Social injustices are dominating our conversations. We never should have grown silent to them. We need to learn, speak up, and listen. We all have responsibilities, and they do not fade when the news cycle turns.
If you’re like me and have been keeping up with the news, you’ve seen the visualization of a pandemic shift from ‘wash your hands’ and face mask debates to the riots, the hurt, and the turmoil that black people are feeling in this country. The rapid change this last week has moved my maternal fears and worries from deadly coronavirus stories to another: social injustices and uprising across the country.
As a mother, wife, sister, and daughter of a black man, the continued updates reopen a wound that keeps replaying over and over.
A wound that barely recovered from the hyper-sensitivity I was feeling from COVID-19. As you can imagine (or if you can’t), this time has been trying and anxiety-ridden, with heightened feelings of hopelessness. Quite frankly, the feelings of oppression and the constant explanation, and education, are EXHAUSTING.
I look to my two boys who are wildly curious, beautifully intelligent, and super witty, hoping others see the same thing I see. Instead of hoping, we lead a cautious life filled with coping mechanisms to keep them safe, preparing them for those that won’t see them the same way we do. Our love does not shield them from hate.
“If a ball rolls into a neighbor’s yard, DO NOT run after it.” “Don’t run through a clothing store too fast.” “Keep your hands out of your pockets and pull your hoodie down, too.” “Don’t appear to become too upset or too angry.”
Shielding their eyes from the news and talking about injustices in childlike terms to somehow preserve their youthful joy any way we can. I just want them to be able to live a safe, dream-filled life without constant fear or worry.
The ability to dismantle social injustices can be so daunting. Like many of my peers who are raising (and have raised) young black men, I feel tired and worn out. We are cried out, talked out, and posted out. Our continuous and loud vocalization of said frustrations and concerns are not being heard, and we don’t need anymore sorrys.
So, what do we need?
We need more allies. Even deeper, our black boys need more storytellers and disruptors. We need those looking to take their support and distaste for racism even further by resharing our stories as valid truths, shaking up current structures, and calling out discrimination when they see it.
This is where you step in.
Keep in mind, this is coming from my perspective. I challenge you to take intentional, well-meaning steps to put yourself in places to learn from a wide range of black and brown people. Our perspectives are a sum of our identifiers, which are intersectional, diverse, and come from varied backgrounds. These factors individually influence our thoughts, feelings, and concerns.
Seek to hear and understand our stories when appropriate. Listen to gain clarity and perspective. Truly absorb and take in our experiences. Don’t question or play ‘devil’s advocate’. This isn’t the time.
Clarify anything you don’t understand as a means to honor our experiences. not to demean or contradict our understanding. Perception is everything. Although this may not be your interpretation of an event or interaction, it does not mean this is how it was received.
Google and research to help build your arsenal of resources before asking to be taught. If you truly need guidance, reach out with good intentions. Share them with your peers as educational tools.
Your silence is noted. Not having the right words is not an excuse to say nothing. Interject and teach when you hear discriminatory language with your kids, your peers, and your adult family. Stop it there.
Admit when you’re wrong or have wronged someone and pivot. Use this as a learning lesson and ask how you can fix it. Be comfortable if it is received with no immediate response. Don’t place expectations on others to divulge their personal feelings or embrace an apology.
Now, what’s next?
Take this conversation offline, get uncomfortable, and speak with action. Sign petitions, email your local law enforcement, call your politicians and your business leaders, and most importantly, find organizations to fund that are actively fighting social injustices.