the smell of my desperation has become a stench

I have words

This is a long one, but it’s important. It’s very important.

Back at the beginning of May when I was in Atlanta for the Mom 2.0 Summit, I was sitting next to the main stage in preparation to join the others who would be speaking with me on an afternoon keynote. Before our discussion began, however, the event organizer Laura Mayes invited a fellow blogger named Kelly Wickham to the stage to read aloud a post she had written last July after the jury delivered its verdict in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The title of her post is “Calling Out My Sisters” and to declare it one of the most powerful things ever written in blog format would be doing it a total disservice. Anyone who has any sort of platform either online or off should be required to read this and fully experience the burn of recognition crawl up from their stomachs and spread from the neck into the face in a flaming burst of red.

She was talking to me:

Guess what? I don’t live in Pakistan and I supported and talked about Malala Yousafzai.

Guess what? I don’t live in New Delhi and it didn’t stop me from donating to the Red Cross the day a building collapsed and killed 46 people. It didn’t stop me from refusing to spend money in big box stores that profit off those places.

Guess what? I’m not a homosexual who wants to marry my partner but I still signed petitions, called my state and local representatives, and used the hell out of my social media accounts to voice that opinion.

Guess what? You only have to be a human being to find interest in places all over the world that threaten our humanity, politics, and beliefs. Why so shy about getting involved with Trayvon Martin?

And even though she didn’t specifically turn her head in my direction, she continued to talk directly to me:

You have words, sisters. You can’t use them for this?

I love you, sisters, and I’ve been disappointed in the quiet corners where you find me to talk about race when I’ve seen you in the public arena defend marriage equality.

You let everyone know, with your words, what’s important to you. 

Are you mad? Are you grieving, too? Or is it your fear that’s keeping you from amplifying the messages of Black parents right now.

I’ve seen it, sisters, and it’s a powerful thing when you make your friends go viral and when you jump on bandwagons, but when race is painted on the side, you tell me you’ll jump on the next one.

You hashtag the shit out of stuff. I see you. 

If you were to search my archives you would find not one word about Trayvon Martin anywhere on this website. In fact, you won’t find me talking about race or approaching anything within 500 yards of that subject. I’m terrified of what would happen if I expressed any emotion about race, be it outrage or sorrow or frustration. Because who the hell am I? I am a white woman raised in a white household, a white woman who has experienced nothing but privilege her entire life. I have never known persecution or been maligned because of my minority status. I have never had to worry that the color of my skin would in any way cost me the slightest luxury or basic human right.

And yet, I am not a homosexual, but I will attend parades and rallies and write about the injustice my friends and their community continue to suffer. I have access to and can afford high-quality healthcare, but I will sign petitions and join organizations and write about the work they are doing to provide access to those who do not. I will even travel to the other side of the world to bring attention to the fact that pregnant women routinely die because they are alone and surrounded by squalor when they go into labor.

(Photo of a hand-crafted mural by local artisans in the lobby of Hopital de Mirebalais, Haiti)

My concern about the topic of race has been that the backlash would drown out anything I could possibly add to the conversation. Just another privileged white woman wringing her hands in a physical manifestation of her white guilt. No perspective, no experience, no right to say a word, not when I get to walk away from the keyboard and go feed my white children a lavish meal in a sprawling kitchen with windows overlooking one of the whitest pockets of the American landscape.

But then… there’s this part of Kelly’s post:

I’ll let you in on a secret, though, in case you haven’t experienced this before: Mentioning racism gets you called a racist. That happens to me all the time. You’ll survive getting called one, too.

I have survived being called a poverty tourist. I have survived hundreds of pages on the Internet claiming that I am homophobic, that I visit developing countries specifically for the purpose of exploiting their culture for money, not to mention lengthy critiques of my body, my face, my parenting, my lack of talent, the appearance of my children, my abuse of power, and my impending public meltdown. People have written discourses online diagnosing me with both Narcissistic and Borderline Personality Disorders. This isn’t persecution in any sense of the word, it’s just a job hazard.

