I made a mistake. I am sorry.

You listenin', Mind?

Admitting when we’ve made a mistake can be hard.  We can feel such shame and guilt and embarrassment.  It can be hard to say “I’m sorry,”  “I was wrong,”  “Please forgive me”.  Especially because parts of us may not want to apologize.  Because parts of ourselves still rally behind the original opinion.

A few years ago–perhaps 2013– I wrote a blog insisting “All Lives Matter” soon after the “Black Lives Matter” movement birthed.  In my mind the heart went out to all involved in the terrible tragedy of racism:  to both sides of this horrible and painful issue.  My heart embraced the oppressor and victim from the largest view possible.  It felt horrified for those experiencing racial persecution and the policemen on the front lines.  It felt broken for a system that refuses to celebrate color and diversity in all people–but also compassion for the other parts of humanity that haven’t come into the light of love.  For the parts of our human selves that experience so much fear (much of it perhaps unconscious) towards those who are different.

OK, this wasn't last night's moon.  We were too busy eating chili to mess with the camera!

Parts of myself have felt fear walking on dark city streets as a black person approached.  This person may have emanated ill intent, or perhaps he might have been a father rushing to the local 7-11 to buy milk for his toddler.  We might have talked spirituality, or blogging, or paused to smile.  But unconscious racist fear rose in me and I felt fear.

This unconscious fear births so much reactive hatred if left unnoticed.  But I believe there is something larger in us–something good–which can recognize these seeds of inner racism and embrace compassion and empathy.  We may need help of an inner compass which can recognize the difference between fear of difference and fear of imminent danger.  If it’s fear of difference which is arising we can notice that clearly, and make our next action (perhaps a smile, perhaps a kind word that recognizes our common humanity) the predominant response.  If it’s a legitimate fear of danger percolating in the system:  run.

Evening silhouette against the lake

I grew up in the Thumb of Michigan knowing one black person during my childhood.  His name was Gilbert.  He laughed easily and had many friends.   Looking back now, it feels like part of his energy was outgoing in an effort to fit in.  It also feels like so many of us white kids stared in fascination because of his skin color, his difference. Racism existed:  subtle, covert, but still rising its head as difference showed itself in our small town.

It embarrases me to write this.  It’s hard to talk about inner or outer racism.  It’s challenging to put the nuances in the written word.  I talked about racism with a dear mixed race friend.  It felt scary and wonderful.  Scary, because I didn’t know how to frame the questions in a way which honored her experiences of racism.  Scary, because I felt stupid and naive. Wonderful, because it felt like opening doors into the unknown, unlatching windows into enlarging my worldview and acknowledging the realities of our complex world.

Tuning in

After writing the blog declaring “All lives matter” I began to read how this viewpoint minimizes the pain of the hurting part of humanity.   It slowly dawned on me that the largest possible vision isn’t always the truth which needs expressing.

If a part of humanity bleeds, hurts, falls, despairs…then that’s the part of humanity which needs our love and attention.

Saying “All lives matters” has the effect (intended or not) of minimizing that divisive pain.  It’s like telling a hurting cancer patient, “Yes, dear, I know you’re suffering,  but all diseases are awful.”  It discounts the immediacy of the pain, the need to honor what is broken and requires repair. The need to look at the specifics rather than the grand panorama.

Snow woman

I deleted the blog post soon after writing it.

It proved a good lesson, albeit an embarrassing one.  It’s still a lesson I need to learn, perhaps.  Not just about racism.  I tend to swoop to the largest possible viewpoint that this mind can imagine.  To gain an eagle’s eye embrace of the world.  But sometimes the “answer” is just to be with what is arising.

The hurting parts of ourselves.  The sad parts of life.  The pain and darkness.

To turn attention to the immediacy, the rawness of the moment, and say “here, here, dear one, I am with you, too…” and I will NOT fly to the largest possible picture with eagle’s wings.  You and I will sit together and you will tell your story and I will not turn away.

I made a mistake, dear reader.  Please forgive me.

 

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in June, 2020 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to I made a mistake. I am sorry.

  1. jeffstroud says:

    Kathy,
    Our journey in this conversation is just beginning everything you experienced or will experience many of us will too? Using your voice, your blog, reaching out to friends is the learning that we all can choose to do. Big ((HUGS & HEALING))
    The journey is begins, it is our responsibility to take it if we truly have equality in our hearts.

    • Kathy says:

      Jeff, it felt like the Universe insisted that this post be written this morning, no matter what. Because you are right. We can choose to keep this conversation going. We can choose to learn from our hearts. We can expose our own inner racism and keep moving toward what is unknown and scary and different. Thank you for understanding.

