Category Archives: Empowerment

Zina unSeen – Chapter 20

Dean sat his suitcase down heavily and wiped his brow off. It had been a long walk to the library, but he was glad to finally be in the air conditioned building. He took a glance around, frowning. It didn’t seem like a whole lot of people used the place anymore. At least, not for reading. Most of the people he remembered perusing the shelves when he was a child were now sitting and staring at a computer screen. Many of them had large headphones over their ears, muting away the rest of the outside world. He noticed with annoyance that all of the computers were booked, and he had to sit, fidgeting in a chair in the corner like a dunce, as he waited for internet access.

Finally, after a two hour wait, he was allowed a precious fifteen minutes as a guest on one of their dirty machines. Dean grimaced and braced himself to touch the sticky keys. They were supposedly protected by a grubby rubber key protector that looked like it held more viruses in it than the computer of FaceSpace Headquarters’ infamous porn addict. Eventually he took a deep breath and steamed forward, laughing inwardly at himself. Apparently he had become spoiled by his state of the art machines at work. Everybody knew that he wouldn’t abuse his powers for pornography. The best use of his High-Definition technology was looking at Zina’s face. His heart began to thud rapidly as he clicked the agreement on the screen and his timer began. He had fifteen minutes to see if Zina had written him back.

The corners of his mouth drew into an anxious frown as he typed “FaceSpace.com” into the browser. The bright white screen flashed in front of him, prompting him to log in and see all his latest updates. He typed his user handle carefully and input his password – Zina123.

He wasn’t sure what he had expected, but it definitely hadn’t been to find a notification saying that Zina had accepted his Friend Ship. The sail waved victoriously with her grimly smiling face wiggling on it as tiny cannons erupted virtual confetti. It gave him a strange sinking feeling that was soon followed by elation. When he clicked over to his profile, he was shocked to discover that he had a glaring red notification on the sidebar. It was from Zina.

No words in any human language could ever accurately convey the depth of his joy as he read and re-read Zina’s message. He read it so many times, in fact, that he had very little time to respond. The first message he had written to her had been easily articulated. This had mostly been because nobody else had been at the library that late on a gloomy Sunday evening, and so his fifteen minute time limit had been lifted. Now though, he was confined to a few minutes with a very long wait, and he had to think fast. Her words were beautiful, and he was enraptured by them. Everything she had written, she had written just for him. And it was the most profound feeling of joy he had ever experienced.

Finally, he took a deep breath and began writing back to her. He could never properly articulate everything he felt, and had an intuitive grasp on the fact that he shouldn’t overstate his joy at her response. He decided to play it cool, even though tiny beads of sweat were beginning to form against his slowly receding hairline.

Thank you for your swift response. I couldn’t be better.

He paused as flashes of his turbulent morning tried to invade his thoughts. He was lying to her already. It made him feel guilty, but his burdens should never be hers.

I don’t get out much, so I never had much of a chance to spawn.

He felt particularly proud of the line, remembering back to one of her old status updates about who should spawn and who should never be around children. He wasn’t sure whether or not she wanted children, but the overwhelming majority of her posts implied that she had a low tolerance of them.

Maybe someday, if they miraculously become less needy or I become more patient.

He was down to five minutes.

I’m out of town or I would love to meet up with you guys as soon as possible. I can let you know as soon as I’m available. I saw you through Roy. I don’t know him well, to be honest with you. He seems to collect FaceSpace friends like they were trophies for his popularity.

He recognized Roy from her list, and it was true. The man had over 3,000 FaceSpace friends. There was no way he would ever have met them all. He seemed to accept people to his page as if the number stroked his ego.

I don’t watch the news, I find it far too bleak and you never quite get the whole story…

Another quote stolen from a post she had made last December.

The way people are using FaceSpace is awful! I may never spawn but it’s inexcusable to harm children.

Dean was sincerely horrified. He had never considered this aspect of FaceSpace’s reach. He had been sheltered from it as he puttered around in the FaceSpace dormitories and was brainwashed into believing that FaceSpace was the greatest thing since clean socks. If he hadn’t felt so strongly toward Zina, he might never have made it out of there.

Sorry to make this brief, but I have to go soon. I make it a point not to spend too much time on social media.

Another lie. He had literally spent the past three years of his life hooked up to FaceSpace like it was his life support.