So, why then am I so petrified of being called a racist?

I actually pulled Kelly aside after my keynote and told her all of this, told her that I had grown up in the South and had been taught by many adults around me that African Americans are different. I’d been taught subtly and not-so-subtly that they are lazy, that they take advantage of the system, that they are dangerous. I was a racist. And those prejudices followed me and informed me up until a linguistics class I took my junior year in college that obliterated the foundation of my entire belief system. A four-paragraph essay explaining the logic behind Ebonics opened my eyes so widely and violently that for the fist time in my life I was able to look at everything that I had been taught as “truth” and abandon it completely.

Kelly mentioned that nuance here is the key. No matter what I say about race or poverty or marriage inequality, someone or multiple someones will pick it apart or call me names. I have lived that for the last 13 years. But approaching any of these touchy subjects as gracefully and as thoughtfully as I can is all that is required, that and approaching it at all. APPROACH IT.

I will admit that I have not always been as graceful with my words as I should be when discussing these things. I’ve made bad jokes. I’ve been too earnest, too dramatic, too flippant. But I hope that I have learned and listened to those who have more experience, who have perspective, who have said to me, listen, I know you mean well, but here’s a better way to say it to those of us who are living it.


A couple of years ago Leta came home from school and was excited to tell me a story about something that had happened on the playground. She’d recently mastered the monkey bars, swinging herself the length of them and back, and a group of kids waiting to take their turn was standing nearby. That group included a boy she had a crush on.

“So I hopped off the monkey bars because I wanted to say hello to him, ” she explained. “But he was talking to another boy in my class, um… I forget his name. They’re best friends.”

“Which boy?” I asked, curious because I AM A NOSY I had done a lot of volunteering that year and wanted to know who was best friends with whom.

“You know,” she said. “He’s taller than me. He’s got brown hair. What’s his name…”

“Leta most of the boys in your class have brown hair.”

“He’s got brown eyes, and he’s always wearing a blue shirt,” she explained.

I spouted off a few names, none of them right.

“No, not them. This boy has skin that is darker than mine. Do you know him?”

She was talking about the only African American in her class. In her description of him, the first thing she thought would identify him was his height. Then his hair color. Then his eye color. Then the color of his shirt. When I was her age the first thing out of my mouth would have been, “The black kid.”

I was so overcome with the differences between her childhood and mine. She is surrounded by teachers and adults who have made it so that she does not associate skin color as a signifier of class or character or as any noteworthy differentiation. As her mother I feel hopeful, but I also feel a huge responsibility to her and to her generation to reinforce this view of the world as her own experiences expand and grow.


A few months ago my good friend Kristen Howerton told me about an organization that she works with called The Exodus Road, a group dedicated to fighting human trafficking and sex slavery in Southeast Asia. This is a subject that I know absolutely nothing about, and so I was surprised when she said that they were organizing a trip to this part of the world and would love for me to be a part of it.

First, I don’t know the first thing about this issue. I know I already said so, but it bears repeating. Two, while the Exodus Road is not explicitly a Christian organization, its founders are motivated and guided by their devout Christian values. And here is where I will say something that I have never said on this website before:

I am an atheist. I do not believe in God.

I’m sure that does not come as any surprise, but I haven’t ever written those words because I didn’t think it needed to be articulated with that kind of detail.

But here right now, I think it does. This organization that is informed by Christian beliefs is so dedicated to ending the nightmares of so many innocent girls and boys that they would associate with me, an atheist—an often crass, irreverent, “Mormons like to sacrifice kittens” atheist—in order to move the fight forward. And when I say “associate” I mean use me as a means to raise awareness. I am a marketing tool. I have no illusions that I woud be doing anything other than that.

