Inclusion, Belonging, and Genealogy

Hi Friends,

I hope 2024 is treating you well so far. I have spent the last few months really exploring ideas of inclusion and belonging and I have undertaken a lot of family history and genealogy research that has been really revealing for me.

I want to share the training opportunities available from White Awake again with all of you. I did a recent one on genealogy research and it was so great and helpful to understand harm endured, harm caused, and the historical context of these experiences. I also want to reiterate my increasing appreciation for Braver Angels, navigating ways to a less divisive and more inclusive path forward together.

I thought that Michele L. Norris’s reflections on her Race Card Project was brilliant and insightful and painful and all the things. And I want to highlight how Community-Centric Fundraising adjusted their space to better reflect their purpose and who they center as part of their grassroots movement.

Here’s an opportunity to participate in a research study (via Integrated Schools):

“Are you a White mother interested in antiracist parenting?

EmbraceRace is currently seeking volunteers to participate in a research study supporting White antiracist parenting. Please see the description below and fill out the enrollment form if you think you might be eligible and interested, and consider passing this opportunity along to others in your network.

This study is being conducted by Dr. Gail Ferguson and Dr. Melissa Koenig at the University of Minnesota. This is a study for White mothers and White children between the ages of 5 and 8, and it will take place entirely online. CARPE DIEM (Courageous, Antiracist, and Reflective Parenting Efforts: Deepening Intentionality with Each Moment) is a new antiracist parenting intervention for White parents. The goal of the study is to examine how the intervention works and teach us how to best equip and support White parents and their children on their antiracist journeys. This study is for mothers who have an interest in antiracist parenting, whether they have already begun taking steps in this direction or are considering the possibility of taking steps in the future. Moms and kids will each receive e-gift cards of their choice for completing different parts of the study.

If you’re interested in participating in this study, click here to fill out a short enrollment form! You are welcome to email the research team with questions at carpediem@umn.edu.”

I have been learning about and getting more involved in efforts to support unhoused people here in Denver, particularly as it intersects with the influx of migrants to this area. Here’s a recent report for Denver, as a snapshot of the challenges people face. Please stay aware of a Supreme Court case that could heavily affect how houselessness is handled in this country. This issue is so clearly about how we choose to take care of each other and I encourage you to learn about how unhoused people are treated in your area.

I appreciated the feedback after my last post in November. I’d like to share another resource, “What Jewish Voice for Peace Can Teach White People About Anti-Racism” by David Dean. Please stay engaged on ceasefire efforts as well as local efforts in your area around inclusion and belonging for everyone.

I also appreciated the recent update from Anti-Racism Daily (ARD) about the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, particularly in the way it reframed my understanding of who lived where and how the land that is now the United States was acquired over time. It directly relates to my genealogical work, thinking about patterns of immigration, settler colonialism, and historical narratives that leave out key pieces of the truth.

I was so happy to see that Arlington County is working to memorialize the names of the enslaved in that place. I was intrigued by the story about Asheville, NC pursuing reparations work in the face of statewide resistance. If you’re interested in learning more about reparations efforts, there are many, but in the vein of genealogy work, check out Coming to the Table and the work they are doing.

A friend recently asked about resources I have found particularly helpful around the topics of inclusion and belonging. In the last year, I read two that were truly life-changing: See No Stranger by Valarie Kaur and How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong. I am currently reading A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit, which explores the alternate worlds we create during disaster responses, and the ways in which we respond by building community and taking care of each other and how happy that makes us.

As you might have noticed, genealogy has a lot of my attention these days. I have discovered in my research many examples of harm caused: enslavers, settlers, military involvement in the Confederacy and those fighting Indigenous people, and criminal activity. I have also discovered resisters — people fighting oppression, people speaking up for inclusion and belonging, people building community. I am immersed in the greys of humanity — no person is only good or only bad.

In the process of uncovering these stories, I have grappled with how my research intersects with privilege, oppressive systems, and harm caused; I have felt guilt and shame at times and I have grieved and felt pride and gratitude. I am exploring several themes, including how my ancestors parted from their cultures of origin (mine are mostly in England, Scotland, and Germany), how they built wealth over time, and what my role is in reparative work to promote healing and continue this trajectory in future generations.

