Friday, March 17, 2017

A Letter to My White Friends: Smashing White Fragility, Fear, and Guilt



     Consider this your call-in. A letter to white people, from a white person, on the process of overcoming white fragility.

      Two weeks ago, I issued a call for my white friends to really examine our white identities, confront fragility, and help disrupt systemic racism. But the question remained, how do we go about smashing our fragility? To delve into the answer, let's be thoughtful about what this entails. First, I want to say that the phrase "smashing white fragility" is something of a misnomer. While it sounds powerful (and it is!), it also conveys the idea that this is a one-time thing, a hump you get over, the spell that banishes your fragility forever. It doesn't work that way. Confronting your fragility is an ongoing, life-long process. Unlearning the supremacy and comfort in our whiteness will be something we can engage with for the rest of your time on Earth. That being said, it is an important, rewarding, and desperately needed process for today's political moment. Please engage.

      Before we smash our fragility, we must identify it and understand why it's so insidious. Fragility is, as Courtney E. Martin puts it, the "gut emotional pushback" to anything that makes us feel uncomfortable about being white. Anything that calls our identity into question, asks us to shoulder any responsibility for racism, or really just asks us to think about our racial identity at all. In fact, this article itself might be triggering your fragility right now. If it is and you're still here, awesome. That's how we smash; we lean into the discomfort.

     There are many, many people who have expressed why white fragility is bad. I'll summarize here by saying this: white fragility is what makes us complicit in actively upholding structures of racist oppression. When we don't acknowledge our own racial identities, privilege, or even confront the issue of race at all, we continue to oppress others, sometimes without even knowing it. White people are the most racially privileged and therefore powerful group. The Western world favors whiteness to such a degree that if we choose not to look at our power and actively de-construct it, very little will change and everyone will continue to suffer, including us.

Break Through Your Fear and Guilt
     I don't believe it's good for us to live in such fear and opposition of each other. It's not good for white people to be so fearful and angry, gripping on to white supremacy the way the right-wing continues to do.  It's better for us to be humble and open to connection. So, we need to break through the fear and guilt that prevent us from looking at our white privileges and identities. We can pay attention to our gut emotional pushback responses when they occur. This will help us acknowledge the feelings we have, whether they be guilt, fear, or other things. When we are aware of these feelings, we can choose to actively address them by pushing through them and reassuring ourselves. This way, we can forge ahead on our exploration of our own whiteness, and our relationships to other racial identities.

Do Your Work
     I really like the phrase Anna Kegler uses to encourage white people to educate ourselves on our identities. We do indeed need to do our work. This means reading up on race issues and looking at perspectives from POC and white authors, learning about micro-aggressions, adopting the appropriate response to getting called out. It means #KnowYourBaldwin, understanding how whiteness manifests in the workplace, and making your feminism intersectional. As white people who haven't had to think about our race, we have a lot of researching and thinking to do in order to catch up with everyone else, and that is ok! In fact, I think it's really fun. Learning about whiteness is what helps your deconstruct your own identity and become aware of what it means. To be aware of yourself in that way is a joy and a privilege in itself. Podcast. Blog, and another blog. Honestly y'all I could keep going (seriously I have a Pinterest board where I collect this stuff) but I'll just let this be the jumping -off point for now.



Strike A Balance and Embrace Discomfort
     In my last article, I talked about how uncomfortable I would get in social justice spaces. Here are a few words of advice for myself and people who are experiencing similar things. First, people have a right to be angry at you. If you aren't well-received in certain situations, the people involved might not be mad at you personally, but angry at racial injustice as a whole. Alternatively, you might actually be doing something offensive or aggressive that you are not aware of. In either situation, it's important to observe your impact, which is often different than your intention (you can, and will, make mistakes even if you are well meaning). Validate the emotions of people who might call you out. Strike a balance between the understanding that race issues and discussions are not about you, and at the same time being careful to reflect on your actions.

     You will make mistakes! You will get called out! It will feel uncomfortable! I get called out by my friends and partner fairly often and it sucks, but it also means we're both trying to bridge the gaps in my ignorance. As Saroful says, "If someone tells you what you just did was wrong, it’s because they genuinely believe you are a good person who would do the right thing if you knew what it was." I apologize, learn what I did wrong, and we move on. In embracing the discomfort and moving through it, I am able to keep learning and de-powering my own identity.

Talk About Your Identity
      This is something I think socially aware white people need to do more of. We need spaces to be able to openly, non-confrontationally, and non-competitively (ie there's no one in the space trying to be "better"/prove they're less racist than everyone else). I am extremely lucky to have safe spaces with my partner and friends of color where we can reflect on race and whiteness together and talk about our differing identities. I have learned so much from them, and I think looking for these spaces with people of color can be beneficial if both parties are open and willing to talk about these issues.

     On the other hand, I also think it would be immensely helpful if these same safe spaces existed for white people to talk to other whites about their identities. My favorite example of this is AWARE-LA's Saturday Dialogues.  They explain the importance of these spaces in more detail, but I like this: "This is a long, difficult, and sometimes painful process [of examining one's own whiteness and racism]. It’s helpful to have a space where other white people engaged in this process can support and challenge us, without having to always subject people of color to further undue trauma or pain as we stumble and make mistakes. Having a community of white anti-racist people gives us hope, helps us grow our practice, and gives us strength to stay in it for the long haul." Creating space for white anti-racists to talk to one another about their journeys, realizations, and experiences can reinforce individual practices and keep us accountable to confronting our identity on a regular basis. It gives us a support group of people who are trying to do what we're doing too! (For more reading on AWARE's Dialogues)

Know Where We Are Needed and Speak Up When We Can
     In many conversations or demonstrations on racial issues, white people are not the focal point. We have race issues too, as you can see, but unless the event at hand is specifically about whiteness, we need to keep out of the spotlight. This article by Ashleigh Shackleford discusses the presence of white people at Black Lives Matter rallies thusly: "Whiteness operates in a way that means that using your privilege “for good” often requires Black folks to still be a position to be “saved” or “in need.” We don’t need white saviorism. We don’t need white people to speak for us. We don’t even really need white people to show up to rallies. We need our reparations, we need intentional disruption that involves high risk and we need y’all to stop playing." As white people, we need to be conscious of where we are needed and where we are not. When we are called on for something specifically, then we can show up. In fact, Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ), is a great example of organizing white people when they are needed for race issues. This organization resources organizing led by people of color, often by supplying white supporters for protests when POC-lead organizations ask for them.

