Take Your “Feelings” and….

Well, Amores, lately I’ve been a little bit on the down low. Oh sure, you can catch me live and in person in any one of about a zillion-trillion meetings, classes, panels, workshops, or rehearsals, but alas… the internets have been quiet for me lately. Someone even complained that I haven’t been posting on FB! Ja! Usually the main complaint I get about my FB is “do you really think about racism that early in the morning?” (Er… my partner likes to tell this story that once when we were first dating, I woke her up at 3 in the morning to talk about how Glamour magazine’s coverage of international genocide was really headed downhill…so… yeah…)

But I’ve also been self-censoring. Sure, I have lots to be overjoyed about. Over at Free Street, the youth are in the home stretch of creating a performance about how social media shapes relationships and revolutions. LOVE! And my other project, Unnatural Spaces, kicked off two weeks ago with the most dynamic, charming, right-on group of poets the world has ever seen. (We’ll live up to that promise, I promise!) And I have a collaboration with the Poetry Foundation coming up in April, where they’ve paired me with a composer to make a new piece based on my poems and his music. And I’ll also be debuting at 2nd Story in April. And I’m still popping in at Paper Machete. And Vocalo. And I’m in fundraising mode for the Mutant Chihuahua play, which we’ll be doing in January 2013. And and and…

So why self-censoring? One of my many recent gigs has been to “comment on” the production of Race at The Goodman, and some of my comments were quoted in the Sun-Times, and I have just been shocked (re-shocked? I mean, this isn’t a new realization for me) at how many people think that to name white racism, or even race at all, is in itself racist. Say wha? Huh? For real? And I have been, of late, thrust into so many one-on-one conversations about race with people who fundamentally do not share the same language, or knowledge of history, or (as my brilliant friend Mica Cole puts it) same basic facts that I’m exhausted. It’s all of these arguments based on rhetoric, and while I was a debate team aficionado in my youth, now that I’m old and tired I do not want to have arguments with no foundation in reality. This isn’t an attempt to throw away dissenting opinion– it is possible to note the same facts and data and come to different conclusions, and then we can have an awesome argument. But so many of these “conversations” are based on affect, on feelings, and how many conversations with a perfect stranger can I have about how their “feeling” that as white people, they are “damned if they do, damned if they don’t?” That POC are “so angry.” That it is “harder to be white now than black.” Etc etc etc, all direct quotes I’ve heard about a dozen times each in the past 3 weeks. I get it. I really do. But the time to have these “conversations” is not for 5 minutes after a panel or, worse, in ugly Comments Page exchange where it is clear nobody is reading your thoughtful, took-you-20-minutes-to-write-and-includes-a-dozen-citations-and-links-to-further-reading response to their vitriolic statement that all “you people” want to do is complain. I am, in fact, a white person, but I won’t make the obvious and ugly connection (well, not too explicitly) because I really do care about interracial dialogue. I really do think it is hard. I really do think “well-meaning white people” (hear THAT all the time, too) need a space to work stuff out, to process, to feel anger, grief, denial, to come to their own conclusions – based  on real information. That takes time, and space, and I don’t have that right now (see above). So instead I keep getting into these highly charged exchanges that make me tired, and crabby, and want to write mean twitters, and say snarky things on FB, and scowl at strangers and you know what? I am not (self) called The Lovely and Talented Coya Paz for nothing. I really try to be lovely as much as I can. You know, kind. Smiley. Open. It doesn’t always work, but when I feel I am losing that aspect of my personality, I think it is important to retreat into happy spaces… Rehearsals with my awesome casts. My Hip-Hop (in) Theatre class. A snuggle with my baby. L’oreal LeGloss in CLEAR, aka Naturally Nude. It is, seriously, amazing. And appropriate for all shades and temperaments. A unifying kind of lip gloss, if you will….

So that’s what’s up, y’all… I’m tired. A lil’ crabby. And trying to work it out with some grace. What you got?