During this time of disruption, turmoil, pain and change, we need more. More compassion, more love, more kindness, more safe space, more support, more seeking to understand. More willingness to change the way we look at each other, our systems, our communities, ourselves and our world. My hope is that we move through this and come closer to ensuring that marginalized people have the same rights that many white people, like myself, have been able to take for granted.
As you are reading this article I invite you to explore your own beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions. Making adjustments that will lead to a more supportive, safe and truly free country and world.
“No matter how open-minded, socially conscious, anti-racist I think I am, I still have old, learned, hidden biases that I need to examine. It is my responsibility to check myself daily for my stereotypes, prejudice and ultimately, discrimination.” - @shes_mightymight
I do not believe in smearing ourselves with shame and guilt. My hope as you read this is that you simple explore yourself. This is about awareness, forgiveness and learning to do better. During this time we are all challenged to step into the dark spaces within ourselves. To reach for greater courage and learn to do more good than harm. Removing piece by piece the armour of discrimination, bias, judgement and fear we surround ourselves with. Removing layers of old stories told to us by generations past. Preparing new ground and clean soil to grow a more just, loving and joyful future for our children and grandchildren.
With that in mind, I want to share my personal experience, understanding and thoughts about a couple popular terms surrounding our fight against prejudice, discrimination and marginalization. With hopes that you will be inspired to think and feel more deeply into the heart of the struggles marginalized people are facing.
Let's explore ‘All Lives Matter'
This phrase is being used with a variety of intentions. However, even those with the best intentions may not fully understand the impact. It's not about the phrases and hashtags created. It's about acknowledging the pain felt in the black community. Being aware of our actions and words. Being thoughtful that we are not trying to defend against or lessen the pain that someone else is experiencing.
All lives should matter. Absolutely. That should be the bigger goal right? To create a world where all lives matter to all people? Where systems, policies, processes, communities are designed for ALL people. No matter creed, color, sexual orientation, religious belief, political views or any other thing we judge each other for?
But that is not our current reality. We do not live in a world where all lives matter to all people. Our systems are not set up to be equally supportive of ALL people. We are not YET a fully compassionate and curious global community. We have a lot of work to do.
In the meantime, we can take the time to be more thoughtful about the words we use and how they impact those who are suffering and hurting. We can learn how to show more kindness and simply say “I can see that you are in pain. I am sorry for the hurt you are experiencing.” We can silence our judgement and our defensiveness. We can ask questions and seek to understand. We can ask to be understood. We can just simply care about what someone else is going through without picking sides or defending our beliefs.
What about ‘White Privilege’?
I openly admit to you that prejudice isn’t something that crosses my mind very often. It’s not because I don’t care. It’s because it is not a large part of my day to day life experience. When we are not faced with the experience ourselves, it's not always as easy to see the true trauma that other's face. When we don't live it we have to work harder to create space to test our own judgements and biases.
My white privilege is a real thing. Not a thing I shame or guilt myself about. But a thing that I am aware of and seek to understand better.
As a white women I feel free to be, do and have almost anything I desire in this life with minimal barriers. I do face challenges as a single women. Women are a marginalized group in many ways. Despite that, I still feel like I have a way easier path to walk than my sisters of color.
This is the privilege I experience as a white skinned person in the society and communities I grew up in. Awareness of my privilege helps me better understand the difficulties of others. Not all have it so easy. The more I explore this, the better prepared I am to use my privilege to help those who do not share the same level of privilege.
Things I Do Not Know
I do not know what it is like to be watched suspiciously because of the color of my skin, when all I want is to enjoy a day of shopping.
I do not know what it is like to be glared at because I choose to speak my native language to my children in public. A language that roots them to their heritage and sets them up with greater opportunity in the world as bi-lingual speakers.
I do not know what it is like to feel limited on where I can safely live because of the color of my skin, sexual orientation or other factor that could be met with scrutiny or violence.
I do not know how it feels to be the only person of color in a room full of white faces. Whether it’s the classroom or the boardroom. Hell, I don’t even know what it is like to be the only white face in a room full of colored faces.
In my attempts to understand, there is only one scenario of my life that seems to come close.
I do know how it feels to be on high alert as I walk alone down the quiet rural roads in my community. Isolated, alone, always listening, looking over my shoulder, being hyper-aware of who is around because as a woman I know I am vulnerable. Never being able to settle in and enjoy the peacefulness of just walking alone.
I am so privileged to only feel that level of fear and anxiety occasionally. To be able to enjoy my life feeling safe and secure the majority of the time. To feel free to visit or live in any community I desire without fear. To have a large variety of options and opportunities available to me because most people feel at ease when they see my white female face.
I imagine how my life would be drastically different if I was on high alert and fearful almost every moment of everyday. How much harder I would have to work to “prove” myself. My worth. My value. My intelligence. My kindness. My ability to be a good friend and community member. How much harder I would have to work to find peace, joy and a sense of safety.
How does a soul not get worn down and exhausted from that struggle? How devastating to the psyche to be looked at with scrutiny and judgment based solely on the color of skin or some other factor that is simply a part of your humanness.
How do we move forward?
By not forgetting our history and how we got where we are. We cannot turn a blind eye to the shameful acts of the past because they are uncomfortable to admit and look at. Again, this is not about shaming ourselves or each other. Shaming will not move us forward.
Instead, we must look back and learn how to do and be better moving forward. How to stop defending ourselves and simply learn to say
“I am sorry for the pain you are feeling.”
“I see you. I hear you.”
“I seek to understand your experience.”
It will be difficult to create a world where all lives truly matter until the lives that are judged most harshly begin to feel more support, compassion, safety and relief. Until we as individuals can learn how to approach each other with curiosity and kindness instead of judgment, fear and discrimination.
This is my promise
To continue to gain greater awareness each day of my own judgments, biases, scrutiny and fear based reactions. Replacing them with curiosity, compassion and kindness. I will seek to understand, to see a different perspective, to hear another story other than my own.
If you are still reading this, I want you to know how much I appreciate you. Your willingness to learn, expand and grow. To help create a better world by simply opening up and exploring your own heart, mind and belief systems. Seeking to understand. Seeking to be more courageous. Seeking to be more kind.
Peace, Love & Growth