     This all being said, it is also important to speak up when we can, or when we need to. If we're in a situation, say, with only other white people present, and something offensive happens, we can say something about that. I'm not suggesting that we dogmatically hoist our anti-racist moral superiority over someone's subtly racist comments. This doesn't need to be a callout, instead it can be an opportunity for everyone present to discuss the racialized incident and learn from it. Here's a really excellent article on how to call someone in by Sian Ferguson. In general, I find responding with genuine curiosity and openness, rather than suspicion and condemnation, will help open up the conversation.

    By engaging in these steps, and especially by continuing to educate ourselves, we can smash our fragility and begin to extricate ourselves from the web of fear, guilt, and fragility that makes us cling to our racial privilege. I hope these suggestions have been helpful. For further reading, definitely check out all the links above, all the links in my last letter to my white friends, and also: "When You're Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Can Feel Like Oppression" by Chris Boeskool, and the Trump Syllabus. Also, watch this clip from the documentary The Color of Fear and watch 13th on Netflix, for more understanding of systemic racism at work today.

     If you found this helpful, interesting, problematic, or what have you, let me know! Comment or send me a message. I am happy to take feedback, make suggested edits if I see fit, discuss ideas, and hatch anti-racist plots with you. I am one little human adding my voice to a conversation that has been going on for years and years, so I definitely did not say it all, nor do I profess to know it all. Keep reading, researching, experiencing, and practicing. We can do this.

In solidarity and support,

Madeleine

Did you like reading that? Wonderful. I'd be ever so grateful if you'd consider supporting my writing so you can read more of it! There are a few ways you can support my blog and help me get my message out. You can DONATE via Paypal to help me pay for toilet paper and such, and you can LIKE on Facebook and also share this post with people in your life, especially your white friends!! Friends don't let friends keep their white fragility un-smashed. 

Photos: 1,2 <these are good links too!

Friday, March 10, 2017

We Can De-Power Capitalism by Supporting Each Other


In June, I’ll be graduating college, and I’m going to have to find the answers to questions like, “How will I pay my rent?”, and, “How will I buy food?”. I am extremely privileged to have been able to not worry about these things, for the most part, up until this point, because many of us deal with these questions all our lives. Capitalism is what puts us in a situation of scarcity, controlled conditions in which we need to work to survive, and that’s what most of us do. Get a job, work hard, pay rent, buy food, and repeat. This is survival.


Not exactly feeling excited about the prospect of entering this rat race, naturally I’ve been thinking creatively about how I can support myself. At the same time, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how much of my money goes to places and people I don’t know. Naturally, it dawned on me the other day: What if my friends and I all just supported each other? What if we lent each other resources, food, money, places to stay, and looked out for each other? What if we traded and bartered with each other? What if we supported each other’s creative projects with our patronage and by spreading the word? Our money, time, and resources, would go directly to supporting and lifting up other people, who in turn, could also lift us up in our times of need.


I believe we can depower capitalism by supporting each other, in the ways outlined above. I like to think about capitalism as a machine we can, together, slowly shut down by increasingly sharing our time, energy, money, and resources. By embracing community support, we can eliminate money from some exchanges or meeting of needs altogether! In other situations, we can ensure our money goes to people and organizations we want to support.


Though these proposals might not entirely eliminate the need to work, they do create an alternative cushion to rely on aside from one’s own personal income. They also challenge us to deepen and strengthen our relationships with our friends and our communities. Think about it - when was the last time you shared something with someone who is not one of your closest friends or family? When is the last time when you went out of your way to support someone? In today’s capitalist, neoliberal society, sharing is hard! Take Genevieve Vaughn’s perspective on the matter: “Where there is enough, we can abundantly nurture others. The problem is that scarcity is usually the case, artificially created in order to maintain control, so that other-orientation [ie sharing] becomes difficult and self-depleting. In fact, exchange [capitalism] requires scarcity because, if needs are abundantly satisfied, no one is constrained to give up anything [ie giving up your time and energy to a job] in order to receive what they need.” In contexts of scarcity, it’s difficult for us to remember to share, protect, and nurture each other, and we focus on doing so for ourselves first. Living and sharing this way is a challenge.


That doesn’t mean we can’t do it. In an article on the gift economy, Paul Van Slambrouck says, “The fact is that we are probably all wired, both physiologically and socially, to seek cooperation and collaboration despite an educational system and social context that works from cradle to grave to inculcate in us a zero-sum view of the world.” I agree! Although I just asked us to think about how uncommon sharing behavior might be in our lives, I would also like to ask us to ponder what we do when we need help, financially or in other ways. I ask for help, and I receive it. A friend might pay for my dinner or offer me a free place to stay, my sister might buy me a shirt, my mom might find me a task to do in exchange for some money while I’m home for break. Despite the capitalist economy’s best efforts, sharing behaviors and the inclination to assist one another do persist in some contexts. Which is why my above proposal - simply supporting each other - doesn’t sound ludicrous to me. I believe in the collective power and creativity of my community of friends.


