My girl, Brené Brown, published an excellent podcast on shame and accountability back in July. She states in her intro: “…being held accountable for racism and feeling shame is not the same thing as being shamed.” This is it for me. At almost 43 years old, born & raised SMACK-dab in the middle of the country and of Irish & German dissent (a.ka. as WHITE as a person can be), I have recently immersed myself in history, dialogue, and listening to people of color as a spiritual practice. To unlearn and relearn and ask myself hard questions and discern a path toward activism has become a calling – an obligation. My heart hurts. My head hurts. My soul hurts. My body is tired. And I do feel shame. I feel ashamed of a lot of things, mostly that I elected ignorance and inaction over truth and action. Believing I was aware *enough* and easily moving on after expressing some sort of passing disgust at the abhorrent actions of some other person while overlooking my own role in someone else’s problem. But I’m trying to work through the shame and realize I should feel guilt for those things rather than shame. Because I believe I am a good person who has made mistakes (=guilt vs. someone who thinks they are a bad person = shame) and that guilt is driving me to improve myself, my family, and my community.
The culmination of losing Justice Ginsburg and the immediate panic I felt, the discovery of the full history of slavery and Black history on this soil, the “our hands are tied because of incompatible laws” defense of the Louisville grand jury in the Breonna Taylor case, and our government’s inaction and actions has pushed me over the edge. I know too much now to ever turn back. Thank God.
This is what I picture in my head: We have a long piece of nylon rope. This braid is the thread of humanity. It represents how we’re all inextricably connected, woven together whether we realize it or not. One end of that rope is unraveling before our very eyes. It’s being torn to shreds by hands of not just hatred but complacency. The frayed ends are in such bad shape, some have fallen off. On the other end, the rope is being held together by various hands in unity, reinforced, smoothed and tended to in an effort to hold the whole thing (humanity) together. One way of repairing this nylon rope it is to melt the ends. This requires heat and can burn. Yes, burns are painful. But for the sake of humanity, for the sake of unifying humanity, discomfort is needed. There’s only one piece of rope, people. We can’t start over with a new one. We need to fix the damn rope before it totally unravels.