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Dear Friend Who Supported Me
A thank-you to someone who provided a lifeline at a time of crisis
I couldn’t publish this at the time, but I wrote it after an experience of racism from a white leader at my last company. It shows both how racism can affect people AND how important support is.
Dear friend who supported me,
You didn’t know it at the time, but you provided a necessary lifeline at a point where I thought I might drown from the pain of the racism I’d faced. It had been a hard few days. After the original incident I began to wonder if I was right to see it that way. After all, taken on its own, it didn’t look so bad. But those who knew the backstory and the culture reassured me that my initial reaction was right.
What I did not anticipate - how could I have - was that this particular incident would take me back to a time in my childhood where I felt less than safe.
A time that was turbulent, unsettled.
A time where we’d left the place I called home and moved to somewhere new where I didn’t feel I fitted in.
A time when I could not be open about my home life, and where I never knew what chaos would await me.
Though I shut away many of the feelings related to that, I know now that it was traumatic, and that the incident of racism reawakened some of that trauma.
In the moment where I had to confront the person who had harmed me, I didn’t recognise myself. I was perspiring, nauseous and found it hard to speak. I learned later that this was also a trauma response, brought on by the annihilation of the safe space I thought I’d been in.
It was a hard thing to realise that one person could shatter that sense of security. But I was grateful for the support of all those who listened, helped me process, suggested coping mechanisms. These things allowed me to rediscover some balance. And although the scab is thin, it is now there.
As things have turned out, I won’t have to work with that person again. But it’s reminded me, as if I didn’t know, just how harmful racism can be, and how essential it is to eradicate it. Because it’s not just about what happens in the here and now, it’s about all the layers of trauma during the past decades.
Nobody should have to go through this. No person who faces isms should have to be traumatised. A world where that no longer happens, where everyone belongs and is truly equal, will finally put that behind us.
By supporting me, friend, you gave me hope that we can get there. And you also provided the certainty that I would survive that experience no matter how unlikely it seemed in the moment.
If you never knew how much I appreciated that and, more importantly, you, I hope you know now.
As I said, it took a while to be able to publish this. For a long time, the experience was too close and too raw (and that feeling can still sneak up on me sometimes), but that support was - and remains steadfast.
Allies and advocates, sometimes this is what we need, so think about how you can support those around you who might be having a similar experience.
Thanks for reading,
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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Cover photo courtesy of Canva.