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What is there to say?

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There are different types of silence at a moment like this. The conspicuous silence of people who care more about being marketable than being “political”. The forced silence of those who want to do the right thing but are frozen with the fear of what could happen to them in their homes and their communities. And then there’s the stunned kind of silence, the silence of the helpless, of people who don’t know what to say or do because the thought of a solution to the problem only just occurred to them.

I’ve spent the last two weeks doing more circulating of Black voices than that of my own. I’m white. I don’t know shit and it’s very difficult to run to Twitter and talk about writing or Chinese television or funny things my kid has said when my country stands on the precipice of a revolution none of us are emotionally prepared for. Weeks of fear and isolation in a near-nationwide quarantine has sapped us of our energy and mental health but the moment is now. We’re watching scenes from major cities that look more like what the United States warns us about in other countries. Insurrections happen over there. Where? It doesn’t matter. Just not here. Certainly, the President of the United States would never have to cower in fear from his own people, in a bunker constructed for a worst-case scenario. And if that happens, what should we do, as proud, free Americans? Vote, of course!

Vote! Vote in a system controlled by the very people who benefit most from it! Vote, because if you’re lucky, yours will be one that counts. Probably not, but you’ll never know until you try! The system has been stacked unfairly against Black voters in an effort to protect white supremacy. Of course, people are fighting back. Why wouldn’t they? No ordinary citizen truly has a say in what happens to them, to their lives, to their property, to their liberty. A whim and a phone call pitted the United States military against the citizens who allegedly control this democracy. A whim and a pen stroke could return the country to slavery and internment. All while the people we were encouraged to vote for sit back, wring their hands, and pretend they never had a hand in crafting the laws and policies that have broadened every gap, political, economic, and racial between Black people and white people.

There’s another kind of silence: the one where you know that your rage and your heartbreak are not central to an issue. Where you’re quiet because you know your voice isn’t necessarily helpful. The one where you fret that you’re not doing enough, out of fear of doing too much and causing harm. The fear of burdening an already suffering people with well-intentioned nonsense. A fear that comes from the desire to do good but also a desire to look good. I don’t want to succumb to that. I don’t think anyone wants to do that.

Rather than try to express my own feelings on the recent slayings and the brazen, homicidal lawlessness of police everywhere now that they’ve been set off their leashes, I’m going to keep RTing Black voices and smarter people than me over on Twitter, where I have more of a reach. And I’m going to give you, the rest of Trout Nation, the choice of how the blog moves forward from here. It feels very much like the days after 9/11; when are we allowed to do normal things again, without diminishing the hell we’re in? How much distraction is okay before it lulls us back into a state of submission? Do you want to see updates here or would you feel wrong about it? Would it serve as a temporary respite from the new or would it hurt or seem as though I’m pushing the importance of this time to the backburner? How do I go forward here without making it seem like I’m trying to nudge everything back to “normal”? I would feel guilty wondering about these questions but they’re near-universal among creatives of all races right now. Aside from white supremacists and privileged white anarchists, nobody wants to steal focus from the war being waged against justice in the streets nightly. Nobody in America knows how to live with the open acknowledgment that we are a broken nation and have been since July 4, 1776. Even for the people who’ve known this, having it in the air all around, the topic of every conversation in a year when an entire country burned, a pandemic swept the globe, and our president was impeached is a surreal experience. And the year isn’t even half over.

I’m stuck in the “please control your white rage, Jenny, this is not about you and your seemingly racially-inherent, socially conditioned inability to see any solution beyond violence” type of silence. I’m angry. My desire to express that anger doesn’t help. It’s just not constructive for white people to be angry because we’re the ones who did this. And I don’t know how to fix it. What I do know is that Black Lives Matter, Black people matter, Blackness matters. The system must be taken apart and reassembled from the ground up. And the work should ultimately be the responsibility of the white people who caused the problem. But again, I’m one of those white people and let me tell you: we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing because we’re still routinely surprised by the police brutality that we willfully ignore.

Denial is a dangerous, dangerous weapon.

This is all exceptionally disjointed and grim. I’m aware. Consider yourselves lucky; I’m not as in love with stream of consciousness writing as I was in high school. But while I have exactly zero answers and nothing to add that hasn’t already been said better by someone with more life experience than mine, I want everyone here to know that Trout Nation isn’t a place for fascists. It isn’t a place for violence. And it’s a place where Black Lives Matter is not a political statement. It’s a statement of fact.

