Listening to my heart as it whispers: Burn. It. Down.
Updated: May 9, 2022
Nearly 20 years ago, I attended my very first march: The March for Women's Lives.
I had become a member and then officer in the Feminist Club on my campus at Ithaca College. We chartered a bus and headed down to D.C. for the march in April of 2004.
I admit, I don't remember a ton from the day.
I remember seeing the sea of people, chanting alongside others, and getting the energetic high that only comes from such an experience of connection, anger and community.
I remember being (ignorantly) surprised by the protesters (of our protest) with their own signs, standing along the side of the path where we marched.
I remember that I got a REALLY bad sunburn through the cloudy day (and was later outraged because it wasn't even hot or sunny).
I remember trading my "Choice is Gorges" (A take on "Ithaca is Gorges"... if you know, you know) shirt for a brand new pink Planned Parenthood tee.
I remember feeling exhausted, but so full of hope and a sense of purpose, on the drive back.
I felt like I had found my people. I felt like I was finding myself.
My heart, pounding out of my chest.
I have dipped in and out of this world in the time since.
I would go on to organize and participate in other marches, events and fundraisers over the years, but it would be well over a decade before I would begin to unpack the brand of White Women Feminism I had subscribed to...one without an intersectional lens...without an eye for racial equity...working to shed the white savior complex and blinded by the original narrative I had gobbled up with fervor (along with the education I received from my Gender Studies concentration for my degree in Sociology).
For example, I recall taking a class called Race, Class + Gender (partially because I kept the textbook for over 15 years on my bookshelf) but I certainly wasn't personally making the right connections when it came to my own activism.
Cut to January 2017. It was a completely bittersweet feeling to dig out that same pink t-shirt to attend the Women's March and still, problematically, peddling the same internal narrative - regrettable Pink P*ssy Hat and all - but finally starting to wake up a bit to listen.
A year later, I was honored to serve as a NARAL Pro-Choice America Community Organizing fellow. College students led the charge, and I followed them faithfully and dutifully. I was ready to learn from the mistakes of my past.
I did my very small part. I organized phone banks, postcard writing parties and knocked on hundreds of doors.
I remember standing in front of a room of ~80 member of my community for my biggest event yet. "Kava-Nope" posters were taped to the walls.
My heart was pounding, but it finally felt like it was beating on purpose.
I hadn't realized that I had now internalized yet another narrative. One that seemed to have an ironclad argument at the time. It was coming from the Democratic Party after all.
Get out the vote
But, did you also get other people to vote?
If you vote, we can fix this mess.
But, I have to be honest. I fear now it is too late for this. Now, it is time for us to do what so many of the Black and brown women before us have been telling us.
Burn it down.
"It's Time to Rage"
This is what Roxane Gay has said. This is what my dear friend, Tina Strawn, has said. And there's a list, too long to name.
This is not a #hottake but something I feel the need to co-sign and underscore. We can't look at that time in the voting booth as our moment to raise our voices. It's too late and, clearly, it isn't enough.
As Roxane Gay says in her latest NYTimes Opinion piece on May 3rd, 2022: "It's Time to Rage,"
"In their joint statement, issued after the Supreme Court leak, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, did not use the word “abortion” even once. President Biden has barely uttered it during his presidency. It’s hard to believe they are as committed as they need to be to protecting a right whose name they dare not speak. Until the Democrats stop lounging in the middle of the political aisle — where no one is coming to meet them — nothing will change."
Why are we okay with "less harmful" or "not as bad" when what we really should be saying is "just as political"?
Now, let me be honest. I'm not saying I'll never attend another voter registration drive, knock on a door, participate in a phone bank or host a postcard party. I am holding space for nuance.
But I also know I was knocking on doors, working to get voters to come out at the 11th hour of election day, never to return to their community again. Never to mobilize or activate or engage with them again. All we needed was their vote.
At this moment in time, I will say that I haven't made a decision about whether I will vote in the next election. This is a statement which, just a few months ago, I would have been appalled to hear, let alone say.
Am I going to regret saying this? I don't know. Alternatively, am I going to regret not doubling down even harder? I don't know. I'm a human being and I may evolve and change my perspective.
But, all we have is this moment. And, where am I today?
One part of me still hears and feels the narrative so strongly: the power is in our hands. We can mobilize. We can activate. We can elect to see change.
Frankly, until everything is knocked down, participating (even if kicking and screaming), may feel like our only hope. In support of the work and the guidance of Black abolitionists and activists, I'll do it. On the days where there doesn't seem to be another alternative, I'll do it.
But, I admit that I'll do it with only half of my heart.
The other half is just too dang broken.
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