This has been a monumentally hard week. I know it’s been even harder for so many folks who aren’t me, middle aged fully employed white lady in a small town. All week I’ve had my own struggles, quietly watching social media and struggling, struggling over what course to take. Speak up, or black out? Share heartbreaking, terrifying stories of people of color being killed, of violent authority response to protests, try to beat back racism and ignorance with sanity and logic when emotions are so high and terrifying?
I’ve settled for watching, scrolling and seeing many good friends and people I respect tear into each via social media, and a few glimmers of hope when rational, sane discussion prevailed. That last component- discussion- has been sorely lacking this week, and for my perspective that’s been the hardest part. This isn’t to discount the daily lives and experiences of people of color and others…but I absolutely cannot speak to that experience, only my own, and navigate finding the best way forward for my own little corner of the world, just like with the pandemic response. What is right and okay for one person or family just cannot work for someone else, and we all have to engage together to ensure everyone has a little bit more of a chance and a little bit better experience than before. Everything else is just noise.
For me, it feels like everything is on edge, between the reality of a mostly unknown, highly contagious virus, the scattered and politicized public health response, everyday life being utterly altered, ugly racist encounters and deaths at the hands of an overly militarized and mostly unaccountable police force, the rising anger and riots and destruction of the response and trying to weed out the next best steps forward. There are so many quagmires all going on at once, all equally urgent, which require us to pause, to thoughtfully and deeply consider changes, our part in such systems…and few folks with the extra bandwidth for just such things. Much easier to toss out a slogan, meme or unverified news link when you’re juggling work, home schooling, economic worries and “normal life” than pause for a few minutes and working to contain your own initial emotional reaction and putting forth a reasoned, measured response to a deeply complex issue.
Even when you do take the time, other people won’t and tend to dig in on the flippant or emotionally powered response, which only sets up a spiral of unhelpfulness or hurt feelings that doesn’t get anyone any closer to solving or changing the underlying issue. My own background in EHS (environmental, health and safety) has exposed me to the concept of “root cause analysis”, something I try to bring to any bigger or hot button issue. Beyond the emotional response, what’s the actual issue? What are fundamental, system level changes that need to happen to cause the issue to be erased or mitigated? It’s not a perfect system, especially when dealing with painful and emotionally charged subjects like our country’s deep rooted racism and treatment of any marginalized group, but it’s a place to start. I’m working on separate posts for the various issues we’re facing lately, because each one is nuanced and complex and productive conversations are needed on each one.