Find your brave

November 14, 2016

The world got turned upside down this week, and most of the people I know and love are reeling. The fear of seeing all that has been fought so hard for being undone is too real… and the reality of racism and sexism and hatred of the other surging in our country is terrifying and frustrating and disheartening.

I feel all of that. And I am so tired of having to be the bigger person… of having to work twice as hard to be thought of as almost as good (whether it’s about my race or my gender or both)… and then having to find a way to get along with the people who think that way… and the message this country just sent to me is – too bad, be ready to work even harder, because your other-ness offends me.

I’m sickened at the thought of people I love being targeted because of their name, their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, or their religion.

I’m scared.

I have friends who are marching in protests and diving in to work with organizations that are ready to fight for our civil rights in the coming years. I know writers far more eloquent than I are already penning essays and opinion pieces and providing sage advice on what we all need to do next. I am going to join in and do my part in the ways that feel right to me — I hope we all will.

I wish I had some great contribution to make to these well-expressed rallying cries. I’ve started and deleted so many posts this week… because my heart is heavy for other reasons outside of the election, from the things that come when life doesn’t stop because you got scared and confused or blindsided by the world you live in… and the words have been wrapped up in that and struggling to find a way out.

But I sat down today to try to write this because I keep having this thought and I figured if it wouldn’t leave me, it was worth something:

Find your brave.

We’re all brave in different ways. Some people march in the streets, some of us (myself included) are so paralyzed by the idea of being in a large crowd that the protest is almost more terrifying than what we’re standing up against. Some of us can write. Some make speeches. Some can volunteer to help an organization that steps between those who need help and those trying to harm them.

There are all kinds of ways to be brave. For me, from the earliest point in my life, it started with two simple words.

“I’m Black.”

I’ve spent my entire life being told by people I wasn’t related to: “No one would even know you were Black if you didn’t tell them.” To which I say, “Why wouldn’t I tell them?”

My parents made this very clear: we were Black. There was no confusion, no wondering. It was simple. So I live by keeping it simple. And I respond to the curious looks that, I’ve learned over the years, mean “what is she” by saying, “I’m Black.” I tell a story the first day in the writers’ room to make it clear so no one has to wonder. I own who I am, and I do it knowing that sometimes after I say it out loud, I will see that subtle shift in a person’s eyes… the one that says that knowledge has changed how they look at me. And then I own who I am by not caring what they think.

I recently spoke with a group of young writers who will go out into the world with the word “diverse” attached to them. They’re the diverse writers – the ones who will be different, and often a minority, in their rooms. And I think maybe I didn’t tell them this, and so I’m correcting my mistake because I owe them this…

You will meet people who will see you as less than, who will think you only got the job because you fill a quota. They won’t know anything about you… they won’t know about how you worked graveyard shifts to put yourself through college and how you took responsibility for and pay (yourself) thousands of dollars in student loans because your education was that important to you… they won’t know that you wrote till 3 a.m. on weeknights and all weekend long around day jobs because that was all the time you had and you knew you had to write to be a writer… they won’t know about the twelve specs and six pilots and the dozen short stories you wrote to prepare yourself when opportunity came… they won’t know about the literally thousands of pages you wrote that no one will ever see because they were never about making money. Their value was in making you a better writer.

They won’t know these things about you… but you will. And you will show them that you earned your job by being the best you that you can be… by proving that you belong, no matter what they think.

You’ll find your brave.

Then reach back and help someone else find theirs. Help that next young diverse writer who has climbed as far as he or she can, who just needs someone who’s done it before to help them take the next step.

Then take your brave out into the world with you.

If you see a man harassing one of your female friends… tell him to stop.

If you see someone treating someone like an “other,” tell them to stop.

If you see wrong, do what you can to make it right.

It will be terrifying. It will be hard. But it’s what makes you who you are. And it’s how we show the people who are scared to speak and to act how to do their part.

You’ll get tired. Hell, I’m already tired. And angry. And frustrated. And sometimes you’ll feel hopeless.

But you’re gonna get up the next day and do it again anyway.

Because you’re brave.

You came that way.

We all came that way.

We just can’t forget it.