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19 Comments

  1. Avis
    Avis

    Jenny, thank you.

    Most white folks keep saying we must help ourselves that we must get ‘seats at the decision making tables’; we are not helping or refuse to help ourselves but as you rightly put it:

    ‘The system must be taken apart and reassembled from the ground up.’

    The honest truth is we all, Black, White, Green and all else, must work to get this done.

    June 7, 2020
    |Reply
  2. AdAstra
    AdAstra

    Very well said, Jenny.

    June 8, 2020
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  3. AdAstra
    AdAstra

    Well said, Jenny.

    June 8, 2020
    |Reply
  4. AdAstra
    AdAstra

    Sorry, somehow managed to post twice!

    June 8, 2020
    |Reply
  5. Anon
    Anon

    This African American reader is tired of screaming her online voice out about things that should be no brainers.

    This place has been a much-needed refuge from the horrific sounds and images of a collapsing empire and society.

    From the hilarious, sharp-edged recaps of literary blights to the equally hilarious and just as sharp-edged commentary from other readers, your blog has given me something to laugh about in a time when nothing else is funny.

    I also appreciate the freedom to vent about terrible authors/people like the one referenced in a previous entry.

    I’m only one voice/vote/reader, but I advocate for more recaps of shittily penned “books” as well as entries similar to the Cupid Stunt one.

    I know you’ve opted out of the drama-drenched mess that is romancelandia and have decided to step away from the role of super-blogger (I understand and support that decision wholeheartedly), but I really appreciate knowing which racist authors to boycott.

    TL;DR: keep the usual content coming and, if it’s physically and mentally safe (I saw what happened when you *dared* to post a dissenting opinion about guns/problematic body acceptance anthems/rape culture), I’d like to see you comment on what you see unfolding from your corner of the country.

    Again, I’m only one African American voice, but I want to say to you that your whiteness does not negate your voice in this conversation.

    You’ll probably get pushback from black racists (only an ignorant person would argue that these can’t ever be mutually inclusive) but…their racists, so screw them.

    If you feel uninformed you can read White Fragility and other such books. White friends and colleagues have reported feeling more confident in conversations about race as they have a better understanding of how to avoid the landmines.

    Also, I, for one, would appreciate a heads up about shenanigans like the ones referenced in Cupid Stunt, because part of my protest efforts (I’m disabled and can’t join the demonstrations) is keeping my black money out of the pockets of people who disagree that I am a human being and an American, one who is entitled to all of the rights, advantages and opportunities that whites enjoy.

    Thank you for asking this question, and I support whatever you decide to do.

    June 8, 2020
    |Reply
  6. Jordan Bell
    Jordan Bell

    White reader from Australia, where we have our own centuries long history of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous attempted genocide to wrestle with. Would you consider hosting a read-along of a suitable educational book. A spot where readers can read something good with you, side by side, and do some work together in the comets section? I know “White fragility” has already been mentioned. I also rate “So you want to talk about race” by Ijeoma Oluo, although that’s hard to get a copy of right now apparently. Obviously not if you don’t have the spoons for it, but it would be a powerful, on-brand, way to do something if you do.
    Wishing your whole country the safest passage through this difficult, necessary time.

    June 8, 2020
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  7. Liz
    Liz

    Like most white people, I have no idea what I’m doing so I have no idea what to tell you to do.

    I will say thank you for this post though – thank you for putting so many of my fears and doubts and other feelings into words without making excuses for them or letting me off the hook from doing better.

    I know that as an anxious white person what I WANT to hear is that I’m “doing enough”, that I’m “one of the good ones”, that it’s okay for me to disengage – but none of that is what I or any white person really NEEDS to hear. So I really, really appreciate you validating my feelings without giving me a way out of the work I can and need to do to help support black and brown voices not just now, but always.

    June 8, 2020
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  8. Xebi
    Xebi

    I’ve been doing the same as you – doing what I can to amplify Black voices, listening to those voices and passing important messages to my fellow white people. I’ve lost almost half my Twitter followers as a result. I’m not bothered about being popular, I care far more about doing the right thing. What bothers me is that being popular and doing the right thing shouldn’t be opposite choices! It shows the problem is far bigger than I thought it was, which in itself has taught me a lot about my own privilege.

