I was so afraid I would say the wrong thing

I have been sitting with this question for weeks now and today I finally got an answer. Ever since George Floyd’s murder sparked an uproar in our country and others around the globe.

I have wondered. What is my role? What part do I play in bringing about a real change?

Colleagues I admire have taken a stand against racism and FOR having a new conversation. Friends have changed their social media status to proclaim that Black Lives Matter.

I applaud those who are taking part in peaceful demonstrations calling for a much-needed change.

Many have posted wonderful and inspiring messages on Facebook that have spurred me to watch movies and read articles.

I have received messages in their blogs that have given me new resources to raise my awareness, offered things to read, watch, and places to take part in a dialogue about race in order to bring about a positive change for all of us.

I still had this question though.

What is my part?

I was raised in to believe we all must do something to change the racial imbalance and inequality.

My parents were active in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s and bringing about changes in the area of racial inequality was one of my mother’s crusades as I was growing up.

So this question is not something that just arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago! It’s been around my whole life. I imagine this is true for you as well

The answer to my question came via a quote I saw from Tony Morrison:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.

We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

The answer that came to me is that – besides taking part in the conversations that will increase our understanding of what is needed – I can tell the stories.

Mine and others.

I can listen to the stories from the coaches I work with, and help them find their own way to contribute. Stories are the way we will come to a greater understanding of what needs to change.

To begin that process, here is a short story of mine that happened when I was seven.

My 9-year-old sister, Gretchen, was home from school with a cold.
A friend of hers, who happened to be a black girl, stopped me in the hall and asked where she was. When I told her, she said, “please tell her I said hello”.

Simple request… but when I relayed the message to my sister, I was gripped with fear that I would say the wrong thing. That somehow my reply would sound racist. I felt trapped. My sister kept asking…What did she look like… What color hair did she have…How tall was she?

I did my best to give the description and then in frustration I finally I just blurted out. “No……She’s Black!”

At that exact moment, my mom burst through the door and, as feared, made the assumption I had just made a racist remark and started screaming at me. “I don’t ever want to hear you talk like that again…” and more lecture… and then I was sent to my room.

Feeling misunderstood then… and afraid of that happening again… left me unsure of how to navigate these racial waters until today.

Today, I decided that being misunderstood is not the worst thing that could happen. Allowing my fear of “doing the wrong thing” to stop me from speaking up is the worst thing.   

Along with speaking our stories, there is also the insight that comes from listening to the stories of others with an open mind and heart.

I would love to hear your story.
What’s the one thing you want to do to help bring about change?
What’s the role you want to play?

All the Best, Kat

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