Since the current administration was elected, I’ve tried to learn to be quiet. To listen and learn from those who are suffering at the hands of the homophobic, anti-any-religion-but Christianity, white supremacists who are currently (mis)leading this country.
Every single day something new and horrifying happens. Just when you think #45 cannot do something uglier, more insipid, or illegal, he does.
To counteract the disgusting sickness of racism that has always been lingering in our country, but was more hidden when we had someone with grace and a modicum of human decency in the White House, our family is exposing ourselves to different resources than we had been previously. We’ve subscribed to new magazines, I’m reaching out to people in new and different ways, and we’re watching for our own blindspots when we can.
I considered making this post about the ugliness that is so easy to see once you begin to look for it. When I’m seeing it as a privileged white woman, it’s disheartening to think about the folks who are having to live in terror everyday because of the Bigot in Chief. I see it because I’m actively looking for it from the safety of my skin. Other folks don’t have that veneer of protection.
Instead I am choosing to share some of the intriguing, outstanding resources we’re learning from.
We now subscribe to Essence magazine, for example, and here’s an article that wouldn’t be found in many publications:
An article I wouldn’t have seen if we didn’t subscribe to Essence.
I read this article in the NYT: N.A.A.C.P. to Missouri: You’re No Safe Space (Still) and my eye was caught by this:
“The advisory evokes an era when African-Americans relied on sources like The Negro Motorist Green Book to guide their travel choices.”
Here was obviously a part of history of which I was unaware. So we purchased The 1963-64 International Green Book to learn more.
Yes, this was a necessary thing.
Consider this for a minute…if you had to have a book that told you where you could eat and sleep without fear of being abused because of the color of your skin. If you are white, in this country, or in most places, this was never, ever a thing you had to plan for.
A good friend did tell me there was a similar publication for GLBT Folks.
A feeling of shock and sickness at how few options there were in Iowa, but then tears of relief and joy and pride fell when I read The Green Book:
So few options in Iowa.
Listed in Newton, Iowa; The Hillcrest Motel.
That was my aunt’s motel.
My cousin could only find these two pictures of pictures to share with me. They show the office/house part of the motel. The motel of approximately 16 units would have been on the right side of these pictures. There was also a small cottage behind the office that she rented out and a mobile home at the opposite end of the parking lot for longer-term renters.
She was my favorite aunt, and I stayed the most often with her and Uncle Bob. (I probably stayed equally as often with Aunt Kathy and Uncle Charles who had my best friend cousins.)
When you stayed with Aunt Lela, you were going to be helping clean the motel, eating incredibly well, and watching as she cared for the many animals she loved over the years.
The one picture I have of the two of us.
I learned a lot from Aunt Lela, including how to crochet, and oh, how I wish I could ask her questions about The Green Book and her place in history. I remember reading a description of the motel in a AAA Guidebook, and it mentioned how spotlessly clean it was.
Consider that, too. The Green Book didn’t even mention specifics about the places because to be a Traveler of Color meant your options were limited, at best.
Another great resource has been the Black History Flash Cards. Surely by now we all recognize that history is written by the victorious, and I’m attempting to address the great gaps in my understanding of the world and history. These have been a fun way to learn things.
I’m reading different websites, learning from different people, listening, listening, listening. And we’re watching for the bias in whatever we read and hear from social media and the media in general. We’re considering the source, always.
This last year + has been an interesting social experiment for me. I’ve realized it takes effort and thought to SEE and learn outside of our zone of the typical. It takes effort to meet and create new friends outside the zone of the easy connection. And always in the back of my mind is the realization that I’m learning from the safety and comfort of my white skin in my safe, comfortable home. I can’t change that, but at the very least I am learning to recognize the privilege of it.
And when the karmic enormity of it gets to me; when it feels like the world is too ugly and evil and I cannot understand how humans can be so unkind to each other, I try to remember:
Trying to remember this.