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Anti-racism

There was no post last week because all the pain out in the open has been a lot to process lately, and sometimes breaks are needed to rest and recover. But I also cannot in good conscience remain silent about the effects of racism on the country I live in.

This is beyond ridiculous. Black lives matter. Absolutely no person should have to fear for their safety or their life by simply existing. Period. The number of Black people in the United States who have been unjustly killed by police and by white people in the last few months alone should make anyone furious, let alone the long list of those whose names we know — and whose names we don’t — before this.

I want to make it clear that I don’t condone violence. But it is entirely justified to be angry. We should be angry. And the nature of racism and other injustices mean that power will not be handed down to those who are hurting. Direct action is necessary, or we will continue to have more years and decades of the same suffering that we have already allowed to go on for far too long.

I grew up with a lot of privileges, including living in a situation where I didn’t really have to confront this reality unless I wanted to. Part of that is the area I grew up in (which is a whole other conversation on systemic furtherance of injustice), and part of it is because of the color of my skin. I’m biracial and white-passing, and am still learning the depth of what it means to be Black in this country.

I’m no expert. It is very pointedly not my place, both because I still have so much to learn and because it matters deeply that those of us with privilege in a given area elevate the voices of those who are experiencing the issue, not speak over them.

So to that end, below is a list of resources that more qualified folks than me have shared on what you can do to become more aware and educated on the reality of racism in America*, and how to take action. Please note that I haven’t read and/or engaged with all of these materials, but will indicate the ones which I have. If you’re not Black and this isn’t your experience — and especially if you’re white — much of this could be difficult to take in. It has been for me. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself experiencing lots of different emotions as you engage with these works. I encourage you to take time to examine what you’re feeling and why, then keep learning.

Learning resources**

What is anti-racism?

It is acknowledging that racism exists as more than a personal feeling, and committing to continually learning, growing, and fighting injustice. The National Museum of African American History & Culture has an excellent short breakdown of anti-racism and different ways that racism is implemented and perpetuated.

It’s also important to know that anti-racism and all efforts for justice and progress should be a continual part of our lives. This isn’t something that ends once the news cycle moves on or once it’s no longer popular.

Reading

  • Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
    • There is no time when this letter is not poignant, and I recommend it as a starting point. Dr. King’s legacy is one of nonviolence but also direct action, and his words here are exceptionally clear on the impact of “moderate” stances
  • Strength to Love by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [have read]
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates [have read]
  • An Anti-Racism Reading List” compiled by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How To Be An Antiracist
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas [have read]
    • I recommend this over the movie, though the movie is also good
  • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Dr. Maya Angelou [have read]
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have read]
  • I Bring the Voices of My People by Dr. Chanequa Walker-Barnes [currently reading]
  • Native by Kaitlin Curtice
  • Note: Books aren’t linked this time, because right now it would be stellar if you purchased from your local independent bookstore. Here’s how to find an indie bookstore near you, and a list of Black-owned bookstores.

Listening

  • The Danger of a Single Story” TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie [have listened]
  • The Liturgists podcast has done a number of helpful episodes:
    • Black and White: Racism in America[have listened]
      • I really, really recommend this one. It’s from 2016 and I first listened to it in 2018, but it’s every bit as relevant today
    • Anti-Racism with Andre Henry[have listened] — more of Andre’s work is linked in the section below
    • For the whole month of February this year, they offered daily mini episodes on how Black history is American history. They’re accessible, and offer some great discussion and reflection [have listened]
  • Code Switch podcast from NPR
  • The Problem with Racial Colorblindness” TEDx Talk by Phil Mazzocco
    • This is a clear, digestible explanation of why saying things like “we’re all just human” or “race doesn’t matter” aren’t helpful. I strongly recommend this one if those phrases resonated with you

Compilations

  • This public Google Doc, titled “Anti-Racism for Beginners,” has a really thorough list of resources that are accessible at a variety of levels
  • Anti-racism resources for white people” is another public Google Doc with accessible info
  • White Homework” by Tori Williams Douglass
    • This page also includes a list of other resources; I recommend looking at all of them
  • Hope & Hard Pills” is a series (including a weekly email newsletter and a podcast) by Andre Henry

Part of being an adult means not avoiding difficult topics, and it means not being passive toward injustice. This is not a journey we ever reach the end of, but it is one that we all have an obligation to work toward. Let’s do the work.

