Reflections on Loving Accountability

I have always loved October. Sign me up for a dreamy burnt orange color palette and a good time that luxuriates in the spooky, the otherworldly, the mystery of the universe, the realms in between. Sign me up for the smoldering debut of Scorpio season with her reminders to be passionate, persistent, and loyal, and, of course, for the most delicious holiday of all — Halloween. October also holds a special place in my heart for remembering how to be a human. I make an annual trip to Storm King Art Center to watch leaves change — reminding us to lose the parts of ourselves we thought we needed.

This October, I’ve been thinking a lot about Halloween costumes, culture, community care. I’ve also been thinking about the parts of myself I need to examine, change, and even lose, like the leaves as they turn. Around this time of year, the perennial issue of hurtful, stereotypical, and appropriating costumes surfaces. It’s something that many of us may have been complicit in during our lifetimes, which doesn’t make it at all acceptable or less painful. When I was younger, I dressed as a Native American “princess” in a deeply harmful, fetishizing way. It wasn’t that long ago, and, though I know it doesn’t serve me, I am disgusted with myself, looking back. “How did I make that choice?” I wonder, even now everytime Facebook Memories pops up with the reminder.

Reflecting on causing harm brings up a lot of questions for me. What does it mean to cause pain, and not know it? What does it mean to dehumanize? Why do we do it? How do I, an aspiring woke person, fall prey to it every day? Even as I learn about the very real systems in which we are entrenched, how do I prevent myself from hiding behind those systems, and taking responsibility for my own actions?

Aside from learning how to make an apology that does not center me, and commit to transformation moving forward for the harm I have caused, I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what it means for me to be in community with others. What do I need? What do I need from others? As my dear friend, and our new oneTILT teammate KT shared with me recently: When I commit harm, not if I commit harm, I hope that someone in the community loves me enough to help me make the repair, and that I love my community enough to follow through.”

As an aspiring anti-racist, I need spaces to process, I need loving accountability, I need to be able to see love for my community outside of transaction. I need a community, with which to imagine a better world, that also practices for it. I need a place to process the literal costumes that we wear that cause pain, the figurative costumes that we have to wear to survive, and all of the things that scare me but that I need to face.

The more I have opened my heart to communities that hold me lovingly accountable, and my own learning, the more I have come to realize how complicit I am, and how much work is required of me to practice the radical love and liberation I aspire to. I recently read the beautiful poem After Abolition by my new friend, Kyle Carrero Lopez, shared with me by my dear friend, Tamaki. Take a moment to read it, and let it sink in when you have a chance. It wasn’t until I read this poem that I remembered, just this year, that for Halloween in middle school, I once dressed as a prisoner. My friend and I were inspired by a bolt of striped fabric and a sewing machine. I wore this costume in the early aughts, but now, in 2020, I wouldn’t dream of dressing as a prisoner, considering all of the ways the prison system severely harms our communities, particularly the Black community. Of course, Maya Angelou says, “when you know better, do better,” but I’ve been reflecting a lot on the privilege of not knowing better. Of consenting to causing harm without a second thought.

I guess the point is less about how I choose to costume myself for Halloween, but how I regard the human members of my community, with love, or without it, and how I make a conscious effort, each day, to build a community to which I am accountable, simply because it is each of our birthrights to be respected and loved.

It’s incredibly difficult work, but it’s the only way forward. I’ll leave you with some suggestions and a quote shared by my favorite little angel, Maddie, who you’ve had the pleasure of meeting before: “By performing utopia, the body gains memory of it.” -Nina St. Pierre.

Here are some suggestions to help you build a community that holds you lovingly accountable, and try and regain memory of the utopia we all deserve:

  • Call someone you love. Spend time holding space for yourself, and for them.
  • Find a community to process identity with, especially when it comes to your choices in the workplace, like our FUEL conference
  • Follow oneTILT on social and slide into our DMs to hear about upcoming opportunities with us!

What are you doing to build a loving community? How are you holding yourself accountable to it? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Uzma

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