This is Where You Start: A Love Letter to My Future Child

Advent 2017

I’m staring out into the night from my kitchen table writing you: to my belief in you.  Your world is, to me, barely glimpsed, like the moon slipping from behind the clouds.  Here, it is the holiday season, and we have just gotten our Christmas tree, as people have done for hundreds of years during this season.  We bring the wilderness of the forest into our homes, to sit and keep watch with.  

But there is a wilderness in this season that is growing that is not the kind that embraces you with warmth, but a wilderness bent to keep us in darkness for good, or rather, in the shadow of a deathly pale.[1]  I extend my hand to you across this time and across whatever storm is coming, sending a whisper to into the heart of things to come: this future beyond these pale times, which I too must believe in.

The time I write you from is a time of everyday tyrants.  Perhaps tyranny is something the human spirit will always be tempted by.  But the story I want to tell you is of a particular tyranny that aims to wrap around the hearts of people who look like you and me, and that tries to eat the bodies of people who are darker-skinned than you me and this tyranny is killing us all, in different ways, and it is killing some people faster than others.  Our awareness of the sickness and death in which we live varies, if we are even aware of it, as does the diagnosis and treatment plan.  But what is clear is that we are dying.

You must know about the belief that people with white skin are better than people who have darker skin.  It is called white supremacy.  Together with the tighter and tighter, desperate grip of global capitalism, these are the strongest demons in my generation and the generations before mine.  That is what it is: a demon.  Not a demon that has horns and shows itself as such but a demon that learns to become so mundane it becomes indiscernible to she whom it inhabits, a demon that makes a home in small genuflections of the body, in raised voices or hushed voices, in silences and in the corners of mouths.  A demon of fear, of cowardice, and narrow, horrid imagination.

Whiteness is called the “unmarked marker”[2] because it works so that if you’re white, you’re meant to not see it.  Last year, a man was elected president whom many white people could not believe could be elected president.  Because we believed he did not reflect our country’s values.  All over the news and over Twitter, his assaults, meanness, unabashed greed and love-for-self rang like a callous joke.  After it happened, I noticed myself waking up with a weight holding me down in the bed, wanting to go to sleep again.  Everything was a gray headache-haze, and the next morning, your father and I put together a “go-pack” we had been planning.  For months we had been talking about how bad things may happen and that we may someday need to flee or that our presence may be needed in uncertain circumstances with others.  It seemed like we should finally get around to getting ready.  We mournfully brought out cans and granola bars to the kitchen table, looking across at each other with hollow faces.  

In just a few hours, it all felt quite silly.  I went to classes and saw the eyes of my black and brown friends.  Their faces were not hollow and shell-shocked like mine, but knowing: knowing that this man represented exactly our country’s values; knowing that they could never be safe here, that this country was not built for them.  And yet.  Their ancestors had bent the universe such that they could live.  

A year later we have eaten through the granola bars in our go-pack.  Occasionally we refill it, because we hang on to this fanciful idea in the back of our minds of one day when everything might change, for the better or for the terribly worse.  Yet this anticipated catastrophe is never as it appears.  No: it is the regular unfolding of daily life.  This year  I learned to secure my communications from government surveillance and began use the word “Neo-Nazi” in everyday sentences.  This year, people have been deported and mothers and fathers and children have been locked up, as they have in may years past, but now, faster.  This year, languages and species went extinct.

This year, babies were born.  This year, we got married.  This year, millions of people marched in the streets.  This year, some people wrote stories of new worlds and sang about freedom, and acted towards it.

It is a time not so different from any other in which across the stage of life, there is a drama of hope and suffering and the breaking of bodies and the rise and fall of people who lust for power or work for justice.  Except that underneath the set of the play, the very ground and water we stand on is collapsing.  For millennia this planet has often been unlivable for many people – for the poor, for women, for black and brown people, for people who love differently and whose genders expand out of boxes.  But this time, because of acts of greed and “willful ignorance” [3] for generations we may have finally made the planet unlivable not only for these but for all people, all creatures.  From cyanobacteria to the neighbor whose name you can’t remember to Donald Trump.  This world-on-hospice is the world you will inherit, whose contours I can only imagine.  The world I imagine some days with horror and some days with abiding hope about how people will use their creativity to discover new paradigms, new, breathtaking ways of living together, about how they may find shalom.

