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Notes from Nanea | Dear Little Brown Girl

By Nanea Hoffman

My dear Sweatpants & Coffee tribe,

I created this space, with the help of many amazing and talented people, with the intention of offering comfort in a chaotic and difficult world. Where we could celebrate what we love, share stories, and connect.

But comfort doesn’t mean avoiding hard truths. It means feeling safe enough to tell them. If you’re not into that, this is the time to click away. Go look at Pinterest or cat memes or something.

I can’t tell you how many times I and the rest of my staff get told to stay in our lane. Stick to being positive. Tell more coffee jokes. Be uplifting. It surprises me how many women (why is it always women who try to hush down other women?) need to write and tell me how much I’ve disappointed them because I expressed an opinion or published a piece that challenges their worldview, and how sorry they are to be unfollowing, unliking, unwhatevering. They’re not, really; they just need to make sure I hear the door when they slam it. That I understand what I did wrong. It’s not enough that they disagree, I need to be shamed. It’s too bad, really, that I’ve turned out to be the way that I am: a complicated, outspoken, brown, Native, minority woman who has been shaped by her experiences in this imperfect society. Tsk, tsk.

I’m trying to give myself compassion and the bad voices fewer fucks. I’m trying to be real, because cramming myself into other people’s expectations is more uncomfortable than a pair of high-waisted skinny jeans.

This is never going to be an edgy, hard-nosed, political platform – there are plenty of those out there and they are important. But this is where we tell stories that need to be heard.

 

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On Tuesday night, I saw that over one hundred women have been elected to Congress. That among the elected candidates are LGBTQ men and women, Native Americans, Muslims, refugees, and survivors. I wished I could go back in time and tell my little girl self.

Here’s what I would say to her:

Dear little brown girl who never sees herself in reflections,

In 2016, a reality TV star will become President. Nazis will be marching in the streets. The government will take breastfeeding babies from the arms of their mothers who fled violence and will put them in cages. Old men will try to take away your right to decide what happens inside your own body. Half the country will be so frightened that they’ll want to build a wall to keep out more brown people.

But also: You will rise up. Children who hid under their desks to escape a gunman will lead a rebellion. Women will run for office and win. Concerned citizens will donate money and go door to door and send letters and make phone calls and plan. A lot of ugliness will be revealed – the kind of ugliness that is usually invisible except to the ones on the edges, the ones who never counted. And that will be a good thing, because you can’t fight what you can’t see.

It’s going to be really hard. And scary. People who never had to think about these hard things before are going to be uncomfortable. Some of them will brush it aside because it will hurt too much if they admit this is real. But others are going to dig in and do the work. They will stand shoulder to shoulder with people of the edges. It will be clumsy, because we’ll be learning new ways of seeing and hearing each other, but beginnings are like that.

Hold on to your stubbornness and your crystal-clear sense of right and wrong that gets contradicted every time you look around. Hold on to your sassy mouth (that just means you speak up when other people don’t want you to) and your open heart. Be ready.

 

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There’s so much yet to be done. And we’re tired. But we, the ones in the margins, know all about surviving. We know how to wait and work and thrive. Now more than ever, we must remember that we belong to each other.

Love,

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About Nanea Hoffman (273 Articles)
Nanea Hoffman is the founder of Sweatpants & Coffee. She writes, she makes things, and she drinks an inordinate amount of coffee. She is also extremely fond of sweatpants. She believes in love, peace, joy, comfort, and caffeinated beverages.

2 Comments on Notes from Nanea | Dear Little Brown Girl

  1. “One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. …Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.” — Clarissa Pinkola Estes

    Nanea, on the outside we are different in many ways, yet once again, your thoughts are my thoughts. This makes my soul glad. I was part of the positivity gang for many years and have finally come to see it as a form of denial that actually shelters the dark places, so that they continue, rather than being destroyed by being lit.

    It takes courage to look at the darkest of dark things and then go on living with that knowledge. It takes great strength to show up as someone who knows these things and won’t back down, be silenced or forced to pretend. This is what shining your light, or being positive, is really about. It’s saying, “I know who you are and what you want, and I am going to go on living and being who I am. I will not be diminished by you.”

    “Kindness is often mistaken for softness and let me tell you, friends… that is a mistake you don’t want to make. Kind people are not born that way, they do not stumble into it, kind people are forged in fire and darkness and imploding stars… they have steel cores. Throw a punch and you’re going to break your hand.” — geekdawson

  2. I am so grateful for ALL of your posts. I am a mental health counselor and I share them almost daily. ALL feelings are valid, please lift your voice, for every nay-sayer, there are so many of us who don’t comment how much joy your posts bring, all your posts. Beautiful words today. I am grateful for you.

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