You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.” —Brené Brown

A couple weeks ago at a dinner party in Bali, I sat across from a white American male who didn’t believe privilege exists and fell under the All Lives Matter banner. After the initial shock of what he was saying wore off, I felt this shot of full body adrenaline take over me, accompanied by the burning sensation in my belly that I always feel when I am scared to say what I am about to say, but know I’m going to do it anyway. 

I could have been silent. I could have let it go, kept the peace, and pivoted over to the civil dinner party conversation all around us. I could have, because it would have been a whole lot easier on me and everyone around me at the table.

But, my true North of Brene Brown’s BRAVING model doesn’t let me be keep my mouth shut, especially in moments surrounding inequality in any form. Especially in moments where it would be safer to be silent, but I would be betraying my belief system. Especially in moments where someone needs to check a human that has got it twisted.

So I spoke. Lump in my throat, knees trembling.

And, let me tell you, I did not speak well. I did not beautifully get my point across. I couldn’t bring forth the cohesive explanation and powerful words that my soul knows so deeply without language.

I walked away believing I didn’t make a difference.

I went home spinning and upset, bothering me for days that I wanted to be an advocate and ally, and instead failed miserably.

I was in a serious shame spiral.

The experience made me realize that while I know at an intuitive and experiential level all about privilege and inequality, I don’t have the tools in my kit to speak about them outside of gut feelings.

So I started diving into resources and Instagram accounts and conversations with BIPOC to figure out how I could be better next time around. I found tools to help me tear down the logic of covert and overt racism, and start explaining the concept of privilege by calling out my own.

I examined my own varying degrees of privilege as an American white woman, who grew up with every advantage but my gender, based on a series of prompts from Black community members and leaders – both in the life, opportunity, and skin I was born into – and in what I did not have to experience because of that life, opportunity, and skin.

-I was born a middle class white person in America.

-I had a two parent household and an environment filled with extreme love, encouragement, and support.

-I had full access to advanced and high quality educational and extracurricular opportunities.

-I saw myself represented in the media, in the workplace, and in the people in power as a white person (I’ll leave the woman thing out of this one, because that’s a whole other can of worms).

-I had freedom of movement, speech, and opportunity because I fit in with the majority

-I have never been denied service, been followed in a store, had someone cross the street or leave an elevator because of the color of my skin.

-I have never been called a racial slur or had my identity diminished to a stereotype because of what I looked like on the outside.

-I have never had to worry about having a warm and safe place to sleep or where my next meal would come from.

-I never had to fear for my life because of the color of my skin.

-I never had to wear a metaphorical mask to make people around me comfortable.

-I  was raised with an acute awareness of my privilege. Born on the “right” side of the tracks smack up against inner city Detroit, my privilege screamed loud and clear every time we left our sheltered affluent white neighborhood just minutes away from where the police didn’t pull white people over who ran red lights because it just wasn’t safe to stop, but oppressed the rest. I had a mom who worked in the non-profit world at a charity that sheltered the Black women and children that were direct casualties of the systemic injustice that created such a place in the first place. And through my years of privileged travel outside of America, it has been crystal clear that most of the world hasn’t had the head start, and often the fighting chance, to have the opportunities I have. And that awareness and perspective is in itself part of my privilege.

I wrote all this down, and sat with a little more comfort that I would be slightly better armed and ready for the next racist bro that sat across from me. And then smugly stopped my work.

Then, just days later, the senseless murder of George Floyd was broadcasted for the entire world to witness and our entire world erupted with righteous anger. And at this tipping point, we all decided that enough was enough. 

And I realized once again that I had not done nearly enough. This time around I didn’t even hesitate, and knew that if I didn’t dive deeper into anti-racism work now my ill-equipped arguments would be inexcusable. And that if I didn’t share with you my experience and call myself out, I wouldn’t be living BRAVING-ly at all. 

So here’s a few things that I’d like for you to walk away with from this.

1. No matter where you are in the world (this is not only an American problem, and your American brothers and sisters need your help from all corners of the globe) if you are a person that has benefited from your privilege, it is your duty to do the work to shine a light on it, examine it, acknowledge that it exists. 

2. No matter who you are, understand the systemic and covert racism that has shaped our world and power structures, and do the anti-racism work to educate yourself and empower your voice. Learn from the BIPOC educators, activists, and creators that have made this their lives work. There is a tremendous store of resources out there. 

3. Look to these leaders for action steps without bulldozing or hijacking the conversation with your own agenda and perspective. They know what’s up, and it’s the job of the less tapped in humans to follow their lead and help where help is needed.

4. Share BIPOC Stories. Share, share, share however you can. Amplify the voices who have been silenced for too long.

5. And if you have the privilege and safety to do so, bravely speak out in the face of injustice within your direct reach – in your family, your friend group, your workplace, your community, and your social media feed. The ripple effect your advocacy can have is a powerful thing.

Even when you don’t have the perfect words. 

Because in the end, it doesn’t matter that my argument wasn’t perfect. 

It doesn’t matter that I messed up the delivery and didn’t have all the facts lined up. 

What matters was that I wasn’t silent. 

What matters is that I realized I had deeper work to do. 

What matters is that after the fact, I took intentional action to DO that work. 

What matters is that I will continue doing that work long after the newsfeed fades to white again.

Stand up, even though your knees are shaking. It is imperative that we are all part of the change. 


Next Steps:

Head on over to Instagram for this incredible curated resource guide by @zoesugg – a great starting point for navigating the first steps in the path toward taking intentional action and becoming a part of the change.

Please drop any resources you have found helpful in your journey in the comments below, and we will share with our community.

author

stephanie goldfinger

CEO/ Creative Director

Bali, Indonesia / USA / Earth

Stephanie always knew in her gut that the traditional way of doing things didn’t vibe with her heart. She craved purpose, lived for creativity, desired freedom, and wanted to find something that spoke to her soul, not everyone else’s. She founded Wildernest to guide women through their journeys, empower them to have the courage to brave the wilderness of business ownership, and help them harness their power to create real change in their lives, the lives around them, and the world.

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