Here we are – staring at the precipice of change, the fork in the road.
The coverage of protests, brutal murders of Black Americans, and the Black Lives Matter movement has decreased over the last few weeks. From almost constant coverage and black squares filling our feed, things have shifted back to normal. The heat and anger following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more have begun to fade. So, now we believe we can go back to the way it was before. We just want ”things to be normal again.”
I reject that.
I do not want things to go ”back to normal” because our old normal would be returning to a reality that is in direct conflict with my values. I do not want to live in a world where people are illegal. I do not want to live in a world where people are judged, put down, or even killed due to their skin color.
As a white woman, I reflected on what my values mean to me. I also had to reflect on my other identities: a woman, a feminist, a social worker. What did I value? Social justice, the dignity, and worth of all humans, advocacy, empathy, diversity, and community – to name a few.
In DBT, values are what lead us to our life worth living. Values are our guiding light as we sort through our emotions, urges, thoughts, and actions. Values, after all, are things that we continuously work towards. We don’t just get to say, “”Oh, I’ve advocated for someone else once, so I’m done now.””
I know my life worth living is not a life where I sit back and remain silent, but where it is a life where I live my values; this is how we accumulate positive life events in the long-term. The steps are easy:
- Avoid avoiding – acknowledge that we can all continue to grow.
- Identify and reflect on your values
- Select one value to work on
- Identify goals that will help you get closer to this goal
- Create small action steps.
- Get to work! Take the first step.
Considering the recent protests, I realized I needed to work towards my value of social justice. I must continually choose the ”road less traveled” of social justice, advocacy, and anti-racism. I will take the road less traveled until it is worn and crowded, and even then, I must continue to walk down it. The choice is hard work and easy all at once. The road doesn’t get more comfortable the longer I wait.
I decided to start with resources and research. I knew if I was more informed than the rest of my advocacy will follow. A journey to live our values and correct our wrongs is lifelong and endless. That can be a very hopeful experience; it takes one step at a time. The first steps I’ve made are: to listen to Black and Brown voices, to read and get educated, and to support Black-owned businesses.
If you, like me, are looking for ways to practice your values and travel down the road of true ally-ship, get to work. These were the goals and objectives that I started with.
- Be curious and open to learning. If you are not Black, you do not know what it was like to be Black in America. Listen. Listen to podcasts, Youtube videos, watch TV shows, and documentaries. Ibram X. Kendi discusses ”The difference between being “”not racist”” and anti-racist” in his TedTalk.
- Get educated on race, racism, and white supremacy. If you are white, that means acknowledging that you are white and, thus, complicit in racism. Considering reading books like “”Me and White Supremacy”” by Layla Saad or “”So You Want to Talk About Race”” by Ijeoma Oluo. Complete this 30-Day Challenge from Rachel Elizabeth Cargle called #DoTheWork.
- Admit your mistakes and accept that you may be wrong. I thought about this a lot when writing this article. What’s another white person discussing their journey going to do? I’m open to criticism and comments from people of color. While white voices as allies are essential, we are not the most influential voices (even if we’ve been told we are).
Remember and reflect – who am I and who do I want to be? Racism doesn’t go away, so we must remember and do better with every single step. In the words of Malcolm X, “”If not now, then when? If not me, then who?””