I don’t tend to say much as it pertains to anything political, religious, or socio-economic. I was always told not to engage in those conversations outside of my immediate circle for fear of offending or not being in alignment with others.
Therein lies part of the problem.
It’s become such a polarizing thing, you either have to be on this team or that one, but what about those of us that live in the middle? (I’m not talking about politics, but that is a prime example) Now, there are things in my mind that are WRONG, regardless of what “team” you are on. Treatment of people is one of those things. ALL humans deserve to be treated as human beings. Decency is a minimum, and I will raise my hand and say that given my upbringing (which I am not ashamed of, but bares mentioning) had me in the “all lives matter” camp. And of course they do. But recently I have allowed myself to sit with a word that I’ve been resistant to for so long and really marinade in it. To be honest, it has been incredibly uncomfortable. And eye-opening.
That word is privilege.
I have it.
I was born with it.
My children were born with it.
It allows me to not engage in difficult conversations because the reality is that I don’t have to. But as I spend more and more time thinking, reading, listening, and reflecting I realize that I do not desire to sit on that and simply be content. Yes, I have a choice, many do not, and it is my responsibility to use that choice for good.
Racism is learned, so is racial bias. I was raised with bias and I know that. I don’t fault anyone, but I acknowledge that it was prevalent. I’ve spent over 90% of my life living in white, affluent, conservative communities. I am raising my family is one now, and there are days that I absolutely hate it but it is the choice my husband and I made for our family. This fact alone tells me that I still have plenty of bias to unpack, and plenty of bias to make sure I do NOT pass on to my son and daughter.
I have friends and family that are black. They are some of my absolute favorite people, and yet at no point have I really thought about what it’s like for them every day. The things I take for granted, the conversations I don’t have to have, the places I don’t have to worry about going, the assumptions that aren’t immediately made about me because I’m a white woman.
Please don’t mistake me, I will NEVER know how it feels. But if my willingness to at the very least listen, become educated, and speak up helps to make change then I am committed to showing up.
I think back to interactions I have had, and I cringe. I cannot take them back but I can say with 100% certainty that I am sorry for my ignorance and I am working to do better. For the sake of this post it is past interactions within the black and BIPOC communities, but I know I have ignorantly had plenty of moments with people that I consider friends in the LGBTQ community as well. I can continue to beat myself up about it, but instead I’m going to choose to recognize the indiscretion, apologize, ask for forgiveness and not let it happen again.
Sometimes it feels like climbing Everest without oxygen, like one person cannot possibly make a difference. But the thing that I’ve had to also realize is that this whole thing is a compound effect. It’s going to require all of us to do one little thing each day in order to see long-term change. My actions will have carry over to future generations, and as a parent I have to be the example in my home, everyday, for my kids.
I attended a protest this past week in my current hometown of Parker, Colorado. To be honest I didn’t even know there was going to be one until the morning of. A client of mine emailed me saying what an outrage he and others in the community felt that this was happening “here”. Racism doesn’t happen in Parker, a protest had no business here. I was so angry after I read the email, first because of his attitude and second because he thought to send that to me assuming I would agree. I had subconsciously in some way told him that was ok.
I went to the protest. I listened to a mother share how her children had experienced racism at school and her experiences being a white woman-married to a black man- having biracial children. It was sickening and it was heart-breaking. We laid down in the park, face-down, hands behind our backs for 8 minutes saying over and over again “I can’t breathe”. I couldn’t even stay in that position without moving for long because it was horribly uncomfortable. I didn’t have someone on my back with their knee in my neck. I walked with people of all ages, all races, through downtown and the surrounding area repeating George Floyd’s name, Breona Taylor’s name, and a few other things as a reminder of what we were there for. So many people driving through honked at us, cheering, encouraging and engaging even though they weren’t walking. In support, in solidarity, in a majority white community.
We have a long way to go, but to be a part of that lit a spark in me that has been there since I was a child but as an adult I have been unsure and even unwilling to fully allow it to grow. I did email that client back and politely let him know that it was a beautiful and peaceful demonstration. He has not replied, so I’m sure there will be something said next time I see him. Which is good, I see that as a chance to let him know sending that wasn’t appropriate and I won’t continue training him if the behavior continues. I could cut him off, but I do feel like a conversation, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make both of us is necessary before severing the tie.
2020 has been a year that none of us will forget. What I can say at this point is that 2020 is a year that has made me really dig deep into a large mountain of personal stuff. I thought I’d started in 2019, that was a small pile next to this mountain. The only way to reach the summit is to keep walking, so that’s what I’m going to do. The journey won’t ever be over, but the terrain changes, and if I’m open to the exploration only good things will come. Thank you for reading!