2020, the year of global suffering
Updated: Jun 26
Where do I even begin?
If you’re asking yourself the same question, you are not alone. An unprecedented pandemic, mass layoffs, economic crisis, and inability to gather with your closest loved ones is unsettling. In the midst of isolation and crisis, we’ve been grossly reminded of a centuries long truth. That racism, white supremacy and police brutality riddle this country. If that’s not overwhelming, I really don’t know what is.
We, as an entire country, are suffering.
During a recent weekly tea time call while processing emotional pain an interesting question came up. “Do you need to suffer in order to care?”
I had to chew on this for a minute and really apply it to current events.
With the current pandemic, my actions are driven with one goal: reduce the suffering of others. I am not part of the vulnerable population, statistically I would survive. This pandemic isn't killing people like me. It is killing people that I love. In order to prevent other people from suffering I’ve nearly eliminated time spent with friends and family. I don’t want to get sick myself, but the way I see it, is that we all need to take care of each other, in other to care of ourselves. To temper the feelings of loneliness, I found new hobbies, started facetiming more, and tuned into gratitude. To be frank, I haven’t suffered much from the pandemic. My job security is intact, my friends and family are healthy.
Racism. As a privileged white woman I benefit from racism. I am more likely hired over my POC counterparts, police are polite to me, I can go to any hairdresser. Not only that, white women are seen as a pinnacle of beauty in this country and many parts of the world. This is the definition of white woman privilege. As a Social Worker I’ve analyzed and checked this privilege over the years while simultaneously struggling with speaking against racism. Who am I to speak on the topic? I am not a POC, it really isn’t my place. While this may be true in some instances ie, talking when I should be listening or speaking as opposed to allowing space for POC to elevate their voices, I've learned that speaking up as a white woman is important. Why? Because it casts a net to the people in my network, in my workplace, in my life, and challenges their actions (or inaction) in addressing racism. When I use my privilege to reduce the suffering of others we all reap the benefits.
My answer to the question “Do you need to suffer in order to care?”
- Upon deep reflection, for me, suffering does not precede care. My values dictate where I put my energy, effort, and yes, care. I have not suffered from racism, on the contrary, I benefit from it. Up until this point, I have a suffered on a low level due to the pandemic. What I care for, what I speak up about, and how I take action are a direct reflection of my values, not how much I suffer.
What about you, do you need to suffer to in order care?
Can you apply this to the pandemic and racism in the United States?