    June 8, 2020
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  9. Anon
    Anon

    Here’s an example of the kind of outrage and impatience you might encounter right now.

    This was taken from the comments section of a popular GR review of White Fragility.

    Note that it is in response to someone whose “question” indicated that he wanted cookies for picking now to have a conversation when race-based police brutality has been a problem for decades.

    “What do you think you as a white person needs to say about racism to Black people as we are being gassed, flash banged and having rubber bullets shot at us?
    Not just protesters, revolutionaries and freedom fighters.
    You realize it’s Black neighborhoods being ‘policed’ and curfew violently enforced by these troops and police officers?
    Those monsters are shooting at folks on their own porches, in their own yards, driveways, etc? Folks not in any way involved with any protest or revolution, just existing while Black or in a Black area or neighborhood.
    You know houses are being gassed?
    Google The Move Bombing and you’ll discover that the government in the 1980’s dropped a bomb on an unarmed Black Neighborhood.
    You understand that we are not being ignored like the white armed racists ‘protesters’ were?
    You understand that police and local military are coordinating with local on the ground white supremacist gangs to terrorize these neighborhood populations of Black folks.

    Why would this be the time for Black folks to have a conversation with or to listen to you?
    Or any white person?

    Did you not see, read or hear about the controversy with Colin Kaepernick?
    Did you not see, read or hear about the violent lynching of Trayvon Martin? Sandra Bland? Aiyana Stanley Jones? Tamir Rice?
    Did you not hear, see or read about the Ferguson Uprising?
    Have you not heard of Black Lives Matter?
    The Say Her Name Campaign?

    You are not ready to have a conversation, how could any ‘solution’ you offer be anything other than condescending, patronizing and unhelpful.
    If you were ready now would not be the time to start that dialogue.
    When a neighbors house is on fire you don’t saunter over to ask their name, their kids name, their hobbies and what they do for a living because before the fire you didn’t know them.
    You grab a hose or a bucket, call 911, ask if everyone made it out. You rescue what you can and help the survivors as best you can.
    You don’t offer helpful strategies on house fires while their house is burning.

    We are watching our community: protesters, abolitionists, revolutionaries, overwhelmingly young, be gassed and captured violently by police.
    Often they are not legally arrested and processed legally.
    You understand that if the police and soldiers are firing at journalists on camera that there are no holds barred on those who are exercising their constitutionally given right to protest.
    Especially if they are Black.
    Like our parents and grand parents before them.
    If history is any indicator, our children and grandchildren will be treated this same way in the future”

    Also, here’s a link(this too is taken from that comment section) to a BLM bailout fund for those who are being jailed for protesting:

    https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/
    I, for one, would appreciate your sharing this link as far and wide as possible.

    June 8, 2020
    |Reply
  10. Angie
    Angie

    Thank you, Jenny. I appreciate your words always.

    Racial injustice and police brutality are front and center now, but there is a risk that the rage will die down, that people will become complacent again, and we will not follow through with real change. These issues, along with the many other issues facing our world today (climate change, gender equality, poverty, child abuse, it goes on forever), need to be continually and constantly addressed until they no longer exist. I have to believe that humans are capable of fighting against injustice and for progress on many fronts at once. I saw an instagram post today that resonated about burn out (something that all writers are well aware of!). In order to keep making progress, we need to keep listening and learning, and keep acting against systemic discrimination. Instead of blowing up and burning out, a little bit each day can go a long way. It is important to keep the dialogue and rage active, and to do so, we need to not get overwhelmed while fighting injustice. Thus, while continuing to amplify Black voices, donating, contacting local governments and signing petitions, light-hearted relief is not only called for but necessary to keep everyone out of a dark spiral of hopelessness. You can do both. You can be white and angry (I am!). You can be funny and poignant and teach your audience about issues while being respectful (you are!). You can fight for change and provide (or enjoy) an entertaining blog because we are complex beings and can do many things at once.

    https://www.instagram.com/p/CBJCK_VjEwf/

    https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234

    June 8, 2020
    |Reply
  11. Avis
    Avis

    For anyone especially non-Blacks who would sincerely like some understanding on how and why we are where we are today in the world and USA, please watch Ava D’s documentary, 13th.

