by Meghan Grover
Published on March 16, 2021
How do I hold a systemic analysis and approach when each system I am critical of is peopled, in
part, by the same flawed and complex individuals that I love?
This question always leads me to
If I can see the ways I am perpetuating systemic oppressions, if I can see where I learned
the behavior and how hard it is to unlearn it, I start to have more humility as I see the messiness of the
communities I am part of, the world I live in -adrienne maree brown, We Will Not Cancel Us
I live in Chagrin Falls, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.
I enjoy playing in creeks, watching Grey’s Anatomy, and going to football or basketball games every Friday night.
I want to be on Broadway.
I go to a public school in Chesterland. Like Chagrin Falls, it is almost 100% white.
I’ve been raised Christian, like my mom. My dad is Jewish. I don’t really talk about that.
My family is “comfortable” financially, which I think means I have more money than other people?
I am very, um, sometimes, attracted to… girls… no! Stop. That’s not allowed here! I LIKE BOYS ONLY!!!!
I get A’s in school. I do wish school were more challenging but… I don’t know… I feel good when I get perfect grades? When I’m perfect.
My theater teachers have changed my life. They make me feel like anything is possible. I can help people through art. Art helps us see that we are all one, all connected. Theater makes the human condition universal and we can all relate to each other.
And even though I get anxious and depressed so much that my stomach hurts
And I am always in a state of competition and convinced everyone hates me?
And boys in my school are rating me on a scale of 1-10, which I know is a natural thing boys do, but still?
And I’m starving myself because I need to look as skinny and disciplined as possible.
I’m enthusiastic! 🙂
I perform joy with perfection.
I want to change the world with theater and make other
I live in New York City after graduating with a BFA in Acting.
I cried all day after the announcement of Trump’s victory. I knew there were individual racists but not like so bad that Trump could win?
I am a teaching artist now, and I want to make a difference in the world. I travel all over New York City, and I make original theater with young people. These are my first times being the only white person in a room. In some of the schools where I work, there are classrooms of 40 students with stressed and exhausted teachers. There are few resources for programming, supplies, and extracurricular activities.
Today is a special day at an after-school middle school program that I have spent hours planning for. We are creating commercials.
Three young people jump up with enthusiasm to go first! We give them a 3-2-1-Action, and they are dancing in a park, laughing and singing. They play sounds of sirens. They stop. They look at each other with fear. They grab a bottle and pretend to spray their faces with it. It makes them smile and relax. They say, “Our faces are light now. Cops won’t get us. Buy skin bleach, stay safe.”
No one claps. The students all look at me, their white teacher, for something. Some support? Some answer? I am silent.
A student watching cries. He says, “I will never change my identity!” Other students comfort him and their bodies tense.
I say, NO ONE SHOULD EVER HAVE TO CHANGE THEIR IDENTITY! NO! WE LOVE OURSELVES WE LOVE OURSELVES!
And I just want to make things right but things aren’t right.
They are not “universal.”
And I hate myself both for not being a perfect teacher and for my need to be perfect making me want silence.
I cry on the J train and a cop asks me if I’m okay.
There’s a pandemic. I’ve been sheltered-in-place in Crown Heights since March.
People are alone, isolated. Suffering. And even the people who do have wealth and safety and healthcare, a lot of them are still sad. This sadness was here before the pandemic, I think. It was just hidden beneath the distractions of our jobs, our new materials and technology, our busyness: smiles and enthusiasm.
Since the beginning of sheltering-in-place, I have been paying more attention and joining activist organizations and mutual aid efforts. It took all my jobs being cancelled to do this… but I did. And I feel… focused… I have started to feel closer to identities that I used to hide: my Judaism, my queerness, my access to wealth. I have started working with other upper-middle class folx on wealth redistribution and am having hard conversations with my family about it, and it feels… powerful, complex… imperfect.
But now I feel panic.
In March, Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman, was murdered by the police in Louisville. I didn’t find out about her murder until George Floyd, a Black man, was also murdered by the police in Minneapolis this May.
Protests are happening all over the country.
When the police charge at us with shields and batons and guns because someone threw a water bottle?
