Yesterday I was reading about the universe in Bill Bryson’s book “a short history of nearly everything”. He was describing the space of space and the hugeness of the cosmos that we just barley exist within. As I read I couldn’t help but instantly understand my puny little push in this enormous monster of existence. Like a tiny warrior, a will much stronger than her own force, throwing pebbles at the giant in front of her who hardly notices the small pricks of my stones cast toward him.
Bill Bryson continues by entertaining the idea of life on other planets. While presenting the research on the very possible idea that there are other beings on other planets in our swirling, starry universe, he notes that the aliens on another planet would be so incredibly far away from us that it is laughable to think they would fly for thousands of years simply to puff out the flame of our little earthly planet. More interestingly, due to the MASSIVENESS of space, the world that these aliens would see through their advanced telescopes held to 1300 eyes on their elongated alien faces would be a much older one than the one we play in today.
It took astronauts over 12 years to reach Pluto with “The Voyager”, and Pluto is within our Universe! Because of speed of light, the aliens out there would look in their telescopes and peer into an Earth consumed by colonization, the French Revolution and wigs. They would watch as the boats landed on the shores of those beautiful lands and ruined us all in the international conquest of soul destruction. I wonder now what these aliens would say to each other.
In many ways, I feel as though that same telescope is up to my own eyes. I look down at my hand, covered with these marks of misery, covered with this clothing of colonizers and a message, sent so aggressively through silence that it echoes, apparently, faster than light as it is present then and consequently now.
Inescapably white, I largely thank the pain that I’ve experience this year due to the peach in my palms. I recognize, better than ever the privileges I grew up with as a girl and continue to benefit from today. The pain, the guilt I have been processing and beginning to understand is in many ways healthy for me as I learn more about the systems of oppression, racism, and discrimination that spin on and on in our society unquestioned, almost unnoticed by those who receive the benefits of her brainwash. At this same time, I cannot help but process in a parallel fashion my own whiteness within a school environment where white is definitely not a position of privilege and if anything, an enormous deficit.
I have taught the lesson of colonization to my students now 7 times. “Yes, we get it Ms. E” their eyes seem to say, “Europeans ruined the world”.
Yes! They get it! I rejoice, and falling silent we all sort of look around the room and remember quietly, “but wait…your one of them Ms. E”. Am I one of them? My students and co workers are proud to claim their African, Mexican, Filipino histories and culture as their own. With all the bloodshed, conquering, domestic abuse, slavery and all they accept that story as a whole and embrace the culture unrecognized within the current walls of our country. But me… European? No thank you! I don’t want my name on the
Mayflower. I don’t want that disease filled flag to be connected to me in any way. Me? That was me? Where is my African Queen I can look up at and see within myself? Where is my affirmation?
And I guess I had those, as lies, growing up when I was made to believe that George Washington (slave owner) and Columbus were the good guys in the happy stories of first beginnings and givings of thanks. I guess I have my affirmations in the propaganda that fills my commercials or in the biased books deemed “classics” by other white scholars. I guess I had my time to feel good.
But now, more aware of the lies and truth than ever before, now where do I go?
I feel so thankful to a be a part of my school, blessed in fact to have been able to be around such incredible people who know and think and wonder and dream up a better world. Really, I feel surrounded by growing activists ready to improve this world. They are passionate, they are pissed and they are pushing me, hard. I can honestly say that this is where I want to BE. This is where I want to be. At times though, I’m not sure if I’m invited.
There seems to be this message, unspoken and maybe imagined through insecurity that speaks to me saying, “Who are you to teach black kids about injustice? Who are you to stand in front of them and arm them correctly for the mental war they will enter as oppressed people? Who are you to be here?” There is a movement, a revolution, and as I chase the protest down, breathless, the participants seem to look back at me and laugh and point back to “where I should go.”
Where should I go? Wanting a world where my extra two cookies are given equally to others. Wanting a world where people are not forced into a make believe pyramid and people forced into positions that they hate no matter what the levels. Wanting a better world that I thought you wanted too…can I not fight beside you? Is my armor not fitting? Can the history in those telescopes back in time continue to hold me back for a limitless time?
I can’t sink quietly back into the lies and let it, like quicksand envelop me up back to the bubbles and clouds of naiveté. I cannot, though blanketed by this apparent benefit, breathe easier with my television shows and government officials staring back at me with common flesh. This doesn’t settle me, this doesn’t calm me. I am not affirmed. I am not okay with that. But with you I am also cast out, with you I am also outside. It as if the revolution has hung a sign out saying, “Don’t ring and wake the baby” while they speak loudly just inside the door. Seeming to say, “Thanks for the thought. We are glad that your not one of them. But no no you are definitely not one of us, find your own movement.”
Left without place and without pride, I sometimes feel alone. So where do I go? Must I create a white revolution to fight oppression for colored people? Should we not be stronger bound by ideas and principles than by the tones of our skin given at birth?
I know I am white. I am starting to learn what that means in relation to my world. Sometimes I don’t know my part in this movement and I’m confused why my piece of the puzzle has to be defined due to my skin color.
Sometimes I don’t know if my little pebbles on the giants foot make any difference at all. And I think back to Bill Bryson and the hugeness of this universe and wonder how my students and my classroom can feel so massive to me. When I am such a tiny speck in the scatterings of stars, how can one objective or one tear or one broken pencil mean and feel like so much?
How can any us spend our few short hours (650,000 if we are average) on earth in any respectable way? A way that the aliens above us might not look down on us in 200 years and laugh? Is there a way back from the wrongs of the universe before my time? How can I impact it now without my time machine and without my trust? Alone we are not seen in the space of space. Alone I am too small. But together, if we organize enough people, enough ideas, enough dreams that are harbored within the soul of every human of every color we may stand a chance to be seen in that telescope and be written in a new history of world change. Where’s that movement? Sign me up.