art show

I do not take pride in being white. Or being Jewish. Or being female. I had nothing to do with any of those things. They aren’t an accomplishment. They are my inheritances, and I can take pleasure in them and pleasure in being part of the group, or not.

Pride is defined as “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one's own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.” I don’t understand deriving pride from something we admire. Pride should be earned. But I do understand pride derived from the achievements of someone we love.  

When my daughter Siobhan returned to ABQ after living in New Orleans, she wanted, fervently, to continue creating art as she’d done while living in NOLA. I think there was some fear – would living in ABQ de-inspire her? Her remedy was to plan and produce a pop-up art showing.

Two nights before the show, the home she’d planned to use for the show became unavailable. Siobhan embraced the challenge. Instead of getting stuck, she threw herself into the work of making her own rental home the new site of the show. Her brother, also an artist, threw himself into the work with her.

It was a great show – a fun atmosphere with interesting and diverse art from young artists. It was exactly the type of learning-and-thriving experience that a mama wants for her kids.

Mixed in with pride was joy. My daughter was creating what she needed. Her goal was to encourage the creation of both art and community. She wants to support other artists.

Last week was a shit-show of horrors in the world. I’m certain some good has come of it. For instance, after decades of ignoring monuments to men who upheld the value of slavery – men who were willing to commit treason and war against the US government – now we are emboldened to see them for what they are and take those motherfuckers down.

Today the Wall Street Journal reports that “Daughters of Confederacy ‘Reeling’ From Memorial Removals.” One woman sobbed, “I feel very hurt, like this is not my America.”

It’s not your America. It’s ours. The monuments to your supremacy should have been removed decades ago during the Civil Rights movement, but -- and you know this, Ms. Daughter of the Confederacy -- that’s when so many of them were erected. Their intent is to terrorize people of color while you sob about “culture” and “pride.”

Take your “pride” and shove it up your white ass because you didn’t earn, nor did your ancestors earn, pride. Racism is what allows slavery to exist, allows Jim Crow laws to exist, and it is not your cleverness or superiority that has kept you in power. I take that back: your ancestors were, as Frederick Douglass in his autobiography describes, excellent thieves. Does that make you proud?

I’m proud of my daughter. I’m proud of her father and me for raising someone who values art and community, and I’m proud of us for nurturing her skills. I’m proud of us that our daughter feels good coming to us for advice and help. That is the most awesome of feelings: she mostly doesn’t need us but sometimes does and even better, she wants us.

No, even better is this: I am inspired by my daughter. I am learning from her. When I gave up the scale a few months ago, it was because she’d done it the year before. When I think of who and how I want to be in the world, I want to be better for both my kids – less judgmental, less anxious, more willing, more fun, more thoughtful.

When I was growing up, I was ashamed of the parts of me that felt most Jewish – big nose, unruly curly hair, and most especially my loud voice and manner. I felt big and pushy and ugly. I felt unfeminine. This shame, I am guessing, is the origin of many pride movements. We did not earn that shame; we did nothing of which to be ashamed, though somehow we took that on – ashamed to be female or Jewish or fat or whatever else.  We replace that shame with pride, but I’m going to hold with this: we need to earn our pride.

Self-respect does not need to be earned. We are born with love and respect and if it’s beaten out of us, it becomes our sacred duty to return to that state. If you’re caught up in shame, get busy getting beyond it. Do things to make yourself proud.