Stepping Back To Step Forward
I created this corner of the web to document my creativity and curiosity through food. It blossomed into a space for my pursuit of beauty, vulnerability and connection. My goal has always been to inspire and share, but posting my own stories hasn’t felt appropriate in the face of major injustices. Nor did I want to post for lip service only, so I stepped back to process and plan how I could better confront my white privilege because I believe we, as white people, have to start with ourselves.
Simultaneously, I have been working my way through The Artist’s Way, which reminds us to observe synchronicity and follow its breadcrumb trails. One of those trails led me to start reading The Four Agreements. I started the book as the world [rightfully] burst into protests in reaction to the ever growing list of police brutalities against black people and the long history of white silence.
The introduction to the book felt so connected to the existence of systemic racism and how we as white people are complicit, even when we think we’re exempt (Read: I, Quelcy, have been complicit, even when I believed I wasn’t). I am sharing this excerpt in case this helps open up this difficult conversation for you in a new way, or with other white people in your circles.
Excerpt from The Four Agreements…
As children, we didn’t have the opportunity to choose our beliefs, but we agreed with the information that was passed to us from the dream of the planet via other humans.
… First the child is taught the names of things: Mom, Dad, milk, bottle. Day by day, at home, at school, at church, and from television, we are told how to live, what kind of behavior is acceptable. The outside dream teaches us how to be a human. We have a whole concept of what a “woman” is and what a “man” is. And we learn to judge: We judge ourselves, judge other people, judge the neighbors.
-Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
In this way, we have learned, whether overtly or subconsciously, to judge those who look differently than we do. In this way, we can come from loving homes and parents with the best of intentions and still harbor very harmful biases. In this way, we learn from our society that our white skin makes us superior, to fear black people.
If we, as white people, don’t begin to challenge the subtle but powerful forms of indoctrination, what Ruiz calls “the agreement,” we are complicit. We may deny our role, “Not me. I am not racist,” but it’s not as simple as racist versus not-racist. There’s an inclination to carve the world into clean divisions, the proverbial black and white, but the world is awash in complex grays, and we have to acknowledge and process them.
The truth is like a scalpel. The truth is painful because it opens all of the wounds which are covered by lies so that we can be healed. These lies are what we call the denial system. -Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
I, Quelcy, am white. I am complicit and culpable. I have worn blinders when I should have looked deeply to my right and left. I have expressed shock when I should have been paying attention. I have left racial activism to those who suffer its incessant torment. I felt overwhelmed by the obvious injustices without looking internally to address my part. I am sorry, and I can do better. My mistakes will inevitably be many, but so will my efforts to stay open and to course correct.
What Now, Quelcy?
Prayers and apologies are not enough. My intent is not enough. As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Whenever I need to hold myself accountable to action, I start with a spreadsheet. Columns and rows help me to organize my mind and offer me visual accountability.
There is a lot of momentum for action and change now, but the road ahead is long. There are many insightful resources being circulated and shared as a reaction to the protests. I didn’t want to get lost in these lists, or simply repost them and move on with my life.
Black people are confronted and threatened by these issues daily. Black people do not have the option to move on with their lives. Their lives are in constant danger. The fact that I will never truly understand the trauma of being black is why I need to step up my actions.
I created an Anti-Racist Accountability Spreadsheet for myself to remind me that this work is ongoing. I included tabs for: Action, Read, Write, Watch, Follow, and Support (financially). I included “date completed” columns for more task-oriented steps, as well as sections for “ongoing work/considerations.” The spreadsheet will never be empty. When one book is finished, there will always be another one to follow. There is much to unlearn in order to learn.
Please Give Support Where Support Is Due
I don’t want to diminish the work of the black voices who are offering similar lists and educational tools in exchange for compensation. I credited my sources, and I personally made a donation to Rachel Ricketts for her Anti-Racist Resource Guide as well as The Bodyful Healing Project Collective Care Fund, which works to negate Network Poverty for black women.
I do, however, want to create an accountability plan for myself, and I’m sharing it in case this method resonates with you. I would encourage you to use the productivity tools that are most effective for you, whether it be adding items to your to-do list daily, checking in with a trusted accountability friend (a fellow white person who is doing the work – it is not the duty of a black person to hold us accountable), or blocking time on your calendar.
At Pinch of Yum, Lindsay offered a “My Next Steps” template, which is another helpful tool. My goal was to create an accountability plan and to offer compensation wherever possible, and I encourage you to do the same. We as white people need to make sure we are doing something to fight for a more just world.
This is an Accountability Tool, But This is Not A Project
I also want to be careful and emphasize I am not diminishing this anti-racist work into a neat and tidy “project” with a beginning and an end. This quote from Rachel E. Cargle reminded me that this work is not about making myself faultless. It’s not about me being blameless, so I can step back from the arena. It should not be about me at all. There will be messy and uncomfortable moments as I confront the benefits and privilege of my race, but the quest is for justice for black lives, not my comfort.
Moving Forward But Not Moving On
If there’s one characteristic I know to be true for me, it’s that I need time and space for quiet and for creativity in order to be the best version of myself. I will resume sharing posts, essays, recipes and dog pictures here, but that doesn’t mean the considerations and reflections stop with this post. I aim to continue these conversations, to highlight voices that are different than my own, to use my creativity in service of a more just world, and to be and do better.