It’s about navigating the gray areas

Issues of race and ethnicity have been swirling around in my head this week because they’ve popped up in a few places over the past week:

  • In my reading, I’m deep into Bill Bryson’s The Body: A Guide for Occupants, which takes on the question of pigmentation in a chapter on skin. (Love, love, love this book and highly recommend it. Except it’s not for the faint of heart nor the queasy of stomach, and if you have a phobia of germs—think Turtles All the Way Down—you should avoid it, too.)
  • On NPR’s story, “Get in Line,” which talks about what it takes to legally immigrate into the USA—why some countries’ citizens are facing a 20-year wait time, while others wait a fraction of that time.
  • On Call Your Girlfriend podcast’s “Know Her Name” episode with Chanel Miller, on which she revealed that when she was known only as Emily Doe during Brock Turner’s trial, even a court official assumed she was white/Caucasian and just ticked that box on a form without bothering to check.
  • On the Good Life Project podcast’s episode with Mira Jacob, in which she talks about the tough questions that come up when her brown-skinned child wonders whether his father is afraid of him and his mother.

The last one on this list was especially poignant for me as the white part of a biracial family. My own wake-up call came when at three years old, my daughter looked around at a preschool birthday party and observed, “Mommy! Everyone here is white!”

I’m curious to see the next census: with the American Dialect Society designating “(my) pronouns” as the word of the year for 2019, will “non-binary” make it onto the form?

Because even with all the biracial children in America, the census form we filled out when my daughter was very young did not include “biracial” or “mixed race” as an option….

black, white, gray

I’m not going to dig into politics on the blog—my real reason for bringing up race is this: Jacob comments that the opposite of racism is not love—it’s curiosity, which reminded me of Leo Buscaglia’s teaching that the opposite of love is not hate—it’s apathy.

And it made me think about how often we find ourselves talking about all sorts of issues as polarities: it’s almost as though we prefer things to be black or white, right or wrong. We don’t seem to like living in the gray areas.

the messy middle

And yet, maybe the messy middle of the spectrums (spectra?) is where most of our lives take place—even (especially?) in the kitchen and the grocery store and at the table:

  • There’s the whole food spectrum: on one end we have an apple, on the other, an apple-flavored candy; at one end is whole oat groats, at the other, pulverized instant oatmeal.
  • Between the whole foods and the completely artificial foods (also known as UFOs: unidentifiable food-like objects), there’s the processed food spectrum from minimally processed to highly processed.
  • There’s another spectrum between plant-based and omnivorous eating styles.

As a health coach, I encourage clients to recognize that these spectrums exist—and that it’s really rare to dwell sustainably at one pole or the other. Is one end “right” and the other “wrong?” One “good” and the other “bad?”

In most cases, the closer you eat to the whole food, plant-based sides, the healthier you’re likely to be. That said, I’m just happy to see clients take one tiny step toward those ideals. Even a small step will normally result in improved health—and encourage another small step, and then another.

Eventually, we find the place in the gray area that feels right for us, right now—and yes, it usually involves eating a rainbow, so maybe the gray area is really colorful?

make the connection

Want to learn more about moving around the messy middle in the kitchen and the grocery store and at the table? There are two more workshops to go in the free kitchen coaching series I’m offering in January!

Join me at 12pm in Sweetwaters Coffee + Tea inside the Meijer on Ann Arbor Saline Road for “Going (more) plant-based” on January 19 and “Thriving without certain foods (gluten, dairy, sugar…)” on January 26. Don’t live in the area? Schedule a free YOURstory session, and let’s talk about where on the food spectrum you find yourself—and where you want to be!