Written by Cathy Goddard – International Women’s Day: Choose to Challenge
I remember the moment I first saw this picture. My cousin and her daughter are on the picket lines in Toronto during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. It all boiled down to one word for me – BUT.
Witnessing that brave young woman wave a sign that challenged us all – “BLACK PEOPLE SAY ‘STOP KILLING US’ AND PEOPLE ARE SAYING ‘BUT’……”
BUT….. That small word shifted my perspective and had my white privilege come right up and slap me in the face. It made me understand that I had been resistant but what the hell do I have to be afraid of?
Is This Really My Battle To Fight?
Well, yes it is. It is up to all of us to fight this battle. And yes, it is messy and uncomfortable. After all, being bold and choosing to challenge takes us outside of our comfort zone. Right? Here is something I read awhile back – ‘discomfort is a doorway to transformation.’ Beyond our comfort zone is where new things are possible which leads us to a question: “Which do I want more – the safety of a comfort zone, or new possibilities and to be part of change for the better?”
Ultimately, discomfort is a sign that growth is needed. And with change and growth, the world becomes a better place.
On one hand, part of my resistance is that I refused to fall into the pitfalls of performative allyship. At the peak of last year’s Black Lives Matter movement, I witnessed so many posting about racial inequality without fully understanding the issue. It felt self-serving and naïve. Was it just to make themselves feel better, morally? It lacked meaning, purpose and intention. And, where are they all now that anti-racism has stopped trending?
Certainly, public allyship can help spur positive change. Voices can be heard, and some small version of justice may even be served as a result. Sociologist and writer Holiday Phillips said it best here:
“We must not let the kind of performative allyship that begins and ends with hashtags take center stage in the quest for equality.”
And, if you want to better understand performative allyship and what to do about it, read this.
For me, I had (and still have) far too much to learn and jumping on a performative allyship bandwagon felt wrong. Change starts from within. I needed to dissect, internalize, rage inwardly, feel the guilt, beat myself up, cry and then move towards solutions. It is who I am and I won’t apologize for it.
Then I Heard It Again – BUT……
That’s when Jasmine and her mom shoved their signs in front of me and whoa! This is my family. This is real. This is not acceptable. And I need to know more – to learn more – and to do more NOW. I can no longer hide behind my white privilege and comfort zone.
I’ve been one of the silent ones, therefore, I’m part of the problem. But, how do we show up when we don’t fully understand? Well, that takes a willingness to learn and accept bias for what it is.
So, I started to read. This is what I do. Read to learn and take things deeper into my soul.
It actually started with Bryan Stevenson’s brilliant book, ‘Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption’. I bought the book several years ago and yet, didn’t read it. Perhaps I realized that it would rock my foundation and leave me with shame. Finally, I picked up the book and sure enough, after I turned the last page I realized that my hesitation to dive in was fearing what I would learn. And, if I learned then I couldn’t hide behind my white privilege because this is actually my battle too.
So, I kept reading. Here is a partial list of what I devoured.
Home Body by Rupi Kaur
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethwey
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
One Native Life by Richard Wagamese
Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese
And well, anything by Richard Wagamese.
Reading different viewpoints that bravely educate us on how our world has been built on white supremacy and male supremacy has been an awakening. There is an arising of a broader coalition than ever seen before to create a new world, rooted in equality and equity.
International Women’s Day: Choose to Challenge
Every year, I write a blog to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th. I’ve always seen my role as an advocate for women. I’ve built a business solely focused on women as a target market. I coach, mentor and rally them to bust through gender equality and more specifically, to crash their own glass ceilings. If they don’t stop holding themselves back, how can they expect others to?
While my advocacy for women is still dedicated to gender equality, I’m now on a journey to broaden that perspective for race. A gender and racially equal world will be healthier, wealthier and more harmonious.
And, International Women’s Day reminds us that campaigns aren’t for just one day. We can must continually pledge to move from talk to action within our own spheres of influence every day. Collectively and continually – we can make change happen.
Which brings me to the 2021 theme for International Women’s Day – #ChooseToChallenge. A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day.
That has me facing my resistance. Letting go of the fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. To not make excuses for my ignorance and to keep learning. We can all choose to challenge and call out bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.
Of course, I understand that I must choose to challenge on a broader scope. Right now, I practice on those close to me. My husband and I have some riveting discussions that I clumsily claw my way through. I’m getting better at stating my case and at nudging him forward too. The differentiator now: both external and internal dialogue always has me coming back to, “ya but……”
I have Jasmine to thank for that awakening. Because, this is really about her. So that she can continue to be the powerhouse that she already is. So that she can be recognized as a changemaker and thought leader that will change the world. It’s about a young, black woman that taught me so much by holding up a sign. By saying no more ‘but’ – it is time.
How will you #ChooseToChallenge? From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.