keep on asking!

My ten-year-old, Li’l D, and I have many times discussed the difference between “knowing” and “knowing-about.”

As human beings, it can be far too easy to confuse knowing-about with deep knowing, as I first demonstrated to Li’l D—years ago!—with elephants.

While I can’t recall how that conversation started, it began with Li’l D being confident in his elephant expertise. He remained confident until I started asking him nuanced questions about elephants: Continue reading “keep on asking!”

love can win

Many with privilege can recognize, in the abstract at least, that poverty and the suffering it creates are a scourge and that we should work to end them. But without ever having lived in poverty, they may not appreciate its wiles, how it penetrates every aspect of a life. Many more do live in poverty, but because the nature of poverty is to disempower and distract, the burdens of their daily lives limit their capacity to act. Few have both an intimate understanding of the day-to-day reality of poverty—the suffering it causes—and the privilege to address it. The profound responsibility of those in this last category abides.

— Abdul Al-Sayed, Healing Politics

After I gave birth to my younger son in early 2014,
I suffered profound postpartum depression.

I remember:
With grim determination, tears streaming down my face,
telling my husband that I only kept going because
my children needed my income to survive …
and I remembered, oh how I remembered,
how the kids across the street suffered
when they lost their dad to suicide.

“Your kids need more than your income from you, Deb,”
my husband told me.

At that point,
no part of me believed it.

I’d grown up the poor oldest daughter
of four poor children of a
poor single mom; Continue reading “love can win”

to karen (1)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about concerns with Karens,

as well as concerns with my own use of the word “Karens” (noun) instead of karen-ing (verb).

I’ve been thinking about karen-ing a lot the last week or two:

What does it mean to karen?

Who is most likely, based on societal structures today,

to feel empowered to karen in public?

Do I karen? If so,

How do I adjust my life in ways that help me

karen less?

While the process of discovery as I’ve experienced it isn’t as linear as the nature of English and blogging may make it sound, the process really did begin with one question above all:

“What does it mean to karen?” What’s the definition as I’d write it?

To come to that definition, I had to first answer a different question:

Apart from the fact they’d been perpetrated by white women, what did all the acts of karening I’d witnessed on social media have in common?

In each case, a white woman felt subjectively threatened by the skin color and/or non-aggressive acts of a Black person, and then acted out that sense of threat in ways that increased possibility of harm to the Black person.

Thanks to author Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I had words for what was happening in these moments of karening: Continue reading “to karen (1)”

drying in the sun

I moved to Japan in May 2004. While I took a lot from my time in Japan,

it’s the tiniest, most apparently innocuous piece of

my experience in Japan that’s

filled my heart

recently.

Growing up in profound trauma, I also grew up far outside my body:

Things happened to my body in the physical plane, but none of that mattered

to my mind, which subsisted on words and insights untouched by physical sensations.

While living in Japan, I found there was one activity that brought all of me together for a few minutes at a time: Continue reading “drying in the sun”

to experience grace

Four weeks ago, I wrote about unlikely inspiration: being laughed at and photographed for wearing a face mask. I wrote about how reflecting on that encounter helped deepen my commitment to practicing empathy even—perhaps especially—when it’s hard:

If I rage at [Unmasked Woman], the maskless woman who set this post stirring, I do not show care. I do not show empathy. I do not reflect, in act, my deep belief that “redeemable” is a category into which every single human being may fall.

A few days later, I’d learn of the police murder of George Floyd. I’d see my husband, a Black man who has gently walked with me as I’ve grappled with the enduring consequences of my own many encounters with trauma, split open and bleed out decades of racism-born trauma. Unskilled at being with him in his own trauma, I’d leap right into the roiling waters of trauma with him, leaving us both exhausted, wounded, and wary. Continue reading “to experience grace”

the illusion of health

You know that nightmare
where you have to take a Calculus final
even though you didn’t realize you were signed up for Calculus,
and didn’t attend a single class?

I had something like that, last night …
except, appropriately, it was about face masks.

I was perusing earrings in cozy, dimly lit second-hand collectives in San Francisco. I’d just found a beautiful pair of enormous red, yellow, and green earrings when I looked up and realized:

There were dozens of people in my vicinity, and no one was wearing a face mask! Not even me!

Panicked, I dropped the earrings and fled.

Then, I’m sitting on a bus, as I did so many times in both childhood and law school. Continue reading “the illusion of health”

“bad apples”

Today, I remembered a post I wrote in late 2016: “On Building Racial Stamina.”

By that point, I had two young Black sons. I’d had years to grapple with the differences between racism and Racism, and yet continued–it’s seemed to me–to barely grok them.

Revisiting this post now, it seems I grokked more than I’ve understood, for: What we’re seeing now is exactly what I then saw coming (which mirrored everything come before),

which is exactly what the Black folks who’d taught me prepared me to expect.

Image from a Eugene, OR lawn, circa 2016

#BlackLivesMatter taught me about power:

Who has it, who doesn’t, and, most importantly,
“how power favors a certain kind of order over actual justice.”

It taught me that the system that blames everything on “bad apples” is sure as hell going to keep coming up with
bad apple after
bad apple after
bad apple, so that,
someday, every person
capable of empathy will come
to question whether it’s
really just
individual
apples that
are rotten.

we shape it

My husband, Anthony, and I are both horror fans.

He typically prefers psychological horror, while I favor supernatural horror–you know, the kind of horror that human beings can’t work on one another.

We did find some horror overlap thanks to zombies. Anthony inspired that in me by loaning me his copy of World War Z, which excellent novel paved the way for Anthony and I to date over … zombie movies.

For a few months now, I haven’t been in the mood for much horror. There’s enough to amp up my anxiety in the real world without adding to it with fantasy.

But then … Continue reading “we shape it”

Race & the willingness to see, or: “Don’t be Bob” 

In 2009, I was shocked to discover racism was still a “thing” in the United States. Yes, even in Los Angeles.

By 2013, I was no longer confused about the existence of racism here and now. Even so, it would be another couple years before I began really grasping how absolutely lethal is this racism in its many systemic forms.

Which is to say: In 2013, I hadn’t yet lost my sense of humor. I hadn’t yet begun to despair at my utter inability to help restructure systems to be less lethal. I could write a post like this one.

As you can see below, I hadn’t yet learned to capitalize the “b” in Black, or that even Bob (noun) doesn’t Bob (verb) all the time. But, hey! I did learn, eventually.

And the point here is: We all can learn, when we choose to listen. 🙂


Race & the willingness to see, or: “Don’t be Bob” 
Originally posted on TMiYC
July 19, 2013


“Racism is dead, folks. Move on!”

“Why are we still talking about race? I’ve never once seen an act of racism. It’s only people in backwater Arkansas who still think like that.”

“I don’t see color, and neither does anyone else these days. I don’t see why some people still want to live in the 1950s when racism was actually a problem.”

“My cat doesn’t see it, either. She’s above that.”

I’ve seen dozens of variations on these words in the past few days. I’d look for direct quotes, but honestly, I’d get so grumpy scanning through comments for the verbatim gems I’d end up devouring a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s instead of writing this blog. (And I don’t even eat dairy! Or added sugar!)

Aren’t I pasty white person? Yes, indeedy! But as the pasty white mama of a lovely mocha-colored cub, I’ve been inspired to research race and racism in a way I wasn’t before, back when I thought it didn’t exist save in backwater Arkansas.

Oh, yeah, I did. Continue reading “Race & the willingness to see, or: “Don’t be Bob” “