The Gifts of Imperfection – Reflection: Shame and Racism

shameOne of the biggest barriers to people dealing with and confronting their racism is shame. Like most people, I feel great shame when I engage with the world in a racist way. The word racism and racist invoke abhorrent feelings in people and we do all we can to distance ourselves from such labels. It is unfortunate that the word racism has taken on such negative connotation that people can no longer confront moments of racism without experiencing significant and debilitating shame.

But wait, isn’t shame a good thing? Doesn’t it mean that the person will no longer engage in racist acts if they experience shame when they do these things? American culture norms have led us to believe that shame is a great motivator of change. However, the academic research, including Brene Brown’s work, demonstrate that guilt is the great motivator of change while shame is the inhibitor of change. Shame causes us to withdraw, retreat, and quite often, engage in the behavior more. When people feel shame around a racist action, they hide it and disengage from it. There is no change, only retreat.

I can attest to this from personal experience. In my last reflection, I mentioned how when I was living in Washington, DC, I was in a mixed race neighborhood which at the time was majority persons of color. Due to various circumstances, I stopped feeling safe in that neighborhood, though, truth be told, I had not felt completely safe to start with due to my racist ideas of majority persons of color neighborhoods being ghettos. Instead of confronting my underlying racist beliefs about the relative lack of safety in this neighborhood, I felt great shame. I had moved to that neighborhood specifically to experience a more diverse community, but instead, deeply ingrained stereotypes and prejudice impacted my view and I determined it was not possible to feel safe in that neighborhood any longer. I moved to a predominately white, upper class neighborhood and shoved my shame down as far as I could. I felt great shame about how I reacted to the various circumstances and my decision to leave. But because I felt the heavy burden of shame, instead of confronting these thoughts and making great changes, I was paralyzed, causing me to shove down the shame and move on to other things.

Partly through my work with Brene Brown’s books, I have begun to work with the racist stereotypes and prejudices that arise in my life. I am able to work with the shame of racism because I can now speak shame and know it for what it is – an emotion that I can choose to deal with. Now, I use critical awareness to determine where these thoughts come from. All of us, every day, see dozens of racist messages and stereotypes in the media, in how society is structured, in what the people around us say or do, and in most things around us. Being critically aware that these messages can come from outside us can reduce the feelings of shame and move us towards guilt. It is simply not possible to never have a racist thought or inclination. Instead, what is possible is that we learn ways to deal with, face, confront, and change our behavior and thoughts. For many of us, that may only be possible after working through our own shame issues, whether through Brown’s methods or some other method. It is vital in order for us to grow that we address and speak shame, stifling its power, and ensuring we move towards being better people.

Have you thought about the connection between shame and racism before? How have you addressed your shame issues? Are there particular techniques you use to work through racist thoughts and actions? Please share your experience below in the comment section!

The Gifts of Imperfection – Reflection: Stillness

stillnessSource: https://pixabay.com/photo-691848/ through Creative Commons CC0 license

Today, as often happens after much activity, I had a moment where I wanted, and needed quiet. More accurately, I hear this voice in my head which says, “I need to sit a minute.” But when I sit, I then become restless for lack of something to do, so then I usually engage in an activity that is quiet, like crocheting. While these moments of quiet are useful, they never full restore me nor fully get me to pause, and I end up back in the hamster wheel of – must keep moving. Today, was different though, because right after I heard the, “I need to sit a minute” voice, I heard a new voice, which said, “you need stillness, which means you need to meditate!” Where did that new voice come from? I had just been listening to Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection (Kindle preview), on the difference between calm and stillness and the importance of both. I have up until now resisted meditation as a regular practice, but it now occurs to me that I was likely resistant to the practice because of how I was framing it. Stillness, as Brown defines it, “is not about focusing on nothingness; it is about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally chatter-free space allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question” (p 108). I had not thought of stillness like that before, nor had I thought of meditation as creating this “emotionally chatter-free space.” I tend to need these moments of stillness after moments of emotional activity, making it now obvious that what I needed was stillness. But I was mistaking my need to sit a minute for needing calm and that wasn’t restoring me. Calm and quiet wasn’t restoring me because, according to Brown, calm is about “creating perspective and mindfulness, while managing emotional reactivity” (p 106) [emphasis added]. These needed moments of sitting a minute weren’t coming in the middle of emotional reactivity, or necessarily after such a moment either, but rather were coming after moments of emotional exhaustion. The last thing I need is to manage my emotions in these moments. Stillness gives us a break from our emotions, which is restorative after emotional exhaustion. So, today, I tried stillness instead of my usual quiet and calm and found myself restored at the end. Now that I see meditation in a new frame – a new light, so to say – I feel more confident that I will continue to work on practicing formal meditations, instead of just reading about them. How do you practice stillness?

