Holding Space for Myself

Deviating slightly from our regularly scheduled bookish content, I want to write about something that’s been on my mind lately: my actions, or rather, my tendency to disengage from conversations about racial issues both online and with people from outside my safety net.

Recently a friend of mine told me that if I needed him to hold space for me, that he was there. I thought about this, and came to the conclusion that what I really needed was to reflect and not pass judgment on myself.

Hold space for myself. So that’s what this is.

In watching the tweets and the Instagram posts about George Floyd and the country-wide protests, I found myself slipping further and further from social media.

But why?

While I was writing my dissertation, “A Hairbrush Is Not a Gun”: Narratives and Counternarratives of Race, Power, and Identity in Young Adult Literature, the last time I really engaged in social justice work, I felt so very isolated. I live in a state that is > 2% Black. I can have conversations with my wife and our friends, yes, but it was still lonely. I can’t help but wonder if I’d feel different if we lived in the Midwest, where our families are.

And so I didn’t outwardly react, mostly because I didn’t want to feel the same way I did when I was writing. I say outwardly because that didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. For myself, for my siblings and cousins. To go cycling by myself. Of random white men who are allowed to carry large guns unchecked.

It wasn’t until another volunteer with an organization I volunteer with called out our organization for its slow response to the public outrage surrounding police brutality…

…and until my town held a vigil for George Floyd, protesting the larger systemic issues that result in the disproportionate use of unnecessary force against Black people by police…

…that I turned the corner.

I can’t just write in isolation. If I am to be the educator that I want to be, it’s going to take more than just that.

Here’s my first step around the corner. Let’s see how the rest of the block goes.

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