      • jeffstroud says:

        Kathy, I had to stop and examine my own response/reaction to all of this as well. I’m still examining and experiencing those. Discovering my truth self within these ideals and choices.

        • Kathy says:

          You are such a thoughtful person, Jeff, to keep looking within and learning what’s true for you as the world asks us to keep opening our eyes and heart.

  2. sybil says:

    You are a big person to admit such a thing Kathy and I do agree with your decision. We need to face up to what has gone on in our society the systemic racism that is so built into our system. The racism that is in the u.s. exists here to perhaps more focussed on our indigenous people… But really anyone of colour.

    Consider yourself hugged my sweet.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Sybil, and thank you. When it feels important to share the truth…and when you’re ready to do it…it must come out. Racism is so built in to our system. We live on a Native American reservation so I could write a blog from that angle, too. And would say “I’m sorry” there as well. One of my greatest joys has been that my children married partners from different cultures. But I will take that hug from you gladly and ((hug)) you back. Much to learn…

  3. debyemm says:

    Of course, it is easy to forgive your kind heart, Kathy. I made the same mistake back in the day for the same reason. Just recently, I made another one, referring to civil unrest caused by serious and continuing injustice as “race riots”. A dear friend corrected me and I knew immediately the error of my ways.

    My husband and I have locked our car doors in certain parts of St Louis out of a sense of danger. It is dangerous there, especially for those who’s residence is there. I once drove my car quite far when I feared my tire had been shot out. People on the streets were yelling at me, “Hey, lady”, but I would not stop until I got to a lighted gas station on a busy street. A couple of black men stopped and helped me change the tire. Then, they asked me to pay them for doing a kind deed. I gave the pitiful little bit of money I had in that moment to them. I’m certain they believed I was being miserly. Then, instead of going to the social gathering I had gotten lost trying to find, I hurried home where I felt safer.

    I just finished reading Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad and it was an eye opener. I got his book after watching the movie Harriet, which inspired my husband to buy me a biography of Harriet Tubman for my birthday. Yesterday, I started reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I hope it continues my education helping me to root out the inherent racism that growing up white in the US causes (even though I grew up a minority race on the Mexican border, I never suffered the slings and arrows that black people have).

    Last Sunday, the Rev Michael Beckwith in his Agape service noted that white people are the ones who have to end racism, black people can’t do that. Black people have to heal their psychic wounds. Those of us who care will continue making an effort, until we are as respectful and considerate as we would be if being colorblind were actually possible. I try my best on that front.

    • Kathy says:

      I love the respectful tone you share here (and in other places) about race and many other challenging issues. How you are willing to listen and adjust as new information comes in.
      Your story about St. Louis reminds me of getting lost in Milwaukee once. I was so utterly scared. Felt danger. But I am still not sure how much of that was projected fear and how much reality. Sigh…

      When I went home downstate last fall for a month one of the most pressing things I wanted to do was see the movie Harriet. So hopped in the car and head down to one of the Detroit suburbs. Really liked that movie so much. It opened my eyes. I loved her faith, her love for people. Have not read the Underground Railroad book yet, but must now consider it again.
      As for colorblind…my Egyptian son-in-law thinks I’m color blind. But I’m not really. It’s that usually I feel into the spirit of a person first, and only then think to look at their skin color. (Except unconsciously…a whole another ball of wax). Some folks have pointed out that it’s not good to be color blind because that means we’re not seeing the whole person. It gets confusing. But maybe we need to continue to have discussions about all the things that confuse us.

      (And I know you meant colorblind in the best sense of the word…please forgive my musing on in a different direction–see! –once again trying to wrap everything into a larger picture instead of simply saying, “I know you try your best on that front.” ) Much love!

      • debyemm says:

        I understand because I am a big picture, higher order of things, person too. My dear friend, Gini Smith, said on my page something about this time we are in being Life 402. I said I think many are still in Life 101 and she agreed and said “most”. Like you, I feel into the spirit of a person first. A few years ago, I realized that as I am talking to a person, I know when they wander away. I sense that on an energetic level and I am also aware of my own energy as it fuses out toward other people. I genuinely relate from a sense of unconditional love with the few people of color I encounter in the larger grocery shopping town to our north. I honestly enjoy their personalities and seek to relate to them from my heart. Of course, I see they are black. It is their personalities I love so much. Together, you and I, and others of like heart, will continue to try to do better as the quote from Maya Angelou suggests.

