Car Alarms

I am oriented to time.

I am oriented to my inner clock of significant dates to an extent that is hard for me to explain, and in most cases, harder for others to relate to.

I often use shorthand.

I have CPTSD.

I’m sensitive.

I’m not coping as well with stress.

I’m triggered.

And all of those things are true, but this particular quality is somewhat separate.

Today, it is sounding as a loud car alarm…demanding a blog.

In the last twenty-three months, I’ve published 175 public blog posts.

But because I am oriented to time in the ways that I am, it turns out I couldn’t write this one sooner.

I was waiting for a significant date, or one on which the energy and memories I’m channeling are rooted in this set of lived experiences.

I became a department director eight Octobers ago, unexpectedly.

In fact, the first reaction I had was one of panic; literally.

Fetal position, crying in public, can’t drive emotion and physical shut down.

I inherited a department that my predecessor had been building for several years before me in the form of unpacked boxes and not much else.

Her two weeks’ notice, and that was it.

Between that promotion and my ultimate departure from this organization, I inherited 15 other positions, and was afforded the opportunity to build a role that no one had proceeded me in designing.

Engaging stakeholders, training and technical assistance, volunteer management, crisis response, all of this fell within a newly brimming continuum of entryways, services, oversight and support systems.

One of those roles included managing a now 47-year-old hotline, and ensuring that those who called received quality advocacy that honored the legacy of the survivors’ who dreamed this resource into existence.

It is to them that I am indebted, and the many Black and Queer survivors who have poured into me.

Including the six woman of color advocates who managed this hotline in the immediate years before me, whose lived organizational traumas, and traumatic exits were each significant.

I read words like significance more slowly than I would have then.

I took many things from those transition periods.

Among them the ways that institutions are sometimes reluctant to remember the things they’re learned the hard way, and how our learned tolerances of harm render car alarms silenced white noise.

Hear car alarm as

gut instincts

crying

heaving

shallow breathing

disclosures

medical bills

abusive relationships

abusive funders

abusive partners

abusive supervisors

abusive colleagues

abusive therapists

fascism

gentrification

institutional racism

revictimization

harmful policies

misinformation

rape culture

harassment during commutes

harassment from administrators

bendable ethics

a revolving door of untimely exits

roles without succession

roles that aren’t passed down

feedback

no.

No.

Not hearing no.

Seeking to change a no into…

everything else.

Amidst this sounding car alarm soundtrack, I built a culture of advocacy that isn’t contained or possessed within an institution.

Not now, and not then.

Blogging these last two years has helped me realize, and then pick up the breadcrumbs of my formation.

Amidst this sounding car alarm soundtrack, I was able to plan my exit.

I calculated exactly what it would take to leave well, and I took the risk of asking for the chance to implement my planned transition.

I was told yes; but I did not get to leave well.

Naively, I hoped my leaving would be the reset needed for the institution to course correct.

I hoped I was the problem I was being gaslit to believing I was; I really, really wanted to be the problem.

For those six months, my colleagues stopped talking to me.

My office was moved.

My labor was used and overused and recorded in manuals and training materials.

I was on call for 4,320 hours.

From my total tenure, I was on call over 55,000 hours.

My ideas were buried, and my advisement wasn’t heeded.

I was discredited…incrementally.

As disloyal.

As smart.

As hysterical.

As not objective.

As not seeing the full picture.

As not being a team player.

As living in the past.

As being loyal to the wrong things.

Amazingly, not for being white, though I referenced my whiteness daily, in every space.

The careful transfer of trust I worked to unfasten from me as an individual to an organization I was loyal to was deliberately curated and prioritized openly.

The day I announced my departure to staff was immediately followed by an open attack on policies I was responsible for enforcing by another colleague, and the observed by-standing of our boss.

I went through my remaining work day, learning that my scheduled supervision was canceled.

Importantly, this was also the day that my departure was scheduled to become public.

After commuting back home, I receive a firm email instructing me to return to the office.

I am critiqued for my conduct within our staff meeting, and it is threatened that my departure is moved up.

With more emotional manipulation my boss begins, “I’ve never seen this side of you before. You’ve been through a lot, are you sure you’re ok?”

Holding my composure and boundaries, I am able to articulate when asked that the support that I request is for my boss to support in place policies when they are questioned, and to limit canceling our scheduled meetings.

My boss deflects my direct response and focuses further on my emotional state and personal life.

They directly position aspects of my survivorship as impeding my professionalism, and leverage their authority and knowledge to result in my compliance.

This tactic was subtle and obvious along a spectrum, but was consistent of the months leading to my transition and following my announced resignation.

I swallowed every aspect of this, because my goal was to leave well, and within my stated timeframe.

And then October 1st happened.

October 1st, three days after the Kavanaugh hearings.

After I’d spent the last ten days of my role assuring advocates that their experiences would be considered, and they would not be left alone in their trauma. After I’d assured them that they could trust their training. After I’d started every Fall program, every important relationship transfer.

Six days before my farewell gathering, to which none of my colleagues came.

Six days before Kavanaugh became Justice Kavanaugh, as survivors felt again community betrayal, and rape culture was shown as rooted in what is movement work, though we refuse to take it seriously.

Ten hours after my departure a meeting was held with all advocates, and the dismantling began.

October 1st, 2018.

Two years ago I ended my last on call shift in a role I filled for almost seven years.

In the time since then, my grasp of institutional violence has only expanded.

What I know viscerally today, is that we can’t skip steps, and we can’t lower the bar of accountability.

We can’t confuse urgency with short lived consequences.

We can’t invite people to work described untruthfully.

We need layered interventions, and relationships resilient to engaging them.

We need body work.

We need children.

We need to be specific and explicit in defining white supremacy.

We need daily disciplines.

We need to be able to say and hear no.

Two years of rebuilding trust with myself and repossessing my skills has taught me that how we learn what we know is almost as important as that we do learn.

Everything is practice, and none of it is a rehearsal.

May our bodies forgive us for what we didn’t learn fast.

And may we hold onto our difficult emotions.

We are not done sitting with ourselves, and creating healthier relationships.

In the last month I have felt those car alarms as loudly as I did then.

I have read the depictions of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Anita Hill amidst the appointment of a third supreme court justice by the Trump Administration.

I have listened as two rapists remain as our next presidential nominees.

I have grieved our treatment of Breonna Taylor, Oluwatoyin Salau, and most recently Aerrion Burnett.

I have raged at how little we’ve spoken the name Dawn Wooten.

I have spoken safety planning to my body as I’ve remembered that rape culture is the surest form of white supremacist violence.

And I’ve spoken so much less than I’ve experienced.

As we receive again the true impact of state violence, fascism, patriarchal violence, and racist capitalism, may we confess that we have not yet been willing to center those impacts and to listen when they’re spoken.

To every truthteller, we have never deserved you.

To every Black woman, we have never stood with you.

To every survivor, we have never loved you enough.

And the car alarms have sounded…. the…. entire…time.

To every institution, you are not entitled to exist.

To every white woman, we are not the leaders.

The very least we can do is call out the white supremacy violence we are so often a part of maintaining.

Writer. Thinker. Facilitator. Advocate. Invested in accountability for power based violence, creative initiatives, and meaningful, nuanced dialoguing.