‘You don’t have to start perfect. You just have to start.’

I truly love this statement by a friend of a friend on FB. (Text included below, too.)
I feel that it is a very gracious open hand, with true understanding and empathy for a certain kind of oblivious white person who is only starting to realize that they have been oblivious. And specifically for Southern people, by a Southern person.
I also love the phrase “start imperfectly” and will be adding it to my personal collection of major life mottoes.
I offer one caveat, though. Her statement of “donate to ACLU and NAACP,” is very broad and could be a misstep. Everyone should try to direct their donations to on-the-ground organizations that are in urgent need, to create immediate action and benefit. Smaller orgs appreciate every dime, no gift too small! The national chapters of ACLU and NAACP are actually very well-funded right now. This list is specific to Charlottesville, which is still valid, but it can also serve as an example for people who want to start imperfectly in other communities or closer to home. Look for local chapters rather than umbrella orgs, use Charity Navigator for additional guidance, or ask a friendly neighborhood POC for recommendations. 🙂
Her statement:
I’m taking time out from my regularly scheduled facecrack fast & grief to bring you this: real talk from a country grown white southern belle: Contrary to what “elite snowflakes” might make you feel, you don’t have to do this “perfect”. You don’t have to eradicate all the little crevices of bigotry to speak up and pull a chair to the table. You don’t have to forsake your southern heritage or give up nascar to do a better job of being a neighbor. You just have to start. I didn’t know words in my vocab were racial slurs. I didn’t realize that I stereotyped folks or that I had some special beliefs that were as backdated as a hand-wringing washtub. I didn’t know I blundered my way through making friends and becoming and ally, and let me tell you, the minority folks I said some cringe-worthy things too didn’t correct me. It was my white friends that gently informed me what I was saying, what it meant, or how people hadn’t used those terms since 1954. Thank you for your kindness. It was important. You don’t have to start perfect. You just have to start. To all my family and friends who laughed at me and scoffed at me when I was devastated that Trump won the presidency. You asked me what I was “afraid of.” I said, that me & mine would be hurt by this. That it allowed hatred, bigotry and folks to think it was ok to bring out their shittiest impulses and thoughts and hurl them at others. I’m worried about basic things like affordable healthcare too. You said, “It won’t happen.” You said, “I’ll stand in front of you.” Here’s your chance. Stand up. Speak out. Call your Representatives & Senators. Shit, say you’re sorry this is uglier than you bargained for: Grandparents not being able to get into the country to see their grandkids, soldiers that have fought for us being deported, trans folks threatened with exile from our military that they bravely give their life to join, healthcare being threatened for everyone, people being attacked and mowed down in the street by white supremacists… when exactly were you going to stand in front of us? I’m not asking you to wear a pink pussy hat and give up Sunday’s target practice. I’m asking you to stop turning away from those things that make you a little uncomfortable. I’m asking you to start. I loved the confederate flag too before I realized that the love of it meant the right to own and enslave folks to most. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t mean that to you. It means it to most. When you learn your symbol isn’t what you thought it was, you put it away. You use some of those fine manners that our grandmama’s taught us to make everyone safe, not just the white folks comfortable. You don’t have to do this perfectly. You just truly have to start. Donate to the ACLU. Donate to the NAACP. Call your representatives, tell them who you are and tell them you don’t condone this (see above) ask them to do something about it. Smile at folks. I’m dead serious. Smile at folks that look different from you. Say it out loud on facecrack: I believe in freedom, equal rights & safety for everyone. Next month try: Black Lives Matter. Take down your confederate flag paraphernalia, in your own home. Put it away. Put a sticky note on it: “It isn’t what I thought it was.” Build a better South. This is how you start. Start now. Start imperfectly.
PS: I commented with a version of the intro above, which she deleted with this explanation:
Thank you for your thoughts & sharing. Here’s the thing: I’m talking directly to my people that turn away from any ounce of discomfort here. I’m talking small steps. I’m talking to the people of mine at the tip top of the priviledge chain if you will, the folks that still have the veil of privilege so thoroughly over their eyes they don’t understand that no action is akin to being a German that just kept watering the garden while Hitler rose to power. I’m talking about teaching people how to take the first steps towards becoming allies. And that starts with organizations they might know the names of. That starts with telling them I’m really truly not after their guns or way of life, unless their way of life directly damages another person. And the issue here, speaking as a hillbilly southern gal, is that we don’t always know that our actions, inactions or paraphernalia are damaging to others. I believe to the depth of my soul that reaching out a hand to people and asking them to join in a way that doesn’t shame or belittle is the most important first step we can take in growing the love and safety for everyone. When I felt that I was being “told” or chastised, I -in the time honored tradition of all my ancestors- did what my daddy calls “bowing up” which means got mean and mad. I was done listening. I can still get this way. So that’s why I said what I said, how I said it. I’m not going to get my people to attend any rallies or navigate anything probably at all online. I’m asking for a first step, and I understand that to so many folks – that first step feels scary, shameful and anxiety inducing. That’s how bigotry wins. That’s how it keeps on oppressing. That’s how it has it’s claws in us: It makes us feel like traitors for leaving the gang, even when the gang was ugly and bad. So I’m talking about commonality and I’m talking about the truth of it, which is that it’s ok to start small. It’s the “start” that counts. Thanks for reading – I wanted to explain my whyfores & wherealls. Much love to you.

About amywinns

Semi-snarky, semi-sincere, occasionally ranting, always paying attention. Feminist who can work a skirt and crack a joke. Grammar nerd who is also fun at parties. Mid-career writer/editor with 15 years’ experience in newspapers & magazines who now helps developers at a major media corporation communicate with the suits who write the checks. Pro-women, pro-family, pro-choice, pro-workingclass, pro-entrepreneur, pro-farmer. Like every other bourgeois Brooklynite, I choose local/organic/raw food — mostly vegetables — whenever possible/reasonable/affordable but I’m not a smug asshole about it. Hometown: Atlanta. Weird hobby: lindy hop. No pets, no kids, no thanks.
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