On Birthdays, Racism, and Resilience

alison and emerson
We shot this photo Wednesday for an upcoming campaign. It was just us two, my Bluetooth remote, and my phone on a tripod. After we got Starbucks drive-through and chatted about her birthday, life before the ‘demic and the future. On the drive home, the texts and alerts started arriving.

My daughter turned 12 Friday. When she woke up, she said, “I hope nothing terrible happens today.” How sad to start a special day with this thought. I had the same thought, considering how domestic terrorists attempted to take over the U.S. Capitol just two days prior.

How does one celebrate the birthday of a 12-year-old during a pandemic with a president doing his darndest to take advantage of every aspect of our government built on white supremacy and crush American democracy to the ground in his last two weeks in office?

We started with her favorite treat on earth – pink glazed donuts from Dunkin’ for breakfast; an extra special treat when housebound with a dad who loves cooking and is passionate about health and eating a plant-based diet. She didn’t want to go to virtual school, but we reminded her it was a chance to have her friends and teachers wish her a happy birthday. It was fun to hear through the door that separates her “office” (my old home office which is now classroom/gym) and mine (an armchair in the corner of our bedroom) the tinny sound of middle schoolers singing “Happy Birthday” every couple of hours.

After FaceTiming friends and family and playing ROBLOX with her buddies, we enjoyed her favorite pandemic meal – Beyond Burgers and fries (and a dairy-laden junior-sized strawberry milkshake) from Silver Diner in front of the TV where we let her pick any movie to watch. Her choice of film? ‘Hamilton.’

hamilton lin manuel

My mom, sister, daughter, and I all have January birthdays and over the years have celebrated by going to the theater; for our 2020 birthday we splurged on tickets to see ‘Hamilton’ at the Kennedy Center in June. When the pandemic happened, we got a refund and tried to console ourselves with a socially-distant outdoor viewing of the performance via Disney+.

Friday night was the first time I had seen ‘Hamilton’ since that summer, and after the events of that week it had a drastically different vibe.

I shared this thought on Instagram Stories, and many said they too felt that, it made them even more upset that these individuals would attack our country, our government, our Constitution and dare to call themselves patriots. That we as a country worked so hard to prevent that Confederate flag from being in the Capitol and now it was waved inside and out and individuals wearing shirts mocking the Holocaust and hanging up nooses, who smeared their shit and carved graffiti onto the halls and threatened to kill members of Congress.  

hamilton film patriots

But when I watched ‘Hamilton,’ especially the first part where Hamilton, Mulligan, Laurens, and Lafayette are getting all excited in the bar. They were going to overthrow what they found to be an unfair controlling government, they were patriots.

Merriam-Webster defines patriot as, “one who loves and supports his or her country.” Oxford Languages (what pops up when you Google a word) defines patriot as, “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.”

The terrorists who stormed the Capitol consider themselves patriots. The president called them patriots. They thought they were getting all ‘Hamilton' on Nancy Pelosi, who was their King George III in this live-streamed cosplay.

For the past month, my daughter and I have been reading a chapter of Stamped every evening before bed. I recently shared this book on Instagram, encouraging parents to also read it with their kids. Many adults shared they read it and shared it with other adults as it is easier to digest than some other antiracist books on the market without sugarcoating our country’s history.

stamped book review for kids

Stamped inspired many powerful discussions with my kid, and she asked many hard questions. We went to bed late most nights, spending time researching further what we read. This experience was eye-opening for both of us.

Our Founding Fathers were slave owners. All men are created equal, as long as they are white and were born with a penis. Our country was founded on white supremacy. We have romanticized the birth of our country for hundreds of years and for these hundreds of years have continued to accept the laws and social norms that continue to place white men at the top, and consider assimilation to be an acceptable route for Black people to be treated with any iota of humanity let alone respect.

At the end of her birthday, while getting ready for bed, we had a lot to talk about. We talked about Thomas Jefferson, who talked about ending slavery, but not really wanting to. How he was like our president, who claims to have Black friends, takes selfies with Kanye and appoints Ben Carson but supports racist laws and backs racist politicians. We talked about Alexander Hamilton, who talked about ending slavery, yet helped his in-laws purchase slaves.

