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Anti-racism

There was no post last week because all the pain out in the open has been a lot to process lately, and sometimes breaks are needed to rest and recover. But I also cannot in good conscience remain silent about the effects of racism on the country I live in.

This is beyond ridiculous. Black lives matter. Absolutely no person should have to fear for their safety or their life by simply existing. Period. The number of Black people in the United States who have been unjustly killed by police and by white people in the last few months alone should make anyone furious, let alone the long list of those whose names we know — and whose names we don’t — before this.

I want to make it clear that I don’t condone violence. But it is entirely justified to be angry. We should be angry. And the nature of racism and other injustices mean that power will not be handed down to those who are hurting. Direct action is necessary, or we will continue to have more years and decades of the same suffering that we have already allowed to go on for far too long.

I grew up with a lot of privileges, including living in a situation where I didn’t really have to confront this reality unless I wanted to. Part of that is the area I grew up in (which is a whole other conversation on systemic furtherance of injustice), and part of it is because of the color of my skin. I’m biracial and white-passing, and am still learning the depth of what it means to be Black in this country.

I’m no expert. It is very pointedly not my place, both because I still have so much to learn and because it matters deeply that those of us with privilege in a given area elevate the voices of those who are experiencing the issue, not speak over them.

So to that end, below is a list of resources that more qualified folks than me have shared on what you can do to become more aware and educated on the reality of racism in America*, and how to take action. Please note that I haven’t read and/or engaged with all of these materials, but will indicate the ones which I have. If you’re not Black and this isn’t your experience — and especially if you’re white — much of this could be difficult to take in. It has been for me. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself experiencing lots of different emotions as you engage with these works. I encourage you to take time to examine what you’re feeling and why, then keep learning.

Learning resources**

What is anti-racism?

It is acknowledging that racism exists as more than a personal feeling, and committing to continually learning, growing, and fighting injustice. The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an excellent short breakdown of anti-racism and different ways that racism is implemented and perpetuated.

It’s also important to know that anti-racism and all efforts for justice and progress should be a continual part of our lives. This isn’t something that ends once the news cycle moves on or once it’s no longer popular.

Reading

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
    • There is no time when this letter is not poignant, and I recommend it as a starting point. Dr. King’s legacy is one of nonviolence but also direct action, and his words here are exceptionally clear on the impact of “moderate” stances
  • Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [have read]
  • An Anti-Racism Reading List” compiled by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Antiracist
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas [have read]
    • I recommend this over the movie, though the movie is also good
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Dr. Maya Angelou [have read]
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have read]
  • I Bring the Voices of My People by Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes [currently reading]
  • Native by Kaitlin Curtice
  • Note: Books aren’t linked this time, because right now it would be stellar if you purchased from your local independent bookstore. Here’s how to find an indie bookstore near you, and a list of Black-owned bookstores.

Listening

  • The Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have listened]
  • The Liturgists podcast has done a number of helpful episodes:
    • Black and White: Racism in America[have listened]
      • I really, really recommend this one. It’s from 2016 and I first listened to it in 2018, but it’s every bit as relevant today
    • Anti-Racism with Andre Henry[have listened] — more of Andre’s work is linked in the section below
    • For the whole month of February this year, they offered daily mini episodes on how Black history is American history. They’re accessible, and offer some great discussion and reflection [have listened]
  • Code Switch podcast from NPR
  • The Problem with Racial Colorblindness” TEDx Talk by Phil Mazzocco
    • This is a clear, digestible explanation of why saying things like “we’re all just human” or “race doesn’t matter” aren’t helpful. I strongly recommend this one if those phrases resonated with you

Compilations

  • This public Google Doc, titled “Anti-Racism for Beginners,” has a really thorough list of resources that are accessible at a variety of levels
  • Anti-racism resources for white people” is another public Google Doc with accessible info
  • White Homework” by Tori Williams Douglass
    • This page also includes a list of other resources; I recommend looking at all of them
  • Hope & Hard Pills” is a series (including a weekly email newsletter and a podcast) by Andre Henry

Part of being an adult means not avoiding difficult topics, and it means not being passive toward injustice. This is not a journey we ever reach the end of, but it is one that we all have an obligation to work toward. Let’s do the work.

