Don’t Let The Monsters Win: Share the Stories No One Wants to Hear

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are real, too.
They live inside us, and sometimes they win.” 
― Stephen King, The Shining 

Photo by Ian Panelo from Pexels

I tried to find a way to smoothly and seamlessly bridge the practical tips I wanted to share with the faithful followers of my email list and other “unrelated” issues that won’t leave my mind and heart: thoughts and emotions that stem from the state of the world, and especially what’s happening right here at “home.”

I thought about not getting political or personal—to stick with a business-as-usual approach—and keep me, the businessperson, separate from me, the person. But honestly, they’re all part of the same big pot, and I’m a little exhausted from trying to maintain a “professional” face and keep my passion and wrath to myself. So, fuck all that.

The truth is, I can’t move forward in my day or week or month or life without acknowledging how incredibly off the rails the world is. I think the pandemic is just one more event that’s showing us what “humanity” is made of. It’s so ugly I’m having a hard time finding the words to express how sick and sad I am in my heart over it all.

I’ve walked around with a broken heart for a long time over the atrocities black and indigenous people of color face and fear every day. It’s beyond discrimination. It’s reprehensible, vile, animalistic, base behavior.

Andrena Sawyer has said, “I can’t bring myself to watch yet another video, not because I don’t care, but because we’re all just a few videos away from becoming completely desensitized. The public execution of Black folks will never be normal.”

And I suppose she’s right. It’s a mechanism we all have. To desensitize, to numb out, in a way, and shield ourselves from trauma. We can only take so much.

When I consider the privilege I reap due to the color of my skin and how sick and sad and traumatized I feel every time I read a news headline or an article or see a video and then see how long it takes for arrests of white people—some of whom are police—who commit heinous crimes against black and indigenous citizens to be made, I’m crushed with grief for what I can only imagine it must be like to live as a person of color.

So, I have a question: Where do we draw the line between desensitizing and making the ugliness in the world so apparent it finally moves us—as individuals and as a culture—to take some kind of meaningful and lasting action? And what does that even mean?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. As I sit here and write this, I don’t know.

I’ve always believed the best, most important, most needed stories are those that people don’t want to hear. I know I don’t WANT to feel that sick nauseating ache inside me every time I read another headline, watch another video, or learn of another story of a black man or woman who’s been killed simply because they were living a life.*

But I know I need to, and I know I need to share the stories and speak out against the murderers because if I’m going to have any kind of integrity at all around the work I do, I have to practice what I preach.

I have to share stories. And not just my stories. And not just stories that speak to my existence as a white, educated, middle-aged woman. I have to share stories about people who aren’t like me, who don’t have my privilege, who suffer and struggle because of the color of skin they were born with.

I have no qualms about making my disgust known for white police officers who are hellbent on maintaining their perceived superiority over BIPOC (and the departments that are complicit in their heinous behaviors and crimes). I have no qualms about making my disgust known for those who chose to “look on the bright side” of life, which is a nice way of saying, “Look the other way.”

In my world, the “bright side” is what comes after we expose the monsters—within us and around us—giving them no place to hide. Because when we do that, the monster can be seen and named, then purged and eradicated. It’s not an either/or proposition. It’s not something we get to pick instead of the truth.

I might turn off some people. I might piss off some people. Some might even stop following my work. I don’t care. I’m only interested in surrounding myself—in my work and in my personal life—with people who are interested in making a difference in the world.

By that, I mean taking on the project of healing the world through story. And not just the feel-good story.

I suppose we do run the risk of becoming desensitized by a regularity of violent videos resulting in the death of BIPOC, as Sawyer says, but what I’m hoping is that by watching them, or at the very least, making ourselves aware of the ugly, sad details of these stories, it makes us so sick and so angry that we can’t do anything but rise up and become active participants in rewriting history.

Way too many people are terrified to feel, to face the shadows of their culture, of their families, of themselves. I have no respect for that. At all. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to evolve.

While I will always be behind those who have the guts to share their stories, right now, I’m way more behind those who are willing to share other people’s stories… stories of people who don’t look like them and who suffer at the hands of people who do look like them.

Writing, storytelling, and story sharing are the tools we use to expose the monsters that live within us and around us.  When we look away, we’re letting the monsters win.

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If you want to become an instrument for change, below are a few places to begin.

“Our White Friends Desiring to Be Allies” by Courtney Ariel
In Sojourner Magazine
(This article also offers a few excellent books and articles that “illuminate oppression and structures of white supremacy and white privilege.”)

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Donate to groups working against police brutality

Reclaim the Block in MPLS
Minnesota Freedom Fund
ACLU
The Dream Defenders
Color of Change
Funders for Justice

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Accept the story sharing challenge

  1. Educate yourself about each of the stories below and acknowledge what you feel. Imagine the life that was cut short. Imagine the families and friends they left behind. Honor the victims in your thoughts.
  2. Write about them. Share their stories with your friends and family.
  3. Share their stories on social media Tag me when you do.

Let’s create a web of intolerance and accountability against racism and the brutality towards
black and indigenous people of color.

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (AltonSterling)
I can sleep (AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (TamirRice)
I can go to church (Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)

White privilege is real.
If you’re a white person, please take a minute to consider a Black or indigenous person’s experience today.
#BlackLivesMatter

*I copied and pasted this list … please do the same