An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

The view from inside the bubble

Last week I had to drive to Leta’s middle school with physical proof that I had paid all her fees online so that I could pick up her class schedule. This kind of shit annoys me to no end about the idiotic and asinine red tape that goes on with education—there’s a lot that leaves me flabbergasted about education, which is why the work that Kelly is doing with Being Black at School is so important. Go learn everything you can about what they do and how you can help. And if you’re not inclined to because this isn’t about your kid, wake up and realize that when you improve the conditions and standards for the disenfranchised, you improve the conditions and standards for everyone. INCLUDING YOUR KID.

I make playlists on Spotify every month of music that spans at least a dozen genres, anything considered modern country not included. I figured, FINE. If I have to drive across town and show that I filled out all the paperwork online and bite my lip when I show up so that I don’t scream YOU COULD HAVE FUCKING GIVEN THIS TO ME ONLINE, I was going to enjoy myself. So I turned on my August playlist, rolled down all the windows and opened the sunroof. Car party. It’s a little different from a cat party in that the wind is blowing through your hair and you’re screaming off-key lyrics instead of being surrounded my miserable, condescending animals.

Right as I pulled into the parking lot of Leta’s school a very, very, very, very white whitey white white white alt-country/folk song ended (this one if you are curious) and “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar came on. That car party suddenly transformed into a really, really angry cat party. I had the volume turned so loud that the whole car started to shake in rhythm to the bass—the car was literally vibrating and my eyeballs started to vibrate. I could see in my peripheral vision all these white families parking their cars and heading into the school looking around to see what the fuck was happening. It must have sounded like a truck full of spiteful thunder had just rolled onto campus, and there I was, skeletal blonde white woman with the wind tangling her hair waving her arms around as if she’d just pissed off a swarm of hornets.

I could not find the volume. I turned down the air conditioning in my state of vibrating confusion and when that didn’t work, I reached up to the volume and turned it the wrong way just as this lyric passed through the speakers: “Ooh, that pussy good, won’t you sit it on my taste bloods?”

Had Leta been there to watch this go down she would have been so mortified that she would have wished for an instant apocalypse. And when she reads this and finds out, I’m going to say, you know what? Fuck those white people. I don’t care. I’m not trying to recapture my youth or pretend that I have any idea what is cool or not cool, I just really like that song. Their precious feelings are not important to me. Also, Leta, I think you will like it, too, and here. Let’s listen to the whole album together and cause thousands of judgmental mouths to fall open in outrage.

It has been frustratingly hard to foster diverse relationships for me and for my kids in Utah. I have kept Marlo at the school she’s been attending since kindergarten because it’s one of the most diverse in the city. But Leta’s middle school is overwhelmingly white and Mormon and when I say overwhelmingly I mean EVERY SINGLE PERSON. My online community of friends looks very, very different from the one I have in real life, and this shit has to end. The diversity we’ve been able to foster here is all economic—we have friends who populate every spectrum of income and neighborhood in the city, but they’re all mostly white. We’re friends with Mormons and Catholics and atheists, and both girls have attended preschool and camp at a Jewish institution. And lord knows that I’m doing everything I can to talk to both of them about race and privilege and how this little bubble we live in is so very different from the world outside of it. But we live in a goddamn bubble. I have to figure out a way to puncture this seclusion.

Never before has it been so stark a realization as when I was driving home from the airport after returning home from Paris. I looked around and thought, “What the hell am I doing here? What am I doing to my kids?” I am contemplating this. Hard. Austin, don’t think I haven’t looked at your housing market.

We are so secluded that I walled myself off this past weekend and hibernated in a text document. No one in my community was marching in Polo t-shirts with fucking tiki torches to celebrate the ideology that my race is inherently inferior to their own. I saw a little talk of it on twitter when I took a break from writing, but I didn’t really know or understand the extent of it until I got up yesterday morning and started reading the news. And what I saw is exactly why I have asked every person who has asked me out through a dating app since November, “Who did you vote for?” I have been called a bitch, a cunt, an intolerant crone, a witch (god, don’t I wish!), and “a washed up cow.” Because I won’t go out with anyone who voted for that man. I won’t even say his name.

Oh. And.