If you want to do something

  • Commit to continually educating yourself on perspectives that are different from your own, and to studying the history of how so many of the realities we see today came to exist.
  • Visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co to sign petitions, donate to organizations and funds, learn more, and contact local government to urge them to effect change.
  • Amplify Black voices and other marginalized voices when they are speaking about the experiences and urging change. Repost, share, support. This is a time to center the people who the movement is about, not ourselves.
  • Other people have poured so much effort and caring into creating the resources that we are able to learn from. If you learn from someone’s efforts — especially in a time like this — see if you can tangibly thank them in some way, whether that’s through Venmo, Patreon, purchasing and/or promoting their work.
    • (Note that this does not apply to me! If you learned something from this post, I’m so glad; please direct your gratitude toward one of the funds linked in the bullet point above.)
  • Please keep in mind that no one owes you their time or attention, especially folks you don’t have a close relationship with. Learn to gently accept that.
  • If you notice any instance in which someone is threatening or harming someone, using slurs or exhibiting racist (or sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc.) behavior, do something. Often calling out the behavior or engaging in a way that (nonviolently) draws the offending person’s attention away from the person they were targeting can get them to stop or go away, but sometimes it’s not enough. If necessary, do what you can to (with their permission) get the person being harmed and yourself away from the threat.
  • Protesting can be dangerous given the outbreaks of violence from multiple sources and the fact we are still in the middle of a global pandemic of a highly transmissible virus. I also recognize that my ability to stay safe at home is itself a privilege not everyone has. So if either you must go out or feel compelled to join protests, here are some resources on staying safe:
    • FOLLOW CDC GUIDELINES. Mask, hand sanitizer, minimize contact with other people. Please, please, we have lost way too many lives already.
    • Tell someone you trust where you are, try to never be alone, and have the proper supplies.
    • Do your research where community-led (especially Black and/or POC-led) organizations are peacefully protesting, and follow their lead rather than fringe organizations. Know when the curfew is and have a plan to be safely inside well before that time passes.
    • More resources can be found here.
  • The King Center (led by Dr. Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter) is hosting a daily online protest at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT through Monday, June 8. It’s an opportunity to participate and to learn, and the recordings of each one are available to watch afterward.

An immeasurable thank you to the people who created the works and resources I’ve linked, and who have taken the time and effort to teach me. It’s time to keep learning, and for us as a country to grow up. We need to do better.

If there were any resources I missed or you have questions, please let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. May we each open our eyes and our ears and get our hands in the dirt so that we can all have a better future.

 

 

P.S. This is the post for this week, but I will be continuing to share more resources I come across on Twitter @ohgrowup.

* This post is very United States-centric, only because that is the country I live in and which I have enough knowledge to speak to. However, racism is absolutely not only a U.S. problem. Genocide and policy brutality is not only a U.S. problem. Systemic injustice and casual prejudice is not only a U.S. problem. We’ll only truly solve these issues together.

** Note that these resources mostly focus on anti-Black racism, but that is by no means the only form of racism that exists, though it does have a unique history within the United States. Native American and indigenous peoples, Latinx folks, Asian Americans, and countless immigrants have also faced prejudice and injustice in many forms. Some of the compilations linked above address these demographics as well.

EDITS: Updated Thursday, June 4 with additional resources, noting works I have engaged with since the original posting, small edits to decenter my perspective, and the reminder that this work does not end. Updated again Friday, August 28 with additional resources and updated works I have engaged with.

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Mental Health Awareness

May is mental health awareness month, so I’m going to keep this simple with a list of resources that can help us all take care of our mental (and relatedly, emotional and physical) health a bit better.

