Step 1: Checking in on your black friends and colleagues right now is good attunement
I have received a bunch of texts and DMs from my white friends, some of them noting how awkward it is to be reaching out.
And while there is definitely a helpful way to reach out, and there certainly is an unhelpful way to check in, first, I just want to say something on the whole about this process because it is important we know about attachment. Human beings are wired for connection. In our darkest hours, our most painful moments, if we feel that we are connected and securely attached to the people that we are closest to, this attunement is an antidote to the loneliness that is like the cyanide poison of the soul.
What is attunement? Being seen, heard, responded to, and valued (by the people you consider close to you) just as you are, even in, and especially in a moment (or a lifetime) of pain. When we are looking into the face of what terrifies, pains, threatens, or saddens us, we instinctively want to know from our close ones:
Are you there with me in this moment of pain?
Do you see me?
Will you hear my pain?
And stay with me for a moment while I cry?
When the answer is yes, even though nothing changes about the pain itself - although something must be done (see step 2) - we are hardwired to experience that pain in a different way, in a more tolerable way. We literally get comfort and emotional relief from these connections. This is a socio-emotional process called co-regulation. We have cells in our brain that were made for this.
And black people need that right now. We are suffering. We are in pain. We are terrified for ourselves and our families. We are being traumatized. We need to know we are not alone in this pain. And if your awkwardness is keeping you from reaching out, from posting something on your social media pages, from saying SOMETHING, we need you to lean into that discomfort, and do it anyways. Because, from an attachment perspective, your silence right now, is a still face.
So, even if you don’t know how to start the conversation, or you’re not sure what to post or what to say, or you’re afraid of saying it wrong, or looking like an imposter. I do not care. Reflect something back to your friends, particularly your black friends, particularly your black male friends.
Reflect back to them that you see the pain and suffering in this world, the slaughtering of black men in the street. And that you are feeling that pain too. Let them know, I hear the suffering of your people, I see the atrocities and horrors inflicted on black bodies. I can imagine that you might be suffering too. Look, everybody reaches out in their own ways. I’m not telling you how to live your life. I don’t care if you email, text, tweet, or send a carrier pigeon. I’m simply saying that reflecting back the current reality to black people (especially those that you are close to, and go ahead and make that a broad circle, e.g. mothers/grandmothers of black or biracial children) in some way, shape, or form, is critical.
So don’t let the awkwardness, the vulnerability, or the fear silence you and rob us of opportunity for mirroring and connection in the midst of this madness, darkness, and chaos - because it is literally all that we have in these moments.
Ok, that being said, there is one big thing NOT to do, and that is to make the moment of connection about you. Don’t make it about your discomfort (e.g. I feel so ashamed of my people, I’m so depressed), don’t ask your black friends what you should be doing (e.g. Where is a good place to donate to?). That is your work and that comes in step 2, where you will invest your own energy and time in figuring that out. Lastly, keep in mind that whether or how your black and POC friends respond to you is beside the point. This is not about you feeling good in your attempt to connect. Have the grace to allow them to respond or not to respond, in any way that feels right for them.
This is about doing the fundamental work of reaching out in the face of this pain and darkness. Do it now. And remember, this is just the first step.
Image credit: Photo by Designecologist from Pexels