June 28, 2020
I went on a walk this morning with my friend who is the executive director of the school where I work as the artist in residence. We talked about how to change the world and what that means. We masked up & walked the neighborhood next to what’s almost my former studio space. I’ve only been in that studio for ONE year and now I’m moving out! It was supposed to be so close to my house that there’d be no reason for not being able to get to work. Well, now I’m gladly doing my part to help my family weather this pandemic, It was easy to embrace this change as a decision, but carrying it out has been so much harder. I’m saying goodbye to my wide open quiet workspace and my place of possibilities, where I was as haphazard as I wanted to be without having to explain. I’m squeezing my studio into a fraction of what it’s been for years by dividing my art work into different parts of the house. I forgot that this move would take actual time away from my life. All the progress I made as a home cook during the pandemic has been lost. I can’t think straight. I can’t change this one huge thing and maintain everything else at the same time.
Fissures in the foundations of American life are getting even more exposed than they were just a few months ago. It was already hard for me when there was unrelenting news about men in power using authority to exploit women (some men taking the hit, others not), the… whatever-you-call-it that’s happening in the White House and Senate leadership, the violation of immigrants’ human rights (children!), and obvs the hard hit of the pandemic. Then finally the most recent evidence of police murdering black people, and society is saying No! Well, at first it was No!, but the further out we are from George Floyd’s murder, the more I’m afraid to lose the momentum from the public’s outcry. I’m afraid of me not changing.
There’s so much pain. It’s been time for change since, well, ever since our country started doing wrong in the first place*. Black lives have been used and devalued for all these centuries. At the same time, I think about how patriarchy has sacrificed women for its own uses, too, so that everywhere I look, it’s a story of the stronger trampling on the relationally weaker in every sector of human life. It’s in the historical records: the US’s founding documents vs lived reality, the canon of “great western culture” with an absence of non-white-male works, the recorded personal stories of people with uncelebrated lives, the statistics of people who are poor, disenfranchised, and/or unrepresented.
As I add to my understanding of US race history and listen to contemporary experiences, I have to start by examining myself, speaking truth in the quietness of my mind. I know what it’s like to question something that’s been done or said. I’ve been abused, harassed, micro-aggressed— the last of which has been for my ethnicity as well as my gender. I know what it’s like to feel responsible for these, to question it— it happened because of me… ? But that’s such a misplaced focus that I had to change it around and reject it. I refuse to own any part of those wrongs. Later, when I see or hear wrongs against whole segments of people, I feel it deep, like I already know it because something happened to me. I want justice and goodness and rightness and to always be on that better side.
But life doesn’t happen like that. No one has permanent rightness within themselves, not even me**. If I really want to be a part of changing my community, I have to be willing to see myself and what applies to me in light of every new thing I learn. I need to be ready to ask to hear more. I think about how some men make excuses about what should have clearly been bad behavior by saying “but she never said anything,” without taking responsibility for not thinking, not asking, not wanting to know, not wanting censure. In my own life, I do not want to be that kind of person. So I can’t stay the same.
About that momentum and keeping it going: If I think that real change really needs to happen, then I need to do my part. I can’t just look outward and say *those things* need to change. If I want them to change, I’m going to have to change something, too. I’ve been wanting change for quite some time, but I haven’t been working towards it with concerted effort. I don’t like writing this next thing: If I want change in the big wide world, I need to have the courage to disrupt my own life***. The thing is, I do some things already. But can anything really change if each of us isn’t open to seeing and learning and taking on something new, something we don’t already know? I think not. And so I want to embrace this moment of uncomfortable change by starting with me****. I believe it will make a difference.
* The very beginning of colonization
**I might wish I could be angelic, but that has no bearing on reality
***That sounds very unappealing, because isn’t my life disrupted often enough? Don’t I already take care of some intense things as a parent? Don’t I already have to work to squeeze in my art practice? Don’t I already volunteer and help people?
****After the above complaining, I need to finish this asterisk section with another commitment to accept disruption and change in my own life as a part of the process of seeing change in this big wide world.
PS Here’s music from today, featuring my friend Adesha
Featured image at top: a digital artwork I made, titled Turning Someone, I finished it yesterday, it hasn’t been printed yet but when it is, it will be on Hahnemuhle German Etching paper.