Dear Community, I’m Sorry

Last week Heidi and I co-wrote a post about the tools we have available to us to resist and transform our work. The tools include: time, truth telling and belief, money, language, and love. As we move into the lunar new year, I’m going to use the Year of the Rooster as a chance to restart and to think about what I love about my community and how we are strong. Before we enter the new lunar year I have to say I’m sorry. Admitting wrong and apologizing are a form of love or at the very least self-humbleness.

Dear communities of color, especially kids of color, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I don’t spend enough time with you. I’m sorry I take time and energy away from being with you to spend in long meetings talking about ‘systems change,’ policies, and things that will only bring marginal changes to the community.

I’m sorry we live with political bullying from the president down to local government. I’m sorry I can’t protect people of color from budget cuts, damaging policies, and from politicians who believe and like listening to themselves more than they believe in you and me. I’m sorry we have to sit through meetings and listen to elected officials drone on and on because they like to soapbox, hear themselves, and whitesplain.

2016-11-11 09.13.01.jpgI’m sorry for the graffiti that says “Fuc* Donald Trump.” (I’m sorry the f-word is spray painted where children can see it.)

I’m sorry because of the racism I confront at work I bring it home and it shows up as annoyance, a questioning of you, or power plays.

I’m sorry because I work and live in a transactional world of ‘holding the line’ on policies and budgets, or trying to make small gains because people tell us we’ll never get what we really want for children of color, we are afraid or too realistic to dream bigger and have a vision for transformational racial justice. To be honest I don’t even know what transformational change looks like, I have no brain space left to think about bigger change.

In a not-apology-apology I’m sorry if my dark humor offends you. Being kind and nice all the time takes a lot of mental energy so I go to the dry humor.

Colleagues of color and allies I’m sorry if I sent you an email with only a half-thought and crappy grammar because I was too rushed or hurried to give it the attention it deserved. You deserve better and when I’m not spending time and energy writing a seven-point response in an email war I’ll do better.

Children of color, I’m sorry we elected public officials who don’t understand race and why it isn’t about them as adults. When you’re a little older and can comprehend words like “those children” and “inadequate resources,” and concepts like inequities or systemic racism I’ll share the emails  with you so you are better prepared for the truth-telling you’ll need to do when I’m too infirmed and bitter to do this job.

While I can’t undo the wrongs (sorry, I can’t singlehandedly undo systemic racism), I can deploy my ‘tools’ of resistance better; this is how I’ll atone for my list of offenses and attempt to make reparations.

2017-01-26-14-07-16Heidi (of the fakequity team) shared in the new year she wants to work on “truth telling” and being bolder in telling people, especially white people, what she wants them to hear versus toning down her message to make it more palatable to them. CiKeithia (also of the fakequity team) plans to spend more time with people of color. I wholly encourage this since it means she will be available to us more. She’s already modeling this by helping an immigrant colleague prepare for a talk with philanthropist next week. For me my tool of resistance is to practice more gratitude. I’ve blogged about it before how easy it is to get jaded and annoyed. Just this week I muttered “I’m so annoyed with whiteness,” and I didn’t mean the color. I am trying to practice more gratitude, courage, and slowing down to say thank you and to have casual conversations with people of color.

Maybe through these intentional acts of resistance we can begin to undo the list of things I’m sorry about. I love our community, especially how forgiving they are. I love that we can often stand together and we call each other out. I also love the celebrations, especially the food on lunar new year’s. I’m hoping someone will make some nian gao (Mandarin) or nin guo (Cantonese); last time I made it wasn’t as good as the one the aunties make so I’ll just hope an aunty will share some. I’m in love that my kiddo who is in a Chinese immersion program is teaching me how to introduce myself in Mandarin so next Monday when I’m at work with a group of Chinese speaking parents I can at least attempt to introduce myself in their native language, it is an attempt and hopefully they will be forgiving. I also hope they forgive me that they speak Cantonese but I learned how to say hello and my name is in Mandarin (I’m trying to also learn the Cantonese, but the tonal differences are mushy in my brain). I’m thankful and grateful to all of our fakequity fighters, keep on fighting.

I’m sorry for the lack of brilliance tonight. It’s been a long week and I don’t have anything left to think about. Next week we’ll be in the Year of the Rooster and maybe brilliance will return in a lunar new year red envelope, I’m accepting red envelopes if anyone wants to send some my way.

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Posted by Erin