Dirty Hands

There was a three legged dog on the living room floor, spread out regally like an old king. The lightning flashes outside, lighting up the entire street below, rain coming down in sheets as if manufactured for a cheap movie.

That morning, she had been to an implicit bias workshop.

“Having bias is human,” the presenters say with big collegiate smiles and a history of systemic oppression. “The only shame is making no effort to improve.”

When the wind is blowing north on the ride home from work it smells of cupcakes. When it’s blowing to the south the wind picks up strong evidence of the human waste plant by the river.

Stumbling back in the door from Thai food, she tells her friend that she thinks it’s time for her to feel more pain. It’s when you’re strained that you need to stretch a little bit more. The old friends sit on the living room floor, white hair already covering the room as the skinny dog sheds. Heavy wind blows through the window, and Kansas City clutches her beer and prays for peace.

“Have you always used bull dicks?” Kansas City asks her friend nervously, as the Chicago native pulls out another bully stick for canine consumption.   

She says no, she’s only recently discovered them. Rex loves them.

Rex paws over to Kansas City with his head down. He sits on her feet.

“You’ve given no indication that this is a thing, yet he loves you,” Chicago admires.

Privilege and a rebel career, she jumps for a mid afternoon break.

“I want to write the voices,” she pens, posted up at her favorite pizza shop. Sophia, yoga pants and tennis shoes, comes up to take her order as she watches the rain outside. She finds a special peace in the routine of ordering eggplant parmesan alone in the middle the workday.  

“We bring donors in to see our children,” a woman from an adoption agency says. “And they just look in the big glass window at them, feel something, and donate money. It’s like a zoo.”

The girl picks a piece of fried eggplant up with her fork, and blows on it to cool it.

“They have buses, that drive rich donors on tours through the poor neighborhoods. Is that the beginning of understanding, or is that drawing an even bigger line between us and them?”

We are all under the storm cover, the girls thinks as she pops the eggplant slice in her mouth.

They’ve got to step off the bus. They’ve got to be willing to get their hands dirty.

In the beginning, she took the role as leader. Introducing herself, establishing eye contact with all and filling the table with reassurance.

The surface.

The ambiguity.

The newness of the people.

They got to know each other, established some trust, and then were asked to uncover their biases to one another.

Everyone did it, but she didn’t.

They work harder, and get less credit. This is their reality, they cannot run from it. Do you understand? They try not to mistreat themselves, but they don’t expect perfection, because they’ve never seen it. We live in a biased world and she is biased herself. She is biased toward change though it sends her into panic sometimes. She is biased toward having a fireball career though she can barely make it to work on time most mornings. She is biased toward blowing away systemic structure because that is where she finds peace. That is where she finds respect for herself, and the respect she believes is due to others. She also finds bias in herself that is not sexy, that she doesn’t want to own.

Our minds are constantly connecting ideas. That’s why we associate the word “looting” with people of color, and “finding” with people who routinely win. Shared associations manifest in the mind, and we are only using 7+- 2 bits of information with our conscious brain at a time, while the unconscious is in the millions. 

When they expect something, they realize they become blind to the obvious. Making sense of things without all the information is what humans do best, it’s how they make decisions without spiraling into doubt. It’s also how they are able to hate.

Commit to being brave, one woman says. Blond hair and a hesitant, small town reactionary smile.

There was a three legged dog on the living room floor, spread out regally like an old king. The lightning flashed outside, lighting up the entire street below, rain coming down in sheets as if manufactured for a cheap movie.

She’s cringing in fear at the possibilities for contamination that are filling her head. She’s also realizing that she wants to live in the world, and the dog is sweet. She wants to live life with people and animals and dirt and reality. But she’s still attempting to float above it all, while holding onto the idea that she loves getting her hands dirty.

She washes her hands before bed, and she lets it all go as she lies very still to hide from the tension headache creeping over her shoulders.

She has doubt.

She tries to let go of the hate.

Photo Credit


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