Writing of Racism and Pandemics

Everybody says I must write. It’s what writers do. Words help us make sense of the world. Words can comfort and calm or inspire and challenge, all of which are sorely needed in this moment.

It’s just that I’m having trouble writing. I write in my journal most days, as I have for fifty years (??!!) but I mean writing for consumption by others. I had written a nice, hopeful blog back in May, before all hell broke lose in the white world — because of course “all hell” has been lose in the black world for a long, long time. The blog was about how COVID-19 is teaching us to appreciate the simple things and to live in the present moment. It started out thusly:

“‘Plan Ahead with Confidence!’ shouts the red banner ad splashed across my screen. I laugh out loud. I remember planning. I have years of journals filled with various versions of it: What, when, how, with whom? Nowadays the only thing I’m able to plan is my grocery list, which feels outlandishly vital. I know exactly what I’m going to get (if the shelves aren’t bare) and it’s all written in aisle-order so that I don’t waste any time wandering around with all those scary masked vectors who used to be my innocuous neighbors.

My grocery list gives me a sense of control in this time when so little is in my control, least of all, the future. Of course, the future never was in my control, but somehow planning gave me the illusion of control. In reality, all we ever have is this present moment, but these COVID days have made us more aware of this truth.”

. . . And then I prattled on about the present moment, how lovely it is to bake bread, how walking is sweet therapy, how my neighbors probably started their new gardens out of a survival instinct, but are learning to love digging in the dirt and watching seedlings sprout. Etc. It was a “nice” blog, which now reeks of white privilege to me.

Things Aren’t Nice Anymore

Since the week of May 25th, when George Floyd was slowly, tortuously murdered by a policeman in front of the whole world and we witnessed intentional, vicious white privilege in the form of a safe, professional white-lady-dog-walker, things aren’t so nice. The thin veneer of niceness that separated white reality from black reality has, at long last, been splintered into sharp shards. The President of the United States is using those shards to slash whatever vestige of American unity might have remained.

Local artist’s portrayal of George Floyd

Sitting in my living room tapping on my laptop keys seems pointless.

Instead, I’ve been on Zoom calls about systemic racism and white privilege, I’ve ordered books and more books, I’ve joined Facebook groups that help white people understand that their reality is not the only reality. I’ve had honest and uncomfortable conversations with my black friends. I’ve attended four socially distanced, masked protest vigils in my community and at my church, not wanting to risk COVID at the protests in D.C. 

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Writing a New Story

 

I’m taking an online class called The New Story Community, about imagining a new human story based not on power and domination, but on community and cooperation. A speaker named Melvin Bray really resonated with me (if you click on that link, begin at 10:05). Melvin teaches that simply trying to change minds and hearts won’t dismantle racism. By the time you get to the emotional stage, it’s too late. Because racism started for reasons of gain and profit, not hatred or fear. Once you’ve enslaved a bunch of people and committed genocide against some others, you have to backfill with a rationale for your actions. So you conclude that those people are “less than . . . sub-human . . . beasts . . . need to be civilized,” or better yet, “saved” by your religion. From that rationale is created your society’s myth, the story that dictates how you live, and your emotions and beliefs. Hence, if you start with emotions and beliefs like white hatred and fear, you’re way too late. You have to start with action —  a “doing” — because that’s what started the cycle of racism.

 

These are not times for inaction or silence, and I feel restless and impatient. I pray and I meditate and I implore the cosmos, “What’s my part, what’s my role, what am I to DO?” And two words keep coming back to me: truth and write.

Writing Truth

Truth is a hard one, especially when we are experiencing a pandemic of lying, concealment, and “alternative facts.” Real truth, though, is an inner thing. It only comes when you still yourself, open your grasping hands, and sit with the grief and pain of losing whatever myths you believed about yourself and/or the world. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” I believe this, and I also believe that when anyone escapes their fearful, ego-centered thinking and opens their heart to true oneness and compassion, they are connecting with the same spirit I find in Jesus, no matter what they label it. 

