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August 18, 2020

Being an Ally for Black Lives sometimes means Moving Slow.

I recognize the naïveté of my initial reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests.

Like many others who live with rose-colored glasses, I thought my monochromatic view of the world meant I was not part of the problem. I’ve long been aware, however, that my Pollyanna attitude doesn’t fix everything with a round of the “Glad Game“.

In the beginning, I understood the anger brewing across the country. As an empath, I had to retreat from it. Posts and emotional videos from Black influencers were moving, but I needed time to process.

I became frustrated by people blatantly jumping on the ally bandwagon. Everyone had a point of view on how I should feel—except for me.

Was I outraged?

Was I defensive?

Was I invested enough in this fight?

As people began to unpack their emotions, many women I admire opened up about their shame. I realized this was the source of discomfort settled in my gut and heart: shame for my ignorance of systemic racism. Shame for my privilege. Shame for my perceived lack of empathy. This goes much further back than not reprimanding someone’s racist joke, but I was ready to fall on the sword for the entire crisis.

In the ensuing days, I slowly began to take action, reaching out to my local government and following new Black voices. I resonated with messages outlining the various roles we each play in this fight and appreciated that I may be better suited for a support role.

Many friends protested while I read, learned, and amplified Black voices. Black friends implored me to continue my message of positivity and keep shining my light.

Just when I started to detach my personal shame from the racist horrors of history, I heard the term “spiritual bypass.” Voices I respected were accusing me of not being angry enough. Online communities changed to be more diverse, but along the way let hate speech slide in under the guise of free speech—I had trusted certain platforms to filter out such negativity.

Instead I came face to face with the idea that I was un-American if I didn’t hate everything about America right now.

Suddenly, the anger was mine.

I believe in the shake-up happening in the world, but I don’t believe in shaming tactics. I understand shame plenty. In my two years sober, I’ve pulled two decades worth of skeletons out of the closet, ones I thought might stay hidden forever. I’ve reopened old wounds in the interest of healing, so if I resent shame and guilt being shoved down my throat, it’s because I have experience choking on humble pie.

It seems some of the angriest voices were like flashes in a pan—igniting as part of the wave of fury and burning out quickly—with little stake in the game. I admire those who haven’t taken their foot off the gas, who are coming to the table with new points of view on anti-racist action.

I was glad to get my copy of O magazine memorializing Breonna Taylor.

I was glad to support a friend’s art campaign to amplify BIPOC artists.

I am glad to continue learning from an anti-bias educator about how I can help dismantle oppressive ideas.

I am finding my way in this fight, and it is authentically mine—no force feeding required.

~

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