I am accountable
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
I spoke to our teenaged students this weekend about what is happening. Your children's rage and disgust with how Black people are being treated in our country was moving. I actually don't even like saying 'our country' because that’s when we automatically make the rest of the world 'other'. And that is the root of the problem here, isn't it?
This is where my mind is at lately.
It was hard for me to write this. I found myself avoiding this moment due to so many reasons, such as:
Avoidance. I wanted to avoid talking about it. I have never spent enough time to process racism in and out. It is unknown territory for me in many ways and this made it uncomfortable for me.
Pain. Listening to the videos or reading the details are hard to see and feel. Imagining that this is our brother, our child, our father hurts too much. It makes me feel too many things. Most of these feelings are undesired feelings that I don't want to feel.
Fear. I was afraid to say the wrong thing. What if I offend someone? What if I say something wrong? I am afraid of being judged by you. I feel how sensitive and emotional all of this is and I don't know enough about this because I am still learning.
Insecurity. I am no expert on any of this. My self-talk asked "Do I even have the right to say something if I am not Black myself?" I checked myself quickly here, because if the goal is equality and humanity, then I most definitely have a right to say something here. I am part of the human race and if I really believe we are one, then there is no room for such questions.
Denial. I found myself thinking this is not my problem. This is a police problem. An institution problem. Perhaps it is political. And we all know when we point the finger, four fingers are pointing right back at us. This is not just political or about police officers or capitalism and what not. It goes much deeper than that. This is part of humanity and if you are human, this involves you.
When we succumb to the feelings above and we choose not to say, act, change or do something, we desensitize ourselves. And because our desensitization muscles have become so strong, we are able to create a situation where fellow police officers become desensitized bystanders during dire moments when all we needed was one person to step in and act, say, change or do something. Desensitizing only repeats the cycle.
And that 's when I realized I need to feel all of this and I need to have the guts to write this.
I have so many emotions. Confusion, anger, devastation, disgust, sadness, frustration, disappointment, and shock.
I am shocked because I am realizing that I live in an incidental bubble of safety and protection.
I happen to be a certain color. I happen to live in a certain neighborhood. I happen to have a certain amount of money. I happen to have gone to certain schools.
...and because of all these incidental happenings, my parents did not have to tell me as a child that I should automatically throw my hands in the air if a police officer approaches me.
The unfairness of this makes my blood boil.
I am mad at myself for not realizing this sooner. I am mad at myself for thinking my little bubble represents the rest of the world. Did George Floyd and so many others have to be brutally and cruelly killed for me to have this realization? I am disgusted with myself for being so blind. For thinking that just because I have surrounded myself with people who are kind and fair and just, that the rest of the world must be like that too. How pathetically naive and mistakenly idyllic of me.
I feel challenged to look within. I feel responsible. I feel accountable.
I remember being called a 'sand nigger' once.
I have lived such an unrealistically privileged and protected life that I didn't even know the meaning of that word (and I was in college). I remember feeling so shocked and scared when I learned the meaning. I remember feeling the need to run to my car and I even remember feeling for my pepper spray in my purse.
I also remember feeling incredibly hurt. This person just made me feel like I was no-one. That I was insignificant. That I didn't BELONG. That hurt was felt so deeply that it scared me and it made me realize I am not home here.
This just happened to me ONCE. The thought of this being a daily realilty for so many makes me breakdown in tears. It is incredibly infuriating and disappointing.
I wish I could speak to George Floyd and all Black people living today and tell them face to face 'YOU ARE SAFE HERE. THIS IS YOUR HOME. YOU BELONG.'
My dance students told me that in school they were asked asked to imagine 'thugs' 'hoodlum' and 'gangster'. What race do you see? I can honestly say that a white person was not what I visualized when I heard those words. THIS IS THE PROBLEM! I am the problem.
We have not examined the societal implications of what has become our natural instinct. How racially charged even our inner intuition actually is...
I used to feel proud that we are past slavery. Yet, now we are all seeing that we are not past it at all. It is still happening. It has been happening. It's roots are too deep and our work is not done.
We must create a world where all people are truly seen as one and each person feels safe, loved , fully accepted and undeniably protected.
I don't see how this can be done, if we don't first heal the hate and discrimination in each of us that makes us see the color of our skin before the human in our soul.
I recently learned that saying 'I am not racist' is kind of like standing still on a conveyor belt of racism, happily moving forward at the expense of others. (Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by B. Tatum)
This was a powerful image for me.
Unless we are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt– unless we are actively antiracist – we will find themselves carried along with the others. ~Tatum
I need to be anti-racism.
I don't know about you, but I have been quite unaware of my role in all of this. I never felt the need to ask my Black friends 'Do you feel unsafe?' 'Do you feel like you don't belong?' 'Do you feel like you are not like me?' 'Are you afraid of the very people who are meant to protect you?' I assumed it was that way. My naive blindness is part of the problem.
I have been digging deeper though...