And we talked about the rioters on Wednesday, how some just wanted to get selfies, but many were thinking they were on the right side of history. They truly thought they were being patriots and helping to make America great again. That these so-called patriots thought liberal Democrats who wanted to care for all Americans were equal to King George who would, “kill your friends and family to remind you of my love.

America was never great unless you were white and male. There is no way to go back, we can’t go back, we won’t go back. And we can’t move forward from what happened last week unless we reckon with it. What happened last week wasn’t an isolated incident, and while you may be angry and ashamed and horrified by it, you shouldn’t have been surprised. These self-described patriots have been working towards such an act for years.

The difference is, those of us who they are fighting against, we’re not George III. We do not wish to, “either master them or totally leave them to themselves.” We just want our country to grow with its people and care for all of its people.

If you feel helpless, here are some things I've done and recommend:

How to Be a Force for Positive Change

Call Your Representatives

Yes, you’ve already done this so many times in the past year (and for many of you, the past decades) but that doesn’t mean you can rest. Since we’re still in the middle of a pandemic and most are working from home, you’ll likely get a recording and have to leave a message. Even so, a call has more impact than an email or letter. Every call is logged and added to a report that gets sent to your congressman.

Don’t call just anyone, call your representative in your area for the most impact, share your name and zip code (to show you’re a constituent), and the purpose for your call. Some say you should provide your entire address if leaving a voice message. The politicians don’t hear your messages, the staffers do and they have to listen to the entire message to ensure there aren’t any threats so keep it brief and to the point.

what is 5 calls

If you aren’t sure who to call or what to say, check out 5 Calls. 5 Calls Civic Action is a 501(c)4 non-profit that helps citizens make their voices heard. You can pick from the column to the left of the site the issue you are concerned about. If you allow the site to know your location, it will provide you with who your representatives are, their numbers, and short scripts to use when calling.

Stop Doomscrolling and Do Your Homework

Get off Twitter, Facebook, and MSNBC and get into a book or podcast or documentary that digs into the true history of this country. The best way to change the future is to understand the past so we don’t repeat it.

There’s no shame if your pandemic-world-on-fire-impeach-the-MFer mind can’t absorb that New York Times bestseller about antiracism. I may have said this summer you should finish that book you started reading, but even I have several dog-eared and unfinished books on my nightstand because this year has made it where I can’t even absorb a beach read. The shame is if you let that end your education.

Switch up your binging of ‘Bridgerton’ and ‘Gilmore Girls’ with If Beale Street Could Talk and ‘Dear White People’. Replace ‘The Boys’ and ‘Doctor Who’ with ‘Watchmen’ and ‘Lovecraft Country.’ Put down How to Be an Antiracist if you’ve read the same paragraph five times and turn on 13TH, which is on Netflix.

Read with others. Whether it’s one short chapter of Stamped each day with your kids or starting the morning by texting your friend group with a link to an article you read to start a discussion, by reading with others you are motivated to finish and the discussions that come from it will help you see it in different ways and question more.

Donate

The Palm Collective, in collaboration with local DC grassroots organizations, free agents, and frontline activists, has created a GoFundMe to continually fund mutual aid operations and financially support those who keep us safe and fight for racial equity. Fascists have declared that they will remain in DC through the Biden inauguration. They are fundraising specifically to secure living spaces for unhoused DC residents and sending stipends directly to frontline organizers and activists. This is a way to ensure that we can sustain the movement while also being mindful that we all have livelihoods and basic needs.

Funds will be distributed on a weekly basis to activists’ CashApp or Venmo accounts. Every person gets a percentage of the total raised in a given week. They are providing a Weekly Transparency Report so donors can see how funds are being dispersed.

Educate the Younger Generations

Think about it, our children know how to handle an active shooter in their schools yet we’re concerned with scaring them by sharing the news. Our children need to know what is going on so they can be the change. In the blink of an eye, my little baby became a young adult who will likely be taller than me by spring. She is living through a pandemic, she is seeing what is going on through YouTube and TikTok, it is my duty to ensure she learns the truth and the history that brought us to this moment.

