I've felt both heartbroken and overwhelmed witnessing the pain of the black community over the last few weeks. I know this has always been going on; it's just being showcased more now. To you: I see you and I stand with you.
I've also felt inspired and hopeful to see so many people bravely committing themselves to consider the ways society has influenced themselves and others, and to take action to change this.
One step at a time, I'm doing what I can to learn and to help. Here are some emotional intelligence competencies I'm keeping in mind.
Empathy means being willing to hear about someone else's experience of the world, accept it as valid, and try to better understand their point of view. If you feel confused or are struggling to understand, nothing is more connecting than the power of hearing someone's story. Read about the experiences of black people. Ask. Listen.
I'm still seeing a number of "all lives matter" posts online. I see the kind intentions behind them, but the reality is that until black lives matter it is impossible to say that all lives matter.
Society in general needs to protect and prioritise the lives of black people as much as it already does the lives of white people, and right now, it doesn't. "Black lives matter" does not mean other lives don't. Rather, it means that black lives matter too - just as white lives are already assumed to matter.
3. Mindful Curiosity
Mindful curiosity is an innately non-judgment state. It means observing what is going on without criticising or labelling it as "bad". Shaming yourself or others is horribly painful and won't get anyone anywhere, my friend. When we feel ashamed, we shut down, so staying kind at every step is so important.
If you find yourself feeling defensive, I invite you to turn inward with an attitude of mindful curiosity. Notice what you're telling yourself this experience means about yourself or others. It's likely that these interpretations were conditioned into you rather than you choosing them. And as Dr. Brene Brown says, "When we deny our stories, they define us. When we own our stories, we get to write a brave new ending."
See Brene Brown on discussing race without shaming: https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=1778878652127236&ref=watch_permalink
Keep courageously observing. Facing our internal stories and biases helps us to make better choices going forward.
4. Intellectual Humility
Intellectual humility is the willingness to admit that we could be wrong and that there are gaps in your knowledge. This means that we recognise that there's still a lot we don't know and have yet to learn. That's perfectly okay - we don't need to have all the answers. The key is to stay open-minded, to try. Even if imperfectly.
See Kerry Frizelle, South African Counselling Psychologist on understanding racism as white South Africans: https://www.facebook.com/tamryns/videos/10158029582880469/
5. A Willingness to Learn
Only when we know better, can we do better. Be proactive about seeking out information so you can better understand black people's experiences and how intrinsically racist systems are maintained. We need to listen. Read. Learn.
An anti-racism resource guide: https://www.notion.so/Anti-racism-Resource-Guide-ac6189613c6d49c09f40f7d2ee45e65b
6. Personal Control
A common response to seeing so much collective pain is to feel overwhelmed and helpless. But when we feel helpless, we disengage. I'm a kind, caring person, and so seeing people hurting so much has naturally shaken me - maybe it has shaken you too. Remember that our emotions are always a reflection of our values, and a sign we want to help.
By staying connected to your sense of control, you can shift from "helpless" to "helping". One person can make a difference. Multiple small actions over time create a new culture.
7. Courageous Integrity
Living with integrity means you prioritise what is right over what is easy or comfortable. Hold tight to your values of fairness and kindness to all people, and make the choice to live in a way that stays true to these. This will take courage - but you are brave, my friend, and remember the power you have to change things one small step at a time.
Speaking up when you witness racism is not an option: it's a necessity. You can channel courage by connecting to the larger cause behind the action. Keep in mind the cost of not speaking up. Keep in mind the change that can happen (and the people who'd be freed) if we all spoke up more. Do what you can to make a difference.
So that one day, hopefully, we'll be able to say that all lives are being valued equally.