I had my name removed from the official rolls of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

When I found out that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was going to sing at the inauguration of a self-professed sexual predator and unadulterated bigot, I submitted my name for removal. Here’s the PDF I have hanging over the laundry basket where I throw my dirty panties:

 

BOOM.

My kids get home tomorrow night, and yes. I am happy to hear about their experience in NY. I can’t wait for Leta to tell me all about camp and why she had the sudden realization that she needed to delete every photo from her Instagram feed “because she needed a fresh start.” But more than anything, we have work to do. They start school in less than a week and we need to go investigate what these institutions are doing about tolerance and inclusion and if and how they are allowing bigotry to thrive in their hallways. This is where we start. Here and in the conversations with my own extended family.

My Facebook feed is full of women of color who are waiting for me to say something, and I am so sorry it’s taken me this long. But I am going to stand up for you even here in this bubble where I hope it can make its way out, maybe through the kids of close family who can reject the racist jokes and find their way out of here into more diverse communities.

Also, if you are here in Utah and want to get a cup of coffee to talk about all of this? I’m buying. And I am making time.

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  • jawnbc

    We make the road by walking – Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. Excellent start Heather!

  • Angela Beth

    Love this. Too bad I’ll be in St. George and not SLC next week!

  • misszoot

    Easy First: 1) My daughter and her friends have all done the “start over” thing on IG. We can chat about it sometime.

    Now Difficult: 2) Our school was the same way, whitey white. We luckily moved into a more diverse district AND my daughter got accept into a magnet program where she’s the minority. I’m hoping this helps us. I feel like it already has. But I’ll follow up with the teachers and recommend Zinn Education project if they need it.

  • Stephanie King Strickland

    You make me happy.

  • Amanda Jones

    I’m in! As a white, female, Jr. High teacher in Davis County, I teach–almost exclusively–novels written by women of color. (Cervantes & Hemingway are my exceptions.) We speak in depth about social justice issues and try to examine how we individually and collectively contribute to the culture of our area. I would love to talk about what more I can do from an educational/class discussion standpoint, as well as from just a general I’m-a-decent-human-being-who-wants-to-do-better standpoint.

  • kmpinkel

    Love this! As I sit here and feel overwhelmed by all of it, I ask myself where do I start? Now I know, I call my friends of color and different religions and ask them what I can do FOR THEM. Start having more meaningful conversations with my kids about the struggles we don’t have while some of their friends do. And then figure out how to act on it. Thanks for the arrow.

  • Scott Smith

    it’s not so bad. at work the other day I was surrounded by beautiful black and brown people of all ages and creeds and abilities and genders.

  • Kudos. I haven’t had the wherewithal to officially pull my name from the church rosters. But damned if I don’t want to figure it out. They lost me 35 years ago at a Fireside chat when the speaker mourned the loss of his friend who had “turned gay” and it was a shame because he was a great guy…but he done went and caught himself a case of Teh Ghey, so clearly he had to be cut out of his social circle. But I’ve left my name on the rolls…yeah, I need to do something about that. So, thank you…I’ll be searching online tonight, how to do it without knowing a certificate number or whatever other nonsense they expect.

  • Kara Perkins

    OMG I feel you on the dating thing. I added NO TRUMP to my profile…but I live in LA. I cannot imagine what you find in the pool of single men in Salt Lake. I’m with you on all of it! I have to remember that I knew some good white men, and not write them all off – but they all get the question anyway.

  • Alisha

    I live in Davis County….in fact, I’ve never lived anywhere BUT Davis County. I am an outsider (athiest). It’s difficult but I am sure that’s nothing compared to what my African American children will have to deal with growing up here. We are lucky that my children attend a school with a surprisingly large number of adopted children from different races. In terms of color, our school is diverse…in terms of people, it is not. It is still majorly stereotypical Utahn mostly because the parents who did the adopting are Caucasian and LDS.

    I genuinely appreciate everything that you say about race, Heather. It’s not about being color blind….it’s about respecting everyone and recognizing where there is privilege and working towards closing that gap so everyone has an equitable chance. You do make a difference.

  • Judith Rosa

    Little nitpicky comment, this was originally said by Antonio Machado, Spanish poet, who had to flee Spain when the fascists (Franco) won and died soon afterwards. (“Caminante, no hay camino,
    se hace camino al andar.
    Al andar se hace el camino…”

    I won’t comment about the political situation because as a person of color I am literally sick in body and spirit since last November. I am almost 68 and cannot believe we have to keep fighting the same fights over and over and over.