I open my hands, light my first Advent candle and pray:

May your generation be the ones to finally throw off the lie of whiteness which our ancestors thought would save them from pain. May you know it as demon and exorcise it at every go. For your children, may white supremacy be a thing of museums like dinosaurs and the shards of ancient pots.  

I pray because somehow I think it will not be so, and that it will not be so easy– that danger will always lurk around the corner, that new terrors will come of these old ideas, poisoning people in new proportions and designs, sneaky as ever.  And because of this, you need to know where you came from, who you came from, and the truth about it all.  You must know what crimes they did, and you also must know what dreams they dreamed: the malevolent, scared dreams, and also their noble ones.  Because if you do not know this history you only will get stuck in its despairing grooves like ankles in sand holes, again, and again, and again…


Your ancestors did not come from here.  There are places that your ancestors really came from.  We who are an invasive species here once came from a Place where our language was tied to every nook and corner of the land our peoples had lived in for millennia, where the language was different twenty miles away and even more different twenty miles from that.  Many of our ancestors never wanted to leave the corner of the world where they knew all the stories and where they could tell you just how the birds fly and what weeds you can eat by the side of the path.

You come from people who, as generations went on and on, left the places they knew because of hunger and war and blood.  Or because they thought they knew the right ways to worship God and were longing to get into heaven and to get some of their own earthly treasure in the meantime.  You come from people, who through all this, often became very scared and very sad.

You come from people who through all this fear and sadness and excitement, and the thoughts of something better for their children, settled for a violent compromise. In leaving behind what we were running from or in lust of what we were running towards, we became bonded with others from the same continent against a new enemy: Native peoples.  Africans.  Anything and anyone dark.  They – the dark ones – became the problem.  We became white.  And we became, in our eyes, right.

“But no community can be based on such a principle.  No community can be based on so genocidal a lie.” [4]
And so, as we gained our false safety, we lost what it means to be community.  This memory was erased so fast that we hardly knew it was gone…and the taste for power over others was too good.

You come from people who sometimes knew they were signing up for this and sometimes did not.  You come from people who wittingly or unwittingly passed it down like an ugly family heirloom that no one really understands but which we came to believe we couldn’t live without.  

And this is how the people you came from forgot how to have courage.  Sometimes they didn’t want to stir the pot.  Sometimes it’s because there were many other things to do, or because it was getting on Christmas.  This, this is the hardest thing you’ll ever contend with: not the police, not the politicians, but the slow ways in which you can learn to go about life while living with evil unnamed, while living with the the devil at your bedside as cozy as hot chocolate and a nighttime prayer.   

You come from people who went about their lives, who made ends meet and tried to stake out ways to get some of their own: their own happiness, their own peace. You come from people who grew tomatoes and green beans in a patch behind the house, who brought the kids to church and school plays.  You come from people who prayed for God’s Kingdom come…  

Every so often, your ancestors were courageous in small or large ways in the face of the racist customs and mores and systems of separation they lived in.  These are the stories that are passed down the most, because they are the ones we like to talk about.  Eliezer, the doctor who may have used his country wagon to harbor slaves coming up through the Underground Railroad. When your great-grandma helped integrate the Girl Scouts’ troop.  Find these stories, listen, and hold them fast.

But the other stories that are not told, the stories kept in suitcases in people’s minds that we don’t want to open – these stories too, you must know.  

People may tell you the racists and white supremacists and klansmen and Indian-killers were other people: that it was Mrs. Iverson from bridge club who said vile things about “the help.”  That it was Mr. Roberts who wouldn’t hire a black man.

