This is hard to write so bear with me if this is not the most eloquent blog I have ever written. It’s taken me three weeks to get this onto paper. I have cried, laughed, given up, came back to it and questioned if I should even put this in writing. I chose to move forward because I am your neighbor , your friend, maybe you sit next to me at the pta meetings ,maybe your child was in my girl scout troop, or my husband coached your kids basketball or baseball team, sports events, the school concerts , maybe you know me from school or a kids party we attended.
So since I have a voice and a platform in which to speak, and in light of all the current things going on in our nation, I decided to write a blog about my own personal experiences.
This has literally broken me at times. I haven’t written about it because it hurt too much. I haven’t because it’s sharing such a painful part of what I have experienced, and it meant sharing something that was not mine alone. It’s something my husband had not really wanted me to share. But, I feel it is too important not to. Why? Because many who read this blog know me.
I am shaking as I begin to write this because I haven’t really talked about this in a long time. I buried it. I buried my emotions and feelings. I put them away somewhere. But, they are always there. I always worry!
My husband is an amazing dad and he treats me like a queen, he is a son, an uncle, a nephew, a brother-in-law, a friend; he is obsessed with IPA beer, a fierce Yankee fan, and loves seafood. He is a hard worker. He makes the best-fried chicken wings, and apparently now hibachi. My husband was raised in the church by a single mom. He helps out all of our neighbors. He will drop what he is doing for friends and family. He puts up with all of my crazy shenanigans and my even crazier family. He will give you the shirt off his back, literally. He will run to you if you need his help, and I cannot count the endless times he has to talk a friend off the ledge and pray with them. We pray together every morning and every night before we go to bed.
So, when you ignore that we do indeed have a problem with race in America, you diminish the reality a person you all know and that I love, is living. Often times I type my blogs from my heart and do not go back to read what I have written. My heart aches for our country and for my family. In reading this I hope you will believe me and seek change.
I once too; said no that can’t be. Come on you are exaggerating? No that’s not why that happened! I too once made excuses and minimized things. I too took for granted the privilege I have based on my skin color. I know based on what I have seen in the last few weeks on social media that I may lose some “friends” after this is published. I’m okay with that! I am not okay with being silent! I am not okay with dismissing racism!
I have seen lifelong friends break friendships over our current politics (republican or democrat), the pandemic (is it real or is it fake) and does racism exist (those in a position to not have to face racism and those living it daily). I can only speak my own truth and not for the masses. We have had countless incidents of microaggressions and both overt and covert racism take place.
I had a frank discussion with a friend and it was raw and sad. But, we hugged, we cried and we can make changes together. I know that some will attack such a basic discussion. This is what we shared:
- When people hear the words “white privilege” they get so offended. It does not mean your life is easy or that you don’t have difficulties. It means that your skin color isn’t one of the things that are part of those life difficulties. Ie: being accused at our local park of kidnapping our daughter
- When someone says Black Lives Matter; my friend said her automatic mind goes to militia, riots and looting. A fear that I have heard others echo about some of the violence we have seen around the nation. We talked about the meaning behind the BLM movement and the words BLM.
- Yes, of course, all lives matter. Right now, the nation is working on getting them to matter equally- because right now that is not the case.
- You can simultaneously want racism to end and still love law enforcement (I know basic, right?) But, no you have a flurry of people who want you to read a narrative that if you love cops you are a racist, if you are a cop you are a racist and then you have those who say if you are anti-racism you hate cops, if you are anti-police brutality you hate cops. Sorry, not sorry how dumb and ignorant can you be????????
I don’t want to make light of what exists, especially having been a first-hand witness. But, we have to think for ourselves.
She and I spoke at length about the presence of racism and police brutality being a real and not an imagined thing as some would like to have that narrative model. Yet, we also talked about the majority of officers who went into this field to help, to make a difference, to be someone to look up to and admire. She has LEO in her family.
I shared some of our experiences which left her in tears and praying for hope and change- Ie: being asked to show ID walking down the street where you live; someone not allowing you into a building where you reside for 25 years and wanting to call the police; being pulled out of a car accused of having drugs on you and nothing being found; accused of stealing in a local store, being told you fit the description for a local store robbery when even the owner repeatedly states he is not the guy- yet, still being held for hours.
5. She said we don’t think of your husband as… and went silent. As black? He is black. I know what she meant and what she was trying to say. We cannot fault those who are trying to have these hard conversations. We have to be open to hearing them on both sides. When we become defensive and we cannot hear someone else opinions or thoughts, we shut down the chance for growth. I had a colleague who always said “comfort ends where growth begins”. I have taken that with me and use that in many instances. This conversation was one of those instances.
As hard as the above conversation was and painful for us both; it was important. No hate; only love and admiration for one another. If we do not start the hard conversations within ourselves, within our homes, and within our families and friends, we can never make change. My blog is not the end of the conversation; some may feel I did not delve deep enough. I have to keep a happy medium of privacy and peace. Each one, teach one! Tomorrow is another day and the conversation needs to be ongoing!
I once saw the following:
A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumble it up, stomp on it and really mess it up ,but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty it was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.
I would love to give this piece credit and a title. I cannot remember where I got this. However, I used it time and time again in the psychotherapy groups that I ran with young adults. It is real, and it is tangible. It has left a lasting impression on me and I know many of the young adults who participated in my groups.
Imagine living this daily? I came across it again this morning, as I was trying to find an idea to write about for my blog. How appropriate during this unsettling time in our nation’s history as we live through a pandemic and a national discussion on race and its role in our history and current times.
Self-love and appreciation is something that does not come easy. We tend to be hardest on ourselves. With the advent of social media, I would suggest trying an exercise I have used before. If you can write one strength on a piece of paper (or your social media status) and ask each person to write one strength, positive or attribute they think you possess. I may be naïve but, what if we stopped pointing out everyone’s faults and negativity. What if instead – yes revolutionary – we started to point out the best in everyone?
Deborah Levine-Powell is a psychotherapist in New York, where she works with teenage girls who are victims of abuse and trafficking. She is a wife and a mom to a tween and teenager. When she is not working, you can find her engaged in PTA activities, a leader at Girl Scouts, having fun with her friends and family, while serving up hot soulful dishes in the kitchen.