I ran past a friend’s house this week, someone I used to have dinner with / go on walks with regularly, and whom I’ve not seen in a while. I ended my run and called him on my cool down. I love his perspective, which is so different than mine. His parents were not born in the United States, he is in a different industry than mine, he has a wicked sense of humor that surprises me and makes me laugh, but which I would never come up with on my own. And yet we are friends.
I asked him how he was doing, and he wondered if there was a single word that captured the emotions of anger, frustration, helplessness and despair, which I think is a good question, and should have an answer, because currently it is how I feel much of the time (someone will now tell me there is a German word for just this thing, because there is ALWAYS a German word). We commiserated. And when we were done, I thought about the absolute need to influence change, now more than ever.
Like all of you, I see what is going on in the United States and around the world. Videos fill my social media feed; murder of an innocent man by police, and “I can’t breathe” (again) and tear gas and batons and fences. Down in Portland where I lived for 18 years, the Burnside Bridge filled with protestors laying quietly on their backs as the police approached. In the news media, talk of “dominating the battlespace” by the military, where the battlespace is HERE, and tanks and armored vehicles in small towns, for some reason I don’t understand. Over and over, senseless violence against Black and African American people. Over. And Over. Not seen, but equally present is their everyday experience, at work, in stores, on the street, when they are forced to worry about what could happen to them, simply for being in that space.
Years ago, I participated in a grueling team multi-sport event that had me running the last three miles up a very steep hill. I said after that our team should have been named “Some, but not enough” as in, I had done some hill work, but not enough, some speed work, but not enough, some distance, but not enough for what I aspired to do. At the time, I said I had learned from this experience, but now, I wonder.
Because when it comes to systemic racism I have worked to understand, but not enough. I have donated time and money, but not enough. I have advocated for internal and external change, but not enough. Yes, this is a hard challenge. But I am seeing the challenge, not living it. This is privilege. There is no room for “some” in this equation. Each of us, wherever we are, have the capability of doing more.
Years ago, aghast at what I saw in Ferguson, Missouri, I reached out to a friend and asked what I could do. He pointed me to some resources, but closed with “Look within.” It was the best, and hardest advice I’ve ever gotten. I looked, and didn’t like what I saw. Today, I look again and know…still not enough.
I accept it is okay to feel whatever that German word is that describes the present, but not to the extent it stops me from new action. More of my time and money to the orgs that are making a difference locally and nationally, more agitation internally for more change, more work to broaden my perspective and understanding. “More, but still not enough.” That’s better.