I was listening to the radio in my car a year and a half ago. (I could have sworn it was December 2019, but the internet says 2018 which is… huh.) Anyway, I was listening to the radio in my car a year and a half ago when I came across an interview with N.K. Jemisin.
I had just finished reading The Fifth Season so I listened.
She said about the book,
“What I wanted to play with was the concept of, ‘When do we consider an apocalypse to have begun and ended?’ Because in a lot of cases, what’s considered an apocalypse for some people is what other people have been living every day. It’s not the apocalypse, it’s just, it’s an apocalypse for you.” [Italics mine.]
Now, let’s move from the soothing sounds of NPR to the dumpster fires of Facebook. I have an FB friend who posted to his feed a couple of days ago.
He said, “The idolatry of ignorance is consuming more and more Americans. How many are there? Are they a critical mass that will eventually do the rest of us in? Sure feels like it.” [Italics also mine.]
My Facebook friend is a white American man.
So, you know. I have questions.
Has the apocalypse begun for him? How would he know if it had? Was he unaware of the apocalypses that had already begun before and during his lifetime, or simply inured to them?
Yet, being a white person with many privileges myself, I also hear him. I, too, get really anxious about ::gestures wildly yet listlessly::
ALL. OF. THIS.
Many mornings I wake up so afraid that I feel I literally need to go from supine to upright just to allow the anxiety to drain out my toes and into the earth.
I wake up afraid of what my Facebook friend said—of getting finally, irreversibly done in by it all.
But I’ve also started to realize that my fear comes from a place of entitlement that I can’t inhabit anymore if I want to live a just life.
Because what my white guy friend is saying is that he feels the fire licking his feet. It didn’t much bother him when the fire was beyond his horizon. Not only was he not scared then, but it was pretty easy for him to ignore. So easy that it felt like the fire wasn’t alight at all.
I could bash this white guy some more. (Let’s face it—it’s fun. And easy.) But you know what?
SAME. I AM THE SAME.
In years past, I may have smelled a hint of smoke (like when I heard what N.K. Jemisin said) but mostly I just thought, “I’ll steer clear of the fire, and… I’m good!”
That’s not justice.
And it’s not the story I want to tell.
It’s also why I wrote Be About Something during the pandemic. I don’t think I could have written it before now because I don’t think I understood before just how important it is to help more people articulate their Big Idea.
Thanks to so many people who have had the courage to speak,
We know there has never been a singular narrative.
There has been force. The dominant culture has forced or acculturated people to stay silent.
There have been those who have screamed at the top of their lungs anyway, but remained unlistened to, belittled, or persecuted.
Those of us who descend from people who have been forced or acculturated to silence have to reassert our right to use our voices. And we have to expect that we won’t always be listened to.
My white American guy friend has a story. He’s got an angle from which he’s viewing (gesture listlessly with me now) …
ALL. OF. THIS.
But each of us has our angle, too. Not just on the problems we see but on the ways in which we can help.
The world needs to hear all of it! The whole story. So, keep going.
PS: You can still get Be About Something, with the Writer’s Cave bonus and 1-on-1 time with me. If you want to crystallize your Big Idea so you can use it to write a book, start a podcast, create a new product, or just to say something important that no one else is saying: Get Be About Something here.