So I sat down and read what I could about this issue and this organization just to get a working sense of what this trip would mean. In 2013 blogger Jamie Wright joined The Exodus Road on undercover missions in SE Asia:

Now, I know some of you want to tell me that I didn’t need to fly to SE Asia to find sex for sale, pedophiles, ping pong shows, and trafficking. I totally get that. But the U.S. economy doesn’t rely on tourism generated by selling our sons and daughters. Our children’s bodies aren’t counted as part of our Gross Domestic Product. Our government (while super flawed) has the will and the means necessary to investigate, arrest, and prosecute criminals who sell, enslave, or traffic human beings.

I do not want any outbound links from my website to any of the places set up online luring would-be takers to indulge in a very specific part of the economy of Southeast Asia, but you can google “Southeast Asia sex tourism” just to get a sense of what I’m talking about. The scope and magnitude of the human trafficking problem is compounded by the number of migrants fleeing neighboring countries because of poverty or military repression. These migrants are often defrauded and forced into commercial sexual exploitation to pay off debts. These are women and children helplessly enslaved in dark brothels, bars and slums with absolutely no advocate.

As Jamie wrote:

[The Exodus Road is a] young but healthy organization, with a big picture mentality. They honor the local government, and value partnership with sister organizations (including those working in outreach and aftercare) who agree to high standards of practice. Pushing the long-standing but broken Christian model of “good intention” aside, they’ve carefully chosen trained investigators with unique skill sets to do the best work on the ground, contracting men and women with a wide range of ethnic, religious, and professional backgrounds.

In just two years while working with teams on the ground, they have supported the rescues of 253 sex slaves through the work of the 53 undercover investigators. Small but very significant steps forward, especially for those 253 individuals.

On Monday morning I leave for a trip to that part of the world with Jamie, Kristen and Roo Ciambriello to join The Exodus Road and witness their operation in motion. The trip has been designed to give us a clear view of the three main areas of fighting slavery: prevention, intervention, and after care.

We’ll be visiting red light districts, entering brothels, and learning about the remote village sex trade. We’ll be meeting several partners including a Buddhist man who runs an after care shelter, several special forces investigators, and an American couple running an outreach center for street kids.

There is some down time worked into the schedule so I hope to use that time to keep you updated, to take you along with me. Again, this is an issue that I hope to handle as carefully as I can, especially since the majority of my education about it will be while I am on the ground, but it is most definitely one that is worth approaching with the full force of what I can bring.

No, I have never been forced to have sex to pay off a debt. No one I know has ever been trafficked or held against their will or marched in their underwear in front of a leering group of tourists eager to pay for their services. But what was it that Kelly said? “You only have to be a human being to find interest in places all over the world that threaten our humanity, politics, and beliefs.”

I may not believe in God, but some lingering religious part of me thinks, well, it could be luck, could be hard work, could be a combination of both or neither, but for some reason I have a platform. And I tell myself, never stop exploring that reason.


  • Sarah

    2014/06/12 at 2:51 pm

    You definitely have words. Thank you for this. I was touched by the story with Leta and the “black kid” because to me that does show that in little ways our world is improving. But I got hung up on the atheist thing. I’m agnostic, but for some reason I never picked up on your atheism so to me it is a surprise. Why? I’m not entirely sure. So if I were to gossip about you, the first thing that would come out of my mouth is that, not that you are or ever were a racist.

  • Callie VanNatten

    2014/06/12 at 2:54 pm

    I’ve been reading your blog for longer than I can remember, and I have never commented, but I created an account just to say, “Wow.” Good for you for using your platform and your words to improve the lives of others. What an amazing example you are setting for your girls.

  • schmutzie

    2014/06/12 at 3:13 pm

    You spoke well, Heather. And good one helping Exodus. That’s going to be a hard trip.

  • Melissa

    2014/06/12 at 3:17 pm

    I’m glad I’m not the only one, I was feeling bad. I’m going to leave this article mostly thinking, Dooce is an atheist and I’m surprised, without as much thought about the rest of the very deep and well-written article. I knew you weren’t religious, Heather, but I never got the atheist vibe either, whatever “atheist vibe” means.

