Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Continued from "Learning to Ride"
Mom (or Dad) eventually did let go. I wasn’t confident, but getting the hang of it.
Can you picture it?
That wobbly stage when the people watching are hopeful, but cringing? That.
Soon enough I was feeling comfortable - riding ahead in a straight line.
When it came time to maneuver the bike not only by pedaling but also steering and navigating a turn…
And it happened, the inevitable... I fell. The bike toppled over and I was tossed to the ground.
It wasn’t pretty. It hurt. I was shaking with fear-induced adrenaline pumping through me.
But I was OK, some scrapes and bruises.
My parents came to help me up, dust me off and dry my eyes.
You can bet your ass I wanted nothing to do with that bike ever again.
That wasn’t an option. My parents encouraged (strongly) that I try again and keep trying.
REMINDER: I was a young white girl, being taught to ride a bike by my white parents on our white, suburban street.
Similar to my earliest self-work toward anti-racism, good coaches and mentors stepped back to let me have a go at it. I wasn’t confident, but I had a grasp of concepts that impacted my learning.
Can you picture it? A white woman, energized with new perspectives and determined to “fix” racism. Some folks watching may have been hopeful. I imagine more thinking, “here comes another white woman who watched Oprah and thinks she’s WOKE.” That.
Soon enough I was comfortable enough to engage in conversations with white and BIPOC folks about race and racism, talking about that little sliver of self-awareness I had uncovered.
When dialogue became more complex and I was now needing to maneuver through conversations of painful truths and circumstances beyond my comfort zone....
It happened, the inevitable. I “fell.” I was uncomfortable and wasn’t willing to accept or as we often say “sit with” that feeling. I don’t remember details, but I’m sure I used phrases like “I can’t even imagine that” or “at least it wasn’t….” or something else to shut down the conversation. Something that denied the very real lived experience of others. And I got called out for it.
It wasn’t pretty. It hurt and that familiar feeling of fear-induced adrenaline came over me. I felt my character and values were being attacked (they weren't). I felt unsafe (I wasn't) and I responded defensively, “But you misunderstood me,” or “that’s not how I meant it.” yadda yadda. More denial of their truth.
Had I been further along in my anti-racist development, I might have had the presence to take some deep breaths. To pause and listen to the wisdom that was being gifted to me. If I could have done that, I could have understood that I was OK, some bruises to my ego, but OK. And I could have responded instead with humility and gratitude. Something like, “I’m so sorry. I appreciate your willingness to bring this to my attention. I’m committed to learning and changing.” I could have picked myself up, dusted myself off and bolstered my resolve for anti-racism.
I wasn’t there yet. And you can bet your ass I wanted nothing to do with a conversation like that anytime soon. I was shook. I was fully in my white fragility, but I didn't know it.
I kept re-playing the scene over and over in my head. What had I done wrong? What did I need to know? What SHOULD I HAVE said? I turned to my coaches and mentors. There were no quick and clear answers. There were a lot of wonderings and maybes offered up for my continued contemplation and self-reflection.
Turning away from my anti-racist development wasn’t an option. And not just because I was strongly encouraged by others to stick with it - although that certainly helped! At that time, I didn’t know enough to be as effective as I wanted. But I had learned too much to accept going back to who I was.
You can bet your ass, I didn’t want to be that person who was complicit, who denied others’ truths, who assumed that good intentions were enough. I had to do better.
To be continued….