Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Learning, Listening, and Letting Go

This is an open letter to all the white people out there who want to grow in ally-ship, or become co-conspirators for change.

If you are anything like me, you are starting to feel the exhaustion of the past few weeks. Its an exhaustion in my bones, in my soul, in my heart. It comes from fear, anger, and supreme sadness; but for me it also comes from wanting to do better, to be better, to stand up for Black Lives better. It is the exhaustion of wanting to keep my family safe from COVID, but also recognizing that that safety is a privilege in the face of another pandemic--that of the continuous racism that has eaten away at the very bones of this country. It is the exhaustion of not wanting to make mistakes--but the truth is its better to try, make mistakes, and learn from them than do nothing.

I believe everyone needs to practice some self care, because this is not a short term fight. This evening I witnessed an important panel discussion between black women and Elizabeth Warren put on by Higher Heights for America and sponsored by Advancement Project. I'm not sure how I found it, but I was so grateful to have stumbled upon it. Listening to intelligent, empowered women, talking about how to change, with candor and vulnerability was soothing to my exhausted soul. I also gained insight into what needs to be done to change policing, to advocate for justice, and to ensure that all votes matter.

The moment was marred, however, by the hateful trolls in the discussion group who simply want to cause more trouble, to attack anyone they disagree with. Men with sexist, racist, disgusting agendas.  In my exhaustion, my temper is short. My desire to shut these people up was difficult to control. But, I know that poking bears (or trolls) gets us nowhere. So I took a few deep breaths and focused on the lessons I could learn.

These lessons include: the importance of listening, learning, and letting go of the idea that I know best. I never thought I did, but I have to remind myself that my role here should be about amplifying the voices of others. As I work toward my own dream of using the power of creativity to bring people into discussion and communication, my role needs to be one of listener, learner, and advocate. These are things I must do, even through my exhaustion.

For the truth is, exhaustion is no excuse. These feelings I'm feeling are the tip of the iceberg for black people who have to be alert and deal with hatefulness and racism on a daily basis. Sure, I've experienced bias and hatred toward myself and my family, but not in the same way. Not to the point of exhaustion.

So, I will rest, but only long enough to regain my strength. And then I will listen. I will learn. I will advocate. I will fight. And I will let go of any assumptions I have. It is my job to find a path to be the best ally, and to have this conversation with other white people. It is my job to work through the exhaustion and fear, because I believe that the time for change was long, long ago.

So, white people, take breaths. Find your center. Rest if you need to. But then join me to learn how to be a true ally, a true co-conspirator that wants to truly help make a difference in this country, and in  the lives of our black brothers and sisters (not as heroes, but as fellow human beings).