Sitting with Job

This post is dedicated 

to my sister, to my cousin Heidi, to Megan, to Austin, to Kati, to Tirzah, to Denise, to Erin, to Erica and Karin, to Camilla, to Heidi, to Tina, Elise and Rebecca. Your words (whether direct or indirect), Your heartache, Your pain, Your strength, Your anger, Your encouragement or listening ears, Your stories and insight; Your tears, all of it has held my bones together this week. Thank you. Our stories aren't even close to being over. 

To my 7 year old niece for whom I fight, in hopes of a different reality for women.

And to the women in my life who voted differently than me, I love you completely, deeply and fiercely. 

I got back from Haiti on November 8th. In hindsight, if I would've know of this was going to be, I would've shifted our learning tour schedule a little bit. Coming back from Haiti on the day of the U.S. election was rough. Y'all it was ROUGH.

Going to the context of Haiti to the context of the 24 hour news cycle and white privilege in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport is quite possibly the quickest and bluntest form of culture shock I've ever experienced. Now, don't misunderstand me. I know I was only in Haiti for week. I've been out of the country before and for longer periods of time. All of those other times felt like easing back.(And culture shock didn't always manifest itself right away). Not Tuesday. It was like going from a warm bath to someone grabbing your head and shoving into a bucket of ice water.

Welcome back.

I have a lot of thoughts in my head and I know I have been adding to the noise consistently since coming back. But I am a writer. This helps me. And right now, this is how I am trying to make sense of our world.

I cried a lot on Wednesday. It felt like a day of mourning and I could not stop reading stories that broke my heart.

On Thursday, I got up, got dressed and went back to work. Not necessarily because I felt like I was ready to be there but rather because my colleagues, Erica and Karin, were facilitating "The Loss of Turtle Island," and interactive, learning experience about the Native history in the U.S. They travel all over the U.S. for MCC with this exercise and Thursday was my first time to participate it. I wasn't going to miss it no matter how unsteady I felt.

It was maybe the best thing I could've done. Again, don't misunderstand me, it was rough. This history of indigenous people in the States is unbelievable and actually isn't a history at all. It is still happening.  It's heartbreaking and people like me still continue to reap the benefits.

(For example, in the late 1800s, a man named Standing Bear was detained by the U.S. Army. Standing Bear was not a war criminal. Standing Bear and his tribe had previously been moved from Nebraska to a reservation in Oklahoma. When Standing Bear's son died, he wanted to bury his son in their homeland. His only "crime" was traveling back to Nebraska to bury his child. Standing Bear had to prove in court that he was a human being. Let me say that again, Standing Bear had to prove to the court of law that HE WAS A HUMAN BEING.) 

I know. 

(I say this directly impacts me because of two reasons. 1. I am white. 2. This went down during the Kansas-Nebraska act, when the U.S. government gave incentives for European settlers to move out west. I have direct ancestors who took advantage of this. This story is a part of my DNA whether I acknowledge it or not).   

Anyway, I digress. Participating with this group of Mennonites, made up of white people like me, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, first generation immigrants, Latina-Americans, and Native Americans, was probably the best thing I could do in terms of trying to make sense of our world, which does not make any sense. How can a man who ran his campaign on the rhetoric of hate, win? I thought we were better than this? Or that maybe we were at least heading in that direction.

At the end of the debriefing time, Erica, (my colleague, one of the facilitators, and an Indigenous woman) told us something one of her elders had used to comfort her in the light of the election results.

[I paraphrase] "Maybe you'll find it sad, but it helped me", she told us.

She proceeded to read something on her phone that said "Natives have suffered under every single president of the United States."

That really shook me out of my fog. Obviously this is not a good thing, It really sucks. But it is a reminder to white people such as myself that minorities have suffered from systemic forms of oppression since the beginning of the U.S. The election of one person, or even several people, thus far has not changed this. It is up to people like me to challenge the status quo, to join in the fight that has been going on for centuries.  As my buddy (I wish) Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote in Hamilton, "We will never be truly free, until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me".

I carry this with me with deeper conviction than ever before. I also carry with me the acknowledgment that I could go back to ignoring politics, because even though I am a woman, I am also a white person. I don't have to see my privileged if I don't want to. But I am fighting to remain in the grey area, the area beyond white guilt that challenges me to think of practical way to be an advocate and an ally to and with women, people of color, Muslims, the LBGTQ community, people with disabilities, veterans, immigrants, refugees, the undocumented and everyone else that my president-elect has publicly insulted, threatened and shamed.

It's hard work. But it's important work. And as a white person, I am committed learning as much as I can, to speak up and to get in the way.

Out of all the scripture that's been quoted at one another on social media this week, something did stand out to me. An African American woman wrote that what she needed was people to be willing to "sit with Job." When people are suffering, we would be wise to sit with them and not try to dismiss their reality as being "out of touch" or unimportant.

When a group of Muslim women are crying outside of friend's apartment complex the morning after the election, that is significant. We would be wise to sit with them.

When my sister's first graders (many of whom come from Muslim, Refugee, and Immigrant families) come off the bus Wednesday morning crying because they are scared they'll be sent anyway, that is significant. We would be wise to sit with them.

When African American friends wake up Wednesday morning in tears and share their despair on social media, that is significant. We would be wise to sit with them.

When women who have been sexual abused share their stories and their anger at their president-elect who perpetuates rape culture and dismisses their trauma by saying it's "just locker room talk", that is significant. We would be wise to sit with them.

When a Native grandmother shares that her grandchildren on on the front lines in North Dakota getting their wrists broken multiple times by the police, that is significant. We would be wise to sit with them.

And when all the Jobs in our lives and communities are ready to stand again, we would be wise to rise up with them.

I tell myself, and you, the same thing my sister told her students: Be brave because you are important. Be kind because everyone else is important too.

Now as "my friend" Leslie Knope says, "find your team, and get to work."