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1 of 7: Learning to ride

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

I don’t have vivid memories of learning to ride a bike.

I do remember being excited to learn, watching my older brother, Ryan have success in his own bike riding “rite of passage.”

I remember starting with a tricycle until the “hand-me-down bike” with training wheels was available.

I imagine that very bike was the starter for a dozen or so kids in my neighborhood, passed from family to family.

I remember the shift when it was time to remove the training wheels.

An adult (sorry Mom, Dad, I guess it was one of ya!) held the back of the seat to steady, walking and eventually jogging alongside while I pedaled. Meanwhile I was shouting - part in glee, part in terror,

“Don’t let go! Ok, I’m ready!. No! Please wait, I’m scared!” But I was pedaling.

Similarly, I can’t tell you the exact moment I knew I needed to learn to be anti-racist.

NOTE: Before I go on, I want to clarify - my bike was passed from a white family to my white family living in a white suburban neighborhood.

I do remember listening to and watching others (white folks, black folks, folk of color) who seemed to enter conversations about race and socio-economic class and privilege…that is to say DIFFICULT conversations... fearlessly, with ease and with care. I wanted to be like them.

I remember starting with activities to NAME the make-up of my identity: “I’m a woman. I’m a non-profit leader. I’m straight. I’m middle class. And oh, yea, I’m just white, I guess.”

I imagine (actually I know...was told outright) the facilitator of that activity had heard that diminishment of whiteness from dozens of participants who had completed this activity before. Diminishing the impact of my race, not even seeing my race as having any influence in my life was unconsciously developed in my childhood, my neighborhood, passed from family to family, and through generations.

I remember the shift when I started to see HOW VERY MUCH my white skin color impacted my life, when I started to see that being “just white” wasn’t devoid of culture, but rather an immeasurably powerful culture that was so normalized, it had been “invisible” to me.

That new perspective threw my entire world view entirely OFF BALANCE.

Some experienced colleagues, “held the back of my seat steady” sharing their stories, engaging me in difficult conversations about early childhood socialization, about the racial make-up of my friends, family and acquaintances. Peers and mentors held me in Loving Accountability as I started to get it, started to lean into difficult conversations. They stayed with me as I started to navigate the experience on my own.

And I promise you at that time, (inside my head) I was shouting - part in confidence, part in terror “Don’t let go! Ok, I’m ready!. No! Please wait, I’m scared!” But I was progressing.

To be continued….

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