"Protest is exactly what we need."

Ferguson is indeed a microcosm – of all the narratives about race and America that we fear and suppress. Still: it is not enough to say that, yes, of course the promise of justice – the promise of America, of democracy – has failed its black citizens, again. It doesn’t make the disappointment any less disappointing, nor the rage any less real. But it doesn’t make the moment any less mighty either.

Last night after putting my kids down to bed, in between following stories and retweeting voices and listening and shaking my head and feeling angry and heartbroken and frustrated and--unable to find the words to explain to my kids, let alone myself, what was going on--I remembered a confrontation I had with the police when I was 21. It wasn't the first time I got confrontational with the police.  I grew up in a place where they routinely busted us for being out past curfew or for driving with tinted windows or for "listening to music too loud"... but I never felt afraid of them. Or even intimidated--even when, at 21, a SWAT team cuffed me and my friends for "kidnapping" a friend on his birthday. Which we did, but, like, "ha ha, we're going to kidnap you and take you to a nice dinner!" (In the police's defense, we had a pillow case over our friend's head and someone driving by saw, called the cops, and they surrounded us within minutes.)

I was dressed up that night and when the police told me to put my hands up I said, no.

"I didn't do anything. This is insane," I said.

 "GET DOWN!" the policeman said, pulling a gun on me.

"NO! I am not going to lie down in the middle of the road. We did nothing!"

This went on for WAY longer than it should have and, yes, I was an idiot. I was young and fearless and didn't think for a second that anything would happen to me. Because, let's be real, I was a white girl in a party dress in the passenger seat of a BMW.

I knew this inherently, which is why I didn't hold back. I felt violated and frustrated and I told the cop that I WOULD NOT lie down with my face in the road because I WAS INNOCENT AND YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, THIS IS BULLSHIT. As a young white woman, surrounded by officers with drawn guns, I assumed he wouldn't harm me. That was the assumption. That was always the assumption and it still is...

I hadn't thought of that night in a long time. And maybe that story is arbitrary within this context. Or maybe it isn't. The point is, I talked back to an officer of the law and an hour later, I was at dinner. 
I often write about what it's like to be a woman in 2014, but seldom think about what it's like to be a white woman in 2014 -- what it's like to raise a white son and white daughters -- how to broach the subject of race and privilege. I feel like this is a pivotal moment in time -- because we're all here, watching, witnessing, listening and hopefully hearing our sisters and our brothers, doing what we can to fight back, support, learn, elevate--each other and ourselves. Our faces are pressed against the windows and we can't believe what we're seeing. Because WHAT THE FUCK!?

Color blindness used to be the talk of the town. "We're all equal. It doesn't matter what color your skin is, we're all pink on the inside..." Those were the kinds of conversations we grew up having -- in our classrooms and communities. And we all nodded our heads because, of course. It is only now that I realize how detrimental that was--the "we're all equal" talk--especially when coming from white mouths. Because color-blindness is a myth. We see each other's outsides and make judgements based on what we see. And those judgements come from how we're raised, what we've learned to be afraid of based on the media's portrayals--the news, movies...  all of the above.

- Fear is the culprit here.

- Fear is what makes police officers make terrible snap judgement decisions.

- Fear is what makes teenagers lash out at police officers when they feel cornered like animals.

- Fear is what makes many parents (and I am in no way innocent) steer conversations with their (white) kids away from race. Because why bring it up if it isn't an issue? Why bring up consent with young boys who are not yet sexually active? Why bring up any conversation that a child doesn't need to be having? Why break the bubble? 

Because, others... 

If we were only as concerned with other people's children as we are with our own...


A friend texted me last night, asked me how I planned to talk to my kids about Ferguson.

"I don't know," I texted her back. "I'm thinking..."

And then this morning it occurred to me how to explain privilege and what happens when power and fear bleed into each other...

"Elsa," I thought. "Holy shit, ELSA!"

Elsa is a perfect example of what happens when people in power are afraid -- when people with GREAT power they cannot control are afraid.

At the end of "Let it Go," Elsa, flashes us a look and says, "the cold never bothered me anyway."

The thought doesn't even occur to her that the rest of Arendelle is actually very bothered by the cold. Everyone is freezing and the boats can't sail and life is very difficult. But Elsa? She's all good! She has her castle and her freedom and her power and the cold, which doesn't bother her so no worries.

