Stumbling over my words, getting messy and talking about racism anyway
So there’s this. I had the opportunity to ‘inspire’ this morning at the Dane Buy Local meeting. It was a 2 hour meeting and I was on the agenda for 5 minutes of ‘INSPIRATION’. Too funny. My plan was to talk about the new STEP UP series that starts next month and I was hoping I could make it somewhat inspiring.
The thing is my ability to inspire doesn’t come from me…it is fueled my how inspired I am by the people I’m working with, our community and the change that IS happening. I’m inspired by the connections being made, the mindset shifts and all the opportunity we have to make a difference; a real difference. So I jumped up (literally) at the opportunity to tell the magical story of how the STEP UP movement has come alive and to encourage those that are ready for real change to join in and register.
I delivered, it was great. I think I did what I was supposed to do.
But of course…I said some things wrong. I didn’t use all the right words.
I stumbled over some of my thoughts as they tried forming themselves into words. The gremlin that is so critical of everything I do was yapping at me loudly after I was done. I tried telling her to f* off but that didn’t work. So I asked her what she wanted. She said she wanted the content to flow better. It is important content and it needs to be delivered properly.
Ooohh easy for her to say. Instead of telling her to f* off I agreed that YES, the content is important. But NO I’m not going to deliver it properly. Properly means perfectly. This work isn’t about perfection. This work is messy. It’s real.
What I realized is that if I would have used all the right words and explained everything perfectly about racial disparities and white privilege and how making change works then I wouldn’t be me. I would be someone else. I would be someone that has years of experience in the field, an education in social justice or political science and probably some kind of master’s degree.
That’s not who I am. I am a jumping into a conversation that makes me vulnerable. I trip over the right words to use. I question if what I said was perceived the way I meant it. My cheeks get flushed sometimes because I get nervous trying to say what I mean or what I think I mean. I have read some books and a lot of articles. I have gone to a couple of seminars and conferences. I have had a lot of conversations. But I’m just scratching the surface and I’m making mistakes. I say the wrong things sometimes. And other times I say the right things in the wrong way.
That’s okay though. In fact I’m going to celebrate that as AWESOME! I live by doing. I don’t dip my toes in, I dive in. If I have to wait until I know how to say it all perfectly I’ll go crazy. Do you know why I was able to learn Spanish in college? Because I didn’t care if I sounded stupid. I just wanted to connect with people and the only way to do that was by speaking their language. I still don’t care if I use the incorrect word when I speak Spanish. It might sound all wrong and I might be perceived as stupid but I know I’m not. I know my intentions are good and I’m open to learn when I mess up. Tell me when I say a word incorrectly and I’ll learn to say it right the next time. If you don’t tell me I will keep saying it wrong. And yes ‘embarazada’ doesn’t mean ‘embarrassed’ in Spanish. It means pregnant. I learned that the hard way.
Talking about racism, white privilege, inner biases, discrimination and microagressions are not easy conversations. But if we don’t do it we will keep getting the same horrific results. This is about learning to talk about it. The conversation also requires action and to take action we need to be able to talk about it constructively.
It is helpful to use the right words but those aren’t easy to find sometimes. The wrong words will spill out. Let them spill out. Or go learn the perfect words. Whatever works for you. I’m going to keep talking. It’s how I learn.
I am a passionate woman and I don’t stay quiet when I care about something (only click on that link if you are okay with the f bomb). I am going to say the wrong things sometimes and hopefully you’ll point it out. I promise I’ll listen. I’ll listen and I’ll change. If you believe that my intent is good (and I understand that you need to know me to believe that my intent is good) then I ask you to please call me out when I say something that makes you cringe. Maybe I talked about the white community, used the word ‘we’ and grouped us altogether and you felt offended by that. Maybe I singled someone out or got preachy. Please speak up if I overstep. It might be uncomfortable for you and it will probably be uncomfortable for me. I’m okay with that. It is part of the work. It’s messy. We’re in this together. We are on the same team. Somehow even when it feels like we aren’t on the same team, I believe we are.
So I said some things wrong today.
I also said some things right.
I inspired someone.
I felt my own inspiration and it was yummy.
I played in the mud and got messy (and still managed to look cute).
There is a lot more work to do…I’m moving forward and out of my own way.