Bear Witness

Regret. We’ve all felt it at one point or another. Missed opportunities, actions we wish we could take back, or have the chance for a redo. When I was in the 6th grade, I did something I immediately regretted, but didn’t have the character or maturity at the time to make right. I don’t even remember the circumstances surrounding it, but I recall feeling picked on or teased. This was not an unusual feeling for me as kid who was mercilessly teased most of my childhood. We were in the girls locker room. Out of my hurt, out of my fear, out of my need to feel superior to anyone, and out of my sheer blind ignorance, I spewed a racial slur at a girl. I don’t think I have ever admitted that "out loud" until this very moment. As my hate-filled words hung in the air, I was instantly ashamed, instantly sorry, and I knew I’d done a horrible thing. But I could never admit that at the time. I was too prideful and stupid. I think back now, in tears, about my classmate who I hurt, who I demeaned. She was already fighting an uphill battle as a minority in a nearly all white private school. And instead of reaching out from a place of kindness and empathy (because I, too, knew what it was to feel always on the outside), I cut her to the core. Even worse, I was supposed to be her friend. It makes me sick to even think about it now. My capacity for racism. It makes me so uncomfortable.

As an educated, evolved woman who champions kindness above all else, I feel such shame about who I was that day, my eleven year old self. This week I have thought about that locker room quite a bit. I don’t have the answers for how to solve the current crisis. But I believe any solution has got to start with self-examination on a level deeper than many of us have ever been called to. It’s easy, so easy, to stand smug and self-righteous, claim to be colorblind and point fingers at "those people" who are the problem. I’ve done that. But true reconciliation will never happen that way because there is no "us against them" in reconciliation. There is only “us”, the human race. Whether we like it or not, we are all in this together.

I'm so sorry for who I've been. But in the now I see how my flaws, my errors, my capacity for messes and hurt, even my capacity for hate, I see all of those things make me more human. And as much as I dislike looking at those parts of myself, I know I need to do so in order to reach across and really SEE those around me as someone who is like me instead of someone I could never be like. None of us is without fault. We cannot fix hate with more hate. No amount of hate heaped on hate has ever led to love and kindness. We’ve been put on this earth for such a time as this. I believe when we look back at this time, we will want to be on the right side of history. I believe it’s possible to change the tide. And I believe it starts with looking at ourselves, listening to our fellow humans, and learning how much we are the same.

Bear witness to the existence of love in this cold world. So that those to whom love is a stranger, may find in you generous friends.