  • Kim Court

    2014/06/12 at 3:18 pm

    I’ve followed you for years and your writing has made me smile, cry and laugh out loud. But today it made me think. Great post. Have a safe trip – I look forward to learning more from your experiences.

  • Marissa

    2014/06/12 at 3:19 pm

    I started reading Dooce for your hysterical poop filled parenting anecdotes and great style; but I keep reading because you are using your considerable platform to bring awareness to the inequity and suffering in other parts of the world — rather than to just sell “stuff.” Thank you for talking about race and sex trafficking and depression and divorce and self-doubt. Your voice makes us all smarter, more aware, and less alone.

    My four-year old was talking about her classmates and
    described her friend as “that boy with brown hair and brown skin.” Progress,
    that we all hope continues with our children into adulthood.

    Have a very safe trip.

  • Michele

    2014/06/12 at 3:19 pm

    Loved this post. Please do have a discussion with Leta about why the black child is different from her, and why the Asian child is different from her and why that doesn’t make any difference about how she should feel about them. Po Bronson has a chapter in his book, Nurtureshock, about talking to our young children about racial differences. Kids do notice and they will pick up things from their friends. It is up to you to teach them that everyone should be treated equally. It’s not enough to raise our children in a diverse environment. They won’t learn tolerance and respect that way. We have to talk to them about it. When you said Leta didn’t know his name, my first thought was that she noticed he was different from her but didn’t know what to do about it.

  • RzDrms

    2014/06/12 at 3:25 pm

    This is one of the best – if not THE best – posts you’ve ever written, particularly the first part of it, so honest and real and *direct*. I was really hoping for more about Trayvon Martin, about “white privilege,” and about what I see as the continued repression and misunderstanding of the black population in America. I pray that you have a safe and productive trip.

    On a side note, I often wonder if former-Christians-turned-atheists do so (even in small part) to fight the establishment. To (perhaps unconsciously) rebel so extremely that they won’t even consider any other option besides atheism. This is a real concern/question of mine and not a “dig” of any sort, so hopefully no offense was taken.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/06/12 at 3:31 pm

    I could write a very long post about why I have reached my position on this, and it has nothing to do with fighting the establishment. I still believed in God for many years after leaving the church, and only slowly came to believe what I do today. Maybe I’ll address it at some point, but for now I think saying it out loud is a big step.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/06/12 at 3:34 pm

    Is being an atheist a piece of gossip?

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/06/12 at 3:35 pm

    I take “atheist vibe” to mean that you have absorbed the bias against non-believers that is promoted by many, if not most, religious institutions in this culture. It is possible to be atheist and moral, just as it’s possible to be “religious” and highly immoral (see: any number of prominent televangelists).

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/06/12 at 3:35 pm

    Godless heathen, amirite?

  • Tamara

    2014/06/12 at 3:45 pm

    Thank you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/06/12 at 3:54 pm

    Leta is being raised in one of the least diverse environments you could imagine, and yet she didn’t think to identify someone by their skin color first (I should add here that by her “class” she meant her “grade.” This boy was not in her immediate class which is why she blanked his name.)

    I have since talked to her extensively about differences in race and culture and class and those who have access to everything and those who have nothing. She’s watched me go abroad to visit developing countries and listened to the stories I have brought back. Like I said, it’s my responsibility to her and her generation to make sure that the differentiations I grew up with are not perpetuated.

  • KateMc

    2014/06/12 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for writing about these topics, Heather. I guess I never thought much about your religious affiliation (or lack thereof) because I admire how you are raising your girls and the organizations you dedicate your time to. I am thankful that you felt brave enough to share that with us though – yay you! The older I have gotten, the more I have come to respect people for their actions, instead of some doctrine they subscribe to. Safe travels and thanks for taking us along for the experience with you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/06/12 at 3:59 pm

    Thank you for this. I was nervous about it, but felt safe that most of my readers understand that you don’t have to have a religious affiliation to know what is right and what is wrong.

