Leadership, fear and LOVE
I WAS BLIND.
The murder of George Floyd and the ensuing international outcry for racial justice has woken me up to a painful blind spot. I hadn’t seen the true nature of systemic racism … and I hadn’t seen my part within the system… and that woke me up to something even harder to look at;
I realized I hadn't wanted to see. I didn’t want racism to be true -- it’s too horrible. I didn’t know what to do -- so I allowed its tsunami-like nature to paralyze me. And least of all I did not want to see how I was a conspirator in its proliferation. I've woken up to see that racism lives inside of me, because I live inside of a racist system.
This realization has been bewildering. I’m married to a man of Chinese (Taiwanese, Mongolian) descent. I’m raising a son born into a bi-racial identity. Our last Christmas was spent with my uncle, great-aunt, cousin, his wife and children, all of whom are of direct African descent. Diversity abounds in my family and I consider myself blessed because of these facts.
AND yet like the cartoon, if I’d have been asked, “How’s the water?” My response would have been “what’s water?”
The fish can either “see” the water or not see the water. There is no in between. I was aware that racism and white supremacy existed out there somewhere -- yet I was looking at racism like an aquarium fixture to navigate around, not the very waters in which I swim.
Three weeks before the murder of George Floyd, my husband came to me with his own concerns. He’s fearful of societal retribution for walking in this world as an Asian-American. Our Nation’s leader has been (and continues to) “thank China” for the “China virus” or “kung-flu”. Yes, this is happening. Attacks on Asians in this country are not new -- AND there’s been an increase in hate crimes against Asians / Asian-Americans since the coronavirus started making the news. And comments like these stoked misunderstanding, mistrust, fear and hatred.
At the time of this conversation I did not see how my husband could be truly afraid, for himself and for our son. Abstractly afraid yes, but here in multicultural L.A.? “People wouldn’t do that here, look at our neighborhood. It's going to be fine.” Those were the words I said to him. His concerns were something I couldn’t see, couldn’t relate to. In retrospect I see now, I couldn’t see how anything bad would happen to “us” because nothing bad had ever happened to me. Being white here in America is an enormous and all encompassing privilege. I've been privileged to grow up never having to be concerned for the safety of my loved ones. I'm still privileged to (more times than not) get the job interview, the rental, the connection, the opportunity, the hire. This doesn’t mean everything always works out -- yet it does mean that more times than not, things do work out to my benefit. I now see that the passcode to even getting the door to open, is my whiteness. Yes the work, talent, effort has to be there -- but that comes after. After I am white.
Martin Luther King Jr. said in his book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
“Our goal is to create a beloved community … Love builds up and unites; hate tears down and destroys.... Yes, love—which means understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill, even for one’s enemies—is the solution to the race problem.”
How do I deepen my understanding, create something new, and redeem myself to become part of a unifying solution? I do it through Love. It’s Love that helps me to look (and keep looking), beyond my feelings of shame, embarrassment, hopelessness and fear to simply see WHAT IS SO. It’s Love that gives me the strength to keep going, to share myself honestly, to hold steady on a vision for a new way forward that is equitable and peaceful for all. It's Love that keeps me from running away -- and it let's me know I am redeemable. We all are. And finally it's Love that guides me to take my next outward step. Sharing with you is a step.
Racial justice and our collective healing may not be the conversation you’re up for right now and it may be exactly what’s on your mind. Either way I hope something in here has been useful to you. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t say I hope you join me. We need you. All that is required is that one next step, inward or outward, that looks like Love in action.
And I am so curious -- what IS your next step? Where to from here? Would you share with us?