I hope you understand if I don’t particularly feel close enough to Roy to hang out with the both of you, but I understand why you would be reluctant to meet on your own, considering the creeps that use the site nowadays. I’d love to talk more to you when I get the chance. Tell me more about how we potentially share a brain. It sounds like a sci fi flick.

Dean was doing his best to sound young and edgy, but he knew he should do his best to be honest with her. In reality, he was pushing 40, and had every intention of telling her so. But when his fingers headed toward the number pad, they hesitated.

I don’t think my age in numbers will ever fully embody the age of my soul. I’ve been around long enough to know you might be the best thing the universe has to offer though. That or I really need to get out more. Later.

Dean smiled, hoping the last part would make Zina laugh. He hit send, just as the timer went off and he was ushered away from the computer by an impatient man with a deep scowl. Dean picked up his heavy suitcase and walked toward the door. He was going to head east. Back toward Zina.

Zina unSeen – Chapter 3

Dean leaned back in his chair, chewing thoughtfully on his pen. He brightened up and crouched over his keyboard to carefully type, “Krane’s Erasers.” He grinned in satisfaction when his monitor beeped and several hundred ads for Krane’s Erasers popped up on the screen.

He looked through them thoroughly before choosing the one he thought would catch Zina’s attention the most. Dean knew that she loved the color purple, and opted for a medium sized ad with purple text. It had a pleasing display of different types of erasers – everything from kneaded to gum. They were of the highest quality, and he was proud of himself for considering them. Part of his job was to study her psychological profile and choose the advertisements that would most likely appeal to her. They would pop up on the sidebar of her screen where she had no choice but to pay attention to them.

Decorating her user page with things she may enjoy was the highlight of his week, especially knowing that she would definitely see his tiny offerings to her. As he looked through the wide array of different products, he envisioned her using them randomly throughout her day. Maybe she would be smiling while she used the paint brand he had exclusively chosen for her, or her face would be grim with determination as she erased yet another mistake on something that she wanted to get just right. He fancied it as his way of getting close to her, and it was very exciting to think that her life may be affected by him in any way. It was their only true connection.

Dean was painfully aware that the direction his emotions were leading was taboo. He did his best to ignore the guilt he felt when a surge of excitement electrified him. Unfortunately, she consumed his thoughts, day and night, no matter how hard he tried to keep his neurons to himself. After hours, he found himself wandering throughout the city, wishing there was some way he might catch a glimpse of her. He would often find himself whirling around, his heart in his throat, because he thought that a woman who passed him could have been Zina. Of course, she would never recognize him, but given the chance, he would abandon everything for two sinful seconds of eye contact.

As Dean hummed to himself and experimented with different places to put the ad, Mr. Brown stared at the monitor in his office, watching him work. Dean managed to do ad placement much faster than the other agents, that was for sure, but the look on his face was frenzied, almost manic with pleasure. Either he took great pride in his work, or there was something else going on.

Mr. Brown sighed. He didn’t want to get rid of Dean. He was loyal and hard-working, but enough was enough. He took a deep breath and pressed down on the intercom.

“Frida?”

“Yes, sir?” his secretary answered.

“Could you please send me the paperwork about Dean Rogers’ placement?”

“Right away, sir.”

“Thank you, Frida.”

Mr. Brown looked at the monitor one more time and sighed. Dean was dreamily gazing at a row of paintbrushes. He switched the monitor off. He had seen all he needed.

The Cloudiest Day

First draft of a children’s book. Illustrations yet to come.

 

 

The Cloudiest Day

Amanda Bassett

1.

Ellie and Alexia looked up at the sky. It was a beautiful blue.

There were rolling white clouds racing above their heads, and suddenly Ellie gasped and pointed up.

“Do you see that?” she asked in shock.

Alexia stared up, squinting at the clouds, and her jaw dropped.

“Those clouds are moving!”

“I think they are having a race,” Ellie said.

2.

Ellie’s eyes widened as the clouds began to take form, and soon she and Alexia were laying down in the grass to watch the entire race.

Alexia pointed up at the cloud who seemed to be ahead.

“Look,” she exclaimed. “It seems to be a rocking horse!”

“A rocking horse?” Ellie giggled. “How could a rocking horse be in a race?”

