This fall I participated in the Fierce Allies Wisdom Intensive Training. The training is the first in a series of workshops designed to support and embolden folks who are interested in becoming stewards of healthy communication and engagement across different communities. It is also designed to help aspiring facilitators recognize and wield power and privilege responsibly in their respective communities. I could describe the different exercises that we practiced and conversations that we had. I could write about the frighteningly thoughtful ways that we were able to examine how racism, classism, sexism, and all of the “isms” creep up and wreak havoc in our lives. However, I am afraid that my description would not do the practice of this work any justice. We were blessed with opportunity of listening to each other’s experiences of rage, shame, power, and privilege in the many forms in which they present themselves in each of our lives. Each of us was quietly reminded of the dignity with which we naturally walk the world as equal human beings no matter our differences. The experience was truly transformative. I want to be able to sum up the experience in a beautiful and neat synopsis filled with harmony and emotion—which is what the training was like—euphoric and filled with movement and empathy. However, the truth is I find myself in a fog.
I find myself feeling like I have to be as honest as possible. Since November 8th 2016, I’ve had a mental and emotional block. My thoughts and feelings are completely jumbled, vacillating between deep admiration and empathy for many different communities and complete anger and distrust of others. My worst fear has been actualized—not that Donald Trump would be President of the United States—but that many people around me (with more agency than I) do not actually think I belong. It is a feeling reminiscent of what my immigrant parents felt upon arrival to the United States or that of many communities of color who’ve been uselessly assured that their country is colorblind due to the election of a biracial president. I’ve now been paralyzed by fear and paranoia. I do not think I’m actually alone in this sentiment. One only needs to search the web for the myriad of diversity re-commitment statements that were released by different organizations and universities, including Resource Media, shortly after the election. I’d rather not remain in this state though. I’d like to be taking action and finding solutions. A quote often used in the Fierce Allies Intensive keeps resounding in my mind: “Don’t just do something, stand there.” The idea is to practice being a humble ally by honoring your own dignity and that of others when offering any kind of support, which I am trying to do, but the grief feels overwhelming.
This week marks the sixth week since I participated in the Fierce Allies Wisdom Intensive training and the third week since the election of President-Elect, Donald Trump. I’ve since had a chance to think deeply about human nature, fear, and irrationality. Fierce Allies has challenged me to call in the folks that I am irrationally afraid of for a real discussion about what each of us needs to feel seen and accounted for. I am now thinking about what is necessary to galvanize and motivate people to take action and have uncomfortable conversations. What makes people defend what they believe in? What makes people trust? Attending this training changed the way that I think about relationship building forever. I’m confused and afraid but I can feel somehow that being a fierce ally is part of the answer to the question of what I should do and what my purpose in this fight needs to be. My commitment to practicing ally-ship and deep listening is now critical in shaping the world I want to live in.
We’ve invited our staff to blog about their thoughts and feelings about navigating the post-election world. You can read Scott’s reflection here, and Belinda’s advice for messaging progressive causes in the time of Trump here.
Photo credit Lorie Shaull, Flickr Creative Commons.