Two years ago, almost to the day, I wrote about race for the very first time. Here’s how that piece started:
“This is one of those blog posts that makes my chest tight writing about. It makes me uncomfortable because I feel unqualified to talk about race and I’m treading a very fine line between using my privileged position to speak about important issues and centralising myself, a white woman, in a conversation about race.”
I remember being scared. Scared of saying the wrong thing, scared of offending someone. If you’ve been following the uprising that is currently taking place following the murder of George Floyd and speaking out about racism for the first time, I’m sure you can relate.
As I write this follow-up piece today though, I’m not scared.
I know I’m going to get things wrong. I know there’s always a chance of me offending someone. I’m not scared of being ‘called out’ anymore, because every time I get called out, there’s an opportunity to learn. I’m not scared of using my voice, of being told I’m ‘virtue signalling’ – in my eyes staying silent on this matter would be far worse.
Here’s the thing… when that first blog post went live, it opened a door. It said “I want to learn”. It said “I care” and as a result, it welcomed corrections. And while that door has been in varying states of open and closed in the years since (we’ll get into that), it’s been bust wide open again. And I hate that it’s taken another death for that to happen.
So, today I want to briefly talk about what I have done since that original post, what I haven’t done, what I will do and crucially why this work will never stop.
What I started and continue to do
Read more books on the subject.
Read more books written by people of colour.
Watch more films/documentaries on the subject.
Watch more films/documentaries by people of colour.
Speak about race on my podcast.
Consider representation in the imagery I use, here and on Happiful.
Amplify black voices.
My aim in sharing this list is not to ‘show off’, this isn’t a competition. My aim is to show you some actions you can take or at least consider for yourself.
What I didn’t do
Layla Saad’s book, ‘Me and White Supremacy’ was originally an instagram challenge and then a free e-book. I signed up to get that free e-book back then and it’s been sat on my desktop ever since. I did exactly what she hoped people wouldn’t do, bought it to feel good about myself but failed to do the work.
I haven’t done any courses on this subject or thought about how it impacts my coaching work or what changes we can make at my day job.
There have been times when people I’ve followed have talked about an issue relating to racism and I have swiped by without reading because it’s felt ‘too much’.
Until last week, I hadn’t had difficult conversations on or offline with fellow white people or brands I’ve worked with.
I haven’t written to my MP.
The reason I wanted to list these things is to remind you that this work is ongoing. There’s no such thing as a perfect ally and we should never expect perfection (better to be here and messy than not here at all), but for causes like this we should always strive for improvement.
I’ve seen a quote saying being able to learn about racism and not experience it is a privilege and that’s what I keep coming back to. I feel tired as I write this after thinking about racism constantly for the last week. People of colour have to think about it every single day of their lives, how exhausted do you imagine they are?
What I’m doing now
All of the above. I’ve now paid for a hard copy of Layla’s book and will work through it when it arrives. I’ve bought a workshop to learn more about diversity in the context of coaching. I’m not swiping by when it feels ‘too much’, I’m leaning into the discomfort. I’m sliding into people’s comments and DMs if they say something problematic. I’m writing to my MP and demanding a change.
And, perhaps most importantly, I’m starting to recognising when my own biases come into play. It’s not pleasant, but it’s wholly necessary.
It doesn’t end here
I know this subject can feel overwhelming if you’ve never given it much thought before, there are so many ways we can learn and be better allies. A friend of mine said today she’s just picking a book to read and starting there. And that is an excellent first step.
If you posted on social media in solidarity last week, if seeing the various videos and posts has made you think… please don’t let that momentum die. Please don’t return to business as usual after people stop posting. Take some time to think about what changes you want to make and how you can keep going. Take this work into your heart and into your home.
Be bold, be brave and be willing to learn. Yes, it’ll get uncomfortable. Yes, you may be challenged, you may upset people (you might even lose people in your life).
And yes – it is worth it.
(Header image by Brea Soul)
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