Waking Up


Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.  -Pema Chodron

This post is scary for me to write. I’m scared that I will say the wrong thing. I’m scared that I will put my foot in my mouth. I’m scared that I will offend people of color. I’m scared that by writing at all right now I am taking up space that would be better used to amplify the Black voices that need to be heard. I am still trying to figure out my role in this movement. But I am writing this because, while I understand that I have not experienced centuries of oppression, it is my responsibility to publicly and loudly proclaim my support for communities of color. It’s time for me to deeply examine my own blind spots and to push against my desire to remain in my protected bubble. And it’s time for me to engage in the change that is so desperately needed in order for our country to become, someday, a just and equitable place for everyone.

As the protests against the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black people have been taking place throughout the country and around the world, I’ve been watching my three kids to see how they are responding. They are dealing with their grief and rage over these horrifying killings in different ways. One daughter feels dark and cynical about the state of the world. On a recent morning she didn’t get out of bed, hiding under her covers for hours. When she finally emerged she was quiet. Her twin ties herself up into knots of sadness and anxiety. She had a panic attack before bed the other night, hyperventilating, her eyes unable to focus. I held her as she worked to slow her breathing and reground herself. Our 17-year-old son often escapes into video games when faced with pain, so I cornered him yesterday and asked him how he was processing everything. “I feel good about it,” he responded, and my head nearly exploded. How could he think anything about this situation is good?? But instead of jumping to conclusions, I took a breath and asked, “What are you feeling good about? Tell me more.” “I think that George Floyd’s death might be the thing that finally wakes people up. Something feels different this time. I’m hopeful.” He sees this as a turning point. And I hope he’s right. We have needed a sea change since before our country was even founded.

A few days ago my daughter Ellie and I attended a Black Lives Matter protest and solidarity march in predominantly white, mostly segregated Marin County in Northern California. At the end of the march several of the organizers spoke. One young man thanked the white people in attendance for coming out in support but wondered why it took us so long. I have been asking myself the same question. Why did I let myself hide from this? I think the most honest answer is because I could. Because it was easier and less painful than facing the depth and breadth of the suffering all around me. Because I didn’t want to sacrifice my own comfort by closely examine my white privilege. And because I convinced myself that if I was a good person and treated people well I could continue to look the other way, and that somehow, magically, our country would become more equitable and just without my active engagement.

I wish it hadn’t taken so long for me to open my eyes. I am sorry that I was asleep, and I am grateful to be awakening. I see more clearly my responsibility to use my privilege for good. I will continue to educate myself and know that my learning will be lifelong. I am committed to examining my own inherited biases and having conversions with my family and friends. I understand that my job is to listen to, learn from and amplify the Black voices that are leading this movement, and to become an active participant in creating change.

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