  4. dawnkinster says:

    I felt the same way back then…and this time have read more and hopefully understand more. I still haven’t figured out what’s inside of me. I grew up in a place that was as white as you can get. To this day I don’t have a black friend. I’m sure my viewpoint is skewed. I’m sure I’m an unintentional racist. I’m working on that. I have friends and some family that are outright racist and I’m working on what I want those relationships to me to be too. It’s complicated. And it’s not complicated. All at the same time.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, thank you for sharing your thoughts here. You have brought up a good point–how to respond and be with our family and friends with racist tendencies. Like you, I am not sure about that. It IS complicated. I have a sense that sitting with the complicated nature of all this may be a great gift. Not going to the easy answers but noticing everything and letting it all percolate.

  5. sherrysescape says:

    Oh, Kathy, I love your honesty and it makes it easier to admit to my own foibles. I’ve been sitting here today feeling a mixture – on the one hand, so buoyed by the widespread attention and healing actions provoked by the recent protests while pumping my fist and yelling ‘YES’ internally, but on the other hand, starting to experience a sort of guilt fatigue. I’m thinking to myself, ‘yes, I know I’ve been an unwitting participant in a system that is inherently wrong and unjust and has caused so much pain, but I was unwitting – I’ve been fighting racism and struggling to avoid my own racist tendencies for my entire adult life. There’s only so much one person can do and I’m tired of feeling guilty.’ I have fought making generalizations on the basis of skin color and a part of me is defending my right to the same thing – I don’t want generalizations made about me based solely on skin color and I hate feeling responsible for my whole race’s views and opinions.

    • Kathy says:

      I am learning to be more open and honest, Sherry! (At least trying.) Understanding your paradox. Yes, there is much to buoy the spirits. One person recently shared, “Kathy, I had no idea how much racism there is until now.” So doors are opening. And then there’s the guilt. It’s like a part of us may not want to forgive ourselves yet? Not sure about that. But maybe there can be a softening towards ourselves, a compassion toward being exactly who we are–white, with perhaps unconscious or conscious racist tendencies–and a soft gratitude toward the parts of ourselves that are opening up, reaching out our hands, trying to contribute to love and harmony. Like all of this can exist in the stew of ourselves. Wondering if guilt can be transformed into an acceptance of “this is who I am, this is what it’s like right now”. Just musing… Thank you for being you, Sherry.

    • “I don’t want generalizations made about me based solely on skin color”

      Sherry, your words struck a chord with me because of shocking experience I had as a young white mother. I had taken my children to an amusement park and was sitting on a bench watching them play in the pool. A white woman sat down next to me and we started to chat. After a pleasant conversation I said something about how lovely the park was and she said, “Yeah, it was even nicer before the blacks started coming here.” I was stunned because she assumed that because I was white I would share her opinion! And I’m ashamed to admit that I was speechless and frozen, not knowing how to respond. So I pretended to run off to attend to one of my children. I think I had been very naive not to realize that there were other whites who weren’t embarrassed to be so blatantly bigoted who even existed.

      Kathy, I so appreciate your honesty and your ability to express your feelings so well. I tend to keep quiet on the whole subject because I am so afraid of blurting out something possibly offensive to someone. (It may be the autism but conflict and being misunderstood frightens me.) But I’m starting to understand that staying quiet is being part of the problem. I read your post yesterday and have not been able able to stop thinking about it since.

      Growing up we only had one black student in our high school but I was raised by liberal parents and considered myself not prejudiced, although I don’t hear people using that term so much nowadays. As an adult I moved to a racially mixed community and am glad my children grew up and made friends from all kinds of backgrounds here. But I know there are racial tensions my children’s black friends would sometimes mention. One recently poured out her feelings on Facebook and it broke my heart. (Yes, I am friends with many of my children’s friends on Facebook.) Perhaps we’re at a turning point now where we can all be more vulnerable and share our experiences with racism. It will take a lot of work but it must be done to heal the wounds and change our culture.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful, painful, humble and heartfelt post, my friend.

      • Kathy says:

        Barbara, I so enjoyed reading your words this morning. I so get how people can take us by surprise (such as your encounter at the park). Sometimes we can be so stunned we don’t even know how to respond. It seems sometimes we need to have an incident like that happen before we can frame how we would respond next time. I am sorry this happened to you.

        Also, it has taken me a long time (how many years of blogging and spiritual growth?) to be able to have the courage to even express some of this publicly. Because, you are right, our words can be misunderstood so easily. Even with friends or loved ones sometimes it takes several attempts at conversation to express fully what we want to say.

        You were lucky to grow up with liberal parents. I sometimes wonder what that would be like. My parents were quite conservative and sheltered. I can also see why your heart would be broken when hearing the sharing of your children’s friends.

