The impact of the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Armaud Arbery and George Floyd has devasted our communities and our country, and returned many of us to memories of decades of discrimination, hatred, dehumanization and divisiveness.
As a child growing up in the Chicago area in the 60s, I remember feeling fear as I became aware of the hatred and violence building, as well as hope for those activists working to change laws that promoted equal rights.
As a White woman of privilege currently living in South Mississippi, I am frequently confronted with racist remarks and actions, clearly not about or against MY race. And they are becoming more frequent and overt than ever before. You see, many people think that because of the color of my skin, I will agree with them. It took me a long time to stop my jaw dropping “I don’t know what to say” reaction and move to the responses I choose now that signal to them that their comments are not okay. Unfortunately, I’ve had to create quite a mental library of responses to fit a number of different situations and comments. And honesty, I’m scared!! I’m afraid of their anger and hatred and I’m afraid I won’t “say it right” in response.
I was confronted head on by this systemic issue from the time I moved here. And now, it’s escalating and it’s time to effect permanent change. And yet, I am suffering from a limiting belief about whether this is truly possible in this country right now. Because I see all too clearly that this isn’t just a problem that exists in the South. It isn’t just my neighbor who is openly and verbally racist. It’s happening in neighborhoods where my sister, brother, nieces and cousins still live in Illinois, in Minnesota, in Florida, and in Arizona. It’s not just happening in my granddaughter’s school in Mississippi, but in the schools where my daughter teaches in New Orleans and where my niece and cousin work in Central Florida. It’s ingrained in the minds and reactions of so many people as they sit quietly in class or stand by silently while another student is bullied or called a name. And my son can run through his neighborhood without fear of being gunned down on the street, but some of his friends, neighbors and co-workers cannot.
And the response of our nation’s leader is doing more to incite violence than it is to promote peaceful resolutions, swift convictions, and equal representation.
As a White woman, I am certain that I am privileged. I see evidence of it every single day. And, I have power and a voice within that privilege. Yet often, like me, I feel that collectively, many many White people are outraged. And yet, there’s a pattern. I’ve fallen into it in the past as well.
We mourn. We post and write and speak and walk and donate and then…we go back to our privileged, lives and our work.
This movement will take more than a groundswell of actions. We must co-create sustainable change that will not find us going back to sleep while our Black sisters and brothers are being murdered.
In my business, I created what I think are the 4 Elements that can create success in almost any area of life and business. First, a Vision of what you want to accomplish. Second, a Belief or mindset that it’s possible. Third, a Plan for how to get there and Fourth, Focused, Consistent Action.
I am calling myself and others to this work –
First, to envision a country where racism is called out, condemned and prosecuted consistently and our history of oppression isn’t “celebrated,” (as it is still here in the South) but is a thing of the past. And that what we celebrate is our commitment and collective partnerships to end (and continually address and discuss) racial injustice once and for all. That one day, we will celebrate our Days of Freedom, rather than our days of violence and hate.
Second, I’m having a little trouble with the Belief part right now. But many of you are helping me every day as I watch you walking, protesting, watching and reading about Black History. Speaking out in all forms. Flying a new flag in Mississippi. Creating Listening stations and much more. Please help me (and let me help you) get to the part where we BELIEVE we can end what seems like a cavernous pit of hatred and violence.
Third, I’m looking for those leaders and organizations who can come together with a Plan. I’m not seeing that yet.
Solopreneurs like myself are asking each other how we can work together and I know that we will figure that out soon.
Fourth, I will engage in focused consistent and daily actions. I see more hope here than I have before. I see policemen and women taking a knee at protests. I’ve seen companies express their commitment of support, dollars and resources, and denouncing racism and violence. I’ve seen universities pull scholarships after seeing racists videos posted by prospective students. And employers terminate workers after discovering their intolerant and hateful behaviors.
Here’s what is the beginning of my part in this area. For a long long time, I have practiced morning journaling pages daily, and I have an ending “process” for each writing session. I ask myself – what did I do the previous day to engage in Creativity, Self-Care and Learning. Then I list a number of things I am grateful for.
Starting now, I will add another area to reflect – what did I do yesterday to promote justice and equality for people of color? What’s happened in the world to unite people of color that I am grateful for today.
To all my Black friends and neighbors, colleagues and community leaders, victims of crime and their families, and especially to all of the children who are so very scared right now:
I’ve made mistakes in the past and I am so very sorry for them. I have said insensitive and racist things. I have been ignorant of the toll this is taking, and of the million big and tiny ways you are shattered inside every day. Of how resilient you have had to become as a result.
And today, tomorrow and every day,
I see you.
I hear you.
I stand with you.
I will fight for you and with you.
I am your Ally.