We’ve been in the midst of a reckoning. As I write this missive, the banner across my tv screen reads “Fauci says no time frame for life returning to normal.”
Which begs the question: what is normal?
What does “ normal” mean when in 2021 the confederate flag, a symbol of treason and white supremacy, can be proudly and freely carried through the chambers of the US capitol?
What does “normal” mean when law enforcement and the military met Black and brown protesters for racial justice with violence while many met white nationalist-led insurrectionists with a combination of benign indifference, tolerance, and exuberant welcome.
What does “normal” mean when the general consensus on what constitutes fact has been destroyed and any opinion or idea–no matter how ill-informed, devoid of critical thinking, or meritless–can be treated as valid?
What does “normal” mean when Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have a disproportionately higher rate of COVID mortality?
What does “normal” mean when it takes Congress nine months to pass a second stimulus bill as millions of people are hungry, being evicted, and being laid-off and fired?
What does “normal” mean when a law enforcement officer, sworn to protect the constitutional rights of everyone and serve the community they patrol uses 8 minutes and 15 seconds of his shift with his knee on the neck of a human being–resulting in the murder of George Floyd?
In January, these two images were seared in my heart and mind…..The first the embodiment of terror and hate, the second the embodiment of hope…..On a chilly January day the inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman “a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother” proclaimed …..
So while once we asked,
how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?
Now we assert
How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was
but move to what shall be
….We will not be turned around
or interrupted by intimidation
because we know our inaction and inertia
will be the inheritance of the next generation
During this year of hard truths and flagrant lies I have continued to believe in the power of our undergraduate learning community; belief in you as individuals and belief in you collectively. I have a deep knowing in my bones that our survival and the survival of the planet will come from your efforts and the work of those like you.
We will continue to walk together into and through the reckoning, through the rupture, towards creation of something new.
Ruptures occur when the forces acting on a surface build beyond what can be sustained. They can be violent, life-threatening events, as in the rupture of a major artery or vital organ. They can also herald the emergence of new life, as in the rupturing of the amniotic sac as the body prepares for birth. Either way, ruptures signal a dramatic shift.
What held fast one moment bursts open the next. Whatever was contained within breaks loose. There’s no going back to the way things were.
This is a moment of widespread rupturing at multiple levels of individual and collective life. Some of these ruptures reflect old patterns of violence and oppression, re-inflicted along predictable lines of power and privilege. Others reveal cracks and contradictions in the systems, structures, values, and institutions on which these violent patterns are founded.
What can we learn from this process of upheaval about what we need to protect, what we need to heal, and what we need to let fall apart?
How can we support the work of shaping a more liberated future from the wreckage?
Each of us must contend with these ruptures from our own social location, informed by our own constellation of identities and experiences. Each of us may be shielded in some ways, exposed in others. Some of us are reveling in new births and dreaming up new ways of being; some of us are coping with shattering loss; many of us are struggling to somehow do it all at once.
How then do we imagine and pursue creation out of chaos to serve intersectional justice in our bodies, lives and communities?
This letter was written to the Goddard College Undergraduate Program students to begin the Spring 2021 virtual residency.
“I was born a teacher and a student and have come to know organically that learning is an act of liberation and teaching an act of love. I believe learning is both emancipatory and subversive. Since 1987 my work as a clinician, educator, consultant, researcher and social justice activist has centered on issues that illuminate the impact of the intersection of gender, race and class and sexual orientation on the individual, on organizations, on communities and on academic institutions. My lived experience as a woman of color, a multicultural feminist educator and social justice activist informs my conviction that education is the practice of freedom.” Learn more about Muriel E. Shockley and the Goddard College Undergraduate Programs.