I find lately that I am a soul full of contradictions.
Yesterday was an awesome day. Deb and I, along with 10 others went to an anti-racism workshop at the U.U., led by Melanie Morrison. I knew Melanie in a surface type of way back when I lived in Lansing. She and her parents, Elanor and Truman have been fighting the good fight against all kinds of oppression and “isms” for as long as I’ve been alive. They founded the Leaven Center, and now Elanor has retired and Melanie has started a new organization called Allies for Change. She does diversity training like what we did yesterday. Her website is: http://alliesforchange.org/ .
Seeing Melanie yesterday made me miss Lansing. I miss Schuler Books where I worked for over 7 years and where my thirst for information and entertainment was always quenched and where the customers and my co-workers challenged me in ways that made me grow into a better person. I was challenged to recognize that no one should be judged because of their gender (men are not the enemy that I once perceived them to be), religion (Christians are not inherently judgmental or bigoted-many are committed to justice, equality and the human experience just as Jesus was), geographic origin, (New Yorkers don’t intend to be rude, it’s just not a Midwestern cultural dance around what needs to be said) or age (I loved and miss some of my older customers who looked out for me, knowing that my parents weren’t close by to make me stay in line and brought me a human mirror and helped me to see more truly who I am and for that I am a far better person than I ever thought myself capable of being). I miss that place. I miss those people.
Being at that workshop not only reminded me of a home that I loved, it re-enforced to me that I have also come to love Flint and no longer pause before calling it “home.” This often surprises me because I see so much lacking here, but I also see so much potential for transformation toward a healing good. I see people like those in the room at that workshop. I see students and faculty at UM Flint striving and succeeding at building a strong dedicated community of diversity and opportunity and service to others. I see locally owned businesses who, despite the economic devastation, stay here, stay opened and continue to faithfully serve their community. I see some of those same businesses, like Good Beans Café, not just taking people’s money, but actively working to change the world for the better by providing a safe haven for LGBT people, artists and community organizers working for change. I see the Flint Farmers Market with a year-round dedication to providing a quality experience for all who enter their doors, but especially connecting with local residents, farmers and artisans. When I go to the Flint Farmers Market, I can either buy some fine wine or a used sci-fi novel. I can get ice cream, artwork and animal shaped stones, lentils, fresh bread, eggs and cheese from all over the world. And, of course, as I so often say, there is the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint where I found shelter from the storms of segregation and homophobia that I felt surrounded with when I first moved to Flint from Lansing.
So, I have been feeling the contradiction of deeply loving two cities- even though I took a vow as a kid to “never become a city girl.”
Another internal contradiction that the workshop awakened for me is the feeling that I deeply love and appreciate my family for instilling in me a thirst for knowledge and justice, and at the same time color blinding me as far as race is concerned. Although I have never felt anything except equal to people of color, I didn’t understand until I left them and began my own life, that race colors pretty much everything in our society, from the schools to the jails to the sidewalks under our feetl. This color-blindness that I have serves me well in the sense that I get to look at other people’s hearts and souls without judging them for their skin color, but while my blindness helps me see beyond the color of others, at the same time, it blinds me to my own white skin. In being blind to my color, I am blind to the benefits of whit privilege that I reap every day without even being aware of it. That blindness to my own privilege, in itself is a form of racism.
Another contradiction that has been flashing on and off in my consciousness, that I touched upon in my last post is that of my deep commitment to bettering the human condition, but my own self-centeredness too often takes over my mind and my mouth that I think I get in my own way sometimes. It’s hard for me to shut up sometimes and listen.