- Wake me up when it’s over, right?
We have started this year in the most surreal of ways and none of us can be sure what is next. It’s a really hard time for everyone and I can only guess this is why in wake of the unconscionable and tragic loss of George Floyd’s life, people are globally standing up and speaking out and heartily proclaiming that Black Lives Matter.
As a person who identifies as black, this came as a shock to me. This has been an internal thing within my own household where I educate my own children on black lives mattering and the atrocities that happen to our own Indigenious Australians and all over the world, particularly in America. I know sadly there are households that always have to address this stuff and I know there are households like mine where parents choose to empower their children with knowledge and passion for social justice.
And there are families who believe they are protecting their children by not letting them know what a bad place this world can be for some people.
They have the privilege of doing so.
Did anyone feel themselves getting angry or frustrated or annoyed by that last line?
That’s OK. You’re allowed to feel that but please try and stick with me.
Some people are born into a world where to be a good person you believe you just have to be nice. Pay your bills and taxes, smile at people you meet on the street, be a good child, parent, citizen. Care about other people and be a good friend. For some people this is all that is needed for a nice, enjoyable and comfortable life but if you look around the world, it isn’t that easy for most people.
Why should you care?
That’s not what you were thinking, is it? No… because good people DO care. They want the world to be a better place and now good people are realising that they are the ones that need to make it so.
Sadly, the persecuted have been fighting all this time. Some of you reading may fit into those groups and you know. Some are fighting from their very first breath and sadly no matter how hard they fight, there are certain hearts and minds they can’t change.
That’s where you other people need to come in. We are collectively seeing the world realise this. I don’t know if it’s because we all just experienced some semblance of isolation or because we realised how fleeting life is. Maybe people were reading more or consuming different types of media but for whatever reason, there is finally a vocal majority screaming out that the senseless loss of life that has been a constant fear for black people is not OK.
Systemic racism is a complicated beast that you need to research yourself and I suggest resources such as the Ava DuVerney film 13th and the podcast Seeing White – Scene On Radio. You have to understand how this delicately built system still informs everything that has been built since. It’s like trying to win a race with weights shackled to your feet.
And again, this makes some people squirm.
These people have spent their lives being “good”. Ticking all the boxes. Believing we are all one human race. Not seeing colour (please just read this as I can’t go into that).
We ALL want to be “good” people and if this is something we pride ourselves on, we don’t like the feeling of anything to the contrary. Particularly if we haven’t done anything. But that’s the problem, now being a good person requires doing something and it’s something very uncomfortable.
Shame is one of our most debilitating emotions because it is wrapped up in fear. Shame is a powerful immobiliser. It makes us retreat. It makes us shut down. It stops us listening. It slips us into defensiveness.
We have to fight shame but sometimes first we have to sit in it.
Black Lives Matter.
How do those words feel to you? If you feel like you want to argue against them first check in with your body. What are you feeling and where? Then you can get to the why.
If you think you are not racist or homophobic or transphobic or ableist then you will probably have a visceral reaction to people implying that you are. That is shame.
Shame wants you to start shutting down little parts of yourself every time that happens and start walking away from the fight but humanity needs you to step INTO that. Listen to your body, explore what it is feeling, where do those feelings come from? Listen to the person or medium that may have challenged you on this and just accept it as right. In this moment you may have revealed that there is still work to be done within you on this topic and that is OK but what is not OK is for a good person like you to walk away and take one more good person off the field. We need you.
Empathy is the cornerstone of the parenting I advocate for and in particular, it is the basis of Hand In Hand Parenting (which I am a certified instructor of). Once you start to explore and live a life of empathy, these battles become more meaningful and it’s easier to see why we need to help people fight for their rights.
I’ve mentioned already that the sad thing is that when it comes to fighting for understanding, empathy and equality often the people whose hearts and minds need changing can’t/won’t hear this from the people who are actually suffering themselves. It’s an awful truth that oftentimes someone bravely sharing their own lived experience will come against backlash such as “stop playing the race card”, “stop being so sensitive”, “I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way”, “all lives matter”, “this isn’t a problem in this country”, “well, none of this is my fault” and the “emotional labour” in sharing something and then having to field those kinds of responses is often too much. So freedom fighters need to also come from other backgrounds and particularly more privileged ones because they have a bigger platform.
Along with recognising your body’s reactions then go ahead and educate yourself, challenge any bias you may have uncovered. Do some research “what does privilege actually mean”, “how can I be a better ally to….”, “what is white fragility..” etc. The thing is we are all victims of this disease. All of these incidences and reactions are the symptoms of the disease that is systemic racism and it needs to be as carefully deconstructed as it was once assembled (and reassembled and perfected along the way).
Race is as contentious a topic as sex when it comes to children but it should be handled the same way. That is; in age appropriate pieces early and often.
Studies show that after about 6 months children show reactions that indicate feeling safer with faces that look most like their caregivers and these biases grow as they get older with them being quite entrenched by ages 5-6 so it’s important whatever your children consume (books, TV, movies) display a diverse range of human beings, if you can travel to places where that is more likely then do so regularly. Talk about the different types of people in their world and what their challenges might be and how we can help and watch that you don’t make casual jokes about people’s differences yourself.
Racism is intentional so teaching and learning anti-racism needs to be even more deliberate.
I know for myself, I have shied away from discussing my own experiences with race for the above reasons. I feel empowered by the current movement to be more vocal but the reality is it takes it’s toll on my mental health because the emotional labour on this topic is more than I have ever experienced but it is good this is happening. Mostly good is coming from this experience and I am optimistic about the way forward.
This is big work and it shouldn’t be done alone so please also get yourself listened to along the way. Maybe have multiple listening partners that can hold different parts of the unpacking you need to do.
For my fellow persecuted people, you need to support yourself the most. This is a very hard time so please reach out to me and I will try and personally give you listening time and help you find a regular partner.
Black Lives Matter.
It’s time for change.
It’s time for growth.