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Talking Across Race

Writing today from the safety of my one hānau and acknowledging those of us who donʻt yet have the access to their voice, land, or safety. Iʻm sharing today and holding you with me.

Because I was raised outside of my own culture, I codeswitch effortlessly, making myself more able to connect, more digestible, non-threatening to various kinds of folks. But you’ll notice, I can be very quiet, or awkward when you first meet me.

My oldest or closest friends may only learn what’s really important to me after years if they aren’t POC. This can cause tension and hurt feelings when they are shocked or surprised to see more of me and hear my experiences.

Being seen is a scary thing. Others get to decide what they think of you, if they want to still love you, or be close to you. It was always easier for me to fade into the background and be there to hold space for others.

So here’s what I can share of me today. I live somewhere in the middle of two worlds. I am a person of color who was raised inside of white community.

While my clients and close friends are mostly POC, I have mostly white colleagues, classmates, bosses, acquaintances, partners. And consequently… I have mostly peer and professional conversations that either ignore race entirely, or put me on the front line of discussions about it with people I love the most or people who determine my worth at work.

Whether I choose to ignore or engage, I’ll be tranparent here today. I am tired. Really fucking tired. Every time I choose to avoid the conversation to save a relationship, it makes me feel without value and dignity, ashamed. And when I have the conversation, it takes a toll on my heart and spirit. And when I get yelled at, or demonized, or walked away from, it breaks them both.

What I need in those times is safety and comfort, an ally and a soft place to land. I need to know I’m still loved and seen. I need compassion for me and for the other people who are in those tough conversations with me. But when my ecosystem of support is largely non-racialized white, I can get even more hurt afterward. I’m likely to feel invalidated, gaslit, and shamed.

So here, in this moment, Iʻm vulnerable and tired. I’m still trying to build my community here while holding on to these other relationships across difference. And I’m coming in with requests.

To my friends of color, I really need you right now. I’m tired. I’m trying to do the work with our folks and having hard conversations with white leaders to advocate for more representation. And its wearing me down. I don’t have support that can validate how hard the labor is. My heart is worn out.

I also need your understanding. I often feel judgment and hear people say that I shouldn’t fuck w whiteness at all and “should just…” right now, I just need to be held and understood.

To my clients in intersectional worlds of work, life, family, relationship, I see you and Iʻm with all of you. We all need support and safety that recognizes and holds our whole selves.

And to my white friends, please realize just how many times a day we may hear these comments about race:

“Why can’t you just…?” “Why do you always make it about…?” “Why don’t you look at it like…?” “Why do you always have to…?” “I don’t see…” “I didn’t mean to…”

If you’re feeling this way, like I said, it’s common. Please look at what is behind these statements. Please learn how they might project blame, and protect you from uncomfortable feelings others can’t escape. Please look at how this might harm the people you love and erode their trust. And then help each other, teach each other and learn from each other.

And lastly, please don’t ignore this and stay quietly, waiting for the “happy” post next week or start a huge debate with me. I don’t have the energy for it right now. Stay and listen, learn, love, offer support and allyship, or bow out. It will hurt, but I will get it.

I am grateful for you all letting me be seen and heard and holding hope for growth in all of us.

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