“I don’t want to say the wrong thing.”
That was something that I shared during a phone call with a friend of color during a recent phone call.
We were catching up on life and I asked her to share her perspective on the most recent racial injustice, the inexcusable murder of George Floyd and the heartbreaking responses were heavy on our minds.
I’ve observed so many posts on social media from Facebook friends sharing their pain and anger during this time.
It’s been hard for me to come up with words that don’t feel shallow.
A “like” or a “love” doesn’t seem like enough when I want to agree with a post on social media.
“Thoughts and prayers” sounds so dismissive, even though I pray that this nightmare of racism and the senseless murders based because of the color of their skin will end.
I don’t quite know how to verbalize the heaviness that I feel in my heart.
It’s hard to express the grief I feel when those close to me are sharing their pain and I don’t know how to help or make it stop.
I want to respond in a way that feels more meaningful, that has more depth or weight to it.
During our conversation, my friend and I were talking about the hurt and the anger felt from the silence from those around them.
I shared that I want to say more… but I don’t want to say the wrong thing.
It’s a fear I think that many of us have during this time.
We don’t want to cause more pain by using the wrong words and we don’t want to be misunderstood with our well-meaning attempt at trying to show support.
Racism is so vile and wrong and I don’t know how to help make the situation right.
And then she said…
“If you don’t want to say the wrong thing, you make it about you… and the focus was never about you.”
That truth bomb hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was so true, that statement turned the focus back to me…instead of the person I was wanting to support.
I recognize the advantages that I’ve been born with and know that I don’t share the same fears and concerns that many of my friends experience when their teenage sons leave their house.
What can I do?
She described supporting people of color in solidarity the same way you show up for a friend who lost a loved one.
You show up, you share that you care, you see their pain and you grieve alongside them.
Sometimes you don’t say words but your physical presence is EVERYTHING.
You SEE them.
Your presence during those darkest moments is needed the most during this time.
Help me understand how I can help you feel more supported
I don’t want the action of my silence to be louder than the well-meaning words that I might fumble to eloquently say.
I want to hear your story.
Your perspectives and friendships mean so much and bring so much value to my life.
Please don’t stop reminding us that everyday experiences can be experienced very differently based on the color of our skin.
Just because I haven’t experienced something personally doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.
I want to be a part of a conversation that brings change.
There are more hard truths that I need to hear, like from that conversation with my friend.
If you don’t have anyone in your circle that is a person of color, you are missing out and it’s time to widen your circle and educate yourself.
My life is so much better because of these friendships.
I’m going to try to navigate this time in a way that supports you, that hopefully will not let you down…but again it’s not about me.
Let’s continue these conversations whenever and wherever we can.
Please encourage those around you to share their story too. Tell us how we can make you feel supported and remind us when we’ve got it wrong.
I want to be a part of the change.
If you are looking for more anti-racism resources start here.