        Thank YOU so much for appreciating this post. I do appreciate YOU!

        • Thank you for understanding, Kathy. I think I was sheltered in a different way, growing up in a university town. It was kind of a shock discovering the rest of the world was not so progressive in their thinking. And when we moved to Greece for a couple of my teen years it was a shock to learn that not everyone in the world had such a good opinion of America. It was a valuable, humbling experience.

  6. The best we can do is go forward with our eyes wide open. I. too, grew up in the thumb area of Michigan. I also knew only one black person. He was friendly, always smiling, and liked by everyone. In hindsight, I wonder that perhaps he was treated kind of like a mascot; that it must have been a lot of work, some days, to hold that broad smile; and I wonder how things would have been different for him if he had, instead, been a somber, sullen and confrontational teen, like one of my grandsons. Though I have always believed that “I am not racist,” I think it’s better to recognize the unconscious racism that most (all?) of us hold deep inside, based on our own exposure and life experience. That’s when we can, humbly and with good intentions, ask the hard questions, of ourselves and others, that will root it out and allow us to stop seeing color, at all.

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, I agree that it’s the good intentions that matter. That we keep asking hard questions. And then maybe our world can come together and celebrate our diversity instead of demonize it.

  7. Susan D. Durham says:

    This is beautiful and painful. I feel it through my soul. I feel it through recent awakenings of my own, and I’ve been reflecting for some days. I need to say that I don’t think you made a mistake. I need to say that I don’t think an apology is necessary. I hope this is clear – you wrote what is true for you right now, and I honor that.

    You also wrote what was true for you at the time of your first blog. How can we apologize for what we have not realized, for what we have yet to learn? Your intent was pure and out of the fullness of your heart and belief. That is not a mistake.

    Only this time around have I come to understand what I don’t think was made clear in the first place – the message that Black Lives Matter TOO. Not only. Not to the exclusion of all other lives. I read a post that was so full of vitriol and four-letter words that I wanted to scream back “NO! Don’t yell at us like that. Just stop it.” And then I physically and emotionally “felt” the pain, anguish, and frustration beneath the words – the screaming for understanding – that the poster wasn’t saying that only black lives matter. The poster was saying that black lives matter too; that black lives have not been given equal consideration, recognition, honor, dignity, and respect. And I cried. And cried.

    I don’t recall this message being so prevalent through all the awful past incidents and comments and reactions to the incidents. Part of me wanted to cry: “Well, why didn’t you say so? A long time ago? How will we know unless you tell us; teach us?” The insight I’ve gotten this time around brings me to a new level of humility I’ve not known before. I do feel taught; “schooled” as the kids say. And I’m grateful, so very grateful. And I know I have so much more to learn; to understand.

    I’ve been so fortunate to have many black friends. Beginning in Kindergarten in Michigan. Percy was my best friend, and I cried all the way to Florida when we moved there, so far away from my buddy. Then there was Walter, one of my besties all through college. Randall and Jeff, and many female black friends, as well – to this day. I never thought of them as “black.” And maybe, just maybe, that is what has caused my blindness to their plight. I never thought of them as targets. We talked prejudice, injustice, inequality, sure, but they never personalized it – never gave up the deeper rivers within. It was always “the bad stuff happens to the other black people.” Much as we humans have a tendency to say, in general, “it will never happen to me.” Well, it has happened to all of us now.

    I had no intention of babbling on like this, my dearest friend. Only you have the gift of drawing out the deeply buried and shining a brilliant, revealing light on it. I love you very much, and I still don’t think you need to apologize or that you made a mistake.

    • Kathy says:

      Dearest Susan Dee, I am so glad that you shared your heart here. I cherished reading every word. (Well, I have actually cherished every word of every person who commented here because it can be so exhausting to find words to express what we’re feeling around this other big issues…)

      I do get what you say about not having to apologize. About how we share with the best of our ability and awareness at a certain time–and we shouldn’t feel that we need to beat ourselves up because our understanding got wider and bigger and more inclusive.

      For some reason there is no inner angst in this “I’m sorry”. It feels somehow clean and right. There isn’t that lingering sense of shame and guilt that underlies some apologies. How can I describe it? This feels like “of course I will apologize”. I will apologize a hundred thousand times for the pain felt by so many people of color. Not necessarily because I have consciously hurt others, but because my ancestors have. My brothers and sisters. My planet. And because some people have been waiting for a sincere apology all their life. They may never get the one they’ve been waiting for, but I will say it for the ones who can’t yet say it. Does this make any sense?

      On another note, I loved reading the story of your black friends. Thinking of how separating from Percy broke your heart. (Have you found him again on Facebook?) I know you and that you wouldn’t think in terms of a person’s race–only a person’s spirit.