But you must know that this is a deflection that the mind does to run away from itself.  It was not other people.  It was your ancestors.  It was me.  And you must accept us for our full selves, for otherwise you cannot accept yourself.  

You may know your ancestors were not any different than anyone else of their times, because when these things do come up, there is an admission of the truth in small moments: a shrug and a quick move of an eye, in thick silence and fast breathing, the bodily signs of deep wells of shame and fear of the self you know too well.

Slowly, the stories will come out between conversations or pages of memory books you linger your finger over: the stories that defined the landscapes we inherited and passed down, the landscapes that make the geography of well-suppressed memory inscribed on your bones.  Stories you will not be able to reconcile with the people who are so kind and loving, and who did so much to be proud of, who worked so hard so you could live.

You will learn that the settlers who came to Massachusetts Bay Colony were not Pilgrims with innocence in their eyes but with fear and loathing: fear and loathing of Catholics, of other Protestants not like them, and most of all, fear and loathing of Pequots and Wampanoags and brownness.

You will learn that nine out of ten of the Protestant men in the town your great-great-grandparents lived were a part of the Klan.

You will learn how great-Grandma Anne who would never hurt a fly was in a sorority, and that it was her job to check the girls’ family records to make sure there was no drop of black blood in them, and that there are stories of her throwing bricks at black girls.  

You will learn that great-grandpa was able to go to college because of the GI bill because he was white.

You will learn how your grandmother had a white cat and a black cat, and how she called the black one “N*gger,” as a joke, and how she blushed when folks talked about it, and laughed and shook her head and said, “I don’t know why I did that.

And people will say: “That’s the way things were then.  Boy, things have changed.  Let’s talk about something nice.”


But you must not change the subject.  Because sound travels slowly, and the screams of Africans on the Middle Passage are still in the ocean waves. [5] And you too must live with these waves still crashing against and shaping the shores.  Their screams, and the cheers or muffled gasps of our own ancestors who ate the sugar and wore the cotton, are here in the matter of the universe and there is no use looking away.  Obscuring the truth about the crimes we, your people, committed will not protect you from reaping what we sowed.

No matter what I will teach you differently, you will inherit a false moral landscape, a map of “good” and “bad” from this history.  You will learn from the air and images and hushed words around you about “good” neighborhoods and “bad” neighborhoods, and the “good” places have J. Crews and white people in them and the “bad” neighborhoods have black people in them.  People will show you with their words or with their actions that there are “good” people who look like you and there are “bad people” who do not, people who they show on TV as criminals who are almost always black, and brown people who they call terrorists who have different names for God.

You will learn from taking in these world-stories that beg for your compliance, that evil does not work in a way where there is one clear choice.  Evil is just telling and believing a bad story: a bad story with lethal consequences.  You will also learn that in the face of this bad story, of this mean imagining,[6] there are not people who do right and people who do wrong but largely people who become well-practiced at looking aside or who think that kindness is not causing trouble, and that is how things get worse.  You’ll begin to think about every time this same feeling has sunk upon you – every silence at a joke, every time you turned off the news when you were overwhelmed.  And suddenly you will not feel so far from your ancestors at all.  Indeed, you are someone’s ancestor.

You will become overwhelmed because you always thought that you would have been someone to hide a Jewish family or sit-in at a cafeteria table.  But the more you learn about these times the more you realize that the people who let the Holocaust happen and let lynchings happen and let children be bombed in churches were the nice, liberal people.[7] They were the people who wouldn’t tell Mrs. Iverson otherwise when she whispered segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.  You always thought it would be a clear choice, that one day, there would be a train of people shipped off to a camp and you could help stop it.  But no: it happens in a daily trickle of deportations and disappearances that don’t make the news, until before you know it, a wall or other mechanisms of suffocation are going up around your country, your neighborhood, your mind, and people are being shipped off to prisons in record numbers because that is the Way Things Are now, that is the Way Things Are tomorrow, that is the Way Things Are forever.

