There is a push for business owners to make a public statement to proclaim how we are dealing with racism by working to change systemic racism, educating ourselves about how to not be racist, and changing policies to more make services and work opportunities available to minorities and the disadvantaged.
So here is my statement.
I don’t really share my story because I’m private. It’s not about me, and frankly, it’s none of your business. So this is very uncomfortable for me. But when I was a child, other children used to ask me, “What are you?”
I didn’t understand the question. “What” is a word we use with objects. I would have thought it was obvious.
“I’m a girl,” I replied. “What are you?”
I wasn’t trying to be a wise ass. I genuinely did not know how else to answer that question.
Later I figured out that they wanted to know which box to put me in – and there were two choices: White or Black. Only even at that young age, I refused to be placed in those boxes. It was like being asked to diminish myself by claiming only some of my family. It was taking away my wholeness, my humanity. I don’t play that game.
So now that I am older and people have learned how to ask the same question in more indirect ways, I still don’t give them the information that would allow them to size me up and put me in a box.
I withhold information to force others see me for myself. They can later ask themselves how much my religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race matters. Don’t get me wrong. Ethnicity, spirituality, and sexual orientation are important and need to be respected. I just want people to see me as a human first, and I do the same to EVERYONE else I encounter.
How does this show up in my life and my business?
I don’t use the words Black and White to describe race. As I look around my family, I see people with different skin tones. We’re all the same family. The light ones aren’t White and the dark ones aren’t Black. So, I describe skin color as hues: light, pale, fair, brown, tan, dusky, dark, etc.
Language is a reflection of our inner reality. For me skin tone has as much significance as eye color or hair color, so when I am talking about skin tone, I use words that honor individual diversity and demolish stereotypes. You can tell me – if it’s important to you – what your skin tone means to your identity and life experience. I won’t assume that it means you grew up oppressed, privileged, or belong to a certain ethnic group. You have a right to your own story and identity. It’s not my place to project that onto you.
As much as possible, I use photos on my website to reflect all expressions of humanity. I say “as much as possible” because photo companies don’t actually offer much diversity. However, I try because I want you to see yourself there.
I don’t do this to make a statement. I actually didn’t realize I was doing it until my website was well established. Once I realized it, I kept it going because it’s a reflection of my lens.
My clientele reflects a spectrum of humanity. The people you see in my blog post photos are the people in my office. There are men, women, young, old, fair, dark, mainstream, alternative, veterans, immigrants, citizens, disabled, tattooed, clean cut, religious, atheists, rich and poor. I am honored that all those people see me as someone they trust with their mental health.
I have hosted a local meetup group for years. The people who support are also very diverse. As is my family, friends, and social circle. I don’t do that so that I can say, “Woo! Look at me! I’m not racist!” I do that because I see the divine light in all people – even those I don’t agree with or who don’t look like me.
You are my community, my tribe. Whether you see me in that way or not, I see you that way. I’m going to look out for you and hope you do the same for me.
I can sit here and say “I condemn the blah, blah, blah…” all day long, but if it doesn’t show up in my life, it’s just words. So what?
I believe in walking my walk and being the change. I also know that I am human and have been reared in a racist society. That influences me in ways I don’t see, so I invite you to hold me accountable. If you ever see me do or say something that is offensive, tell me. Educate me. I may or may not agree with you, but I will listen and respect your point of view.
I’m not going to sit this out and say “I don’t get a say because…” We all have a voice. My voice isn’t any more or less valid than yours. I want you to know where I stand so that you can decide if that’s who you want to stand beside. Regardless, I will still love and support you as a fellow human being.
I’m not going to separate myself and say “I am not racist because…” We’re all blind to our Shadows. I am fallible. I am a human, and I make mistakes. So, if you see something, say something. Rest assured I will (compassionately) call you out, too. I have to. We’re beyond the point of politeness now. It has cost our community too much to stay silent.
I am full of hope and faith that together we will make a better tomorrow for those coming up behind us. My way may not be your way. It’s okay. We can still make a change for the better in our own way.