3.

High above the girls’ heads, in the sky, the clouds were racing with all their hearts. It was true, the rocking horse seemed to be ahead. They all wanted to win very badly, so that they could be the first to share their special gift with the world below. The rocking horse was panting as it pushed itself along.

4.

“I have to win this race,” it thought to itself. “My gift is important. It is to face all odds faithfully, knowing that even when things seem impossible, they will get better.” And the rocking horse pushed itself as hard as could be.

5.

“That rocking horse sure seems brave,” Ellie said with a smile.

“Yes it does,” Alexia agreed.

They stared at it in admiration until Ellie noticed another cloud passing it by.

“Do you see that?” she asked her sister.

“I do!” Alexia said, staring at the next cloud with wide eyes.

6.

“It’s very important for me to win this race,” the man in the boat thought to himself, huffing as he rowed with all his heart. His boat was very heavy, and piled high with boxes and bags. “My gift is very useful. If I win, I can let everybody know that with a little bit of hard work, you will be able to go far and bear even the heaviest burden. Working hard will get you everything you need.”

7.

The girls watched as he dipped his paddle in the water, pushing himself speedily past the rocking horse.

“I don’t know who I would rather see win,” Ellie said with a frown.

“Neither do I,” Alexia agreed.

Suddenly, another pair of racers appeared behind the rocking horse and the boater, and the girls became distracted by the plight of a terrified rabbit and a mean looking snake.

8.

“I know this is scary,” the rabbit huffed as it ran, glancing over its shoulder as the snake bared its fangs. “But our gift is important, and if I don’t give it to the world then I fear that nobody else will.”

“Yesss,” the snake hissed as it chased the rabbit through the bright blue sky. “If I don’t try to catch this rabbit, it will never find its courage.”

“And if I don’t face my fears, I will never grow stronger,” the rabbit agreed, hopping quickly. “That is my gift to the world – the courage to see past fear and learn your strengths through your challenges. We have to win!”

“We mussst,” the snake agreed.

9.

Ellie and Alexia watched with wide eyes as the snake chomped down at the rabbit. Its tail almost got nipped. The rabbit ran faster with a laugh, and winked down at the girls. Alexia held her hand over her heart, worried for its safety, when Ellie pointed to the sky above the pair.

“Oh wow, look!” she exclaimed. “Do you see that giant snail?”

Sure enough, a giant snail was trailing along, sliding above the rabbit and the snake.

10.

“I really need to win this race,” it said in a low voice. “If I don’t, I can’t share my gift with the world. My gift is special. Without it, how would people know that it’s okay to go slow? I want to give the gift of patience, because sometimes, the biggest and best things take the most time. What was once small and slow can become very large and powerful.”

And with that, the snail’s size brought it beyond the rabbit and the snake. Although they were moving as quickly as they could and the snail was very slow, they stayed under the shadow of the giant snail.

11.

“I bet the snail’s going to be the one to win!” Alexia cried.

“Not so fast,” Ellie countered. “Look!”

Alexia craned her neck, and noticed a woman in a rocket ship zooming by.

“Who is that?” she asked, delighted by the woman’s brightly colored rocket ship.

“I don’t know, but it looks like she’s winning!” Ellie exclaimed.

12.

“My gift to the world is very special,” the woman said, pulling a lever to give her ship a boost in speed. It shuddered beneath her and she began moving very quickly. She found herself traveling far past the rabbit and the snail and moving far past the man in the boat.

“I want the world to know that even girls can do amazing things. In fact, anyone can do anything they set their minds to. My gift is to show the world that we are all very special and full of amazing potential.”

The girls watched in awe as the rocket ship gleamed in the sky, but it stopped short of a huge horse, running powerfully along.

13.

“You will never win this race,” the horse taunted. “For I am large and independent, and my gift may be the most important.”

“What is your gift?” the woman called from the window of her rocket ship.

“I must show the world that it is okay to be wild, and okay not to be tame. We have many carefree instincts that make life fun, so we can live it like a game. Things aren’t so bad when we give ourselves a chance to laugh and to cry. Hello is just hello and good bye is just good bye.”

And with that, the horse lept over the other clouds and sprinted into the lead.

14.

