Friday, June 5, 2020

On Feeling Normal Again

The first thing I thought when I heard about the countrywide protests was, "This is amazing," followed closely by, "Fuck. Just when things were starting to feel a little more normal."

And with that second sentiment my white privilege sashayed herself out onto the stage in her ugly-ass cork wedges for all to see.

What I meant by wanting "normal" again was to be able to go about my day again without an underlying constant level of anxiety and fear.

And then, like a sledgehammer to the stomach, I realized that walking around with a baseline of a reasonable feeling of safety was my "normal" as a white person, exclusively.

I've come to expect it. If it isn't there, I'm like, WTF. Can someone DO something?

What I pathetically realized when I had my WTF reaction was that black people in this country have a "normal" that involves that constant anxiety I've been feeling for a mere three months. Except they've felt it forever. For hundreds of years.

Suddenly my lament at wanting "normal" felt like Karen e-mailing corporate HQ because Starbucks stopped making her favorite latte.

I've had conversations about white privilege with black and white friends over the years, taken courses on it, read articles, but only now when I had my version of "normal" taken away am I realizing how deep that privilege still runs in my psyche and how much it's blinded me to other people's realities.

This non-normalcy is showing me some very important things: I'm super fucking privileged, I've sat complacent in that privilege and I'm just now scratching the surface.

This month the criminal courts in the parish where I'm a public defender will open back up. Most of my clients are black and poor.

My knee-jerk reaction is to feel embarrassed in front of them and guilty for taking so long to begin to  see some pretty basic shit; for thinking that treating all my clients with equal respect and dignity was enough.

That's the baseline. The bare minimum. The start.

So I could sit around being appalled at my ingrained racism, my use of my privilege, my inability to see. Or I can stare that shit in the face, acknowledge it in all its ugliness and then get to work challenging the fuck out of it ....  for the rest of my life.

Welcome to your new normal, Annika, now roll up your goddamn sleeves.