Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “It is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of high maturity to rise to the level of self-criticism.”
Why would I suggest we immediately shift into energy of self-criticism at this time? Why might it be time to raise our level of maturity in conversations and actions we take to support anti-racism? Is it in us as white people to place immediate and personal long-term focus and commitment on eradicating this cancer upon our society called racism?
How often do we sit with ourselves to criticize the way in which we are showing up as a constructive and purpose-driven exercise? When it comes to racism, do we even care (or dare) to try?
Last night I watched my spaghetti water boil over. I was not happy about the mess. Matters got serious after I burned my hand trying to get control of the burner knob. What's important here is the simple connection I made. To understand that it is my error in turning the heat up so high in the first place that made the pot boil over. An annoying truth and nonetheless an important example of internal personal accountability. Such a small example of self-criticism and what I believe so many of us are severely lacking when it comes to our personal contribution to the conversation we have about racism. Who are we as individuals in all of this? How do our words impact the situation?
Of course, we're not directly responsible for what the murdering cops have done to the black population. So, how might we be responsible for the bigger picture? Maybe calling it a "few bad apples" case to be dealt with isn't all that helpful or respectful to the big picture. To say it's a few bad apples seems to once again dismiss the magnitude of racism that exists. It makes it sound small, almost rare.
To ask, why now? Why am I suddenly so infuriated by this murder when I haven't been involved in past murders at the hands of police officers caught (and uncaught) on video? What inspires me today to say ENOUGH and do I really mean it?
So many white people in social media seem to have comfortably shifted away from the pain our African American population are (and have been) experiencing and back onto ourselves. There is a loud and exasperating (sometimes cartoonish, in my opinion) sigh and display of surprise as fires erupt and windows get broken. We can't stand watching our buildings and police cruisers destroyed. We can't bear to watch the innocent and fellow small business owners cry amidst the rubble that once served us. And we seem to keep ignoring the core issue at present...that police brutality and racial injustice need to end.
Can we do more than shake our fists and call people thugs and losers?
The murder of George Floyd and the issue of racism seems to be getting buried alongside the murders before him. We so quickly and conveniently put the focus back on our personal suffering without enough awareness to consider that maybe, just maybe, we as individuals are part of the problem--through the words that we speak.
An incredibly large pot has boiled over and yet we seem to be focused on how it is burning us. Have we once again conveniently shifted out of any responsibility that may have helped turn the heat on the situation?
"What on earth are these people thinking?" It is just one comment I've come across that appears absurdly disjointed. Are we this in the dark (or is it denial) to consider linking the devastating psychological effects of racial oppression to the behaviors we see unfolding?
Are we willing to continue ignoring the issues at hand that contribute to this kind of devastating response? Have we once again pushed aside the murder of George Floyd as we have the others before him? Perhaps we have only so much time in our day as a white population to dedicate to our own discomfort. It seems we're very consistent in our desire for convenience and cozy living. We value a drive-thru consumer lifestyle of coffee and Netflix. What more do we value?
Are we willing to take a more mature approach to consider the psychological effects of oppression? Do we care enough to make a commitment to research the history of stress and anxiety blacks have been dealing with...Are we mature enough to empathize vs. patronize and STOP telling the black population to "just settle down"? If we know the first thing about pent up stress, anger, and feelings of hopelessness as a result of long-term abuse...the vision of rage may not be so hard to understand. A beaten-down dog will at some point bite back.
Why are we okay to accept or use the terms 'thugs and losers' and not consider looking at how our dismissive language may be fueling the fire of despair?
I must admit...I lost focus myself for a moment. I felt sick and sad to see so much property destruction. And then I asked, is this focus of energy helpful? Is my only real contribution to the burning issue of racism to say, "violence isn't the answer"? Is there more I can do or am I okay to sit tight with a quick-fix answer to get-em'-outa-here lock-em-up mentality?
The black population has risen many times following the murders of their children, brothers, and sisters at the hands of racists. Some of us believe that since slavery is "in the past" what's there to really be concerned about?
How many of us are strong enough to go within and ask, "What inside of me feels perfectly comfortable getting mad about the pot boiling over instead of uncovering what it was that set the heat too high in the first place?"
WHEN WE CONSIDER that self-criticism can be used as a constructive process…one that can help us gain deeper clarity into our present language and perspective on racism...
When we work internally we will then clear a psychological path out of maddening frustration and into meaningful growth…And meaningful growth within ourselves leads to meaningful action and progress to END racism...Our personal ignorance of the matter is up to us to resolve...
WHEN WE INTENTIONALLY SEEK to become more mature communicators we reject reactivity and step into a higher version of communication...If we truly want to lead in love, compassion, and kindness, we must cultivate from within...to unearth a voice of compassion vs. reaction or distraction...
HAVE YOU NOTICED that complaining about our government…focusing in on the looters…watching hours of news footage…chiming in on every post that annoys you is a fast road to mental exhaustion? If you’re okay to live in that energy it is your choice to stay there, of course.
If you’d like to choose to RAISE your energy and ascend beyond frustration I invite you to write the following questions I designed around the conversations I've been witnessing...Some are questions I asked of myself...
I BELIEVE ONE VERY SPECIFIC WAY TO HONOR George Floyd and demonstrate deeper level support for black lives is through self-critical assessment. This may also work to help you put words to how you're feeling...to extract any white person lies we may be telling ourselves...