(Content warning for this post that there is mention of mental health conditions, as well as self-harm and suicide, with information on where to get help.)

Quick tips

  • Just going for a walk is often a huge mood booster for me when I’m in a funk. If going for a walk is a challenge, then any change of scenery or time I can spend outside still helps.
  • Square breathing. There are a few versions of this technique, but when I’m starting to feel panicky, the one I’ve used most often is the following:
    • Breathe in for a 4-count (slowly)
    • Hold that breath for a 4-count (holding the breath in your belly or toward the base of your chest will feel better than trying to hold it in your mouth or throat)
    • Breathe out for a 4-count (even more slowly)
    • Hold without breath for a 4-count
  • Check in on your physical health. Are you super exhausted? Have you eaten within the last few hours? Had a glass of water? I’ve found that not taking care of myself physically is the fastest way to exacerbate any mental struggles I’m facing, and that once I address those things I usually start to feel better quickly. It doesn’t fix everything by any means, but it’s a necessary part of the process.

To relax

  • Apps like Headspace and Breethe offer meditations and mindfulness exercises that can be a great occasional reset or help build a consistent practice (there are lots of these, but the two listed are ones I’ve used and enjoy*).
    • Note that a lot of the content with both of these apps is paid. If cost is prohibitive, look into whether you can access them for free or a discount (I access Headspace for free through my local library) or you can check out one of the many free options also available online and through apps.
  • I do virtual yoga classes once or twice a week, and have found that the commitment of signing up for an actual class (often with a friend) helps me stick to the plan of taking time to slow down and pay attention to my body for a bit.
  • Find a simple hobby. I’ve been doing a ton of crocheting lately, but also know folks who paint, play an instrument, or have something else that offers a bit of challenge and a bit of comfort, and gives them a way to wind down at the end of the day.
  • It’s hard to hold a candle to listening to music in terms of how much it can take the edge out of negative feelings. Find a playlist or album that’s reliable for you, turn it on, and take a deep breath.

To keep your brain busy

  • Books! I admit that I’ve had a difficult time focusing on reading as much as I would like to, but there is nothing quite like digging into an interesting book. The key here is reading what you want to read, not what you feel like you should be reading.
  • Podcasts are a great alternative to watching something, or if reading a book isn’t quite doing it. There are so many options to choose from out there, so find one that makes you feel good and dive in.
  • Also, movies and TV are not a bad thing! Sometimes it’s good for us to just let our brain follow something else for a while and not fixate on things that might be bothering us. I’ve been watching a lot of sitcoms lately while I crochet, and it’s a nice way to chill after dinner.

To work through it

  • Write it down. I’ve journaled off and on for a long time, and have found that it’s always easier for me to process — and often let go of — something when I put it on paper (or the notes app on my phone). It’s a good way to articulate how you’re feeling with really low risk, and gives those feelings or thoughts an outlet that doesn’t require too much.
  • Talk to a loved one. If you’re just having a rough stretch or an off day, talking to a close friend or family member can be a nice way to process what you’re going through. Just do keep in mind that it should be someone you trust, who listens well, and know that at the end of the day it’s a personal relationship not a strictly therapeutic one.
  • Talk to a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist. Friends and family are awesome, but they’re not trained professionals. If what you’re dealing with is more significant than a couple of weeks (or even if it’s just a really awful few weeks!), talking to a mental health professional is a valid, safe option to help you work through what you’re facing. Mental health professionals can help with seasons of difficulty like grief or high levels of stress, and can help with longer-term mental health struggles like anxiety or depression.
    • Note here that mental health conditions are common, and not something to be ashamed of. 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental health condition each year, and almost half of Americans will deal with one at some point in their life, according to Mental Health America. If you’re concerned about your mental health, the screenings on their website can be a good place to start, followed by contacting your health provider.
  • Content warning (see note above): Of course if you are considering self-harm or suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or chat the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 911, or go to a nearby hospital. If there is a friend or family member you trust, you can also reach out to that person. You matter, and you are not a burden, and you are worth every tomorrow.

