On the summer of 2020 and the false absolution of judgment and projection
"The part of me that tries to learn only through shame and regret is no more useful than the part of me that seeks absolution through judgment and projection." GOLD. Thank you, Bucks.
Thank you, Garrett. This is a great reminder to be kind to yourself and others. I, too, have wrinkles in my eyes and complicated layers of white guilt and finger pointing tendencies.
"The part of me that looks back on 2020 and wants to judge the actions you did or didn’t take doesn’t actually love justice. Neither does the part of me that seeks absolution through self-flagellation."
This was like pausing and taking a deep breath. Social media often feels like it's engineered to encourage being stuck inside of these kinds of ultimately pointless arguments — exactly like our stupid, egotistical brains do! Having this particular closed-loop tendency arriculated—and put in perspective—is enormously helpful! Thanks, you rule.
Beautifully well said, Garrett! And painfully true. I waffle even now between wanting to write about racism and equality, feeling like as a white woman I should step aside to let other voices be heard, and also feeling like if I don't speak up then my silence makes me complicit.
I settled on writing about it and taking criticism and advice as I go. I care about human rights, so I'll fight for them. If I mess up then I can learn- the writing life is all about review and revision after all!
Garrett--what strikes me most about this essay is 1) you are zooming in on how shame/blame culture just perpetuates violence and harm and 2) you name that our collective societal response to grief post COVID is an avoidance response, which makes me wonder how many folks, especially cis hey White folks, have avoidant attachment styles. It’s hard to move forward in reimagining a co-liberated world if we are unable to sit with our own feelings about hard things, or witness others in their sitting with feelings about hard things, without resorting to shame and blame.
This is my morning coffee reading and I LOVE it. So much has stood out to me:
I wear our collective unkindness in my soul in the same way that I wear the wrinkles under my eyes.
There was a period of time when we judged each other for forgetting a land acknowledgment; two months later, we were rolling our eyes whenever we heard an earnest voice share that they were speaking to us from the “unceded lands of…” For years, having read a book by Robin DiAngelo was proof in certain circles of your anti-racist bonafides; seemingly overnight, owning a copy of White Fragility became a punchline at best and a scarlet letter at worse (even though nothing had changed about the content of those books or DiAngelo’s broader message).
You’ll notice that I’ve been saying “we” here, which of course is a pretty slick rhetorical safety net. “We” sounds reflective while actually being accusatory. “We” is a good stand-in when I want to say “you all.” Let’s remove the false security of plural pronouns for a second, as well as the ego-gratification of the past tense. You know why I am so quick to judge other progressive White people? A lot of reasons. Some of it has to do with the fact that I’m not just a White person generally, but a cis White guy. I’ve spent the better part of a lifetime of assuming that I get to be the smartest person in every room. Of course I’m apt to default towards know-it-all-dom.
Love this essay so much. Thinking of you and all of us today.
Curious how you work through your own “turning away from hard feelings” if that comes up for you, or with your own shame and blame cycles when you notice them (about self or others). This essay is actually a good example of the latter--of noticing your imperfections and holding yourself accountable but also finding a way toward kindness and care