After writing about Dismantling Racism and continuing to think about the topic, all the while driving by this barn, which has been slowly deteriorating over the ten years I've owned my farm, but which took a sudden lean after some tornadoes came through, I realized I had more to say.
The word dismantle implies linguistically that there was a mantle in the first place. A mantle is a cloak, a covering, a veil or shawl, but it can also be protective covering. We all recall learning about the earth's mantle. And it can be a symbol of responsibility and power.
When I saw that almost all the siding had been stripped away from the skeleton of the barn, I began to wonder whether it was going to be rebuilt. I stopped on a morning when I thought I might catch the sunlight, to take some pictures and snoop around. I was intrigued by the seeming fragility of the structure's frame. It wasn't even made with lumber, just trees.
Some of the vertical beams had rotted, I assume, and been sawed off and propped up with other very precariously propped logs. You can see some of this detail in the large picture below. I almost felt as if it might fall on me if I touched anything.
Racism is like this, because it's built on such an intricately interwoven and yet fallible set of assumptions, myths and stereotypes. Its mantle, its power and its veneer are what keep (most white) people feeling safe and invulnerable. It hides their flimsy and worthless skeleton. I think our job, as anti-racists, is to strip away that veneer.
When I do the work of anti-racism I can do it with love and genuine empathy if I see how it is a protection and a vestige of power or worth for some white people.
I saw a Facebook post lately that stated that Unitarian Universalists who are dismantling racism must "sit back, be quiet, and take direction from people of color, listen to their stories, and follow their lead." I disagree. I don't think there is any one way to dismantle racism. There are people of color who would agree with that and also POC who would say, "I need your help. I need your voice. I welcome your leadership." I think white people must have a spiritual practice and be spiritually mature enough to trust themselves to discern when it is time to speak and when it is time to be quiet.
I had an idea. But then, I'm always having ideas, and some of them do not turn out as planned! I went home from looking at the barn, and I was still puzzling about how I will ever get started building our home out on our farm so we can move from the small double wide we live in. (It's fine, but we want to have a passive solar home and I do think the chemicals in this place contribute to my migraines.) We just can't afford it as long as we own the B&B in town. It hit me that we could dismantle our almost -finished (by the former owner) log cabin and reconstruct it out on the ridge where we want to live! My husband hated the idea, probably because the cabin is filled with his troves of hoarded stuff, but I've not given up!
That may be TMI for you, but this is why I tell it. There are so many thorny and seemingly insoluble problems in our world. Each of us has one we are called to (well, some people just want to get manicures and watch Zombies and eat fast food, but they probably aren't reading this!) ...it may be environment, or women's rights, or addiction, or cancer, or, like me, racism. And there are probably more ways into and around that issue than we may even have dreamed. Just sitting back and being quiet is not an option for me. I am listening, learning, praying, waiting, and studying the people and the history of one small community, and as long as they welcome me, I will use the skills I have, writing, speaking, and motivating, to dismantle racism, even a little.
Silence is not an option.
Silent Spring 2018 snow on the lettuce ......
Silence Innisfree first day of Spring