In the wake of George Floyd’s death and cry, “I can’t breathe!” the Black Lives Movement revealed that just how deeply our society and culture is engrained in racism. The global pandemic that rocked the world revealed that healthcare is not the same for every person as more black lives were lost to COVID.
Over the past year, I have listened to podcasts, read books, and participated in book studies as much as I could to try to understand the systemic racism and oppression inherent in our American society. Over and over again, I found myself in the stories and reflections of Austin Channing Brown, Ibram Kendi, Octavia Butler, and Ta-Nehisi Coates confessing how much I didn’t know and how much I have participated and benefitted in this system.
As I have wrestled with my participation over the years, I have also reflected on how and where I put my time, energy, and money in an attempt to use my privilege in ways that work towards social justice. I have joined groups and organizations that work day in and day out to petition local government.
Over the past year, I have given up the hustle of getting it right.
I have made so many mistakes. As I read a new story or listened to another interview, I find myself reflecting on interactions I’ve had and finding myself on the wrong side. The side of the oppressor rather than the oppressed.
It is humbling and frustrating and grief-filled, but even as I struggle and wrestle with my participation and benefits from a system that excludes so many, I vow over and over again to keep trying.
Rather than concentrating on getting it right, I am turning my attention towards surrounding myself with people who will tell me when I’m not getting it right. People who will challenge and urge me to push and use my privilege. I am working on deep listening and deep hearing even when it hurts and even when it means I was in the wrong.
The more I have given up the hustle of getting right, the more open I have become. The more responsive rather than reactive I have become when someone tells me I am getting it wrong.
And when we can hear and listen to each other without defense and pretense, then we can gather our energy and privilege towards changing the world around into a world that welcomes all and offers all hope.