Black Lives Matter, Big Feelings, and Social Justice Action

We are at a pivotal moment in time. The injustice that black people have experienced in our society for centuries is coming to the forefront of white people’s awareness. The protests are incredibly powerful. Change is being called for and it’s time we all stepped up to the plate. There are so many feelings that I’m feeling personally, but also in a more collective way. I feel anxious, overwhelmed, hopeful, enraged, sad, guilty, embarrassed, inspired, shameful, excited, and uncertain. I feel that change is happening right before my eyes and will continue to happen. We all are feeling these feelings, and if you are having trouble, just slow down and sink in. You will feel something big if you are able to tune in.

There is a pandemic. There are protests about racial inequality and police brutality. I have become obsessed with the news. I have also been to two protests: one was violent and one was peaceful. The difference between these two protests were astounding to me. The violent protest left me feeling scared and small. Energetically there was so much anger flying around in a chaotic manner and it felt dark. The peaceful protest brought me to tears. It was incredibly powerful and the anger was channeled into purposeful action. It left me feeling hopeful and empowered. Energetically it felt grounded, like everyone’s energy was coming together in love to create strength. That feeling of empowerment and strength has been with me ever since. The peaceful protests are what are going to set the stage for this change to happen.

Police brutality is our most blaring indication that the system is corrupt and needs to be changed, but that is just the beginning and the tip of the iceberg. The fact that black people in this country have been held down for so long makes my heart hurt and my head spin. It’s also helping me to dig deeper into my privilege, examine the beliefs infused into me by society, look at what I have done or haven’t done to further these implicit beliefs, and start to formulate a plan to be a part of the solution and an advocate for equality. This is very deep work and something that will take a lifetime with endless bumps along the road, and I’m 100% in.

The question I am currently asking myself is, “How can I help?

As a white woman I now realize I can do so much more than I have been doing and that feels empowering and purposeful. There is guilt, shame, and sadness as well, but I realize that the guilt and shame don’t actually help me do better in this situation. I want to focus on the feelings that spur action and while I acknowledge the feelings of guilt I feel and allow myself to feel them, I also won’t let them run the show or hinder forward movement. We are in for a marathon, but one that I truly believe everyone can run.

The fact that our society’s racial inequality is at the forefront of white people’s attention right now is the true silver lining here. Black people and people of color have been living in a racist and unfair society for so long and those of us with privilege have been either unable or unwilling to see. It is just “how it is” after all and why rock the boat if the group of people you were born into benefits? Racism is intricately woven into the fabric of all of our lives but black communities and people of color are the ones who are being hurt over and over again by our criminal justice system, our educational system, our health care system, and our economic system. The systems need to change and I know that everything that is happening now is going to jump start what I hope is real, sustainable movement for change and equity. Part of me is excited for the change that lies ahead and part of me knows that there will be continued violence and police brutality that will play out in the future until this equality is achieved. It’s going to be a brutal road, but one that must be walked.

The pandemic has really put things into perspective and helped me understand how fragile we all are and how little control we all have over life in most ways. Life is a gift and it can be taken from us at any time. We must use our lives as a force for good in whatever ways we are called to do so. We must connect with ourselves, listen to that deep inner knowing and then find ways to take action.

To start the work of dismantling racism, it starts with us at an individual level. We are all human and we must take care of our physical health, mental health, and emotional health. This is the foundation. Without self care it is harder if not impossible to take care of others, take care of a society, take care of the issues that need our attention and create change. This includes eating well, exercising regularly, taking time for yourself, and staying connected with others even though we are in the pandemic. You do what you can with what you have to work with. Sometimes it can feel like the big work is more important, but it’s all important. You must take care of the individual so you can then take care of people in a larger sense.

I want to be a part of the solution and to do this I know I can donate, be involved in peaceful protests, stand in solidarity, and find small everyday ways to promote equality. My experience working in Camden schools this past year working towards school lunch reform and teaching nutrition has been a wonderful and eye opening experience. The populations of the schools I worked in were predominately black and hispanic. Many of the kids lived in poverty. I had a deep knowing that what I could best do would be to simply connect with the kids, let them know I cared, and to give them a voice. I wanted to let them know that they were valued, seen and heard. That part of the job was equally important to the job of making sure they had access to healthy school lunches. I also knew that although I was doing good work, the most powerful influence would be for a person from that community to do the work I was doing. Someone who was from their community and looked like they did would have the ultimate impact, because it would be someone they could relate to. I know I would make a good support person as my role working behind the scenes supporting as well. Either way, I am proud of the work I was doing with Wellness in the Schools in Camden.

I can do other small things by keeping the conversation going, calling out problems I see or remarks I hear, continuing to dig into my own thoughts, beliefs and actions and learning about how to be anti-racist. I have so much to learn and so much to do, but I feel that I’m ready and need to prepare to make this a lifelong learning process. And then most importantly, I continue to take action in the ways that I know deep down are the ways in which I can help.

I stand in solidarity and in full support of the black community and the Black Lives Matter movement. I acknowledge that the police force needs a complete overhaul and that most, if not all, of our societal systems need change. I take action towards being anti-racist and acknowledge that white privilege and institutionalized racism are the problem. I believe in the social, economic, educational, and health equality of black people and people of color. Things have got to change. We all have big work to do.

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