  • sue lunt

    I could have written this. We in a nearly identical bubble in Mesa, Arizona. In the past 4 days I’ve had to talk to my daughter (then the administrators of her high school) about why on her classmates would post hateful racist things on social media, then I had a heated discussion with my husband about the reasons racial profiling is not EVER okay, THEN I had a conversation with my mother about why she must stop with the pro-confederacy posts on Facebook. I’ve had more hard conversations since November than in my entire life, and I’m a little embarrassed about that. It’s way past time for me to stop worrying that I’m going to offend someone and open my mouth.

  • Torie

    Look, I *think* you mean well but you’ve got to stop making this about you.

    “My Facebook feed is full of women of color who are waiting for me to say something, and I am so sorry it’s taken me this long.” This sentence strikes me as tone deaf. I don’t want to hear how this makes white women feel. I want to hear from my fellow POC– allies can be allies but shouldn’t act as if they should take charge here.

    Also, I would hate it if white kids befriended my kids because they want to add to some diversity quota. Having a range of friends and hearing a variety of opinions is fantastic but we are people and not an accessory you choose at the mall. Be my friend because you like me, not because you have too many white friends. (Seriously, I’ve gotten this vibe from white moms and it hurts.)

    Again, I actually think you mean well but it seems like you’ve decided a few minority friends giving you the go-ahead makes you an expert on race. But they don’t speak for everyone and this post misses the mark big time.

  • Lora

    I teach in poor-white rural midwest where every pickup truck has a MAGA sticker and/or the decal where Hobbes is urinating on Hillary’s name. I talk to my students and read to them and they left kindergarten last year wanting to be Mae Jamison when they grow up and having been read everything from Langston Hughes to Maya Angelou because it’s not enough for them to have two biracial classmates in redneckville. They’re going to live in the wide world and, i hope, make it better. And that means they have to know multiple viewpoints.

  • Melissa Barnes

    If i might suggest it, start a classroom library for your students. Pick up diverse books and have ONLY diverse books in your library. Books about kids from different backgrounds, books by authors that are not Caucasian. Then offer a book club where the kids can talk about what they read (they can all talk about whichever book(s) they have read). Open up a safe place for that discussion! GOOD LUCK!

  • jenntampsin

    This is 100% my deepest concern for my daughter since moving to the SLC area. How to raise her with diverse empathy and a broader scope than nature would had us in this area. Whatever idea or group you come up with, we’ll be there as long as there is an invitation!

  • I’ve been quietly watching events unfold from my side of the planet for the last few days, and find myself in the strange position of wanting to say something, but knowing I am not directly affected by any of it. And don’t get me started about school paperwork…

  • pottery59

    Make this your main mission, Heather. You’ll have many, MANY of us joining you. If you decide to do touring events to bring to the fore the discussion in schools, let me know. I love organizing events. We need a wave to sweep through our schools so that young people have an early start with an open mind. Screw common core; how about common decency?

  • LOVE this! Being from New Zealand and living in London, the things you hear coming from the United States is absolutely bamboozaling and often at times, archaic. It’s so nice to hear from forward thinkers (I know there’s thousands and thousands of you in the States, but it feels like we only ever hear the other side) and those looking to go beyond the bullsh*t.
    I also loved the hanging of your letter of removal!

  • Erin Reece

    I have that exact same dating rule. I so get it!

  • Mary Sunshine

    A sad but true opinion from Austin…we are hopelessly segregated. It’s the only city of our size with a declining African American population, because they are being pushed out for rich white newcomers to live on the “hip” east side. That east side was once the only place minorities were ALLOWED to live. The burbs are to some extent MORE diverse…strange but true. I’m not saying not to move here, but definitely investigate our own struggles and lack of diversity first.

  • Keira Perkins

    I was so confused when I read your comment. “I don’t remember commenting on Dooce’s post”

    Hi Kara Perkins, I’m Keira (like Keer-uh) Perkins

  • Tiffany Wheat

    Thank you!

  • Gail Wix

    I’m in for coffee if having the discussion with an 80 year old fits into the Klatch.

