A Musician Faces Her Isms

If we pay attention, sometimes parts of our lives inform other parts.

Since George Floyd was murdered, I think that all of us, no matter if we accept our racism – or not; no matter if we believe that the police methods and their funding must change – or not; no matter if we protest – or not, all of us have been profoundly affected and we are seeing and doing and saying things differently, no matter if we admit it – or not.

For me, this writing is one thing, but I am one who makes connections, and when they appear, I find I must heed them. Right now, I am heeding the messages of my flute lessons, begun not long ago on Zoom with a wonderful teacher from Cape Town.

The essential components of my started-during-Covid19 flute lessons are paying attention, curiosity, listening, examining, feeling, patience, intelligence, and taking time.

And not trying hard. Doing what’s needed but not trying too hard to make the good stuff happen right here, right now in the early days.

Those seem like wonderful lessons, too, for looking at our racism.

There was an amazing woman on the news this week. She’s known as the TicTok grandma and she posted this, “Did you know you can make sure there are empty seats at Trump’s rally?” Her post went viral and it seems that she was responsible for lots of Tulsa Trump rally tickets being sold to teenagers, the main TicTok subscribers. They did not attend.

I love what this woman posted. I love that it went viral and its effect. (I am no fan of Trump). I love her intelligence and candor. What I don’t love is my fatism. TikTok Grandma is fat. No denying it. I look at someone who is fat, someone I don’t know and I assume that they are not intelligent. No – tell the truth – that they are stupid.

It isn’t that there aren’t intelligent and wonderful fat people in my past and present, there were, there are; but there is no denying that I have a bias. I am a fatist.

So there’s racism and fatism. How about ageism? Misogyny? Antisemitism?

What will you admit to?

Here are mine –

• Racism

• Fatism

• Ageism

• Misogyny

• Any others that pop up for you?

It might appear surprising that the woman who writes this, a 73 year old woman, is ageist and misogynistic. But no doubt about it, I am.

Forever, feelings have popped up, ‘you are less than’ feelings when looking at blacks, the fat, the old, women, especially old women. Comparisons.

So what links flute lessons and racism for me? The focus on newly introduced flute essentials of paying attention, curiosity, listening, examining – focuses that were happening at the same time as the George Floyd murder, turned my brain, however unconsciously, to him and how I feel when I see a black man. I saw it and I felt it in away I hadn’t before.

Anecdote – Back in university, a black man asked me out and and I said yes. Shortly after I changed my mind and said no. I said yes out of racism and said no out of racism.

So what has changed for me? This on a walk a few days ago is informative. I live near a creek. A bridge over it connects a path for bikes and walkers. Bikers are supposed to walk their bikes over the bridge but I’ve seen maybe 3 do that in the 7 years we’ve lived here. We were talking to a couple of 60ish women on the bridge, one of whom said, “You are supposed to walk your bikes.” to a white couple who didn’t. A minute later a black man and two children road their bikes over. She said nothing to them but to us said, “ If I said anything to them, it would be racism.” I said, “It is racist to not say anything to them.” She got it.

I don’t think she would have said what she said, thought what she thought, or understood what I said, nor would I have said what I said, if it wasn’t for George Floyd’s murder and the world wide protests.

And if not for George Floyd I would not have been smacked in the face with my fatism. And my awareness of my other isms.

The flute lessons also require being patient, thoughtful, and taking time. Examining and learning and changing my attitudes to others requires all of that, too.

I’m going to hold myself to account.

I fear as I write this that some may think I equate my isms. I do not. They are mine. Yours are yours.

We will become conscious and deal with them – or not.

The photo? Mists we travel though, on the bridge.


I’m continuing to donate the selling price of my patterns on Ravelry to Black Lives Matter wherever the purchaser would like. Or to an indigenous support organization. Anywhere in the world – your choice.

8 Replies to “A Musician Faces Her Isms”

  1. Wow, Gayle. Wow. So well said. Introspective. Now I’m thinking (and I have thought a lot about it lately) what are my -isms. Thank you for your honesty and openness.

  2. Really nice post, I like your anecdote from university too. Racism and all the isms are so hard to identify in ourselves, I’m glad we are all thinking more about it now.

  3. Awesome. You are so brutally honest!! I totally agree with you. I am definitely a fatist and probably a racist. I have work to do. Great shot and I identify with the woman who reprimanded the bikers. I do it all the time.

  4. Hi Gayle:
    Great piece and thought provoking. “Bias” is such an innocuous word – we all have them and accept them. But if you’re alert to the word and begin to think about it, it might not be a very big nudge to push it into an ism.
    Keep up the introspection!

    1. Thank you, Dave. I like that so much; “push it into an ism.“ Looking at them a bit sideways after they intrude onto the consciousness takes some will/willingness.

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