But, here I am, processing and posting my experiences yet again. Recognizing that my ignorance and silence regarding race have been personally suffocating, professionally damaging and socially destructive. So I risk the closed window for the readers who allow the benefit of the doubt. And I have to believe that there are others going through something similar. Hence, the share.
I mentioned weeks back that the biggest takeaway from my experience at the Courageous Conversations Summit in NOLA was that I knew I was coming home with a new understanding of who I wanted to be.
So what prompted this evening's post? My experiences at my last SEED class. The stories about race, injustice and family trauma were quite jarring. The courage and love it took to share such haunting memories was indescribably moving. Listening to them, all I could think was, "I'm uncomfortable. Please don't let this be true." And I left feeling even more anxious, realizing that I played an indirect role in the shared events.
So what do I do? How hard can interrupting the status quo be? If you become sensitized to racial/racist issues, and you hear something disturbing, just raise the issue. Then you can turn the tide. Easy, right? Ha! My very first attempt at interrupting was through the political minefield of high school athletics. Bad idea as an entry point. However I don't regret my action, just the way I did it.
It's been a couple weeks. And here's what I've learned in order to move forward.
- You're not alone. I have both experienced and amateur allies available in every corner of my workplace. I am also recognizing allies in old friends; I didn't realize what support they would be because I never really understood the social justice work they were doing. Suffice it to say, I cannot use isolation as an excuse.
- Embrace your feelings. I've learned to feel comfortable with intense "blushing" and tears, my reaction to feeling overwhelmed in a moment. I'm surrounded by people whose default mentality is "No shame. No blame. No guilt." And they know I'm trying, so they support me.
- People with white privilege need to act. The discourse about race must happen. And I've received the message loud and clear. "Dear White People. Do Something!" So why not me? The very least I can do is attempt to facilitate a meaningful and challenging conversation. Lives are at stake. My complacency, my escape, my silence...kills, if not physically, spiritually and emotionally.
- Education is key. As educators, THIS IS the conversation. Every day we wait, we perpetuate the injustices. Why are we not on the front lines?
My discomfort is progress. And the turmoil is freeing.
Definitely for me. And hopefully for others.
After all, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." ~MLK