I want to take a little time to explain to my fellow white Americans today why we feel afraid to speak up and speak out about, and specifically condemn, racism in our country.
There are a multitude of reasons, of course. For many, we simply don’t know what we don’t know. We have what we see portrayed by media and we have our own personal experiences. Those may not always reconcile. This leads some to conclude that the media must be lying. Making it all seem worse than it really is. And to be sure, fear and high drama are good for ratings. That’s not in dispute.
Fact: racism exists, and it has created many problems for us all on societal level.
I’ve heard from various sources over the past week that if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Translation: If you fail to recognize your privilege because racism does not impact you directly, then you are a walking example of said privilege.
I’ve heard from various sources over the past week that if you don’t speak out against racism, you are condoning it.
If you support the police, you don’t care about Black People. If you support the protests, you are also supporting violence and destruction of property.
If you try to carry on with life as if these events and conversations aren’t even happening, just waiting for it to blow over, you are exercising your privilege. How nice that you get to do that!
What a privilege, indeed.
It’s these blanket opinion statements that can honestly be so harmful if we don’t really start breaking them down and exploring our thoughts around them.
And while exploring our thoughts, also be aware that white people, particularly white women, have deep seated beliefs around perfectionism and people pleasing. It’s how we have been conditioned by the same society that perpetuates inequity across race, gender, class, and economic status to benefit a few.
The system isn’t broken. It’s working exactly as designed.
Let’s put the systems aside for just a minute. They are what they are at this moment in time.
Let’s talk about who we are as humans.
I have said this before, and I still genuinely believe that most of us are trying to do the best that we can on any given day. Most of us strive to be kind to one another or at the very least, do not have an internal agenda to harm others.
That can go all the way to the level of how or when we even speak about what’s going on in American society today.
I truly want to be open to receiving what is being presented to humanity right now.
I want to look in the mirror and ask myself, “What are you doing to make this world a better place?”
Damn, that seems daunting.
Because while knowledge breeds power, it also means there are parts of us that we need to be open to seeing that will break down our ideals of perfection. We will be forced to remove the masks that we have perfected over time, to get really freaking vulnerable, and admit that we don’t know everything that we need to know.
For some of us, this terrifying.
Yet it can also be exciting.
Yes, break it down, tear it all down so we can rebuild and become who we are meant to become.
It means looking into the depths of our subconscious thoughts and questioning them, perhaps for the first time ever.
Over the past few weeks, I have reached out to both my Black and white friends to see how they are processing events. As expected, some of my white friends would rather pretend that this moment in time is something that doesn’t directly impact them, it will blow over, and there’s a bit of confusion around how to even relate.
My Black friends? They say it’s just another day in the life. They tell me how exhausting it is for them.
Great that it is bubbling to the surface of the collective conscious, but will it make a difference? They are so skeptical.
I get it.
I spent my formative years in the bubble of white America.
I sometimes forget that there are many of us still living there.
I sometimes forget that the exposure to “real life” for many of us is simply absent.
I’m seeing more white people these days dip their toe into the water of discomfort…and quickly pull back when they are called out for not knowing what they don’t know.
I get it. It’s painful to be called out.
Because we want to be perfect.
We want to get it right the first time.
We want to say the right things, do the right things.
What we don’t realize is that the definition of right and wrong is defined by others and we have to find a way to settle into that.
We want to make everyone else happy by saying the right things, doing the right things, only posting the most perfectly curated posts that receive only supportive comments. After all, you are trying. Can’t you get some points for that?
We are ill equipped for any backlash.
Wait. You don’t know my intention. I really and truly care.
Who ultimately defines what is “right” and what is “wrong” in terms of what your intentions are?
You do. You and you alone.
You know what your intentions are. Are you coming from a place of integrity and authenticity with your conversations around a difficult topic or are you virtue signaling?
And you need to truly ask yourself if it’s to gain support and traction on social media or within your community, or whether what you have to say is really being framed to please all of the people. Whether it’s really about an “atta girl” clap back or a virtual smack across your face for getting it “wrong”.
Whether it’s really about trying to get others to make deposits into your emotional bank account or whether you’re willing to make withdrawals into a deficit to stand up for your values of human equality, is something that only you will know.
When you are coming from that place of integrity and authenticity, it means you are also willing to subject yourself to exposure, to admit that you don’t know what you don’t know, and that you are open to learning and growth.
That means being open to a few call outs along the path to greater awareness and understanding.
That means vulnerability and it’s one of the hardest places for us to visit emotionally.
That means the rewards that await on the other side of exposure that may be uncomfortable will be worth every minute of your time and attention.
No one is asking you to be perfect or to get it “right” the first time.
Plenty of people are asking you to join the conversation.
Finding the courage to do that is something I know we can all find if we’re simply willing to dig in.
“Vulnerability is the only bridge to build connection.” – Brené Brown
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