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  • Seema

you cannot organize to undo

Updated: Apr 3, 2022

My 29th interview was with an African American female elder. Here are some of her thoughts in response to the prompt "imagine a U.S. without racism."

It's not possible.

The U.S. does not live in isolation of the world. The question would have to be larger.

Everyone would have to quench their thirst to dominate.

Even before you can have empathy and see your journey as a human being connected to every other journey as a human being, you have to not want to dominate people. That would have to happen first. And education would have to change. Study geography, history, and economics.

We talked about self-reliance. Her mother made their own soaps, she herself grew up churning their own butter. They lived in the city and still grew their own food.

I would go with her to the pharmacy and she bought all the things she needed to make lotion, medicines, preserves. I taught it to my children and we chuckle because people think it's an oddity in the world... I believe there is a "food industrial complex" and food has been used as a weapon. That's not just in the United States.

I asked her about hope.

I see hope everyday. I see people doing things everyday. I believe deeply in the innate goodness of people. My grandkids say I'm being foolish, but I continue to believe in the goodness of people.

I asked her again about the prompt "imagine a U.S. without racism," and she winced.

This is a personal belief: you cannot organize to undo something. You can organize to DO something. By even thinking you're undoing it, you're giving it the power that it controls the situation. You do not give power to words that are not your power words.

And with that, she flipped my thinking. "Imagine a U.S. without racism," isn't the right prompt to ask. Should it instead be "imagine a just neighborhood, a just community, a just United States"? And can we organize To Do?

Come see the play to see how this influenced the script.

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