“Even pain has its joy,” said a wise Russian whose statement became a proverb.
I have always found it difficult to find the positives or ‘learning’ from an arduous situation. After all, who wants to search for the goodness when you’ve just been dumped by the love of your life, lost your job or, worse, seen a loved one pass away? Not many us. However, as I am forced to be an adult, I am starting to see what the wise Russian was saying after all.
Last week, Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex wrote a heartfelt piece in the New York Times about her recent miscarriage. The article mentions how everyday moments can unexpectedly change a person’s life, their loved ones, and even the world, permanently. Markle touches on how Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s deaths were unpremeditated by the victims after doing simple acts such as visiting a convenient store or going to sleep. Or, how hundreds and thousands of people had started out their days like any other, only to die weeks later due to coronavirus after feeling slightly unwell. It makes me question how anyone can see the joy in such cruel scenarios. Yet, there is some, even if it’s tiny.
For George Floyd, the world finally took proper notice of the discrimination African-Americans face when confronted by the police; with a disproportionate outcome of death as a result. Breonna Taylor’s passing shone a much-needed light on violence against Black women, and how their deaths are often under-reported. Whether it’s at the hands of the police, lovers or ex-boyfriends/husbands, it’s a discussion that needs more media coverage. However, the scrutiny didn’t just stop there. Systemic racism, that has propped-up societies for centuries, also began to be dissected. In addition, it wasn’t just African-Americans who voiced their pain at facing discrimination, Black-Britains also spoke of their agony of not being able to break glass ceilings across numerous industries, in spite of vigorous efforts by previous generations.
Markle’s candidness is one of the reasons I will always root for her. In spite of facing relentless hounding by the media (albeit mainly from the British press), her wanting to disclose the pain of losing a child in hope of creating a more beautiful outcome that sparks public conversations that many women suffer in silence, is something I take comfort in.
As the world finally plucked-up the courage to ask Black people what it is like to be…Black, I too have found myself in uncomfortable scenarios at work speaking my own truth. I recognise that many organisations are trying to change their cultures to be more inclusive and diverse, and of course I support this for obvious reasons. But, the interim dredges-up stories of micro-aggressive bullying that far too many Black and Brown colleagues have been forced to face.
Over the past few weeks, I have struggled to accept that provisional moments that eventually lead to societal changes will be frustrating, tedious and, at worst, traumatic and painful. I understand that many White people are undertaking their own journeys to achieve racial harmony. This includes accepting their privilege and, most importantly, using it to empower others. However, telling my stories has forced me to reflect on why I have often been overlooked for promotions, despite receiving continuous praise for my ideas, work-ethic and overall knowledge. The same managers that applaud are also firmly holding the doors shut on my professional progress. This has left me feeling raw, angry and, at times, less trustful of who is truly on the frontline fighting for equality (or looking like they are).
Yet, I also know that I (and the many who look like me) must continue to tell our stories. If organisations are to really grasp how damaging and toxic work environments are for those deemed ‘other’, and for them to become inclusive, then these truths must be both told and heard.
And that’s where the beauty lies. If you’re asked to share your experiences, then I encourage you to do so. Not only does it give you the satisfaction that you’re doing your bit to demand change, it also helps others to better understand your trodden paths; even if they were enforced upon you. This results in creating empathy, and that’s where change begins – something I think both Markle and the wise Russian already understand.