Privilege and Pain

Hi Friends,
I’m writing a special message because this week’s national news has been particularly rough. I had a very helpful brainstorming conversation with a friend and it has prompted me to share my thoughts with you.
First, be forgiving of yourself. None of us are or will be perfect anti-racists. In this work, we learn to recognize our privileges, the things that make our lives easier than others. Don’t let your awareness of your privileges prevent you from acknowledging that this is hard for everyone, even you. Yes, some people have it harder right now — that was true before the pandemic. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge this, to recognize our role in perpetuating it, and to address it. That is long-term work. It is also completely acceptable to fall apart and sob for hours about a lamp your young child knocked over and broke because the stress and anxiety and overwhelmed feelings are real and are just too hard to bottle up forever. Be gentle with yourself. And continue with the work.
I have been reading the words of so many people who have chosen to share their feelings, their perspectives, their pain (WhitneyMicheleEugene, and many others). I admit to feeling a mix of responses — guilt, sorrow, anger, loss, powerlessness.
I want to talk about guilt. Guilt, and the defensiveness that sometimes follows, undermines our ability to act. It is something we will always struggle with. I feel it when I don’t speak or act to defend the young black man in the grocery store being verbally attacked by an older white man who was angry that the young man had left his cart in line to get one more item from the shelves. I feel it when I see and hear the pain and anguish of my fellow human beings and know that I have a role in the perpetuation of that pain. I feel it when I see a white woman intentionally weaponizing her privilege to threaten the life of a black man. I feel like I have not done enough when people of color keep dying.
And yes, I know I am not solely responsible for preventing racist acts. However, I recognize that the way I post in this space could sometimes convey silence and complicity because I do not speak up every time something awful happens. Therefore, I want to be open with all of you about how and why I choose to give voice to the racism and injustice that surrounds each of us every day.
I have consciously decided not to make this group an accounting of the racism and injustices that happen multiple times a day in our country. My goals are to raise awareness, to call (white) people in to engage in this work, and to encourage culture change so that anti-racism work becomes the norm. I strive for a balance between outrage and inspiration, being honest about the challenges that exist and about the opportunities for change. I have to take a silver lining approach, partially because it is in my nature to do so, but also because I know if my updates are too painful or depressing that I could lead a group member to disengage from the work. That is the opposite of what I hope to do.
None of us have this all figured out. All of us could do more. Everyone is struggling right now. The pandemic and current health crisis will pass. What will not pass, unless each and every one of us takes anti-racist action, is the systemic and individual racism that kills people of color every day in this country. If you haven’t already resolved to make anti-racism part of the rest of your life, do so now. And when you fail, which each of us will do many times over, learn from it, keep going, and bring a few more people along with you.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

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