‘‘Vulnerability….is having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome.” -Brene Brown in Rising Strong (2015)
“Courage is standing up, getting kicked in the stomach, and then trying again”-Mary (2020)
A few years ago, I wrote a letter to the counseling faculty at Argosy University in the wake of some cruel and racist statements made by a politician not long after the events in Charlottesville where a young woman was killed during peaceful protest against white supremacists. I wrote with my heart to the Faculty of Color to let them know, I a white woman, stood with them during that time of suffering and powerlessness. It felt brave to be public about my heartfelt feelings, perhaps risking job security for what many could have considered a political statement, versus a human one, and I felt a sense of satisfaction that I had taken an action. I am a child of trauma and rocking the boat is pretty scary.
Maybe I even felt a little sense of superiority that I was willing to take this risk. ‘Someone’s gotta start the conversation,” I thought. My white guilt went down a little. I started to have sensitive conversations around race in safe places and no one kicked me in the stomach. I was “doing” something.
After the murder of George Floyd, I was reminded that talking race and injustice in relatively safe spaces does not require an ounce of the same courage it takes for a black man to get in his car and drive to the store or of a person of color to have to go to work in the midst of a deadly virus that seems to be targeting them. So, I am going to start standing up in spaces where I can get kicked in the stomach. I am going to risk being called names and accused of political positions that have no semblance of reality to where my heart is. I am going to speak loudly and clearly, share my heart where there is ignorance and covert racism, because that is where the sickness lives. I am not really a fighter, so I have to do it with love, in the tradition of Martin Luther King.
I invite my white peers to take any opportunity they can, the smallest gesture counts, to risk getting kicked in the stomach. Go to a demonstration. Make it a point to talk to your clients, colleagues and loved ones about racism and heartache, even if it is risky. Have the courage to inadvertently say the wrong thing, showing your own embedded racism. Make the story known in a human way. Steer clear of political rhetoric as talking points when you can. This is the story of human beings, not political agendas. Keep it focused on our grief in the wake of the overwhelming sadness and loss of mothers daughters, sons, fathers and loved ones. Detach with love from those who refuse to shift the narrative to the truth of grief and obvious injustice. Make space for those that let the grief in just a little. That can grow. Finally, vote for people who have a sincere interest in taking steps to eliminate systemic racism, poverty, genderism, sexual orientationism, transgenderism and hate in the guise of religious superiority, and who are not objectifying minorities for political gain, no matter the party. And Let Chinwe and I know when you get kicked in the stomach. We will hold out our hand.
Love and Peace,