I hope some of the info above offers resources or encouragement for you to take care of your mental health (or support someone else’s), especially in the midst of, well, everything.

Are there any other resources you’ve found helpful? Let me know in a comment below, or on Twitter @ohgrowup. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting.

 

 

* This post is not sponsored, and I don’t receive any compensation for mentioning any of the resources in this post. They’re just things myself or others I know have genuinely found helpful.

(Photo is a free stock photo, because the lighting was perfect.)

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Stories in all shapes and sizes

Recently, I’ve been making a really concerted effort to consume media created by people who are different from me. It’s not about diversity points, though this has made the media I’ve consumed more diverse. The point is to learn and to build compassion.

I don’t throw a whole lot about the details of my personal beliefs up on this blog for a number of reasons, the greatest of which is that a one-sided “conversation” over the internet is just about the worst place to have constructive, life-giving interactions about subjects so closely tied to identity and other hot-button issues.

I’m not here to convince anyone of anything. Sure, I share advice and recommendations on this blog, but you’re free to take them or leave them. I’m sure years down the road I will have changed my mind about some of them. The point of this blog is to be a resource for emerging adults, because as an emerging adult, I felt frustrated by the lack of information and guidance in my sphere of existence.

But that’s just it. Over the course of my life (and the last couple of years in particular), my sphere of existence has grown immensely. I don’t mean how many friends I have — that number, in all reality, has gone down as relationship-building is no longer aided by the convenience of being in school together. I mean how I understand the world. How I see it, think about it, interact with it. And of course, how I see, think about, and interact with the people in it.

I’ve written before about how grateful I am that I grew up loving books, and how important reading is to building empathy and expanding one’s worldview. And it goes beyond books. TV shows, movies, podcasts, music, art or creative works of any kind are coming from a person (or group of people) with a history and a perspective.

And in theory, everyone’s perspective is different from my own. But there’s a lot of room for nuance in there. Someone who grew up in the same town as me and went to the same high school still has a different perspective on the world, but not in the same way as someone who grew up in a drastically different environment on the other side of the country or another continent. Innumerable factors play into this, but if I only listen to the voices that sound like me, think like me, look like me, and are treated like me, I would be drastically stunting the opportunity to learn about what’s beyond my own experience.

Particularly as someone who has had a great deal more opportunities and good fortune in life than, frankly, the majority of the world’s population, it is my privilege to push the boundaries of my understanding and create room in my life for voices that I haven’t heard from as often.

This, of course, doesn’t mean that I don’t consume or enjoy media and creative works from people who are very similar to me. If it’s enjoyable and benefits me without harming others, great. It’s simply about learning to find the balance between enjoying what I’m interested in, and noticing when what I’ve been taking in reflects too narrow a portion of the stories that are unfolding on this planet.

This goal, of course, is meant to be tempered by sensibility. I am not responsible to seek out voices that spend more time on vitriol than on empathy, or voices that cause or perpetuate harm — especially toward those who are especially vulnerable to such harm. I’m nobody’s keeper, but it is far more worthwhile for me to use what power I have to learn and grow — and when appropriate, to invite others to do the same.

A few of the ways I’ve been looking for media from different perspectives:

  • Asking for recommendations from others who have the same goal, or who are different from me. I’m in a book club right now that’s been great for that, but I also keep an eye out for social media posts, listen to podcasts, and get a few emails weekly that recommend new content to me.
  • Notice when media I’m consuming (visual art, music, TV, etc.) feels a little too much like what I’m used to. I was making a playlist a while back and realized that there wasn’t a lot of demographic diversity in the artists I was choosing — and that the musical diversity was suffering as a cause. I searched out some folks of different backgrounds that had a similar vibe to the original tracks, and found some new music I really enjoy in the process, while also supporting artists that likely get less airtime.
  • Enjoy it. As important as I think multiple perspectives are, there are also particular stories or creators that I go back to simply because their work connects with me, and that’s okay. My goal is never to exclude what I want to enjoy, simply to expand the horizons of what I perceive as available to enjoy.

