The world is hurting, cracked, and broken, and our only hope is rock-solid, deep-caring, tough love.
Many people have written about the racism in this country much better than I can. People of color who speak from personal experience. Listen. Listen harder. Listen longer. Listen without feeling the need to defend or explain or do anything except listen to hear. That, for me, is the first step of deep-caring. I know what I have believed and assumed. And over-looked for too long. It’s time to listen long enough to hear the pain and the truth that we don’t want to hear.
Rather than denying any racism in me, which I have denied, maybe it’s time to ask: Where am I being racist? How am I discounting or ignoring the reality of people’s experiences? What unconscious biases do I have? What am I not seeing that I need to see? And what do I need to do to open my eyes? What does it take for me to step forward and say ENOUGH?
Like many others, in response to the murder of George Floyd, I felt rage. Unbelieving this could happen again. Still. Rage was followed by utter despair, followed by helplessness, followed by hopelessness. Helplessness. Hopelessness. Despair. Rage. All swirling inside me.
I knew I needed to get out of my helpless/impotent feelings and ask what I could do with the energy of my rage. Anger by itself is not enough, but anger put towards a worthy goal can be powerful. Particularly when we join together. Put our voices and our resources with those who are leading significant efforts.
Many thoughtful people are offering suggestions. Most of us are just numb. We need some time to process. And then we need to step forward. I have to feel I’m doing something, and so I at least committed to a few small steps. Hopefully, more clarity and understanding will lead me to bigger steps. In the meantime, here is what I am doing.
- Following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, the FB group “Women Reading Great Books” compiled a list of 120 books on the topic of racism, most of them written by people of color. There have been several other lists of books posted. I can read. I can ask my book club to join me in reading and discussing them. It’s one step I can take towards better understanding. A few books have arrived.
- There are two women activists I am choosing to follow and learn from. Both are living examples of tough love. Both have calm, gentle voices, easy to listen to even when they’re saying tough things. They’re not yelling at me, scolding me, shaming me. They’re inviting me into a deeper truth. Rachel Cargel is an academic, writer, lecturer, activist. Her course, THE GREAT UNLEARN, teaches history from perspectives other than the white-washed version taught in schools. Valerie Kaur is an attorney, award-winning film-maker, and author who leads the Revolutionary Love Project. Her book SEE NO STRANGER: A Memoir & Manifesto of Revolutionary Love will be out in a couple more weeks. I want to sit at the feet of both of these wise, young women.
- In response to a solicitation from President Obama, I set up a monthly donation to the Democratic National Committee. We need people in leadership positions who will dismantle institutional racism in its many insidious forms. The administration currently in power has done the opposite, fanning the flames of hatred and racism. My contribution is not much, but it is a commitment to be more aware, more present, more involved. Because it matters.
George Floyd, not being able to breathe, gave me breath to say ENOUGH. Gave me breath to jump down off the fences that I too often straddle. Gave me breath to take the energy of my anger and commit to focused and meaningful action, starting with a few small steps I can take today. I’m sharing my steps for my own accountability, but also to say we have choices. We are NOT powerless. Each one of us could take one step forward.
The world is hurting, cracked, and broken. Every one of us can be a force of deep-caring, tough love. Every one of us is needed.