The girls watched with wide eyes as the horse galloped powerfully, striding over the other clouds with ease. It seemed that surely, this majestic creature would win the race. It was so proud and so sure of itself.

“It is very independent,” Alexia nodded.

“And very strong,” Ellie agreed.

“But look,” Alexia said. “There is one last racer we haven’t seen yet.”

A little seahorse was pushing through the sky. It looked like it was swimming as fast as its fins would carry it.

15.

“Nothing will stop me from winning this race,” it panted. “My gift is the best of all. I was given the gift of parenthood, and I must tell the world that it’s okay if your children fall. It’s okay if they learn for themselves, it’s okay if they ask questions. What isn’t okay is to shut them down and crush their independence.”

The little seahorse pushed past the other clouds, in a rush to catch up to the horse.

“Yes, being independent and powerful is important, but it’s more important to be gentle. To let others come into their own and accept them no matter who they become. Without my gift, all the others may be destroyed. And so I must win at any cost!”

16.

The girls watched as the race became more intense than anything they had ever seen before. All of the clouds seemed determined to overtake the others, and were moving as fast as they could. The girls felt sorry for them all, and wished the race would stop so that they could all rest. Neither Ellie nor Alexia knew which cloud they wanted to be the winner more, and so they held hands tightly, hoping that it would be over soon so they would be relieved of their suspense.

17.

The race was tied, with each cloud neck-in-neck. The girls’ hearts thudded in their chests as they awaited the results of the race. Suddenly, a deafening boom pierced through the sky, and the girls watched in horror as all the clouds began to collide. The beautiful white puffs turned grey as the clouds merged together, and Alexia and Ellie were unexpectedly caught in an abrupt downpour.

18.

The rain drenched the girls, and Ellie, being the older sister, threw her coat over Alexia’s head to shield her from it. They tried peering up at the sky, but the rain got in their eyes and they knew it was time to go home. The race was over, and it seemed that none of the contestants had won. The girls walked home, close to tears.

19.

The next day, Alexia and Ellie woke up to a clear and beautiful day like the one before. Normally they would have been excited to go outside, but both of them felt their hearts were heavy with sadness.

Still, they decided to go out and face the day anyway.

“Do you want to go back to where we were yesterday?” Ellie ventured. “Maybe we can find out if anybody won the race.”

“I suppose so,” Alexia agreed. “I can’t think of anything but those poor little clouds.”

20.

When they went back to the field, the girls gasped. Where they had been lying the day before, there was now a field full of people growing. The girls ran through the field, looking at each one in amazement.

“Who are you?” Ellie finally asked a small woman.

“Why, I’m just here to share my gift with the world,” the woman answered softly, looking around sleepily.

“What is your gift?” Alexia asked in a gentle voice.

“Well, I’m not sure,” the woman said thoughtfully. “It feels as if I have several. Maybe I could just pick and choose!”

The woman chuckled to herself before getting comfortable in her leaf again and falling back to sleep.

21.

The girls walked through the rows curiously. All of the new people said the same thing. Each of them wanted to share their special gift with the world, but none of them were quite sure what it was. The only thing they knew for sure was that they had plenty to choose from.

The girls walked back home, puzzled, before they finally realized what had happened.

“All of the clouds have won the race!” Alexia exclaimed. “It must have been a tie.”

22.

“Or maybe it was never a race at all,” Ellie considered. “But they only thought that they were racing. They had to run hard until they crashed and became the same cloud so that they could work together.”

“Maybe that’s why all these people are growing right where it rained,” Alexia said. “Maybe the rain was special, and they are all here to show their gifts to the world.”

23.

The little people began slowly waking up, and soon the girls heard laughter and singing bursting from the field. It brought smiles to their faces. It was the most beautiful sound the girls had ever heard. Soon it was overtaken by soft snoring again, and the girls giggled.

“When they are done growing, they will show everyone else how wonderful they are. I bet the world will be a much brighter place,” Alexia said.

“Do you think we have the same special gifts they have?” Ellie asked. “And maybe they’re here to bring it out of us?”

24.

“I don’t know,” Alexia said, peering out the window over the field of happy, sleeping people. “But I’m very glad they’re here.”

“So am I,” Ellie agreed, joining her sister at the window. “I wanted all of the clouds to win, and it looks as though they have.”

