Are you earnestly and authentically seeking to engage with dialogue around racism and systemic injustice?
Sweet. You’re probably exhausted. Here are a few reminders:
- Sleep. Go to bed at 8pm if you need to. Rest.
- Eat. Get full meals. Make sure you have protein. Sugar and caffeine aren’t substitutes for real food.
- Get up from your desk. It’s okay. You can take a walk to clear your head. You can even go to your car and cry, if you need to. It’s fine–really.
- You can cancel your plans. It will be okay. You don’t have to say yes to everything.
- If you’re a person who prays, pray. Take a walk. Yell at God. Whine, mope, and let God know everything.
- Take a break from social media. Yes, it’s a valuable tool for learning, resources, and discussion. Yes, it’s important. But it’s also highly addictive, inherently stress-inducing, and better consumed in small doses. Take a break. It will still be there when you get back.
- Listen to Scripture on your phone. Set aside time to focus on God, God’s kingdom, and God’s economy … not us, our kingdoms, and our economy.
- Seriously, it’s okay go to bed at 8pm.
If you’re white — me, too –– here’s and additional list:
- Do you have at least three different people who seem like they are upset with you — for reasons on polar opposites of the spectrum — at any given time?
Honestly, that’s how this goes sometimes.
- For every person who you feel like is upset with you, listen to what they are saying. Some things are completely out of your control. Other things aren’t. You still have a lot to learn. We ALL still have a lot to learn.
You are not a failure because it feels like someone is upset with you.
- Every new experience is an opportunity to grow, and to apply what you learned next time.
- Listen to everyone, but make sure to take care of yourself. When it comes down to it, though, this is your time to listen and reach out, not be comforted, reassured, or catered to.
If that seems harsh–sorry to be blunt, but that’s how this works. America has had this problem for well over 400 years, and our (European) ancestors and their systems/power structures have been the ones succeeding on the backs of everyone else. You didn’t choose it, but that’s the cards you were dealt.
But, you can also choose when it’s time for you to go home and rest. You can choose when it’s time for you to go to sleep. You can choose to set aside time to spend time with people who will invest in you, encourage you, and affirm you.
Part of the process of growth means being able to deal with blunt truths and harsh realities. But that shouldn’t be your whole life. Take care of yourself. Invest in yourself. Make sure to carve out spaces where you can recharge.
Someone will always be upset with you. Multiple someones will always be upset with you, no matter how hard you work.
Areas to invest:
- Checking in with, listening to, and supporting individual POC friends in your life
- Big-picture, systemic work: helping compile resources and trainings, writing policies aimed at better equity, inclusion, and welcoming – at work, and church, and in your other spheres of influence
- Having honest, clear, gracious, frank conversations with other white people in your life about privilege, even if it means straining relationships with people you care deeply about.
Fun fact: You will never be perfect at this. But everything you will help in your journey of growth. Listen to all feedback. Always have a spirit of humility and willingness to learn.
But don’t feel like you’re a failure or not good enough.
That’s the quickest way to lose motivation and give up on this entirely. Look, this is going be hard. You decided to rip open the Band-Aid of America’s great, festering racial wounds that are 400+ years in the making.
Not many people are going to thank you for that. (Or for those who do, you might not be at the point of honest, authentic, and weighty engagement.)
This is going to suck. This is going to hurt. No one is going to give you a gold star or a merit badge. But — with the horrifically racist and violent state of the world we’ve found ourself in — this is, unfortunately, how our world works.
(When I said Band-Aid, did you think about how they only come in “flesh,” a color that is very white and not even close to the actual hue of many Americans’ flesh? How many disparities, large and small, are on your radar? How clearly are you able to see implicit bias or internalized racism? How easy is it for you to spot the harmful effects of systems and power structures?)
This is incredibly important work; work most people are too intimidated and pain-averse to even try. But it will hurt, most of the time. It’s a couple amazing moments of encouragement, surrounded by miscommunications, misunderstandings, and a million other things that suck.
You can choose not to engage with this. That’s a part of being white. We can choose to run away, bury our heads in the sand, and pretend like none of this is happening, any time we want.
For POC, this state of constant engagement with injustice is life.
This is reality. This has always been reality. This is a huge, painful, emotional anvil that hangs around their neck and makes it hard for them to even move, much less work, talk about life, or explain systemic injustices or internalized racism to the 70th person who has asked them today.
But that is not your fault. That does not make you a bad person. Self-care is crucial for them right now, but also pretty important for you, too.
So go back and read the first checklist. Read it again. If this is ringing true — good work. You are engaging thoughtfully and intentionally with this. You will notice the impacts of all your work. You will learn. You will see yourself becoming more informed and equipped.
But right now, if you’re tired, it’s okay to call it a day and just go to bed.