Hi friends! So I know that this is a business, and I while I do try to be accessible and open, I tend to keep my private life… private. But given that I have taken a stand against racism as a business, as well as an individual, I want to share a bit about what I’ve been going through and give an update on our vigil.
As some know, I live in a conservative rural town– a village that went to Trump 2 to 1. Many neighbors have “Trump 2020” and “MAGA” signs and flags, and I’ve heard the occasional “dyke” hurled at me in public. I will admit that I have felt threatened occasionally, but it was only in recent weeks that I began to feel actively afraid of my neighbors. The denial I have witnessed surrounding the pandemic, and the vitriol and bigotry on display towards the anti-racism movement, are truly outrageous. Yesterday my mother was verbally accosted by a local racist who was upset by our “Black Lives Matter” sign, and shortly thereafter, after driving in circles around our home, her husband wrote that he would be bringing his guns to the vigil and shared my page with a right-wing group on social media. This is not the first time I’ve been threatened or trolled, but it does feel different. And thanks to my white privilege, I was able to contact law enforcement without fearing the outcome.
As a result of this, I was extremely anxious leading up to our vigil, where I shared the message below… to a touchingly supportive and receptive crowd. I want to thank everyone who came out, and who shared words of support, and I want to especially thank my two incredible co-organizers. Your courage, vulnerability, and compassion fill my heart.
I want to begin by saying I had some reservations about today, particularly about speaking. I’m sure many in attendance heard that my family was menaced and I received some threatening feedback about today, and I want to acknowledge that I really considered us taking our BLM sign down and not speaking. I was—I am—afraid. I am tired and I am sad. Like everyone here today, I want my family to feel secure, I want us to be well resourced and safe, to thrive.
But my experience is not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to dealing with racism in America. The color of my skin allows me to step back from this conversation if I feel uncomfortable, if I don’t like how things are going. If I feel scared, if I don’t like the feeling that comes up when I think about how my actions—or my inaction—have hurt others, I have the luxury of stepping back and removing myself from the situation.
But Black Americans do not have that luxury. The truth of the matter is Black men in America have a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed by police and Black women are more likely to receive inadequate medical care leading to 3 times the maternal death rates of white women. These are facts, and facts exist regardless of my feelings.
And so when I heard that this local troll was afraid of rioters coming into our town, it definitely gave me pause. I think a lot of people have been fed a line that somehow equality for all means somehow scarcity for them. Equality is not pie—there is not a finite amount, just as there is not a finite amount of love and compassion in our hearts. This gentleman wants his community to be safe—and so do I. Both our local community, right here in the Cape, and our human community. I want us to have these conversations so that we can all feel safe, so that we can all thrive. Because talking about racism shouldn’t be a problem—unless you yourself are racist.
In my past work in education, leading workshops on diversity and inclusion, my mentor said something that stuck with me. When you live in a place where there is smog in the air, it’s impossible to breathe without a bit of that smog into our lungs. Likewise, living under systemic racism, it’s impossible to escape without some hidden biases.
And I want to ask everyone here, when did it become a bad thing to acknowledge we once believed something harmful, but then we learned better? We all have the capacity to grow and expand our hearts and minds, extend our compassion a little bit further, if we are willing to just be uncomfortable for a minute, and say I too am accountable.
Because this is about progress, not perfection. It’s about acknowledging that I—me personally—have messed up at times, and I will continue to do so. But I want to do better. And I’m going to try to do better, and I hope that you will all continue to hold me accountable, and that we can all do better together. And I want to thank everyone here today for showing up, for holding themselves accountable, and it is my deep, deep hope that we might all move forward with compassion, courage, and grace.