A Public Apology for My “Black Silence”…

Let’s start here. I’m black. I’m a woman. I’m heterosexual. All of these components are pieces of my identity that I haven’t always acknowledged.

In the wake of the multiple killings of unarmed black people, I’m grieving. I’m hurt, and I’m angry. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m an advocate for racial justice and for the equitable treatment of black and brown lives. This week, I’ve also been angry at the silence of my white friends. I just couldn’t understand how anyone can be silent in times like this. There was more outrage over the killing of a gorilla to save a black child at a zoo. Not to mention the pure disappointment in a football player refusing to stand for the national anthem.

Little did I know, I would soon become aware for myself of the power in showing up, the harm in silence, and what it means to be an ally.

On Sunday September 18, 2016, I experienced a new level of self-awakening. I recognized my black silence. I sat in church that Sunday morning, and couldn’t tell you a word that the minister spoke about. I sat there observing a few more empty seats than usual. I became aware that there were people, most of which who I had developed a personal friendship with, were participating in the Dallas Gay Pride parade. I never realized how big of a day this was for them. It was a day to express pride in their whole being.

I sat in my seat, having a self debate about my desire to simply go to the parade to support my LGBTQ friends. I’ve never been before.

I began to ask myself, why have I never shown up? Why was I even debating going to this parade? Ugh, I’m ashamed to even write and share this. I’m embarrassed, and upset with myself. So many beliefs and fears came to the surface.

The truth was, I was afraid to go to the Dallas Pride parade. I was afraid of how I would be perceived or even judged by friends and family of my Christian faith. I always felt conflicted when the subject of homosexuality came up in church. I have friends and family who are gay, bisexual and transgender. I knew in my heart that Gods love knows no boundaries. At least that’s the God I have come to know and love.

So, I made the decision to go to the Dallas Pride parade and “finally” show up for my friends, and loved ones. I got there and was amazed!! A parade is an understatement. There were people everywhere. I saw a few friends and observed the people around me. I have never seen people walk the streets of Dallas as happy and free without fear or care of judgement.

I couldn’t even enter the park without being told that I needed to either discard my purse or put my belongings into a clear plastic bag to ensure the safety of people. I’ve never felt more safe and protected IN MY LIFE. At least for one day, I witnessed freedom and protection in action. That feeling is rare for me as a person of color. I had a shared interest between racial justice and being an ally for equitable rights of the LGBTQ community. Intersectionality is what you call it.

It’s important to acknowledge that the Black Lives Matter movement has been primarily lead by queer women of color.

I know white people who are publicly silent about racism, and I also know black and brown people who are apart of the LGBTQ community who are publicly silent about racism. Sometimes, I feel like we think we have to choose between what we publicly stand for, as if we can’t be allies for both racial justice and LGBTQ rights. I’ve learned and accepted for myself that I don’t have to choose one over another. I can choose to stand for both and more. And so can you.

This awakening has really been heavy on my heart this week. A good friend of mine who happens to be a black woman, called to check on me. She seems to always know when my heart hurts. We arranged to meet up for coffee today to process our thoughts on racial injustice. I happened to share about my awakening and experience at the Dallas Pride parade. She mentioned that she was glad that I went. She also mentioned that she was there too. I was a little shocked, and I said “REALLY?!!” She leaned in close and said, “I was there too, and I’ve been in a same sex relationship for a year now.”

My jaw dropped, I bowed my head, I covered my face, and I cried. Here I am checking in with my friend about life as frequently do, and I never knew this part of her. I asked her why she didn’t tell me. And she said, “because I never knew you were an ally.” OUCH!!! And there stands the problem.

All I could think, do or say was “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry!” My friend, yes my friend, should have known that I support her in whoever she chooses to love. But she didn’t know, because of my silence. We hugged. I asked her if she was happy, and OMG I saw a side of her I’ve never seen before. My friend was in love, and I’ll never forget her smile at that moment. Pure black joy and love.

The life lesson…

All of the hate, bigotry, violence, and injustice that we’re seeing in the world, it is not a mistake.
The universe is showing us ourselves; both the conscious and subconscious parts within us that we have refused to resolve.

If you’re asking yourself what you can do to contribute to a better world, it’s not always about finding the answers of what you need to do. In this moment the question is asking yourself who do YOU need to become. For me, I need to be brave. I need to be bold. I need to be aware of myself and the world around me. I need to speak truth and I need to show up.

Our awakening is essential to the progress of humanity. My hope is that we all put in the necessary internal work to contribute to a better world.

This is my public apology to the LGBTQ community for my black silence. I know for myself the pain that silence causes. I hope that this encourages any and everyone who are allies in private for any cause, to show up and be an ally in public. It matters.

All in all, I’m grateful for grace.

~Chantel

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