From the Executive Director —
Scene: I was recently working in my yard, happily yanking weeds from my flower beds, music blaring from the Bluetooth speaker on my front porch (don’t we live in a glorious time?) when I heard a particular stanza in a song like it was the first time. When the song was over, I played it again. Like seven times.
The lyric that made me pause was “necessary pain is the ingredient for change.” Those words (from Just for Me by Kirk Franklin) brought me back to several conversations I’ve had with White friends and colleagues over the past few months as they grapple with their desire to change and be better allies or even accomplices in the battle against racism. Colleen Clemens helps us distinguish between ally and accomplice in this way, “An ally will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. An accomplice will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group—and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group.”
This is hard work. The conversations are hard. The self-realizations are sometimes painful. They’re supposed to be. I believe that “necessary pain is the ingredient for change,” which means that if you truly want to change, it is going to hurt. They call them growing pains for a reason.
If you’re looking for ways to keep your momentum as you work through things you’ve maybe never thought about before, I offer these simple suggestions as a starting point:
- Find an accountability partner. This work is hard, and just like exercising your muscles, you need to practice or exercise new ways of doing and being. You will have days when you’re raring to go, and other days you’ll look at the news and think “How can I possibly make a difference?” Your accountability partner can help you on those days.
- Switch up your information sources. If you’ve been reading all the things, give your eyes a break and listen to a podcast. If you’ve listened to every podcast under the sun, try picking up a book. Vary the source and format of your information consumption. And here’s a quick read on How to Make Sure Your Anti-Racism Work Is a Lifelong Endeavor.
- Start a journal. I know, everyone in the world journals. Must be something to that journaling thing, huh? You don’t need anything fancy. A $1 notebook will do the trick. As you are reading or hearing things that make you think – or struggle – write through it. You don’t have to share this with anyone (though you can), and you’ll have a record of your struggles and actions in case you ever need a reminder of your growth. The work does not get any easier. However, your ability to do the work does get easier as you flex those muscles and grow.
If you’re a White person reading this and you’re tired of thinking about your race, I say to you “Welcome.” I have been made acutely aware of my race almost every day for at least 16,790 days and running, and not just because – to quote James Brown – “I’m Black and I’m Proud.” You can and must think about your race and the attached privilege if you want to make real change.
Nancy S. Kirkpatrick, OhioNET Executive Director & CEO