Thursday, June 4, 2020

A MESSAGE OF HEARTBREAK [and a break from the Quarantine Digest]: June 4, 2020

Hi friends,

Today, for one of the very few times in my life, I'm struggling to find words.  These may not be the right words, or the best words, but please trust that they come from good intentions.  My heart is aching.  I've cried this week - a lot.  We watched a police officer heartlessly take the life of George Floyd.  We mourn Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.  We remember Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, and so many others.  We glance at the news and see countless atrocities being committed every day against peaceful protesters and journalists by the very people who are supposed to be protecting them - committed by police officers, and sanctioned (or even encouraged) by some of our elected officials.  There's no easy solution to the problems we face - now, throughout the history of our country, and probably long into our future.  All I can offer is a list of the resources and voices that have helped me through the past week (see below), along with a poem.

About a decade ago, I had a bracelet made that says "Do Good Anyway."  The quote comes from a poem credited to Mother Theresa, which has been translated in various ways.  One translation can be found here.  Regardless of its precise original phrasing, the words have long motivated me in those times when I felt lost or alone; I hope you find it as inspiring as I have.  The way I interpret it, especially in these turbulent times, is that we should always try our best to do what is right and what is good, no matter how others will react.  Every voice speaking up for good has value, whether or not the speaker receives recognition, and even if the speaker faces scorn or worse for having spoken.  We must always stick firmly to our values and do what we know is right, even when it is difficult.  The bravery of protesters and others who are willing to speak up against wrongdoing - even if it means the risk of hatred, physical or legal harm, and great fear and stress - is inspiring to me.  There are smaller actions as well - I see images on the news of people who are uncomfortable marching themselves, but line the protesters' path to offer water, masks, and other supplies to keep them safe.  Yesterday, I saw a restaurant worker on a delivery bike stop at a busy intersection to direct traffic to another street in order to prevent an unsafe situation with an approaching group of protesters - had the cars continued through the intersection, they could have hit the protesters in the dark, and they certainly would have ended up trapped and surrounded by thousands of people, which could potentially be dangerous for both the protesters and the occupants.  No one thanked him, and few even noticed what he was doing, but he stayed anyway to prevent anyone from getting hurt.  After trash was strewn across Broadway, creating a very dangerous situation on the dark streets, the superintendent of a nearby building came out to drag the trash and debris out of the street.  No one thanked him and few knew that he was ever there, and it was dirty and difficult work, but he did it anyway.  The coming months and years will continue to be turbulent.  We may find ourselves the only voice speaking up, and we may fear the reaction of our friends and colleagues, but we should speak up anyway.  There will be things we can do to help without anyone ever knowing, and they may be difficult, and we should do them anyway.  There are conversations that will be unpleasant and difficult, but we should have them anyway.  When we know in our hearts what is right and what is good, we should do it anyway.

If you're looking for ways to help engage with these issues, support the protests, and help enact change, there have been many pieces published this week offering context and advice, and many lists of ways to act.  Some of the ones I've found most helpful and powerful are listed immediately below, in the first and only section of this week's Digest.  If you have more to add, please let me know - I will update my blog post throughout the week to add resources that are sent to me, and I will send out a more complete list in next week's edition.  This is not a one-time event - these issues will not go away, even once the daily protests end.  Please take a moment to engage with at least one of these articles - they may make you uncomfortable; they may make you sad; they may make you angry.  That's ok.  Read them anyway.  You may not agree with everything these articles say, and you may not feel like some of these issues directly affect you.  Support the cause anyway.  You may be angry about the looting and the rioting.  Support the peaceful protesters anyway.  Do everything you can to ensure that this can be a country that we are proud to live in, and that we are comfortable raising our children in - a place where everyone can proudly be themselves without fear.  When you encounter someone you feel you have nothing in common with, be kind anyway.  If you see someone struggling and don't quite know what to say, reach out anyway.  No matter what life throws at you, do good anyway.

I will be back next week with the usual variety of recommendations, but it didn't feel right this week to be talking about TV shows and online dance classes.  If you have any suggestions or if you would like to stop receiving these emails, just let me know.  Previous digests can be found on my blog at


Understand the issues, and take action to help
  • Perspectives
    • Former President Barack Obama wrote a powerful article this week, titled How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change, offering his take on recent events and suggesting ways that each of us can get involved in the movement for change.
    • Ibram X. Kendi, the director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center, offered this essay in the New York Times.
    • This podcast, featuring three coaches of professional teams (Gregg Popovich of the San Antonion Spurs, Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks, and Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors) discussing the current state of our country and the importance of leadership at moments like this.
  • Ways to Help; Things to Do
    • VOTE.  Lasting change requires a change in leadership.  Don't miss your opportunity to help.  New York's presidential primary has been rescheduled for June 23rd.  Be sure to request your absentee ballot (check "temporary illness" as the reason for your request - it's allowed under a recent executive order from Cuomo) or to register if you haven't already.  The deadline for requesting your absentee ballot is June 16th.
      • Make sure you research who and what you're voting on too. Almost all police districts, for instance, get their funding from cities and counties, not the federal government.  If you want to see what policing laws are currently like in your city or state, check out Campaign Zero.
    • Educate yourself.  See here and here for good starting points.
    • Have difficult conversations with those around you.  See here and here for advice.
    • Make sure those around you are feeling supported.  See here for guidance about helpful (and unhelpful) ways to reach out to your black friends right now.
    • Be an ally.
    • Donate.
    • Going out to protest?  See here for tips from Time Out/In New York.
    • Want to support the protests from home?  Check out this thread.
    • Sign petitions.
    • Post thoughtfully.
    • See here and here for more ideas for how white people can help.

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