Fact or Fiction

Plight of the predators
Piling fact over fiction over lie
Never stop, Never be
Never stop to think
Whatever they claim – believe
Whatever the cage – be free
Deciding, dividing
casualties vs. profit
Deceiving, achieving
a generation of “just drop its”
walk on, walk away
Don’t look back
You’ll remember the day you turned to stone
The day your theory cracked
Mistaking and faking
Solutions to games
Wishing and pushing
to be the first to play
Perverted by poverty
By educationless youth
Miserable in the shadow of self-decay
An abomination of the shelter
Where once you felt safe
Now placing a stone lid over the tomb
The sun is undone – it’s left this room

 

Listen Inside You

Let go of ego
Surrender control
Forgive all transgressors
Accept the unknown
Bow to all passers
Listen to truth
Accept all as masters
Always play sleuth
Seek all the answers
Eat every fruit
Avert new disasters
Treat each as acute
Refuse to take credit
The future is done
Designs made to let it
Prosper as one
One single function
One single hope
One-up destruction
One life eloped
Surrender your ego
To tides of repair
Lead all who follow
With the utmost in care
Welcome tomorrow
Shunning despair
Listen inside you
The answers are there

In Favor Of Beings

Your eyes on that table
looking out, looking through
your head hanging over
new maps, an excuse
wintering summer and smoking out fall
Breathing out poisons to grasp one and all
cutting down lifelines
To print new disease
striking a nation
you inadequately feed
To halt this starvation
to continue to breed
Recycling poison
Recycling greed
I listened in once
My ear to the floor
A conversation started
The next open door
I heard as they spoke of
such adult things
That registered my thoughts
in the favor of beings
Cut down the valley’s fruits for their blood
cut down and plow out and murder and hug
each other in victory of slaughter and pain
Take all the resources, take all to gain
Never mind conscious
She stayed in first grade
Never mind prejudice
It’s here just the same
Never mind the ozone
I hear that it’s safe
Never mind my actions
I’m not to blame
I listened in once
and I heard these things
But once I reflected
ruled in favor of beings
The children are starving
their stomachs in need
The trees disappearing
What will we breathe?
The whole world is ailing
And blinded by greed
Please, doctor, doctor
The world is in need
But the doctor can’t hear me
His stethoscope’s gold
What he thought was a heartbeat
Was death, paid in full.

I Saw Decay

I looked outside the windowpane
And saw decay
Mistakes made by the human race
I saw a world we can’t replace
I saw decay as it erased
The bounty that our greed displaced
In favor of our need for space
Indulgence fattening each face
but the ones in need, greed hesitates
To feed the needy sunken face-
As our own wealth accumulates
The goal behind each fake embrace
Becomes to praise the world’s decay
And save the safe from every day
While the precarious dissipate and pray

Baby Steps

Grin in death
Don’t rush life
Take small steps
Speak your mind
Start out small
Build your way up
Little doses
Fill large cups
Let yourself be overwhelmed
Take every opportunity
Don’t shun your emotions
They put you where you need to be
Take every chance you can to learn
Take every opportunity
Don’t drink 32 fluid ounces before bed
It becomes annoying
Accept every thought
Let it pass untroubled
Love slowly prospers
Rush it and it crumbles
Learn when you’re being selfish
And let go of it
Don’t fear the first step
Just take it

White Culture

White Woman in a White Man’s World

I am a white woman who has been overwhelmed by the injustices I witness on a day to day basis. If I spent all day focusing on the ways this society has been structured to oppress people, I wouldn’t have time for anything except a very militant advocation of equality. I tried that route, but soon discovered that I have been traumatized on so many profound levels that if I surrounded myself with these issues on that same obsessive basis, I become suicidal, question the point of life, and acutely feel the utter futility of rising against a system so perfectly designed to enslave us all.

The world is ugly and we are all hurt by it, and being an advocate who is only focused on this fact is a grim profession. Particularly if you have no support from the people around you and, more often than not, get treated as if you’re insane or inferior. I had no buffer, no group of my kindred people patting me on the back, validating my apparently “radical” notions. I was very much alone. And now, the only people who seem to get the point are people of color, many of whom will never accept me as a sincere ally or force of change due to the (lack of?) color of my skin. In fact, if I do ever change anything, I have this fear that they will ultimately resent me and think, “she only succeeded in anything because she’s white.” And I would be even more afraid that they would be right, which would devalue the fact that I have been obsessing over changing the world for about as long as I’ve been alive.

