30 Days of Dedication to Black People
Day 6 - Fragility & Privilege
Amy Foy Hageman
Dear Black & White friends -
I LOVE to be liked. I find great joy and comfort in thinking that someone likes me. But I have let my perceived opinion of others decide my behaviors for far too long. It's only in the last few years that I've started to get clear on whether or not I love and approve of myself.
So you can imagine that when I started this 30 days, I had some hesitation about being so public. What would people think about me? Would I make people uncomfortable? What if people didn't want to hang out with me any more?
I know this doesn't sound related to racism, but stick with me just a little bit longer.
I am a petite White woman. When people meet me, they have mostly positive assumptions. In fact, I would have to do something awkward or insensitive to mess up what someone probably thinks of me at first glance. In this society, it's easy for me to assume that I am going to be liked.
A petite Black woman with the same education, income, and family life would not have the same positive assumptions made about her. In many settings, she would have to work to create a positive interaction by smiling more, using the other person's name, and intentionally changing her posture to be more approachable. Only then is it possible someone's preset assumptions (dare I say stereotypes?) would ease.
We don't start with a clean slate. We start with a slate full of other people's stereotypes about us.
People assume they are going to like me and that I am a model citizen. I get the job interviews I want. I feel safe interacting with government employees of all varieties. I am never assumed to be stealing when I am browsing through a store.
This is my White privilege.
Being overly concerned about what others may think of me when I'm trying to speak out for Human Rights online?
This is my White fragility.
I want to share with all of you, my Black and White friends - I am doing what I can to work on myself. I hope that by sharing I can help others as well.
This process has been both devastating and thrilling. I am learning just how much I've held myself back by staying stuck in my fragility. I am learning that I AM capable of discussing "taboo" or "sensitive" topics - and that my choosing not to do so more often has only prevented other people from having the opportunity to grow. I am learning that it is so much more fun to try and fail - even online - than to not try at all. I am learning that White people do want to do the work, and they appreciate having support. I am learning that there is much Love here for us, even at this time in this country. I can only imagine the Love I will find by the end of these 30 days. I can feel it calling me through this journey.
It's impossible to reckon with all of my privilege and fragility. It's so baked into every experience, every interaction. But I'm gonna try my best to do it anyway.
I cannot give back my privilege. I am learning to embrace it in a way that fits my belief system and moral compass.
I cannot erase my fragility from my being. I am actively gaining strength in the areas of my weakness. I am bravely looking for more areas to be healed.
And, I am finding more Love for myself and others throughout the journey.
Whoever you are, whatever your life experience - I love you.
Let's all get a little joy and comfort out of knowing that there are people doing their work.
Have a beautiful weekend everyone.