  • Melissa

    2014/06/12 at 4:00 pm

    Huh? I never thought atheists were immoral nor did her morality and her atheism ever cross my mind at the same time. I’m neither a Christian nor a former Christian, religious institutions haven’t ever played a direct role in my life. There was just no indication to me that she was atheist, which is completely fine, but generally you know the beliefs, or non-beliefs, of your friends and family. I know Heather is just a blogger and not a friend but as a reader I do feel like I know a part of her life. It’s just a surprise, not a shock or even something I would never expect. Just a surprise. No big deal.

  • KristenfromMA

    2014/06/12 at 4:07 pm

    OK, sorry to accuse you. There really is a lot of anti-atheism in this country. More than one prominent politician has stated that atheists shouldn’t have the privilege of US citizenship (which is a pretty anti-American sentiment IMO).

  • Daedree Long

    2014/06/12 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you, Heather. Regarding the sex trade… this is something that I, like you, have the privilege of not experiencing but have seen. My husband went on an LDS mission to Thailand a decade ago. While we’ve left the church he will always love his time there, except for some of the awful memories. Memories of older white men sitting on the train with a barely post-pubescent girl. He’s told me he’s never been more tempted to get in a fist fight. Or getting to know families, coming to love the people there, and realizing the option or future that many of them would be pushed into by society, especially the Burmese refugees he came across.

    I went back with him a year and a half after we were married. Some of it was exotic, but some of it… Well, I don’t have the words. We could see Soi (road) Cowboy from our hotel, one of the major red-light districts of Bangkok. At first I mentioned wanting to see it because of my naive, Mormon-raised fascination with exotics. I soon realize there was no need to further the tourism there. It’s another reason we chose to avoid Pattaya, going further south to a remote island.

    Bangkok is beautiful but disgusting. It’s new yet old, rushed, terrifying, generous and selfish. You get off the plane running and don’t stop until you’re back on a plane or train or boat out of there. But I will always love it. You will see the filthy, deprived parts I barely brushed. Thank you for fighting for the men and women of SE Asia—of the world— for using your words, for touching this subject that many of us only know about like some dark fairy tale.

    Oh, and the coup… please be careful! It obviously affects citizens much more than tourists, but it’s the crossfire to worry about, right?

    One other thing. Will you do me a favor and break your paleo habit by eating some khao niaow ma muang? Or at least copious amounts of mango?

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/06/12 at 4:16 pm

    Thank you, Daedree, for this perspective. I have no idea what to expect when I get off that plane, and we will actually be spending a couple of days looking at the exploitation going on in Pattaya. We’re being careful, sticking to the more touristy spots of the country, although my family is still a little sick with worry. Oh, and no way would I stay Paleo in Thailand! Thai food is my favorite food, hands down, so to get to eat it there is truly a privilege.

  • kelmochel

    2014/06/12 at 4:20 pm

    Long and important…you weren’t kiddin’. Been ‘here’ a while, never read racism, sex trafficking or atheism, and here they are simultaneously. Most importantly, well done doing your part to ‘be the good’. I too have never known anyone forced into the sex trade, and commend you for going out of your inner circle to help a people group in dire need. *tips hat with sincerity*. Way less ‘important’ is the discrimination that I (and subsequently my children) have faced for me being an ‘out’ atheist mother, activist and author of a children’s book for kiddos of nonbeliever parents. Seems very ‘first world’ as you pack for Thailand, but do know that you WILL experience fall out as a result of your atheist declaration, and I believe it will be more extreme than you may have anticipated…and I thank you for standing up and being counted as such. Be out, proud, and good without god…you nailed it.

  • Debbie in Memphis

    2014/06/12 at 4:25 pm

    Sometimes it’s hard to find things or people that make me proud of Memphis.You are going to the top of my list! Safe travels.