I’ve always worked hard to brighten up even the dimmest of lightbulbs around me. It’s difficult work, and I’m not doing it because of “white guilt” or anything like that. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do, and I can’t believe how damaging these systems of oppression can be or how they came into power in the first place. “Evil” is not in my genes and it’s not something I feel it’s my personal responsibility to make up for just because I was born white and so many white people have been/continue to remain ignorant and cruel. I simply understand that the system is dangerous and hurts us all…but some more than others and white men least of all.

Labels and White Culture

That being said, I’m starting to wonder why it is that other white people, including myself, object to labels (in general) so vociferously. Wouldn’t my life have been easier if I decided to label myself “the white asexual lesbian feminist environmentalist animal rights, social justice, human rights and anti-racism advocate?” Would I have been able to find my little support group of like-minded people who mirror my own beliefs and help me work to save the world? What did I hate so much about labels? And what is it that other white people reject about labels?

But actually, when I think about it now, I don’t have to wonder much at all. Western/European white people (in general) are the most boring, cultureless race on the planet. At most, we glorify the Greeks, Romans, and the middle ages. These are societies that I personally feel were base, thoughtless, self-inflated, and generally colonialist. There was some merit, but not enough to justify the attention they receive today (comparing Aristotle to Lao Tzu for example, Aristotle’s mind was actually pretty primitive). If these are the groundwork of white culture, that means we are taught, rather subtly, to glorify raping, pillaging, and taking what isn’t ours. Always viewing the world in regards to Aristotle’s “great chain of being,” putting (Graeko-Roman) men on the ladder just beneath God, then everyone else afterward. And taking a quick glance around at the women and people of color in the room, our relationship to them does, admittedly, lack a certain finess. Call it respect maybe. “White culture” certainly lacks the warmth of Hispanic cultures, the depth of African cultures, the majesty and ingenuity of Asian cultures, and the beauty of pretty much every culture that isn’t our clueless, confused, white attempt at finding meaning in this vapid void that was created for us.

A Day in the Life Of White Average Amy

However, since that is only the groundwork of “white culture,” thus merely a subtext of the culture we live in that affects us daily, I think we should examine what is really going on in the day-to-day lives of the white race. White Average Amy (happily identifies as female, white, heterosexual, middle class) wakes up one morning, turns on the television, checks her iPhone, goes to work so she can afford her car payments and internet bills, goes out to drink and dance with her friends at the club listening to music that glorifies drugs and alcohol, materialism, and putting out. She lets some guy talk her into taking her home with him, gets laid, goes home to bed, and repeats the cycle. White Average Amy is surrounded for hours and hours by the media, telling her that she isn’t good enough because she is a woman, but also that she is better than others for being white.

If Art Imitates Life, Where Does That Leave Us?

They say art imitates life and vice versa, but at this point I’m not so sure. I feel as though the media is spiralling out of control and out of our hands as citizens, glorifying the ideals of the ultimate numbskulled oppressors. They want everyone to fit into a box that they have created for us, and for us to question ourselves all the while as they create our identity for us. For white people, and those who have been assimilated enough to lose sight of the value of their own ethnic identities, the media and consumerism is our only real culture. As white people, we have nothing at all that keeps us tied to any value system or ethnic identity whatsoever, except maybe Christianity (which has acted as a huge tool in assimilation and should be another post entirely).

White people are stuck in a world where our only meaning is derived from the media and, potentially, our mixed experiences with our religious values. The media tells everyone that white men are supreme, while at the same time denying them the right to express their feelings properly, degrading them should they have any interest in anything remotely “female” identified or compassionate. Many feel that women should be serving men as the bible intended, and as such anyone who is a woman or who is thought to act like a woman, are lesser people. The media tells everyone that blonde haired, blue eyed, skinny girls (I can’t even say “women” because the beauty standard is barely legal, bordering 18 years old) are the highest epitome of beauty, while at the same time bombarding these same women daily with microaggressions against their own autonomy, appearance, and independence.

