Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Hundred Sixty Two: Art Interrupted

This unfinished picture hangs in my office above my work table. I'm looking at it right now as I type. On pages 63 to 66 of my 2006 Thesis: Blue Eyes Remembering Toward Anti Racist Pedagogy, I talk a little about this artwork that still hasn't said everything it needs to say to me. Or maybe hasn't said everything I need to hear. I'm still listening.

Art Interrupted
            Michael is capturing my oldest and youngest daughters in charcoal: white and black. Viewing his image, a celebration of eye-to-eye, pre-kiss moment, is little to ask of me during our six-month deal that he should be super-daddy on Saturday mornings (evenings, holidays) while I cloister between computer, worktable, walls and bookshelf. He brings his picture into my room periodically to thumb-tack it to the dark teal wall. I say, “I feel like she will jump out at me. I almost feel vertigo.”
Arwen runs into my office, wielding a police-baton-like flashlight, stopping to jump on my knee. “Show me the bees,” she says.
I pinch each thumb against matching index finger and say, “bzzz.”
She squeals and runs out the door as Moira, my middle girl, saunters in, eyes drooped.
“What’s wrong?”
“I have a head-ache.”
She folds onto my knee and into my arms. I rock her eight years as though they were months.
Her face turns toward a large, square, half-finished sketch on less-than-white canvas. A mother, decorated with braids joined at her heart, warmed in checked cloth sits legless on a horse with ears back while holding a cradle-boarded baby. A child on moccasin feet, hands in pocket, hooded, stands at the horse’s left, rear leg with kerchiefed, coated Grandmother, hands in pockets, at child’s back. Trees fill the background. Child-like scribbles scratch the foreground on which the four and two-legged stand.
“Are you going to finish it?”
“Oh, no,” I shake my head. “I like it the way it is.”
“What’s that round thing?”
I study the picture. “Maybe a little kid got at it.”
“Maybe it’s a basket.”
 “Do you know the story of this picture?”
She shakes her head, eyes on the less-than-white, more-than-grey people.
“Mommy’s friend’s dad found it in an apartment building in Regina. They were going to throw it out, then Mommy’s friend thought I might like it, so she gave it to me.”
“Is Daddy going to finish it?”
“No,” my heart panics a beat.
“I’m going to see how Dad’s doing.”
I am newly un-alone. I re-enter my imag-I-nation. Who are these people? Why do they call to me? How do they find me? How do they know me? Am I the one calling them?
How do they complete you?
Is your whiteness needing a native?
-- Michael

I re-call the Saskatchewan to North West Territories tele-communications last night with my best friend. She plans on voting for the first time, in this federal election. I confess my un-involvement this campaign. I have hung an orange sign off my front balcony and I will be inside scrutineer on Election Day. She says she’s never been so involved: she watched the leader’s debate. We kill ourselves laughing. She tells me who will get her vote and my butterflies of hope settle. She will cancel my vote.
“There was something Aboriginal that he was going to cut. And I thought, yah, that’s a good thing to cut,” is her only example from the leader who clinched her vote.
I feel plastic in our stereotype identities. I am the under-dog champion. She is keeper of the myth of meritocracy (McIntosh).
I do not disrupt her comment. My heart begins automatic shutdown.
Ironically, I re-member my anger toward another friend who could not entertain the possibility that, in a given circumstance, my best friend’s perceived ill-behaviour was due to some childhood experiences. This second friend had not had an easy upbringing, but had conquered her demons, why couldn’t my best friend do the same?
I turn for comfort to “Learning from Discomfort: A letter to my Daughters” by Barb Thomas (1994). I am not the first burdened white soul with daughters, sisters and friends. I am also a daughter. I consider the title, and re-align my purpose: I turn to her for wisdom. Why am I on this journey toward anti-racism? Should I take others with me, especially those I love most?
Thomas says,
We’d better be clear about the reasons we fight racism and other big wrongs. This is where I have come to at this point in my life; I fight racism because I can’t be with myself in the world without trying to do so. I fight racism, as I fight other forms of domination, because it has killed millions of people; because it has totally messed up relations between people(s) on this planet; because it forces me into oppressive relations that I reject with other people(s); because it lies about who is in the world and who has made what happen; because it has limited what I have been able to see and know; because it diminishes the friendship and community that I seek, with others, to build; and because I learned through the two of you (her daughters) that inaction is complicity. (p. 168)
Or, does it give us
A new kind of respectability?
-- Michael

Why do I continually reassume this path will be comfortable?

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