Creativity is key for creating alternative networks of support, because finding ways to support ourselves and our friends without absolute reliance on jobs and money is both a challenge and an opportunity for inventiveness. In his discussion of the solidarity economy, Ethan Miller picks out this quote from feminist economic geographer J.K. Gibson-Graham: “If we viewed the economic landscape as imperfectly colonized, homogenized, systematized, might we not find openings for projects of noncapitalist invention? Might we not find ways to construct different communities and societies, building upon what already exists?". Their perspective asks us to look for opportunities to work around capitalism, to build on the basic forms of economic independence and support, and to think creatively about how to support others and be supported ourselves.




I believe we already live in that creative age. More generously-oriented systems have existed alongside and within capitalism for a long time. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the internet allow efforts like these to mushroom. Now we live in the age of crowdfunding, KickStarter, GoFundMe, Patreon, Etsy, and others. With systems like these, we have better infrastructure for supporting each other in our daily lives and in our creative endeavors. We are also getting more creative with how we accept compensation. Many individuals and organizations accept payments on sliding scale, utilize the notaflof (no one turned away for lack of funds) tradition, or simply ask people to “pay what you can”. Other organizations accept barter and trade or work exchanges. These creative solutions to the tradition of exchanging money for goods and services allow more people access to what was previously only exchanged for a set price in dollars. They also signal our creative problem solving capabilities!


Sometimes, you don’t even need to pay. In many activist circles, I see and hear the phrase “I want you to have it,”. Goods and services are gifted, free of charge. And why not? In a piece advocating for the gift economy, Paul Van Slambrouck writes, “What exactly did I (or you) do to deserve to be alive? If you can process that question and come out thinking it was a gift that you can’t ever pay back, then beginning a life of greater giving is the only logical and remotely reciprocal way to go. If the most valuable thing you have isn’t anything you earned, why be stingy with all the lesser stuff.” . While this view does, of course, assume that its audience is in the position to be able to give, I do believe that many of us have things to give to each other, whether these be things that can be measured in dollars and cents or not.


What started as the search for a way out of the rat race has blossomed into a hopeful discovery: I believe we are in a moment of pioneering the crowdfunding and community supported vision of a future without extractive capitalism, where we give to each other and take care of each other and generously grant access to those in need. My next question is simply, how can I create this in my own community? Here are my ideas:


  • We can spend time with our friends! Developing our relationships with others strengthens our community support network and widens the circle we can call on in times of need. Plus, it’s good for us.
  • Support our friends’ creative projects. Buy our friends’ art and music, share our friends’ websites on our social media, volunteer to help out with projects for free.
  • Give each other money. If we have a little extra, instead of just going to Chipotle again, maybe we can lend to a friend in need, asking them to pay it forward. We could use the extra we might find in our budget to help our friend pay off student loans or give to a local organization or activist collective.
  • Give what we can. Even if we don’t have money, if we have other assets, sharing them generously is a surefire way to encourage community support. Even if all you’ve got is a smushy couch where someone can stay the night, that is something that can help someone out.
  • Make goods and trade with our friends. I make delicious bread. Will someone trade me some homemade toothpaste? I’m running out (seriously).
  • Expand our networks. Stretch our sharing and trusting abilities by including people we don’t know as well in these loving and supportive interactions. Example: once I let a band of five men from Iowa, Condor and Jaybird,  sleep on all the extra beds and couches in my house. Even though I didn’t know them, it was great. They were good company, and they made their beds when they left in the morning.


I know that in some ways these suggestions can be very radical. Imagine if you used some surplus in your monthly budget to help your friend or partner pay off their student loans, just because you cared about them? Interactions like these test what capitalism has tried to ingrain in us; we might feel like they owe us something, or like we’re doing them a favor. But if we recall that life is a gift, and that our well being is tied up in the well being of others, then we can gift others what they need when we have the resources, without feeling entitled to anything in return.


At the same time, I know that these suggestions might seem elementary to some, as we already practice these in many of our close relationships. What I’m advocating for today is that we take the forms of support we do perform for our communities, and up the ante. We can extend these forms of support, whether they be material, emotional, or otherwise, to people who we had previously not included, and also intensify these supports in relationships where they do exist. As Grace Lee Boggs put it in one of my favorite books of all time, The Next American Revolution, "We ourselves must begin practicing in the social realm the capacity to care for each other, to share food, skills, time, and ideas that up to now most of us have limited to our most personal cherished relationships…..We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, and create for and with each other."


If that’s not a brilliant and inviting call to action, I don’t know what is. With love, support, and the power to de-power,


Madeleine.

For more on these concepts, check out links and books recommended above, and look into this solidarity economy map, and this more involved definition of the gift economy. In some locales, there are groups on Facebook designated for gift or solidarity economies, and there are also freecycle groups! Check those out too if you like! And let me know if you have any resources for me to add here :)


In the spirit of community support networks, if you want to support my future writing, I would really, really, be extremely stoked and appreciative. There are a few ways you can support my blog and help me get my message out. You can DONATE via Paypal to help me pay for toilet paper and such, and you can LIKE on Facebook and also share this post with people in your life, especially your creative anti-capitalist besties. Depower!!!

Illustrations by the lovely Phoebe Wahl!



Friday, March 3, 2017

A Letter to My White Friends: We Fear Seeing Ourselves Clearly


A letter to white people, from a white person, on white fragility and mustering the courage to overcome it.