Rest, Recharge, and be Resilient

In 2014 when I shattered my right radius, had multiple surgeries, was on disability, issues with my surgeon, struggled to work and blog and parent, and even wash myself while having a thread on a blog snark site tearing me apart, I was so low. A reader shared this YouTube video of Brené Brown’s TED Talk. It inspired me to purchase all of Brown’s books at that time via Audible, and I would take slow walks around my neighborhood, listening to them. I started with Daring Greatly, then The Gifts of Imperfection, and so on. It may sound hokey, but Brené Brown is what pulled me out of a pit and helped me go on.

This past year, what has helped me be resilient has been not just my Peloton bike, but the words of the instructors, most especially Tunde Oyeneyin. Her classes are positive and motivating, her words inspiring and constantly hit me like a ton of bricks. Many say that exercise helps them release emotions, I am not one of those people. But I have cried during many a Tunde class.

Her ‘Speak Up’ and ‘Year of Yes’ classes have been to me what Brené Brown was to me during that very difficult year. Oyeneyin’s words have made me see my life and issues through a different light, and this past weekend, she reminded me of my resilience. Her most recent ‘Year of Yes’ class (inspired by Shonda Rhimes’ book) discussed resilience and reminded me of times in. my life I said yes to hard things, even when every fiber of my being was under stress. And how this time in history is stressing me out, but I can’t not say yes to taking it on, to keep fighting, to keep speaking up, to keep doing what I can to make this country safer and more equitable.

I’m not saying go buy all Brené Brown’s books and order a Peloton, but I am saying you can’t be too tired to keep fighting, especially if you are a white person who has benefitted from the way this country has been run since the start. Find your way to rest up, recharge, find peace, and get back to fighting.

Keep Talking

Talk to your friends and your family, especially if they are or prior to Wednesday, have been Trump supporters. To have January 6th be the final straw, and not all the other atrocities of this administration needs to be addressed.

Also talk to your friends who may not have voted for Trump, but are happy to go back to living in their privileged bubble, ignoring the atrocities happening right outside their field of vision.

Just as many of us who thought we weren’t racists realized otherwise through reading and self-reflection, we have the ability to help others realize how their beliefs and their priorities are actually racist, sexist, classist, and violent. We as white people can’t dismiss those who we may see as “deplorables,” we need to do our part to educate, inform, and hold them accountable.

Share Your Thoughts

I encourage calm discussion in the comments below. Share what has helped you be informed, stay resilient, make positive change, have difficult conversations with kids and relatives. Share online communities and other resources you have found helpful and supportive. Note that if you share more than one link in your comment it will go to spam but I will approve it as soon as possible if it contributes to the discussion.

Also note I have the right to delete any comment on my website, my social media, and my Facebook group that is inflammatory, inaccurate, attacks another commenter or me, or does not contribute to the discussion. Comments about the intelligence, state of residence, general appearance, body size or health in a way to criticize any person will be deleted, no matter how horrible the person or how poignant the rest of the comment. As I teach my 12-year-old, we have so many descriptive words in our language to share anger and disgust, we can use them without name-calling and body shaming. Thank you for being a part of this community.

47 Comments

  1. Sonia
    January 17, 2021 / 1:25 pm

    Thank you, Alison, for your insightful post and a happy belated birthday to Emerson.

    I can only add my own personal thoughts. This has been a rough four years. My only hope is for a tranquil and peaceful future for us all Americans. We need it bad.

  2. Linda B
    January 14, 2021 / 8:03 pm

    Happy belated birthday wishes to beautiful Emerson; I remember how little she was she I started following your blog! Honestly, YOUR growth is even more evident than Emerson’s. You have matured as a essayist and thinker over all these years, making you way more extraordinary than any other blogger/influencer.