If you want to do something

  • Commit to continually educating yourself on perspectives that are different from your own, and to studying the history of how so many of the realities we see today came to exist.
  • Visit blacklivesmatters.carrd.co to sign petitions, donate to organizations and funds, learn more, and contact local government to urge them to effect change.
  • Amplify Black voices and other marginalized voices when they are speaking about the experiences and urging change. Repost, share, support. This is a time to center the people who the movement is about, not ourselves.
  • Other people have poured so much effort and caring into creating the resources that we are able to learn from. If you learn from someone’s efforts — especially in a time like this — see if you can tangibly thank them in some way, whether that’s through Venmo, Patreon, purchasing and/or promoting their work.
    • (Note that this does not apply to me! If you learned something from this post, I’m so glad; please direct your gratitude toward one of the funds linked in the bullet point above.)
  • Please keep in mind that no one owes you their time or attention, especially folks you don’t have a close relationship with. Learn to gently accept that.
  • If you notice any instance in which someone is threatening or harming someone, using slurs or exhibiting racist (or sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, etc.) behavior, do something. Often calling out the behavior or engaging in a way that (nonviolently) draws the offending person’s attention away from the person they were targeting can get them to stop or go away, but sometimes it’s not enough. If necessary, do what you can to (with their permission) get the person being harmed and yourself away from the threat.
  • Protesting can be dangerous given the outbreaks of violence from multiple sources and the fact we are still in the middle of a global pandemic of a highly transmissible virus. I also recognize that my ability to stay safe at home is itself a privilege not everyone has. So if either you must go out or feel compelled to join protests, here are some resources on staying safe:
    • FOLLOW CDC GUIDELINES. Mask, hand sanitizer, minimize contact with other people. Please, please, we have lost way too many lives already.
    • Tell someone you trust where you are, try to never be alone, and have the proper supplies.
    • Do your research where community-led (especially Black and/or POC-led) organizations are peacefully protesting, and follow their lead rather than fringe organizations. Know when the curfew is and have a plan to be safely inside well before that time passes.
    • More resources can be found here.
  • The King Center (led by Dr. Bernice King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter) is hosting a daily online protest at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT through Monday, June 8. It’s an opportunity to participate and to learn, and the recordings of each one are available to watch afterward.

An immeasurable thank you to the people who created the works and resources I’ve linked, and who have taken the time and effort to teach me. It’s time to keep learning, and for us as a country to grow up. We need to do better.

If there were any resources I missed or you have questions, please let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup. May we each open our eyes and our ears and get our hands in the dirt so that we can all have a better future.

 

 

P.S. This is the post for this week, but I will be continuing to share more resources I come across on Twitter @ohgrowup.

* This post is very United States-centric, only because that is the country I live in and which I have enough knowledge to speak to. However, racism is absolutely not only a U.S. problem. Genocide and policy brutality is not only a U.S. problem. Systemic injustice and casual prejudice is not only a U.S. problem. We’ll only truly solve these issues together.

** Note that these resources mostly focus on anti-Black racism, but that is by no means the only form of racism that exists, though it does have a unique history within the United States. Native American and indigenous peoples, Latinx folks, Asian Americans, and countless immigrants have also faced prejudice and injustice in many forms. Some of the compilations linked above address these demographics as well.

EDITS: Updated Thursday, June 4 with additional resources, noting works I have engaged with since the original posting, small edits to decenter my perspective, and the reminder that this work does not end. Updated again Friday, August 28 with additional resources and updated works I have engaged with.

Featured

Because Internet

This post is a smidge later than I’d hoped because once again the week has gotten away from me, but I’m really excited about it! After months of eager waiting, some pre-order funny business, and several weeks of stealing time to read, I finished Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch.

