Overcoming The Positivity Trap

I like to be positive. This blog has generally reflected that. And I’m pretty sure most of us are more attracted to positive people and positive statements than negative ones.

photo of Isabel Wilkerson and her book Caste

Gloria has her kidney! She can, God willing, live a full and long life. She’s coming over tonight for dinner and ping pong (I will let you know who wins).

My complete recovery from kidney transplant surgery took just two months. I got great support from my friendship community, husband Thor and African son Sura. Thank you!

I recommend kidney donation! It’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. I will support and mentor you or anyone you know who wants to do it. 

All true statements. But if I want to be an ally to people of color and an anti-racist, my cherished habit of positivity can be a trap. I’m reading “Caste” by Isabelle Wilkerson, on the recommendation of my friend Kelly. It f—ing hurts me in my gut to face the following not-positive facts.

  • The leaders of Nazi Germany studied the American color-based caste system to develop their rationale for white supremacy and their mass murder of minorities.
  • Black women’s wombs were an American profit center for 250 years, which is longer than they haven’t been.
  • Our country’s wealth is based on land stolen from Native Americans and on labor stolen from African Americans.
  • Our American ancestors used genocide to accomplish the first of those, and elaborate systems of torture and terror to accomplish the second.
  • Germany has paid reparations for its mass murders and erected monuments to its World War II atrocities, in repentance.
  • America has paid no reparations for its stolen land or stolen labor (slavery), and instead erected hundreds of monuments to men such as Robert E. Lee who fought to maintain slavery.

It was harder for me to write the second half of this post than the first, positive part. I imagine it was harder to read, too.

It was hard to donate my kidney. Having done it, though, I am the most fulfilled I have ever been. I think that overcoming the positivity trap and learning to be an actively anti-racist white ally will be fulfilling, too. I’m interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this!

6 thoughts on “Overcoming The Positivity Trap”

  1. Thank you Alison for the great recommendation and for the positivity and warmth you bring with you in each post. I have been following you for a while now and I can see the progress you have made in your life and the influence you have over many other lives. I am a testimony of that. It is not easy for a person of majority here a white female to see the light (the atrocities committed by whites toward indigenous, blacks in this country). For someone to stand with people of color and not only admit the wrongs that whites have done to non-whites is one thing, but to do something about it is a great transformation. Everyone one of us who have been blessed and benefited from the labor and this land must start reflecting on how fortunate he/she is and start giving back to others (people of color, natives and the disadvantaged).. Among the many things I have been doing, is reading the history of Native Americans and the history of slavery in America. After your recommendation of the book : Caste, I went ahead and purchased it and began reading it. This is one hell of a book indeed. I recommend this book along with the biography of Malcom X, the late speeches of MLK and some of the writings of James Baldwin..
    Take care Alison and keep on doing what you are doing.
    Thank you (Shukran Jazilan: in Arabic)

    Nayel

    1. Nayel, thanks for your heartful testimony, and for following my kidney journey/anti-racism journey. I’m delighted to hear that you purchased “Caste” and are reading it.

  2. Thanks for this post Alison. It isn’t easy to face the truth behind America’s roots (and really those of the whole white dominated world economy and dominant political formations), but it is all the more important to do so anyway precisely for this reason. The starting point for transformative change is acknowledging and studying the truth in order to figure out how things work and what needs to be done to change that.

    Facing the truth can also lead to feeling powerless to change things, so I would also like to share an organization that I recently started doing some work with that I think makes a positive contribution to creating a new world. The organization is called the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and it is a coalition of several black-led organizations that does educational work to help build the global solidarity that is needed to dismantle systems of oppression everywhere.

    There are many ways to learn from and to support BAP. Their website (https://blackallianceforpeace.com/#home-above-fold) provides various statements and newsletters about current events and peoples movements that are very informative. Folks can donate to help sustain their work (as they are volunteer-run and don’t take money from foundations or similar sources). On the home page there is an option to subscribe to their email newsletters. Also, they have a solidarity committee (which I recently joined) which is open to non-black folks (since membership in BAP itself is for black folks) who are interested in volunteering their skills. Highly recommend folks check them out.

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