 

*Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Song of the current – that book with the pretty cover – Re-blog

Check out this re-blogged book review below. This book features a strong female biracial protagonist. If you like the review, be sure to follow the original blogger, Books and Readers!

*This is a re-blogged post. I was not prompted to share or compensated for sharing this blog post or these links with you. I, in no way, claim copyright to the featured blog post or images.

Books and Readers

You know what’s amazing ? A book with a kickass girl ! This one has that sort of girl and I’m falling every bit in love with this one already ! A world with pirates and ships and water everywhere ? Bring it on !  I’m so excited about talking about this one !


Song of the Current (Song of the Current #1) Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Genre : Young Adult – Fantasy

Rating : ★★★★

Summary : 

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is…

View original post 735 more words

The Gifts of Imperfection – Review

The Gifts of ImperfectionThe Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown – 5/5 stars

Brene Brown’s, The Gifts of Imperfection, not only explains how we become caught up in the need to be perfect, but also provides a clear road map with clear suggestions on how to move past the need to be perfect. It is a well-researched, well-written, well-organized account of how to embrace who you are, though Brown would likely object to my use of the phrase “how-to.” But this book is the closest to a how-to Brown’s work has been by covering the same three points after every guidepost, which allows the reader to take some steps on her own and use this more like a self-help book. Those points are: how to dig deep, how to get going, and how to take action. It was a welcome addition to Brown’s work. I can understand why other reviewers found this repetitive and a bit too simplistic, but with how much this book covers in such a small book, it can be easy to lose the thread of how to actually put into practice Brown’s guideposts. Even though I have listened to much of Brown’s work, I still find myself forgetting definitions, what holds me back, and how to be just a little bit more vulnerable. When it comes to making significant life change, a little repetition and symmetry can make it much easier to implement those much needed changes. I am personally grateful for the structure and feel I was better able to take away meaningful ways to make change.

The Gifts of Imperfection covers in detail, with examples the reader can identify with, what shame is and how it differs from other experiences, like embarrassment. But this book is more than easy to understand definitions of the various experiences people have. Instead, it also covers how to work with shame when it comes up. The idea of shame resilience was new to me before I came across Brown’s work and likely back then, I would have argued that shame is not something we need to learn resilience for. However, after reading this book, I am greatly convinced that it is easy to have a shame spiral and end up in a very dark place if one cannot name shame and then directly deal with it. I now find myself recognizing when I am in a shame spiral and taking steps to address it.

I particularly appreciated that Brown connected shame to vulnerability and also described in detail some ways we can shut down said vulnerability. One interesting discussion was of being too vulnerable and how that can actually be a way to not be vulnerable, by pushing people away. This ties in nicely with her discussion on how shame needs to be shared only with those people who have earned the right to hear those stories. Shame is not a time for a poor response as it only services to fuel the shame. For those of us who did not have shame and vulnerability modeled well for us as children, this discussion was vital to ensure that our attempts to address shame and be more vulnerable are successful.

The last section of the book goes into detail on what one needs to do in order to live a wholehearted life, filled with joy, connection, and balance. For me, this was the section I needed the most. Many of her guideposts covered things I was not doing nor had given much thought to. Those guideposts often fly in the face of our current culture, making it very challenging to implement. For example, Brown discusses the importance of play for adults. Play is defined as doing something enjoyable with no end goal or production. Play is not something encouraged for adults and often, people are shamed for playing as they age out of the acceptable range of childhood play. Yet, the research presents a strong case for all of us needing this in our lives. This book did an amazing job of breaking down this information and providing suggestions on how to build this into one’s life, which is critical here when much of this is the opposite of what American culture values.

