Wow, I’ve made it to series 10 of weeknotes. How about that?
I last wrote weeknotes on 25 April, which I’ve just realised wasn’t last month, but the month before that. 7 weeks ago in fact. I’ve lost May. May is gone. It’s June now.
Between then and now much has happened, the universe seems content to keep heaping heavy stuff on us, and actually, work stuff seems particularly small and inconsequential (in “normal times” I’m sure I would be finding it much more stressful. It’s just, well, it’s hard to get too stressed about work when people are dying, being brutalised or killed just because their skin is a different colour to yours).
Writing weeknotes also feels small and inconsequential. Why bother when there’s all this injustice is going on? Should I keep writing? Am I just taking up space? Who will it help? If I’m writing here who isn’t? What voices are put off by my constant babbling? Who doesn’t feel this is for them? These questions shape my thinking as my fingers skip over the keys.
This blog is part of my online safe space, a space that feels increasingly small. My havens; medium, twitter and instagram have been overtaken with devastation and violence, or remind me of my inaction, complicity and complacency.
I guess that’s the crux of it. I feel less comfortable in my little world now. A very small taste of what my black friends and colleagues go through every day.
The thing that stuck with me the most this week (and it’s really annoying me that I can’t remember who to attribute it to) was (an approximation of) this:
“You’re finding this so hard because you think of yourself as a good person, a kind person, but you’re realising that you didn’t do enough and that your complacency has done harm”
I have not done enough.
“When I was in Vietnam I was jeered and pointed at by a lot of old Vietnamese people because of my red hair”.
I said the words above to a colleague when he described his experiences to me. When I went home and reflected I felt awful and stupid and insensitive. I apologised the next day, and it was a hard and embarrassing thing to do.
Empathy, that personality trait I’m so proud of — my ability to put myself in the shoes of others — can never fill the gap that exists between my lived experience and others.
I feel crippled with fear that I’m going to get this wrong. I know that by getting it wrong I will cause harm, I don’t want to cause harm. But I have to resist the inertia that lead us to this. This whole process is going to make us feel awful and stupid and insensitive, but we must still do it.
I am racist.
Imagine the generosity of a black woman going through all of this right now who still takes the time to write to white allies and to support them. I am floored by this article by Daisy Onubogu and keep coming back to it. I can only recommend you read it, then read it again, and save it somewhere to read again later.
Can I actually do this work in the open or is that performative? As someone who seeks external views in order to shape my ideas, I find myself wanting to be open and transparent, but also wondering if that might also cause harm. In reading the 10 Steps to Non-Optical Allyship below, I feel like I’ve broken point 7 in this post alone.
7. Do not centre this narrative around yourself
Whilst it is nice that you can relate and empathise, now is not the time to insert your personal experiences into a narrative that isn’t about you. This is actually harmful and takes away from the severity of the situation. Leave your ego.
This piece by Natalie Morris in the Metro this week probably gives the best answer:
“Someone will text me to tell me they have called out a racist at work, but do not care to begin the conversation with, “How are you?” It’s a double-edged sword for many of us,’ she explains.
‘It’s good these conversations are happening, but it’s also draining to be the person that has to clap and applaud and validate. Why should we be white people’s cheerleaders at the moment? Where has everyone else been for decades?
‘I feel like white people are grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me, desperately pleading – “You have to understand I’m not racist. I’m not! Look! I’m trying really hard!” – but they simply don’t realise that they’re shaking too hard.
‘They’re unearthing old wounds in people of colour, and their grip is leaving bruises. Can’t you educate yourselves quietly?’
Zahra has had counselling sessions in the last week because the emotional stress of talking these issues through with her white friends was becoming too much. She was exhausted, her body was aching and she found herself randomly bursting into tears.
‘I have cried too many times to count because I’m frightened that white people will use our pain and experiences to fix their own guilt and then just… forget.’
So I think this is probably the last I will write on this subject. I will “educate myself quietly”.
Here’s my reading list for this week (and for the few weeks I’ve been away).
Last week we turned off the “Service” that the NLC run. There is a lot more to talk about with that but it’s probably worth another blog post and some thought about how to talk about it.
Even though I know it was the right call, it was hard. The hardest part was feeling the weight of other people seeing all of their hard work come to an end. I felt like because I have only worked on it since December that I maybe wasn’t as emotionally invested, and I felt guilty about it.
With that, our supplier team at Convivio rolled off the project and we said our goodbyes. Even though they were supplier contractors they were still friends by the end of this and an awesome team, that was probably the saddest I felt.
Tomorrow Billy returns to NLC and it’s two weeks until I return to the LDCU as my loan ends. I’ll be handing over to him, though as I have closed his project I’m not sure what this two weeks will look like!
It’ll be interesting to see how these weeknotes cover that handover and transition back to my old role.
Unexpectedly (as I was looking forward to returning to LDCU) I’m struggling with feeling like I’m taking a step backwards. I’m generally anti hierarchy and believe that grades don’t count – but they act as a good measure of personal achievement, and when you’re going back down a grade level it’s easy to worry that your career is going backwards.
Anyway. I have babbled more than enough.
Here’s to S10. I hope you stick with me x