Honoring from Afar

As I sit here half a world away from our home in Seattle, I want to take a moment to honor Americans of every color, ethnicity, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and disability.  I want to honor not just Americans but anyone who is trying to make America their home.  I want to honor those in America who are currently fighting for their lives or fighting for others’ lives as once again, the United States tries to make sense of the many challenges with racism and oppression.

Since September, I have been conducting therapy sessions with some of my clients online through telemental health.  Since March, something very unusual has happened.  My clients and I have all been going through the same experience, the global pandemic.  For the past couple of weeks, my clients have all been going through yet another similar experience, the impact of nationwide protests and violence in the aftermath of yet another incident of police brutality in America, resulting in another death of a black man.  As I read and watch the news daily, I feel deeply affected by the trauma but am aware that I am on an entirely different continent from my clients, my friends, my family, and my fellow citizens who are in the midst of it all.

I remember the first time I lived abroad and beared witness to the racism in America from afar.  I was living and studying in Sweden during my junior year abroad in college and the talk of Stockholm was the LA riots and the beating of Rodney King.  I remember hearing northern Europeans comment, question and judge.  Similar to back then, my initial reaction to current events was disgust, embarrassment, and of course, grief.  And once again, I am aware of the reactions of shock and disbelief from Europeans.  I have caught myself resisting returning home and tempted to convince my family that we could have a better life if we stayed in Spain.

I do remember one gem that came out of my process and conversations in Sweden; respecting how so much of America’s struggles stem from being perhaps the most diverse country in the world, thus its’ nickname, “The Melting Pot.” Recently, a close friend wrote to me, “I hope you don’t think of America and its issues (of which there are many) as a bad thing but yet enough to need to make this country better.”  Then, talking to a Danish friend about our upcoming departure from Spain, I heard myself explain that as much as we would love to stay, “our country needs us.”

This week, I had the opportunity to meet virtually with several of my clients and came away feeling grateful to them for sharing with me their sadness, confusion, anger, and shame with regards to being a community member in the midst of so much racial turmoil and conflict.  I am particularly grateful that they all seem to want the same thing; to grow and heal and help others do the same.  I am proud to have so many people in my life who have the courage to stand up and fight racism and oppression, who want to understand what they have been taught by their culture and who want to be white allies.  As we prepare our family for transitioning home, I feel a heavy heart but coated with inspiration to get back and do my part, as an American, to grow and heal while helping others do the same.  I also maintain hope that one day, America will be the melting pot it was intended to be.

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