I’ve told myself three lies this week.
First, I tried to convince myself that Facebook is not a place where I “get into things”. It is not a world to take seriously. No one posts something that changes anyone’s mind anyhow. And I conveniently tell myself that this is why I don’t repost that meme. Or I don’t share that link. It’s because I don’t take Facebook that seriously.
But the truth is…I take it seriously when I feel that I am about to share something that people might resonate with. That I’m going to say something that might make people feel less alone. I share my writing when I’ve been stirred by Spirit or Heartache or Humanity. Mostly I share pictures of my family because I live 3000+ miles away and I know it makes some people’s days.
And the deeper, uglier truth is…I do this for the comfortable, white world in which I live. I do it when it won’t rock the boat. I do it when I either believe so strongly in the message that I am willing to brave the conflict (which is very VERY infrequently). And mostly I do it when I know my message is palatable, pretty, tied up in a bow. A gummy vitamin. Not a giant, stinky horse pill.
Here’s another thing I’ve told myself – that I won’t say it right. Because I’ve read the articles and admonitions – the ones that start out Dear White Lady and Don’t say ______ and It’s not about you. And I’m so aware of this and I feel so much shame about this (And I KNOW that it’s not about me…but everything ends up about me. This is me…saying me stuff…about me…and I haven’t shut up yet and listened. I know! I suck at this…)
But the truth is…saying nothing is worse than saying something rather badly. I learned this when I struggled to talk to and about my niece who was once my nephew. I was paralyzed with fear of using the wrong pronoun. I kept messing it up. I asked my sister what I should do…and she simply said, “Just try your best and then fix it when you mess up.” Just fix it. Right then and there. Mess up. Then fix it. The relationship can bear it. There is more care in the fixing than in the perfection. And more breaking from the silence.
And the deeper, uglier truth is…I don’t know if I’m sharing this because I’m afraid of what my silence says about me. Saying something allows me to paint the image I want you to see – I care, I am a good person, see what I did? I said something. I don’t know if I’m a human who will ever do anything selflessly. I don’t know if those humans even exist.
And a third thing that I’ve told myself this week – that I should just donate to some charity and not tell anyone. Because then God in heaven will give me my, “You did it right” certificate when I pass over to the other realm. My silent deeds will show my righteousness and my humility – and that is the recipe of saints.
But the truth is…the exact opposite of what I’ve been told my whole life. That actions without words are also meaningless. We all know someone who loved us with their whole beings but they never said IT out loud. They loved you in casseroles and sunscreen and paying for your college tuition, but they never told you that they loved you. Even when you said it to them. And then you wondered for the rest of your life, did they even really love me at all?
And the deeper, uglier truth is…I could put actions and words together but I’d still come up short. Not a reason to stay frozen in inaction but it is not just me who needs to move. It’s the whole collective silence that needs to begin screaming and shaking our fists. But we have been told our whole lives that good (white) girls and good (white) boys sit still and raise their hands and say excuse me and please and thank you. The white boys aren’t quite so good at this, it seems.
So how does one scream from a place of paralyzed fear?
Well, in my case, you hem and haw, and waste too many days trying to figure out how to even whisper.
And then you get your act together, and ignore your children for a while, and you begin to write – because that’s the only voice you know how to use. Safe, serving you probably more than others. But it’s a start.
And then you say – I’m sorry. I know it doesn’t mean a damn thing but I am.
And then you say – I’m here. I know it doesn’t mean a damn thing but I am.
And then you try – THIS IS SO FUCKING OUTRAGEOUS AND UNACCEPTABLE AND I WANT TO HELP AND I DON’T KNOW HOW AND I’M SHAKING. And you know it doesn’t mean a damn thing but it is what comes to mind when your mind starts to scream. You know that this is only a small, tiny, fraction of the rage and anger and discomfort and raw distress that is happening in a community that you feel completely detached from.
And then, more quietly, you say – I love you. I don’t know you but I love you and I want to try my best. I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to unlearn. I want to get better within all these mistakes.
Black lives matter. People of color matter.
These are probably the wrong words. They are borrowed words and overused words and misplaced words and ambushed words. But they are some words to get started.