2nd grade: Our teacher wouldn’t let my classmate go out to recess because he wouldn’t eat the ham she’d brought to share. He was Jewish. She didn’t care. I was enraged that she was being so horrible to him, but didn’t know how to respond other than with tears.
7th grade: My social studies teacher made fun of the girls in the class because they complained about getting groped. The boys doing it were on the tennis team he coached, so he didn’t care. I was the best student in the class and not a boy, so he didn’t like me anyway. I never complained, but I did miss a lot of school that year.
College: I joined the Minnesota PIRG and Amnesty International and Equality (a local LGB group) and was very White Liberal in my activism and outlook. I also got cancer and my sister almost died and I learned that most of my female friends had been raped.
My 20s: Recovery. I dropped out of everything but grad school and work.
My 30s: I started easing back into political awareness and activism. I specifically and somewhat accidentally learned about anti-racism and the social model of disabilities. I also started going to K-12 classrooms to talk about how to be respectful of differences – a very White Liberal model at base, but it also was good practice for listening and speaking about difficult topics on an accessible level.
My 40s: Going deeper, going further. I can sometimes speak up in meetings without crying when people are being appropriative or racist or whatever. No one cares about White Tears when you’re in a room of white people and upset at discrimination, not when you’re calling someone out.
2014: I fight with a coworker about the impact of the Supreme Court overturning the Voting Rights Act. He was “factual,” I was right.
2015: I enter my 40s. Trump campaigns on a platform of deporting Muslims and Mexicans. My mother likes him because “he tells it like it is, tee hee.” I point out that he’s an abusive bully. She gets quiet. (She’s married to an abusive bully, it’s not so funny when you live it.)
2016: Trump’s running mate is Mike “let’s kill all the gays” Pence. They get elected. RIP VRA, we miss you. Also, the NoDAPL protests capture attention and outrage, except on the part of the Democratic party, which mostly tries to pretend it's not happening.
2017: White liberals (especially, but not exclusively) completely ignore all of US history and are appalled that a misogynist, racist, ableist asshole is elected president. I am appalled too, partly because all the political gaslighting is bringing back memories. All the talk of PTSD on the twittersphere does help me discover that that’s (probably) the basis of my anxiety/depression, so I start a helpful therapy course to deal with that. Still, that kind of therapy is hard and spring is awful. Is it because of Trump? Because of the “let’s kill sick Americans” monsters running Congress? Both? Then, Weinstein and Franken and etc. Sometimes cleaning house causes adverse reactions before you’re done.
2017 in libraries
Librarians on social media start fighting about whether literal Nazis should be allowed to use library spaces to meet. I am glad that people are speaking out against helping groups that want people like me dead. I am annoyed that people act like this is a new thing. Where have you been? Why are you just speaking up now?
Librarians on social media continue to fight about what the ideas “neutrality” and “intellectual freedom” mean. These fights have been ongoing since I was in library school (late 1990s), but apparently they’re new to some people? Are these fights just new to new professionals or have people spent their entire careers unaware and uncaring?
Librarians on social media fight about representation in books and in LIS curricula. Outside of #critlib twitter, the curriculum arguments seem new. I’m glad to see more people advocating for inclusive curricula. I’m annoyed but not surprised to see people continue to advocate against it. I’m disappointed to see people advocate for “both sides.” Also a little confused, to be honest. Like with the Nazis in libraries thing: both sides means white people get to exist and non-white people get to fight for the right to exist so long as they’re nice about it? Huh?
The look-backs on 2017 as if it's a year that exists separate from time annoy me. None of this is new, it's just a continuation. But I don't want to disregard or disrespect the paths others are on. Maybe your upbringing completely protected you from the need to be politically aware and active. I don't know your life. But you're here now. You've become aware that neutrality is as much a myth as meritocracy. What are you going to do?