This awareness will be paralyzing: the recognition that you are a German accountant in the 1930s, that you are a settler waking up the next morning after Indians were massacred in the night, that you are walking by Black students getting spit on at cafeteria counters, or that you are spitting at them yourself.  You will find out that history, like the future, is only an infinite succession of presents,[8] and this is terrifying.  

But you must keep peeling back the layers.  Every muddy, reeking layer.  You must not let people tell you it is just a phase or that telling or wanting the truth is just the zeal of the young.  You must not stop feeling, must not ever say, “It will get better if we just wait,” or “this is the Way Things Are.”  You can live in ways people say are not reasonable.  And you can be unreasonable because you are not alone.  

There are other people who feel grief and rage and who long to breathe beyond the pale.  Find them.  And you must believe this person is in everyone, if you listen well enough and pay attention.  You must hang on to each other, and together, you must not believe in your powerlessness.  You also must realize that you will not recover truth and justice in one go, nor is that your job, but “neither are you free to abandon it.”[9]

Even together, you will lose.  Most of the time.  You will be wrong.  Most of the time.  And no matter your intentions and vision, you will hurt these people you love.  All this losing and all this being wrong and the magnitude of Things You Do Not Know will be exhausting.  But remember, you are just learning to walk.[10]  Every time you wake up to the ways you are complicit, every time you are called to accountability, every time you bear witness to a person of color’s anger and truth, the demon is being called out from you, and you must keep going.  You must keep letting your grief awaken you.  And you must keep learning about other people’s grief and rage and dreams, especially of the people who you are taught not to believe or listen to.  

If you are lucky enough to join and to follow people of color out of Pharoah’s Egypt – not the empires of history books but this global empire, this legacy of white supremacy right here right now – you must know that you will get tired.  Because the system is not built for you to leave, and there are merely bread crumbs to follow.  Remember that people of color have been tired for much, much longer.  Since the first slave ship landed in Virginia.  Since the first burning of a native village and broken promise in Connecticut.  They are tired of being invisible.  They are tired of being told in ever so many ways that their lives don’t matter.  They are tired of their histories and languages being stolen and their bodies sacrificed at the unrelenting temple of whiteness.  They are tired of people dying who look like them, dying just for being born.  Tired of having to justify their reality.  They are tired…and yet.

You and me, we are not used to what to do when we are tired, what to do when we have to get back up again after loss.  At the same time that they were severing people of color from the lifeblood of their cultures’ deepest wisdoms, our ancestors did the double, strange work of severing us from our own.  They did not pass down to us what to do when we are tired or in pain or afraid, because that is what whiteness gave us a pass out of through easy violence and unearned prize.[11]  That is why now, we give up so easily when things do not go as we plan, when struggles for change do not yield fast reward.

I will you tell now: When you are tired, when you are scared, when you are full of anger, take these things in your hands.  They are blessed sacrament.

You are alive.  
You have not been anesthetized.   
Do not bury your anger and heartache under a rock of false peace.  Plant them in the topsoil of your longing.  Water them with evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).


All of this is what it means to have faith.  It is not glamorous and is not packing a go pack to join the blessed side of history.  To have faith is not that moment.  It is to get up every morning and when you feel the weight of all things that are wrong upon your chest, to not let despair win, to not let doubt or cynicism freeze you into un-being, and to not believe the seductions that what it means to live is to be comfortable and unbothered.  This is hard, and that is why it is what Jesus talks about it when he talks about salvation being about losing your life and taking up the cross.  In becoming white, your and my ancestors tried to gain the whole world.  But what does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? [12]  That path led to death: death for people who we called not-white, death for the planet, death to our own spirits, death to our ability to think straight and see what is for our own good, for the world’s good, to even know the good.  You must ask yourself, “what will happen with all that beauty,” [13] that has been lost, and the beauty that can be found?

