My next post was going to be about self-marketing, but that all seems silly now. As I watch the tragedy in Minneapolis (and around the country) unfold, it weighs on me anew. Even though I know this is the plight of black people everyday in our country, and this is a weight they constantly bear, there are days when I can forget, when I can believe the small things I do at work and in my personal life are enough. But it’s not. It’s never enough.
Below are posts I shared with my friends and family as I think and process what’s going on. These are my thoughts in motion, raw and real. This is the burden of history, of how humans are tribes, that we all own to resolve. And this is me thinking through that responsibility.
I’ll add to this post as I have further thoughts. If you are doing so as well, please consider posting to your social media with the tags #blacklivesmatter and #TheyAreUs. #TheyAreUs was used after the New Zealand attacks, and I like what it means; don’t normalize hate.
I’ve never once been scared by a black person. I’m thinking back — every time I’ve walked down a street, every time I’ve been alone at night, in clubs, in the dark. I’ve lived in diverse places including New Jersey and Virginia. I’ve worked alongside, for, and I’ve hired black people. I only can remember friendly people, cautious people, tired people. Just like many of us, exactly like us, because they are us. There’s no way I’m alone. Where are we? #TheyAreUs #blacklivesmatter
And what if I had been scared by a black person ever, would I hold it against them? I’ve been held down by white men I was dating, who thought they had privilege over my body. Do I hold that against all white men? I was once called a tease, a slut, in a club by a whole group of Asian people for dancing with them and not wanting to be humped from behind. Do I think all Asian people would do that? I’ve been stalked multiple times, mainly by white men. Do I glance behind me picking up my pace when all white men are behind me? I’ve been beat out for jobs by mostly white men and women. Do I side eye all of them and think they are coming for my jobs? Do I attribute any of these events to race or gender at all? No.
In contrast: A huge black, wall of a man named Jesse once helped my friend and I get our car back on the road in the dark night of Tennessee after I foolishly drove off of it. He clearly lived in his car and used his hands for a living. He asked for nothing, but we gave him all the cash we had in thanks. Were we afraid then? A little because it was a dark and stormy night and we were in the kind of town novels are written about where people disappear. But it was the kindness I remember. That’s the kindness I expect of all people unless proven otherwise. That’s the kindness I will give to all people. And that’s what I’ll teach my children about today.
I spoke with the kids last night. I pulled them aside and said I wanted to talk about how I felt. In some ways it was an easy conversation. They already believe the world should be fair. It’s the root of so many fights between the siblings.
The hard part is getting at what they can’t imagine. The hundreds, thousands, of years of ingrained beliefs. The anger, fear and despair that can divide us. The tinder box we live in right now in a society of haves and havenots during a pandemic. I spoke about slavery and where we see black people in the world like in entertainment. I spoke about dark and light, and how even the terms black and white carry so much within them. I spoke about Latino and Asian assumptions we make too. I spoke about gender and gave examples of how assumptions impact them, my son with his long hair and my headstrong daughter.
At the end I hugged them close and said we will respect each other and be kind to each other. I’ll have this conversation over and over again.