I tried to let this piece be as intuitive as possible and not overthink it. I had the image of the blue square in mind with a lot detritus floating around it. I chose the specific words, but I resisted the urge to organize them in any particular order, and simply let them stay where they fell.
For some reason the box needed roots, to anchor it in the space. When I thought it was done, it needed one more thing–the sprout. I intended the blue square to be the respite of peace in the midst of confusion. When I added the sprout I realized the solace I was portraying was personal growth and change. In the midst of the chaos we’re living in, I take comfort in the work that I and others are doing to better themselves and their understanding of the world we’ve been born into, the structures and policies we’ve inherited. Books on race have been selling out at every bookstore in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests, and it’s one of the most encouraging things I’ve ever seen.
“You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in.” –Eliezer Yudkowsky
During a conversation with Remy Styrk today, he said “Even if policies change, they won’t make a difference until the change is made within people’s morals, hearts, minds and actions.” That is what I mean by personal growth. We may not be the architects of redlining or mass incarceration, but we need to acknowledge what we’ve inherited and decide if we want to live in a world that perpetuates these kind of policies.
I believe the majority of people in America are simply ignorant. But in America, ignorant = accidental racist because we’re all living under systemic racism. White privilege is the luxury of having that ignorance. At this point in our history, most of us haven’t made a conscious decision to espouse racist viewpoints. We’re perpetrators and victims of the structures we were born into. So when I say educate yourself–read books, learn history, practice mindfulness about your own behavior–I’m not saying that because I believe you’re one of those racists and therefore some sort of evil person. If you grew up in America you inherited something you’ve never thought twice about, and doing the work is to learn and undo the unintentional hurt you might be causing. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. These were not conversations I had growing up, so everything I’ve learned I’ve had to do on my own. I’m continuing these conversations with my 5 year old, because that’s what it means to raise a generation more ethical than the one that came before it.
I feel the same way about American Christianity. There are plenty of early church fathers who were anti-Semitist. The average Christian today has no idea they’re endorsing those behaviors when they accept and promote replacement theology and other ideas, so I don’t blame them for their ignorance. But this is why it’s so important to take responsibility for your own education. It’s hard, it can be confusing, and it requires actual work. It means you’ll mess up, but that’s ok, as long as you keep moving forward. It never ends, and that’s exactly why I take solace in personal growth. There’s always another step, another nugget of wisdom, another perspective that will open your eyes to something that makes you a better human. We can always be better.
Collage words (clockwise, starting top left):
- for generations
- 5 D
- new players