Civility is complicity

White Americans often have a habit of assuming the best intentions. It’s a habit I still confront in myself.

We have faith in our institutions and in American exceptionalism. Especially the educated middle class and wealthier among us have been trained to be polite and respectful. We are predisposed to acquiesce.

I’ve struggled with this myself, both as someone who does believe a lot of important work can happen behind the scenes (calling in, rather than calling out) and as a journalist who is washed in the belief of “getting both sides.” This approach as it’s time to be effective. Issues of racial equity is not one of those times.

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White Silence is Violence: a self-audit on doing the work

I run a community journalism organization in part because I believe independent voices that push honest, challenging and productive dialogue are vital.

Especially because of our audiences (a political range of business and civic minded with Technical.ly; and a social services coalition with Generocity.org), we can be a force for change in our communities. I find that everyday, which keeps me excited by our work. It’s even more true in moments of intense scrutiny.

On the heels of a pandemic and an ensuing economic shock, we are in the midst of one of the most consequential conversations on racial equity in a half-century — sparked by yet another high-profile murder of a Black man by a white police officer. I’ve found myself taking a critical look at how I’ve responded. I don’t do enough, but I’ve certainly already been to the “Acceptance Stage of Grief for white supremacy.”

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Kim Crayton on Antiracism

The pandemic has removed distractions and laid bare this country’s foundation, allowing for the largest, most sustained, widespread protests in a half-century to bring about this generation’s high-water mark in white American’s engagement with racial equity.

Do something about it.

Dubbed the Antiracist Economist, Kim Crayton led a virtual version of her Introduction to Being Antiracist Saturday. My small community journalism organization paid for several coworkers and myself to attend, and we kept up a constructive dialogue as a team through the three-hour session.

For years, our company has done past trainings and our reporting approaches seriously economic systems and still Kim’s approach and passion was enlightening, challenging and productive. For teammates who were new to this work and those of us who have tried to put in the work before, it was meaningful time well spent. (Thank you Kim)

You should engage her for your company, or attend her future seminars. (She does six-month engagements with companies and has other upcoming sessions This is not a duplication of her work, just sharing a few top-level notes that I can return to.

Read her 5 Stages of Grief for White Supremacy. Thanks to her prompting, I consumed and put together some notes on a podcast season called ‘Seeing White.”

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Notes from Scene on Radio’s ‘Seeing White’ in 2017

Ahead of an Antiracist seminar that several coworkers and I are attending, organizer Kim Crayton recommended attendees listen back to the popular 2017 podcast season of Scene on the Radio ‘Seeing White.”

Though it’s several years old, I appreciated listening in greater detail and with fresh eyes. It’s as timely today as ever. Here I will share notes for me to return to, but I strongly suggest you listen to the entire excellent 14-episode series on “whiteness,” the historical construct of race and its implications today.

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Advice for journalists graduating into a recession

New journalists, I graduated May 2008, and though I actually think this moment is even more challenging than then, let me share a few thoughts I wish someone told me then.

It’s ok to consider a job outside journalism. Your skills (writing, analysis, research) are portable. We do want people to shuffle to growth industries. You can bring journalism thinking and support elsewhere.

But the economy is presently stalled and many of you are true believers, so let’s talk.

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What does work productivity look like during a pandemic?

For a story she wrote for Technical.ly (which you should read), my colleague Paige Gross asked me what I thought of work productivity during this disruption. I gave her a long answer, which she helpfully trimmed for her piece.

If interested, below I shared my stream of consciousness response to her at midnight 🙂

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Journalists as a ‘community directory of last resort’

Journalists fill such a unique role in communities. As a mirror, we show the best and the worst. We also often serve as a kind of directory of last resort.

I want to tell you something incredible, yet familiar, that happened recently.

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How to contribute to your community during covid-19

We are living through a pandemic. Someday I am going to look back and question if I did enough.

To be clear, no, almost certainly, no I have not and will not do enough. But I did want to push myself to gather what I have done. Perhaps it might be good for each of us to challenge ourselves on what more we could be doing in this strange war-time.

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Sometimes you have to go backward

version of this essay was published as part of my monthly newsletter several weeks back. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

I was hanging a drop ceiling in my basement with my father-in-law a back in November. The materials and approach of suspended drop ceilings haven’t much changed since the 1960s. You run long beams perpendicular to shorter cross beams. Those hang from the structural ceiling to support tiles that serve some aesthetic purpose. It isn’t complicated. 

But a half-day into the project, a series of minor decisions had created a major problem. My precise measurements were thrown out. A crucial structural beam was now blocked by my gas pipe. To maximize ceiling height in my home built in the 1890s, I had ignored the recommended distance between my drop ceiling and the rafters. I had a plan. But to make other accommodations, that plan faltered. We tried a few hacks to correct the issue but it got worse.

It wasn’t square. It wasn’t sound. We had a mess.

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More notes on what I’ve learned about writing

Every year or so, I’ve gathered enough of a collection of notes and perspective and general writing about writing that I want to share here. This is especially geared toward creative and fiction writing, which is decidedly not what I am professionally trained in.

But I’ve always thought of myself as professional writer first, and so I routinely invest time in reading about process.

Below find some links and perspective that I share here likely more for me than anyone.

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