A few things to note. First, this is the second book of the four books Brown has written and it is helpful to read them in order, though not strictly necessary. The Gifts of Imperfection does cover and explain parts of I Thought it was Just Me But it Isn’t which are relevant to this book. Second, I listened to the audiobook version, which is not read by Brown. This does detract from the quality of the audiobook because Brown is such an effective speaker. It is unfortunate that this and her first book are not read by her as it would make for a much stronger audiobook. Third, the audiobook version does not do a good job of dealing with the subtitles of sections like, dig deep, and at first, it comes across as though there are just random fragments in the book; however, at some point, the listener picks up on the structure of the book. It may be helpful to glance at the book before listening to it just to prevent this awkwardness. Lastly, if you expect to only ever read one Brene Brown book, this is not it. I instead highly recommend listening to the audiobook, The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connections and Courage as it covers and ties together three of her four books in a digestible manner. The Gifts of Imperfection is a book I highly recommend if you are like me and need more knowledge and guidance in order to put the guideposts into practice. I recommend starting with The Power of Vulnerability as it is likely more effective to have an overview of how all of her research comes together before going more into the details and specifics of her work.

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Update – Two Reflections

Ripple effect on waterOn Monday, I will be reviewing the book that launched the idea for this blog, The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown (Kindle preview). I love Brene Brown’s work and I find it relevant to this page. In order to work toward a more tolerate perspective, we must first confront our own issues around shame and vulnerability. Brown does incredible work on shame and how to develop shame resilience.

In the second reflection for this book, I will discuss in more detail why addressing shame can be critical in developing new perspective. But I also will discuss concerns around representation.

The first reflection for this book will post on Wednesday. It will discuss my personal growth from this book around the area of meditation and stillness. This book changed my perspective, and while that change is not centered around representation, I wanted to share it nonetheless.

There will occasionally be two reflections for books, depending on how the book I review impacts me. The reflection directly relevant to representation will post on Thursdays, the regular posting time. The second reflection for the week will post first on Wednesdays and may or may not address representation. Let me know what you think about the second reflection idea! Do you want to reflect on topics outside representation more often? Please comment below!

 

*Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

Juliet Takes a Breath – Reflection: The Ghetto

Mount Vernon and The BronxSource: The All-Nite Images via Flickr Creative Commons

Spoiler Alert Note: it is not possible to read this reflection without having one particular scene spoiled in the book, Juliet Takes a Breath. I have omitted as much detail as possible to leave the scene as unspoiled as possible, but this blog post will likely still spoil it for you. Read at your own discretion.

In the book, Juliet Takes a Breath, there is a scene where [spoiler alert] a white woman refers to the Bronx neighborhood where Juliet, a Latina, grew up as “the ghetto” and claimed that Juliet grew up “dodging bullets.” But it is not how Juliet sees her neighborhood. So what is going on here?

When I was young, I was raised in the country, like farm country. When we took a trip to a big Midwestern city, where both my parents grew up, they mentioned that there were certain neighborhoods where it was unsafe to go. Years later, when I was headed off to college in same said city, my parents sat me down and explained that the neighborhoods which were predominantly inhabited by people of color were unsafe and “the ghetto.” This rule of thumb stayed with me when I moved in Queens. On one of my first subway rides into Manhattan, I realized I was the only white person on the train and immediately felt unsafe. I checked that reaction and thought I worked through this racist view that a predominance of persons of color equals an unsafe area or neighborhood. It turns out I was wrong.

When the white woman placed on Juliet this presumption of how Juliet’s life was growing up, my heart sank. It sank for the pain and anguish it caused Juliet, but it also sank as I realized I had likely done this myself to persons of color in my own life. At the very least, I had assumed the neighborhoods they grew up in were unsafe. At worst, I had actually referred to a neighborhood a person of color grew up in as a ghetto and obviously naively sympathized for how hard that must have been. In reality, I knew that I had refused to go into to certain neighborhoods which were inhabited by predominantly persons of color in Washington, DC when I lived there (after moving out of Queens) because I considered those neighborhoods unsafe “ghettos.” Shamefully, after my first six months in DC, I moved out of a neighborhood which was mixed white and persons of color, though still predominantly persons of color at that time (it no longer is – gentrification is a whole other subject) because I could not feel safe in that neighborhood (and my apartment kept flooding). Where did I move? To a neighborhood nearly entirely white, but worse, I justified moving there because I was in a low-income apartment building which was mixed race. The truth is, that move never sat well with me. I denied it, but I knew I had run from facing my white privilege and these racist thoughts where I equate majority persons of color with unsafe. It took reading, Juliet Takes a Breath to force me to confront this part of me and to remind myself that I still have plenty of room for growth when it comes to racism.

