the people of the city railed against the Dayton public transit system making stops at the dying mall on the north side of town out of such deep-seated systemic racism that the NAACP and the federal highway commission had to step in and check them.

Where my family still lives. Where they are so scared of the world challenging their privilege and their narrow understanding of the world that they stock pile weaponry and call it sport. Where, when they discover that I am on food stamps, they will make jokes about making me pee in a cup and tell me it's okay for now, as long as I don't become dependent on the system, or become "one of those people" who abuses the *privilege* of the social services that I very much pay into through the job I do have and every job I've ever had. Where I will be talked down to, as if I am still a child, because somehow age trumps education and there is no way I can ever, ever be valid or worthy of having my perspective listened to.

Where, within minutes of posting a photo through the #365feministselfie project I'm still limping through, in support of #BlackLivesMatter, this is what I'm met with:

And, worse yet, I expected as much because he can never not take what he sees is bait, can never not fuel his need to prove his righteousness over anyone with a differing opinion. He is a product of his first agent of socialization, as they all are, as I fight so hard not to be.

But that is a conversation for another time.

I wring my hands because this is what I have left of my life, are these people whom I feel are so painfully and terrifyingly misguided ... but who love me despite hating everything I stand for. And whom I love, for being my family despite our differences, and for still supporting me and my children when I've been brave enough to ask.

And I need them, to survive this storm the ending of my marriage has wrought. I cannot simply block or unfriend them as these are offenses punishable by alienation and withdrawal of support (though you can trust I will delete comments, because I cannot tolerate it a moment longer). And they are not the issue themselves, but more indicative of the greater problem that lies within Beavercreek and all of the communities nationwide just like them. And know I have been trying for damn near all of my thirty years to save them from themselves only to my own detriment, to be further ridiculed and belittled and gaslit so thoroughly that I question my sanity, why I let such toxicity into my already unsteady world and break me down, so. This post in and of itself will make my Thanksgiving experience, this first as a single parent, terse and painful at best.

But if that is the greatest sacrifice I make in this, I shall call myself a disgrace.

So please, my friends, do not take my silence as permissiveness. Do not assume I only care when the news is splattered with the blood of another young man -- or worse, child -- so heavily that it is impossible to ignore. I care. I always have. I want to protect your children as much as I want to protect mine and this battle, this battle is one I have been fighting for more years than you can possibly know and it makes me weary and hard and bitter and hopeless.

I know that I am white, and therefore will never completely understand your pain. But I want to try. I want to help make this world better for all of our children. I see this for what it is and I am still trying to figure out what I can do to make a difference, to be a catalyst for that change because this stupid skin has to be good for something more than casual social status. That is the debt I owe the world for the privilege it affords me, for being from Beavercreek and everything that means both literally and figuratively.

Please excuse me if I am slow. I am learning what it feels like to fear for your survival, and that of my children, for speaking up and demanding to be seen as an equal human on this planet worthy of being heard, being seen, and held to be of value. 

And I am so very sorry it has taken me this long to be brave enough to try.