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When forced into a binary, you always choose wrong – Jelani Wilson
Lately, I have been sitting in rooms with creative people pondering one of the toughest questions I meet in my work: What do we need to do today to survive in the world as it is, while building the world as it should be?
Most of our work usually boils down – in one way or another – to that very question.
While it has deep organizational implications for the partners I work with, it is an incredibly personal question for me. Somewhere in my late twenties, I began to realize that my life as a multiracial person was about the pain and the joy of this question – usually on a daily basis.
In my fullest multiracial joy – the world as it should be, to me – I want to live an identity in which I am not 1(white) + 1(brown) = 2 (kinda white, kinda brown and whatever the person looking at me thinks I am). I want to bust through to living 1+1=3! I am a full integration. I am releasing the potential of moving beyond racial arithmetic to a different kind of math that lets me be my truest unique self, while building a more accepting life with others. Kind of like Jodahs of Lilith’s Brood, if you’re looking for examples….
At some point the impossibility of that dream hits me back in the world as it is. I can see very clearly how my desire to be more than the sum of my parts can land with others as if I am trying to erase the reality of our current racist system – trying to move to being “post-racial”. Traitor, Tragedy, Ignorant – all words I’ve been called in conversations about trying to figure out how to live my multiracial identity in concrete ways.
I have no desire to be “post-racial” – I want to be fully racial, just not binary arithmetic. In my world as it should be we are able to hold two truths at once: that we will work tirelessly to dismantle structural racism, and we will actively live into new racial identities that allow for liberation, freedom, and creativity.My struggle to live fully and freely as my own multiracial self is connected with the struggles of others trying to build the world as it could be for themselves. We just haven’t quite figured out how yet.
So, at Up With Community we experiment with bridges between what is and what could be.
That’s our third and final installment of our Doing the Do series – experimenting in building the most useful bridges to the world as it could be with people seeking to live liberation today.
Feminists asking how we can build more concrete, mainstream practices of living our values. Rural white folks asking how racial justice can be a part of their strategy to protect and rebuild family farms. Asian folks building pan-asian power across deep lines of ethnic difference. We all find our way back to a shared pool of tools and resources we need to allow us to see the complexity of the world as it is, make interventions to test out how to shift it, and analyze the results of our efforts.
This month, I sat with Adam Mason, State Policy Director for Iowa CCI to explore his experiences of working on racial justice in Iowa making connections between the fight for family farms and the fight against Big Private Prisons, and more. We fell in to how empathy can be a bridge from the world as it is to world as it could be.
What bridges have you been finding between the world as it is and the world as it could be? Please send our way and we’ll share on Facebook.
THANKS to Emergent Strategy for the timely quotes above.
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