The Healing Collective Global is committed to providing platforms for the voices that have been silenced for far too long. Telling our stories is how we heal. Around the world, The Well is where women, girls, and caretakers go to fetch water and tell their stories. Stories that share happiness and sorrow. Stories that share triumphs and burdens. Stories that remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. A shared load is easier to carry.
The Healing Collectively Blog is intended to be the place where everyone can come to learn from the lived experiences of those who must battle daily against the oppression at the intersection of race, class, and gender. I am honored to share the first story for The Well from a voice that is deeply respected in the international diplomatic community and fully trusted by me. The story contains all you need to know about her for you to listen and learn. No names will be provided in this column designed to remind our country’s leaders that while we may need to cover our mouths to stay safe from COVID-19, we will not be silenced.
Written exclusively for The Well - Washington DC - June 5, 2020
As a Foreign Service Officer, I help to represent the values the United States has yet to achieve. Despite its unresolved traumas and deep, systemic flaws, I committed to the United States and to telling its story abroad, even though this story was never meant to include people that look like me. I committed to the idea that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Surely with a black man as President, and an army of liberal civil servants teeming with good intentions, lasting social change was within reach. Lending my face to the story of the American Dream was the least I could do.
Up until now, diplomats of color portrayed the best of the United States in the worst of circumstances. As we witnessed vast inequality, civil unrest, and cruel oppression in host countries, we lent our faces to deliver condescending platitudes on how to “do better.” We acknowledged that we weren’t perfect, but never uttered the ugly R word to describe our condition. As is the U.S. tradition, we put our bodies on the line and took the hypocrisy for the team.
What I have experienced these last 3 weeks, and indeed these last 3 years, has made me reevaluate this country and my place in it. Our country’s refusal to confront racism and abolish a white supremacist agenda has manifested itself in two ways. Firstly, this cancer has successfully passed from generation to generation, killing its children and preventing any real growth as a society. Secondly, the schisms laid bare have completely undermined our ability to influence and shape a world that is also ailing. Leaders mock us, while their people march for us. All the while we diplomats work to keep the American experiment alive, as unwitting victims and purveyors of the cancer.
Fortunately, today there is a shift. With the justified outrage at the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, our wounds lay bare and demand healing. The Black Lives Matter movement, solidarity to end institutional oppression, and the abolishment of racism is a shared, global movement illustrating that this is more righteous than any policy we could peddle. At one point I resented the silence of my own leaders, but now I see that the rest of the world marches and chants for us instead. Returning the platitudes we once delivered, the rest of the world urges us to do better.
When I committed to this career and assumed that lending my face was enough to effect change, I didn’t know my value or my power. Now I understand that my role lies in demanding the change we wish to see and insisting on the realization of a dream that does include me. That dream is global, ancestral, and one of ultimate healing.
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