Time for a Heart Check
Dear Kind Person,
How is your heart? After watching videos of Black people who are discriminated against, abused, and murdered at the hands of people who may look like you or hold the same title as you or someone you love, you might be experiencing guilt or grappling with feelings of shame.
When we see things like this happen, that don’t align with our values, we often times self-protect by resisting the reality of what we see before us. We do this by:
Discrediting the incident, defending the behavior, or distracting people and ourselves with other issues.
Distancing ourselves as far as possible from these people and trying to prove that we are not like them.
Rushing in to save people experiencing the abuse and discrimination.
While all of these responses are normal, they are not necessarily helpful.
For the Black community and many communities of color, race is a topic that is discussed constantly. Everything from what we teach our children to try to keep them alive, how we teach them to be proud of who they are, as well as how we learn to navigate the corporate world, is centered around the understanding of race.
When race is not something that you discuss regularly, all of this at once can be overwhelming. Comfort in this space is earned through each conversation and every exposure you have.
The best way to describe your current state is fragile (White Fragility). You might burst into tears when you hear of the racist experiences of your Black friends or family. You might be filled with rage when you watch the video of George Floyd or hear about the severe injustice regarding the murder of Breonna Taylor. You may feel out of your comfort zone when even reading the word Black. You may try to shut it out and turn it all off because it’s just too much and you don’t know what to do. The extreme emotions you feel may be a result of having not built the psychological and emotional muscle to navigate race.
The message is not that you shouldn’t feel sad or angry. What we’re speaking to is the extreme sensitivity that can leave you feeling stuck, overwhelmed, paralyzed, and unable to move through your emotions and into a space of useful action.
This can spark the responses listed above. We want to acknowledge that while there are a number of responses/gut reactions to racial injustice, we are choosing to highlight a few that we've found to be most visible.
1. Discrediting the incident, defending the behavior, or distracting people and ourselves with other issues.
We’ve seen this manifest in a lot of different ways. Each instance serves to distract from the issue at hand, which is racial injustice towards the Black community.
All Lives Matter, White Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter:
Black Lives Matter is a movement created following the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his murderer. The purpose, to highlight the discrimination and abusive treatment of Black people by law enforcement and inspire inclusivity, systemic justice, equitable treatment, and the affirmation of humanity.
Other phrases that bring attention to Black on Black crime or amplify myths about the Black Lives Matter movement only serve to distract people from the core mission.
2. Distancing ourselves as far as possible from these people and trying to prove that we are not like them.
“I’m not a racist”
Racism is any type of discrimination that oppresses someone else on the basis of a person’s skin color. This manifests itself in different ways. Racism is not who a person is, it is not an identity. It operates like a virus and has infected everything from our judicial system to the way that we give compliments (you are so articulate or your hair looks really nice straight).
Instead of rushing to separate yourself from such horrific behaviors, we invite you to look within and identify any hidden core beliefs that are feeding your biases and racism. We invite you to be honest with yourself, and engage in a heart check.
"It’s just a few bad apples":
Making these statements takes away from the holistic perspective and reality that the entire system is broken. It is not just a few bad apples, it is an infected tree. And it’s time to remove the poison.
3. Rushing in to save people experiencing the abuse and discrimination.
It's important to recognize that the battle for racial equality has existed for generations, and the Black community should not be viewed as weak or less than, dehumanized and pathologized as in need of saving. Per our last blog, we are not asking you to fight for us, rather, we are asking you to fight with us.
We hope you’re ready to take action. Here’s what we’d recommend.
Before asking Black people you know about their experience (reliving trauma), read things that are written by Black people. Listen to what Black people have been saying for hundreds of years. Own and invest in your journey.
Here’s a great resource to get you started on building your racial muscle: 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge
Mistakes are essential to growth. Be gracious with yourself and don’t let your fear of getting it wrong keep you from learning how to get it right.
Sheree & Lacey