when they go low, we go lower
my daughter told me i have a beautiful heart and that i needed to keep my peace, keep my calm, so the morning after the election i ended up at a yoga class.
the instructor arrived and unlocked the door. she was a young black woman. she said good morning and i said it back. she asked me how i was doing and i told her i was sad.
i’d decided to give myself the day to grieve, to acknowledge that underneath anger is sadness, to let myself feel disappointed.
“why are you sad?” the yoga teacher asked.
“because donald trump is president.” i said.
“oh.” she said. “i’m not sad.”
we went inside. she took off her coat. she’d been teaching for years. i hadn’t been to this studio in over a year. my stomach is soft. my underarms wiggle when i wave goodbye. she is fit. she works hard to be in her own skin, strong and teaching others.
“i’m not surprised at all. this is what america is. everyone likes to pretend there’s no problem, that we’re past racism, misogyny and hatred. but we’re not. i know that as a person of color and you know it as a woman.”
she was composed, honest and right.
“i agree with you.” i said “but today i’m sad.”
she wouldn’t budge. her wide eyes against her brown skin looked at me with patience.
“you know when you have an infection? that has to come out. it has to rise to the surface. it has to be exposed so you can deal with it. that’s what is happening now. we can’t pretend anymore, but that is how we’ll get through it.”
i was quiet and feeling more and more like a two-year old by the minute.
“i know you’re right.”
she smiled at me.
“okay. if you need to be sad, i get it. i’ll enter that space with you today.”
“thank you.” i told her.
here is something to know about white people – we know very little about being on the losing side. for many of us, our hoped for candidate lost. when you get what you want all the time, it can be difficult when things don’t go the way you thought they should.
but wait! you cry – this is more than being told no! this is wrong! this is hatred and greed winning the battle!
yes, and your point is?
what have we been saying we want?
we say we want to stand with the oppressed. this is what it feels like. it’s watching a rich, white man be given power and authority he doesn’t deserve and that he’ll execute poorly.
this feeling is normal for many, many americans. this is what it feels like to be the minority and see that life is truly not fair. it might be a new feeling for me or for you, but it’s an old, old feeling for so many others.
we need to quiet down and listen up.
we need to stop pushing to the front of the cell yelling about being locked up unfairly. instead let’s turn around and look who’s in here with us, shall we?
people who have been marginalized since the founding of this country. people who travel here for a better life and have to become our servants.
admit it white people – you don’t know how to lose.
well, there’s good news yet.
we are surrounded by folks who’ve been on the losing side for a long, long time. not only that but they are thriving. their lives are rich, creative and valuable and they know it better than anyone else. so how about we take on a new mantra?
“when they go low – we go lower.”
humility is the lowering of oneself. to give up your rights and learn from those who have volumes to teach us about how to live well through the next four years. we say we want the poor and marginalized lifted up until we have to identify with them.
approach someone who knows all too well about living in america and ask them how they are doing after this election. i bet they’re doing a lot better than you are. listen to them. learn from them. humble yourself.
i took my somewhat flabby, white self out onto the yoga room floor that wednesday morning. i listened to the voice of my teacher and did what she said. at the end of the class she reminded us that the toxins in our bodies were finding their way out in the midst of the heat.
that what is wrong in us must come to the surface.
that it’s not easy and it can seem too dark to see any way forward.
but i’ve heard a rumor about things being darkest before the dawn, about death not being the end of the story and that it’s not the american people who will have the last word.
the lord works in mysterious ways indeed.