So getting to truth is complicated, and confused with “reality” and “right and wrong” and “proof” and all the rest. 

But writing? Writing I can do. It’s what I’m called to do. I pray that my words and the spirit behind them will add mercy and kindness and truth to the world. I also pray that grief, confusion, cynicism, fear, outrage, guilt, and despair do not keep me from being who I’m meant to be and doing what I’m meant to do. Amen.

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Amen

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Solve the right problem

“A great solution to the wrong problem will always fail,” says Nielsen Norman Group’s Sarah Gibbons in her three-minute video on “User Need Statements in Design Thinking.” Nielsen Norman Group consults on website usability. However, much of what Gibbons discusses applies to other written materials, too.

User need statement

Gibbons defines a user need statement as “An actionable problem statement used to summarize who a particular user is, the user’s need, and why the need is important to that user.” Understanding this information will help you write better communications of all kinds. That includes blog posts, articles, white papers, and even emails.

It interested me that she spoke about the need to empathize with the user.

More resources

If you prefer to learn from written materials instead of video, check out Gibbons’ article on “User Need Statements: The ‘Define’ Stage in Design Thinking.”

To learn about my approach to understanding your audience, read my blog post on identifying “What problem does this blog post solve for them?” and my book, Financial Blogging: How to Write Powerful Posts That Attract Clients.

 

The image in the upper left is courtesy of Free photobank torange.biz [CC BY-SA 4.0].

The post Solve the right problem appeared first on Susan Weiner's Blog on Investment Writing.

BEANSTALKER and OTHER HILARIOUS SCARY TALES by Kiersten White / Book Review #BeanStalker

By: Kiersten White
Published by: Scholastic
Released on: July 25th, 2017
Ages: 8 & up
Purchase Links
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Rating: 5 Owlets
An arc of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review

What about, once upon a time, a bunch of fairy tales got twisted around to be completely hilarious, a tiny bit icky, and delightfully spooky scarytales; in other words, exactly what fairy tales were meant to be. Grab some flaming torches, maybe don’t accept that bowl of pease porridge, and get ready for a wickedly fun ride with acclaimed author Kiersten White and fairy tales like you’ve never heard them before.

Snow White is a vampire, Little Red Riding Hood is a zombie, and Cinderella is an arsonist — and that is only some of the mayhem the reader will find in this collection of fractured fairy tales.

A laugh out loud debut middle grade book from one of my favorite YA authors. Kiersten White has created my favorite mix of fractured fairytales and nursery rhymes to date! I loved the way she intertwined, and interconnected so many classics, and the spin she gave each one. If having vampires, zombies and stepmothers isn’t enough to entice you, the illustrations, and the narration will be. 

This is the perfect blend of fairytales and nursery rhymes. Who knew you could combine stories like Snow White, The Princess and the Pea, Jack & Jill, The Dish and The Spoon, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack Be Nimble, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and the Stepmother. White’s intertwining of these stories was awesome! Numerous times while reading this book I wondered how White was able to pull this off so well. 

The narration in this story is my favorite part of the entire book. Talk about sassy! The narrator definitely stole the show in this book. It’s what made this story so much fun to read. It’s not just their self awareness that makes the narrator so appealing either. The narrator would make a great language arts teacher. Numerous times in this story the narrator points out the homonym and homophone words that characters miss. Like The Princess and The Pea. Let’s just say it’s not, well, you wouldn’t want to sleep on that mattress. This narration definitely makes for the perfect, hilarious, read aloud. 

This book is a must read! It’s equal parts hilarious, and spooky, though it is way more hilarious than spooky. It’s spooky in the best way possible, because some of these characters are not the sweet, innocent characters we all grew up reading about. The spooky twists come from some of them being vampires and zombies. This may be written for middle grade readers, but it will definitely be appealing to all readers ages 8 and up. Including adults. It was part of my Halloween read up earlier this week, but this is one book that can be read all year long.