Tracy and I have a lot in common. We are leadership coaches, consultants, alumni, moms, wives, church-goers, and we are both passionate – sometimes finishing each other’s sentences when it comes to facilitation. However, she deals with something every day that I do not experience. Daily she prays a specific prayer for her black husband and son. She prays, “that a chance encounter with an officer doesn't result in me living without them.” Click here to read her entire article A New Normal.
Her post was shared with hundreds of coaches, and she caused many of us to awaken from a light slumber that many of us agreed we had fallen. What is happening to our black men? How has racism shifted in America? Have we fallen even further behind pre-Civil Rights Movements? What is it like to be black today? Do I, as a white person, understand their lived experience? These were several of the questions we began to ask, and I was only able to answer one with confidence. No! I, as a white woman, do not understand the lived experience of being black. Acknowledging this was part of my shift last summer and I wanted to understand. I want to be a passionate listener with a voice of solidarity and change. I do not want to be a blind and slumbering white women who suddenly awakens after decades and feigns confusion on how racism has gotten so bad in America.
After a year of small group discussion and ferocious reading, I still do not fully understand the lived experience of what it means to be black in America, but I’m becoming more and more aware. Recently, I was talking to tall, broad, older, black man in DC who told me that fifty years ago he knew exactly where he could walk, stand, or sit. He understood what areas of town never to enter. Today, the rules are different – there are none. What it means to be in the wrong place at the wrong time is uncertain and no longer predictable. He said it feels much harder today than any time in his life.
One year ago, when we decided as coaches to begin this journey, we created the following charter statement:
As members of the Georgetown and wider coaching community, we believe it is our foundational and essential practice to engage in and facilitate dialogue where we notice pain and misunderstanding. We choose not to be silent but to use our voices, abilities, and passion to encourage awareness, healing, mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect for all Especially with respect to race at this time in America, particularly the black/white dynamic and our longing for racial equality
How normal is it for you to talk about race with your family, friends, or colleagues?
See below for a great list of books that have been part of my waking up journey.
1. Coates, T.-N. (2015). Between the world and me (First edition. ed.). New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.
2. Halstead, J. (2016). The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-halstead/dear-fellow-white-people-_b_11109842.html
3. Irving, D. (2014). Waking up White: And finding myself in the story of race (1st edition. ed.). Cambridge, MA: Elephant Room Press.
4. Washington, B. T. (1963). Up from slavery, an autobiography. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
5. Wilkerson, I., & Miles, R. (2011). The warmth of other suns: The epic story of America's great migration. Grand Haven, MI: Brilliance Audio.