After an exhaustive work week, the last thing I wanted to do on a Friday evening was to talk about race. To talk about race would require the kind of emotional muscle and mental dexterity that the previous four days had depleted.
My thoughts were that in order to talk about race, I had to know what I was talking about. Being African American could not by default make me an expert on racism. I had intended to jot down some key points and brush up on the history of black Unitarian Universalists. Instead, ill prepared and rushed, I entered and scanned the sanctuary for possible alliances. Yes, I anticipated a battle, no matter how politely fought, and I prayed that there would be reinforcements.
My defensiveness was confusingly in concert with the small voice of optimism that reminded me that this was indeed a sanctuary where I could safely say my truth. I did not expect to be insulted or called a liar. Our community is not one to put another person's inherent worth in distress. I envisioned that naming why we there, racism, would illicit the kind of silence that causes you to look down at the empty hands in your lap to avoid the eyes of the namer. Yes, there were times when this happened, but there were also times when the same empty hands became willing cups to be filled with awareness and understanding.
Whether in whispers, raised tones, passionate responses, or in the quietness of a nodding head and knowing eyes, reciprocity filled the space. Our anger, hurt, sadness, frustration, confusion, and yes, defensiveness, were shared and received. Still, naming makes you tired.
The self- imposed pressure from my perceptual inner-dialogue that questions if I suffer from racial sensitivity or from victim syndrome or from a variety of other insecurity based conditions, is fatiguing enough. Saying that exploring racism is "doing the hard work," is not a misnomer. While I don't diminish the effort it takes for whites to engage in this conversation, as someone who represents the "reason why we are here," it is akin to carrying an anvil across a tight rope.
Seeking acknowledgment of this weight is a step that requires taking risks. With taking risks comes fear. Naming the thing we are most afraid of does not make it go away. In fact, it opens the shutters and lets the light flood the room.
On that Friday evening, I pushed my truth through the thick haze of fear without knowing if it safely met its destination. Still, like any experienced mariner, the truth has a way of finding the shore when the fog lifts.