I get in a cab!
I cry for my ignorance that has allowed me to perpetuate these systems for my entire life. I cry for my inability to keep my white body between police and Black and Brown people.
I cry for the fact that I left and am now crying white tears.
Back home, people are boarding up their businesses because of a planned protest. The protest is cancelled because, uh oh, violence could happen! Nearby, about five young people hold a Black Lives Matter protest. In response, there is a large Blue Lives Matter protest.
I have challenging, infuriating conversations with people from home about this, hearing about how Black Lives Matter is a
terrorist organization. I shut a lot of people out. I cancel them. I shame them.
I don’t feel like I did in the beginning of the pandemic, where I could sit in imperfection.
I want to stop crying and just make things better now. I want bad people out!
I post a lot of anti-racist articles online with lots of other white people! It starts to feel like a performance.
A moment now
I’m still in Crown Heights physically, but I’m virtually in the midwest, making art with people on zoom.
Before the pandemic as a teaching artist, I collaborated mostly with Black and Brown young people, with people with developmental disabilities, with senior citizens, and with people who live in rural towns. But I have not been a teaching artist with white, upper-middle class, able-bodied, neurotypical suburban people like me.
I make the excuse that there are not theater programs where I grew up that examine politics and social justice. I only ever did eurocentric, conventional theater processes where I memorized my script and performed without interrogating the pieces on a systemic level.
I also have not wanted to work with privileged people.
They already have enough opportunities. And they make me angry and emotional, and I don’t like that.
They remind me of who I was (…and am!).
I think of myself in 2011: a young woman who wanted to change the world with theater and yet had no idea what that meant! And despite all my privileges, I felt deeply unhappy and anxious, as did lots of other privileged people around me. I was not able to recognize how this system affects all of us, even those who benefit the most. There’s so much pain and competition and scarcity. And playing pretend.
How do I leverage my upper-middle class whiteness to move other white people to be in solidarity with and listen to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color?
How can white people heal, not to overshadow, but to join the collective liberation of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color?
Part of healing is giving up power.
I’ve reconnected with high school teachers from my hometown.
In collaboration with classmates at CUNY, I have been creating virtual projects with my teachers and their students. We created a ‘Theatre in Education’ 5-day program for high school juniors and seniors based on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. I am also working on a theater devising project for midwest high school students to imagine and enact the future they want.
In both projects, the young people have expressed excitement about the chance to discuss difficult issues and their potential change in the world. They’ve also expressed hopelessness about what they can do, which makes me feel eager to build spaces where they feel they can transform themselves, one another, and this world.
It feels amazing, difficult, and terrifying to connect with people where I grew up; to be an insider in a community for the first time as a teaching artist.
Although my work so far in Ohio has felt mostly positive and inspiring, I challenge myself to keep going when it does not feel so good. I want to support spaces with people who will share views that I consider hateful. And work through that pain as we all learn together, as we heal together.
I make mistakes.
But I keep learning.
And I keep adapting. And I keep GOING and showing up! And sometimes not showing up but then showing up again.
This is going to be a lifelong painful glorious journey.
of messing up,
of messing up,
I cry tears that drive me,
not halt me in guilt and self-pity.
Tears of fury, empathy, solidarity, love.
Meghan Grover (she/her/they/them) is a teaching artist, performer, and director with a passion for devised theater, process dramas, and community-based work. Meghan is the co-creator and facilitator of ‘Devising Our Future,’ which creates original theater with high school students that centers their dialogue, ideas, and actions toward a future of social justice. They are also the co-creator and facilitator of the ‘Defrost Project,’ which focuses on community-based work in rural Minnesota. Meghan loves making and performing process dramas for people of all ages too… she describes process dramas as being like ‘Social Justice Dungeons and Dragons.’ Meghan has worked with Convent of the Sacred Heart, Park Avenue Youth Theater, Trusty Sidekick Theater Company, NYC Children’s Theater, Bluelaces Theater Company, AMIOS, Hook & Eye Theater Company, and more. They graduated from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program and are currently getting their MA in Applied Theatre at CUNY.