Disclaimer: I am not writing this to police other white allies and anti-racists. My purpose in writing this series is to create dialogue around the white identity, in hopes of sharing what I know, and helping to further white people's collective understanding of themselves, with the ultimate goal of promoting racial justice and prison abolition. I hope to spark discussions among/with fellow white activists so that we may better understand our place in this work. I also hope to catalyze new white allies coming to social justice in the wake of recent national events, who may feel scared, confused, or ashamed of their white identities and privilege. My goal is not to chastise whites, nor to claim that I am a "good" white person. I come to this not as an expert, but as one voice in a larger discussion. This is first and foremost a dialogue, and I welcome other perspectives, questions, and comments.

     How does it feel to be a white person in social justice work? When I first started out, I felt immensely uncomfortable with my own whiteness. I felt the need to try to hide or minimize it. I rarely spoke in my classes, most of which are focused on racial justice, and generally avoided drawing attention to myself. I felt guilty about my family's money and wealth, and would rarely bring up that part of my life. I felt the urge to separate myself from my own whiteness, constantly saying aloud "I hate white people."I really wanted to reject my white privilege. In situations where I was forced to look at my own privilege, I felt so much pain that I had a deep wish to ignore my whiteness, rather than to deconstruct and explore it.

     In one of my classes last year, we were instructed to do a privilege walk, where everyone started at the same spot in the room, and moved backward for every symptom of oppression, such as going hungry as a child or growing up near gang activity, and forward for every sign of privilege, such as housing security or having two parents with bachelor's degrees. Predictably, I ended up in the front, and in tears. Some of my closest friends and my partner, all of whom are people of color, were far in the back of the room. Seeing them there, and seeing myself so far ahead, broke my heart. I was extremely uncomfortable with realizing my privilege was so visible, and that I was so unfairly privileged compared to my loved ones. I felt so guilty about it, I shied away from acknowledging and confronting my privilege.

     I've seen this type of hesitation in many other fairly liberal white people. One person I know was planning to lead a workshop on Chinese medicine. When the hosting organization approached him with their concerns that the workshop might be culturally appropriative due to his white identity and lack of accrediting sources for Chinese healing traditions, he reacted with tears, guilt, and confusion. He failed to truly confront the issues of being a white individual attempting to teach an ancient healing tradition that was not his own. He hesitated to really own up to the fact that, as a white individual, he didn't deserve to claim that culture's knowledge as his own, as he was not a part of it.

     Similarly, someone I know recently went on a vacation to Cabo over a break from school. I heard later they were trying to keep it quiet. While this may have partially been done in an attempt to maintain a public persona as an enigma, it also seemed to me to be a strategy of hiding their class status, which is directly related to whiteness and privilege.


     This hiding behavior reflects an unwillingness to admit our privilege and acknowledge our identity as a white, upper or middle class person. In all cases, I think the unwillingness to confront whiteness here comes from the guilt and anxiety involved in owning up to privilege: "If I admit that I am privileged/that I have this much/that I benefit in some way from supremacy, what will they think of me? What will I think of myself?"This fear and the resulting pushback against situations which encourage white people to face their privilege are part of white fragility, which Dr. Robin DiAngelo writes about very eloquently when she discusses the reactions white people have to race-based stressors, which include some of the situations I've described above. As DiAngelo points out, we, as white people, don't have to look at our privilege on a regular basis. When we are forced to do so, we get scared, and we get angry. 

     Facing my own privilege does feel bad sometimes - looking at the privilege whiteness gives me, I feel dirty and gross and overly powerful, even tyrannical. The thing is, for those hesitating to confront their own white privilege, it's good to remember other people can already see it. The brilliant black writer and scholar James Baldwin, in a letter to his nephew entitled "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my Nephew on the Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation"writes about white people thusly:"...if the word integration means anything, this is what it means: that we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it." Baldwin demonstrates how obvious white privilege is, and how racism and its related systems of oppression are ultimately perpetuated by white people and their inability - or resistance - to see themselves clearly. Though he writes this suggesting that people of color need to help white people face themselves, let us go further.

     White people, especially liberal, radical, and well-educated white people like myself, must take responsibility for facing and accepting our own privilege. We must become aware and be willing and committed to exploring how our privilege affects other groups and how it so greatly benefits us. We must look at our privilege and see ourselves clearly. Only by doing this can we really see all the opportunities we have to step back and make space for people of color, whether this be through relinquishing claims on traditional knowledge belonging to cultures outside of our own, or exposing our class status and using the resources at our disposal to donate to social justice causes.

     Facing, exploring, and continually dismantling your white privilege is a doorway to opportunity and an awesome way to deepen your social justice work or practice! Although it is scary, awkward, and embarrassing at times, it can also be very exciting. Courtney E. Martin describes the process by calling it a transformation of "white fragility into courageous imperfection". She writes:

     "If white people want to belong to the beloved community, if we want to be part of the tide that is turning thanks to people of color-led movements like#BlackLivesMatter, then we have to show up as bold and genuine and imperfect. We have to be weary of our fragility. We have to be intolerant of our own forgetfulness."

      Martin's suggestion of courageous imperfection means that we have to be open to the fact that we and our identities are, and will always be, very privileged and problematic. We will never be comfortable with our racial identities once we accept them for what they truly are. But Martin also writes that engaging in this process "is the beginning of a lot more joy. It’s the beginning of a lot more connection. It’s the beginning of the end of racism."

     As someone actively trying to beat back my own white fragility, I can agree. In my next letter to my white friends and other white anti-racists, I'll discuss ways of actually going about this process by exploring our white privilege and smashing our fragility. In the meantime, if you're looking for more on this concept, check out the articles linked above, "The Sugarcoated Language of White Fragility" by Anna Kegler, and WhiteAccomplices.org. 

     If you found this helpful, interesting, problematic, or what have you, let me know! Comment or send me a message. I am happy to take feedback, make suggested edits if I see fit, and discuss ideas with you. This writing is coming out of a year-long research investigation into whiteness, among other things, so I'm down to talk about whiteness, racism, and the like any time.