  • Andrée

    2014/06/12 at 4:31 pm

    Dear Dooce,
    I have been reading your blog for years but never commented.
    Thank you, thank you for this very sincere, very frank and very edifying post.
    Bravo for your courage.
    Wishing you a stimulating and safe trip.
    Very much looking forward to hearing about it.
    Andrée, from Québec

  • DC

    2014/06/12 at 4:35 pm

    Thank you so much for “coming out” as an atheist in this post. I’ve been working on finally saying “I’m an atheist” out loud lately, too–to family, to friends–and seeing you do that here makes me feel that much more empowered to do so in my own life. Thank you.

  • Leigh

    2014/06/12 at 4:49 pm

    You have a platform because you’re talented, you’ve worked hard, and you’ve been in the right place at the right time. And as a long-time reader, it seems that you recognize that having this blog, this microphone, is a blessing, and you’re using it responsibly to focus attention on making this world a little better. I’m sorry that there are those who would try to pull you down with insults or worse, but I hope you recognize that for the useless noise that it is, and never stop working to bring our attention to issues that might ordinarily pass us by;

  • Annie

    2014/06/12 at 4:50 pm

    It might be because I’m European, but I totes thought dooce must be an atheist all this time, because duuuh, isn’t everyone? 😉 it’s so funny that saying it out loud is like farting in polite company for you guys in the US.

  • Lisa

    2014/06/12 at 5:10 pm

    I have read your blog forever, and I look forward to when you post your belief about atheism. Until then, I wish I was going to Thailand with you.

  • Heather Armstrong

    2014/06/12 at 5:15 pm

    Hahaha! Totes love this point of view.

  • Rena Tom

    2014/06/12 at 5:19 pm

    yes, friend. thank you.

  • RzDrms

    2014/06/12 at 5:51 pm

    Thank you for the reply. I *just* heard this in the book I’m listening to (“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown) while driving home from work: “…first uttered by the gnostic teacher Monoimus: ‘Abandon the search for God . . . instead, take yourself as the starting place.’ ” Have you read “The Lost Symbol”? Hope you do write about your beliefs one day, that you put it out there.

  • KC

    2014/06/12 at 5:55 pm

    First of all, thank you for all you do to make the world a better place. I truly mean that. You don’t have to travel abroad to help others, but you do. Secondly, thank you for being honest. I was raised Catholic and feel guilt everyday for questioning my faith. I feel really lost sometimes…Is there a God?…Why do I oftentimes feel that there is not? I wish I had a strong faith like all of my family does, and didn’t question those beliefs I was brought up with. It’s hard. I do know that when I am faced with a difficult situation, I find myself praying and asking God for help. It just seems to happen automatically, I think because it is so ingrained in me to do that. I remember your saying something about the universe once, I don’t remember the context but it gave me the idea that it was ok to just ask the universe for help sometimes. To just put it out there and hope for the best.

    Have you watched a movie called, The Invention of Lying, with Ricky Gervais? It kind of brings up the question about why people pray to an invisible man in the sky. Very good movie!

    Anyways, thanks again. Have a safe trip.

  • edenland

    2014/06/12 at 6:08 pm

    Wow. Reading this gave me goosebumps, furious nodding, and saying YEAH! to my computer screen. I’ve read you for years too. Life and upheavals and changes of opinion. You’ve gone through some shit, and mate I have to say I feel proud of you for writing this post. I’m so glad you’re going on Monday, safe (long!) travels. I flew to a few places for World Vision Australia and I felt so much pressure to blog the “right” thing until somebody told me the best advice – “Just write what you see. And then write what you feel.” So I did.

    You are an extraordinary writer Heather. I hope you can block the negativity from people out. You’re allowed to do whatever the hell you want with your own platform. If that’s travelling to some dark places that not many people witness and then writing about it on your site that gets read by a whole bunch of people? Well that’s pretty fucking awesome. There’s no crime in being earnest. There’s no crime in trying to make the world a bit better than how you found it.

    Power to you. xx

  • Debra

    2014/06/12 at 6:09 pm

    You are my #1 hero for a reason!

