doubts and barbs


Getting ready for a lecture at Pendle Hill's Tuesday Night Lecture Series, Finding the Way: Practical Choices that Support Faithful Living. I'm feeling discouraged about the reading tour, though two new readings have been arranged in the last week - in Cleveland and Worcester, Mass. I've been wanting to branch out into new regions, so that's good....but, what is the but? Tired of traveling. I only sold three books at the P-Flag reading, and lost the little slip of paper with the name on it of someone who works at Temple U and thinks the book would make a good one for their freshman class. Are you out there!

She talked about purposely driving her son past the public elementary school every day so he could see (on his way to the private school) how very poor it was - another planet really. The first time she saw that school, she said, she thought it a derelict building. The rusting sagging fences. The glass and trash in what must have been the playground.

Then a little girl stepped out of a huge steel door. A little black girl, of course (so much history, so many "refusals, hates, postponements, meanness, laziness" (to quote Whitman) going into that "of course" of course). So she decided to re-route her son's way to school (but not to adulthood), and often she would say to him, of some little girl or boy his age, "Don't you forget, that little girl is just as good as you."

But that little girl or boy is not, really, not academically, not physically, because of the school he's in, the food she eats, the access he has to computers and quiet, health care, summer stimulation. I wish the mother had said that. And I wish she had said not "she's just as good as you are," but "you're just as good as she is."

See the difference? But the well-off son is not, not really--not in terms of resilience, cultural competenence, maybe even spiritual depth. Because of the school he's in, his surround-sound privilege; because his mother drives him past the poor school and doesn't stop, doesn't explain about Brown vs. Board of Education, and white flight, and how our ideals tend to take flight when our children are concerned. Oh, we would have stayed, I've often heard, except for our children, you know. No I don't know. Stay because of your children.

And this was one of the more awake people, a good woman clearly and very enthusiastic about the book. They were all good people, solid middle and upper class educated people with bi, gay and transgendered sons and daughters, nieces and nephews. People who want to make a difference, and are. Yet loving oppressed people doesn't seem to have compelled them to work on their racism. It's not automatic; it's a process.

I need more patience and love. Usually when I'm ranting like this it's because the mote in my own eye is irrtating me so much!

But I worry my book only adds to the problem, let's white people see themselves/us as helpers, charity-givers, judgers, benificent in our pronouncement: You are just as good as me (or, as they would probably say it, grammatically, smugly, "as I"). And not, I hope to become as strong and hopeful as you, as skilled at community, despite my upbringing.

Well I better quit, better get ready for the two readings next week. Part of that getting ready will be to look that question in the face - does the book make things worse? Can I change the way I present it, the excerpts I choose?