Years ago, when I moved to Los Angeles, reveling in the bougainvillea and endless blue skies, I remember feeling that I'd stepped into a sort of paradise and was dumbfounded that it took me half of my life to find it. I remember asking my husband, 'why doesn't everyone live here?' to which he answered, 'they do.' And there it was, that immeasurable feeling of stupidity rooted in ignorance wrapped in decades of insulation. How could I have gotten to be this old and not known there was a better way for me to live?
Super fast forward to the journey I'm on today. Similarly, I ask myself, how I could have lived my life so unaware of my complicity in perpetuating racism, the fundamental underpinnings of our nation's history, and the role systemic racism plays in the very structure of my everyday life? I land in a tangential place, where ignorance meets white privilege wrapped in a blanket of white fragility. But I don't punish myself because the more I learn, the more I understand why I didn't know, the more I crave the knowing.
For me, there is now an uncertainty, a destabilization, in the not knowing. Anything but bliss in the ignorance of what is truth. It is for the first time, that I truly understand why knowledge is power. It is in the knowing that we find the ability to step into our own power –– for me, as a parent, a spouse, a friend, a professional, a mentor, a human. It is in the knowing that we find strength in our connection to others, to our history, and ultimately to the choices we make in how to live our lives. It is in the knowing that we can see who walks among us, and find respect, humility and love for the descendants of the storied and resilient generations we encounter every day.
There is now an uncertainty, a destabilization, in the not knowing. Anything but bliss in the ignorance of what is truth.
Knowledge is power.
And so I learn. And with every new piece of history that connects me to today, where words and visuals move from my head to my heart, I find the motivation to keep going. Knowledge gives us the ability to see through all the lenses of the world. It shapes the academic, moral and ethical grounds upon which our thoughts and decisions are made. It is the gateway to our survival. And it's free. Just a click away. More than any other time in our lives, we have instant and easy access to anything we want to know. We just have to want to know it.
I want to know.
I want to know when whiteness was ever good, immerse myself in the essays of Peggy McIntosh to better understand my white privilege, and how it has shaped my complicity in upholding a white supremacist society. I want to see whiteness for what it is, where it comes from, why it exists and how it perpetuates a racialized society. I want to better understand whiteness as a construct created to strengthen the divide, buttress racism, and keep in place a caste system that strangles our country's ability to become a true democracy. I want to break down the barriers that my white fragility has built up over time so that I can work towards real anti-racist practice, and move from allyship to becoming an accomplice.
I want to know that 12.5 million Africans were stolen from their families and shipped off to the new world as enslaved people, that close to 2 million didn't survive the unspeakable horrors of the Middle Passage, that 1619 was the year that marked the beginning of American slavery, how the timeline of Black history has profoundly shaped the character and identity of our nation, the failure of the Declaration of Independence to live up to its ideals and promise, how the industries of Sugar, Cotton and Tobacco built this nation on the backs of Black enslaved people, that Reconstruction was overtaken by racial terror for decades not long ago, how oppressive discriminatory practices, like redlining, have resulted in devastating health and wealth effects and gaps that are widespread today, the pervasiveness of systemic and structural racism as it exists today, how it functions within our institutions and is manifested in our laws, politics, the economy, our culture and in our social group identities, and how can I connect the dots everywhere to see the hidden truths behind the facades of a white dominant society.
I want to know more about the heroes that were able to rise up against the torrent of oppression. An endless list of a legacy of dreamers, doers, innovators, geniuses, warriors and symbols of pride and aspiration. I want to be inspired by their passion, their dedication to truth and their stunning accomplishments. I want to read and hear their words, watch them in action, feel their sorrow and hope. Follow the list into our present day, find today's heroes, artists, activists, entrepreneurs, academics and leaders who have stepped into their power of advocacy and love, continuing to pave the path towards liberation.
More than any other time in our lives, we have instant and easy access to anything we want to know. We just have to want to know it.
I've always loved puzzles, 500, 1000, even 1500 pieces. Some with square or rectangular borders, others shapeless. A few remarkably beautiful works of art –– ones with thick wooden, carved and painted pieces. This journey for me is like I'm constructing a puzzle I never knew existed, beginning to find the border pieces, laying in pieces that snap in from the borders, and continuing to fill in the missing pieces –– ones that evolve from one to three dimensional, black and white to colorful –– until I can see the big picture. I am hopeful that if I ever finish, my puzzle will have no defined shape, and will be my visualization of love.
Where will your puzzle begin?