This strangest mystery of all is that it is through losing our lives that we save them.  This is utterly different than suicide from despair.  No, it is “revolutionary suicide,” the one thing Jesus taught that the churches didn’t want to believe, and the only thing that mattered. Lynice Pinkard says:

“By this I mean not the killing of our bodies but the destruction of our attachments to security, status, wealth, and power. These attachments prevent us from becoming spiritually and politically alive. They prevent us from changing the violent structure of the society in which we live. Revolutionary suicide means living out our commitments, even when that means risking death…This is resistance with meaning: creation and action emerging out of the struggle for life.” [14]

Death is the problem whiteness tried to offer a cure for. [15]  Our ancestors believed in and passed down the fiction of whiteness because it seemed like it could help us avoid what we could not face – our body’s brokenness and sickness, the fact that we were not all we hoped to be.  Capitalism and whiteness offered us a way out of these anxieties, we thought: they made us each into little, pathetic gods that believed the earth and other people’s bodies were ours to rule and to be enriched by, and that this kingdom would last forever and ever amen [16] and that even after our physical deaths we’d live forever next to a white Jesus who blessed the whole thing.

But whiteness did not do away with death.  It increased it mightily: it exported our suffering onto others, devouring black and brown people’s bodies and land.  And by exporting our suffering, it made us unwilling to accept or understand the suffering of ourselves.  It made us into fragile, fearful people.  Fragile, fearful people with nuclear bombs.  Fragile, fearful people without our long-ago cultural memories of how to survive without abusing power. [17]  Fragile, fearful people with fences around our homes and police who we believe protect us from darkness and dark bodies.  For as long as we call the police to do our violence for us, we cannot believe in nonviolence. [18]

Yes: The price that our ancestors paid for their whiteness was their “full capacity for aliveness and humanity.” [19] That is why in order to fully come alive, you must become a friend to your death.  The death of your certainty, the death of your self-righteousness, and even the possibility of the death of your body in the struggle for life, not because because you seek death but because as you become alive, this will be a threat to the death cults that reign. This is the Saving Word.  That you don’t have to be locked down in the fictions your ancestors grasped onto, and this is why you must throw off white supremacy in the battle for a new economic structure and new ways of being with the earth.  You must stake your life on “the promise that more aliveness is possible.” [20] You must keep watch.

Our Puritan ancestors in England and New England were obsessed with being baptized because they believed so fervently in the promises of being born again in Christ.  But this promise may not have been what they thought it meant.  It’s true meaning – this promise of life as you shed violence’s false eternity – is always within your reach, waiting to be touched.  This baptism is not once but always: always dying, always being reborn.  We must not settle for whatever meat pots of the Empire we are leaving which may be offered us, we, the Egyptians, on this way out of Egypt, [21] but realize that in the wilderness, things will be very hard and we’ll continue to die little deaths, and still, it is worth it. Because you know this now, you can walk into such a future without fear: “Once a revolutionary has reckoned with the fact that she is a dead person, she can get on with the business of asking who she is going to be now and how she will live out her new life.” [22] All of this is deeply worth living for. And this is what really gives us “victory o’er’ the grave.” [23]

“Go preach my gospel,” saith the Lord. “Bid the whole earth my grace receive. Explain to them my sacred word. Bid them believe, obey, and live.” [24]


…But what, you ask, to do with all these ancestors?

You will want to throw them away, because the ghosts are too much to carry.  Because they are shameful and embarrassing. You will want to be a Nobody who came from No-One.

But you must resist this temptation.  You must invite us in.  Our contradictions are gifts for you to carry, because we will teach you about your own. You must let the past in, expand outward from it, and only in this way will you know what you, and those who come after you, can expand into.

Many of our ancestors tried to live for (and even died for) a grand idea of freedom but they did not yet know what it meant to be free.  Nor did they know what it meant to have wealth.  For “real wealth is not the possession of property but the recognition that our deepest need, as human beings, is to keep developing our natural and acquired powers and to relate to other human beings.” [25]  I think that many of our ancestors’ hearts had developed such a capacity for un-seeing that as white supremacy grew they truly found their desires met there; they found an easy road out of their own pain by enjoying the myth of their superiority, and that they would defend it till the day they died.  

