Brandon and I at prom 2005.
Which, by the way, was still segregated. For more on that story, visit http://www.southernritesproject.com/
"Recognizing your privilege does not mean you did not work hard for what you have... It means your skin color was not something that was constantly working AGAINST you as you fought your way up."
I grew up in a small town in rural south Georgia. I would like to share an example of my white privilege.
My high school/college sweetheart was black. He drove a Chevy Caprice, and if you don't know what that means, you aren't from South GA. Cops didn't like Caprices. Black men did. You were targeted if you drove one. Do not argue with me about this because it is true and that is not the point I'm making here (although this story is evidence of it).
One night, I was probably about 20 years old, we were driving back from spending the day in Atlanta with his family. It was late and we were on a 2 lane hwy in the middle of nowhere aka Soperton, which was about 15 minutes from home (Vidalia). Police there are notorious for racial profiling so boyfriend was making sure not to drive over the speed limit. We saw a cop car parked on the side of the road with his lights off. Before we knew it, blue light were flashing behind us.
Police officer immediately asks boyfriend to step out of the vehicle (which he does) and he is escorted to the back of the car. After asking a couple of questions, officer requests to search the vehicle. Boyfriend gives permission.
(Insert my white privilege)
Officer asks me to step out of the vehicle too. It's cold. We did nothing wrong. I tell him, politely, that he has no reason to search the vehicle because we did nothing wrong. I asked why he pulled us over to begin with and he replies "You have a crack in your windshield that is a safety concern. And your license plate is so dirty I couldn't read it, therefore I have reason." (Black men do not let their Caprice's get that dirty just FYI.) He had great night vision to see a cracked windshield at midnight on a moving vehicle.
I hear boyfriend say, "Julie just do it."
I step out. I'm PISSED at this point. I'm not going to be polite anymore. This is WRONG. I stand up for what's wrong! And I'm tired of the guy I love going through this, because it is certainly not the first time. Officer asks to search my purse after finding nothing in the trunk or rest of the car. Absolutely not! You have NO right to. You have no reason to believe I've done anything wrong. You are out of line!
"Ma'am, you are being suspicious by refusing to let me search your purse. You look like you are guilty of something." Are you kidding me?? There is nothing suspicious about knowing my rights and refusing to let you violate them.
Boyfriend is silent. I am low key frustrated with him for letting this officer violate his rights. Stop letting police treat you like this- you have done nothing to deserve this. You are a good guy, you broke no laws, and they have no right to treat you like a criminal. Don't just give them what they want.
The officer didn't search my purse that night.
Fast forward 10 years and I remembered this night. It took me over a decade to recognize my white privilege had been screaming at every moment. I thought since I was there, getting treated the way I was for being WITH a black man, that I was experiencing the same thing he was. I thought we were the same that night. That isn't true.
Here's the difference: I had been taught I had the right to stand up for what was right, even to authority.
Boyfriend had been taught this: Do whatever you have to do to come home safe.
I thought we both could have stood up to that officer. Boyfriend knew he didn't have that option, that privilege. His only goal was not to go to jail. Don't get yourself shot. I thought we could/should be able to drive without being harassed. Boyfriend knew better. His instinct was to comply to stay alive. When I think back on that night now, I'm not frustrated with boyfriend. I'm frustrated with myself because I potentially could have made that night a lot worse for him, with the bad, self-righteous attitude I thought I was allowed to have.
It was hard for me to recognize my privilege on that night- it has literally taken years. It is hard to see something that you may have never realized was there. Recognizing your privilege does not mean you did not work hard for what you have, because I know I have. It does not mean anything was handed to you. It does not mean your family was wealthy and things always came easy. It means your skin color was not something that was constantly working AGAINST you as you fought your way up. Your race was not a barrier to your success. In fact, it probably never crossed your mind. That is a luxury black people do not have. We have work to do, my white friends.
Oh and my boyfriend did go to jail that night. For the license plate.
I don't have a list of 10 things for you to do today to deal with these emotions. I'm just in need of space to acknowledge mine and hopefully validate yours.
Today, I lost a piece of me.*
Many things make up who we feel we are- relationships, career, faith, friendships, etc. And today I lost a piece of who I have been that I really loved and thought would be a part of my life for a lot longer. I'm not going to lie- it sucks.
All of this was my decision, my choice. A hard choice no doubt, but a necessary one. I took my time in making this decision- I prayed about it, did my pros and cons list, talked it out with someone I trust. I know it's for the best but right now it feels gross and awkward and heavy.
We talk about boundaries in the mental health world a lot- how hard they are to set and even harder to enforce. Even identifying the need for a boundary can seem foreign if you were never modeled healthy boundaries growing up. We anticipate the push back we might receive but it always seems to come with a promise of eventual relief and better balance in life. We prepare ourselves for that.
I think we miss something though. I don't think we talk enough about what hard emotions to expect on our end that come with setting a necessary boundary. We prepare ourselves for the other party's emotions (their anger, testing of the new boundary, not understanding your reasoning, etc), but not for our own. Today I am recognizing that I didn't expect to be grieving right now, which brings such a range of emotions. Any loss or unmet expectation can cause grief and that's what this is, so how did I not expect it? I'm sad I needed to set this boundary and disappointed that my expectations were so incorrect. I'm angry too. I don't feel good enough. I wasn't prepared for this.
