Words

I’ve spent most of the past year taking in words, studying, learning. I didn’t understand why we as a country reacted the way we did when George Floyd was killed. I read Dr. Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” and came away more confused. She talked about why white people don’t talk about race, but said nothing about what we should be talking about. So I set out on a journey to answer that question for myself. Seventy or eight books later, almost all about race and racism, it’s time for those words to start coming out. A friend recently asked when the words would come. Today, she’ll receive this. It’s now.

Some of the words I’ve read came from Toni Morrison. In fact, my next book club is about her works. These words from “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am” are in my mind now: “that’s when I realized that words have power”. There is no part of me that believes my words will ever compare to hers, but I’m pretty sure that she were alive and talked to me she’d tell me she would be disappointed if I didn’t at least try to use them. So here we are. I think I’ve found an answer to what was different about George Floyd’s murder. You’ll hear from me on that soon. The short answer is that Darnella Frazier’s video made the abstract real for those of us in white America. I was asked in October what “Identity Politics” is. I’ll be writing on where the idea of identity came from, how it’s been stolen, misused and made ugly. We’ve been hearing so much about “defund the police”, “reform the police”, and more. I have thoughts on why we are asking the wrong questions. There will be words about national security and how we need to rethink it in light of our experiences with SARS-COV-2. And yes, eventually, I’m hoping there will be a book from all this work about what white people need know and do to end racism. Yet saying “I’m back” is not the only reason to write now. It’s also to share how I spent a little time today and my thoughts about it.

I just finished watching a Nova documentary on GBH called “Picture a Scientist“. Frankly, it’s quite depressing. It’s about sexism in science, how historically men have pushed women out of science and mistreated the ones who stayed. It was summed up by someone who survived, talking about her MIT experience. When she started her freshman year, of a group of about a hundred, half were women. There were only seven left when she graduated. It started me thinking of someone I dated years ago. To describe her as brilliant is an understatement. When I knew her she sat on at least two National Science Foundation (NSF) committees. She was the senior scientist in the company she worked for. If you knew her only superficially you’d have thought she was a bit of a flake. Maybe she is. There must be some basis for that stereotype of “the absent minded professor”. Yet what I realized after watching this Nova was that it’s possible, maybe even likely, that she adapted and became that personality to survive, to be non-threatening to men that she is smarter than, to not be driven out of a profession that I could tell she clearly loved. She’s long passed out of my life so I can’t ask. Even if I did, the changes could have happened so subtly that she doesn’t know herself. It could just be who she’s always been, yet is really sad to think it may be who she was forced to become to survive.

Today I do have one request. My words are, well, they border on useless if people don’t read them. If you know of others who could benefit, learn, as I explore this path I’m trying to follow and share what I’ve learned, please forward this to them and ask them to sign-up to follow my blog.

In closing, when Donald Trump was elected I started this blog and chose “Resist” as the signature line. That’s changed. For a while I’ll be sticking with Be the Pebble.

2 thoughts on “Words

  1. David, In regards to your friend’s career I recommend viewing a 2016 movie titled “Hidden Figures” which addresses the sexist inequality in science. This particular film focuses on three women whose contributions to NASA were exceptional paralleled with their constant struggle with sexism.

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