No More Hashtags

No More Hashtags

To say the last week has been gut-wrenching and maddening is the understatement of the year. I created this blog as a platform to share what I am passionate about. And if you’ve followed me from the very start back in 2018, or you’ve ever read any of my posts, it’s likely that you’ve become somewhat familiar with my viewpoints on racism. In fact if you’ve spent any time on my page at all you would know that I am married to a black man. You’d also know that when I started this blog, I clearly stated on my “about” page that the entire point of me sharing my words is in my website name: relentless Sarah. So here’s a little excerpt about the guiding principal behind what I write and why.

“The title, relentless Sarah, stems from the direction I want to be moving in. It is my mantra for how I choose to live my life, and one that I take very seriously. Every day, I strive to be relentless. In my daily pursuit of my passions. To be relentless in loving others. Relentless in my advocacy for standing up for my beliefs. Relentless in sharing kindness and generosity. And to relentlessly spread the truth.”

The past week has sent me into a spiral of self-reflection, consumption of media (both good and bad), deep conversations with friends/family who do and don’t look like me, and research on how I can do better. Or perhaps do more. As I watched the world unfold this past week on the news and through my timelines this deep pit formed in my stomach. Am I doing all I can? What more can I do to help? I’m praying Lord, but it doesn’t feel like enough. How can I stay silent and still when so many of my brothers and sisters are hurting? I’ve donated, signed petitions, passed along helpful resources that have been enlightening to me and hopefully will be to another, showered my black husband and family with love, affection and support. But none of that has made a change.

I believe that in life, we are given gifts, or talents, predispositions, whatever you’d like to call them. And these gifts are anointed over us so that we may hone and utilize them to the best of our abilities. And as with gifts, they are meant to be given away, freely. From a young age, I’ve known what my gift was, and I’ve been reminded of it over and over again. My gift is my words, and the ability I have to articulate my thoughts, experiences and feelings sometimes before I even realize what I’m saying. Writing for me is a supernatural experience. Every time I write I’m reminded that my words and message are bigger and more far reaching than me.

Simply because we’ve been given a gift and know how to use it (most days) doesn’t mean that sharing your gift is easy. In fact most of what I share comes only after a back and forth inner battle to be vocal. But regardless of the fear I have to push back to speak up, I show up anyway. So here I am today, showing up. Speaking up and speaking out, because I have been compelled to do so.

I have friends on the front lines in D.C., Dallas, Houston, Austin, LA and New York marching for change, but that’s not where I’m called. I’m called right here to share my words in the hope and faith that they will benefit someone else. Right now, black people are hurting. This doesn’t negate your hurt and your struggles, but please don’t try and understand a pain you’ve never experienced and never have to. I’ve built a life with my husband. And while I have shared some of the negative and racist experiences, I can’t even begin understand and sympathize with my husband fully, because I’ve NEVER experienced what he lives through on a daily basis. I don’t know what it feels like to be racially profiled. To be called a “thug” simply because my skin is darker than yours. To fear for my life if I get pulled over. To be undervalued, underserved, under-protected and under-supported.

Last week I wrote a poem in reaction to the senseless murder of George Floyd. And I have read those words daily as a reminder to myself of what I must do in response. If you haven’t read it, I hope you will now. If you have already read it, I encourage you to read it again, because with each read, it rings truer and truer.

No More Hashtags

Using my words is more than writing a blog post or poem. Yes, I hope my words are able to facilitate conversations. Yes, I hope my words are able to offer a new or slightly different perspective. Yes, I hope my words drip with hope and encouragement. But I also hope they are more than that. I pray my voice joins in the chorus of enlightenment to affect change.

The reason that I have continued to reread this piece is because of the call to action in the last stanza. While justice can no longer be served for George Floyd, I’ve been mulling on how I can continue to honor and remember his name and the countless others before him. And this is what I came up with.

Screen Shot 2020-06-03 at 1.47.19 PM
No More Hashtags Shirt

I wanted to create something that would be a catalyst for dialogue. That when people see it, they will either open up a conversation about why I have so many names written on my chest or see it and know they are not fighting alone. Shying away from difficult and uncomfortable conversations is not it. Staying silent in the presence of evil is not it. Doing nothing when our brothers and sisters are in tremendous pain is not it.

While this post is an obvert nudge to do something, take some time to think about where and how your service can be most effective. If you’re a photographer, use your photos. If you’re a social media whiz, share resources and information. If you’re an artist use your art. If you’re a great purchaser, buy and donate necessary items for your local protestors. If you have margin, donate to one of the many organizations working tirelessly to affect change. Or maybe your eyes are truly beginning to open and your time is best spent right now reading, learning and soaking in all you can.

We are so quick to throw the word “love” around. But love is more than an emotion, love is a verb. So if you love your neighbor, friend, co-worker, relative, community members, show it.

xxx

Sig

If you are interested in purchasing a shirt, simply click on the link at the bottom of the photo and it will take you to the purchase page. I will not be taking individual orders, as I want you to be able to receive your shirt as quickly as possible. I am not making any money off of these shirts. All proceeds will be donated to the Black Lives Matter Campaign.

*I welcome dialogue about this topic and encourage any questions, comments and conversations. However, I will not tolerate hate or name calling. Just to come out ahead of this, please don’t comment or leave a message that “All Lives Matter.” Of course they do, but you’re missing the point entirely by focusing more on what you want to say rather than being open to listen. All lives cannot and do not matter until Black Lives Matter. 