  • Alice

    2014/06/12 at 6:11 pm

    I guess I’m also interested in when you will be posting anything about your work in Haiti?

  • Melinda

    2014/06/12 at 6:22 pm

    I work with kids in one of the most culturally/ethnically diverse communities in America. I was raised in a mostly white town, and the differences in the childhood experience are shocking, mostly because the kids I work with are much less naive than I was at their age. They are much more aware and experienced with being around other cultures but simultaneously aware of how they can use that knowledge to hurt each other. It’s been a tough education in how to deal with their treatment of each other but also very satisfying to see how open their minds can be.

  • KatR

    2014/06/12 at 6:24 pm

    I left Christianity, and I wish I could be an atheist (it would be easier and I think I would heal from a lot of stuff), but I’m just…..not. I think it’s that way with people who are atheists. You can’t force yourself to believe if you just don’t believe.

  • Laura Parker

    2014/06/12 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks, Heather, for writing this, and thanks even more for sacrificing a week to really see and experience the realities of sex trafficking. It seems like the larger the platform, the bigger “risk” for things like this, so I am just grateful for your bravery.

    And I totally agree with a previous comment made – “You don’t have to be religious to know what’s right.” Absolutely.

    Looking so forward to meeting you.

  • Kristen Howerton

    2014/06/12 at 7:02 pm

    Well damn. You just went all in, my friend. So proud of you. So glad we get to experience this together.

    And don’t worry, we won’t let you come back an atheist. The internet is praying that you will meet Jesus in Thailand, remember? I guess he lives there. And I’m bringing pamphlets.

  • Mrs. Beasley

    2014/06/12 at 7:13 pm

    Like others who have commented, I am a long time reader. Just the other day when I saw a post about the Pride Parade, I said to you (in my head) “Please, please address one of the most crippling social ills that spans all of your service work: racism. …with just a fraction of the passion. Please.” Thank you for this post. I would argue that to really fight homophobia, secure decent maternal health care, and teach children to be thoughtful citizens and critical thinkers, racism has to be acknowledged, investigated, and confronted. We need to look inside ourselves, examine our communities, and challenge the systems that rely on and perpetuate inequality.

    Racism is insidious (and fucked up) and like most evils, it thrives in the silence.

    This is going to sound patronizing because I don’t know how to properly offer support while giving you a swift kick in the (lil’ white) bum: I hope that you continue to be curious, challenge yourself, and take us along for the journey. Please.

  • diane

    2014/06/12 at 7:24 pm

    I’ve read you for years and think this trip could be wonderful, but will you really write about it. I’ve waited for you to actually write about Every Mother Counts and you haven’t. I’m not trying to be negative, but if you want to use your blog of positive causes, please write about them.

  • Diane

    2014/06/12 at 7:32 pm

    So, I wrote a post as a guest, but it didn’t seem to post. Don’t want to repeat, but i said, Heather, I’ve read your blog for years. The trip sounds very interesting, but will you really write about it. I’ve been waiting for you to write about Every Mother Counts and you haven’t written anything specific. You can only enlighten people if you actually write about the causes. This isn’t verbatim and actually asks more. But If I read that you care, I want to read about the cause and what happens during the trip that would make me understand the cause. I’m really not trying to be negative, but to say – please write about these wonderful causes.

  • Sue Moffatt Occhialini

    2014/06/12 at 7:35 pm

    I had the great fortune to take a class in college taught by Maya Angelou. At least once every class, she repeated what she said was one of her favorite quotes: “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” This just kept echoing through my mind as I read your post. Thank you for the incredibly eloquent post about such a complicated issue. It really made me think. Can’t wait to hear about your experiences in Thailand.