It is, seriously, my favorite nonfiction book I’ve read in a looooong time.* And I actually read a hearty helping of nonfiction. If you know me in real life and we’ve talked recently, you’ve probably heard me talk about this book. Funny enough, I considered writing a really similar book a couple years back, but am glad that McCulloch did because frankly she’s way more qualified.

Though this book doesn’t directly address adulting or emerging adulthood like when I discussed The Defining Decade, it breaks down a lot of the major topics of internet language. Because the internet has not only proliferated informal writing, but provided avenues to study it that didn’t previously exist, we can better understand — at least linguistically — how we make use of the tools at our digital disposal, and not just how we shape the tools, but how they influence us.

My favorite two themes from the book: 

Internet users, just like normal people, come in generations. However, I loved that McCulloch didn’t try to break it down by how we currently think about generations (Millennials, Gen X, and so on), but rather by when people came to the internet and what it was like when it first became a significant part of their lives.

I’m definitely a Post Internet person (as are most of my peers), but some of the differences that she highlighted in terms of trends between different generations of internet people illuminated behaviors and communication patterns that I’d previously found puzzling.

Written media doesn’t have to lack communication richness. This is my inner communication major coming out, but it used to drive me absolutely nuts when people would insist that text messages or other chat formats lacked media richness. In other words, that when you’re not here to see my gestures and hear my inflection, there’s no way for me to convey tone and other meaning beyond the literal words. I do that in text messages all the time!

There is, of course, room for misinterpretation. And it does require more effort to indicate sarcasm with punctuation or capitalization than it does to simply modulate my voice as I say a phrase, but it’s definitely possible. While I think this opportunity is one of the best offerings of modern technology, the book also points out that some of the communication mishaps (like whether a period at the end of a message indicates the sender is upset) are due to “generational” differences in both actual age and our relationship to the internet.

So if you are interested in linguistics, English, the internet, or even generational studies, I would enthusiastically recommend Because Internet. I am signing off this weekend to spend time with family, but will also be trying to squeeze in some more reading.

Book recommendations? Thoughts on how emerging adults can make use of the opportunities with internet language? Let me know in a comment below or on Twitter @ohgrowup! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

 

P.S. Please pardon the poor photo quality, my apartment is a bit dim and I didn’t want to wait for daylight haha.

*The usual disclaimer that, as always, I receive no compensation of any kind for discussing this book, and my opinions are entirely my own. Also a shoutout to Gretchen McCulloch for not only writing the book but dealing with all my excited tweets about it.

The Defining Decade

One of the reasons I started this blog was due to frustration that this stage of life has no instruction manual. There is no prescribed path, and no set timeline for when you should do any of those major “adult milestones” like starting your career, getting married, starting a family, etc. This book isn’t an instruction manual. But it is the most well-informed and helpful piece of writing I’ve come across about emerging adulthood and the twentysomething years.*

The author, Dr. Meg Jay, is a renowned and experienced clinical psychologist who manages to ride the line between speaking with wisdom and a removed perspective about people’s twenties without ever being dismissive, pandering, condescending, or judgmental. That’s a huge deal.

The book breaks down into three sections: work, love, and the brain and the body. I found the work section most helpful and informative — likely because that’s the area which I feel the least equipped to handle and the least prepared for.

Of course, the content of the book will strike everyone differently, which is why I highly recommend reading it if you are college-age or in your twenties. It’s an informative read for other ages too, but covers aspects of high school kids don’t need to prioritize yet and would serve as more of an informative (rather than useful) nonfiction piece for folks much over 30. But these are the points that struck me most as I read it, paraphrased and with commentary:

