Examination of Conscience

I like to think that I was a pretty good kid. Always did my homework, said my prayers before bed every night, never got into fights. Except for this one time, one day in the second grade — the first time I ever got sent to the principal’s office.

I know exactly why I got sent there. I threw a stick at a boy named John in my P.E. class. It was pretty unlike me, and I don’t remember why, but I definitely did it — I can remember the moment now just like it happened yesterday.

I was scared to death when we got there. The only principal whose office I’d ever seen was my dad; he was the principal at a different elementary school one town over. And I don’t remember what the principal at my school said to us that day, but I remember what I said to him. I lied. I told him that John had been the one to hit me. And the principal believed me, John got paddled, and I got to go back to class.

It’s one of my most shameful memories from childhood. I’m ashamed because the guilt of that lie stayed with me all throughout my life, but I never did anything about it. I could have confessed to the principal anytime during the years I was at that school. I could have accepted the lesson I deservedly had coming to me. But I never did.

Instead I learned a different, more insidious lesson — that white kids get the benefit of the doubt. It wasn’t until decades later I learned the other side of that lesson: that black kids like John do not. As I’ve examined my conscience, I’ve remembered the times when I took advantage of that privilege. To get away with breaking laws, to slack off in school, to use an already-corrupt system to bend the rules even further in my favor.

Why bring it up now? Because I see the hurt, and the brokenness, and the fear that people I love and respect deal with on a daily basis, because they never benefited from the racist systems that propped me up. Because I’ve just started to understand the monumental weight of white privilege on society, and the obligations I bear because of it. Because I see family members, and old friends, bristling at the focus on the struggles of black people, offended by their own incorrect assumption that because we say that black lives matter, that theirs do not. Because coming to these understandings have fundamentally changed who I am and how I see the world. I don’t know what to say to those friends and family yet. But I want them to see the journey I’m on, in the hopes that they’ll understand it’s not too scary to attempt for themselves.

I don’t have the answers. I don’t even have a good ending. I only have the knowledge I’ve gained, the guilt I feel for what I did to my classmate John, and the hope that if more white people can admit the role our privilege has played in our lives, we can begin to admit that we are all equally broken, all equally to blame, all equally responsible for making it better for generations that follow.

The Atlanta school superintendent gets it.

Listening again to helicopters hovering overhead downtown last night after watching media coverage of the ensuing protests across the country, I couldn’t sleep. I kept playing over and over in my head the conversations I’ve been having with two APS graduates who are black males. “I am one bullet away from becoming a #hashtag.” A […]

via How We Can Move From Heaviness to Hope — @atlsuper

House Porn

Last weekend I got to do something fun; the contractor who built my house came by with her photographer to take a few glamour shots of the place. I hesitated to post these here, because it feels a little bit silly, but since I talked so much about it when it was under construction, I figured I might as well show the final payoff, too.

I’m about as self-conscious about these as I would be of actual glamour shots of me. 😆 I’ve still got a long way to go to make it exactly the home I want, but after all the effort it’s taken to get this far, now seems like a nice time to pause and enjoy how far it’s come.

Previously…

The new WordPress.com

Post-illustration

I haven’t been blogging here much lately, but I have been spending a lot of time on WordPress.com. Automattic has spent the past 20 months building an entirely new user interface (codenamed “Calypso”) for WordPress.com, one where you can manage all of your WordPress sites in one place, whether they’re hosted here on WordPress.com or elsewhere, running Jetpack. Our Developer Blog has lots more details, and the official launch site presents the story of Calypso in beautiful form. Our CEO Matt wrote eloquently about Calypso and what it means to our company.

I’m very proud of, and was surprised by, the incredible technical sea-change that’s happened inside of Automattic, and the new ways of designing and developing that were required to make it work. It’s one of the biggest changes we’ve ever made at Automattic, right up there with the P2 theme and the introduction of teams. And I’m proud of this evidence that we’re not content just to celebrate what WordPress has accomplished, but ready to tackle the hard problems that still remain.

WordPress.com bloggers have been using features powered by Calypso for months already, but today we’re open sourcing it and announcing it to the world, along with a new desktop app for Mac, which I’m using to write this very post. And if that weren’t enough, we’re also launching a new publication called Discover, highlighting the best of what’s being published with WordPress (including self-hosted sites). It’s a big day for Automattic. And there’s never been a better time to join us.