    Also, this post had many thoughtful comments to appreciate–because you asked us for them. So much I could say myself. . . I have been reading many helpful books and essays this past year (and over the past decades as well.) Currently working my way through Caste by Isabel Wilkerson; someone else mentioned her in their comment. I am totally loving that Wilkerson brings some different perspectives on the history of racism than anyone else I have read. . . I also think it is helpful to read fiction by Black authors as well as Latinx and Indigenous authors; as someone noted in their comment, sometimes it is through narrative that we get the deepest insights. Novels I loved reading last year included Tommy Orange’s “There There” and Ta’Nehisi Coates’ “The Water Dancer”.

    Someone mentioned Heather Cox Richardson in their comment; I have been reading her since my daughter turned me onto her 15 months ago. I also read the daily newsletter of Robert Hubbell, who also does an excellent analysis of the news– and gives links to opportunities for getting involved. Because of that, I volunteered to write postcards to voters in Georgia for the Senate runoff in November and December. I am so happy that we prevailed in Georgia! But there are many more important elections ahead. . .

    Bottom line: I am one of your older readers. I have two grown children, one young grandchild, with another on the way. I am a retired teacher, who still is connected to many former students and their families. I WANT THEIR WORLD TO BE A VIBRANT, HEALTHY PLACE FOR ALL PEOPLE. We have our work cut out for us!!!

  3. Karmen
    January 12, 2021 / 2:19 pm

    As a Canadian, I watch with horror what is going on there. It provides hope though, to see many, like you, fighting for what’s right. My heart goes out to all of you for enduring the last 4 years. Having said that, Canada is not immune and we see lots of Trump-like politicians and followers here that need to be monitored and actions that need to be called out. Although our parliamentary democracy is very different from a governance perspective, that isn’t immunity for some of what we see going on there and systematic racism is here too. I thank you for providing the info you do so I can educate myself better and see non media perspectives. Please know most of your neighbours to the north are behind your fight.

  4. Amanda
    January 12, 2021 / 11:28 am

    Thanks for all the resources that you have provided. As an English prof, I am going to strongly recommend that anyone looking to educate themselves read Black fiction, for the reasons that Black Romance writer Jasmine Guillory says far more eloquently than I could: “when we say Black Lives Matter, we mean the whole of Black lives—not just when we die at the hands of the police and not just when our lives intersect with white lives to our detriment. Racism is not the only thing to know about what it means to be Black. Our joys, our sorrows, our love, our grief, our struggles to fit in, our families, our accomplishments and our triumphs—these things also matter. Black children matter, and not only the ones killed before their time.”

    Reading literary fiction can increase dimensions of cognitive empathy, social and emotional intelligence, and perspective-taking. And we all love stories! It doesn’t have to be super-highbrow either–I mean, I love Toni Morrison or Ta-Nahesi Coates–but I recommend starting in the genre you already know you like. if you love science fiction, then read Octavia Butler or N.K. Jemisin. Love Romance–the world’s most popular genre? Try Jasmine Guillory or Beverley Jenkins.

    Sorry for the long comment–it’s a topic I am passionate about and recommending authors/books is one of my very favorite things to do!

  5. TURNER
    January 12, 2021 / 6:52 am

    Happy Birthday to Emerson and all my fellow Capricorns. My birthday is later this week and I’m not really in the mood to celebrate. Thank you for this thoughtful and encouraging post. I really appreciate your take on these troubling issues.

  6. Anna
    January 11, 2021 / 4:28 pm

    Alison, this is absolutely one of your best posts, if not the best. Your blending of family life, your daughter’s birthday, your exquisite awareness of current events, and your reading list and links to pertinent sites is matchless. I think that your status as “influencer,” regardless of your unease with that term, grows from the fact that you are most focused on living the best and most constructive life possible. If you were merely trying to exert influence it would show, and you wouldn’t have the readership (numbers, quality) that you do.

  7. Jeffiner
    January 11, 2021 / 4:03 pm

    Someone made a very good observation in another thread that I read today. There’s really a very easy test to determine if you are a patriot who is trying to save our democracy, or if you have been deluded by false narratives about the state of our country: Nazis. Nazis are the embodiment of evil. Movies love making Nazis the villain because they don’t have to explain why the Nazis are bad guys, everyone already knows Nazis are the bad guys. So if your movement includes Nazi flags or symbols or ideas – you are the bad guy.

