Thursday, June 25, 2020

Show Yourself, I'm Ready to Learn

Exactly one month ago, the world shifted.  On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed while under arrest in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The weeks following have been filled with unrest, worldwide protests, marches, and declarations of support.  I have been following the news, doing my own research and have done a lot of thinking this past month... Mostly, it all came down to "do I say something or do I keep my mouth shut?"

A few weeks ago, I wrote a quick post on here for Blackout Tuesday on June 2nd.  I also joined in by posting a black box on my personal page and our business social media pages.  It was something that I believed was important, and it was something small I could do to show my support to people of color.  However, I never felt like that was enough.  This post has always been inside of me... and it's time to let it all out.

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I've never been very vocal about my personal beliefs here on my blog.  Last year, when I wrote about the 2019 Disney Rainbow Collection, I stated that "to put it simply, I believe that the world needs more love and less hate.  Love is love."  It's almost a year later, and it's painfully clear the world needs more love.  The world also needs more allies who are willing to stand up with people of color and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Like many of you, Eliot and I have been incredibly disturbed by everything happening in our country.  I've been at a loss for words... and after about a week of self-reflection, I realized that I have stayed silent for too long- mostly for fear of saying the wrong thing.  But I've grown as a person and I've learned a lot in the past few weeks.  

We must speak out.  We must not stay silent any longer.  Silence is not going to make a difference. We must raise our voices and fight for what's right.  We'll never know the pain, suffering and fear people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals experience; we understand that we'll never understand.  But we can learn, we can listen and we can stand up and fight alongside you.  Black Lives Matter.  LGBTQIA+ Lives Matter.

I know this isn't the usual, happy-go-lucky, magical content my regular blog readers have grown accustomed to... but this is really important to me, and it's important to Eliot.  While we love Disney and everything magical, we can't just turn a blind eye to the serious issues we face as a society.  There are days when I'd love nothing more than to be in Disney where the realities of the "real world" disappear... to escape into that "Disney bubble" that I love.  But, I've realized taking a break from reality is a luxury that people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals can never afford- even while at Disney parks.  They just can't disappear from the unjust society they have to live in everyday.  

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Acknowledging that racism, homophobia, discrimination and white supremacy exist in our society is an uncomfortable topic; however, it's an important one as it effects us all.

The past few weeks, I've been focusing my energy on becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.  It started with all of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, being at home under quarantine and not knowing what would unfold over the upcoming months.  Then, in early June my discomfort expanded when I took the time to do some self-reflecting regarding racism.  While it might be uncomfortable, I think it's necessary.

I wanted to take a good look at how I could be a better ally.  I feel like I've been pretty clear about my personal beliefs of the LGBTQIA+ community, but I haven't spent as much time focusing on people of color and how I can be an ally to them.

I used to be one of those people who said that they "didn't see color".  It was well-intended and I didn't mean it as in insult; I simply meant that my parents raised me to be kind to everyone.  To judge someone, or their abilities, based on the color of their skin, or who they love, is so foreign of a concept to me that I couldn't even fully wrap my head around it.  But hanging onto that statement is not helping us move forward.  

I've grown as an individual and learned that isn't the correct way to think about this.  If you are capable of visually seeing, you can clearly "see" different skin colors and skin tones.  The goal is to see it, acknowledge it and make sure that you aren't partaking in preconceived expectations based on that.  It also means you see and acknowledge that a person's skin color is part of who they are as a person- not something to ignore.

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It can be uncomfortable to talk about, but I'm ok with things being uncomfortable.  My comfort is not more important than someone else's basic human rights.  Everyone should have the right to sleep in their bed without fear of being shot and killed.  People should be able to interact with police officers without fear of being killed.  You should be able to go to the park without a lady falsely accusing you of harassment when you ask her to follow the park rules.  These are all things that should be, but as the past few weeks have proved- what "should be" and what "is" are two totally different things.

I can only imagine how infuriating this is for people of color.  This has all gone on for generations, for decades... and here we are in 2020.  Of course, I'll never truly know because I'll never experience it.  But I can tell from my own personal experiences than being judged unfairly is infuriating.  I can tell you that feeling like you are being silenced and no one is listening is absolutely infuriating.

Right now, going online is infuriating for me.  I've been online less and less because I can't handle it.  (And I also acknowledge that avoiding it is in fact, using my white privilege.)  I fully support the protests and marches happening across the country and across the world.  No, I don't condone looting, but I don't even know who is actually doing it.  I don't think it's the peaceful protestors... we're all too quick to judge.  

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If it is the protestors, then can you blame them?  I'd be mad that no one was listening to me too.  And you can bet that if someone was threatening my family, I'd burn the whole place down... so I'm not going to be a hypocrite.  Plus, isn't this what Colin Kaepernick was trying to do years ago?  It was never about disrespecting the anthem, the flag or our veterans.  He was trying to make a statement about police brutality.  And here we are years later... wishing it could be done "peacefully" without riots and looting.
Some of the comments I've seen online are horrific and I wonder who raised these people.  It also seems like a lot of people are trying to make this a political debate.  I don't feel like this is political, it's about human rights and doing what's right.

Until we can all stop arguing and start listening to each other, I'm afraid things aren't going to change.  But, for the first time in a while, I do see hope for progress.  Many allies are becoming more vocal, and maybe this will finally be the time where we see changes and move forward into progress.  I think we can all agree that it's obvious what we're doing, what we have been doing, is not working.

Over the past few weeks, I keep finding myself going back to one of my all time favorite Disney songs, "Show Yourself" from Frozen 2.  The song has meant a great deal to me personally, but there's one line of the lyrics that keep ringing in my head.  At the end of the first chorus, the lyrics are "Show yourself.  I'm ready to learn."  It really speaks to me regarding all of this.  It not only encourages someone to show their true, authentic self, but it also lets them know that you're ready to sit back to listen and learn.

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It's become crystal clear to me that we've (individually and collectively as a society) got a lot to learn- and acknowledging it is only the first step.  I'm sure we're all going to make mistakes along the journey, but the important thing is that we learn from them and don't keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

Eliot and I both agree that we need to learn more and to be more aware as allies.  I'm looking into books that I can read, articles online, and doing more research.  I'm going to be more aware of where we spend our money.  I've supported small businesses run by people of color and LGBTQIA+ individuals, and I want to do that more.  We're going to vote.  And Eliot and I are going to continue to focus on spreading love and kindness.

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it's that Eliot and I believe in love and in treating everyone with kindness.  It's as simple as that.  And to the people of color and LGBTQIA+ community- I see you, I stand with you, and I'll fight alongside you until there really is justice for all.  Show Yourself, I'm Ready to Learn.  °o°

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