Why don't I have more Black friends in my life?
Why is there not one Black child in my daughter's pre-k class?
Why is the neighborhood I live in one of the safest in the world and also has the lowest ratio of Hispanics and Blacks?
I am not saying that I should change my daughter's school or move to a new neighborhood. But I am saying that I need to pay more attention, with deep awareness and realization of how unfair it all really is. I am a participating bystander in the division, the hate, and the discrimination we are witnessing today. I need to own my part in it so I can see it and then change it. We cannot change something we choose not to see.
I believe everyone needs to say 'I am accountable. I am sorry.' This simple statement can create a mindset shift in our work, in our homes, in our lives, in our families and most importantly in our souls.
If any of this makes you uncomfortable then maybe there is something to explore there (I say this with love because trust me, I felt uncomfortable! And I forced myself to explore). All of this is definitely uncomfortable for me. It is new territory. It wasn't until I explored more deeply that I found more awareness and was able to challenge myself to be better and do better.
I challenge myself to unwire all this nonsense from my brain. I challenge myself to use 'we' more often. I challenge myself to start learning more about racism and our racial history. I challenge myself to act with full support for a complete police reform. I challenge myself to question my feelings and my auto-pilot reactions to race every day. I challenge myself to get to know my Black friends better. I challenge myself to have hard and authentic conversations with my Black friends and really listen. I challenge myself to bring awareness to all the colors of humankind in my home. I challenge myself to choose the black doll next time I buy my daughter a toy. I challenge myself to intentionally teach my daughter to stand up for all life: black, white, brown, human, animal, insect and trees. I challenge myself to intentionally include our family in more diverse surroundings. I challenge myself to teach my daughter the history of slavery and the support our Black brothers and sisters need and deserve. I challenge all my thoughts, actions and words every day to come from one place and one place only - LOVE & ONENESS.
The best way we can help right now is to look this right in the face and commit to actionable change within ourselves.
I am learning this is not the time for me to share my optimism. When I tried to share my optimism and hope, I noticed my Black friends heard my optimism as an invalidation of their feelings.
And when I reflected on this more deeply, I understood.
When feelings and needs are suppressed and unheard over and over again, they will find a way to come out in extremely unhealthy ways. This is exactly what is happening right now.
As a mother, I know when my child throws a tantrum, it is because I failed to meet her needs and I have some work to do within... but the first thing I need to say to my child is 'I hear you. I see you. You matter. Your feelings matter. Your needs are important to me. This won't happen happen again."
I realize this is what our Black brothers and sisters are asking for right now. They are asking to be heard and to be seen. They need their rage, hurt and disappointment of basic unmet needs validated.
Our Black community is angry and hurt. They are the world's children. Their feelings are valid. They must be heard. Until their mother - our world, you and I - hears them and DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT, these voices will keep screaming.
The fact that George Floyd's last words were "Mama" "Mama" repeated over and over again, shows how he was yearning for love, safety and protection. He was screaming to belong when he realized he was NOT HOME. Our world has not accepted him.
The people who are meant to protect him did not protect him. This is devastating and heartbreaking.
There is one caveat: violence is not the answer. I understand why some of us feel the need to resort to violence right now. I don’t agree with it though. Violence will only give birth to more hate, discrimination and judgement. But I understand.
We must stand up for our beautiful Black brothers and sisters. We must embrace them. We must hug them and tell them:
'WE LOVE YOU. WE SEE YOU. WE ARE SORRY. THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.' Until those words are said by EVERY SINGLE HUMAN ON THIS PLANET, these souls will keep shouting and crying. And let me tell you,
the one single voice that is silent right now is actually louder than all the voices speaking out.
If you are someone who posts on social media regularly, or have a forum of people you can talk to about this and you are chosing to remain quiet, I challenge you to ask yourself WHY? Your silence is loud. Our Black community needs to hear your support. They need your validation. They need to know you are aware. Because when you show that you see the problem, you will plant seeds of change.
For those of us who are perhaps judging the silence, please know some of us may just need some time to process all of this first. Some of us may feel a lot of pressure and guilt. Some of us don’t even know where to start.
If you don't know where to start, let's start by simply not avoiding any of this. Let's look this right in the face and take the time to process it, explore it and commit to an internal change.
Only then can we act in alignment with a life devoted to anti-racism.
Take the time to process it. Explore it. Commit to it. And then speak up, stand up and show up.
Our system is broken. Our humanity is broken. And when something's left broken for too long, it will collapse.
That is when we are forced to pay attention.
That is when we can show awareness through our accountability as we work hard on healing, changing and rebuilding.
Change starts with me, in my home, in my neighborhood. And it also starts with you...
Don't underestimate your role in this. You are powerful.
Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Dr. Seuss and so many others knew the power of one...
“This is your town's darkest hour! The time for all Whos who have blood that is red To come to the aid of their country!" he said. "We've GOT to make noises in greater amounts! So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!” ―Dr. Seuss