Last week I came home from a weekend camping trip that left me feeling amazing. We unplugged, had zero cell service, and took time to get back to a few of the things I love most: family and nature. Little did I know, the real world was feeling less than amazing — to put it lightly. I came home and posted all of my photos from the weekend. I smiled looking back at the memories. My heart felt full and I felt light and refreshed and inspired to get back to work.

Then I began scrolling. The world had erupted. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. Protesting. Black squares. Tears. The video of George Floyd… I backed away from my computer screen.

I felt uncomfortable and unsure. Do I still know what to say? No. Am I still uncomfortable? Yes. But I talk about doing hard things and being willing to fail and having hard conversations all the time. So now it’s time to practice what I preach.

Honest Reactions

I started getting messages from people. Many were unkind. Many accused me of being racist for not posting anything about what was happening in the world. To be completely honest, my first gut reaction was that I felt defensive. I know I’m not racist, so how could anyone accuse me of that without knowing what was in my heart? I’m a nice person, why was I getting all of these mean messages? My intent was not to be harmful, didn’t that matter? I was silent because I was trying to figure out what to say, not because I felt Black people didn’t matter. 

I felt myself making excuses. I felt myself feeling the need to explain why I wasn’t racist. What I was doing was internalizing this thing that really wasn’t about me at all. Then, Blackout Tuesday happened, and I took that time to listen. I learned a lot from that time, and I began to take an honest look inward and how complex the issue of race really is. 

Looking Inward

We don’t speak ill of any race in my home, but living in Idaho with a predominantly white population, I don’t have a lot of exposure to other races in my home state. I know I don’t harbor any hate towards anyone of another color, but was I exposing my kids to other races and cultures enough? My mom used to take us kids to other places of worship and to spend time with people who were less fortunate. We went to Catholic churches, the Islamic Center in Boise, and invited Jehova’s Witnesses to have dinner with us. Should I be doing something like that? How should I expose my kids to positive Black influences?

I started looking at my brand. My team is largely white. There isn’t enough diversity in my programs. I know it wasn’t intentional, but I knew I had to be willing to learn and to become more aware. This made me more aware of my lack of diversity in my life in general, whether any of it was intentional or not, now I knew I could make changes for my kids and my brand so I could help more people. 

I got one message from a woman who was kind even though she was upset with me for not speaking up. In it she told me she was disappointed, and expected me to use my platform to make a difference. I thought about her message a lot. I read it over and over and it made me want to say something. I decided to write a post, to share some stories by Black voices, and to start engaging in these conversations that made me uncomfortable. I started taking an honest look inward. That’s hard to do, but it needs to be done. Once I made a post, I got more mean messages from people calling me stupid. More people enraged by my opinion. I lost followers. However, I always take those kind of losses as wins. I know the people who unfollow aren’t my people. The right thing isn’t always the popular thing. 

Be Willing to Say the Wrong Thing

I didn’t want to speak up because I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t want to say the wrong thing, and I felt uncomfortable. But I realized being silent is not a helpful alternative. I realize that I have a privilege that comes with my skin color that makes it so I’ll never understand what the Black community is going through, but I know that I will listen and stand with them. That’s not to say you didn’t go through hard things if you’re white, it’s just to say those hard things had nothing to do with skin color. I truly believe that Black Lives Matter, and I fully understand that it doesn’t mean that other lives don’t. Talking about this is hard, but I say all the time, that doing hard things makes us stronger, and it means we are doing something important. 

I didn’t want to speak up because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. But another thing I say all the time is that failure leads to learning. That we often learn more from our failures than we do from our wins. We have to be willing to speak up, even if we say the wrong thing. We have to be willing to learn when others correct us. We have to be willing to change our minds with new information, and to acknowledge that it means we are growing. This topic is a really hard one, but that is just more of a reason to talk about it.

Moving Forward

So, if you’re uncomfortable, know you’re not alone. Know that being uncomfortable is okay. Feel your feelings, and work through them. Look inward and think about why you’re uncomfortable. Have discussions, listen, and learn. Be open to being corrected, and be willing to fail. Be willing to say the wrong thing, and know that imperfect action is still action. Know that there’s no end to what you’ll learn. You won’t read some books, listen to some podcasts, and be done with learning about race forever. It’s an ongoing process that will evolve with time. 

Moving forward, I plan to continue to learn and listen. I plan to expose myself to more Black voices, to help my kids see more diversity in their lives, and to create more diversity in mine. I plan to look at my brand, the people I follow, and to widen my scope of understanding. I plan to be more informed, to continue to have hard conversations, and to keep pushing past my discomfort to do the right thing. I plan to think about these issues when it’s time to vote and when I want to donate and volunteer. 

I plan to keep loving others. I plan to keep having compassion. I plan to support this movement that will make history and hopefully change the lives for so many Black Americans.

I probably said a lot of things incorrectly in this post. But I’m trying, I’m learning, and that’s at least a step in the right direction. Hopefully if we are all willing to listen, learn, and say the wrong thing, we can make real change. 

Sending so much love,

Natalie