  • “Later” doesn’t mean the distant future — and it might mean now. One of the biggest themes among examples mentioned in the book was twentysomethings feeling like, or at least saying, that all the important things are for later down the road. It can be easy to feel lost at this age, and I’m certainly guilty of procrastinating. But Jay reminds readers that putting off investing in goals — from careers to relationships — is guaranteed to make things harder down the road.
  • The things you care about and are good at have value beyond trivia. Jay calls this “identity capital.” You need to offer more than what’s on your resume, which means identifying and nurturing aspects of who you are that can benefit you and the people around you.
  • Choosing might actually open more doors. Sometimes we delay significant choices or transitions because we’re afraid it will limit our options down the road, especially if we don’t feel like we have “enough” of our future goals figured out. But just starting in the general direction you want to move will make the next steps easier and clearer.
  • Drop the “should.” It’s your life. Stop worrying about what you see all your peers doing on Facebook or what media or your family tells you that you “should” be doing. This stage of life is the first one where people are on such wildly different paths with such varied timelines. Listening to advice and planning well for goals are wise, but if your whole life is run by “should,” you’ll just make yourself miserable.
  • It’s not a time to be unintentional about relationships. Jay mostly talks about romantic relationships, but I think it also applies generally. I feel really glad that I’m in a thoughtful, worthwhile relationship where we actually treat the relationship as something to be tended to. But it can be easy to let that slide, or to not be intentional about investing in friendships and family relationships that are important to us.
  • Show your brain some respect. I had no idea how much brain development actually happens in the emerging adult/twentysomething years. (Hint: It’s a lot.) The cool thing is that means there’s a lot of opportunity to grow and improve. The catch is that you’ve got to capitalize on it — the patterns, habits, and skills you build now are generally the foundation for the rest of your adult life.

There were certain times as I was reading the book where it started to feel like a lot of pressure given all that evidently rides on the twentysomething years. But every time that started to concern me, Jay offered thoughtful commentary and helpful advice to mitigate the pressure. It’s the kind of book that I’d like to pick up and re-read every year or two for the rest of my twenties, and which I wholeheartedly recommend.

Is there a book or article that has helped you decipher the twentysomething years? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

 

*The usual disclaimer that, as always, I receive no compensation of any kind for discussing this book, and my opinions are entirely my own. Also a huge thanks to my friend Kami for recommending the book!

Yours for the reading

Anyone who knows me knows that I am, as my dad once put it, a voracious reader. After the initial kindergarten outrage that the words didn’t follow the rules, they started to come together into stories and facts and tapestries that have captivated me ever since. I mostly have my parents to thank for the fact that I grew up loving books so much, and for making sure I never, ever ran out of things to read.

A book I recently finished was looking at some of the differences between kids who grow up to be successful adults*. One of the most significant factors? Books. Not everybody loves reading, and I get that. But reading — well, frequently, and on a variety of topics — is genuinely one of the most indispensable methods of learning and preparing for success. Reading expands your vocabulary, sharpens your cognitive processing, and fosters empathy; which is something the world sorely needs more of.

When I was a kid, I was remiss to go anywhere without a book. I would pack a quarter of my suitcase full of them on vacations, and used to follow behind my mom in the grocery store, just using my peripherals to navigate so I didn’t have to put the story down. College made reading what I wanted more difficult because I was busy, exhausted, and all my homework was reading, but I’m slowly picking up books more frequently.

Of course, some books are just for fun. But some made a huge difference in how I saw the world, and how I wanted to live in it. So just for fun, below is a list of some of the books that have influenced me most. (Disclaimers that I get no compensation for any recommendations I put up on this blog, and though I’ve included links to them on Amazon because it’s convenient, please consider supporting local and independent bookstores!)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Don’t knock it — this was absolutely my favorite book as a kid, and the one I always wanted to read after a rough day. Fun fact: I can still recite the whole book from memory (though I sometimes muddle up Saturday).

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

When I was in 4th grade, my mom recommended I read this for a book report, and frankly I didn’t want to. I reluctantly started it, and didn’t put it down for the next four days. This book is one of the first that made me not just fall in love with stories, but with words, in addition to igniting my love of all things C. S. Lewis.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

To be honest, this book isn’t particularly high on my list of favorites. But it had a lasting impact on me, and one that I only realized the extent of later. Stargirl is flawed and thoughtful and leaves an impression, and showed me all the potential of quiet, everyday magic.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

History has rarely afforded us the preservation of firsthand accounts from any besides the most powerful, and this slim autobiography is honest, harsh, and hopeful — it implores the reader to open their eyes, and deepened my dedication to looking for stories and perspectives beyond my own. (Also y’all, this one is $1.62 on Amazon right now — pick it up if you haven’t read it.)

