by Eve Vawter
Every day I wake up as a 46-year-old middle-aged white lady of privilege. I go through this world fully aware that I've never experienced oppression like someone my age who is a woman of color, or differently abled, or gay, or trans, or any of the other ways people who walk the earth are marginalized. I try to keep this in mind during all my interactions, in how I view the world, and how I try to be an ally to those who are different than me.
And even I fuck up. Horribly.
And not to get to deep into my destructive spiral of majorly messing up here, but one of the side-effects of my f-up was a whole lot of calling out. I don't mean calling out by women of color who have every right to be mad, I mean calling out by white women who wanted to tell me why my behavior was awful. Which lead to me shutting down. And not sleeping. And crying a lot. And being a pretty big mess. It hurts when you mess up and people remind you. A lot. Even if the calling out was justified it still hurts.
And then... someone came to me. A writer and activist and mental health professional named Jasmine Banks who shook me up and set me down and said no.
No Eve, you aren't evil or bad or broken.
This by a women of color who I barely know who is very angry at me who saw beyond that and through her own grace said:
It's OK. You can unlearn this. I will help you.
When it felt like so many people had shut me out and shut me down and weren't even in the business of forgiveness, a woman of color was — not only just accepting my apology — but offering to re-educate me. Because Jasmine believes in restorative justice. And she believes in me. Probably a lot more than I do right now.
Jasmine has asked me to read the book Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele. The book is written by the provost of Columbia University and it is about how even in the absence of explicit racism, negative stereotypes can continue to pervade your life and how these things influence our behavior. I'm going to read the book and Jasmine has agreed to discuss it with me.
I want to be a better ally, and a better human. If you'd like to join me in reading the book please let me know in the comments and maybe we can discuss it chapter by chapter. Not only will this help me in becoming a better and more understanding person, it's also going to help Maximum Middle Age be a more welcome and inclusive space for marginalized women. Which is precisely what I always hoped to accomplish with the site. Thank you, Jasmine, for having the grace and love to extend your hand to me when so many people took theirs away.
You can order your own copy of the book here: Whistling Vivaldi
And you can read more about how you can help people you know who stray and mess up here: Calling IN: A Less Disposable Way of Holding People Accountable