White Folks Facing Race: Community
Happy March! I hope you’re all well.
I have been finding music to be particularly compelling lately and I wanted to share some inspiration with you. First, I want to highlight two Black female artists who have used their musical talents to draw direct attention to racism and the need for change: Mickey Guyton (especially “Black Like Me”) and Whitney Parnell, who just dropped her debut album last month (“What Will You Do”), whose name should sound familiar because I’m so grateful for her organization, Service Never Sleeps. Please check them both out and support their efforts to bring the truth into the light.
Second, I’ve been thinking a lot about community — how we define it for ourselves, how we take care of each other, how it connects to solidarity — and two songs have really inspired me. The first is “Humbling River” by Puscifer and the second is “Crowded Table” by The Highwomen. I hope you enjoy them.
I find that certain experiences, like listening to music, connects with my emotions and an overwhelming feeling of belonging and solidarity. I am not generally a fan of crowds (even before the pandemic), but these moments are consistently positive and memorable, a primal connection to fellow human beings. For example, when a massive crowd at a music concert is cheering or singing along; when our car is one of thousands on a slow pilgrimage into the mountains to enjoy the snow; and, when my voice is one of many others singing together in a choir. I get goosebumps just writing about these experiences — what are your connections to community?
I think we define our communities differently depending on the context. Sometimes we’re focused on our household and nothing else. Other times, we’re called to consider people in another part of the world our community and we send donations or positive thoughts their way. I think what I’m trying to approach is how we think a little more permanently about who we have a responsibility to, who we want to be in solidarity with, whose wellbeing we want to have allied with ours.
We are all constrained by our time and energy, and I’m not asking for any one person to try to care deeply for every single person they encounter on a given day. I think what I’m approaching is how to engage with people in our lives (either temporarily or more long-term) in a way that centers our humanity and basic respect. In many ways, our social structures encourage competition, scarcity, and isolation. The pandemic has made this even more stark and painful. The way through the things that divide us, the fear that makes us shrink from change, is compassion and love.
This is an incredibly vulnerable way to approach the world, gently with your heart and mind open, willing to make a meaningful connection with a stranger or someone you already know. It’s not something we’re likely to be capable of every moment of every day, so it is a goal to strive for. We cannot make meaningful change together if we do not see each other or understand how intrinsically linked we all are.
I cannot recommend Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us highly enough. Much of what I have been writing about in the last few posts have been inspired by her writing and I haven’t even finished the book yet. She lays out so clearly how harmful white supremacy is to all of us (yes, even White people) and how we must understand our history to see how the structures in place are things that can be changed. I am inspired by her work.
Listen. Amplify. Follow. In Solidarity.