I have struggled with whether to share this, or anything, lately. It’s important to be listening to black voices right now and at the same time I do not want to remain silent. By nature, I am an observer. I typically keep my strong opinions close. But, sharing stories is powerful. They help us understand each other, organize thoughts, and learn. I hope to hear more of other people’s stories as conversations continue to open up.
I want to point out that this movement is not a trend to me. It is not a fad that will dissipate in my life when the media stops its coverage. We need to keep this movement going for as long as it takes to make real change. That change will come from action. Voting, changing legislation, speaking up, and reworking our systems that have been broken for so long. I aim to try to do anything I can to help us all work towards a better world for the generations to come. Moving forward, together.
So, after much back and forth in my mind I am listening to the voice that has been piping up in my mind telling me to share something I wrote this past week on the morning of June 7, 2020. Here goes…
I woke up this morning at 4:30am, unable to go back to sleep. Initially, because the restroom called. Subsequently because I was foolish enough to look at the apps on my phone that blare the algorithm sorted opinions of everyone and anyone I have connected with on social media. Some thoughts align with mine, others stray a little outside, others differ altogether, and still others are so ignorant that I feel hurt in my heart. I can understand where some of the ignorance may come from. I can understand that it's hard to understand someone else’s world when that world has never been your own. When you have always felt safe. No one questioned why you were jogging down a certain street or gave you a second look while you walked through a store. But to still question the fact that white people benefit from multitudes of privileges just for being white, and have since the dawning of this nation, is unfathomable.
If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.
If you are questioning thousands of people around the world speaking from their hearts, speaking their truth, putting themselves in harm’s way just to be heard, you are not asking the right questions and you are not paying attention.
I fell into the beautiful family I have. The beautiful family that I am so consumed with my own personal growth, goals, and insecurities to realize I have on most days. I retreat from them because I need my space. I yell when I should just shut my mouth. I make fun when I should stop trying to be funny. I am flawed in many of the usual ways one is flawed in a family unit. They deserve better from me and have deserved better from the entire world since before they were even born.
My husband is black and my stepdaughter is black. I don’t point this out as if to say that because of this I know more than anyone else or am more educated. That is certainly not the case. I am learning from them and many people every day on what it means to walk in their shoes. I will never know, but the more I learn the more I can empathize and try to be their ally. Try to be better for them. Try to fight for better for them.
My husband, Darius, and I met in May of 2013 and started seeing each other later that year. It took me until this year, 2020, when these protests began to feel a small portion of what he must feel every day. To start to understand the armor that he needs to put on each day in order to move through this world unscathed. He is not unscathed. I have heard and understood him as best I can in our many discussions on race and his experiences. But, understanding and feeling are two different things. I’m sure I’ve felt some of it before, but something shifted this past week. We are considering where to move next, have been for a while, and mostly I have been frustrated that we have differing opinions on where to move. Many of the places I end up considering are more rural with less diversity than a bigger city like Seattle. He has voiced a need for culture and a black community to connect with. I grew up around trees and space, which I have been missing after living in the city for so long. (Though once we move somewhere quieter, I will miss the same things he will about the city). I would playfully try to convince him and the conversation would eventually shift into some other topic.
Then, the news came out about George Floyd, and the protests began. Because of the stay-at-home order, we are staying with family in a suburb of Seattle where I grew up. Not far from where the proud boys brought their AR-15s to “protect” stores in Snohomish in the first week of protests. Mostly people keep to themselves around here and I know the community well. There are wonderful, good hearted people in this town. He is still not safe. A trip to the grocery store requires preparation, not just for covid issues, but for the potential of stares, questions, or worse. Emotional armor placed on his shoulders any time he leaves the house. He cannot leave the house as himself with his thoughts meandering to the video game he just played or what’s for dinner without also the thought of how he might be treated if he runs into the wrong person or what might actually happen if he gets pulled over on this trip to the store. He drives so carefully, everywhere.
I am painfully aware of how much I do not know about the deep layers of all of the injustices of our country, but what I do know is this. I will not be free, until my husband is free in his own country. In his own state, county, city, neighborhood, backyard, home. Until he can freely walk down the street anywhere in this country without the fear of being looked at sideways, questioned about his motives, or killed. I am not free.
I will move wherever he feels free.
I will go to the grocery store for him so he doesn’t have to put on that emotional armor today.
I will do whatever I can think of to make him and my stepdaughter feel as free as I can.
It’s time for our country to do the same.
It’s time to look within ourselves. What is making each of us so afraid of what we do not understand? What makes people believe there isn’t enough room for all of us on this planet, or more specifically, in this country? What are we afraid of deep down?
This may seem to be beside the point, but it is not.
Try not to assume what the other side, or anyone, is saying without first listening to their words.
Then, start learning. Take small steps.
Read a book outside your comfort zone. This should not feel cozy and comfortable. Seek out black authors and artists to learn from. Read an article, not just a headline. Have a conversation. A deeper conversation. Watch a documentary that you have skipped over in the past, thinking it was irrelevant to you.
Ultimately, we are all connected. If something hurts one of us, all of us are affected and hurt. Ask the tough questions. Of yourselves and of others. Remember, your thoughts inform what you say. Your words inform your actions. Those actions inform your character. Where do you stand?
It’s not just about educating yourself about racism or being anti-racist. While that course of action is imperative for understanding your own privileges and the disparities in this country and there are many resources out there to begin this work, it takes more than that. It takes looking within. Educate yourself on yourself. Read some psychology, some philosophy. Learn about another religion or culture. You may learn something about your own in the process. Study mindfulness or yoga. Take in some history while considering all of the possible sources. Ask questions. Keep asking questions. Listen. Listen to black voices. Keep the conversation going. Then vote. Inform yourself and vote. Do something. Anything other than assuming you already know.