Re: Overwhelmed? Make more time to wonder.

Dear Maria Shriver,

Your historically inherited white American Woman privilege is exhausting me. In your recent story published on NBCNEWS.COM, you provide what amounts to “self help” advice to other (mostly white American) women to be “less busy”, and not use their brains to think too much because it might make them feel “overwhelmed”- as you condescendingly reflect on recently watching in a lurid fashion the labor of black women in Africa.

Did this moment in time being in Rwanda make YOU overwhelmed just watching another person’s labor? Instead of thinking about how overwhelming that was for you -you urge your readers to do what you did-remove yourself from this social scene go on a luxury safari and “wonder” and detach yourself from thinking about social inequalities.

This dichotomy of space, wealth, labor and revitalized gender dynamics is appalling as you write from a position of above looking down and watching the women below you provide food for their families and communities.

I will take your advice and “wonder” if this was or wasn’t an appropriate time to advise other people with historically inherited whyte woman privilege to ramp up their privilege to be less busy? Your self help article ultimately does nothing to help women of color.

The labor of African women and girls also is completely gratuitous and incongruous to your story-of self help for American women feeling “overwhelmed”. Your employing of this narrative device is simply an act of privilege where the labor of black women is playing the part of a minstrelized court jester entertaining you and your readers as you sit back exemplifying how tiring it is to think (instead of just wondering) about their actual real life experiences and suffering.

Your encouragement of privileged women to “get out of their heads and wonder” and not even to employ their own minds to think-especially think critically- is mind boggling-especially in context not of a yoga mat or spa meditation but while taking an expensive luxury safari in extremely poor countries. This could have been a moment to be “in your mind” not just to wonder and relish in a false narrative of being at peace with your own level of comfort, but to be self reflexive about your historically inherited privilege and to think critically about how your lack of busyness actually creates more work for other women around you who have historically and continue to support your family and your lifestyle; especially women of color.

After all, this well supported lifestyle affords you leisure time off to “wonder” while they don’t just have to provide manual labor for you but also are often in the desperate position of needing to stave off sexual assault and harassment by the male heads of the households (like your ex husband) that they work for frequently resulting in having their own sexual, and reproductive choices, options, dreams, desires and hopes disrupted.

Instead of marveling about how “unbusy” you were during your luxury vacation in Africa and how wonderful that is… why don’t you use your resources, wealth, all this extra time you have to think critically about how to make better choices for the planet and people in it by being less hypocritical, racially insensitive and tone deaf and putting your mind and body to work so other women don’t have to do it for you. you are using Africa as an imaginary backdrop and working African women and girls as props and that is worrisome and nauseating and does nothing to improve the class-, racial-, and gender-based violence they experience daily in their post-colonial lives as subjects of your recent ethnic/poverty tourism.