After the 2016 election I cried for two days out of confusion. On the third day I was sad and ashamed to be a white privileged American. My feelings of guilt and shame were strong enough to make it difficult to face or communicate with anyone in my global, local and family circles who were of color, Muslim, immigrants, or part of the LGBTQ community. Of course, this only made me feel worse since I was cutting myself off from friends and family.
When I finally removed myself from the quicksand of hopelessness and blame I attended a meeting of 15 colleagues where I was one of two white people in attendance. It turns out that the very community I was so ashamed to face were the antidote to my anger and pain. They brought me comfort and hope through their honest expressions of anger, sadness and pain as well as of hope, courage and strength. In the absence of blame there was acceptance in the words “we are going to figure this out together.” And in those words was a message: now is the time for people of privilege to step up.
Like so many women, I have always been a caretaker and I am really good at it. A large part of my identity and power have been derived from caretaking through mothering and work defending those treated as “less than” or “other.” However, now is not the time for me to defend or take care of anyone who is marginalized. Their struggle is a constant reality and my need to save, rescue, or “take care of “only continues to diminish them because it assumes a lack of agency, power and competency. The people I work and live with are full of collective wisdom, dignity, and personal power
What they need me to do is use my privilege and access to bring more people like myself into a deeper awareness of the struggle of those who are not us. It is time for a rigorous collective inspection of our personal advantage and position and to form alliances that will push back on the current political agenda that reinforces norms of oppression for so many citizens.
We have so much to learn from grassroots groups globally who have been fighting for rights, dignity and freedom for decades. Let’s use their teachings about community, humanity and love to turn outwards to other people with privilege and share. Let’s be brave and get angry about disenfranchisement, speak out about inequality, and practice empathy in order to build bridges and join forces with those who have vast amounts of experience living