Shortly after I started as division chair in 2017, Exemplary Girlfriend checked in with me:
How are you? How is life as division chair? Are you mired in bureaucracy? Or pleasantly surprised?
I am good. A little manic, actually. Mired doesn’t quite capture it. More like frenetic. Every day there is some new fairly major thing that lands on my plate, something that is a 2-50 hour job, always relying on pushing the right lever in the bureaucracy. I would not say pleasantly surprised. I would say energized by being a constant state of mild anger. It sounds bad, but it’s weird that I don’t mind it.
She captured exactly what was happening with me:
You are fueled by indignation.
Yes! That was exactly right.
Fast forward to 2020.
And you’re telling me that you have no hesitation posting a selfie of yourself… or what you’re eating for dinner, and yet you’re telling me that you’re afraid to say something because you might hurt other people’s feelings? Or you don’t know what to say? Or you don’t have an audience to reach? Were you thinking those things when you posted the other photos? I don’t think you were.
Here I am posting my stories about telemarketers and family milestones. Silent on police brutality, systemic racism, and white privilege.
It’s true that I don’t know what to say. It’s also true that if I say something, it may be the wrong thing, as I likely have terrible judgment of what the wrong thing is in this context. In this New York Times Opinion piece, the author Chad Sanders explains that “don’t feel that you need to respond” is a wrong thing to say to a Black person. Too bossy. We don’t get to tell him how to feel. He writes,
Not only are these people using me as a waste bin for guilt and shame, but they’re also instructing me on what not to feel, silencing me in the process. In an unusually honest admission of power imbalance, the texter is informing me I don’t have to respond.
Here’s my attempt to say something, in the form of an invitation to anyone reading this:
Fuel my indignation.
I’m working on it myself, but I’ll take your fuel, too.