Whew! It has been quite a week.
Since the end of last week, I have been holding space for clients and coachees who have needed to process the death of George Floyd. Almost every conversation has been, in one form or the other, how to deal with all that has happened; how he was killed, and the subsequent protests that erupted.
Yesterday, I spent nearly an hour listening as a group of people shared how recent events have brought up memories of past incidents of racial trauma. It was painful and heartbreaking to hear all of their stories.
I’ve also been supporting several white people who are doing their anti-racism work and learning how to use their privilege to amplify black voices during this time.
I’m not okay and that’s okay
I had been holding all of this, plus my own grief and sorrow, as best I could. Then my Pandora station played this song and I lost it while sitting in my office. I identify as a Christian (I’m an Episcopalian) and for GENERATIONS black people have asked the question, “Father can you hear us?”.
From slavery days through Jim Crow through mass incarceration and now into the 21st century, black bodies have been expendable. For many black people, our faith has been the thing that has sustained us.
Our black churches are the places where, through the years, we have been able to go and find rest for our souls. They are where we can vent our pain, our grief, and our anger. Our churches have also helped us find hope in the darkness.
And YET, the violence that continues to be perpetrated against us makes holding on to hope HARD AF! In our churches, for generations, “can you hear us?” has been our prayer. And for a moment the weight of just how long we have been fighting landed on me. When it did, I was not okay and all I could do was cry.
Ibram Kendi says the opposite of racist isn’t not racist, it’s anti-racist. What are you doing to become an anti-racist? Anti-racism is not a post on social media, it’s not a donation made to a black organization. And it most definitely is not being vocal only when it is a trending topic and can make you look “woke”.
Anti-racism is a daily fight against the systems of oppression embedded into the fabric of this country (and I would argue many countries in the world). This is not easy work AND it is NECESSARY work.
If you are a white woman reading this, please do the work to unpack your privilege. You will be uncomfortable, and it will be painful at times, stay the course. Your privilege means you can choose to opt-out of this fight, please don’t. Choose to lean in. I know it’s hard. I also know you can do hard things.
Practical steps to take
If you are wondering how to start, here are a few practical steps you can take:
- Begin to educate yourself. To help you get started, here are several books I recommend: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo, Waking Up White by Debby Irvine, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram Kendi. Most of these books are on backorder at the moment. So, until they become available, you can do step number two.
- Follow (and pay) black activists and educators. Some of my favorite include Rachel Cargle, Layla Saad, Desiree Adaway, Ericka Hines, and Dr. Tee Williams. These links are to their Instagram accounts but most of them are also on Facebook.
- Amplify black voices. Share the messages of black activists, entrepreneurs, and leaders. Center THEIR perspectives and lived experiences. And as you share, be sure to include a blurb about how their words are impacting you.
- Talk to the people around you. Share the shifts and changes that are happening in you with your friends and family. The goal is not to debate or try to convince them they are wrong and you are right. The goal is for you to begin to use your voice to speak up against the injustices faced by black people. Your silence is complicity, so use your voice and speak up!
- Educate your children. Parents looking for resources on how to educate their young children, check out this website. I also recommend books by Vashti Harrison. And later this month, Ibram Kendi will be releasing a board book called Anti-Racist Baby.
- Commit to staying in the fight. We did not get here overnight and dismantling all of this won’t happen overnight. Once the headlines have faded and the protests have died down, keep doing the work of unlearning and re-educating yourself. What you are doing three or six months from now will matter more to the black people around you than anything you may be doing now.
- Check on the black people with whom you are doing life. If you haven’t spoken to them in months, don’t bother because then it’s more about you than it is about them. But if you consider a black person in your life a friend and you haven’t checked on them recently, reach out. Your silence is more hurtful than you might realize.
Finally, if you are a black woman or a woman of color reading this, know that it’s okay to be not okay. Your anger is justified, your pain is real, and your grief is to be expected. Please take care of yourself. Radical self-care for black women is an act of rebellion. Be rebellious! And then let’s continue the fight.
From my heart to yours,