I wasn’t really sure if this was the title I would choose. And then I just decided I would go with it. And then I stuck with it. Why? Because lots of folks that fit into the category of “like me”, you know, pierced, tatted, kombucha drinking, reusable silverware carrying, vaguely hipster-y white people are all about being “woke”. For better or for worse, that seems to be the goal. I mean, there are also those god-awful hipster-looking-ass neo-nazi’s known as the proud boys, but they are a whole other level of not cool.
At some point in the last three years, I have kind of turned into this vaguely stereotyped SJW “snowflake” that the Conspiracy Theorist Conservative is scared of (in my head that’s a very special type of conservative, but is it really special?) but that is not really what this blog post is about. It’s just a preface. I have spent a lot of time learning and trying to understand over not just the last two years, but really since I plugged in at North Ave. But the largest and most transformative learning did come with YAV. The shirts don’t say “A year of service for a lifetime of change” for nothing folks.
And so you could say this blog post has been a long time coming, but yesterday, I was sitting in my cube, captioning and, I can’t tell you specifics, because FCC says so (privacy and all) but it was just…callous. Uncaring. The lack of empathy for the human situation that I have to repeat some days overwhelms me. And all I wanted to do was just exit the captioning client. Just end the session, close down my computer and walk out. Say no, I don’t care. I don’t care that we say everyone can say what they want, I will not help you communicate these ideas because it is intolerable to sit here and say this. For the first time in a long time (like first year of teaching long time) I just found myself crying at work.
It was in no way, shape, or form the worst thing I have had to caption, or the hardest day at work I have had. I faced harder things while working at both the food bank, and at sister jose’s. I think the difference was there, I was a witness to struggle and the human experience as opposed to someone being callous about the human experience. And so I almost wrote this yesterday, purely about that. But for some reason I didn’t. Being the good little Presbyterian doo-be that I am, of course, I should have know there was more of a lesson to learn (or maybe it just was something of happenstance, whatever you want to think for you.)
The pastor at the church I attend was preaching on the scripture about blind Bartemieus today. One of his analogies used was of those who received the first cataract surgeries and how it was often so overwhelming to see after having been unable to see from their eyes being so clouded.
I think in this case, in the advent of “wokeness” or the resistance to “wokeness” or even just mere acknowledgement of things like, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, etc etc could be played into this. Even with those who are a little or a lot aware. When you are used to not having to stay aware, not having to see constantly, to be fully aware, it can be overwhelming. You want to stop. The stimulus is too much. In some cases it’s easier to just give up and go back to what you knew before.
And I get that, I really do, and for some folks, that’s what they need. And while thinking about this analogy it hit me what had really been bugging me. That for all I wasn’t a YAV or working in a direct service driven place anymore, I couldn’t turn off what I had learned and felt. I just can’t and really, won’t. Partially by choice.
Because here’s my thing, it is a privilege to get to turn off thinking about it. It is a privilege to not think about politics or the racist thing that xyz talking head said or “Wow that escalated to a really islamophobic place” or “oh right, if we do finally get to impeach the president, the vice president who replaces him supports conversion therapy” (because for all that I have a queer identity, being demi-sexual can be pretty under the radar in the world of crazy conservative politicians) or “oh wow, now we’ve moved past bathrooms to straight up erasing my gender identity as a whole.”
Y’all getting to turn off this stuff is a privilege. Getting to turn off fear of flashing lights behind you or joking about “do I need to inform the police of your whereabouts” when there are 11 police cars just suddenly on your block is a privilege. One which I possess. And I for the life of me couldn’t figure out why I was having an existential crisis over captioning a callous little old woman when the world is so full of them (hey look, we probably all have them in our family, they are literally the bane of our existence).
And then I realized at some point in these past two years I chose not to turn it off. Because others can’t. This is not here as a humble brag. This is here because maybe if more of us thought about not turning off those feelings of despair, anger, frustration, desperation, all those feelings that make us get some shit done…maybe we can work together and find a way to do something. Because the people who need to dismantle systems are those who benefit.
Just my two cents. Take it or leave it.