Joy

I often write about the challenges inherent in working against racism from a white identity. Acknowledgement of discomfort, error, confusion, grief, and paradox runs through my work. And these are true and important to name.

And … there is also joy.

Joy in moving toward fuller humanity.

Joy in removing blocks to clearer understanding.

Joy in belonging to the communities that do this work.

* * * * *

There was a women’s rally in Concord NH yesterday. Like many progressives, our majority-white Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) group struggled with how to balance our desire to stand up for the goals of the rally with our respect for real concerns about the “whiteness” of these events. We decided the best way to do this was (for us) to attend with a table of information about some of the difficult issues. We found educational materials across the spectrum of consciousness about racism, created a list of local groups doing this work, and brought hot water, tea fixings, and paper cups. Then we stood at our table and talked about race and racism with dozens of people.

Some of these people were already in our network on this topic. Some told us about work of which we were unaware. Some challenged us and engaged in civil conversation and were thanked for stopping to talk. Some looked and listened and moved on, hot tea warming their hands on a cold winter day.

At the end of the day we took the above selfie. It would be easy to not notice what this silly, happy picture captures, that digging into the work of dismantling white supremacy with others can be a joyful experience. Not because the horror of racism is all better now, not because we’ll never screw up again, not because we earned any sort of reward for being “good white people”, not even because this work creates some great friendships (though it does). No. This is ultimately joyful work because it brings us into closer alignment with authentic human connection. It is important, I think, to notice and celebrate this truth.

Yesterday was a good day for that.