  • Nez

    Can I respectfully second what Mary Sunshine said? I have many enlightened Anglo friends that are trying to get out of Austin for the reasons mentioned above. If you want the true international/multicultural experience in Texas then Houston is where you should be looking.

  • I’ve been looking at Houston as well since family is close by. I appreciate this perspective, thank you.

  • bluesurly

    NPR did a story on this within the past month!

  • Nez

    (pssst – you guys. That was my first ever post on this site and HEATHER REPLIED TO IT. )

    #imdead #ghostpost

  • Nez

    My folks just recently had to move into assisted living and I’m dealing with an empty house down there come September. No joke – if you want to live in a 3 bedroom house for a few months and try out the city I would totally make it available. I don’t want the house empty but it’s not time to sell it just yet.

  • I did not mean to sound as if I was taking charge of anything, so my apologies if it came across that way. I am by no means an expert on race and am, in fact, quite the opposite. I need to get my ass in gear is what I was trying to communicate.

    When I say that “my Facebook feed is full of women of color who are waiting for me to say something” I mean that one, I have private messages from women asking me why I hadn’t said anything publicly yet, and two, there are women of color asking in their own timelines why more white women haven’t said anything. Why aren’t more white women condemning what happened and acknowledging it publicly?

    Now more than ever our silence is violence. This is about me in the sense that I am white and I should be speaking up. It’s not about how this makes me feel. It’s about how we need to express our outrage and recommit ourselves to getting off of our asses.

    And I am sorry that you have had white moms make you feel like an accessory. I’m not out to meet a diversity quota with my friendships. I just want my kids to be exposed to something more than “white Mormon” so that they can better understand the differences in dynamics of cultural and social differences. Reading about it is a good start, but having relationships with people whose lived experience is vastly different from their own opens their eyes in ways that a book simply can’t.

    I appreciate your perspective on this, and again. I’m sorry I sounded like I was taking charge. I have a lot of work to do, and you just reinforced this. I will try to do better.

  • Okay, so this “start over” thing is an actual phenomenon. My friend’s kid did the same thing. What on earth.

  • Hahaha! I read every comment here and on Facebook and IG. And I keep hearing that Austin is not as progressive as it would like to believe it is.

  • Kathy

    I don’t know how to be apalled any more. From nuclear grandstanding with ICBMs to re-enactment of Civil War period animus, my adrenaline producing mechanisms are burning out. I am comforted to see messages that unequivocally and without hesitation denounce hate and promote methods of peaceful diplomatic discussion, especially approaching children. They need to know what’s going on and that their trusted adult network is strongly supporting the just cause. We have to let them know the american ideal, how far we’ve come towards it, and how far we have yet to go and that we can either be a part of the progression now, or we can wish later we had been. This morning my son asked me how the KKK could still be around. I said they hide. He gave me a blank stare. Then the question hit me, if our special forces can take out ISIS leaders in the Near East, then why can’t we conquer home-grown domestic terrorism within our own communities? They are marching with torches in the open! A car was driven into a crowd at a demonstration for which the torch bearers had a license? Of course I got a blank stare! My next response to my son was, someone is hiding them. We should denounce low hanging rotten fruit, but we still have to look at ourselves and ask, is it us? Are we hiding racism? What can we do to foster equal opportunity?

  • Nez

    It too has its bubbleness It is bubblesque…there is bubblocity… It would be difficult not to be bubbled considering what surrounds it as far as the rest of Texas goes. But much like Portland and San Francisco there are limits to how much inclusion goes along with the progressiveness.

  • LindSay

    It’s more blue than Texas so it looks progressive by comparison. Ditto previous poster about Houston. I grew up there. I went to public schools that were extremely diverse. When I moved to Austin I quietly whispered to my friends, ‘Where are all the non-white people?”.

  • Mary Sunshine

    I agree! Houston is way ahead of us in terms of multiculturalism, the arts, and general culture. It’s also more affordable – the only big drawback is the weather.

  • Renata Gozdziak

    Yes, you live in a white community – your kids attend white schools – but you embrace diversity — haha

  • HNJackson

    Hi Heather! Longtime reader, first time commenting. It sounds like you haven’t spent much time out of the east side of Salt Lake, my friend. There are beautiful homes/parks/schools on the west side with OVERWHELMING diversity, and communities where you could make a profound difference.