      OK, running out of words now. Love you!

      • Susan D. Durham says:

        Yes, yes, your even deeper explanation of your apology rings loud and clear and beautifully. I do get it! I especially love your saying “I’m sorry” for the ones who can’t yet say it. I will join you in this heartfelt practice, and thank you for helping me “see” …

        I never even knew Percy’s last name. You just don’t in kindergarten, I suppose… But I hope his 70-year-old self still graces this planet and his laughter continues to lift those around him.

        Thank you again, Kathy, for all that you bring to the light. Much love!

        • Kathy says:

          I absolutely adore how you so often keep listening deeper and adjusting your viewpoint. Hopefully we can all continue to do this…Much love to you and your light as well!

  8. Stacy says:

    If anyone says “I love God,” but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar, for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God himself has said that one must not only love God, but his brother, too. 1 John 4:20
    Pretty good advice, and one that seems to have been forgotten in the world. XOXO

    • Kathy says:

      From God’s word to our ears. And from our ears into our hearts, please, hear our prayer… Yes, Stacy, it does seem to have been forgotten. I hope maybe we can remember it a bit more in the coming days. xoxoxo back to you!

  9. Ally Bean says:

    Oh, I wouldn’t beat myself up about not completely understanding current trends and phrases. They are always amorphous in the beginning, evolving into a set meaning down the line. I take your point about feeling bad about making a mistake, but I think we’ve all done what you did. Good of you to admit your confusion and now that you know better, you’ll understand better. And isn’t understanding what we are all after?

    • Kathy says:

      Dearest Ally Bean, good morning! I so agree with what you said about admitting confusion, learning something new, and then understanding and doing better. I probably didn’t express this as clearly as possible (admitting this!) but I have not been beating myself up in this instance. I am not even feeling bad about making a mistake. My apology feels really good deep inside without lingering guilt. It feels like…well, maybe, apologizing for the parts of humanity that can’t say “I’m sorry” yet. It feels like I’ve somehow done the right thing, and it’s possible to admit a mistake and not be traumatized. And that it’s possible to show other people that they, too, can make mistakes and change their mind and continue to learn and grow. Does this explain it better?

  10. Carol says:

    I’m having trouble putting my words together to respond – so much has already been said in the comments that rings true, that shares my thoughts, but I want to speak. So this may be jumbled, it may sound rambling, but I must share. I think most of us have some ingrained racism – after all, society has taught us well in our formative years. I don’t think I fell into the “all lives matter” thing – I think I wondered why we always had to make such a fuss about every slogan that came out, or everything we disagreed with. I do recall once many years ago, walking down the streets in Oakland, CA, which at that time was predominately black and feeling intimidated when I saw more than one black man standing together where I had to pass. Was it because they were black, or because it was multiple men in working man’s clothes? I’d like to believe the latter, but I suspect the former. Although I think numbers and manner of dress affects me more than color. I think that – perhaps I’d really just like to believe that. We all have work to do, but each time we can acknowledge a racist thought or feeling, we are able to work on it to fix it. Self-examination is necessary. I would like to live to see the day when color, race, religion, origin, no longer matter, when what matters is character.

    • Kathy says:

      Carol, it is so hard putting things into words–complicated thoughts/feelings like this. I think you did a good job. Like you I believe that most of us have some ingrained racism. It may even come from our ancestors. It may come from the energy of the larger field that surrounds us (if we’re including spirituality, which of course I always seem to!) You also made a good point about the multiple men standing together. I think part of me would be afraid of them, no matter what their race. But who knows? Also like you, I fervently wish we could “graduate” to learn to see beyond the externals into the character of a person. That seems the very most important thing. Thank you for sharing your thoughts even when you felt jumbled.

  11. I think a lot of us have made the same mistake, Kathy. I certainly know I have. I always felt quite sure of myself when I said that I am not racist. When I have said I don’t see black or white or brown or any color. But I read some marvelous books by people of color who have lived with racism their whole life and I understand now that I am racist. Because I have never experienced people patronizing me or hurting me or seeing me differently because of my color. So may we all learn this lesson and listen to those who really know what it’s like to live with racism. And may the entire planet grow out of this pandemic into a brighter, more giving, kinder, and less racist world.

    • Kathy says:

      Pamela, I do so suspect many of us (lots and lots of us?) have made mistakes regarding racism. And will continue to do so. And there’s no need to beat ourselves up. Just to notice and vow to keep learning and responding in a kinder more understanding way. P.S. I like your vision of what might happen on this planet. Beautiful.

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