Validating the Presence of Racism

Uncategorized Jun 25, 2020

This morning as I woke up grateful for family snuggles with my 3 year old.

I was also acutely aware that many black families don’t have that privilege without a worry in the back of their mind of when their child’s innocence will be robbed.

Robbed of the safety of walking down the street.
Robbed from speaking up without threat to their life.
Robbed from life.

As our country sits divided, it is my privilege and honor to speak up against racism.

Because to me there’s no line in the sand when it comes to racism.

Our children need us to lead them to notice their emotions and recognize how to process them, without letting their opinions cloud their judgment or impulsivity.

That’s the core skill deficit for those who cannot listen to people who are hurting, and instead choose to refute and invalidate the experiences of others.

And that is a DEADLY skill deficit.

So, as a white business owner, I speak out. This is not a political issue. This is a life or death issue.

And as someone who helps parents keep their kids alive for a living, I don’t pick and choose how the comfortable lives of others are impacted by my words.

If you don’t like hearing that children are dying, then you’re probably following me by mistake.

Addressing the murder of black people by white police officers who are not upholding their position of authority in a safe and effective manner is not comfortable.

But when it comes to saving the lives of the marginalized, that takes work. Any work worth doing is uncomfortable.

Others are confused as to why there is so much outrage in the black community…and so I want to speak about a particular topic related to this today.

I was asked earlier today why saying “all lives matter” as a response to hearing “black lives matter” is considered racist.

I will address this here, as at its core, is the concept of invalidation, which is a foundational concept we teach our clients in both my businesses.

When someone who is upset, hurting, grieving, and protesting injustice states their emotions, and another person states “well, this thing I thought about is also important too” it is considered invalidation, because it is an irrelevant statement to the person’s current concern.

Let’s use a parenting example.

Your 7 year old child screams: “I HATE IT when she steals my toys!” and you state “it’s important to share” your child feels invalidated, because at that very moment, the core of your child’s emotions is refuted.

While her words are a clear indication of a skill deficit (saying hate, and screaming when upset repeatedly is ineffective communication style) your response (reporting to her a value you want her to remember about life) is not relevant to her EMOTION.

So, she freaks out… because you discounted or dismissed her emotion (though likely not on purpose, and SOMETIMES on purpose). The two of you are not speaking the same language. She’s taking about her emotion, and YOU are talking about family values.

Thus, for you, a parent of a Highly Sensitive Child, a meltdown ensues.

Now, let’s take this back to the concept of racism.

A black person says “BLACK LIVES MATTER!” after a black person is murdered by a member of the police force.

You say “All lives matter”.

This is invalidating to a black person in this moment, because you are not noticing their emotion of grief, outrage, fear, worry, etc. about their specific concern in this very moment in time after a person who looks like them was killed just because they look like them (the person was black).

(…If you call up the action of said person who was murdered in your response to my above statement, you are missing the point I made earlier— that black people are more consistently murdered by ineffective members of the police force compared to white people when considering deaths and aggression DUE TO police brutality. What that means is that when compared to how white people are treated by the police, black people have to worry and fear for their safety and lives MUCH MORE about encountering the police just because they are black… in fact, when you go through life fearing for your life consistently, you can develop PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD are: irritability, anger, hypervigilance, anxiety, nightmares, etc.)

Instead, you are speaking about the fact that people shouldn’t kill people.

“Murder is bad” is also an important statement, AND not relevant to this black person’s current concern, because their current concern is on HOW this black person was killed— murder BECAUSE of the color of his skin.

Let’s look at this in context without the explanation:

Black person: “Black lives matter!”
You: “Nobody should be killed!”

Your statement is too broad at best, and dismissing at worst.

And as a result, it is inferred by the listener that either…

a). you are uncomfortable talking about racism as a real concern in our country…

…or b). you don’t care about racism in our country so you want to shut the conversation down…

…or c). you don’t believe racism is a current issue that carries weight and urgency in our country right now… I’m sure there are other interpretations, but these are the big ones.

So, when someone says “black lives matter,” pause.

Notice your emotions in your body.

Ask yourself… why do you want to say “all lives matter” back?

Because you feel anxious about where the conversation will go?

Because you feel afraid that a black person is angry?

Because you don’t know enough about experiencing racism to speak intelligently on the subject and thus want to change the subject?

Once you know that emotion in yourself, you can then acknowledge for the other person that they can have a different emotion than you in this moment, and in reaction to a scary event.

Just because that event is less scary for you than for this other person doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t feel scared.

Because you can only change your emotions when you learn how to validate them.

And it’s really freakin’ hard to validate your own emotions when everyone around you is telling you it’s fine, or it’s going to get better, or you’re incorrect for having the feeling you’re having.

Because at some point you stop questioning whether your own experience is actually real.

And that leads you to stuff your feelings until they boil.

And then the cycle of anger continues.

Which is very similar to the meltdown cycle you experience with your own sensitive child in your own home.


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