The media is constantly attacking women, especially women of color, on an even more extreme psychological level. These attacks create a raging, insecure void in women that can only be filled with products, conformity, assimilation, and servitude. Or, you know, empowerment and self-love, but that’s a lot more difficult to accomplish than, say, retail therapy. White women are told bronze and blonde is beautiful, and encouraged to poison ourselves with chemical hair dies and UV rays in tanning beds, at the same time being taught that our white skin color makes us, absurdly, somehow more special.

A White Girl’s Perspective On Appropriation

White people are floating aimlessly in a cultureless world, left with a burning desire to hold on to something special, significant, and with meaning; a culture. And since we don’t have any ethnic identity of our own whatsoever, what seems to happen is that we take it. We crave meaning. We “borrow.” We appropriate. We make light of the violent things that other white people have done to the cultures that we want to “borrow” from because we are so engrossed in creating our own patchwork identity, finding our own meaning, something of actual value in white consumer culture. (spoiler – there isn’t anything of value in white consumer culture). White people tend to treat all cultural symbols like they are some sort of magical pathway to meaning that anybody can take, when in reality, much of the time it is a glaring act of disrespect and ignorance. Most white people are oblivious of the assimilation that brought us to this point and the deep meanings of the symbols and traditions that they want to be a part of.

Sharing culture with white people is risky business, because culture isn’t up for commentary. It’s not something we have a right to judge and assign value to (or especially, to devalue). We can’t just try on a culture for a day and hope it sticks. That’s not how identity works. We just know we are lacking something, and apparently feel like it’s okay to pick and choose from whatever culture we think will fill the void. White people don’t often have special ethnic foods that help connect us to a more beautiful and vibrant ethnic identity – we have Pizza Hut and McDonald’s. We have “happy meals” full of toxic chemicals and fats, and these are what define our customs. Our daily life. White people don’t have much of a culture at all, which is probably why so many don’t really connect with any label beyond the one we find on our shoes. All we have is consumerism.

Where Assimilation Leaves Us

The assimilation of culture was carefully and thoroughly begun by the colonialists, who believed they were the best thing to happen to earth since fresh water, and thought that everyone should do everything exactly how they did because duh, they were the most awesome, right? Obviously. They stripped other races of their culture and forced them to act like them. And they were white people who valued base and greedy things. They wanted everyone to value base and greedy things. One of the strangest parts about assimilation is that it doesn’t just affect people of color. Whites become even more vapid and harmful toward themselves and others because the only thing they have to identify with is violence, hatred, and currently as a culture, the soulless void of consumerism.

The only identity we have to cling on to is the racist, anglo-saxon, male-dominated media and maybe an absurd pride in a family name or attitude that ultimately falls flat when put to the test. Western people, particularly white ones, wear brand loyalty like a badge. We support certain companies and brands as if it were a sacred symbol of power that might lend meaning to our lives. But I’d like to take this time to remind you that the meaning we seek wouldn’t be lacking in the first place if, instead of assimilating other cultures, we embraced our own origins and celebrated traditions that made us feel closer as a community. And by that I do not mean a community of white supremacists and the types of Christians who judge everyone who is a little different from their expectations. I’m talking about creating our own traditions to re-define “white culture.”

So What Should We Do?

What I would love to see, personally, is for white people to really reach deep down into their roots for something worth keeping alive and celebrating. I’d like to see us band together to create new traditions, traditions of healing and the cultivation of respect for other cultures. I am not talking about a hodgepodge of appropriation, I’m talking about something entirely new, something different that white people can use to be proud of themselves for something real rather than by how much power was stolen by whites from the rest of the world.

We need to build community, some way to help the world get back on its feet. And we can create new traditions and customs outside of the media, outside of mindless consumerism. We just need to stop treating these things like they’re so important, like somehow reflects our own identity. The frank reality is that it doesn’t. It won’t reflect on us either way if we don’t approve of Kim Kardashian’s boyfriend. The media is distracting us from living our own lives and leading us to feel as if a show that somebody else created can really say anything about who we are as people. It can’t. Only we can define our identity, and it should be more than what shows we like and which clothes we buy.

Our actions speak. Our voices speak. And we need our intention to be louder than words and translated into action so that wounded, skeptical, and oftentimes, (rightfully) angry people of color know that not every white person out there is a brainwashed tool of oppression. We need to create our own identities, and be strong in the face of racism. And if the white men in power don’t like that, then let them show their true colors. It will never change what’s right, and they’re bound to lose when it matters the most.Until then, we need to keep fighting, because the battle is far from over.