Elsa is the very PERSONIFICATION of what happens when  privilege and fear and power mix. And Elsa is awesome, by the way. She is nuanced and complicated and cares deeply for others, but she is also a human who only knows from her own experience... and that is what makes her so dangerous.

Because SHE's comfortable in the cold. It doesn't bother her so NBD.

Sounds familiar right?

The cold doesn't bother me anyway... 

But the world is frozen. It's frozen because TOO many Elsas are, like, "eh."

And that's where Anna comes in. And yes, they're both white (which in ITSELF should motivate a discussion on the homogeny of characters in film and on TV and how important it is to broaden the strokes -- to include MORE women, more people of color, more mixed race families, friendships... ) but they're also both sisters, their hair being the thing that differs them - white and brown. Elsa is BORN into power based on the privilege that is birth order, not to mention the MAGIC she possesses without knowing quite how to control it. Anna is powerful, too, but hers is not "magic"... it is something that she must cultivate inside herself and build and battle and, yes, protest with... in order to get her sister to HEAR her. She must climb a mountain and SHOUT and FIGHT and almost die... to be heard. She must give her life to save her sister, who has almost KILLED her, by the way, several times. Even though she didn't mean to. Even though it was an accident. 

And maybe this is just me reading into something because, as a parent, I try to find ways to talk about the big issues with my small children--ways that are on their level, that empower them to empower others and look at themselves and the characters they worship with new insight. Because stories and myths are our guides. Because raising ethical people who SEE race AND recognize privilege is one of my goals as a parent and FROZEN has been an incredible tool for me to talk about a gamut of issues with them, so cheers to FROZEN. Truly. 

"You were born an Elsa. And it is important for us to recognize what that power means and WHY the cold, even when it doesn't bother us, bothers OTHERS."

It isn't the perfect analogy by any means, but it's something--when talking about race and Ferguson, immigration and the treatment of Mexican and Central Americans (which is another conversation nobody wants to have) and ANYONE who isn't white and wants to live here.

Fear = denial = silence = looking the other direction. And in those moments where denial spreads and silence permeates and a new view replaces what we all should be watching with open eyes and open minds, together--that's complacency. I don't want to hear this... I don't want to talk about this... I don't want to think about this -- it's too upsetting. I don't want to talk about consent with my sons or race with my black friends... I'd rather just ignore that these are huge DEAFENING problems pervasive everywhere.

Privilege is the bullet proof glass that we, as white people, are born to be surrounded by because of where we come from and how we look. And that is nothing to feel ashamed about -- or guilty for -- but it is something to consider on a daily basis. Because as white people, we don't have to

I will never know what it's like to be in the body of someone who has walked different steps on roads that were less inviting. Ever. All the more reason to keep my face pressed firmly to the window -- and to do what I can to support its eventual cracks. Because change will come. It has to.

How? By talking. By listening. By allowing our children to RECOGNIZE that being the same color INSIDE means nothing in this conversation but where we come from DOES matter. It does. Even if we don't want it to, even when we REFUSE to believe that it does.

The window is large. It's infinite, really, and the more we gaze within its vast expanse, the more we see... not only of ourselves but of everyone around us... behind us, in front of us, to the left and the right...  In the meantime, in the words of Syreeta McFaddem (whose post I excerpted above and below) "Protest is exactly what we need."

I stand with Ferguson tonight -- with the peaceful protestors who have every right to speak and scream and chant and sing and march and write and right. 

I am grateful to live in a time where these conversations are recognized by many parties as mandatory. Where "color blindness" has been replaced with an urgency to see, or at the very least, the collective need to take a closer look...


If you are looking to contribute some positivity to Ferguson, you can donate to the public library, which is open for business. And if you're looking to read some thought-provoking pieces, please read this by Roxane Gay and this by Kristen Howerton and this by Kveller about raising race conscious kids and this by Tristan D. Lalla (via Tracey) and this by Carol Anderson of the Washington Post. Also this John Stewart clip is required viewing. I would also love to add links to the posts that any you have read and been moved by and/or posts that you wrote on your blogs. Thank you in advance. I know that there are so many incredible voices singing their truths and I would love to read them.