Photo credit: Picheta, Z., 2020. Thousands Around The World Protest George Floyd’s Death In Global Display Of Solidarity. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/01/world/george-floyd-global-protests-intl/index.html&gt; [Accessed 3 June 2020].

Radical Love

Radical Love

Every year, on MLK day I’m left in a reflective mood. We learn about who Martin Luther King Jr. was in school and see the same few quotes shared across social media platforms. As a white person, I’ve heard lots of remarks growing up about how white people “love MLK.” And it’s easy to look back at someone’s life 52 years after the fact and comment that you liked what he was doing because it was non-violent, it wasn’t as “radical” and he preached “love.” Yet these same people get outraged at a phrase like “black lives matter.” Responding with bigotry, lack of understanding and ignorance. “All lives matter!” is shouted back in retort instead of meeting hurting people in need with the same love MLK advocated and demonstrated and you post on your Facebook wall.

In general, I think as people we tend to stay in our own lane. If we don’t experience something first hand, we tend not to believe it.

Racism is dead.

I don’t see injustice.

It’s not like that in my neighborhood.

I’m not racist, I have a black friend/acquaintance/co-worker/neighbor/celebrity crush.

I love MLK.

I listen to rap music.

 I love watching football/basketball/(insert other sport here).

We compartmentalize an entire population and generalize their experiences and struggles and try to say that we have a grasp on reality. If we don’t see something, then it just simply doesn’t exist.

I was raised extremely sheltered. My life experiences were very controlled and I was not exposed to much going on in the real world. If it happened between the years of 1992-2010, then I didn’t have much awareness of it. My parents chose to limit my worldview with the intent to protect and shield me from all the pain, injustice and brokenness. And as an adult, I can appreciate that they were doing what they felt was best for me. However, because of my sheltered life, I had a very skewed worldview upon entrance of college. I grew up in a middle class, hardworking white family, and while of course we experienced struggles, my childhood was pretty close to perfect. It wasn’t until I made friends with people that grew up differently than I did that I began to truly open my eyes to all that was around me.

How many people have felt like the minority? Have you ever been the only person with your skin color, surrounded by people that look differently than you? Have you felt out of place because of your skin? Been looked at, or more so looked down on simply because of your genetic make-up? To be treated differently and worse because of how you look? I have. And let me tell you it was eye-opening. I’ve never really taken pride in being white or really given it much thought other than wishing I was tanner. (Welcome white privilege; I’m glad you finally decided to show up in the mix and call yourself by name). In Longview, where the population is much different than the places I’ve grown up, especially in certain areas I experienced a tiny miniscule drop in the bucket compared to what some individuals live with on a daily basis. I don’t know what it feels like to be profiled. To be viewed as frightening. To be presumed guilty even when innocence is proven. To be counted as less than, inferior, less intelligent. To be valued for what you can offer only athletically and nothing else.

Flash forward to dating and ultimately marrying a black man. You want to see how people really feel, be a part of an interracial couple. The comments I have heard on both ends of the spectrum are mind blowing. The racist comments certainly come from both ways. And while our love tends to magnify what was already in people’s hearts: either love, understanding and support or fear, ignorance and bigotry, I appreciate both outcomes. I’d rather know how you really feel than be friends with a façade.

From personal experience and experiences I’ve gained and learned through my husband, I can share that racism is not dead. It is just as destructive, hateful, deceitful and fear-based as it ever was. But now, it has evolved and learned how to hide better. It hides in complacency. It hides in affluence. Lurks around corners of mis-education. It burrows under lack of empathy.

So you share your MLK quote once again, one day out of the year. What have you done to put that quote into action? Have you taken the steps toward acceptance? Done your job as a free American citizen to attempt to understand a perspective outside your own? Watched any of the ground-breaking media shedding light on these stigmas that continue to be stifled?

Contrary to white-washed perception, Martin Luther King Jr was radical. The quality of life and the level of injustice during his time on earth was shameful. And in response, he radially and recklessly loved others. He spoke out for those who couldn’t. He marched for those unable or unwilling to walk forward towards progress. He shed light on the deepest and darkest ugly parts, exposing them with no regards for what it might cost him. All the while holding himself to the highest standard, when so many others would have complained, resorted to violence, acted out of revenge masquerading as justice, felt sorry for themselves and the list goes on.

It is because of MLK’s valiant efforts and the continued efforts of those after him that my husband and I can be husband and wife. Were able to obtain a residence together. Not be arrested and charged for loving and continuing to love one another. While some may categorize our choice to be “more difficult,” I count it an amazing privilege and responsibility. In the hollowed wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

You want to honor MLK day, do your due diligence and educate yourself. Start by viewing these necessary and illuminating pieces of work.

-When They See Us

-Fruitvale Station

-Just Mercy

-The Loving Story (Documentary and Film)

-Rosewood

-A Time to Kill

-Mississippi Burning

Consume this media for what it is. These are not just movies and episodes. These are TRUE stories. People’s lives and experiences and realities. Not 100 years ago. Today. In our country. In our home cities. Open your heart and your eyes and see what happens.

I’m not claiming to have it all figured out, or that the answer to eradicating racism is as simple and contrite as watching a few movies. But why can’t the start be that simple? Once you have the awareness and understanding that we still have so much work to do, what you do next is up to you. As for me, I will continue to live my life in a way that puts this concept into action:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

  I plan to continue forward with love and light.

xxx

-Sarah