December 4, 2014

I was going to write something about the Great Rewriting Campaign of 2014 (otherwise known as how I reinvented my favorite book I ever wrote) today, but it’s feeling pointless. Not the writing. Of course not the writing.

Sometimes telling stories feels useless. Sometimes you look at the world around you and calculate the sheer tonnage of injustice weighing it down, and you feel that you would give anything to write a story that could dissolve even some of that weight. That urge to do something is a positive thing. The trouble is that the stories that need telling are not mine to speak, not when it comes to racism. Sometimes, often, it’s more important to listen, to push and push until there is a clear space for others to do the telling, and then to hear the things that need to be told.

The margins I live in are, in part, chosen ones. My homeschooled children, for example, have the option of going to school at any point they choose. When I read online discussions of how homeschooled kids are either freaks or Harvard-bound (or both), when I wade through the endless insistence by those who know nothing about what we do that homeschooling makes for unsocialized children, when I have to field questions from strangers about whether I’m capable of managing physical education for my kids or how I can tell if they’re learning when they don’t have tests, I become tired. And angry. When I find another book in which homeschooled kids are either religiously oppressed or mentally unstable, I’m sad for my kids, for how the world interprets their lives.

But we’ve chosen this path. We could hop on another one at any time. We could, if we chose, blend in. It’s a privilege we carry, and there are more.

My son, as a teenage boy, is unlikely to be stopped, interrogated, arrested, shot, for our choice to live in the margins. His male relatives will most likely die of heart attacks, cancer, perhaps an accident. He may not find the homeschooled piece of himself reflected back at him from books and movies, but he’ll still see kids like him in other ways. No one is likely to make a joke about his allergy to school bells if he someday wins a book award, and if they do, it will come through across as nothing more than nonsensical. The discomfort we feel at times is situational.

Do you see the difference?

Because too many white Americans don’t. And we’ll continue to not get it unless we become quiet and listen. There are so many voices out there telling the stories we need to hear. Hear. Not explain, not justify, not defend. Just hear. Learn. Act, yes, please act, but don’t let participation in a few marches be the end of things.

Listen.

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