But I also believe many of them may have had a glimmer of belief in something different that they didn’t know what to do about it or find a language for.  The languages of whiteness and individualism and patriotism that became their daily bread were not built to express such hopes without taking the teeth out of them, without taking out the danger to the systems which those hopes represented.  I believe that along with baggage of guilt and fear and denial of atrocities or of hapless defense of them, I know our ancestors also carried around with them thoughts that things could be Otherwise.

Sometimes they may have had these thoughts as a child, when anything seemed possible.  Sometimes they may have said such things out loud late at night as the fire was going out, and a couple whiskeys had been had, or as they rocked their children to sleep.  Sometimes they may have only know them in unexplainable dreams, or midnight panics that someday they may have to meet their God, and what God’s children were doing was not what God wanted.  Maybe for some, these thoughts caused them to fight back, to be brave, and even if we do not know about it, each of those times mattered.  

You must believe your ancestors knew this, somewhere.  That they knew what it could be to truly live and love, regardless of whether they ever could, or tried.  You must remember that every highest thought your ancestors’ had for the siblinghood of all people, every grief felt after an act of violence, every terror at injustice that may or not have been expressed – these are a part of you.  And yes, so too are the moments of inaction, the moments of cruelty and greed, the violence, the inner confusion, the cowardice.  Your ancestors live in you, the good parts, and the bad, and because you are now the one with young toes in the soil of this earth, they only feel that earth through you – they walk here too because of you, and it is not too late to let their feet feel the soils of true freedom, not in property and ownership, but in love, in mutual dependence, and reparation of the past.

As you carry your ancestors here and now, you must let them witness with sighs and weeping of confession, of relief, of repentance.  You must show them what is possible on this planet.  You must show them real joy, and your joy must not be a crumb, [27] but the joy of death into life. You must believe this is what they wanted for you all along, even if within the confines of limited dreams.  This, at least, I hope is what you can do for me.

Remember: you are not alone.  Remember: I will never leave you, because I too, wonder whether love and right and good will win, because I too am scared, I too, am sad, I too, imagine things unseen, and I too, want to keep on the journey to become human, [28] which is yours to continue.  It is far too boring, and the stakes are too high, to give up.  It is this story, of becoming human(e), that can be yours to pass on: not the ugly heirloom, but the story of where we came from and what happened and the demons that got inside of us and how we threw them off and turned around, and the story of how to keep turning, turning turning…

Till by turning, turning, we come round right. [29]  

There are no maps for this Way.  There are only signposts. [30] But I will say to you: you are born to a deeper belonging [31] than whiteness ever offered us.  There is a deeper well than fear. Go: Find it.

Where you find it, these are the first signposts.   This is where you start.



[1] In a blog posted from November 9, 2016, adrienne maree brown pushed back on describing the time after Donald Trump’s election as a “dark time.” She writes, “[I] remembered that Steven Barnes, in the alternate history classic Lion’s Blood, flipped the script of who had power. in a world where Africans held power, everything was ‘a pale, pale time’. it occurs to me that this is not a dark time at all, not a dark age. it is a pale, pale time.” From “A range of reflections on resilience,” November 9, 2016, <>

 [2] See Ruth Frankenberg, Displacing Whiteness: Essays in Social and Cultural Criticism (Durham (N.C.): Duke University Press, 1999).

[3] James Baldwin repeats the idea of willful ignorance among white people throughout his writings. See James Baldwin, Collected Essays, Edited by Toni Morrison, (The Library of America: New York, NY, 1998).

 [4] James Baldwin, “On Being White…and Other Lies,” in David R. Roediger, Black on White: Black Writers on What it Means to Be White (New York: Schocken Books, 1999), 178-179.

