| by Teal Cracraft |
I’ve never been more aware of my womaness and my whiteness. As a woman, I no longer feel safe in a society that collectively decided to support a man who advocates sexual assault against women and speaks about women in the most deplorable, degrading and disgusting ways. A society that turned its back on me, my daughter, my friends and my family members by enthusiastically voting for Donald Trump, or “holding their noses” and voting for him anyway. I feel betrayed by the millions of women, WOMEN, that supported Donald Trump and excused away his behavior as “boys will be boys” or “he didn’t really mean it.” I feel deeply saddened that there are women who truly believe that “pussy grabbing” and being compared to “bitches in heat” is okay. Because somewhere along the line someone made them think it was acceptable to degrade, diminish, demoralize and discard women. That we should accept misogyny and patriarchy as the price we pay for being female in America. I felt angry and indignant and I’m just now realizing that my feelings could be dangerously misconstrued as self righteous. Because I realize that I’ve assumed that most women feel the same way I do. That we all want equal opportunities, equal treatment, respect, basic rights to decide what is and is not right for our bodies and I’ve judged any woman that doesn’t hold these same beliefs. When I felt low, I went low and in my personal darkness, I realized that nothing changes unless I start trying to understand what it means to be a woman from the perspective of all women. That I need to open my heart and mind and seek out women that are different from me and listen to their stories.
As a white woman, I’m feeling acutely aware of my whiteness. Facebook posts calling out white people for their overnight anti-Trump activism have caused me to feel angry, hurt and ashamed. My immediate reaction was, “but that’s not me, I don’t deserve to be stereotyped.” But, the more I’ve thought about it, the deeper my shame grew and the less angry I felt. Because it’s true, I’ve failed. I’ve failed to stand on the front line fighting injustice and racial inequality, I’ve failed to join community activist groups that are reshaping that narrative, I’ve failed to seek out and surround myself with people that look, think and act differently than I do. As a white woman born in suburban Indiana, I’ve never been the victim of racial violence, oppression or injustice. I see now, more clearly than ever, that I’ve failed to be outraged, to put my life on the line and fight for my personal beliefs. I’ve failed to recognize and acknowledge just how deep racism runs in our country and I’ve failed to use my privilege to protect and defend others from unimaginable and unacceptable treatment. I see this now and I ask for forgiveness and I vow that I will change. I will do better, be better and set a better example for other white people. I will start by joining the local #BlackLivesMatter movement and I will ask for mentors that look and think differently than me. I will volunteer my time and talents to organizations that desperately need white people to step up and use their privilege to influence their communities. I will ask the universe to bring diverse energy into my life and I will seek guidance and strength and courage to be a warrior for racial equality and social justice. I’m white, but that doesn’t define me and I need to do a better job of proving that’s true to anyone looking for my actions to speak louder than my skin color.
My, still shaky, thoughts that we can rebuild our communities, our states and our nation into something better have come when I’m surrounded by friends and strangers brought together by this crisis. The week of Thanksgiving, I had an unexpected visit from a friend that travels the world recording abortion stories. We sat on the couch, talked about our feelings and watched movies. And, despite my warnings about a “pro-Trump” family contingent, my friend, a queer Latina who records abortion stories, broke bread with my family and joked that she had never been to such a white Thanksgiving. She reminded me that we are human, that our friendship is not defined by our race or gender or sexual orientation, it is defined by our mutual respect, trust and regard for each other. She lifted my spirits and reminded me that love and kindness will always trump hate. During that same week, I met with a group of mostly strangers to plan a resistance vigil. We discussed the power of a peaceful event featuring music and words from spiritual leaders of all faiths and how to use our individual connections to form a collective movement, a voice that could not be ignored. We agreed that the mission of our vigil was to persuade the Electoral College to reconsider a vote for Donald Trump, but even more important, to send the message that we will not support an administration that doesn’t honor the rights and dignity of women, African-Americans, Muslims, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, non-christians, our LGBTQ+ community, the disabled, immigrants and all people that are in danger of being disenfranchised, singled out and scape-goated by the Trump/Pence administration.
I know my feelings will continue to be complicated and constantly evolving as I figure out how to move forward. I know that I will feel sad and defeated one minute; hopeful and defiant the next. I know that I will not give up. I will not allow myself to go low, to judge, to feel judged, to be defensive and angry. I will keep reaching out and I will keep trying to understand and I will fill my heart and mind with love and compassion for all people. And, when I stumble and make mistakes, I will try again. I will be the example for my daughter and I will show her that love is the most powerful, the most expansive, the most effective weapon we have against hate.