It’s Gay Pride month and today is Juneteenth.
I have sat down a few times over the last week to write a message about how not to ‘pride wash’ or ‘woke-wash’ on these holidays because if you’re like me, you’ve felt like just changing your facebook profile photo or sharing a few stories on instagram isn’t enough…
But we are all so busy that when these annual moments of reflection or celebration arrive, we’re often unprepared (which I think is more of a commentary on the pace of our lives and the overwhelm of participating in social media in general – I mean honestly most of us rely on these apps to remind us of our loved ones’ birthdays too!)
But if we’re really honest, most of us worry about what we say or share because while we do desperately want to show solidarity, we don’t want to be perceived as trying to profit off of these days of awareness and celebration. Showing this type of support is often referred to as ‘performative’: It basically means only doing that one post on the ‘National Day’ on social media – or worse – having a themed promotion (like a Gay Pride sale) which has zero positive impact for the community in – but helps you profit or makes you feel good / look good.
So we do nothing.
For most of us while we truly want to show support, to show we are safe places to be in community and do business – the way to do that is a bit more complex than a social share or temporary profile photo change… which deep-down we know. So we stay silent.
If you are someone who finds this all a bit frustrating, I thought it might be helpful to share my honest take – as someone who is actively trying to have a steady, sustainable impact on causes I care about – whilenot quitting my day-job to become a full-time activist.
Here are my 3 steps to be a person / business owner who shows support to marginalized communities all year long (not just on the public days of celebration and solidarity).
3 Steps for Genuine & Sustainable Solidarity
Step 1: Give up on ‘getting it right’
In my experience most people (straight, cis white people in particular) who aren’t talking about race or LGTQ+ issues on their social feeds, in their communities or in their own homes (but want to be) aren’t doing so simply because they are scared of getting it wrong.
Inherently, we don’t want to mess up, we don’t want to be called-out, we don’t want to be cancelled and we certainly don’t want to cause harm or offend anyone.
But, what I’ve learned is that the WORST thing you can do, is say nothing.
For the average ‘good person’ the GREATEST harm you’ll cause is through your silence. Because saying nothing supports the dominant paradigm: and unfortunately, while most people are inherently good, the dominant paradigm in our societies is racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Transphobia etc.
So take a deep breath and let go of your ego.
The work of trying to make the world better is messy and imperfect. Get comfortable with getting it wrong, being a bit embarrassed or awkward occasionally, and honestly sometimes just being outright wrong. What if our default response instead of fear and perfectionism was just gratitude for the opportunity to learn more and do better?
Wouldn’t that be amazing… Imagine the conversations and change we could start!
Step 2: Start listening and invest in learning
As soon as you acknowledge do #1 you’re probably going to feel super vulnerable and your deep instinct will be to DO something.
Enter the season of really listening and doing DEEP learning.
Start building bridges into honest conversation with other people who are in a similar position as you and have similar feelings – and encourage them to listen and learn too.
And when I say learning, books and podcasts are GREAT – certainly a great place to start… but the real deep learning will come when you can put yourself in conversation with people who are willing to hold space and educate people like you about what it’s like to be them.
Then the most important part: in these conversations: LISTEN more than you TALK.
The goal in these experiences is to put your feelings, your fear, your fragility and your bias on pause long enough to let other input in.
Repeat to yourself if you must ‘this is not about my feelings’ ‘I’m here to listen not to control the conversation’ and if you feel defensive or angry or unsafe explore this question: ‘what if these feelings that make me want to argue, cry or run away are exactly what I’m here to learn about’?
One of problems with this tip – is it can be hard to find spaces to have these conversations with people in communities that we’re not a part of… But they ARE THERE if you look. It’s time to find one. Ideally not just a free Facebook group – a curated community that you pay to be a part of, led by someone who has created a safe space and is willing to teach you.
When one of these spaces was offered to me, I jumped on it and I have been participating in Dr. Lynne Maureen Hurdle’s program On the Matter of Race for three years. It is not an exaggeration to say it has completely transformed me as a person, a parent, a business owner, a woman and a leader. It has changed how I look at the world, and what kind of advocate I can be for the change I’m passionate about creating.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m still totally clueless in SO many ways
I’m not by any means single-handedly changing the world anytime soon – but there is no doubt I am now a much safer person for BIPOC folks to be in conversation and community with – and that is EVERYTHING.
This is the goal.
How can we be safe for Black people, Indigenous people, Muslim people, Trans people and anyone else who finds themselves being ‘othered’ by mainstream American, Canadian, British, European and Australian societies.
Yeah, it’s bad in America – but let’s not pretend this is just an American problem.
Step 3: Start Meaningful Conversations in your own Spaces
Today on Juneteenth, instead of just posting something about BLM or sharing some nice illustration someone else has done or just re-posting an article that you found meaningful… Do that AND add your own meaningful, honest, vulnerable commentary about where you sit at the moment with racism. Or your support for LGBTIQA+ (and don’t worry if you don’t know the right words or initials – google it or be willing to mess up because your voice matters in the fight for equitable outcomes.)
Feel free to share this blog if you think people in your spaces will find it useful – but be sure to add how you feel about it and why you’re sharing it.
Be honest about what you care about.
Be honest about your shortcomings.
Make a declaration of the kind of world you would like to live in.
And if you really mean it – then make one commitment or step towards participating in actually creating that world, instead of leaving it up to people who you feel are more qualified.
We can’t leave it up to people more qualified than us
There is simply too much to do – too many people to reach. We all have to get involved in creating these conversations to create change.
This isn’t about the ‘best person for the job’ it’s about EVERYONE, every SINGLE person doing their part to change the tide of human history away from division and into unity, connection and true community.
No one is qualified for that – so we all just have to take a little bit of action for ourselves, our families, and to inspire those around us who feel equally unqualified.
One little, awkward step at a time.
But imagine if we all took that one step today? Tomorrow? This week?
Imagine how quickly the world could change!