These Weeks in “Help Me Not Be Such an Ass”: April 22-May 6


Here’s what I’ve appreciated as I’ve tried to be less of an Ass* these weeks:

Video of DeRay McKesson schooling Wolf Blitzer: This is masterful reframing of narrative, over and over, despite Blitzer’s insistence on framing events through a law-and-order lens (cloaked in concerns about violence). From Salon: “There’s no excuse for that kind of violence, right?” Blitzer asked McKesson. Without missing a beat, McKesson responded: “Yeah, and there’s no excuse for the seven people the Baltimore City Police Department has killed in the past year either, right?”….“I don’t have to condone it to understand it, right?” McKesson said. “The pain that people feel is real. And you are making a comparison. You are suggesting this idea that broken windows are worse than broken spines, right? And what we know to be true is that the police are killing people everywhere. They’re killing people here.”

Janelle Monae is celebrated for knowing who she is and telling Asses on Twitter. “Sit down. I am not for male consumption.” (Thanks, Shelley)

Southwest Baltimore Charter School is an Expeditionary Learning school, one several of my dearest colleagues have been involved with. The school’s plan to welcome students back once school reopened is beautiful.

Julia Blount’s piece on the need to listen to what is happening, and who it is happening to, in Baltimore. The best part is that I saw this on my supervisor Myra’s FB feed–I am lucky to report to this woman. Here’re her comments (and why I am lucky):

Diversity + Inclusion = Equity
Diversity is a fact
Inclusion is a behavior
Equity is the outcome we are seeking

Most powerful learning of my adult life. Compassion is a prerequisite for this equation to work. It starts with looking deeply at yourself- your own privileges and biases. They are not wrong or make you a bad person, but they impact your inclusive behaviors whether you realize it or not. (Thanks, Myra)

My Barbarian: check out this trio, and marvel at how much there is in this world and how little we know of it. I find Broke People’s  Baroque Peoples’ Theatre and Forest Bros. and Sisters Myth Appropriation Exchange Pogrom particularly fascinating. (Thanks Erin)

Race Forward (publisher of Color Lines) has such good videos. Jay Smooth’s quick and goofy/serious ones on systemic racism are complied here–like, 7 minutes total, and an amazing slew of statistics to have ready in case someone says “post-racial” or similar.

Tracy Chapman sings Stand by Me on Letterman and it’s so lovely. (Thanks Aurora)

Two from Amy Schumer: Last Fuckable Day (thanks Aurora) and Football Town Nights (Jane, watch this if you have not).

That’s it for these weeks. If you have suggestions for not being such an Ass, I’ll always take them.



*What this is about, and credit where it’s due:

Anne Lamott calls “Help me not be such an ass” the “fourth great prayer” (after “Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow.”). I think of this as a gentle, loving exhortation, having to do with awareness rather than character; to be Such as Ass is to act out of insufficient understanding (including of myself) in a situation where that understanding would matter a lot to the people I am acting with or near. So the x-axis is consciousness, rather than morality. This might be micro-scope unawareness (if I don’t know that your mother has no arms and I ask you how many push-ups your mother can do, I’m Such an Ass) or macro-scope (if I don’t know the history of racial discourse in the U.S. and I characterize a Black woman as “angry,” I am Such an Ass). I think it does rise or sink or whatever to the level of morality if we remain willfully unaware in order to protect our physical and mental comfort, fingers in our ears, singing “The Greatest Love of All.” Anyway…as I wander around, I certainly ask for help not being such an Ass, and help comes, all the time (and I’ll need more, all the time, as we all will until we reach a self-transcendent stage of human development, and by then we won’t be self-righteously blogging probably).

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