#issue 86 - the one in response to "this is not America"
Kate Slater on why this is exactly why this is how America has been
I had a different guest editor post drafted when I originally volunteered to write this, but after the events of the past two weeks (an attempted government coup, an impeachment), I would be remiss if I didn’t amend what I wanted to say.
What has struck me, more than anything else in this absolute clusterf*ck of a year so far, is the people who have said “I don’t understand. This is not America.” It is not an accident that the vast, vast majority of these folks are White people. So, if it’s okay, I’m going to address the majority of this post to them - to us.
Among my roles, I teach an undergraduate course on the history of race and racism in this country. And from that critical lens, let me say, unequivocally: yes, this is America. This has always been America. America has always been a nation divided - a country where its founding principles are at odds with its reality and its legacy. Thomas Jefferson penned the immortal words of the Declaration of Independence in a Philadelphia boardinghouse while his enslaved Black brother-in-law attended to him. Jefferson knew when he wrote those words that they only applied to a select group of Americans. This hypocrisy is the backbone of this country. That’s the irony of “Make America Great Again”. Were we ever great? How could we be if we have yet to reckon with the lies that undergird us? How could we be if we have yet to reckon with the racialized violence, oppression, and death that we enact and perpetuate?
On one hand, we have an America where a Black Democratic pastor and a millennial Jewish Democratic journalist could unseat decades of Republican leadership in the Deep South. On the other hand, we have an America where members of our law enforcement (whose salaries are paid by our taxes) were among the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6th. On one hand, we have millions of people who are cheering on and supporting Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams and the collective labor of BIPOC individuals to get out of the vote, and on the other hand, we have millions of people who voted for a second term for a violent, White supremacist former president. These two truths exist at the same time. This is America.
If the events of January 6th- an insurrection enacted by white supremacist terrorists- shocked you and suprised you and lead you to utter the words “This is not who we are”, I am asking you to sit with this thought: what has allowed you to believe this is not who we are? What stories have you told yourself about your world, about our shared world, that have insulated your belief that this is not who we are? And moreso, why is this moment the moment when you sit up and pay attention, especially after the past seven months of nearly-daily peaceful protests for racial justice?
When I think of 2020, the word that rings in my head like a bell is reckoning. I am not the first person who has referred to this past year as a racial reckoning. We as White people have to contend with white supremacy; how we have been complicit in it and how we have condoned it. We as White people have to recognize the direct connection between our lack of actions and accountability and the allowing of the storming of the Capitol. White supremacy does not just exist in its most extreme forms. It is perpetuated in every workplace microaggression, in every family conversation where your racist grandmother rants unchecked. It is perpetuated every time we say that we’ll read that article “tomorrow”. It is perpetuated every time we as White people feign outrage at national events, but refuse to see how we enact the same racialized violence in our own circles.
After this summer, many of my White friends promised to “do better”.... but what does “do better” actually mean? That’s what I’ve been noodling over, especially in these first few weeks of 2021. How can we- I- we do better? How can we further a movement for liberation? How do we show up in 2021, amidst a still-raging pandemic, in the rubble of a divided country? How do we White people stay committed, keep the fires in our belly, when the actual evil genius of racism is that we are so comfortable in our ignorance and in our privilege? How do we reckon with the forces that have allowed us to pretend this isn’t our America?
This led my colleague, Mira Stern (follow her at @itsmirastern!) and I to co-create the 2021 Anti-Racist Roadmap, a comprehensive resource to help guide you in your racial justice work. The roadmap asks you to go beyond reading and listening. It links education with action. It prompts you to reflect on five key impact areas and how you can affect change in these areas. The roadmap also asks you to think about the communities to whom you are accountable, and the communities that keep you accountable. I hope many of you will use this resource to think more expansively about your impact in creating a more just world. You can access the Anti-Racist Roadmap PDF at https://kateaslater.com/antiracist-roadmap .
If 2020 was a year of racial reckoning, I hope that 2021 is a year of racial revolution. I hope that all of you figure out what “do better” means to you. I wish you bravery in your risk-taking. I wish you honest conversations that you’ve long put off. I wish for you an awakening, over and over and over again. And most of all, I wish that in the future far-off days of December 2021, when you’re reflecting on this year, you have an answer for what “doing better” means.