In solidarity and support,

Madeleine
If you enjoy what I've written here today, and you want to support my future writing, I would really, really, be extremely stoked and appreciative. There are a few ways you can support my blog and help me get my message out. You can DONATE via Paypal to help me pay for toilet paper and such, and you can LIKE on Facebook and also share this post with people in your life, especially your white friends!! Please support the dismantlement of racism :)

photos: 1, 2

Monday, February 13, 2017

F17: A Guide to the Art of the Strike


As I hope many of you have already heard, several groups and nationwide coalitions have called for a General Strike this Friday, February 17. If you haven't heard about it, please read about it on the website, Strike4Democracy.com, or on Huffpost, or attn:. The important things to know are the demands, which I have found mentioned in many articles, but not on the Strike4Democracy website (although they do have a different list of demand-like statements posted up). The 5 demands are:

"1. No Ban, No Wall. The Muslim ban is immoral, the wall is expensive and ineffectual. We will build bridges, not walls.

2. Healthcare For All. Healthcare is a human right. Do not repeal the ACA. Improve it or enact Medicare for All.

3. No Pipelines. Rescind approval for DAPL and Keystone XL and adopt meaningful policies to protect our environment. It's the only one we've got.

4. End the Global Gag Rule. We cannot put the medical care of millions of women around the globe at risk.

5. Disclose and Divest. Show us your taxes. Sell your company. Ethics rules exist for a reason and presidents should focus on the country, not their company."

If that doesn't provide a nice summary of things I want to protest, I don't know what does. The linked page for the strike also mentions demands for the ceasing of discrimination against marginalized communities.

It's real, it's happening, and thank goodness. Now, here's a guide to a good ol' strike. I'm not necessarily a pro, but definitely seasoned. My guide here includes guidance from my own experience, coupled with recommendations from the Strike4Democracy website. This is intended for anyone to use both on Friday and in approach to any general strike day. I have a feeling there will be quite a few in the coming months. Here are my tips for the art of strike:


be aware of demands

Do your research on what's being asked for and make sure you agree! If you are going to a protest march, come aware of the issue the march has to do with and with an opinion on the position of the marchers, and on the issue in general. This might seem obvious, but I've met a lot of people who've joined protests "just because". If you happen to run into a march, ask someone what's going on. Get informed and get involved. 


get friends to join you

No matter what type of strike-related action you're participating in, it will be much more fun and more interesting if you have company. March in protests with your friends and family, participate in boycotts with your classmates, talk to your housemate about not spending money. Get other people to get involved with you. It's good for the cause and makes your own involvement more sustainable. 

plan accordingly 
Obviously, whether you're planning to not spend any money, go to a march, or take some other type of action, your strike activity will require that you plan accordingly. This is very easy to do! Please refer to my handy dandy How to Get Things Done Guides 1 and 2 for more help in this area. Just remember to stay organized in your resistance efforts!


(my mom, my aunt, my partner, and me at the Women's March on J21st)

do your research on local actions

Subscribe to local news sources, like local pages on Facebook, and get yourself in the loop about local issues and events happening. If you live in an area where there isn't much in the way of strike activities, organize your own events, or activate from your home using suggestions from above. 

bring appropriate supplies

Yes, supplies. By this, I mean things like signs, water, snacks, and also bandanas, sunglasses, goggles, and helmets if you think things might get messy. Those last few items can be helpful in minor encounters with police brutality in the form of pepper spray or batons. It never hurts to be prepared. In addition to all these things, bring your decently well-informed opinion! And if you are not marching, things like signs or other visual displays can still be useful with the help of some very useful supplies; your camera device and a social media outlet. When in doubt, share your efforts on social media to boost your participation. This is not the only thing you can do, but it is something you can do on top of your other efforts. 

go beyond marching

Contrary to popular belief, strikes are not exclusively march-while-wearing-black-oriented (although if that's what you want to do, please, go ahead!). On Strike4Democracy's How We Strike page, they recommend skipping work or school, but also advocate for not spending any money or purchasing anything. This action in itself can create an impactful economic slowdown, and is an action available to those not able-bodied or otherwise circumstantially equipped to skip work and march in the street. The page also recommends donating money to a cause you believe in, and engaging in community service on this day. To these suggestions, I will also add ideas such as public art demonstrations, public theater, slowing down at work, calling your senators and representatives, and doing healing circles with friends to strengthen your resistance practice. Also, attend a public town hall/city council meeting if there are any around the time of the strike (heads up, Santa Cruz peeps, there's a town hall Tuesday, please come show support for our immigrant community!). These are just some of the many, many ideas out there for how to participate in a strike without marching. I like these sources for further reading. 

I hope that these tips are useful to you all and inspire you to keep resisting. If anyone has any questions about my political action experience or any of the tips I've shared above, just ask. I'll see you out here on the 17th, and in the many days to come. 

Love, 

Madeleine

photos: 1, 2 is mine :)

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Time to Get Real


I have been nervous about writing something like this for some time, which means I’ve also been thinking about it for some time. I have never really attempted to be explicitly political in the past, partially because I didn’t often consider myself possessing the expertise necessary to write well about political issues, but also because I was afraid political material might alienate or bore some of my audience. But today, this is my place, and I’m gonna say what I have to say. 

Since the election results were announced, I have thought of a number of different angles through which I could engage in the conversation. I could write an open letter to Trump supporters, highlighting the fact that although so many of them try to negate his bigotry or disassociate themselves from it, they need to accept that their vote supports his whole platform, including the Islamaphobic, misogynist, KKK-indulgent aspects. I could write a similar message to liberals and leftists, making recommendations on how to cope and what to do to prepare. I could write something simply addressed to my own community of radical activists, encouraging them to take heart and take care of each other. I could even write about the fear I feel in my heart, as a queer woman but also as an ally who has friends and loved ones in many POC and other marginalized communities that are now even more dangerously threatened. What I am going to write encompasses some of those sentiments, and some others too. 

