It felt like a bomb in my inbox. Two of our team members asked if we could organize a peaceful march from our clinic to city hall. Then they followed it up with “it's ok if you and doc don’t want to. It’s just a thought. We don’t want to do anything that reflects badly on the business.”
Before this text, I was sad and angry and having quiet conversations with my family, with friends and with individual team members, but publicly I had remained silent because I didn’t know what to say. I was worried I would say the wrong thing. I was worried it may not be my place to speak.
That text woke me up. My silence which was my fear had been taken for complacency and possibly a strategic business decision.
There is often a place for silence. None of us listen as we should but it’s now time to speak up.
I wrote about anger in my last post, how it can get trapped in your body, shoved deep and start to poison you. I saw a reiki healer about my anger. She told me to throw plates. I never did and the anger dug deeper until it started to erupt. I think perhaps the black community needs a moment to throw plates, to move their anger and suffering out of their bodies, and put it in the open where we all can share it. It’s not just their burden to bear. We can’t tell someone how to feel or how to protest or to stop living in the past. The suffering the black community carries is ancestral and can’t simply be turned off because it's inconvenient or uncomfortable for the rest of us. We need to realize anger at oppression is also valid. If I had to worry every day that my son might not come home because of his clothing choice I would probably want to smash a TV and not a plate. I’m not advocating violence but I think we should stop being so quick to judge how anger is expressed.
Suffering doesn’t have a timeline. You don’t get to hurry it along. We need to hold space for suffering and be willing to sit in the space and the pain for as long as it takes. We may be here a while and we need to make peace with that. It’s our job to say I may not fully understand your pain, anger, and frustration but I’ll sit here with you with an open heart, an open mind, and extend my hand. I’ll stop micromanaging your pain and anger and let you express it in your unique way so we can start working together to heal.
I also had to take a long hard look at myself and admit that parts of me are conditioned to fear the other. If you don’t look like me, talk like me, think like me, etc on some level I fear you. And because I’m afraid I’m angry and I make you the enemy. It’s hard to admit this, it’s embarrassing to admit it, but the only way to change is to accept the ugly parts of yourself. Out of acceptance comes the motivation to change and the courage to change. We need to start hard conversations with ourselves and others.
We need to start to acknowledge the subtle racism and call it by its name and stand strong for the change. Overt racism is easy to spot. It is the subtle racism we are all conditioned to accept and think this is just how things are - this is what needs to be brought into the light.
I don’t know how to fix generations of pain and suffering. I don’t know how to open minds and hearts. I don’t know how to decondition and unbind an entire society. I do think the way forward is through acknowledging there is a problem and granting each other space and grace as we stumble forward. I heard someone say that as we go through life we are all stumbling forward together. The walk towards the light is not going to be pretty or easy or achieved within a convenient time frame. It’s going to take time. Along the way, if we can remember to grant each other space, compassion, and time then we maybe we will extend the forgiveness needed along this difficult journey as we all stumble forward together.
Sometimes you need a nudge to make you get up, speak up, and stand up for what's right. Thank you to my team for reminding me its time to speak up. I don’t like controversy and I don’t like uncomfortable conversations but people are worth speaking up for. Thank you to my light shiners and truth-tellers that I am fortunate to count as friends. You give me the courage to examine my prejudices and to learn and grow. Melissa, Paul, Peter, George, Yobe, Dessie, Ozzie, Mtimba, Fannuel, Omex - thank you for acting as my guides as I stumble forward.