This beauty has been making the rounds on social media (which I’m trying to limit my time on, but you know how it is). I love it and have so much respect for the bravery of author/hiker Rahawa Haile naming all the things to fellow (white) hikers as she makes her way. A quote that struck me:
When was the last time you saw yourself at your best? When did you last wish you could? I can’t tell you my last time. What I know is that I moved to New York City in 2008 at the start of the recession, and after a few years a vanishing began. That’s how it goes. You stop being yourself without even knowing it. You withdraw. You retreat like a glacier, slowly, until people wonder if there was ever anything more to their memory of you than an inconvenient pile of rocks. You tell yourself things will get better until there’s barely anything left to remind. And then you decide what you can still fight for.
Active literary citizenship can take many forms, particularly during times of transition. There’s more to writers than writing and more to readers than reading; you are not your byline.
I said to a friend, after reading this last week, I’ve grappled with the fact that many black writers have captured experiences of “in-betweenity” and erasure in a way that resonates for me, deaf in a hearing family and hearing world. Why do I grapple? Because I’m white and it’s such a common and lazy trope to cherrypick the experiences of people of colour and wrap them up around white and middle class (in my case) experience. And yet, it’s true. Living in a dinky small farming town/bedroom community (yeah it was confusing but there we are), I knew few kids or adults, other than old folks, who were “like me.” Stories of erasure, in-betweenity, and hybridity opened a door for me. Of course I realized a long time ago, as an adult, I have far more in common with other white people because of the privileges our shared skin accords us, without our even knowing. What I love about Haile’s article is how familiar and unfamiliar it is. I’ve spent the last few years unraveling a functioning (and sometimes nonfunctioning) depression related to sensations much like she describes in the above quote. I’m fighting that vanishing. It’s not easy. But I need to.
In fighting that vanishing, I’m compelled to think about my responsibility to resist the erasure of people “not like me” – solidarity rather than unity. The strength that it takes not to vanish because it often feels like it would just be easier to let coworkers, friends, family members, and well meaning whomever pretend that not finding a way to communicate with me outside their norm is my failing and not theirs, is something I can fuel and direct towards listening, witnessing, and disrupting “business as usual” in colonial and racist habits and patterns. Tall order, but necessary.
The NYTs chronicle of the ways in which local youth were firestarters for the power we see at Standing Rock (yeah, I liked that song by the Prodigy – it was the 90s, alright). They have so much power, and the story of how they woke up their elders, while recognizing and accommodating colonial generational trauma and its legacies. Heady stuff!
That’s it for tonight, but I’ll be back. Thank you for reading.