First and foremost, this post announces a new direction for Good Vibrations. In the past I have hinted at adding a more political slant to my material, but now more than ever, it is absolutely critical that I address the pressing issues in our nation and in my own life and activism work. I am a writer, I have always been good at it. If that’s how I can contribute to social change,  cultural revolution, and the safety and preservation of marginalized communities, then so be it. I am showing up for that. 

Next, I want to say that, as a white person, I have never been more horrified by whiteness at large. White supremacy has reared its ugly head in this nation, big time, and while I’ve spent a fair amount of time studying it and can claim to understand it on some levels, I cannot condone it, and find it difficult not to hate. I violently reject this idea of whiteness and white supremacy. I am not here to dominate, I am here to lift other groups up by doing whatever I can. I want to write more about what it’s like to be a white person at a time when the white identity is so shameful and ugly (But then, when has it not been? Whiteness was created to manipulate political constituencies and prevent rebellion through false ideas of supremacy). I want to be a white voice for racial justice, when white voices are needed. I want to discuss the experience of rejecting racial privilege, comfort, and complacency in pursuit of the justice we all deserve. 

However, what I don’t want to do is create more of the same issues we evidently have in this country in the media and the press. I don’t want to create a bubble; I don’t want to push people with different perspectives out. I hope I can make my writing legible, factual when needed, and de-sensationalized, but I also want to be able to speak freely about my ideas, because that is a privilege we all still have. 


What some of you might know is that I’ve been living in a small town of 871 people in southern Missouri since July. There are more Confederate flags in this town than people I would call “friend” - it’s not necessarily a very open or safe place. As you might imagine, this place is an echo chamber (and sometimes what feels more like a cesspool) of alt-right religious fervor, homophobia, racism, misogyny, and so on. It is also a place marked by deep poverty, heavily affected by drugs, riddled with police corruption, lacking in educational and diversity-exposure opportunities, and so accustomed to violence against women that it is commonplace. This is where Trump supporters live. I’ve been talking to them every day. 

I’m telling you about this because I want to show you why I think it’s so important that I, and other writers, not only speak up, but also create conversation, in hopes that our ideas will reach faraway ears and perhaps be answered, or at least discussed. I believe it’s important for people like me, heavily educated and also possessing white privilege which will give us a voice in spaces where those of others are disregarded, speak up about progressive and anti-racist ideas and bring them to the attention of people who think differently from us. And then, listen to their responses, and evolve together. I have had some excellent conversations with high schoolers about Black Lives Matter, white supremacy, privilege, and the like. I’ve had less progress with people who are older, perhaps because they’re more set in their ways, but there are Democrats who live here too, and they’ve been excellent conversational companions. 

Aside from my point about conversation, I am also bringing up my experience in Missouri to point something out. People like the ones I’m now surrounded by need justice too. They need freedom from capitalism, which is destroying their towns by plundering local economies. They need the decriminalization of drugs, they need police accountability, they need an end to the patriarchy. They need educational opportunities, and they need to experience diversity in order to understand that it’s not scary, and they don’t have to hate people who aren’t like them. They need freedom from the ideological prison of fundamentalist Christianity. They need what radicals, activists, and community builders have to say, even if they hate us and want to hurt us. 


It’s hard to come face to face with the ugly racism and bigotry that is so pervasive in our country, and among white communities such as this one. It’s also hard to look at these people with compassion, when I know they would refuse to grant the same to me should I tell them I am queer. The best I can do is diffuse my anger and try to appreciate that they are people too, just like me, and that if I believe in justice, I have no business hating them or trying to put them down. Instead, my job is to lift other people and other perspectives up. 



I want to extend a hand of friendship, love, and encouragement to anyone who reads this: I am here for your liberation, and I hope you will be here for mine. This time in our nation, and in our world, is a perilous one, and we need more than ever to create conversations, communities, and take care of each other, even if we don’t agree on everything. I believe it is possible to get along with people you can’t agree with, as long as they are not hurting you or anyone else. I believe that people are more likely to correct their prejudices when an issue is made personal to them. And I believe in the power of solidarity to defeat the ugly and hateful tendencies of Trump and his supporters. I believe in the basic goodness of humanity. I have to, I love it too much.  

I am here to talk, discuss these issues or others, give love and support, or whatever you might need, any time. I want to acknowledge that all of my ideas, especially those on racial justice and white supremacy, stem from people of color's ideas and leaders of thought, and I invite you to investigate more into what they have to say about white people's position in the continuing pursuit for racial justice, perhaps starting with this handy guide compiled exclusively by POC, "Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice". I am going to continue to be vocal and stand up for what is right: justice, safety, and the alleviation of suffering for all people. If you care to join me, excellent. I’ll see you along the way. 