If you have researched your family (or if you haven’t, but you’re curious), I’d love to chat about how you have engaged with challenging family history and what mysteries still remain to be solved. I find that challenging work like this is best done in community and I’d love to engage with you on this topic. I’m also happy to help with genealogical research. Please reach out to me if you’re interested.

Emily
Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.

Reactions and Responses

Hi Friends,

I have been trying to write about what has been unfolding in the Middle East for a month. I have drafted and edited and asked friends for feedback and edited some more. And during this process, most of you have heard nothing but silence from me, and for that, I apologize. I condemn antisemitism, Islamophobia, dehumanization, and oppression of any kind.

I have been grappling with the frenzy of urgency and the complicity of silence. Harm can be caused by both. The rush to “take a stand” has caused many to pick sides and to feel isolated or divided from their communities. Pain upon pain upon pain. One person I read noted the additional spiritual violence many are experiencing. I want to validate how complicated and confusing many of our feelings are right now.

I have struggled to write this post. (I acknowledge the privileges that I have that allow me space and time and distance from what is happening.) I have wanted to avoid making mistakes. I have been confused about how to talk about a situation in which two systemically impacted groups of people have been positioned against each other, resulting in mutual dehumanization and violence. I have been worried about calls for unwavering loyalty to one group over another to justify violence instead of validating the shared humanity of each and every one of us.

Many of us have been reactive and in pain and seeking unequivocal validation of our sense of threat. Most of us are not skilled in validating someone’s feelings even when we do not agree with those feelings, and so many messages and articles and posts have contributed to binary thinking and people choosing sides. Cycles of dysregulation and spirals of emotions. Division and fear compounded.

Each of us respond to perceived threats in different ways and it is important that we continue to show compassion, love, and curiosity about each other and resist pulling away or turning toward despair, hate, or violence. These moments of panic challenge us to respond rather than react, something that takes practice. I have been reading Valarie Kaur’s See No Stranger and it has been very meaningful as she speaks about the aftermath of 9/11 and the reactions that followed against anyone who could be remotely associated with terrorism. I fear that we are repeating those mistakes.

Recently, public reactions are shifting. Many more people are denouncing violence and are calling for a ceasefire. Many more people are responding with compassion and love and understanding while still holding the line of human rights as a baseline.

I am so grateful for the thoughtful people who have reached out to their communities quickly and with compassion. I have so many examples now of how to hold space for grief, how to express compassion for suffering, and also how to hold the line of the value of all humanity and human rights, ideally bringing people together in the process.

We must resist the forces that seek to divide us from each other. Most of us are harmed by fights for power and dominance by governments/states/organizations that are not motivated by shared humanity. While a power imbalance exists between Israel and Gaza and should be acknowledged, the power imbalance I want to highlight is between those in positions of power who are willing to use violence to harm civilians and the rest of us who want to live our lives in peace and do not hate each other. (Credit to the last paragraphs of Robert Hubbell’s post here.)

If you have also been feeling confused or hesitant or doubtful, I recommend the following resources, action items, etc. There are many roles to play in changemaking. Consider your capacity and preferences and jump in wherever the opportunities present themselves — donating funds, mutual aid, writing to media and elected officials, marching or protesting, educating yourself about the history and context of Israel and Palestine, and amplifying voices that are not reflected in our mainstream news sources. We can hold each other and build our connections with each other because so many forces right now are trying to divide us.

If you want to learn more about how to support Palestinians in particular, here’s a resource document that several people have put together and is being updated frequently. I was given permission to share it with you.

These resources have been helpful to me; maybe they will be for you, too:
- Nicholas Kristoff’s “We Must Not Kill Gazan Children to Try to Protect Israel’s Children
- Iman Jodeh’s “Opinion: Human rights for Palestinians should not be controversial
- The Anti-Racism Daily’s “Recognize state-sanctioned violence” and “Solidarity Isn’t conditional
- Kurt Streeter’s “‘I Love You. I Am Sorry’: One Jew, One Muslim and a Friendship Tested by War” and NewGround’s website
- Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s “a lot of things are true
- Ryan Grim’s “Gaza and the Empathy Gap
- Valarie Kaur’s work, including this quote
- Solutions Not Sides “Avoiding Antisemitic and Islamophobic Hate Speech
If Not Now
Standing Together
Peace Now
Friends Committee on National Legislation
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
Ali Abu Awwad
The Jerusalem Youth Chorus
Jewish Voice For Peace
Rabbi Angela Buchdahl
There are many more out there.

