You can’t get to a better present or a new future without acknowledging the past, and you can’t apologize your way out of bad behavior without reform.
Relationships, reparations, business, neighbors… all of it is really about relationships, is it not?
Most of us say we want a better or brighter future, but fail to do anything different. We sit here and wait on someone else to change it so we can step into it and say, “Look at me in this new thing!” Then we pat ourselves on the back and wonder why we get stuck again.
We hurt each other, and sometimes we take a corrective course, but fail at acknowledging what happened. Can you imagine bringing your car home from the shop with only three wheels? The shop fixed everything else, but the front passenger tire was removed because it was flat. Well, you don’t have the flat tire anymore, right? Have you ever had your shoes polished? They look so great afterwards – all clean and shiny. But what if you got them back with a heel missing? Yes, it’s like that when you forget the acknowledgement. Your shoes look great, but the function is just off, and no one notices how shiny they are, just that your heel is missing and you’re walking weird. Then to add to the ridiculousness of it all, you’re trying your darnedest to ignore what’s wrong with the shoes and keep talking about how clean and shiny they are.
Relationships are like that. Corrective action doesn’t mean a whole lot without conversation about the problem and a meaningful apology, and especially if it has been an ongoing issue. The other person likely sees what you’ve corrected, but is now standing by for you to resume your previous behaviors. Why? Because there was no conversation or apology, and the recipient/s of your bad behavior are likely operating in protective mode. That is the foundation, the frame, that you created by skipping over key steps and actions. You’re just driving around with your person or people, bumping along without that tire and wondering why the ride is so rough. Your passenger/s know… but you’re still pretending you’re in a new vehicle.
Our country, our government, our systems have this same issue. We have whole systems put into place that were born out of racism, classism, sexism, etc. The sentiments of our time may not be the same as they were then (we say), but the systems are still in place bringing with them into our present and our future the spirit, the energy, and the isms that put them there in the first place. That’s us gimping along in our polished shoes with the heel missing. We keep saying we’re fixing things, making them better, but we’re failing to recognize or acknowledge what got us here in the first place. We can keep shining those shoes, but until we go back and look at what’s missing, acknowledge that it’s broken, we are not going to fix it. Fixing it doesn’t mean that everyone gets to have shoes with broken heels, or cars with only three tires so that no one notices what’s wrong.
I think this is why we don’t like to discuss reparations for Black folks. This means we have to take accountability for the brokenness that we caused. This means we have to acknowledge that everything isn’t fair and equal now just because we marched and made new laws. This would mean we would have to acknowledge that we have a whole group of people that are severely affected still because 1. the life we forced them into was an unspeakable horror to begin with; 2. we are pretending that we made it right with laws; 3. we refuse to look at the space we created and the foundation we keep polishing (original systems); 4. we think we apologized long ago; 5. we think they should be happy with shiny broken shoes.
You can always make a difference, but pretending and turning away will keep you stuck. If you’re stuck, you’re likely holding other people down with you or trying to keep them there with you. Don’t turn over a new leaf, plant a whole new garden.
- Acknowledge what went wrong.
- Take corrective action.
- Make a commitment to do better or cease the hurtful behavior.
- Stay in integrity; keep your word because you are a keeper of your word.