Amy F. Hageman is a young associate of Leading Consciously who has put herself through a public reckoning of what it means to become antiracist from a position of White privilege. In her guest blog on our website, she discusses a public embarrassment that led to her decision to post for 30 days about race. Her intent was to inspire her White friends into action and to let her Black friends know she loved them.
In this video, she discusses with Jean Latting her journey and insights along the way. Here are some of the highlights.
What was your reaction to hearing about George Floyd?
I remember when Michael Ferguson was murdered, thinking, okay, now it's been exposed and we're going to take care of it. I remember when Eric Garner died -- and he was saying, I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe -- thinking, okay, well, we're going to get rid of the chokehold.
When George Floyd died, and again it was I can't breathe, it just made me feel hopeless in a way that I had never felt before. The knee on the neck was so visceral for me: my grandfather was a hunter. There’s a prominent picture of him with his knee on the neck of a deer. So to see George Floyd so casually pinned down like that…
In the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, I was seeing a lot of my Black friends on Facebook. And for some reason specifically, I was seeing my female Black friends from high school, saying what's up with the White people. We're not saying the White people that aren't active. We're saying White people that are active but not saying anything. So I scrambled to write a statement and just post it. I have to do this, so I'm just gonna write it and post it. And unfortunately, wrote this is all I'm going to say on the matter.
I remember you saying, we need voices, we need more voices and more action. And to some extent, more frequent is better than once perfect. I just had this idea if I really wanted to make this right, I would just write every day for 30 days. (17:33) I wanted to write in honor of Black people, but to a White audience. (19:23) I wanted to write in a way that would bring hope and empowerment to White people that are early in this journey, because it's a rough journey to find out that you're privileged and fragile and there’s no easy answer.
(21:43) I was almost caught off guard to realize: all these White people are finally showing up to the table after George Floyd. We're finally here. We're all excited, let's make that happen. And my Black friends were like, listen, we're tired.
I heard from a lot of people, like I heard from my dad a friend of a friend saw what I had written.
I wanted to discuss this with you to show the ripple effect. If one person influences another who influences another, we will see change. What else did you discover?
It's really hard to talk about racism for a whole month and not talk about politics. So that's what I've learned is I have to start talking about politics. White people, we've got to step up. And we've got to get involved in politics at every level, because we can't just love one another into social justice. It's not going to happen.
That has been the single most difficult thing for me, dealing with White friends, and those who don't want to get into politics: if you don't want to get into politics, you can't talk about my life.
I really think White people underestimate how political it is. When we talk about racism, White people think we're talking about bad people, individuals who are hateful. And that's part of why we haven't moved very far. I think White people are now beginning to learn.
Also, White people are making all their decisions about around their emotion, we might feel embarrassed or humiliated, or we might feel uncomfortable, or we might feel some sort of negative emotion and that is motivating our decisions and our actions. And the whole time that we're sort of playing to our comfort.
There’s much more in this discussion; you can see the video or read the transcript.
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Amy Hageman is a Junior Associate with Leading Consciously and has a Masters of Science in Positive Organizational Development. She lives in Houston TX, is 34 years old, and is doing her part to create a world in which Black Lives Matter.
Leading Consciously concepts and skills covered in this blog post:
Questions to ask yourself (note there are no wrong answers):
1. What insights did Amy find during this process?
2. What do need to see that others need to hear?
#WhitePeoplesWork #BetheChange #BridgingDifferences #ChangeStartsWithMe #GeorgeFloyd