Jun 17 2020
You may have noticed I all but stopped blogging on this site around the time my coloring book came out in 2018. And maybe, if you hang around here enough, you’ll notice that I’ve taken down a couple pages recently. Have I stopped using cannabis, you may have wondered? Hahahaha! No.
The timing was, not coincidentally, right around the time I found Layla Saad on Instagram, and started working on her “White Supremacy and Me” text and workbook. At that time, the material was free, and she was just publishing this one-month self-study for white people during Black History Month. It was at that time I also started following other Black women educators on Instagram who were talking about systemic racism and white supremacy.
It didn’t take long to realize how misguided it was of me to attempt executing this Pookie Pots project that I’d built up a concept for, starting with the coloring book and moving into a lifestyle blog. A couple things hit me: (1) how racist and broken our entire justice system is, from the bottom, up, which made me, a white lady posting openly about consuming weed feel pretty uncomfortable; (2) and that, yes, I do live a lifestyle that includes using cannabis on a daily basis…but….
Is being a heavy cannabis user something I want to promote as my identity? Not particularly. Especially once I began to have an inkling, at that time back in February of 2018, as to how privileged I am to have been growing, smoking, and yes – at various points, selling cannabis — without repercussion, all these years. Mind you, this lifestyle has been the norm for me long before there were legal protections. And while white people and Black people have been similarly screwed by the legal system for partaking and possessing, I began to understand how disproportionately the bulk of the prosecution, and the individual sentences, was skewed against people of color, as well as LGBQT communities…even more so for LGBQT people of color.
Well, this is fucking awkward.
My solution to the awkwardness at that point was, “let’s put a couple anti-racism resources up on the site because this problem needs visibility.” Let’s make sure people know that this is happening. I pledged to donate 10% of coloring book profits to Drug Policy Alliance. I continued to read and learn. I thought I was doing enough.
Fast forward to two years later, January 2020. By this point, I’d all but abandoned this site, because I simply couldn’t bear to post glib articles about weed as I watched the world crumbling because of all this racism I’d been learning about. By February, I’d become involved in with WP4BL, a mostly white, all volunteer org that supports Justice LA and our local Black Lives Matter chapter. Our political actions were initially focused toward decarceration of low-level offenders, and our efforts were bolstered by the covid-19 crisis. Hooked into this new group of people and starting to take action in a real way, gaining real knowledge that allowed me to have more meaningful conversations with others, and becoming active politically, really clarified the why of what was happening in the world.
All of this had me in a state of forward motion by the time Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on camera, for the world to see. When the world literally started burning, it was easy to double down on volunteer time, pulling people into the fold while so many people were activated and caught off balance enough to start listening in earnest. Whereas before, the work may have seemed abstract to some of the people I was talking to already, at this point, it became immediately and painfully clear the problems are real and devastating.
Since then, my volunteer hours have increased threefold, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. (Hint: It’s not enough. It never will be. I can never do enough to erase the harms I’ve helped perpetuate.)
But I’m grateful I have real tools: facts, figures, knowledge, support, network — that I can use to help build change now. I did go to a huge protest last week, but most of my volunteer time has been spent in the privacy of my home, text banking, calling and writing local and state representatives, and supporting local grassroots justice orgs with professional services.
I’m not telling you this for congratulations, so please, god, don’t. (Don’t make this more awkward, please.) I’m telling you this because I think it’s important for YOU to know there are things you can do that are more meaningful than just caring, feeling badly, and sharing memes on facebook. There are things you can do between elections. For one, making sure the kind of legislation you want is actually on the ballot when you get to the booth. That shit doesn’t happen magically.
Reading books and following educators on Instagram isn’t enough. BUT — if you find yourself wanting to get involved, and if you truly care to know how we got here and what’s been happening, you have to read up before you put yourself in diverse spaces where our future is being reimagined, planned, and executed.
And, fellow white people, I implore you — if, as you begin your own journey, you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, shamed, attacked, misunderstood, hurt…that’s when you know you’re in the right place. Live with it. FEEL that discomfort. OWN it. It’s uncomfortable because you know it’s true.
You have to feel this before you can effectively tear back all the constructs that provide cover for a dark, violent history that rots us at the core. Don’t be fooled or scared off by inflammatory terms like “defunding police.” Learn what these concepts actually mean, and work to envision a different future for humans that isn’t rooted in racism. Know that you will probably find yourself in a state of emotional exhaustion as the work and the enormity of what we have yet to do overwhelms you. That’s ok. All we can do is move forward. I believe you’re made of strong enough stuff to do this work, too.
I’m addressing this next thing because I’ve been hearing this from a lot of my friends who have also just begun, and there is a great deal of frustration for us too, when talking to other white people who continually let that knee-jerk reaction get the better of them.
What you MUST understand is that NO ONE can do this work for you. I can’t give you a list of all the books. I can’t tell you which educators are the ones whose teachings will resonate with you. I can’t make you feel at ease with what’s happening in the world. There is no quick fix. This is not a “I’m going to read ten books and then I will know enough about all the things” situation. This will be an ongoing unlearning of the lies we grew up committing to our memory, and which formed our collective white worldview. This is a lifetime of work. If you are alive now, you will not live to see the end of this effort. But maybe we can, like Layla Saad says, be Good Ancestors to future generations. Better than our own ancestors, hopefully.
Finally, and most importantly, my biggest piece of advice to white people who are just getting started is to SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND LISTEN. Not to me, not to your white friends, but to Black people and people of color who have been living this reality before we even knew it was reality. Then amplify those voices, not ours, not your own. It feels silly to write this whole blog only to say “Don’t you dare listen to me!” but, as I have an overwhelmingly white readership, I have a responsibility to say this, and hopefully help you feel empowered to begin, or do more. I am not qualified to teach you.
Here are a couple books to get you started. Where you go from there is up to you.
- The 13th (movie documentary, Netflix and Youtube)
- White Supremacy & Me
- American Prison
- The New Jim Crow
And the books listed on this page:
I encourage you to get involved — look up your local SURJ affiliate here:
Good luck. May your journey be fruitful and illuminating.
P.S. I think it bears mentioning, for purposes of transparency, that while I haven’t sold many coloring books (that’s ok, I’m a little awkward about the project now), I’ve given substantially more than what I’ve made to the anti-racist organizations and Drug Policy Alliance than what I’ve made on the books. If you’re wondering if you should buy the book, know that 100% of what I make on all my combined art projects (bearchilde.com merch, as well) will inevitably go directly back to the organizations I support, until I start making much more significant money from my projects, at which point we can revisit this. At this time, my costs far exceed my profits. Thank you, as always, for reading and supporting.