Unpacking, White Supremacy & Cans of Pears

We've been packing up and moving our family of four for what feels like months now. In truth, we have been. Because of the pandemic, we started packing in March. It's now July.


For months, I filled cardboard boxes with every single one of our belongings. Clothes, toys, pillows, cans of pears. Then we moved every single box twenty miles down the road to our new home. We moved every single box into the house and tried to get it at least in the right room.


My mind had been so focused on packing that I hadn't given much thought to the unpacking.


As I ripped tape off each box and peered inside at the contents, my mind drifted to how the practice of unpacking serves another facet of our life together. White people are being invited to unpack some dusty boxes in corners of themselves that someone stacked, never to be looked at again.


Assumptions.

Beliefs.

Perspectives.


That's a lot of boxes begging to be unpacked.


One part of unpacking a physical home that feels utterly bizarre is the creation of new routines. Every single system and pattern in my life is changing. What used to feel automatic is now new territory. Where does my toothbrush go? Where should I put the pots and pans? Where might we naturally kick off our shoes now? When I reach for socks, where will that be? What door will I walk out in the early morning for a walk?


Unpacking invites a deep phase of paying attention. It invites thought and reflection.


Unpacking invites flexibility and patience as time reveals the new patterns that make sense.


But here's the thing. Soon, I won't second guess where my toothbrush is. I won't think about which cupboard has the pots and pans. I'll reach for my shoes without thinking about their placement in the basket by the door.


It will be automatic. Unconscious. Routine. Easy.



Disruption is a gift. It interrupts us. It puts its hands on our shoulders and gives us a little shake. "Wake up, dear one. Pay attention. This is important. Don't sleep through this again."


There is a gift in the unpacking. The liminal space. The phase of questioning it all. But many of us move through it with agitation and discomfort.


I'm watching my brain in real-time do its absolute best to create order and a new normal. It hates the not knowing. And day by day, a new normal is emerging. My brain feels calmer because it's not working so hard to remember where everything is. I can relax into the space and move through it without so much effort. This is nice for my emotions but not the goal of an anti-racism practice.


Unpacking white supremacy is uncomfortable. I notice my brain seeking order and calm and a new normal I can understand.


But the longer I choose to practice unpacking my assumptions, beliefs, lack of education, and ignorance, the better chance I've got of learning new ways of seeing, learning, and existing.


What if white folks don't rush to unpack all the boxes to find a quick new normal? What if every single day white folks learn, lament, repent, reflect, and do better? What if white folks give until it hurts? What if white folks make peace, instead of simply keeping the peace? What if white folks disrupt racist jokes, march in the streets, listen to people of color, learn new truths, and dismantle the systems that benefit some while oppressing others?


Friends, let's unpack some boxes. Especially the ones in that dusty corner. Freedom awaits.


Want to begin or deepen your anti-racism practice? Follow Rachel Cargle, Austin Channing Brown, Osheta Moore, Ibram K. Kendi, among many others.


Palms up, friends.

 

 

© 2020 by Jenny Smith

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