    Granted, Hamilton and Jefferson did not have this benchmark back in their day. But we have it now, and it is naïve and dangerous to not employ it.

  8. Robyn
    January 11, 2021 / 3:22 pm

    Alison, thank you for your strong and clear voice.

    Happy birthday to your daughter!

    I continue to find working through Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy (repeatedly!) to be an incredibly useful way to change myself from the inside…so I don’t need to wonder what actions I need to take or wintry about conversations I need to have; they come naturally. https://bookshop.org/books/me-and-white-supremacy-combat-racism-change-the-world-and-become-a-good-ancestor/9781728209807

  9. carmen johnson
    January 11, 2021 / 2:50 pm

    Allie this is why you are one of my favorite bloggers!

  10. Michaelann Jundt
    January 11, 2021 / 2:30 pm

    Thank you, Alison, for your continued commitment to honesty, engagement, and activism. I appreciate all your suggested media options and your call out / encouragement to white folx.

  11. Tina Z
    January 11, 2021 / 2:22 pm

    Long time reader and political scientist here. The Southern Poverty Law Center has tracked “patriot” groups and the movement since the 1990s and is an excellent resource to learn more about them and how they co-opt the language of patriotism and the American Revolution specifically. Here’s a report from the late 1990s: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/1999/world-patriots and there is much more on their website including this older timeline: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2015/patriot-movement-timeline. Trump certainly revitalized this movement and it’s important to understand its roots.

  12. Karen S Eugenio
    January 11, 2021 / 1:46 pm

    Thank you for wielding your influence to say what needs to be said… I feel you are more trusted advisor than influencer.

  13. Christine F
    January 11, 2021 / 1:29 pm

    Brilliant!

  14. January 11, 2021 / 1:14 pm

    I appreciate this post so much in a unique way because my birthday is this week. It’s a pretty big deal because I am entering a new decade and instead of dreading it the way I have all my life, I was excited to start a new decade. Then last week happened and I thought, “How can I celebrate something like this while I watch people die?” I am disheartened that my family has chosen a human God over their supposed spiritual God while forsaking their children.

    I’m sad and worried taking a day to celebrate myself is not the the right action while also going how could you be so selfish? Anyway, this is rambling but I appreciate it.

  15. Karin
    January 11, 2021 / 1:13 pm

    Thank you for this post (and happy birthday to your daughter). I highly recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste as truly amazing. If you find the book too hard to get into, start with “The Warmth of Other Sons,” her previous book, which is more of a “story” – tells the story of three Black families that moved away from the South. This book like no other opened my eyes to systemic racism and that it’s not just a “Southern thing,” as well as what Reconstruction really meant.

  16. Roberta
    January 11, 2021 / 1:01 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! Congratulation to you and your husband on raising such a beautiful thoughtful child. We are striving to be educate ourselves as well. Take care.

  17. Kathryn Fenner
    January 11, 2021 / 12:43 pm

    My representative is the amazing Jim Clyburn, and he doesn’t need me to bother him. Unfortunately, my Senators are Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and they are only going to disregard my input, since I am in the minority statewide. I feel so powerless….

    • Debbie
      January 11, 2021 / 1:15 pm

      I think it’s worthwhile to contact Graham and Scott, because the more they hear from people like you, the less radical they will feel they can go and still win re-election. Plus, as we just saw in Georgia, it may be less that you’re in the minority, but that more people just need to vote (or have restrictions against voting eased/lifted).

      • Kathryn Fenner
        January 11, 2021 / 1:33 pm

        After the excellent candidate Jaime Harrison’s crushing loss, it feels pointless

    • Rosie
      January 11, 2021 / 1:34 pm

      It is also worthwhile to leave a short message with Clyburn’s office — they do need to hear from supporters as well. It makes it easier for them to continue advocating for the positions that you also favor.

    • Erica
      January 12, 2021 / 12:17 pm

      I read that it’s also helpful to contact the ones who don’t need to be convinced to do better. They have to keep fighting, and it helps them to have real data that their constituents are on their side. It gives them moral support as well as evidence they can share that the issue matters.

