But This Is Now

now

Image Description: Leaders from the Civil Rights Movement standing together during the 1963 March on Washington, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

From the time I was a young child to the time I was a young adult, my formal educational settings taught me that racism was a thing of the past.

It was serious, but it was largely behind us.

Oh, sure, there were some skinheads out there somewhere. And grand dragons marched in those occasional KKK rallies too. But those people were certainly the hate-filled exceptions. “Aren’t they awful?” we seemed to say with our scrunched up facial expressions of disgust and dismissal.

We disdained their hatred, as we should have, but we also dismissed ourselves from the necessity of confronting our own racial biases. We kept these individuals away from the center of our civic life, as we should have, but we also kept ourselves from the recognition that race and class function systemically within our civic institutions.

We were majority white communities who learned, taught, and internalized colorblindness. It became a virtuous thing never to see race. “When I see people, I don’t see color,” we would say.

But this meant we never talked about the racism we did see. Most of all, this meant that we worked to deny the reality of racism right in front of us. We erased the harm that we and our larger systems were causing Black people and people of color. Occasionally, this meant we would erase Black people and people of color themselves. It certainly involved the erasure of their claims. We would dismiss them outright.

“That was then, but this is now,” we would say.

We gathered around photos of Civil Rights leaders from the 1960s and taught those to our children, as we should have. But before color printing, those photos were all in black and white. They had a veneer of past. I was born a mere eighteen years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — that’s it — but I grew up feeling like Jim Crow took place eons ago.

I have vivid memories of sitting around my house while talk shows from the 1980s and 1990s were on the television set. Oprah would dare to talk about race on her show, inviting guests to talk about real, lived stories. Almost inevitably, someone in the audience would stand up to make a particular, impassioned argument. Oprah would hold out the microphone for them to speak, and they would say something like,

“Why are you always talking about slavery? Can’t you let that go? That was then, but this is now!”

“Those police officers shouldn’t have done that to Rodney King. It’s awful. But that’s the act of those police officers. Stop trying to act like this is everybody. You got desegregation. You got Civil Rights. You got the right to vote. Stop blaming us for everything. That was then, but this is now!”

“But this is now.”
“But this is now.”
“But this is now.”

The phrase usually meant, “Get over it.” Racism is serious, but it’s largely behind us.

And yet, here we are.

Ahmaud Arbury was jogging through a neighborhood and was killed by men who viewed him as suspicious and worthy of death.

But this is now.

Breonna Taylor was sleeping in her own house when police burst in and shot her eight times. She too was viewed as suspicious and worthy of death.

But this is now.

Christian Cooper was bird watching in the park. Amy Cooper viewed him as suspicious and threatened his life with a phone call to the police.

But this is now.

Sha’Teina Grady El, a resident of my county, was filming police officers that were forming a perimeter near her daughter’s house. She wanted to make sure that her daughter and grandchildren would be safe. Officers tried to remove them from the area, but they resisted leaving. Then one of the officers assaulted her.

But this is now.

George Floyd had gone to the grocery store. Soon after, police surrounded him. He was viewed as suspicious and worthy of death. Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck, and he died after crying for air for four minutes.

But this is now.

Renee Roederer

A Morning Message

Image may contain: sky, bird, outdoor and nature

Image Description: A large number of geese take off in flight over a marshy field.

That moment when you awaken to the sound of geese flying over, and you think peacefully, ah, yes, Mary Oliver… That’s right… You don’t have to be good…

Then three minutes later, you hear giggidy jillion more fly over, and it sounds like an utter symphony of clown horns.

And you lose it with laughter.

Good morning, everyone.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE GOOD 🤣

Renee Roederer

I am referencing Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese.” It’s a great one.

Receivings

Image may contain: people sitting, grass, tree, outdoor and nature

A post about receiving.

This is Pushy.

Pushy is my lovely little handpush lawnmower pictured above. I’ve been using Pushy in the late fall and then again in the early spring. I really enjoy mowing the lawn with Pushy. But… summer is upon us, and… Pushy is no longer getting the job done.