With love, support, and defiance, 


Madeleine

Images: 1, 2, 3

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

How to Get Things Done: Planning, Action, and Reflection


     Hello there, I'm back with part 2 to my getting things done guide, as promised. Part One, Ideas and Focus, is here. Here's steps 4-7, plus a few additional notes and some further reading. I hope y'all will find these helpful and assistive to your productivity, sanity, and balance. I have especially emphasized rest and breaks because I think it's a very important aspect of productivity that does not get discussed as regularly as the format of your to-do lists. So, without further ado: 

4. plan and timeline 
     Now that you’ve got a narrowed-down list of your most important/urgent, time-efficient tasks or goals, you need to plan out how you will accomplish them. Here are a few ways to do that: 
  • Break the task or goal down into smaller steps. If it can be broken down, do it! This will give you a better idea of how long it will take to complete the whole task. For some things, like a weekly braindump to pull daily to-do lists from, it’s good to do this step while doing your braindump. For other things, like goals, this more naturally comes after narrowing your list.
  • Schedule it. Plan by when something should be done and give yourself a deadline. If you want to do all the laundry by the end of the day, there’s your deadline. If you want to learn to ride a motorcycle by end of 2016, there’s your deadline. Write it in your calendar, planner, or whatever you use (bullet journals are my fave), and stick to that deadline. Don’t make it unreasonable. Only you know what you have room for in your schedule. Give yourself more than enough time to accomplish something, because chances are, you’ll need it. 
  • Timeline. If a task or goal is multi-layered or involves multiple steps, make a “backwards timeline” starting from the day the task is to be completed and going backwards in time towards the present, figuring out by when the individual smaller steps need to be accomplished. For example, if I want to host a party on Halloween, I need to send out invites two weeks before, and have ingredients purchased for food by the day of the party. This is an example of backwards timelining. 
     It may also be helpful to use a daily timeline to understand where the time in a day is going. Here are some great examples of a daily timeline used in a bullet journal. I use one on very full days, but not all the time. You can expand this idea to a monthly or yearly scale, designating weeks or months to accomplishing specific tasks. In any case, make sure you allot yourself enough time to get the tasks done! Doing so will ensure that you accomplish them, have time to do them well, and feel good about your productivity, meaning you are more likely to keep being productive rather than getting frustrated if you don’t get everything done. 

5. schedule breaks and rest
     Yes, this gets its own step because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT. Resist the urge to assign yourself 10 tasks for the day and instead balance your productive time with restful time. This balance will ensure that your level of productivity is sustainable for you and suitable to your lifestyle. It will ensure better mental health, which means a better, more enjoyable life overall! 
     If you are using a daily timeline, leave time for meals and breaks in the day. Do something like giving yourself an unscheduled hour in the morning and another in the evening, for warming up and winding down. When practicing this on a monthly and yearly scale, leave at least a few days every month (if not at least once a week) that are at least mostly unscheduled, and allow yourself the space to just be, and engage in unplanned, relaxing activities. Also cut out some vacation time for yourself every year, whether you actually travel, or just relax around your town for a week. Use your breaks to be social if you wish, but also to recharge and have some alone time, as both are important for your well-being! 
     If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this! Setting aside time for breaks, rest, and relaxation will refresh your mind and creative thinking abilities, alleviate stress, help you avoid burnout, and inspire you and have you looking forward to your productive “work time” rather than dreading it. 


6. take action 
     Phew! Ok, you’ve gotten this far, you’ve planned and timelined and everything else out the wazoo. Now you just need to DO IT! The only tip I have for this part is to use the pomodoro method (which you can learn about here). It gives your brain a little break to look forward to and keeps it focused on one specific thing rather than attempting to multi-task. I use this all the time, especially when I’m having trouble focusing or doing something less-than-exciting. I use an online timer when on the computer and one on my phone when doing other types of work. 
     If you are doing something that might not fit into that 25 minute window but needs to be done all at once (like mopping the floor), use a similar principal by just promising yourself a break after you complete the task, and before going on to the next one. 

7. reflect and learn 
     Yay! Look at you, you got something done! Congratulate yourself and soak in the sweet feeling of checking something off the list. 
      Now it’s time to reflect on the process you just engaged in. Answer this list of questions about what worked, and what didn’t work: Did you get everything done that you set out to do? Were you rushed, or did you have enough time, or maybe too much? Was the setting you were completing the task in suitable, or distracting? How do you feel? Rested, balanced, or overwhelmed and stressed? Did you plan well enough, or too well? (Yes, you can plan too well - there’s a reason I only use daily timelines occasionally. Sometimes they stress me out!). Answering these questions, plus anymore you can think of that might be pertinent, is an important part of the process. It might help to jot some of these notes down on paper, or discuss them with a friend. 
     Once you have reflected, implement what you have learned from your reflection. If you were rushed or bored and had too much time, timeline more in accordance with your time needs. If you feel stressed and have figured out why that is, eliminate that stressor from the process as best you can. Keep doing this, and you will come to a pretty good place of balance, sustaining the cycle of productivity in a way that works for you and your life! 

a few final notes: 
  • You may have noticed that this whole process is designed with people who have time to take breaks in mind, but I recognize this is a privilege that not everyone has. If there is a way you can eliminate some of your responsibilities and commitments, do it. Use Step 3 to root out those things in your life which are not urgent, important, and time-efficient. 
  • Guard your time and do not take on too much. As someone who has made pursuing social justice and sustainability their life’s work, sometimes it seems to me that everything is important and urgent and I MUST GO TO ALL THE PROTESTS AND DO ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW. By using this process, I understand that I will ultimately be more effective at promoting justice if I only take on a few select responsibilities, focus on them, and do them well. 
  • In a culture where we are all trained to think of “time as money”, an ever-dwindling hourglass in the rat-race to our grave, I want to suggest a different idea. Time is our friend! Ultimately, when you are trying to get something done, time is what allows it to unfold and happen. Time is what allows us to move forward with plans and goals. You may feel an urgent need to do a hundred different things, and feel disappointed you haven’t gotten to them all yet. Remember that time is what will allow you to do those things, and that, because time is your friend, if you focus on what you want, eventually it will come to pass. Letting go of your sense of urgency in order to allow yourself to rest and be balanced, while recognizing that the things you want to accomplish will unfold over time, is probably going to feel better than trying to do them all right now. 
  • Lastly, remember that the utmost important thing about this process is that it’s meant to help you feel good! Accomplishing things this way is about feeling good, resting is about feeling good. Of course, life is about balance, including emotional balance - you’ll never feel good all the time, and that’s ok, that’s what allows you to feel good sometimes. But the goal of the way this is designed is to make being productive a positive, sustainable cycle. If you don’t feel good, try something new. Keep adjusting until you find what works for you. 