  18. Kelly
    January 11, 2021 / 12:35 pm

    I appreciate this post and you very much.

  19. January 11, 2021 / 12:32 pm

    Best blog post ever. Thank you. I have been struggling to say anything as a business owner. I live in NC who went for Trump and I know probably 1/2 my clients voted for him. I am not brave like you to speak out in my blog and my business, but I should be.

  20. Rita
    January 11, 2021 / 11:46 am

    Thank you for your very positive and uplifting post. You are courageous to cover such controversial issues. I appreciate your well thought out recommendations. You are amazing!!!

  21. another Alison
    January 11, 2021 / 10:42 am

    Great post, thank you! “you can’t be too tired to keep fighting, especially if you are a white person who has benefitted from the way this country has been run since the start. Find your way to rest up, recharge, find peace, and get back to fighting.” is similar to what I am sharing with friends who use social media to say they just want things to be nice again. Happy birthday to both of you!

    • Grace Decker
      January 11, 2021 / 11:54 am

      YES a million times!! VERY well said.

  22. Rhonda Wagner
    January 11, 2021 / 10:27 am

    I hesitated to write this as I am not a gifted writer and often come off as sounding curt. However after studying history for almost 60 years, I want to say that although we can and should learn from history it is not helpful to JUDGE past actions based on today’s sensibilities. Also perhaps it would be helpful if you were to find a list of Pres. Trump’s accomplishments in office and then look them up to see what you think beyond his often inappropriate rhetoric. Often we are too influenced by media picking and choosing and taking things out of context. I know I am often surprised when I get past the headlines.

    • another Alison
      January 11, 2021 / 10:40 am

      If you are proud of #45’s actions, give an example of what and why.

      • A
        January 11, 2021 / 12:14 pm

        Hi Rhonda, This didn’t come across as curt to me. I appreciate the idea of not judging behaviour in history on current knowledge/culture/politics. Can you tell us more about your thoughts about Trump now, particularly now that we have the information/culture we have. Thank you.

    • Anna
      January 11, 2021 / 4:19 pm

      Rhonda, I join my fellow commenters in asking you to give examples of the president’s acceomplishments, since you clearly feel strongly about them and wish to spread the word. You don’t have to be a good writer to do that. Facts don’t necessarily need to be framed eloquently, and if you know of facts, please share them with us.

      Also, regarding the oft-repeated remark about things taken “out of context,” the context last week consisted of violence, threats, property destruction, bodily harm, and death—all well documented.

    • Karen
      January 12, 2021 / 1:00 pm

      Rhonda
      You are 100% correct. It is not always helpful to judge past actions based on todays sensibilities, but it is important to see our history thru a lens of what we want to be today., and what we want to be in the future. I think that is what Alison is doing in her post. A country that does not revisit its history will not be able to move forward.
      Regarding Trumps accomplishments, yes, agreed we most look at them and judge them for what they are. But to say that we should disregard this inappropriate rhetoric is to me, the same saying “hey i was just following orders”.

    • Sarah
      January 17, 2021 / 10:39 am

      I know my personal favorite Trump accomplishment was when he erroneously reported a storm headed for Alabama, and when corrected, instead of saying oops, he redrew the storm map with a Sharpie to “prove” it was headed for Alabama (reader, it was never headed for Alabama). That was definitely the high point of the last four years for me. #2 would obviously be when he told domestic terrorists in Camp Auschwitz sweatshirts that “I love you, you’re very special.”

  23. Elizabeth (Libby) Wagner
    January 11, 2021 / 10:01 am

    Really well done, Alison.

  24. January 11, 2021 / 9:53 am

    This post is so well written and so informative! As a mother to three wonderful boys I have not always known what to say during these times. Some days have I have felt like I was living in a bubble shielding them from what was really happening. Other days have been better as I have tried to explain and keep them safe. Thank you for all of the information you shared in this post. You rock and Be-lated Happy Birthday to your daughter 🙂

  25. Sherri Forrest
    January 11, 2021 / 9:32 am

    I turned 67 during 2020. I have been following your blog for 7 years. I know I am much older than your average reader. I like to engage with people of all ages…I find it enlightening. Obviously, I was educated in a different time. It is astonishing to me that so many have not received an education that included a right understanding of world history and US history. Slavery has been a part of every culture since the beginning…and it has ALWAYS been wrong. Slavery is still a major, awful problem in our world today. N Korea sells young girls and boys to Royals in the Middle East. Young people are trafficked regularly in literally every country. There is no perfect country with a blameless history…don’t be discouraged or disheartened. We are each here, in this time, to use whatever influence and power we have for good and right.

