“I know that your work is not for me.”

“As a white person, am I allowed to read this book?”

“I’ve heard you say that this book isn’t for white people, but I still really liked it. Hopefully that’s ok.”

For the last year, I’ve gotten to work alongside Austin closely as she has launched her beautiful and brave book into the world. And I’ve sat next to her at book signings where I heard comments like this over and over again. And usually there is some reassurance, that yes, when Austin was writing this book it was for and with black women in mind, that they would feel seen and be centered, but that doesn’t mean no one else can and should be challenged by its message or engaged by its words. And I watched in real time as the first line of her book was slightly reinforced: “White people can be exhausting.”

We really can be, can’t we?

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I was 20 when I applied to go on Sankofa—to be one of the 40+ students who would get on a bus for three days and travel to the South for a deeper dive into the racial history of our country, focusing on the black experience. When asked in my interview why I wanted to go, I remember saying, “I want to do more than smile at black people when I see them on the street.” 

They let me come on the trip despite my answer. Or maybe because of it.

Looking back, I cringe at that answer. But I also remember genuinely feeling this need for black strangers on the sidewalk to know that I wasn’t a white person they had to worry about being a racist. Want proof? I’m smiling at you! So nice. Definitely not creepy. Or condescending. “Sorry that African Americans are incarcerated at 5 times the rate of whites. I’ve decided the best course of action against this injustice is to SMILE. Have a great day!”

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Last month, I finally got my youngest son to sleep through the night. (Yay!) He has been long overdue for this milestone, but between relentless ear infections and breathing issues, it never felt like the right time. And I didn’t mind, really. This is probably our last baby, so waking up 2-3 times a night to snuggle wasn’t the worst thing. But then a looming work trip was on the horizon, so I dug in deep with my trusty gradual-wean method, and 14 days later (and literally the night before I left for my trip), he was sleeping through the night. Cue the choir of angels…

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