I asked my IG friends what unexpected emotions they felt after setting a boundary and this is what I got:
Loss of security
Guilt x 10
I don't have a list of 10 things for you to do today to deal with these emotions. I'm just in need of space to acknowledge mine and hopefully validate yours. And also to remind us both that as hard as this can be, as much as it sucks, it's still the thing that needs to be done. You can't always anticipate how something is going to feel before it happens, but I think offering yourself space to explore can ease some discomfort later.
If this resonates with any of you, what were your experiences like? I would love to hear what you felt and how you worked through it.
*I feel the need to say "I know that sounds dramatic" here. Why do I feel like sounding dramatic means I'm taking up too much space? At least it got moved to a footnote this time, instead of first paragraph. #progress
The point of the quarantine is to be proactive in protecting other, more vulnerable populations. This is an act of love.
It's Day One for me of our 2020 Quarantine and I'm already in need of a plan to protect my sanity. We live in a society that struggles with sitting still as it is (I'm totally guilty of this too) and the idea of needing to be at home for the foreseeable future is scary. So I'm putting together a list of things that I plan to do to protect my mental health and make the best of a tough situation.
**Before I dive into my tips, can I please point out that I am not quaranteening myself out of FEAR. Quite the opposite. The point of the quarantine is to be proactive in protecting other, more vulnerable populations. This is an act of love. It would be selfish of me to try to keep on with business as usual. We have to protect elderly people at all cost.**
10 Tips to support your mental health during quarantine:
1- Keep a schedule.
I'm an Enneagram 3 so this is probably more important for me than for some others, but having a routine to structure my day is so important. If I sleep in, my whole day is off. If I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I feel lost. So I'm setting my alarm every morning, getting dressed and putting on makeup, eating meals at regular times, and I have an end time to my work day. Even if it's earlier than normal, there needs to be a time that you are "done" for the day just like any other day.
2- Make a To-Do list.
This keeps me on track for the day and helps me prioritize my time. For those that are scrambling with more work than is feasible to do in a day or for those that have found themselves homeschooling (prayers up for you guys!)- make a list of what needs to be done for the day, do it, and then log off (physically and mentally). I know everyone's situation is different right now, but please protect your mental health by setting boundaries wherever you can.
3-Do things you have been putting off.
For those of you that are not overwhelmed with work and you are trying to find ways to fill your time- tackle the things you have been procrastinating on. It's the perfect time! Imagine how good it will feel to have those things off of your plate when things do go back to "normal." So Spring Clean, do the home project, clear out your inbox, etc. You will be so glad you did.
4-Remind yourself that downtime is okay.
Like I said, we live in a culture that values being busy. We'll sleep when we're dead. The grind never stops. And let me tell you- we are paying a high price for it. Maybe this is a good time to re-evaluate how we view downtime and embrace the NEED for mental health care. I encourage everyone to play around with some sort of daily quiet time such as journaling, meditation, or reading. If you find it difficult to sit in silence, I am going to venture to say you have some level of underlying anxiety and now is a good time to address it.
If you want to learn what constant stress is doing to your body, I recommend the book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky.
5-Check on others.
"Social distancing" doesn't mean social isolation. Use this time to check on those that you love. Reconnect with an old friend. Offer assistance to an elderly neighbor. We have so much technology that allows us to continue to get our social needs met but you have to be proactive!
6- Help others.
We all have different challenges to work through here, but it's important to be aware that many people aren't just being "inconvenienced" right now. People are actually suffering. This is yet another example of how people living in poverty take the biggest hit and are so vulnerable. There are many creative ways to show love and support here! Find a local charity to donate to, use your power to ease the burdens of others (can you waive late fees? Delay evictions? Give your employees extra PTO?), offer to grocery shop for elderly neighbors so that they don't expose themselves to public places. Anything you can do will help. And side note- there's plenty of research that shows volunteering is good for YOUR mental health- so you are helping yourself out as you help others.
7-Find the good in the bad.
I think this is so important. Focusing on the good doesn't mean living under a rock and minimizing the importance of what's going on. It is reminding yourself that EVERYTHING is not bad and it never is. Find some way to focus on what good things are happening. I personally am relying on memers for this right now and can't stop laughing when I scroll IG. And I need that.
At this point we really don't know what the future holds. I'm hopeful and optimistic that we will not be quarantined for months (I am also PRAYERFUL for this- can we all agree that this needs to be happening daily?) Regardless of how long this last, let's all pace ourselves. If you knock out every project and to-do list in the first week, you are setting yourself up for a breakdown later on. If you let your mind run away with panic that this could last all summer, you could cause unnecessary anxiety. Let's all try to take it a day at a time.
9-Move and hydrate.
Please move and hydrate. Do a home workout. Stretch. Drink water. Care for your body.
10- Remember, everyone is different.
Please be kind to others. Everyone is having a different experience with this. People can't visit their loved ones in nursing homes. People are struggling to find daycare options. People are being furloughed and don't know how they are going to pay bills. People are working overtime to keep shelves stocked. People are in recovery and have limited access to support.
We all need different things at this time but what nobody needs is to be judged, yelled at, or told they aren't handing this correctly. You are not an expert on other people and neither am I.
This is MY list- I hope you take the time to make your own according to your circumstance, personality, and family situation. This is a chance we have to all be in this together and show love to our fellow human. And if there is any way that I can support you- please reach out. I'm happy to do what I can.
With so much love,