For days I've struggled with what to say about the murder of George Floyd and the blinding light it shed on the many facets of racial injustice in America. I thought about saying the right thing so much that I didn't say anything. Right or wrong, that period of silence provoked a million thoughts that needed analyzing, which led to the revelation of some sobering facts about myself that need addressing. First things first, I can say with absolute authenticity and passion, from the soles of my feet to the top of my head and through the depths of my soul that BLACK LIVES MATTER! I say it with complete disregard for what any one person thinks about my proclamation- whether someone thinks I should have known this by now, whether I disappoint certain white friends or family members, whether I am praised, criticized, or accused of only caring now because it is finally hitting home doesn't matter to me. I'm here now, albeit a little late, no doubt. I am sick about how late to the game I've been, but the grief I feel for the truth of that statement is secondary to the work that is now required of me- the work of continuing to recognize where I have fallen short in developing my own understanding of systemic racism, the work of identifying and rooting out barriers to success for people of color as it pertains to my midwifery and self-care businesses, and the work of making certain that my children are part of the solution rather than the problem, so that the future of this country can finally live up to its pledge of "justice for all".
I'm not sure at what point in my life I developed the belief that I understood the plight of black people or that my sympathetic feelings towards what I THOUGHT I knew was enough to call myself an ally. Because I was a child of the 90's in Vegas, raised on Dr. Dre's The Chronic or Biggie's Ready to Die albums? Because I hung around with a bunch of white boys who called themselves the N word while they debated East versus West Coast rap? And it must be ok because the one or two black friends they had seemed to condone it? Because I had seen Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society? Because I cheered and played sports with black kids? Because I dated black guys? Because, at times in my life, I lived in poverty with an addicted mother, left alone to fend for myself and exposed to sex and drugs way before my time? Because my mother was incarcerated for a year and a half? Because I have had my car searched for drugs or because I spent 18 hours in a holding tank for domestic violence? The answer is yes, on some level, that's exactly what I thought. In the words of Carrie Underwood, "Jesus, take the wheel" because even seeing these words on the screen are so cringeworthy I can barely stand it. What in the ever loving hell? That is basically saying that, growing up, what I understood most black men to be were rappers who sold drugs, objectified women, killed one another, and went to jail? And frankly, I didn't have any white role models who were in dispute of that representation. That doesn't mean there weren't any. I just never had the benefit of conversing with one. All that to say as a white person, I was severely mistaken.
"The beauty of anti-racism is that you don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it's the only way forward."- Ijeoma Oluo
As time went on, my spheres of influence grew wider, my spiritual journey became stronger, and I developed an overall healthy belief in our human race and the fact that we all deserve love, respect, and positive recognition for the unique talents and contributions that make our country great. I became a mother and vowed to teach my children to "treat others as they would like to be treated", that you are "only as strong as your weakest link" and other well-meaning cliches. I became a midwife and devoted my time to the empowerment of all women by offering a respectful and loving experience through childbirth. I started a self-care business, aimed at providing the resources to teach true self-care in order to create healthier humans, families, and communities. But I also turned the TV off and shunned the news or any other negativity because I believed that it bred fear and I didn't want bad news infiltrating the happy little life I was trying to build. After all, every time I turned on the TV, someone was getting killed, abducted, or politically raked through the mud for someone else's gains. It was too much to absorb anymore. I decided ignorance truly was bliss and allowed myself to be comfortably numb. I turned off and tuned out. And I was happy. Until George Floyd. Until I saw a man commissioned to "protect and serve" choke the life out of his fellow man in broad daylight, on a public street, with bystanders pleading for him to stop, in the "United" States of America. In the words of Carrie Underwood, "Jesus, take the wheel" because even seeing these words on the screen are so cringeworthy I can barely stand it. What in the ever- loving hell? And from there, I can't take my eyes off the screen and more stories are told of the brutality against black men at the hands of law enforcement, and more stories of a rigged criminal justice system and systemic racism in practically every aspect of our society, and while I knew some of this already, I didn't think it was really THIS bad! All that to say as a white person, I was severely mistaken.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can be taught to hate, they can learn to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."- Nelson Mandela
I've been listening to Dr. Eric Thomas, a black minister and motivational speaker, for years now. His inspiring words, encouraging "lion mode" living, has been instrumental in the formation and longevity of ReConnectEd to Life. He often describes in his speeches how, before he became Eric Thomas Ph.D, he was just Eric Thomas, fatherless, homeless and eating out of trash cans. But, he says, "When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe..., then you'll be successful."
As I freely and fearlessly walked around my neighborhood and leisurely laid by my priveleged pool in order to ironically tan my skin, I listened to Eric tell of the day his daughter graduated from college. He said he had no doubts that his daughter would graduate, that she was super smart and self motivated to succeed. But the prayer that he had been praying over and over for the past twenty something years was that he would not get killed before he got to see his daughter walk across that stage. in the words of Carrie Underwood, "Jesus, take the wheel" because even seeing these words on the screen are so cringeworthy I can barely stand it. Surely a middle-aged black man, a prominent public figure, someone who travels the world by invitation to speak at prestigious events, who makes a seven figure income, surely he isn't worried about becoming a victim of police brutality. Again, as a white person, I was severely mistaken.
We are experiencing a time of chaos, where day by day things seem to be falling into a state of disrepair. I said to my partner the other day, "The world is falling apart." He smiled and said, "it's right where it needs to be. Sometimes things need to be torn down and exposed in order to make room for greater things to grow." It reminded me of a quote from the book Little Fires Everywhere that said, "Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After the burning the soil is richer and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a new way." Vowing to do things differently once you know better is a commitment, just like any other aspect of self-care. You won't change your body with one workout, no matter how hard. You won't be more calm because you meditated a couple times, or be healthy because you have a salad every now and then. But consistency, over time, as a lifestyle, brings long-lasting change. We are also experiencing a time of hope, of peaceful protests with black and white marching together, demanding change. It makes me think of when I tell other midwives how important natural childbirth is, both for the mother and the baby, and stress the positive long term mental, physical, and emotional impact that comes with it. They already know that. I'm "preaching to the choir." Real change in childbirth will come when my OBGYN counterparts validate the importance of a loving and respectful experience for both mother and child. Likewise, black people have been knowing that there is a problem with racial injustice in this country. They have been living it one way or another their entire lives. But in order to make true change, it is up to white people to acknowledge it, identify where we have been responsible for the problems and commit to changing ourselves and our children, so that their children and their children's children can truly be proud of the words "justice for all."
With love and gratitude,
Kinda and Rachel