I took some time off. I needed a few minutes alone, so I took a break in June and July to reassess the importance of my words. How do I say things, what message am I delivering, and how is what I am saying affecting the space I live in?
You see, sometimes, it feels good to articulate with strong and convincing conviction my point. It forces those reading me, listening to me, trusting me to see things my way. Do I feel offended and my words come out from a place of hurt? Or, am I simply writing about/from/within the lessons I’ve learned? Do I care if everyone is siding with me? Do I need to tell everything that’s happened to me through the skewed version my memory holds on to?
I really don’t know.
Writing from a place of hurt and anger makes my words read trite, self-absorbed, and frankly, boring. Once my ego is done being bruised and I’ve retold a story, verbally, over and over, only then am I finding the peace of mind to write about it.
A while back I was faced with a personal dilemma. I could have, in a group of strangers, said the “wrong things” for the “right reasons” or keep my mouth shut. I sought out advice from the proper “agents” and with strangled confidence and the belief that my silence would only be my own complicit behavior in an on-going battle to stop the misinformed narrative racism has spread, I spoke up. It was met with about as much enthusiasm as you can imagine.
I chose my words carefully. I made no accusations. I wasn’t eloquent or refined. I was human, and I was scared, and I was sad.
I faced silent contempt for days following. I put on a smile and continued to work, but inside I worried: would I be “fired,” would I be punished, would I have to continue to defend my position against systemic racism? But the biggest question was the one I asked myself over and over: Did I say the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Could I have done it better?
The answer is, Yes. Yes. And maybe, I don’t know.
There is no nice way to tell someone they are feeding into a false narrative. There is no graceful way to explain why when you fictionalize a false narrative about a violent, young black man who targets white Americans, that you are feeding into a fictional truth, not a fact and giving legs to a false stereotype. There is no way I can tell you this without sending up your hackles and the hackles of all those that find themselves crossing the street when they see a group of young black men.
Change cannot occur if we are not brave enough to speak up and speak out. I am not against you, I am against the words that set us back in time. I am against the stories of fiction that contribute to oppression. I am against bullying as a tactic to diminish the voice of someone who disagrees with your views.
I haven’t been able to write much lately because I needed to write this piece. It has weighed heavily on me for quite some time. It doesn’t matter where it happened, it only matters that it did happen. I do not have an ending that can neatly sum up this story. Sometimes things are messy. I hope you find courage, friends when you are faced with adversity. You are not alone.
In the midst of controversy I did get a good piece of advice from a strong woman: Dig your heels in, keep your shoulders back, and your head up and continue to show up.