    • Grace Decker
      January 11, 2021 / 11:56 am

      Human trafficking is wrong.

      I don’t understand that ^ being the main take-away from Alison’s thoughtful post, though. Her coments are about so much more than “slavery.”

    • Kelly
      January 11, 2021 / 12:35 pm

      Hi Sherri, I find this quote incredibly enlightening and wonder if it might give you some things to think about too.

      “Perhaps there has been, at some point in history, some great power whose elevation was exempt from the violent exploitation of other human bodies. If there has been, I have yet to discover it. But this banality of violence can never excuse America, because America makes no claim to the banal. America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard. This is difficult because there exists, all around us, an apparatus urging us to accept American innocence at face value and not to inquire too much.” — Ta-Nehisi Coates

      • January 11, 2021 / 3:16 pm

        Love Ta-Nehisi Coates. Between the World and Me is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read.

  26. Paula Spizziri
    January 11, 2021 / 9:12 am

    I haven’t been able to keep up with Wardrobe Oxygen the past several weeks, but so glad I was able to read this post! I think Jason Reynolds is great, so thanks for bringing Stamped to my attention as my nephews birthday is approaching and I always like to give him a good book.

  27. Susan G
    January 11, 2021 / 9:08 am

    Oh Alison! Such excellent food for thought. I really appreciate the references you provide for further reading. Thank you!

    When I read informative posts such as this and so many others you have written, I just cringe when you refer to yourself as an “influencer”. I find that title has connotations of shilling, materialism, shallowness, self-absorption, etc. You are so much more than an “influencer”. You have worked hard to educate yourself, your readers, and build our trust in you. Even your sponsored posts, collaborations, and links to products are mindful and informative! Thank you!

  28. Sue
    January 11, 2021 / 9:05 am

    Thank you for all the work you’ve put into preparing and writing this very informative and thoughtful post. I’m not American, but I’d like to hope that your voice represents the thinking of a majority of your country’s citizens, not the voices of hate that were heard on Wednesday.

    • Maggie Fieger
      January 11, 2021 / 9:32 am

      Thank you for clear, concise ideas of how to help yourself and our country. I will check out some of your reading recommendations. I find that helps. I follow Heather Cox Richardson daily, and she is a historian as well as a professors so her letters are very knowledgeable.
      I love that picture of you and your daughter. I’ve been a Wardrobe Oxygen reader for many years and it’s fun to see her grow up.

  29. January 11, 2021 / 9:02 am

    Happy Birthday to your daughter and to all you January birthday girls! This post today is inspiring. Thank you for the hope and positive feelings you share with us all.

  30. Jennifer Porter
    January 11, 2021 / 9:00 am

    I had to jump on and say happy birthday! I also have twin daughters who turned 12 last Monday, 1/4. We celebrated with sleeping in late, decadent breakfast, ice skating and treats.

  31. Debra Gutenson
    January 11, 2021 / 8:46 am

    Thank you so much for this post. I have made notes of books to read and movies to watch. Especially the movies, since I can barely focus to read more than 3 sentences right now. My eyes were opened to my white privilege after George Floyd’s murder last year. So I will continue my education, do more for advocacy and reach deeper in my faith.

  32. Bette
    January 11, 2021 / 8:36 am

    Your daughter is so beautiful, and so lucky to have you for a mom. I love the idea of reading a chapter of Stamped — or any other book — together before going to sleep. Happy birthday to your family of January girls.

  33. Helene
    January 11, 2021 / 7:42 am

    Great stuff here Alison, thank you. Thoughtful, thought provoking, meaningful and helpful. Stay strong sister and keep fighting the good fight.

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