Start With Heart – It has been an enormously emotional few months and the past week…the past week witnessing the murder of George Floyd defies words. It is a tragedy of epic proportions that didn’t start this week, it started decades ago, and we have not fixed it. I am clear that saying nothing is not the option I choose and yet I also don’t know what to say. Anything I feel or think pales in comparison to the excruciating pain being experienced by Black, Indigenous, Mixed, and People of Color (BIMPOC). So, I’m going to start with heart.
I have spent years teaching that leadership begins on the inside and flows to the outside through our behaviors. I believe that vulnerability is the way to build trust as a foundation for change and our voices are the pathway to freedom. It is more important that I say something, so I’m going to stop worrying about saying it right and just say it from my heart.
I’m sorry for my ignorance and I’m committed to listening deeper and becoming further educated to effect large scale change. All of us must keep our hearts open and keep communicating no matter how difficult it feels, and especially when it feels profoundly uncomfortable inside. These unpleasant emotions often point to where something of deep importance is to be mined. I recognize that there is no knot big enough in my gut that could possibly outweigh what people of color face every single day.
I don’t know what it’s like to live as a person of color and here’s what I do know: I grew up in Michigan, was raised by a racist father and I feel a ton of shame.
I fought back hard three years ago when a dear Latinx friend mentioned my white privilege. I was in shock because that sounded like a diagnosis of cancer and I didn’t want it. I worked with conviction my whole life to NOT be that person, never realizing I don’t have to want it, that it just is. Becoming aware of my privilege, accepting that ‘diagnosis’, was my first real step toward understanding what it means. It’s up to me to continue being curious about how that affects my beliefs and choices in the world while educating myself about privilege and the history of racism in this country.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color, but I do know what it’s like to have been married for 17 years to an amazing man of Latinx descent. I have learned, and been deeply impacted, from my experiences living overseas and working with people from 17 different countries. I know what it’s like to feel grief and rage simultaneously and I know the fear I’ve experienced for the past several years each time my husband leaves for work.
We must start somewhere, or we’ll never get anywhere. Many other thought leaders and voices of influence have been all too quiet. We must be willing to provide safe spaces for ourselves, and our peers, to wade into the challenging conversations and help navigate the seas of uncomfortable emotions. I fully realize I’m likely to say things wrong or show my ignorance, and that’s okay for me, and for you. We can’t get better without using our voices and taking actions in a positive direction. The intentions matter on the way to being better humans and the impacts matter even more. All of it deserves deep examination through reflection and discussion. I invite you to start with a small group of trusted friends or colleagues, talk about what you’re experiencing, read (some good resources below), be willing to stay curious and open, notice more. As Brene Brown says, “Pain that is not transformed will always be transmitted.”
“We are not responsible for the past, but we are responsible for our relationship with the past.” — Darrell Millner, emeritus professor of Black Studies at Portland State University, from the Winter 2019 issue of Oregon Historical Quarterly
I Can’t Breathe – a moving song written and sung by Devin Simpson
Nike Ad - Don't Do It – says a lot in few words
The paper on “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo - http://libjournal.uncg.edu/ijcp/article/viewFile/249/116
The 2018 book, also by DiAngelo, “White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” - https://www.powells.com/book/-9780807047415
A regularly updated Medium Article, “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice” - https://medium.com/equality-includes-you/what-white-people-can-do-for-racial-justice-f2d18b0e0234
The Netflix film: “13th” - https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741
The 2016 Documentary: “I am Not Your Negro”, based on writing by James Baldwin (Currently available on Amazon streaming service)
“Between the World and Me”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates - https://www.powells.com/book/-9780812993547
“How to Be an Antiracist”, by Ibram X. Kendi - https://www.powells.com/book/-9780525509288
Please let us know if you find any of these to be helpful and share how you put them into practice. Also, if you have a tip to offer, let us know and we will include it in a future email or video.
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