What you do with it
matters more than you know
I started this post with what I thought would be a heartfelt apology to you. I doubled back and realized something and changed my mind about saying “I’m sorry.” I want to describe first what made me change my mind and then explain why it challenged me to do something different with what I just learned.
You are an incredible person for sharing this story at all. If you had written, “fuck an ally, they suck and are useless,” after what happened to you, I would have completely understood that perspective — I wouldn’t blame you at all for feeling that way.
But, that’s not what you did. Instead, you showed up more for a would-be-ally than any one of us has shown up for you. Instead, you took something horrible that should not have happened and flipped it, reframed it, and used it as a vehicle to teach us something about what you need from an ally. You opened yourself up, described your own inner growth, how you gave it a chance and illustrated with perfect clarity, a time you were harmed and no one assisted you — even though you had helped this ‘ally’ — they did not help you.
I think most people can understand to a degree the pain that comes along with being let down by a trusted friend. What many of us cannot understand is the way that trauma is compounded with the specific circumstances faced by black women every day in this country.
Punishment for merely existing, or for expressing yourself differently must feel like imprisonment of the soul.
And yet, despite this horrific experience, despite this betrayal, you have channeled that pain into something useful — for me.
So, I will not apologize to you even though that would make me feel better about what happened. I realized as I was saying how sorry I was that by apologizing I was only trying to rid myself of these uncomfortable feelings, so I could just “move on.”
How privileged of me.
I’m not going to take the privileged path on this one. Instead I am going to sit in this discomfort. I am going to absorb your story and take your direction seriously. I am going to tell you that this story will be in my mind the next time I witness anyone being abused — verbally or physically — and it will be what makes me take action. It will fuel whatever emotion I need to act on my compassion instead of sitting there paralyzed, not living up to my promises.
It isn’t an apology that you deserve from me — you deserve amends from the person you trusted, for sure, but amends go beyond words. What I need to express to you however, is gratitude.
I am grateful to you for your ability to take something terrible that happened and turn it into something meaningful for others. I appreciate the strength I can see in your character and the example you’ve set for me — just being a better human being — your resilience is astonishing.
You have my respect and admiration. I appreciate you.