  • Michelle Boehm

    2014/06/12 at 8:06 pm

    Before I begin, let me be clear in that I’m not comparing the work that I do with the work you will do. Apples, oranges. Humans, animals. With that out of the way, let me say that I am dedicated to animal rescue. Or, should I say, I’m as dedicated to it as I can be with the rest of the insanity that is my life. I do what I can. I do it even though I know I can’t save them all. I do it even though it breaks my heart. Every time I leave the shelter, I feel wrecked at witnessing what humans are capable of doing to animals – the neglect, the carelessness, the discarding of animals that have lived with them for years and years as if they were an outdated sofa. I’ve never experienced this but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t break my heart to witness it. And every time I remind myself that turning away and not looking won’t fix a damn thing.
    In other words, go witness things, don’t turn away, and do what you can to fix it. God speed. *awkward wink*

  • allconsuming

    2014/06/12 at 8:08 pm

    I’m not sure why but this year I feel strangely nostalgic with you and your blog. i’ve been blogging for around 10 years and you cover a fair bit of ground. Maybe blogging years are more like doggy years than calendar ones? There’s been (for both of us) so many highs and lows, triumphs and bruising battles. I adore you and your willingness to open the window just a little bit on your life in good times and bad. I also think that sometimes documenting the minutia if life actually gives away insights into the bigger picture stuff. (Like you ever had to boldly type you don’t believe in God. Frankly if any of us didn’t know you’d more likely believe in Finn, Jake and Lady Ranicorn than that omnipotent being)

    This trip will be amazing. Haters are gonna hate. Just shine that light on what you see and feel, like you do so well and good will come of it.

    Safe travels.

  • Lorraine Baldwin

    2014/06/12 at 8:19 pm

    I backpacked through SE Asia in 1990 and 1991. I will never forget what I saw when it came to children and men – all white men at that time. I saw it on Patpong Rd. in Bangkok, I saw it in the fanciest hotel lobby in Kuala Lumpur. It was brazen and these men wore these girls like trophies. I was 20 at the time and now, all these years later, I think about this and regret not doing anything about it. Thank you for taking this on, and for using your forum to create awareness.

  • Lorraine Baldwin

    2014/06/12 at 8:26 pm

    p.s. we are caucasian and my daughters’ best friend are of indian descent. One day my 7 year old said “Why is Ava wearing that Indian dress?” (Ava and her family were heading off to a wedding)… and I looked at her and said “Um, because she’s Indian.” … my daughter looked at me completely gobsmacked with her jaw hanging open and said in complete disbelief “She is?? I had no idea! That is so cool!” lol

  • disqus_WoFwho78tb

    2014/06/12 at 9:14 pm

    Just to comment like someone else, a long time reader who has never commented…and a former Mormon girl who left the church at 25…

    I enjoyed your bit about your daughter. When I was in high school, my best friend was from Korea. I used to marvel at her writing letters back home, in her language. I loved her accent. I loved everything about her. My mom could never pronounce her name. “Hi-yon called you earlier.” And I would correct her pronunciation. One day, my mom took me aside to tell me how happy she was that my best friend was asian. I’m all, huh? why? She grew up in a generation with a huge mistrust of anyone asian. She knew she wanted her children to never have any prejudices against anyone. And she felt she had done her job well as my mother if my best friend was asian. So I wanted to say, well done with your daughter.

  • KJA

    2014/06/12 at 9:48 pm

    This is a fantastic, very well-written post. Lots of tough stuff, and lots of important stuff. I have never commented, and I have never read the comments, but I did tonight. Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but to me, the significance of you being atheist is because the organization has Christian beliefs, and also this whole post was about judgment and bravery to me. It’s brave to go outside your comfort zone, which you do and will do again for the greater good. I respect you and admire you for being authentic and also think you are a solid and stable person to be able to face what you will face. I feel passionate about so much of what I hear and read and sometimes buckle under the stress of feeling it is all just too upsetting to face head-on, which sends me back into my quiet corner. Thank you for reaching out and making it more comfortable for all or us to try to do better.

  • Marianne

    2014/06/12 at 9:53 pm

    I’m cheering you on and I’ve always admired your honesty. Travel safely.

  • Haleigh

    2014/06/12 at 10:10 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and your commitment to help human beings.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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