AM I EVEN AWARE of the magnitude of pain the black community is in (and has been for far too long) suffering? When was the last time I researched the emotional and psychological effects of oppression?
HAVE I DISMISSED THE HISTORY OF RACISM—the horrific days of slavery—in our country as some sort of “ancient history” that the black community should “get over” or “erase” or can I learn to sit in my own space for a moment to ask, “Would I accept anyone telling me to get over or erase any part of my family's history?" Would this resonate/qualify as a kind of life- not-mattering moment? At the very least, would I feel it's a loving comment to hear from someone?
WHAT TIME IN MY LIFE might exist that I can purposely connect to and recapture the feelings of humiliation or a time I felt unheard that could help build stronger empathy and ground me in my mission forward?
WHAT INSIDE OF ME TODAY has emerged that I can grow further and can lead me to no longer IGNORE what is happening in the black community? WHAT DO I NEED TO LET GO OF?
YOU MIGHT ASK YOURSELF:
WHAT IS MY PURPOSE TODAY for joining Black Lives Matter? Is my commitment to protest and post my support on social media a long-term commitment and if so, what skills/steps or mindset changes must I engage in to hold that commitment?
AT THE CORE ISSUE…Is it enough to tag my name to the Black Lives Matter mission or have I gone and researched the website to understand its origin and mission so that I may do more? Have I talked with my fellow black Americans to clarify my understanding of things from the research I did on my own? Have I taken a moment to write down one key action step I can take that is directly spelled out from a resource such as Black Lives Matter…
ON THE FLIP SLIDE…If I am a person who frequently comments “all lives matter,” Could it be I’m confused about what Black Lives Matter means…or I do I truly believe or feel my life isn’t being considered…
I invite you to consider my story as an illustration of why it may not make sense to say “all lives matter” in the context of what's happening...
I was a 15-year private advocate for Veteran’s Healthcare Benefits on behalf of disabled veterans …I was in service with a very specific group of former soldiers in need of attention and care…I formed a support group once called “Care for the Ones Who Dared to Go Above and Beyond”... There was one small gathering with men holding signs that read "Veteran's Lives Matter"
Would you have then said to me or a soldier, “What about ME? Doesn’t my healthcare/life matter? Isn't what I'm doing in my life going above or beyond?” Or might you be quick to support the call of the Veterans because you believe they deserve your respect? If you believe respect is called for and you can separate the message as specifically focused vs. separatist driven ask yourself: why wouldn't Black Lives Matter be seen in the same light?
Would this soldier group have gained my approval to hold those signs that read Veteran's Lives Matter or would I have been okay to stand in front of a soldier to challenge his/her message to say, "All lives matter..."
Can I say that I agree that both groups are on a matter of mission to be HEARD, RESPECTED, AND CARED FOR (even if the issues are different) to be INCLUDED--and to MATTER in the bigger picture? What purpose might either one have to EXCLUDE me, or anyone else from individual access or attention to healthcare rights or human dignity?
And I ask YOU: Is it worth it to explore the possibility that maybe, just maybe, your life has mattered since the day you were born as a white person--just as mine has-- or that perhaps we've taken for granted our privileged and designated inclusion all along that we can't possibly understand the pain of not having it. If we can't understand the pain, can we at least be inspired to work to ground ourselves in the fact and reality that the black population does not share these same securities long enough to ask, is this acceptable?
Critical thinking allows for specificity and clarity to emerge in a way that guarantees some discomfort...The inner truths we hold can hurt once they're revealed...and as we all know expressing the truth can also set us free...
Self-criticism done well can work to relieve anxiety and stress…It isn't supposed to be perfect and yet it can work to expel pent up emotion or anger...
It's time we throw away our egos for a change...to stop playing the confusion or blind card when it comes to racism because we're just too bothered to be uncomfortable with the truth past and present...Let's STOP drawing and repeating the same obvious point to say "violence doesn't solve anything" as some valuable contribution and question whether we are really just playing the convenience card...
If we are being honest when we say we seek to arrive at total inclusivity and change to honor human dignity... WE MUST ACT TODAY to do the inner work necessary to take us out of frustration and into MOVEMENT...
Let's do well, friends, to keep our stress low and our minds clearer…Let's RAISE OUR MATURITY LEVEL to do a bit of self-criticism...to make Black Lives Matter--and to role model for our children our recognition that we as a white population haven't ever had to question or worry whether our lives matter because of the color of our skin...Let's prove that we vote for inclusion...Let's establish that we acknowledge and respect the pain even if we can't possibly understand it...and let's together do what can do to self-criticize and move forward for the sake of progress...
Martin Luther King, Jr., was aware of the value of turning within…I believe to self-criticize is to uncover that which would likely hold the key to why we struggle to understand or ignore others’ pain…Why we struggle to put words to our grief...It isn't enough to simply say a few "bad apples" need to be locked up.
Clarity helps open the door to a more compassionate conversation...To choose to be more mature to ask ourselves if we may be inflicting pain on others it is to face our own insecurities about how we've really been showing up
... And finally, to go beyond prayer to TAKE ACTION…to BE, DO, and SEE and HEAR better…This, I believe, is one way to create massive change outside of ourselves.
One final perspective to offer: If you’re a person who believes this is all in God’s hands or that prayer alone is the way to get answers…Perhaps you’ll be inspired to take action to create change from Mother Teresa who said, “I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength...I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us, and we change things.”
Let’s work to change things, shall we?…
~Your Friend in Mourning and Solidarity,