A Place to Rest

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Here I am, jumping from platform to floating platform above a deep blue ocean. My grandmother guides me along, leading me down the path. In the distance, there is a dock. She stands above the water and points toward a raft.

I deserve this place to rest, she tells me wordlessly. I deserve peace and love and comfort within. A break from the turmoil. An end to the unrest. A spot just for me, where I can lean back and just be.

I am relieved to finally see this place, this comfortable raft where I can float on top of this tumultuous ocean. I can bob above the water, basking in the sun instead of being tossed beneath the waves.

Sit, she beckons. Rest. Observe. Feel the waves underneath you and understand that you can always rise above. There is a permanent perch where you control your life. Where you are of it but not in it. Always remember this place.

I am about to take my seat. I look forward to leaning back but I step too fast and slip. I feel a surge of fear. All fear leads me to the same place. A monster lurking behind a friendly face. I can’t be a sitting duck. I can’t relax and believe in peace. I can’t trust what falls apart so quickly.

The platforms tear like wet paper.

The raft turns to wicker and my foot falls through. In the presence of this evil, my soul departs and my body takes control. In fight or flight I was too small and powerless to fight. My only choice has been to flee. I take a great leap without wanting to. I am suddenly pushing the raft of mindful life behind me and plunging into the depths of the waters below.

I am paralyzed. Rigid. My hands don’t move as I sink further from the surface. I am a rock. My body tells me this is where I belong.

Demon, his evil binding my body, claiming to have won. My body, he is telling me I don’t own it, he is trying to control it, keeping it from making any movement, locking me up in a primal state of paralysis. I am not worth saving. If something so wrong can happen again and again, it must be what I deserve.

I am being squeezed in the fists of evil. It tells me it will never let me go.

Suddenly, above the surface, I see my grandmother’s face. Wouldn’t I rather be up there with her, she asks. Wouldn’t I rather have one good moment than an eternity of suffocation? What am I doing there, not even trying to swim? That evil doesn’t hold you, baby, your body is yours. Move it. Use it. Fight. You can fight and you can win.

Is it too late? I wonder. I’ve sunk so far. I start to move my arms and kick my legs. I hold my breath and feel it burning in my lungs. It is actually a relief to remember I have breath, even though it hurts. I don’t remember how swimming works, how fighting works. I flail as I try to figure it out. I am frustrated by the clumsy movements of my body. It’s stricken with rigor mortis. It has been frozen, fear stricken, for so long.

You can do it, she tells me wordlessly, but what you can’t do is let yourself sink. If you don’t stop yourself now, you will drown all your life. You will never have lived at all. It doesn’t matter what has happened to you. You can fight and you can win. That body you have is what holds this entire ocean, that body you have isn’t insignificant. It’s all you’ve got to fight this evil. It’s all you’ve got that will set you free. Use it. Love it. Remember why you have it.

This body you think deserves the worst doesn’t exist. The body that thinks it is so owned by evil is an illusion. Who you are can not be owned. You are this entire ocean, you are the waves, you are the raft, you are the stars above it and the earth beneath it. You are an entire, beautiful world. You are the only one who can set you free. Reclaim your world. Reclaim your life.

She leaves and I am alone under the water.

And suddenly my body takes over. But this time, instead of pushing me down, it reminds me how to swim. I know there will be peace at the surface. I remember who I was. All I have to do is fight on her behalf before she is lost forever. I’m the only one who can.

Finally I reach the surface. I struggle onto the raft. It’s still there. My grandmother is on the dock. She smiles.

I’m proud of you, she says without words. Everyone has this ocean. Everyone has these demons. Fighting isn’t just for you. The ones who make it to the surface become the platforms that you walked on. They pave the path to peace.

Your life becomes a testament to the people who are struggling, a pathway to help them find themselves again. Live your life as an inspiration. As a testament to the power of love. Live your life to show that no matter what has happened, you have the strength to rise. You have the will to fight. Even after you’re gone, that love you gave yourself has built a platform so that others who have been lost can find their way back home. Never stop fighting for yourself. Everyone is lost in a world like this. Show them why it’s worth fighting for.