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Racial Healing: Where Should I Start?
3 Questions to Ask Yourself
I looked down at my phone, nestled between my leg and the sofa cushion, to see a DM notification pop up on my screen from a fellow friend and author. Eager to see what she wanted, I tapped the message revealing her question. “What are you doing for National Day of Racial Healing?”
Baffled, I reread her question. “National Day of Racial Healing? That’s a thing?,” I wondered. I’d never heard of it. A wave of shame and embarrassment washed over me. I'm a person of color who writes and speaks about race and culture as it applies to the Mixed Race community and I had no idea what she was talking about. For a moment, I didn’t know how to respond. I consider her an expert in our collective field. I mean she is an author, speaker, advocate, consultant, coach, teacher, oh - and doctor!
My computer was already on my lap, so I opened another tab and Googled National Day of Racial Healing. Sure enough, it immediately popped up, declaring January 17, 2023 as the 7th annual observation of the holiday! I continued to read and search in an attempt to learn as much as I could. According to healingourcommunities.org, racial healing is defined as
Racial Healing restores individuals and communities to wholeness. Racial healing repairs the damage caused by racism. It facilitates trust, builds authentic relationships and bridges divides. Racial healing is at the heart of racial equity – the people work that leads to community, organizational, and systems transformation.
With a defeated sigh, I sheepishly typed, “I’m embarrassed to say nothing. I’ve never heard of it.” There. I said it. Naked honesty. A harsh reminder that there’s always more to learn.
Three little dots appeared as she replied. With grace and kindness, she explained what I’d come to learn from my Google search. Then she went on to invite me to collaborate with her on a post featuring how we as individuals can use our stories to promote racial healing. I was stunned! What did I have to offer on a subject I’d just learned existed? Humbly, I accepted her invitation and we immediately got to work.
As we began to collaborate, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own healing. Since 2020, God’s been leading me from a place of passing, hiding, and shame to a place of joy and confidence as I learn to see myself through a new lens, embracing the totality of my blend.
That hasn’t always been the case. For over 30 years, I stayed inside, sacrificed time with my family, hid beneath long sleeves and pants, and damaged my hair with chemicals and flat irons all in an attempt to be White. Although I’m Mixed (White/Afro-Puerto Rican), I was raised by my White family with very little contact with the Puerto Rican side. (That’s another story for another day). It wasn’t my family who taught me to hide. My mom encouraged me to wear my natural hair and love my skin. But my limited social circles in my small Midwest town were not as welcoming of the girl they couldn’t quite put in a box.
I learned if I wanted to gain acceptance even in its most elusive form, I would have to abandon being Afro-Puerto Rican and identify solely as White. So I did. I put the little girl who loved swimming and riding her bike away in a box along with the hurt and shame that I’d come to associate with being me.
As I thought about the healing God’s brought to my life over the past two and a half years, I realized that the ideal of collective racial healing will never be achieved if we don’t first deal with the harder issue - our own individual racial healing.
If you’re Mixed, that could mean coming to terms with your whole blend. We’ve learned to choose a side or piece of ourselves as our complete identity. Oftentimes, that changes depending on our environment, circumstances, and company. It’s as though we’re cultural chameleons. For example, when you’re with one side of the family you completely identify with them, dismissing your other side. Drive across town for dinner with the other side of your family and vice versa. Go to work and you’re the part deemed as the most professional. Go out with friends, and you’re another version of yourself. Rarely do the lines cross. You never have the luxury of just being yourself. In fact, you don’t even know who that person is because you’ve never met them.
For those who are mono-racial or identify as one race, chances are good that you need healing too. Maybe yours isn’t an inner conflict. Perhaps it’s a long-held bias towards a group or culture.
Racial healing isn’t exclusive to a select group of people. We each have areas of our lives that could benefit from this type of healing and growth.
Here are three questions to ask yourself as you embark on your own racial healing journey:
1. Who have I learned to fear? Fear and love can’t coexist. Who are you afraid of? What neighborhoods do you avoid? Why are you afraid? Did you experience hurt, heartbreak or trauma? Or did someone in your family pass their fear down to you? What bias are you holding onto that is preventing you from learning, listening, and loving those who are different from you? If we’re honest, we ALL hold to some bias. But that’s not an excuse to hold on and resist healing.
2. Who do I need to forgive? For me, I not only needed to forgive myself, but I also had to forgive classmates whose words caused me to hate myself. Ask yourself, who are the people who made you feel like your blend was a mistake? Family? Teacher? Classmates? Coworkers? Boss? You can’t move forward while towing a U-haul full of anger and resentment.
3. Where do I need to let God in? Friend, I’ve been in church since before I was born. I KNOW my Bible and I know God loves me. BUT that didn’t change how angry I was at Him. He had the entire palette at His disposal and He chose to make me Mixed. I needed to learn to see myself the way He does, to believe my Mixed wasn’t a mistake, and discover He has a purpose for all of it. It wasn’t easy. It started with some very raw, honest, and angry arguments with God. Perhaps that’s what you need too, to get honest and vulnerable, lay it all on the table, and invite Him to being the healing process.
Friend, you can’t heal what you won’t acknowledge. No, it won’t be easy, but it will be SO worth it! What better time than now to invite racial healing into your life? You’re not alone. I’m here to encourage and coach you along, and this community will encourage you as well. Just imagine celebrating 2024 National Day of Racial Healing by looking back on your own healing journey and seeing just how far you’ve come!
I’m cheering for you!
PS: If you’re wondering, our collab went great! Check it out here.
Now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear your thoughts & questions.
A Little Something Extra…
Each week, I like to share a little something extra, something I’ve found fun or helpful. It might be a post, book, podcast, tv show, movie, song, Bible verse…or something else I think you’ll enjoy.
Remember my friend who sent me the DM that started this post? That’s Michelle. As I mentioned, she’s a consultant, teacher, writer, speaker, author, coach…and yes, doctor!
Not only is she a friend, but she’s also been helpful in my own racial healing journey - answering all of my questions, helping me process, and providing encouragement along the way all seasoned with grace…which is what she’s titled her new guided course! If you’re ready to begin leading impactful conversations about race, this is your right next step.
If reading is your thing, you’ll want to check out Michelle’s two books. They are full of truth, wisdom, and practical tools you can use for yourself, your family, or the groups you lead. Both are available at Amazon.
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