[5] Autumn Brown shares how Alexis Pauline Gumbs told her about the scientific reality of sound moving much slower than light, and how that means her African ancestors’ voices are literally still present.  “Let the Ancestors Speak,” Podcast, “How to Survive the End of the World,” November 28, 2017 <>

[6] Thomas Glave, Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), 21.

[7] Jin S. Kim, “Overcome Evil With Good,” Church of All Nations, Sermon, September 3, 2017 <>

[8] “The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (Beacon Press, 2018).

[9] Talmud, Pirkei Avot 2:21.

[10] James Cone writes, When whites undergo the true experience of conversion wherein they die to whiteness and are reborn anew in order to struggle against white oppression and for the liberation of the oppressed, there is a place for them in the black struggle of freedom.  Here reconciliation becomes God’s gift of blackness through the oppressed of the land…But white converts, if there are any to be found, must be made to realized that they are like babies who have barely learned how to walk and talk.” James H. Cone, God of the Oppressed, (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2000), 222.

[11] Tada Hozumi argues that white people have “low emotional resilience in relationship, especially around conversations about race, even though they experience vast amounts of White privilege,” partly because of  “disconnection or unhealthy connection to parental cultures” (ancestral and ethnic cultures which whiteness superceded).  See Tada Hozumi, “Whiteness as Cultural Complex Trauma,” November 11, 2017. <>

[12] Luke 9:25 (New Revised Standard Version).

[13] James Baldwin, “The Fire Next Time,” Baldwin: Collected Essays, Edited by Toni Morrison, (The Library of America: New York, NY, 1998).

[14] Lynice Pinkard, “Revolutionary Suicide,” Tikkun Magazine, San Francisco Vol. 28, Iss. 4,  (Fall 2013): 31-35,64-69.

[15] Allyn Steele, “We Are All Going to Die,” Podcast, The Word is Resistance, September 3, 2017, <>

[16] “Whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!” W. E. B. Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil (New York, NY: Verso Books, 2016), 18.

[17] See Tada Hozumi, “Whiteness as Cultural Complex Trauma.”

[18] Nichole Deane, Facebook Post, November 2017.

[19] Lynice Pinkard, “Revolutionary Suicide.”

[20] Lynice Pinkard, “Revolutionary Suicide.”

[21] Nichola Torbett, “The Meat Pots of White Supremacy,” The Word is Resistance, Podcast, September 24, 2017. <> See also Laurel Dykstra, Set Them Free: The Other Side of Exodus (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002).

[22] Lynice Pinkard, “Revolutionary Suicide.”

[23] “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” Latin hymn, 12th century; trans. John M. Neale, 1851.

[24] “The Commission,” hymn, Words by Isaac Watts, Lift Every Voice and Sing II: An African American Hymnal, #161.

[25] Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-first Century (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2012).

[26] Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (Beacon Press, 2012), 42. 

[27] The Miriam Webster dictionary definition of “humanity:” compassionate, sympathetic, or generous behavior or disposition : the quality or state of being humane.

[28] The Hebrew word shuv שׁוּב often translated as “repentance” means “to return.”

[29] From “Simple Gifts,” Shaker song, words and music by Joseph Brackett, 1848.  For another sung image of turning, see “There’s a New World Coming,” by Bernice Johnson Reagan: “There’s a new world coming! Everything’s gon be turning over/Everything’s gon be turning over/Where you gon be standing when it comes?”

[30] Vincent Harding interviewed by Krista Tippett, “Is America Possible?” OnBeing, Republished November 10, 2016,<>

[31] The South African term ubuntu translates to “born to belonging.” Mab Segrest describes the meaning that “We are all born to belonging, and we know ourselves as humans in just an mutual relationship to one another.” Mab Segrest, Born to Belonging: Writings on Spirit and Justice (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002), 2. 


1 thought on “This is Where You Start: A Love Letter to My Future Child”

  1. So much gratitude for this. Thank you for sharing what you are learning about throwing off the demons of white supremacy, turning, turning, and becoming human.

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