    All the refugees who resettle in Salt Lake have to live in Salt Lake City proper, and the west side is where most refugee housing is. Go to a westside park in the afternoon and see how many women of color you can meet – LOTS. There’s also a thriving hispanic community, the International Peace Gardens which host dozens of cultural events, and loads of non-profit organizations where one family can make a huge difference. You don’t have to move away to change your life. You just need to get out of your comfort zone. I wish you the best of luck!

  • Stephen Arnold

    I’ll take that cup of coffee. Plus an English muffin. I’m coming through SLC on Saturday heading from AZ to Idaho Falls for the eclipse. The eclipse is a big deal to me. But here’s the thing. I have read every. single. word. you. have. written. online. for at least a decade. I have commented occasionally. I like you. I have watched you and your family grow, change, morph, etc. I have a different political opinion than you on most things although we agree on much: Gay rights, equality, love for psycho Aussie Shepherds, etc. So here’s your chance to practice a little of what we both hope for. Calm, rational discussion without anger, rancor or violence. Just two folks who more than almost anything else want to find a way towards common ground and a common purpose. And it sucks, but in this day and age I am obligated to tell you that I am NOT some psycho sex weirdo. Today we celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary and I am happy as a clam in mud with my current situation. But, I have things to say you need to hear. And you have things to say that I need to hear. We need to listen to each other. Drop the fists and listen. Anyway, I’m headed your way. Let me know. I’m on the FB.

  • Juliana

    RIGHT ON Heather 💪

  • Miss lee

    I live in exactly the kind of neighborhood you want to live in. It’s diverse in people, religion, education, and professions. I am walking distance from downtown, two universities, several parks (including a very small dog park), and a magnet middle school is two blocks away. I love living here and hope you will find one just like it.

  • Rachel R. Vail

    Agree on all points, but am distracted/horrified by the fact you had TO HIRE A LAWYER in order to get your name removed. Wow.

  • Heidi

    Thanks for this. I feel similarly in that it’s difficult to teach my daughter the beauty of diversity, when there isn’t much diversity where we live.

    This past weekend, I came to the conclusion that I have to do better. I cannot be silent any longer with little off-hand comments, etc. I feel this ache inside that is growing so huge and overwhelming that I am ashamed and embarrassed that I have been silent for so long. I also came to realize that it is non-racist white people’s responsibility and duty to stand up for POC fiercely. When POC counterprotest, idiots in the administration and media say “Look? See? Violence! Hatred!” When POC sit quietly during the national anthem or peacefully carry signs, the same idiots say “The insubordination! The disrespect! They do not love this country! Leave!” No matter what, POC seem to ‘do it wrong.’ Perhaps we use our white privilege to the benefit of POC (if that even makes sense). For every person of color carrying a sign, we have 4 white people, linking arms with them, carrying the same sign. I think white people have to make our support and defense and love so huge and strong and resilient that anything but gets drowned out. It’s the only thing I can think of that might steer the course in the right direction.

    I hate that it has come to this again. I am so deeply sorry my silence, and the silence of those like me, has enabled and contributed to this stupidity. I know that I have screwed up, said the wrong thing, unknowingly hurt POC… but by God, I want to make it right.

    Wish I could be there for coffee. Either way, please continue this conversation.

  • Sukka

    <- look my profile pic

  • Leann

    Walking the walk. YES.

  • susanne mei

    Here in NYC the subway is the great equalizer. I looked up the other day when we were on the train and realized that my children and I were very much the minority and they don’t give it a second thought.

  • Michelle Boehm

    Hi Lora – You’re a hero. That’s all!

  • Michelle Boehm

    Thanks for this discussion. I’m trying to navigate this, too. I’m working to create opportunities for my whole family, kids included, to befriend POC, but we certainly don’t want to give POC the impression we view them as accessories to be acquired. My fervent hope is that I work to create the opportunities, and then we can go with any natural connections that take place as we would in any other circumstance. I, in no way, hope to convey I’m taking charge of anything bigger than my own family – I just want to convey that I am taking charge of my family, and listening, and trying to do the work that is so obviously and desperately needed in our little white corner.

  • Raquel

    Lora, this made me cry. This is how we change the world. Thank you! (Are your kids’ parents okay with this?)

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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