White people. Do something.
I see my black friends say they are watching. Waiting to see who speaks for them.
I see my white friends caution me about speaking on a topic I know nothing about. Tread carefully.
I saw the post shared over and over in my social media feed on Friday, with that very direct statement. An article that was actually written years ago.
White people. Do something.
I am still reviewing all of the ways that I can do something from quite the list. In the meantime, I feel that I have to make an effort to at the very least, understand. Even if I’ll never truly know the depths of pain, anger, frustration, and utter rage the BIPOC community experiences.
Yes, my thoughts are primarily that I have to try to understand. It is through my privilege that I have the luxury of choice to look away.
I choose to see.
I saw it first with painful certainty many years ago when I was working for a major shipper, loading trucks on the night sort. The shift ended when all of the packages were loaded and “Friday night” actually began around 4:00 am on Saturday.
One of the guys hosted an after-work party at his apartment that morning. There weren’t a lot of places to park, so a friend and I chose the empty movie theater lot across the street.
A few hours later, we came out to find our vehicles gone.
I can’t recall how we found out they had been towed, because I do distinctly remember there were no signs indicating that was even a possibility. It was a public parking lot, after all.
Another friend drove me, the other car owner, and one other person to fetch our impounded cars. Now is a good time to mention that all of the other people in this story were black men. It just happened to shake out that way. I didn’t give it much thought on the drive over. They were simply my co-workers.
Somehow, we found ourselves at the towing company’s “office” which was a very small room with wood paneling, old carpet, and a counter with a middle-aged white couple smugly standing guard with their Rottweiler. The whole scene was a bit surreal.
My friends ushered me forward and I realized why soon afterward. My experience would be quick and painless. I showed my ID, paid my $90 fine (that hurt!) and received my keys. Easy. It took less than two minutes.
It didn’t go that way for my friend.
They stared at his license for a long time, challenging his photo. They demanded his registration, which of course was in the car. We waited while they retrieved the registration. We waited while they studied the registration.
Then the man behind the counter said, “I’m going to have to verify this. It says here the color of your car is red and it’s clearly maroon.”
I shit you not. I can’t make this stuff up.
I stared in disbelief at my friends as a phone call was made (to whom, I’m not even sure). They all kept a calm composure. They had anticipated this. It was no surprise. Just another one of life’s great annoyances.
Meanwhile, I felt my blood boil.
I wanted to scream at them to stop being racist fucks, but I knew that was probably a bad idea.
Instead, I just stood there with my friends and waited it out. It was a good thirty minutes, if not more. The Rottweiler was constantly pacing behind the counter.
Not one of my friends protested. Not one of them showed their annoyance. They politely thanked the couple for returning the car when it was all said and done.
That was my first real experience of knowing my privilege and it felt horrible. I wanted to apologize for my entire race.
It certainly wouldn’t be the last time I felt that way.
I refer to that time as my $90 Life Lesson. I know full well that I am not finished learning.
I am not finished listening.
I am nowhere near finished seeing.
This is a bit different than my usual posts. I acknowledge that too, and I feel that it needs to be.
In a matter of days, our society has been thrust headfirst into civil unrest. Enough is enough.
Trevor Noah did an amazing and informative job of explaining how the dominos have been falling rapidly in this YouTube video. It’s a serious message worth listening to. The nation was furious when the Ahmaud Arbery video surfaced. Then came Amy Cooper, using her privilege to threaten a black man in Central Park for…well, being black.
When we all saw George Floyd die, the already frayed collective snapped.
They’ve been falling for far too long.
People are sick of it.
I wasn’t around for the Civil Rights Movement, but I imagine that what is happening now is a continuation of the demand for change.
And there is so much judgement around it all. “They” aren’t doing it right. “They” should protest peacefully.
Personally, I don’t feel qualified to tell anyone how they should handle their rage.
It is not my job to say, “You’re doing it wrong.”
It is my job to say, “I see you and I will hold space for whatever you need.”
I don’t know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.
I do know how to separate the neutral parts of the story from your thoughts about it.
I don’t pretend to know what anyone else might be feeling.
I do know how to help process those feelings in a healthy way.
I have leaned toward current events lately because they are so very heavy and in our faces day and night. To me, it seems almost callous to pretend they aren’t there. This may be an added element to the same storm, different boat analogy, but it’s not something I will choose to look away from.
Everyone deserves to be heard.
Everyone deserves to be seen.
I acknowledge as Brené Brown stated that the system isn’t broken. It’s functioning exactly as it was designed to function. And if that is to change, it’s not going to happen overnight and it won’t be without pain, sacrifice, and loads of discomfort.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
I see you.
I’m here for you.
I am happy to coach on any topic, including navigating current events. I’m absolutely here for you! Book a free session with me here.