I am doing my best, AND I can improve!
At any given time, people are doing the best that they can with the skills and knowledge that they have in the situation they are in.
This affirmation is helpful to me in lots of different contexts: in therapy/treatment/skills, in school, in anything new I’m trying… It’s also a helpful way to frame reminders to other people when I want to give them constructive criticism. For example, I understand that my mom is doing her best as a mom and is busy with lots of things and is already cooking a lot, AND, I would like to have more food in the fridge that I can eat (I have digestive issues and I can’t eat a lot of the stuff she makes).
I’ve also been thinking about this a lot recently in the context of racism, bias, and systemic racism and other issues in our society. I am a white woman, and while I think I am doing my best, I know that there are ways I can improve, too.
It helps me to think of the things I’ve done well in the past so that 1) I give myself credit for the good things I am already doing, 2) I know which things to do more of, and 3) maybe I can see where I am lacking.
So, in the context of racism, these are some good choices I think I’ve made:
- I chose to go my college in part because it has a diverse student body.
- I decided that I want to live in a town that is diverse when I grow up (the town I grew up in and currently live in is over 95% white).
- I took a class this past semester which discussed systemic disenfranchisement, colonization, etc. and where all the books we read were written by people from historically underrepresented groups (black, brown, female, gay, etc.). I wrote papers on these topics and discussed them in class with my peers.
- I took a Afro-Cuban dance class and discussed it similarly.
- I bought the book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates several years ago (but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet).
- At some point in the past, I tried (unsuccessfully) to explicitly follow black creators on youtube.
- In high school, I was part of a club intended to start conversations about race. However, I didn’t really participate.
- I took an Unconscious Bias Workshop offered at my college a few years ago. One thing that I took away from the workshop was the idea to fill out a “Bias Reflection” once a week. I’ve only written in it a few times, but I think about it more often.
- I’ve had some conversations about race with my friends.
- I watched the tv show “Black-ish” for a bit because I wanted to understand others’ experiences more.
- I am writing this now… writing and publishing this is outside of my comfort zone!
And here are some things I can improve on:
- Well, I could actually read that book, haha. I could also look into other forms of media like youtube (again) or podcasts or music, since reading seems to be kinda hard for me.
- I can be more aware of supporting black-owned stores. Until this past week, I was not aware that that was something that I could do.
- I’d like to get more comfortable talking about race. So, I want to have more conversations with my friends about this. I want to be comfortable asking “is this okay?” about something I’ve said or done, and questioning others when they say racist, biased, insensitive, or hurtful things. (<– I think I’ve actually gotten better recently at saying, “what?” “what do you mean?” “that makes me uncomfortable” “I don’t like that” “oof” “yikes” “are you sure” about insensitive things people say. I can continue doing this more and keep an eye out in particular for insensitive comments relating to race.)
- I can take more classes like these ones and keep talking about the issues with my peers.
- I like the ideas on this website: https://www.whiteaccomplices.org I can try do some of those.
- I can donate to racial justice organizations.
- I am in a leadership position in a sustainability club at my school. As a club, we have talked about Environmental Justice and Climate Justice and how environmental issues and Climate Change are ethical issues because they disproportionately affect (and will affect) people of color and people of lower socio-economic status. We tried to organize events in collaboration with a Black organization and a low-income club (which didn’t happen because of the pandemic). As a leader in this club, I want to organize more events like this. I also want to help our club become more racially diverse. We currently do not have many people with black skin who attend meetings. Though we explicitly say often that everyone is always welcome, I want to change the club so that black people do actually join and come. I’m not sure how to do that though. The partnerships on events might help.
- I want to reach out to my congressman and others in government more. I could try to reach out about police brutality. That’s somewhere I could start. (though it sounds intimidating!)
I like the concept of being “anti-racist” instead of just “not racist.” That feels like a good goal, something that I can work towards. I’m on a journey now. 🙂
I have always cared a lot about other people and wanted things to be inclusive and just for all, but recently I have learned about more ways to actually make those things happen.
I really like that it finally feels acceptable for me, as a white person, to talk about this stuff. In the past, I felt that I couldn’t contribute to discussions on race or racism or that it wouldn’t be right for me to talk, but the truth is that everyone has to be engaged in order for change to happen. I am part of society, too. And if there are things that I could improve on or could learn more about, it’s easier to change if I am actually talking about it. If I am unintentionally “part of the problem,” making things worse or even unintentionally hurting people, then I need to know that and address it.
If anyone has feedback for me on how I am talking about this, I’d love to hear it! Or if you have recommendations for things to listen to or watch, I’d love to hear them, too! 🙂 Or ideas for things I can do to improve!
Welp, that ended up taking a bit of a tangent. The message is still the same though: I am doing my best, AND I can improve!
A key part of this dialectic is accepting where you are now without judgment. I am trying to click the publish button, and a lot of judgments are coming up. I feel like I’m not doing “enough.” I feel like I will be judged by the goals I set for not being ambitious “enough.” But this is where I am at now, and I can’t expect myself to be perfect instantly. That is unrealistic. Maybe it is sad that I am not already better about these things. Yeah, I think I’m feeling sad.
I feel like maybe it is not my place to write about this, even though I literally just said that I want to talk about this more, and by writing this, I am doing exactly that. I also don’t want to put the burden on other people by asking them to correct me. But I’ve read this over and don’t see any glaring issues. I can learn through trying. I have to start somewhere. I guess I am being vulnerable. I am feeling vulnerable, and I’m feeling some shame. I hope that people will still accept me.