Where Has All the Empathy Gone?

I read an Instagram post earlier today about white people’s complicity in white supremacy and inherent racism. Below is an excerpt of one of the comments.

[The post has since been removed by IG because it “doesn’t follow their Community Guidelines on hate speech or symbols,” a common experience for People of Color posting on IG about white supremacy or their lived experiences of racism]:

“Black and POC folks will spend the majority of their fucking lives unlearning self-hatred, assimilation habits, and the like. And we will have to continue to work to deal with the issues we face every fucking day! Do not think for a second that you will unlearn white supremecy in a less amount of time!”

It occurred to me after the part about “unlearning self-hatred…” that there must be some common ground here, right? Like, I spent the better part of my life hating myself for being dark, hating my eyes for not being light, hating my hair for being so frizzy and fluffy and not “sun-kissed.”

I spent much of my life hating my culture (for making me so not white), hating that I wasn’t articulate enough for white people at work to pay attention/listen to me (which I worked really hard to rectify), fearing the judgment that would come from eating something “too ethic” or saying something “obviously ignorant” when both were simply expressions of my cultural identity.

I have to imagine these experiences are not completely foreign to white people.

Yes, I’m listing extreme experiences and yes our experiences will have been different, and yes a white person’s experiences in the Western world are made easier by the White Gaze ever resting upon them to remind them they are still and always most important in this world … but aren’t there similarities, too?

The feelings of not being good enough/good looking enough/beautiful enough? Not being heard or understood and feeling like it’s your fault? Feeling the anxiety and apprehension of being the different one in a group of people, for any reason?

Yes, the demeaning, belittling, spirit-fracturing experiences of people of color in a white supremacist world are magnified and multiplied, but, if you are a white person reading this, can’t you at least imagine? Empathize? If given only a drop, can you not at least taste the ocean?

So it gives me such great pause when I’m forced to consider how deep the blindness and brainwashing must go in someone’s mind to render People of Color as subhuman. Less. Than. Human. And, as such, unworthy/undeserving of the most basic care and respect. Living lives so devoid of feeling or significance that, compared to a white person’s life, ours matter not at all. Our voices matter not at all. Our experiences matter not at all. Our bodies, our families, matter not at all.

Clearly, people of color have struggles. But also, white people – you have yours. I don’t know how deep your racism runs, but if it’s rendered entire groups of people, entire cultures that have been around for thousands of years, entire continents of people of color as SUBHUMAN…if you’ve lost that much of your humanity, you’ve got your own struggles and you have a whole lot of work to do.


On Tenderness

I would never call myself a tender person. Ever. I can’t recall a time in my life when I could have been described as tender. Gentle, perhaps. Kind, maybe. But tender …

Tenderness contains clear connotations of softness, lightness, and depths of sensitivity as yet untouched by me. It implies an absence of rough edges and sharp corners and hardness, all of which I carry in abundance in my soul.

How does one reach tenderness when it lies beyond such a harsh environment? Better to leave it alone, untouched, unexplored. Better to not reach so deep for something I have yet to find necessary or useful.

Until now.

It seems that when I had my daughter, she popped up on the other side of my hardness and sharpness in the sweet, flower-filled field of lavender tenderness. For the last four weeks she’s invited me, called to me, and ultimately demanded me to reach beyond all I dislike about myself in order to meet her there.

To do so, I’ve had to put down plenty of fear, anger, guilt, frustration, worry, self-doubt … baggage too heavy to make the journey to tenderness where the new young soul of my infant basks in the untainted sun. The journey isn’t easy. The terrain is ever-changing. Just when I think I’ve conquered one dark thought, another pops out from around the corner like the nightmare version of whack-a-mole.

But do I have a choice? Don’t I want to see my daughter for who she is, not who I see through my broken and wounded glasses? Isn’t she worth it, to meet her in all her divinity, her pristine, youthful beauty? She’s tiny and intelligent, aware and opinionated … a small but fully-fledged human being who deserves my respect, my love, and all the best of me.

Yet all she asks is a little tenderness. I’m proud to say … I’m doing my best.

On Being a Provider

heart in handsI recently gave birth at home to an 8lb 6oz baby girl who slipped eagerly into her papa’s hands as soon as she emerged into the world.

As the main income generator of our now 3-person household, I’m used to the idea of being the “provider” … the one who makes the money, pays the bills, brings home the bacon, etc. When I began breastfeeding it occurred to me that I’ve become a provider in a different way. I was literally built (or made, or born) to provide for this child by creating her most perfect food, something precisely calibrated for her needs, her immune system, and the growth and nourishment of her magnificent body and brain. I take great pride in this ability, as a woman and as a mother. How amazing are our bodies!? How magical this relationship we can have with our children!

But when the night came that, for various reasons, she refused both breasts over and over and hubby had to bottle feed her, my hidden feelings of inadequacy … uselessness … and helplessness relentlessly took hold. I felt broken, the wholeness of me reduced to a defect, a failure. This ability of mine to create and provide my child’s most perfect food had failed me. No, I had failed her. And it was an all-consuming failure.

Through no fault of my own, sure. And she WAS still drinking breast milk from the bottle, yes. But the thing about how my brain works, this brain with its depressive tendencies and dark, dark, scary corners I try to stay out of … the thing about this brain is that it’s blind to my many successes but quick to point out failures in their slightest forms.

Add to that the incorrect assumption that I AM what I DO, suddenly one tiny incident turns into a horrible declaration in my mind which screams, “I cannot breastfeed, therefore I am not a good provider … or a good mother. I AM a failure.”

It took me hours to call out all the fallacies that led me down this dark mental path into the sobbing, whimpering shell of a woman I became that night, to tear myself away from their cruel and bloody hold on me. Later, when the daylight came to scare away my darkest thoughts, I remembered … I can still provide love. And care. And compassion. And patience. And appreciation. To myself as well as to my daughter. I am still a provider. I am still a mother. Someday, I might even declare myself a good one.

Until then, I’m reminded of hubby’s kind and constant words … I am not alone as a provider, or a parent. We’re a team. We’re doing this together, tackling every strange and challenging moment that arises as it comes.

I had no idea my greatest challenge as a new parent would be the fight with my own demons. I should’ve known.