The Invisibility of Privilege: Everyday Magic, Day 716

As I read about the Trayvon Martin murder and subsequent trial, I can’t stop thinking about the obvious: the invisibility of privilege, and what it means right now. Yes, I realize that the Florida laws regarding stand your ground are so flawed that some could say the jury had reason to acquit Zimmerman. As Charles M. Blow writes in his excellent column, “The Whole System Failed Trayvon Martin” these laws allow “…an aggressor to claim self-defense in the middle of an altercation — and to use deadly force in that defense — with no culpability for his role in the events that led to that point.”

I also realize that this case itself raises complex questions about the local police department, use of deadly force, ample availability of guns, growing up Black and especially Black and male in America, the legal system, fear of the other, and the real or perceived dangers that fuel overzealous self-protection, and where America truly is and isn’t regarding freedom to all. Yet I also realize that as a white woman with white sons, beyond my empathy, I don’t have to live with the workaday reality is of living at risk because of racism.

What is it to be seen as a threat when you go out to get some candy and soda? What is it to be the mother or father of someone who faces such a threat? What does this moment in history call on us to do, especially those like me who have it relatively easy because of the color of our skin, when it comes to truly seeing what’s happening and acting for justice? The writing that catches my heart the most lately speaks directly to these questions: a moving post by a young black man, Wesley Hall, about how he used to think his parents overestimated the dangers he faced as a young black man but now appreciates what his parents conveyed to him, and how “….they managed to teach us not to allow this country to fill us with fear, while simultaneously not allowing it to rob us of our vigilance.” Or my colleague Sarah Bobrow-Williams, who, as the white mother of mixed-race children, writes:

I understand that perhaps the most helpful thing I can do for the family of Trayvon Martin and for my country is to be willing to stand up and to say that this white American citizen is not blinded by her privilege, that I understand that in acquitting George Zimmerman we have further restricted the freedom and assaulted the dignity of every African American and US citizen of color; that I understand that this country will never live up to its promise of democracy until all of us are free.

Greg Greenway, one of my favorite singer-songwriters, wrote in his song “A Road Worth Walking Down,” the lines, “I wonder, my heart is so blinded/ I won’t know it when I’ve found/ a road worth walking down.” He once told me that when he wrote these lines, called by realizing the part his white privilege plays in racism, he realized that once you see one thing you’re blind to, you can ask yourself what else you’re blind to in this world. So that’s what I’m doing lately, hoping that many of us doing the same can make the difference so desperately needed in this country.

Holiday Gifts For the Heart & Soul: Everyday Magic, Day 461

I believe in giving gifts whenever the spirit moves us as well as giving ourselves whatever gifts feed our souls and lift us up to live out our callings. In this tune, I want to recommend these possibilities for you to give others and/or give yourself, all of which are home-grown (benefiting the 99% and not just the 1%) and offered by people I believe in.

  • Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves & Others, an online class with Sharon Bray: Sharon is fabulous at helping people connect with their deepest truths, and she’s very experienced at offering superb online classes. She writes of this one, “What is the story you want to tell? In ‘Writing as a Way of Healing: Ourselves and Others,’ we begin with you. Your experience. Your story. We will work together to create a virtual community that has as its ground rules an atmosphere of safety, support and mutual respect, one that allows you to write authentically and deeply from painful life experiences. In this way, we will experience and model the ways in which writing can be healing, for ourselves and for others.” This class is offered by the Transformative Language Arts Network.
  • The Music of Kelley Hunt, Greg Greenway, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Leonard Cohen, and Others: Music keeps speaking through us and to us, and a gift of music goes, like the song, on and on and on. These are some of my favorites, but feel free to ask people around you who their favorites are, and then investigate! Also, Kelley has an amazing New Year’s Eve Eve concert coming up on 12/30.
  • Great Books!: I recommend these books I’ve read in the last year and loved: Chris Offutt’s The Same River Twice, Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa, Harriet Lerner’s The Marriage Rules, Betsy Sholl’s Rough Cradle, Katherine Towler’s Island Light, Dick Allen’s Present Vanishing, two anthologies I edited (so of course I love these poems!) — Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and An Endless Skyway: Poetry from the State Poets Laureate, Stephanie Sandmeyer’s Broken for You, and anything by Pema Chodron.
  • Solitude & Beauty: Consider a retreat, particularly in Kansas at Shantivanam, a beautiful center just an hour from Kansas City or Lawrence. It’s a great way to recharge and relax.
  • Brave Voice: Writing & Singing For Your Life: This six-day retreat I offer with Kelley Hunt is all about recovering and celebrating your creative spirit. Past participants have gone on to write and publish books, release CDs, perform and read, and most of all, make enduring community with others who support their art and share the riches of their voice and vision. We have a solstice sale — $60 off if registered by 12/21 — here.