An Open Letter to My Graduating Children

The Illusions, I Hope, Are Dissolving. Now We Must Work to Shape Something Far Better.

To my children, now graduating into this world:

I never envisioned this would be the world in which you would graduate. I feel as though I have failed to adequately equip you. Just as I failed to educate myself and act. This is not an apology nor admonition of defeat, but a confession.

I confess to having lived in ignorance, often willful. But today, I am learning, working to remove that ignorance, and taking action. To reflect on whiteness and its inherent privilege in our society.

Know first and foremost, I love you. My favorite definition of love is “a robust and active concern for the subject.” I feel that I fail at the active part, but I assure you, it is a robust concern.

My concern is that you live a well-lived life. I don’t know what that will mean for you, but I will listen and learn what that means for you. I will do what I can to support you.

I will try to remember to first ask, “Would you like my advice” before I give you my advice. (Starting after this letter).

I offer these few things:

Know your values and where they come from. Your values will be challenged, contorted, and exploited. Life does this in even the simplest of times. And understand that your values are not immutable, but if and when they change look to something deeper. When you act true to your values, you will be able to live with yourself each and every day.

But before you act, educate yourselves. Your schooling prepared you for a world that is revealing itself for the illusion it always was. Yet remember education also has taught you how to learn. Use that.

You have the right to ask why you are being detained. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a lawyer. Those three things are all that you should ever say to the police.

And while silent, listen more. As a recovering bad listener (with relapses), I have learned that listening is my most powerful tool to learn.

Listen to people of color, especially those that identify as Black or Indigenous. They have long lived outside of our delusional state. But don’t expect nor ask for any of their emotional labor. If invited and welcomed, be with them where they are and uplift their voice. Seek out their poetry, songs, art, and writings; Learn from what they have shared.

In times of protest, extend your white body’s privilege to them. But do not tell them how to act nor silence them. Your whiteness has systemic power. Extend your power.

Also, assume that nothing you do is anonymous. This is the age of surveillance capitalism and ubiquitous recording devices. Corporations have long monetized their deep observations of people’s actions. Governments have the power to make money and compel corporations. They are the final consumer of all that happens over the phone and computer.

I recommend that you install Signal on your phone. And use DuckDuckGo as your default search engine. And Firefox as your browser. And follow Alex Schroeder’s advice on your Firefox configuration. There’s certainly more.

This year has brought a lot of new to you things that you must quickly process. Be adaptable as additional information emerges; hold what you know lightly. Be humble. Act kindly. Seek justice.

So center yourself to your values. I trust you and treasure knowing that you will live a well-lived life.