From sea to shining sea.

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.

Sweet Home Alabama

Baldwin County Probate Judge Tim Russell, as of Thursday, has opted to no longer perform any kind of marriage at his office.

He said the decision was largely related to an increasing work load within the Probate Office, but acknowledged that he’s “morally opposed” to same-sex marriage.

Russell, who has been the county’s Probate Judge for five years, said he’s committed to conducting one more marriage—a heterosexual marriage to a former county employee—but, after that, he’s done.

— AL.com

When I was 17 I got my first job that didn’t involve fast food, as a technology assistant in the central office of the Baldwin County Board of Education. The job was a new one they’d created for a high school student who had shown promise in computer science. It seemed glamorous to me then, but really it was a way to find someone who was willing to string ethernet cable through schoolhouse attics in the middle of July for minimum wage. It was a legitimately great job as a kid, though, and I loved most of it. The people I worked with at the central office were pretty entertaining, like the finance director who made everyone turn off the lights one afternoon in the hopes that it would make the computers run faster.

It was eye-opening in some sad ways, though. I felt overwhelmed by what happened one day when I returned from a job in the field. The women who worked in the upstairs offices near mine had gathered around the window that faced Courthouse Square, Bay Minette’s main gathering spot. They were laughing and quietly whispering to each other, so I walked over to see what was going on. On the courthouse steps, across the street from our office, stood a man and woman who had just been married. They were an interracial couple, a white woman and a black man. And I felt my stomach drop when I realized that they were the source of the laughter and gossip in the office that day. I heard a woman I’d always seen as a kind, grandmotherly figure posit that “they must have had to drive over from Mississippi; they don’t allow that there.”

In hindsight, my naïveté as a teenager is startling. I knew racism was alive and well in my small town, but I’d foolishly believed the lie that it was some certain kind of behavior that was the target of scorn. I’d never seen it so openly directed toward people simply living their lives, having their pictures taken with their family on a happy, beautiful summer day, outside on the courthouse steps.

Today, men and women in Alabama, some who have been in dedicated relationships for decades, can marry for the first time. I’m filled with emotion for those couples—it’s a day I honestly never imagined would come when I was a teenager still living in the closet. But it’s also a terribly sad day for those couples in Baldwin county, my birthplace, because their county’s probate judge has chosen his personal bias over the orders of a federal judge, common sense, and simple human decency. No one can get married on those courthouse steps ever again, according to Judge Russell.

Marriage equality will be federal law by the end of the summer, if the U.S. Supreme Court decides their pending case the way many legal experts expect them to. But thirty years after Loving v. Virginia, as a teenager in that school board office, I learned that gaining equality in the eyes of the law wasn’t the same as gaining the respect of your neighbors. Alabama, and the rest of the south, still have miles to go before we live up to the values on which our nation was founded—and many miles to go before we live up to the Christian values so many southerners claim to hold in their heart. The south may never find a place in its heart for queer people, and there will always be those who laugh at us. But they can’t deny us our rights forever. We will always be a part of the south, and this will always be our home.

Hearts Fell on Alabama

“The Attorney General does not explain how allowing or recognizing same-sex marriage between two consenting adults will prevent heterosexual parents or other biological kin from caring for their biological children … He proffers no justification for why it is that the provisions in question single out same-sex couples and prohibit them, and them alone, from marrying in order to meet that goal.”

— U.S. District Judge Ginny Granade, overturning Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Birthday Pup

When I adopted Maggie back in 2006, I’d been desperately wanting a dog for years. But I was moving a lot, and most of the places I lived wouldn’t allow dogs. So when my friend Charlie said he was moving and needed a new home for his dog, I didn’t ask many questions. When I got her, I knew she was a year old and had been born in January. So, at some point, I decided that her birthday was January 15th. Over the years, I have to admit, I haven’t always remembered. But this year is big, because it’s Maggie’s 10th birthday. And she’s had a tough year, with me traveling a lot in advance of our move, my new dog Kramer joining the pack, then getting adjusted to a new place. So this year, when I remembered her birthday was coming up, I may have overdone it when shopping for her.

Here’s to you, Maggie. You’re a better dog than I ever dreamed of having, and I can’t imagine what the last 9 years would’ve been like without you.