    It is about the 13th Amendment in the American Constitution. It is on Netflix and the entire docu is free on youtube as well.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8

    Please do watch it. My heart is hurting so badly. It is so hard to explain the colour of one’s skin but together we can heal our world.

    June 9, 2020
    |Reply
  12. Anon
    Anon

    Here is the suggested reading list from the aforementioned review of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility.

    Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X.
    Kendi
    Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat by J. Sakai
    Black and British by David Olusoga
    So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
    When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
    The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
    White Rage by Carol Anderson
    How We Get Free by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
    The Price for their Pound of Flesh by Daina Ramey Berry
    Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Edo-Lodge
    Well that escalated quickly by Franchesca Ramsey
    Medical Apartheid by Harriet A Washington
    The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
    The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
    Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Umoja Noble
    Black Resistance, White Law by Mary Frances Berry
    Sundown Towns by James Loewen
    Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis
    A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and Its Assault on the American Mind by Harriet A Washington
    I’ll also link to the review for any GR users who want to check it out for themselves.

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2517377176?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

    June 9, 2020
    |Reply
  13. Gretel
    Gretel

    I’ve been asking myself the same question: should one continue doing their creative work meant for consumption despite the massive societal upheaval?

    I think the answer is equally difficult. I’d say at the beginning, no, one should definitely take a step back and adress the issue otherwise it seems as if one’s trivialising the problem. Some content creators I follow have reacted and boosted the voices of Black people, took the time for active learning, started spreading material and created donation streams.
    One particular person even stopped posting videos and I fully support that decision. Entertainment is important and healing but this goes beyond…just beyond.

    I would argue that after taking a break, each person needs to decide if they want and can continue working creatively and sharing it. It must be something you feel comfortable doing and that decision can change later on.
    Because the situation is especially painful and traumatising for Black people, it would be their right to give positive or negative feedback and even then it will be individual.

    Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that question but I think that if you want to continue writing recaps, many – or at least I – would welcome it. It’s definitely good that you took a step back and prioritised other voices.
    If it feels like you’re ignoring the protests, which I know you aren’t, you could also write entries about the topic by posting resources, links, videos and other material to spread the word.
    This could be a space for occasional entertainment via recap and other of your entries and a place for discussions on the protests and BLM to share thoughts and material. It doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive and it could help people give some room to breath while they learn, contribute, help and fight.

    Also, adding to the reading list:
    The Skin We’re In by Desmond Cole
    How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
    Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party by Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin
    To Exist is to Resist: Black Feminism in Europe by Akwugo Emejulu (Editor), Francesca Sobande (Editor)
    A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry, Kali Nicole Gross

    And a special mention of Haymarket Books, a publisher with an amazing catalog that offers monthly themed discounts, including free ebooks.
    https://www.haymarketbooks.org/blogs/80-haymarket-books-against-policing-amp-mass-incarceration

    They also have several livestreams discussing politics and sociology, all free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXu5dcswjbA0zpXLIBn5NmQ

    June 9, 2020
    |Reply
    • Anon
      Anon

      Thanks for this!

      June 10, 2020
      |Reply
  14. Anon
    Anon

    June 9, 2020
    |Reply
  15. Anonymous
    Anonymous

    Jenny, if you’re able, please keep posting whatever you can/need to.

    June 9, 2020
    |Reply
    • Tammi
      Tammi

      This. Jenny, your perspective on social issues has consistently been thoughtful, with consideration for diverse voices and readers. You always try to call out hate. And you have called out your own past mistakes and used them as a tool for growth and change. I think of you and this blog as a model for balancing important speech about human rights with entertainment.
      I’d like to see you post what you think is the right thing for you to say at the time. Whether that’s providing a bit of humor in a world that is in the middle of (much needed, horribly painful, completely justified) upheaval or it’s posting serious content because it needs to be said? As far as I’m concerned, you’ve shown sound judgment in choosing in the past. I support whichever way you move forward.
      Please take care of yourselves – all of you.

      June 9, 2020
      |Reply
  16. Avis
    Avis

    I’ll say first stop is Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th is definitely the place to start to get a lay understanding. Please people, I beg of you watch this documentary. It will give perspective to all other readings.

    The full version on on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8
    and those with Netflix can watch it there.

    June 9, 2020
    |Reply

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