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Not A Straight Line

The other day he was sharing with me how he’d rather take the longer way because the road is straight and flat which allows him to get visual feedback about how much further he has to walk.

I’ve often referred to the self-work for white people to abolish white dominance in ourselves as a continuum. In mathematical terms, a ray…an entry point followed by an infinite straight line.

But this is too cerebral and this work is nothing like a straight line.

It’s more like an infinite set of stairs. Where you look up and cannot see anything but more stairs and there is no visual feedback of a concluding step of arrival. Your thighs are burning and the sweat between them is causing a chafing that makes you question further movement. Nothing looks familiar because it all looks the same. The disorientation is real. You wish for rest but the tread is so narrow that your backside doesn’t find comfort and looking down at where you’ve come from is making you feel dizzy so the only option is to get back up and keep climbing. Some days you feel a nice breeze or you find a flower growing in the crack of concrete and the beauty propels you. Other days you stand in the same spot, stunned and lifeless. Still other days you stumble back to lessons you need more time to wrestle with.

It’s. Not. A. Straight. Line.

Anytime I begin to feel comfortable, proud, knowledgeable, judgmental, distant, aggressive, or righteous – I know I need to look up at all of the learning I’ve yet to set a toe upon. I must climb further because I’ve stopped being honest with myself. I’m not uncomfortable enough.

I know I’m climbing when I feel vulnerable, remorseful, disoriented, powerful, sore, inquisitive, liberated, reflective, uncomfortable, tender, committed, mindful, and bold.

I think a lot about what the entry points are for white people to engage this climb. What feedback is needed to help each other keep climbing? What does intimacy along the climb look like? What does it mean to tell the story of the climb with truth and a vulnerability that invites without creating hierarchy?

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Rebecca Greenidge

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