I woke up this morning to the horrific news of the tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. I immediately thought of many of my dear friends in the black community, and wondered how they were faring. As I texted and messaged my friends individually to check in, I found that the overwhelming emotions are, as expected, sadness and anger. And I thought to myself, “What can I do? How can I make their burden lighter?”
How does someone outside the black community support friends within the community without 1) co-opting their experience, 2) intruding upon their private and sacred spaces — literally, verbally, and emotionally, and 3) taking over the conversation or diverting attention from where it belongs?
After much thought and conversation, I would like to offer a few suggestions:
1. Get personal. Reach out to those within your circle and let them know that you are thinking about them. If you’re the praying sort, offer prayers. Lord knows this country needs our prayers for healing and love right now.
2. Validate. There is an enormous amount of legitimate and righteous anger within the black communities. Black men, women, and children alike are experiencing more violence today than I have ever personally seen in my lifetime. It is terrifying and horrific and rightfully enrages and ignites the ire of the black community. You don’t have to understand or agree with the responses or actions to validate the emotion. Yes, the black community has a right to be angry. Validate their right to that emotion.
3. Lift and amplify their voices. The black community is speaking. Are we listening? Share their stories. Share their articles and their posts and their comments. In the wise words of my friend Fatimah Salleh, “Step in front, and then step aside.” Raise your voice to elevate theirs, and then move aside and let them speak for themselves.
I am mourning with the black community today. I pray they will find comfort and peace in this very troubled time. You are heard. You are loved. I want to share this burden with you. I am sorry.