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This remains my favorite book in the world, and no other book has caught me the same way. The narration is striking, the story is poignant, and it talks about things we can’t imagine in a way that is surprisingly, hauntingly familiar.

Letters to Malcolm by C.S. Lewis

This books dances on the line between essays and fiction, but it helped teach me how to view life— in all its pain and pulchritude — as even more wondrous. The book talks about prayer while not shying away from any questions or challenges that might arise.

It’s also worth noting that books are by no means the only thing worth reading. Newspapers have taught me more than I could possibly put into words, magazines have been a consistent source of ideas and inspiration, and comic books tell far more true and relevant stories than we often give them credit for. There’s something to learn everywhere you can find words to read. What stories have impacted you most? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

*The book is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell if you’re interested — he’s one of my favorite nonfiction authors.

Debunking dream jobs

Although I doubt it comes as a surprise, your first job more than likely isn’t going to be your dream job (and if it is, it’s really likely that your dream is going to change). Most emerging adults these days are more than aware of that fact, and a job at all is great, while a job in one’s field is pretty sweet.

My very first “real job” (aka not babysitting) was working at the call center at my college. I worked part time in the evenings calling potential donors, and it sucked. My co-workers were great, but asking a bunch of people who usually didn’t want to be bothered to give money over the phone usually isn’t a recipe for a fun experience. Sometimes people would be kind or chat for a bit, some people would be irritable or angry, and sometimes the computer would accidentally dial a fax machine and an insanely loud tone would blare through the headset. Understandably, I didn’t stay there super long.

My first paid full-time job is the one I’m in now. It is, thankfully, infinitely better than the call center. Pay is good, I like my co-workers, and the work is something I’m both skilled at and decently enjoy. But like any job, it’s not perfect. My desk is in a weird spot and my work is super feast or famine — I’ll be slammed with a bunch of assignments, and then may have nothing come my way for multiple hours. I still do side jobs now and then for the extra income, and I honestly have no idea how long I want to stay in this role.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a job I’m both happy with and super grateful for — but dream job? Like any other little kid, growing up I went through a host of jobs I thought I wanted to do when I grew up, from waitress to teacher to writer to grocery store bagger (and yes, the last one is for real). But here’s the thing: Just like how what a little kid wants to be when they grow up often changes, your dream job can and probably will change as an adult too.

One of the most noticeable differences in terms of career with today’s emerging adults when compared to generations past is that we don’t start working with one company and then stay there for 40 or 10 or sometimes even 2 years. Today’s culture means each of us will likely change jobs and even career paths multiple times. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average person will hold more than 11 jobs in their lifetime. That’s kind of a lot. But the moral of the story is simple. Don’t freak out if you don’t know what you want to do for the rest of your life. Don’t freak out if your first job isn’t the dream. And don’t freak out if your dream changes over time. (Are you sensing a trend here?)

In his book Outliers, which is about what patterns contributes to success, Malcolm Gladwell explains that there are three necessary characteristics for meaningful work: complexity, autonomy, and a clear relationship between effort and reward.

Not every job out there is going to fulfill all those things for you. And a job that does for one person may not for another; you are perfectly allowed to have your cup of tea. But if you’re still trying to navigate jobs and career paths — which in truth, is most of us — it can be a really helpful tool to see if the work will feel meaningful while being less intimidating (and less potentially misleading) than “Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life?”

Try some stuff you’re good at. If you’re still in college, take classes or do internships in things that interest you. Do research online. If you know exactly what you want to do, awesome. But if you’re still figuring it out, or realize what you want to do has changed, that’s totally okay. I still love bagging my own groceries, but that’s no longer my career aspiration, ya know? I hope that was helpful, and I’d love to hear any feedback you have in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!