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When There Are No Easy Answers

May you be safe from inner and out harm, as I wish to be safe. (1)

This past week I didn’t post on facebook or instagram like I normally do. We had some moments that would have been fun to share like Pookie looking adorable holding her lunch bag before I dropped her off at preschool, or how I tried Kroger’s online grocery shopping service which was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. I wanted so much to rave about it and tell the whole world! I saved so much time and money!! I also wanted to post about how fortunate I feel that Rob’s residency program has a large, established medwives group and we attended their welcome event this past weekend. My heart was full of hope after we left.  We met so many wonderful people and I am so excited for all the possible friendship potentials!

But, I couldn’t post about these things because I felt like these things paled in comparison to what’s going on in our country right now.

My heart hurts. I feel sad. I feel bad. I don’t know what to do or what to say. I feel bad that I’m sitting here silently wondering what to do. How do I help? How can I act in a way that will help us all move forward?

Looking at my facebook feed everyday was a good reminder of the disparities going on. Many of my white friends posted as usual (which I’m not criticizing, just pointing out) but all my friends of color were posting about the events of last week, how they feel and their families feel, and how scared they are for their loved ones – husbands, children, parents, friends, and themselves.

And I sit here not sure what to say. “I’m so sorry,” is all that I can muster. It’s not enough, but I feel paralyzed.

I’ve been thinking about the greater picture of law enforcement in our lives, and how I have had very few interactions with the police myself, but when I did, I was so nervous. I felt incredibly intimated by their power over me. I didn’t act normal – because I was anxious. I didn’t want to do something wrong and get cited with a worse offense.

I was afraid I would accidentally do something illegal that I didn’t know was illegal. I was afraid I wouldn’t say or do the right things. What if I don’t pull over soon enough and they think I’m trying to drive away? What if I pull over on the wrong side of the road? What if I unconsciously remove my seatbelt before the officer gets to my window and I get cited for not wearing a seat beat? What are my rights if I’m asked to step out of my car, or asked to have my car searched even when I feel like there’s no reason for it?

Now I think about how this would be multiplied if I was a person of color, who is more likely to look “suspicious” to the police and who has to act even more perfect in an officer’s presence. And the consequence of a wrong move is not an additional citation, but possibly the loss of my life?

I was born white and I do feel that has provided me privilege that many other colors aren’t given. I feel bad that I don’t have to worry about the same things as others do, just because I expect that people will trust me and give me the benefit of the doubt. It’s never been a question in my mind.

It’s not fair. And the hard truth is that nothing about life is fair. I pray deeply that we come to recognize and understand that.

We are born how we are born to who we are born, where we are born. Why was I born to a white family in the United States who cared about me and showered me with love, attention, and education? There’s nothing I did to “deserve” the situation I got. It’s what was given to me and what I am to do with it? Definitely not blame people for not being like me or not having the same experiences and perspectives as me. What does that solve?

Now that I have my own children, I struggle with this inequality much more. I look at Pookie sometimes and think, “How lucky is she? She was born in a stable, loving home with two parents who value her and her education. She’s white and female which means that my worries for her are different than if I had a black son.”

My worries for her are that she’ll be taken advantage of and her innocence will be stripped away. I worry that someday in the future she’ll compare herself so much with others that she’ll lose her confidence and love for herself. I worry she’ll make the mistake I did once, when someone told me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl, she’d believe them. I worry that when she’s older she’ll drink too much at a party and be assaulted.

But I don’t worry that she’ll be gunned down on the street. Could it happen? Yes. Anything can happen, but her chances are much, much less. I don’t worry that a law official would not protect her – or do the opposite – take her life.

It’s not fair, but this is the world we all were born into. So the question on all of our minds is, “What do we do??”

It’s excruciating to not know. There are no easy answers. There is no magic solution. It’s something that will take a very long time, but I hope we will start moving forward.  I keep asking myself, what can I do? What can a 30-something middle-class white female with a husband and young children do??

My answer for today is this: To bring love and light into this world through acts of kindness. Not to just pray about it, but to take action in my daily life to affect change. I say this with full sincerity and I don’t mean it to sound trite, it’s meant to be realistic.

Maya Angelou

In my daily life, I have very few interactions with non-white people. Most of my friends are white. That means that my world is colored by their color. Sure I’ve traveled and have developed friendships across demographics, but I admit that my exposure is limited. I also rarely see law enforcement outside of them driving past me on the road.

In spite of this, I still firmly believe that my interactions help shape humanity. I believe the actions of one affect many, so in that truth, I am working to become more aware of my own bias and prejudices. I seek to be curious rather than judgmental and catch myself when I subconsciously make quick judgements. I seek to lean in and remind myself to look at everyone as a person first, regardless of what I see on the outside.

And to remind myself that we all want the same things. We all want to be healthy, to be happy, to feel loved, and to feel safe.

I feel this metta prayer captures it:

May I be at peace.
May my heart remain open.
May I realize the beauty of my own true nature.
May I be healed.
May I be a source of healing in this world.

May you be at peace.
May your heart remain open.
May you realize the beauty of your own true nature.
May you be healed.
May you be a source of healing for this world.

May you be happy as I wish to be happy.
May you know peace as I wish to know peace.
May you be safe from inner and outer harm as I wish to be safe.
May you be free from suffering as I wish to be free.

When I have this prayer in mind throughout the day, I act differently. I judge less and remain more open. I see people for what they are – people, each deserving of the same love and respect. I must model that way of being if I expect to start seeing it in the world.

I invite all helpful comments on what other actions we all can take. How do you think we move forward? Much love to you all. <3

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Nancy Johnson July 12, 2016, 10:57 am

    One thing that has made a difference for me is an exercise I learned in a Women’s Studies Class. (not that it has changed the world, just how I look at it):
    Try to examine your bias…
    If I feel uncomfortable, I examine my bias
    If I feel someone is acting, dressing etc… in a way I don’t think is appropriate, I examine my bias
    During the course of any given day, I find myself doing a quick mental stop and ask myself to examine my bias.
    It’s a mantra and it reminds me to look at the other person and not make a judgement. It doesn’t always work, but it always slows down my negative or judgmental feelings.
    When in doubt be kind,
    Peace to you guys,
    Nancy

    • Amy Rakowczyk August 16, 2016, 10:01 pm

      Oh my gosh, I love this so much!! This is in line with something I’ve been thinking about lately that I call the “you are a person” challenge. Whenever I see someone, I look at them and think, “you are a person.” It’s so enlightening and is helping me realize biases I’ve had that I didn’t know about. Thank you for sharing your “examine my bias” exercise. I will try it!!

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