Please, do not lose hope and do not turn from each other. There are so many examples of people working together for peace and standing in the name of humanity. Find something that you can commit to and keep going. You are not alone.

Emily
Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.

Freezing, Silence, and Shame

Hi Friends,

Happy Fall! I hope your school years have started well (for those of you caring for school-aged children) and that things are settling into a new routine.

I have been reading a lot and remembering some experiences and wrestling with the fact that there have been several times when a White person has acted in a racist way towards a Black person and I have been silent/frozen in the moment. I have not been walking the walk of my anti-racist talk. In response, I have been educating myself about bystander interventions and other strategies I can use to show up differently in public.

I’m finding that silence is really common, especially among White women. From my own experience, I have been socialized to avoid making anyone else uncomfortable (read, other White people) and I often feel socially disempowered in public spaces even though I’m not. My socialization can cause me to question what I’m observing and to make excuses or explain away someone else’s harmful behavior (read, if they are White). My/our tendencies to not get involved, to freeze or stay silent, need to be unlearned.

One of the books I read recently that really focuses on “nice White silence” is White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How To Do Better by Regina Jackson and Saira Rao. I recommend this book with a caveat: If you are a White woman, this book will challenge and disrupt you. You need to have people or resources in place so that you do not get stuck in a disrupted state of shame or guilt. Before you read it, make plans to move through those feelings (advice heavily informed by Shelly Tochluk).

In my own processing of White Women, I turned to BrenĂ© Brown and her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.” Brown focuses on the role of shame in our lives, particularly for women, although also for men, and I have found her insights to be absolutely essential for understanding my own journey of self-work in anti-racism and in understanding other White people’s barriers when doing this work (or to starting it in the first place).

For example, when White people start to learn more about their complicity in upholding White supremacy structures, they often respond with denial, bargaining, guilt, and shame. Brown says, “When we are experiencing shame, we are steeped in the fear of being ridiculed, diminished or seen as flawed. We are afraid that we’ve exposed or revealed a part of us that jeopardizes our connection and our worthiness of acceptance.” (p. 20) Fear of being branded as racist is very strong.

One of the things I have encouraged my readers to do is to always continue with our self-work, our own growth and healing. Brown says, “Empathy and connection require us to know and accept ourselves before we can know and accept others.” (p. 49) If we truly want to be in relationship with people in our communities, we need to be kind to ourselves and work on our own barriers to empathy and connection. And, it turns out that being afraid of saying the wrong thing to someone is a barrier to empathy and connection (p. 56).

Brown has struggled with the same things we do: “I’ve learned that it is better for me to accept the fact that I struggle with many of the same learned biases that other people do. This has allowed me to spend my energy unlearning and changing my prejudices rather than proving that I don’t have any.” (p. 59)

Beyond looking at how we treat ourselves when we are experiencing shame, we must also look at how we are treating others. Do we use shame to try to change someone else’s behavior? It won’t work. Brown says, “Are we using shame as a punishment because we think it will foster real change in people? Or are we shaming others because it feels good to make people suffer when we are in fear, anger or judgment?” (p. 66)

This past weekend, I participated in a “Depolarizing Within” workshop through Braver Angels. I’m still learning about this organization, and I found a lot of meaningful tips for rethinking a lot of my own polarization and how I can address that. One of the things I learned is how, even though I have diversified my media intake and authors I read from a racial/cultural perspective, I still mostly read people who I agree with. This reinforces my ability to “other” entire groups of people and is something I can and must address.

This is not a “both sides” argument. It simply means that if my goal is to encourage White people to engage in anti-racist/anti-oppression work in themselves and in their communities that I need to ensure that I approach those connections with respect and accuracy. If you want to learn more about the workshop, you can access the handout here (this is shared with their permission).

I would love to hear your thoughts about any of this. If you want to learn more about shame and the Black experience, I’m currently reading You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience, and the Black Experience by Tarana Burke and BrenĂ© Brown and it is such an important collection of work. And if you’re ready to move “away from individual learning and practice and into collective action that builds power,” check out this article from SURJ and/or find ways to support the UAW strike.

Emily
Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.