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There is a lot going on in the world right now that so many of us feel unprepared to deal with.
From coronavirus and business shutdowns, to volatile racial tension around the country, 2020 has been a year for all of us to step back and reevaluate our beliefs and our values.
For me, the most unexpected challenge over the past week was trying to figure out how to root out my own unconscious racial prejudice, to purposefully seek out and share alternative viewpoints and lived experiences from black people, and to check what I was learning against my faith beliefs… all while trying to navigate the appropriate response as a business owner with a small but meaningful platform.
After hearing more about the hurt that my black colleagues and audience had been experiencing, I realized that I had a lot of work to do when it came to promoting diversity. Both in my personal and professional circles as well as my public content and message.
As an example, I acknowledge that my podcast guests have been primarily white women. While I know that this is an unfortunate reflection of the overall lack of diversity in the dietetic/coaching profession (90% of RDs are white), I am taking responsibility for using my platform as a way to lift up black voices who have great wisdom and unique perspectives to share when it comes to physical and mental health.
And I sincerely apologize if my lack of diversity on my podcast caused anyone hurt or harm. I want all people to feel welcome and safe in any space I create, including my virtual spaces, and I am committed to doing what I can to make this a reality in the nutrition field.
Much of this work is behind the scenes and in collaboration with other nutrition professionals who are committed to righting the wrongs of the society we live in.
And everything I do is informed by my desire to serve God and do what is right in His eyes. I refuse to bow down to culture or fear of man, and public shame has no place in promoting social justice and inner heart changes.
It’s one thing to express sincere repentance for problematic behavior or beliefs that have contributed to systemic racism in our country.
It’s another to jump on hashtag trends on social media out of the desire to look good and save face online, pretending to care about racial inequality but taking action driven by the avoidance of shame.
I shared some of this on my Instagram account but I thought it was appropriate for this email as I make decisions about how to move forward in my business while continuing the work of healing racial inequality in my own community.
We don’t pursue justice for the approval of others. We do it because it’s what God asks of us.
It’s Him who knows the heart behind our actions, not strangers on social media. Pursuing others’ approval for our actions misses the point of loving our black neighbors well.
So if you’re like me and wanting to make a difference from a place of authentic care for black people and the racially-caused challenges they face, ask yourself…
How can *I* make the biggest impact on repairing the racial inequalities that exist in our country?
Then take that action. Rinse and repeat.
And remember… Announcing that action on social media doesn’t make it more effective or more helpful.
Before you share publicly, take a moment to consider if sharing what you’re doing is helping black people, or if it’s primarily helping you feel better or to avoid criticism.
If you’re posting to avoid criticism, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
The fact is, there are many different ways to support your black friends and neighbors right now that have nothing to do with posting on Instagram or making a big show about what you’re doing.
Don’t let others shame you into showing up the way they have deemed most effective.
For some people, the most effective action they can take right now is educating their children. Or educating themselves to prepare for their next best action. Or offering their support directly to their black friends and neighbors and asking those individuals what would help them best right now.
None of that demands an associated social media post for it to “count”.
Many people feel paralyzed about how to respond to everything right now for fear of criticism.
But it’s fear of criticism that prevents racism from being taken on most effectively.
God sees your heart in whatever action you take. Your main priority should be taking the spirit-led action that He is calling you to take.
And every time you take a step, continue asking Him what else he would have you do to help bring more justice into the world for those who are oppressed.
That’s how we all collectively move towards a better world… one that reflects the Kingdom Jesus came to establish.
And we all need to be very mindful of what we say, especially when we’re in a position of influence.
Words matter. Beliefs matter. They create our reality.
Our identity drives our behaviors and creates real world outcomes. This isn’t just “woo woo” spiritual stuff. Science supports this.
As I learned from Steven Bartlett this week, there’s a phenomenon called “labeling theory” where the labels you give someone become self-fulfilling. How we label others AND ourselves will affect the actions we take and the way we treat others.
I never want to use words that cause anyone to feel less than or ashamed of the person God created them to be. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of language being used online right now that is doing more harm than good when it comes to perpetuating negative self-image and shame.
My ultimate goal throughout all of this is to support black people, to listen to them, and to lift them up. To help them feel safe and loved and seen as equal and worthy. To help create a world where they have the same opportunities for success and happiness that every person has. To ensure they know I value their knowledge and expertise and unique perspective.
And much of what I believe will make that happen most effectively is NOT something I’m going to be sharing on Instagram. Because I don’t need to publicly show off exactly what I’m doing for it to make an impact.
As a woman of faith, I want to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Anger can be righteous but only when it leads to godly action.
Justice is not justice if it’s based on violence or oppression.
Humility is required but true humility is not subservience or self-deprecation.
And I refuse to let “fear of man” be what drives any of my decisions or actions in response to the pain and injustice my black sisters and brothers are experiencing.
The Bible verse I keep coming back to this week is this…
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act JUSTLY and to love MERCY and to walk HUMBLY with your God.” – Micah 6:8
So I encourage you to ask yourself… how can I promote justice and mercy in a way that stems from humility rather than pride?
And when you get the answer for what action to take, have the courage to DO it.
Thank you for reading through to the end of this email… it was a long one but one that I felt needed to happen before I return to my normal business activities.
Take care of yourself, and be gentle with yourself and others.
❤️Your friend and coach,
Laura Schoenfeld, RD
PS – Feel free to DM me on Instagram if you want to share any thoughts with me. I value you and your opinion, even if it’s different than mine.
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