I have a gas mower too (not named) but it’s not working because the pull cord gets stuck. It’s not so easy to take it to get it fixed right now, so after struggling with Pushy this morning, I wrote a social media post asking people for recommendations of who I might pay to mow the lawn with their own equipment.

But nope. At least not this time. My friends called me and said, “We’re gonna do it tonight.”

They did, and the yard looks amazing.

Receiving.

Then… a few hours after posting about Pushy, my doorbell rang. I’m very close to my former students from my years in Texas. Three of them have been each other’s best friends for more than a decade, and the four of us always have a group text going. They recently gave me a gift certificate for food delivery from this incredible meal prep place in Ann Arbor. They just wanted to show me kindness. When that doorbell rang, there were all my meals for a week. What a gift!

Receiving.

Then… a few hours later, a very beloved, recent graduate from the University of Michigan came over because she personally baked me a loaf of sourdough bread. It’s so soft and delicious, and it meant a lot to me. It’s fluffy and tasty!

Receiving.

Then… a few hours later, I was starting a work call. Thankfully, I had my phone on mute while the group was talking because my doorbell rang. Who could that be? I wondered. There was an Amazon Prime delivery on my doorstep. I knew I didn’t order it. What’s in that package? It was UNICORN SLIPPERS. The note said, “Thought you needed these to properly quarantine. From Guess Who.”

Receiving.

IMG_8393

That is a day full of receiving. Big receiving. Absurdly abundant receiving.

And it’s not like this every single day. I have lots of days feeling more alone or discouraged than I want to feel. But goodness, this is all lovely.

And it’s a reminder that we all have big and small thoughtful things to provide for each other. We can offer our resources and time (like bringing over a mower), or we can send a text to someone who keeps popping into our mind. We can help people know we’re thinking of them and caring for them.

I spent four hours on the phone today, adding support to individuals and groups. I know everyone doesn’t have that energy for this. I do. I can provide that and allow people to receive from it.

And I keep receiving. Like dang, so much.

Renee Roederer

Little Joys

Now that it’s warmer, this Michigander so thoroughly enjoys keeping her windows open all day. It’s lovely to work outside or at my table in the sunroom because I can watch nature too. As I type this, a squirrel is pulling up grass in the yard, assembling it into a ball, and carrying it in her mouth up to the trees to make a nest.

And yesterday, this very little, fuzzy worm traversed on my MacBook Air for a while:

I hope there are moments when we can get outside, open a window, or just thoroughly enjoy a sunbeam shining into our quarantined living spaces.

Terry Tempest Williams, author and conservationist writes, “To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.”

Maybe we need that especially right now.

Renee Roederer

 

Mental Health Monday: The Deeper Healing

No photo description available.Image Description: The top says, “What we think healing will look like,” and the bottom has a pie graph with various responses to “What healing actually looks like.” This image is by @heidipriebe. Text in full below.

Healing is… not always easy. But it’s deeper and fuller than coasting or living in a conflicted way. Maybe there are rifts we need mend in our relationships. Maybe we need to stand up for ourselves. Maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves. Maybe we need to apologize.

Healing often requires risk and vulnerability.

So I like this image from @heidipriebe.

The top says,

“What we think healing looks like”

There’s a solid, light blue circle filled in full with the response,

— Meditating peacefully

Then below, there’s a pie graph with a deeper and fuller list.

“What healing actually looks like”

— Unpacking Trauma
— Having Difficult Conversations
— Taking Radical Responsibility for Your Actions
— Implementing Healthy Routines
— Setting & Enforcing Boundaries

What does this evoke in each of us?

Yesterday, during a Zoom worship service, someone mentioned one of Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount that I haven’t thought about in a while — the portion about the speck in your brother’s eye and the log in your own? I think that probably landed in a really humorous way in its original context because it’s so preposterous. I once heard a translation (can’t find it now, sadly!) that said, “How can you get the sawdust out of your brother’s eye when you have a telephone pole in your own? First take the telephone pole out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the sawdust out of your brother’s eye.”

It made me laugh. I just imagine someone knocking others over with their telephone pole while they try to analyze and pick at others. Ouch, but also very cartoon-y. It’s a silly image about a very true experience.

We all have our work to do. Let’s choose the deeper healing.

Renee Roederer