Keep fighting. Keep holding your communities (and yourselves!) accountable. Do the work.
What we read this week
I'm currently re-reading Big Friendship in between packing up my NYC apartment and prepare for a big move at the end of the month. As I dismantle the home I've known for the last 10 years, I am in awe of all of the different kinds of friendship that were forged, broken and repaired in this incredible place I've had the privilege of calling my home.
After binging the Bridgerton Netflix series, I needed MORE! Luckily, there are 7 delightful books that keep the family drama going!
I'm late to the party on reading Where'd You Go Bernadette, now a major motion picture starring Cate Blanchett and Kristen Wiig, but this was honestly just SUCH a delight. If you need a little escape from, you know, EVERYTHING right now, this should do the trick.
Gingerbread is like South American magical realism (think Isabel Allende or Gabriel Garcia Marquez) set against the backdrop of modern Europe/England and with reference to European fairy tales that are likely very familiar to most American readers. It was recommended by one of my favorite independent bookshops and I picked it up even though it was a little bit of a departure for me. If you have ever read and liked something like Allende's The House of the Spirits, I think you will enjoy this.
We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry was one of the most fun books I’ve read this year. It’s set in Danvers, MA, a mere ten miles from my home, and the site of the original 1692 Salem Witch Trials, and it follows the 1989 Danvers High School Field Hockey Team in their quest for state championship glory. As the stakes get higher, the team begins to dabble in the occult in order to ensure their victory. The writing is such a trip, and the early-90’s nostalgia (hairspray! the mall! remember malls!?) is palpable.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Yes, sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, but also an achingly poignant and beautifully rendered love story of two bandmates from an infamous 1970s group- a classic “will they or won’t they?” This recommendation was part of @thetoreadlistpodcast’s 2020 book club, and my god, I was absolutely captivated. I whaled through the audiobook in three days while I was repainting the upstairs bedrooms, and I finished the final chapter sobbing uncontrollably and dripping giant splotches of Benjamin Moore’s “Soothing Aloe” all over the floor.
The Top 5
Nancy Mace’s first 100 hours in Congress: threats, violence and challenging Trump (The Post and Courier)
The Women Making Conspiracy TheoriesBeautiful (The Atlantic)
8 Ways To Brighten Someone’s Day During A Pandemic (Wit &Delight)
The Catch Up
‘It Was No Accident’ (The Cut)
Big Tech's free speech showdown (Axios)
Vogue got too familiar, too fast (Washington Post)
This California City Just Ended Homelessness (Fast Company)
How Lawmakers Failed Jacob Blake (Mother Jones)
The Otherworldly Comedy of Julio Torres (The New Yorker)
5 New Year’s Resolutions You Can Make For Your Dog (Apartment Therapy)
Let America Be America Again (Poets.Org)
6Things Millennials Have In Common With Dr.Frasier Crane (The New Yorker)
Things we love this week
I LOVE good stationary and nobody does stationary better than Japan. Muji's 0.38mm pens are the only pens I buy for myself.
Recently picked up this candle from P.F. Candle Co., a new to me company which happens to be local! It smells amazing and can't wait to pick up a few more.
Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer. So, Caroline Moss of @geethanksjustboughtitpod has been extolling the virtues of Olay Regenerist, and I trust everything Caroline tells me. After Jolie (of @anxietymarketplace- a FAVORITE for secondhand shopping) sent me a jar of this manna in a care package, I’ve been hooked. This is the only thing that’s keeping my maskne at bay, and my skin looks as supple as my toddler’s.
Big, chunky colorful earrings. If you want to up your Zoom game, giant earrings are the way to go. Three of my favorite BIPOC jewelry creators are Sweet Nothings by Tanisha, ABCrete & Co. and Sol y Soul Creations.
Mebbay Clear Acrylic Shelf Dividers. My husband likes sweaters. A lot. He’s a sailor, and as he reminded me not five minutes ago, “Wool still retains heat when it’s wet, dear”. The end result, however, is that our shared closet looks like a trash heap. These shelf dividers changed everything. Now, there are few things that give me as much joy as opening my closet to a well-organized stack of sweaters (hey, I’m letting my freak flag fly).
Take care of yourself, and please share #5SmartReads if you’re enjoying them!