On Racial Justice and Evolution

jyarlandBy Jyarland Daniels, executive director of Harriet Speaks

*Re-posted from social media (June 9, 2020)

One day I will write a book (as too many people continue to ask me to do). And a chapter of that book will be my evolution as it relates to race, racial justice and racial equity work.

That chapter will go something like this:

For much of my child and young adulthood, I was suffocated by racism, but didn’t recognize it as such. Later, I had my own personal awakening. The removing of the scales that clouded my vision started in college and in my early corporate life. In my protest, I walked away from a very lucrative career in business. I have receipts of what I have given up to do this work. Yet, I have no regrets. I only regret that I left bodies in my path. In my harshness and reactionary ways, I didn’t stop to consider that power is important to making change and somebody still needs to have a seat at the table; because, if you aren’t at the table then you are on the menu. I didn’t stop to consider that speaking up to in a way that allows you to heard is just as important as speaking up.

At that point, my racial justice work was rooted in anger, not righteous indignation (important distinction), but raw anger. It was about putting people on blast and shaming them for not seeing things how I saw them and for not being where I was, for not saying what I thought they should say. It was about calling out, and not calling in. And I banded together with those we were similarly angry. Like attracts like. But, during this time I learned and became a voracious reader of everything I could get my hands on related to race and equality. I formed a deep level of analysis; that was the purpose for this stage. I am grateful for it. But…I am no longer there.

Life forced me to begin the work of healing myself. No one could do this for me — particularly not the broader culture. I had to find a way to deal with my own anger, hurt, and disappointment with this society for not being what it had promised to be for me as a Black woman and for its continued racist ways. I started to read about principles of compassion (for self and others) and I started to think about how to apply the principles of religious texts (all three major traditions) to this work. So, now I show up differently. I don’t show up perfectly, but differently.

I am still angry, but in a different way. It is in a way that allows me to stay in conversation. It is in a way that allows me to meet people where they are. It is in a way that always me to tell the truth and to call bullshit in love (regardless if you are Black, white, blue, or red and irrespective of position or status). It is in a way that is that involves less bullying and bruising and more grace.

Muhammad Ali, one of my favorite human beings, once said, “If a man is the same at 50 as he was at 25, he has wasted 25 years of his life. That has been true for me in this work. I am not who I was, but I am authentic to who I have been called to be. What I now know is we not only have to evolve, but we must allow for the evolution of others.

But, this is my story. This is my truth. You have your own.

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