Alright, that’s all folks. Go forth, and kick ass. 

Love, 

Madeleine

further reading: 
I definitely cannot take credit for creating all these concepts on my own! Here are some things that I have either based my own ideas on, or are very related good reads. 
Thomas Frank on beating student burnout, Erin from Gingerous on Crafting Your Best Day Ever Part One and Two, Tim Ferriss on why you need a "deloading phase" (read: rest and breaks!!!), and because I mentioned bullet journalling a few times and it's one of my favorite tools for getting things done, here's an intro video to the bullet journal and the official bullet journal website

Monday, September 26, 2016

How To Get Things Done: Ideas and Focus

     
    As somebody who has spent quite a bit of time already getting things done, while also being a little bit of a productivity/wellbeing junkie, I’m surprised I haven’t written something like this already. I have mixed feelings about the idea of productivity and dedicating your life to getting things done (which you can read about here), but I also am a pretty ambitious person, driven by a sense of urgency informed by my awareness of the need for justice in this world. Because of these converging viewpoints, I am coming to a place in my life where I am very aware of how to efficiently get things done, but equally aware of the importance of rest, breaks, and valuing being over doing at certain times. 
     From this point in my understanding comes this handy-dandy guide I have constructed on how to get things done! Below are steps 1-3. Part Two, Planning, Action, and Reflection, contains steps 4-7. Rather than a linear step-by-step with an end point, I recommend looking at this more as a cycle that you will continually engage in throughout your life. While I think it’s helpful for me if I have the cycle go in this order, the order (and even the steps!) might look different for you. Plus, life is crazy and things rarely work out in their exact order. Just take this guide and run with it and use what helps you :)

1. gather ideas
     The first step to getting things done is knowing what it is exactly that you want to accomplish. For example, maybe you are feeling bored and want to find a way to spice up your life. Maybe your issue is more specific, like you want to figure out how to organize your closet. Or perhaps you have a million things you feel like you could be doing and need to pick out a few (if this is you, skip to the next step). 
     This step is kind of the “research” or “inspiration” phase. Look around for ideas on what you need to do, whether you do this on Pinterest or by looking at an issue and figuring out what needs to be done about it. So, for example, I work in a co-op marketplace, which is currently very messy (although less messy than it was). Sometimes I am very overwhelmed by the mess, but if I start writing down all my ideas and actionable tasks to solve the mess, I get closer to solving the problem just by identifying ways to do that. Another example is, sometimes on the internet I come across lots of really cool, inspiring ideas. In this phase, it’s important to record these ideas and write them down!! 

2. braindump
     So, now you’ve got ideas. Great! The next thing to do, if you haven’t already done so in Step 1, is to write them all down and conduct what some call a braindump. Erin of Gingerous conducts braindumps on a weekly basis to create a to-do list for the week. I like to do braindumps on various categories or in response to certain issues, like for my work or when writing New Years’ Resolutions or goals. All you have to do to conduct a braindump is just get a piece of paper and write down all your ideas on a topic, whether it’s just a giant to-do list or something more focused. 

3. focus
After you’ve done this, pick out a few tasks on the list to focus in on.
  • If you’re doing a braindump for the week and writing a daily to-do list based on that, pick out just a few of those tasks. My magic number for to-do list items is 3. It may not seem like a lot, but you need to give yourself leeway for rest, breaks, meals, unexpected interruptions, LIFE. Plus, you are more likely to get all the things on your daily list done if you put fewer items on there, and that feels really good!
  • If you’re doing a braindump for a list of goals to set, or a plan to solve an issue, pick out the most important ones to you, and again, only pick out a few! Make your list manageable so that you’re able to accomplish what you assign yourself, rather than overwhelming yourself and feeling discouraged. 
     When narrowing down lists of either type, I find it’s important to consider these two ideas. The first is a rule of permaculture design called “stacking functions”. When looking at a goal or task, ask yourself how many functions it serves. For example, cleaning your house might serve the practical function of cleaning your space, while also increasing your mental clarity and decreasing stress. The act of cleaning might also be a meditative task, or (if you are mopping or sweeping really vigorously) provide some physical activity. Right there are four functions that the task “clean house” serves- seems like it’s an efficient use of time! Conversely, exercise that is done purely for exercise’s sake alone, and not also for mental or spiritual wellbeing, serves fewer functions and is a less efficient use of time. That’s why you won’t catch me doing sit-ups very often, but I love going running and doing yoga because both aid my mental and spiritual health, along with my physical health. I also do a lot of biking because on top of providing exercise, fresh air, and mental clarity, it also is a method of transportation that gets me places - a very efficient use of time. Tasks or goals you identify as serving larger numbers of functions (in some permaculture circles, the goal is for anything to serve 3 functions or more!), are more worthy of your focus when you are narrowing down your list. 
     The other idea is something referenced often in productivity circles: the Eisenhower Matrix. Here’s a picture: 


You can assign any task or goal a place on this graph. Based on the quadrant it lands in, you can decide whether you want to do a task right now, later, or just discard it. Tasks that are urgent, and urgent and important are the most favorable things to focus on when narrowing your list. 

That's all for now! Check back on Wednesday for steps 4-7, and in the meantime, try these out if you like :)

Love,
Madeleine

Images: studyrose.tumblr.com, Josh Medeski