Finally, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a TED Talk a few years back called “The Danger of a Single Story” that has really stuck with me, and encapsulates the importance of my point here far more poignantly than I’ve managed to. If you have 20 minutes, I would highly, highly recommend checking it out.

What are your favorite ways to find media recommendations outside your norm? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

P.S. I am still locked out of my Instagram account, and am afraid I may need to start over on that front. Please continue to bear with me for the time being (and also hit me up if you have any solutions, as support hasn’t been able to help)!

(Photo is a free stock photo because the title is both a metaphor and quite literal.)

The importance of art

Art is cool. Most of us appreciate it in various forms, and can join in on conversations about how it’s contributed to human society and culture throughout history. Which is awesome. But it seems like a lot of us, particularly emerging adults who are juggling responsibilities with trying to figure out just where we are in the world, act like we don’t have a lot of time or energy for art in our everyday lives.

I’ve definitely been there. In the last year, it has been a struggle not only to be creative, but to even make time to take in other people’s creative works. We’re always busy, and if we’re not then we feel like we should be — or we’re so exhausted that we feel like we don’t have enough brainpower left to do much more than throw on a relaxing tv show.

This habit isn’t good for us. In the last few weeks, I’ve made a greater effort to do things like read things I want to read and to take in more poetry (a favorite medium). I’ve been lucky enough to listen to people play instruments and have conversations with friends about big life questions. And it has made such a significant difference in my well-being. Of course, it doesn’t magically make problems go away or make life easy. But it has made each day noticeably better.

Art has been shown to reduce stress and, in some cases, even help people dealing with various illnesses. There’s a reason we’ve been making it for thousands of years, and have devoted so much time and energy to preserving art over the ages. A quote I recently read by Thomas Merton says, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

But we have to allow it the time and space to do that for us. And if you’re into creating art in any form, the time to practice so what we make can do that for both us and others. Creating and enjoying art can take innumerable different forms — written, visual, musical, some combination of those, or maybe something else entirely. There are pieces of art (in my case, largely written) that have indelibly affected my life. Pieces that I’ve written have helped me process things I couldn’t address head-on.

It’s also worth noting that even if you think art is not your thing, you’re probably wrong. I have friends who are amazing visual artists and cannot hold a tune, know someone who is seriously not great at drawing but loves playing guitar, a friend who collects skateboard decks, and people who don’t create much art but can have incredibly thoughtful conversations about it. Art is art because of the way it affects us and what it means to us, plain and simple.

All this is just a reminder that even though we’re busy and figuring out what adulting looks like, it really is important for us to prioritize art — for us, and for each other.

If you’re looking for more ways to bring some art into your life, these are a few I really like:

  • The Slowdown – This is a podcast and radio show hosted by U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith that my dear friend Kami turned me onto. It’s 5 minutes, 5 days a week, and so worth it. Even if you aren’t a poetry person, it’s almost like a little meditation or break from the world you can dive into for just a few moments.
  • Netflix options – You can find happy with Bob Ross, check out one of their music documentaries, or a series like Abstract: The Art of Design.
  • Explore on streaming services – Spotify, Pandora, what have you. I love my playlists dearly (and might have one for y’all next week), but they get old if I never expand. Let the algorithm enlighten you.
  • Read, but only what you want to read – I’m a massive proponent of reading, but it’s going to feel like a drag if you read what you think you’re supposed to be reading. Read what you want — whether that’s comic books, biographies, YA, nonfiction, whatever. I promise it’s way more enjoyable.
  • Go see it in person – Plays, concerts, museums. You really can’t go wrong. I went to 4 concerts in 2018 and honestly lost count of how many museums. I have plans for a few live events soon. Even going to see a movie you’re excited about in theaters. Support the artists. Seriously.

What are some of your favorite ways to keep art in your life? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!