It’s getting cold now and there are a lot of leaves on the ground, even in the city. After the baby went to bed, I put on a coat and boots and swept the sidewalk and stoop in front of the house. Every week I fill a trash bag with garbage that accumulates out there, which is maddening but I do it anyway. I do it not because it makes any kind of dent, the soda bottles and cigarette packs will find a home in the square of dirt around this city tree the very next day. I do it because people might notice. My theory is that if the neighbors see me out there, week after week, rounding up trash, sweeping leaves, pulling weeds that push their way through the cracks in the sidewalk, they will follow suit. My hope is that people walking by who see me doing these things will think twice before chucking that candy wrapper into the wind.
I am feeling so hurt and so stupid. This past week my legs and throat have been frozen and when I wake up to nurse the baby, my thoughts swirl with the results of this election. There is so much collective outrage, it is impossible to put a thumb on any of it.
If this season of change has spurred anything, it is that we must not be complacent. We must not simply hope for the best. I don’t have time in my life to attend community meetings (does anyone else have a baby who goes to sleep at 6pm?) But I do have a broom and garbage bag. I do have a daughter who needs raising and a pen and a piece of paper. Put those things together and what you’ve got is a mother who will not stay quiet when women are denigrated publicly, a woman who believes in the power of a chain reaction, and a writer who strives to simply speak honestly.
But what can we do? Seems to be the reverberating cry from those of us who were quite shocked. Here’s what we do: we live. We don’t apologize, we don’t demand an explanation, and we don’t back down from being ourselves. My beautiful mixed baby will know racism. She will experience being written off because she’s a girl. We cannot protect her from these things. What we can do is show up, on the street, in our neighborhood, in all white places and all black ones. We can love the crap out of her and strive to teach her compassion, authenticity, and confidence.
There is this myth floating around, something about leaping and a net and the salvation that will occur if you simply do what you love. What I have learned, and what the most oppressed among us know, is there is no net. When you leap, it is just as likely that you will fall on your face. Yet, the very brave keep leaping, again and again, facing humiliation, fury, failure. So many brave people have leapt straight into the fire, for us. They have done this in remarkable ways; leading marches, organizing millions, and unremarkable ways; attending school, riding the bus.
Let’s be the net, let’s weave it together, one strand at a time. We do this by leaping ourselves, despite inevitable failures. We do this by living our lives unapologetically and by refusing to turn a blind eye to the pain of others. We scrap together our own net by not giving up. What are you willing to do, even if it meant failing?
I am willing to stand up for my daughter. I am willing to let my voice be heard.