I am grateful to have read Juliet Takes a Breath so I could have gained this insight. I do not know if just any book could have given me the space to gain that insight. This is the beauty of Juliet Takes a Breath; it discusses all these hard issues and forces people to check themselves, but not in a harsh or judgmental way. The characters in the book do not cast out the woman who called Juliet’s neighborhood a ghetto. Instead, they discuss it and give her the space to grow, which is exactly what I needed. I needed a safe space in which to confront my racism and then find a way forward. [spoiler alert] As the woman says while they discuss this transgression, “I am a fucking racist moron and any white person living in this damn country, if any of us tell you otherwise, is a liar and not to be trusted.” Because of Juliet Takes a Breath, I have accepted that I am a racist, but like any other flaw, I am continuing to work to overcome it. This blog is part of my attempt to do just that.

Have you had a similar experience, either assuming a person of color grew up in a ghetto or having someone assume that about you? Please share your experiences below and discuss!

Juliet Takes a Breath – Review

Juliet Takes a Breath CoverJuliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera – 4/ 5 stars 
An intersectional debut novel about a queer Puerto Rican woman living in the Bronx who travels to Portland for an internship with a white Lesbian author for the summer. This book is part coming of age story and part navigating intersectionality and part coping with life. It covers difficult and challenging topics with a light touch, making them a part of everyday conversation. It is this light and gentle touch that makes this book so powerful and why everyone needs to read it right now.

Juliet reads a book by a white Lesbian feminist which feels as though it lacks intersectionality. The book is a bit #solidarityisforwhitewomen. So Juliet writes a letter to the author and asks for an internship to address this gap. She is offered the internship, so Juliet comes out to her family, then immediately boards a plane, and leaves the Bronx for Portland. Thus starts the novel, Juliet Takes a Breath. This book has a bit of it all from the very beginning.

Juliet is confronted with challenging topics from page one. From how to make feminism more inclusive to safe spaces for people of color and the queer community to traditional family values to Latina and specifically Puerto Rican history to letting others speak for you, this book moves fluidly from one issue to another, never diving too deep into one nor proclaiming to know all the answers. This is the genius of Juliet Takes a Breath. Most books are too heavy handed when addressing these topics and thus shut down the discussion and/ or reflection before it can happen. But instead, all the characters are flawed in some way and need others around them to have open, honest, and vulnerable conversations about these flaws. It is these conversations that allow the reader to honestly reflect on themselves and see whether any of these topics ring true for them. I know they did for me.

This is the type of coming of age story everyone needs, not just queer Latinas, because it addresses so many various topics while also being accessible to people of all different backgrounds. The concepts are discussed and defined for readers who may be less familiar with the vocabulary. Then relevant and current issues are discussed in ways which do not shame but instead allow for honest reflection on not only the role of others but also our role. It is more and more challenging to navigate the world as there is more awareness around diversity and many of us do not know how to negotiate these conversations or situations. We need more stories like this to help us start those challenging conversations and move closer to an inclusive society. We all need a Juliet in our lives.

This was one of the hardest books I have reviewed because it was so different from anything else I have come across. Over and over, I was finding moments I could relate to – very vulnerable moments, some of which I have not fully healed from. I needed this book, even now, as a grown woman who does not feel like she is coming of age. So, I want to do it justice. I need to do it justice. But I simply do not know how to do it justice. I do not have the language nor other works of fiction I can point to. This book is brilliantly unique and it is that because it is an #ownvoices story. Yet, there is absolutely something relatable in this story, even if you do not feel you fit into any of the categories – queer, Latina, etc. – and it is absolutely accessible, and a quick, easy read, so it needs to move to the top of your to-be-read list now!

While the story was fantastic, I would have liked to see stronger editing as the copy I received had some grammatical errors and was sometimes too vocab heavy. I also would have liked to see a bit more literary depth, though it is more challenging for first person narratives to be more descriptive and literary over direct. I also would have liked just a bit more discussion on some of these topics. Most of them are not discussed in quite enough detail to provide meaningful growth for the reader, but there is a delicate balance between saying too much and not enough. Overall, this is an excellent novel and I am excited to see what Gabby Rivera writes next!

Considering reading it? Check out a free Kindle preview! Please note that Diversifying Perspective is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to free Kindle previews through Amazon.com. This does not impact the selection of books nor the content of reviews.

*I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review