Transforming My Anger and Shame into Change
I’d like to be able to write something lighthearted about what’s been going on over here at the Pediatric Psych Ward, but I really don’t think I can do that until I write the following blog post.
I have been struggling to be able to put into words what I have been thinking about and feeling since the horrible death of George Floyd. What makes it so hard is there is no single emotion — it’s a tangled mess of them. Anger. Sadness. Shame.
The other day, First Born was looking through some memes online and started laughing. He brought his phone to me, “Mom! Check this out! I think even you will find this hilarious!” (Which is a usual guarantee that I won’t.)
I looked at the image and was immediately enraged, and I completely went off on him. It was not one of my prouder parenting moments.
“Delete that right now! That is awful! Why on EARTH would you think that’s funny?!” I yelled at him in a rage. (I won’t re-post the meme here.)
“But it’s funny!”
“No!!! It is NOT even remotely funny! Do you even understand what it means?!”
“But look at the picture!” I looked again, and taken out of context I could see why he, a twelve year old boy, would think it funny. But with the text that was with it, the picture was twisted into something awful. But how would he know what it was really saying?
My rage came to a screeching halt. I had to stop and take a few deep breaths. “Okay. We need to sit down and talk. You are not in trouble.” I realized that in the craziness of trying to get through the rest of the school year and with all of my anger, anxiety, fear, exhaustion and sadness over COVID-19 and current events that had been building up over the past months, and especially the past week, I hadn’t truly taken the time to sit down with him to talk about recent current events.
So we sat at the kitchen table and I told him the story of what had happened to George Floyd, the resulting peaceful protests and violent riots that were happening all over the country, and even the world. He was stunned and saddened.
“How can things like that still be happening today?” he asked. I didn’t have a really good answer.
“Probably because we have allowed it to happen. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to these things in our comfortable, sheltered lives. We can go about our daily lives without a single worry about being under undeserved scrutiny just because of the color of our skin.”
One of the hardest emotions I’ve been feeling, though, has been shame. I think about my life as a white, suburban woman and stay-at-home mom, and I nearly choke on my overly privileged life. How was I so lucky and blessed to be born into such a life? And how dare I ever take it for granted. It is shameful.
I am ashamed that I haven’t done more or spoken out more. And more so, I’m ashamed as to why I haven’t: because I’ve been timid and afraid. Afraid that who am I — this privileged white woman — to think that I have anything meaningful or substantive to add to this discussion? What have I done to ever promote change to right the racial injustices that go on around me in my privileged white suburban life?
First Born asked, “What can we do to make it better?”
“That’s a really good question, and one that I’ve been asking myself. It’s not any one thing.” So we started to come up with a list of how we can help change:
- Speak out. Use our voices to call out injustices.
- Educate ourselves. Read. Read. Read. From lots of different perspectives and voices.
- Support organizations who affect change in the battle against racism.
- Check ourselves whenever we find racial prejudice and bias in our own thoughts and actions, whether conscious or subconscious.
- Listen. Observe. Learn. Grow.
One person alone cannot change the world, nor can any one action. But we all can be a part of the change so that we can leave the world a better place for our children and future generations.