When I was training to become a Zumba teacher (yes, I was once an aerobics instructor, don’t laugh) the trainer gave the class advice that has translated into many parts of my life. She said this:
“Know, ,that you will need to teach a new routine for 8-10 weeks. That people are not quick learner, that not everyone comes to every class, and not everyone has dance skills. You will have to teach a new routine ad nauseum until you cannot stand it anymore. That class that you show up to, thinking “oh my god, I cannot do this routine one more time”…. THAT is the FIRST class that your students will come to excited — feeling as if they “got it down” for the very first time. When you are worn out, and done, and never want to do this routine again, that will be the FIRST time that your class feels confident that they understand and can follow along.
Why do I bring this obscure and seemingly random “learning” to you, right now, when Minneapolis is burning and the nation is on edge? when nothing seems to have changed in the fight for racial equality?
Because I see my colleagues: black pastors, black activists, black communities. And I hear you saying, YOU ARE DONE. You are tired, you don’t want to have this same conversation, one more time. You are done talking. You are tired.
And I hear you and I see you and you are completely justified in feeling this way (not that you EVER need to hear that from me). But I understand why you are worn out, and let me offer this as a just a simple word of encouragement:
WE FEEL LIKE WE GOT IT DOWN FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME.
We — the white pastors and activists and allies — those of us who are in your class, and learning this dance of social justice, we have been fumbling along with two left feet, trying to learn the steps, so please hang on. (And you know we don’t have rhythm!)
We are starting to dance next to you with confidence, and we know you need a rest. We know you are tired. We know, ultimately, that WE need to be the ones to root out the white supremacy in the systems of our own creation. I get it. I see you. And I hear your cries. It needs to become our fight.
But here’s the thing: we still need you to need the class. I know you’re tired of the song. I know your tired of the routine. But please don’t give up just yet.
One of the reasons we are confident is that we have learned we should stay silent and let your voice lead. So please, please, please keep teaching.
Tell us how we can support you.
Tell us which move to make next.
We can finally follow along.
(Edit: and yes, I understand the utter absurdity of comparing doing the lifesaving work of racial equality from inside a brown body to being an aerobics instructor…. I hope that in that absurdity you find my desperation to know how much I want to encourage you right now.)