Last night I attended a reading at Porter Square Books by Debby Irving, an attractive, personable, and righteous Cambridge resident, re her brand-new book, Waking Up White And Finding Myself in the Story of Race.
Reader, I was upset. And jealous. Especially when Irving flatly stated that after taking a course at Wheelock College—where I went, for heaven’s sake!—and awakening to race matters, she couldn’t find any memoirs by white people on the subject! So decided to write one, herself.
Still stewing, I came home to find an e-mail from my dear friend, Delia, with this link. “Apparently I’m not the only one who’s been thinking about this poem first thing in the morning lately!” she wrote. As Delia knows, Robert Hayden’s incredible “Those Winter Sundays” introduces Chapter 2 of my memoir re awakening to race in this country. How grateful I was to be gifted with such loving—though inadvertent—support of a dear friend when I needed it! How lovely to again contemplate, “What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices?” !
My memoir’s entitled Way Opens: A Spiritual Journey. That journey continues. So when, ahem, I woke up this morning, I realized I’d heard something else last night: How there’s another, little-known narrative in this country about people of color and white allies. (And, yes, although although our record has been definitely checkered, Quakers have historically been counted among those allies.)
Post Way Opens, here’s where Spirit had led me: To be, as best as I am able, a criminal justice ally. And here’s what I believe I am led to explore: how best I can support Jobs Not Jail. (Not completely clear; need more discernment for sure.)
Reader: care to join me?
PS: Upon reflection, I realized that the above was clumsily written. Let me be clear: I commend Debby Irving and the wonderful and important work she’s done. There can’t be too many books on this incredibly important and difficult subject!
* “Friendship, peaceful harmony; mutual understanding and peaceful relationship.” My alma mater runs a National Center for Race Amity; who knew?!
Dear Patricia — Thank you for coming to my event last night. I pains me to hear that it stirred such difficult feelings in you. I just looked up your book and think it would be of great interest to my audience. I’m wondering if you’d like to do a guest blog on my blog to tell a bit about it and include a link to purchase it. What are you thoughts on this? — Debby
What a gracious and lovely offer to a clumsily-written post!
I haven’t yet read Debby’s book, but it’s the kind of book I usually like — Way Opens is certainly of the same type, full of stories of personal experience and growth, which I can relate to and learn from most easily. (Sociological theory is a bit harder for me to take in.) Smitty’s comments at the reading this week were startling to me: the only narrative we’re used to hearing about white people with regard to race is one of exploitation at worst and cluelessness at best, but there’s another story, of white allies who all through the years have bucked the culture and humbly helped African Americans in the struggle. That’s very encouraging.
Leave a comment