Written by MJ Ryan, SheEO Development Guide
When the white women of SheEO did the Race2Dinner conversation with Regina Jackson and Saira Rao (https://race2dinner.com/) about white women’s role in upholding white supremacy, one of the insights most of us came away with was seeing our desire to be “nice” as one of the key ways white women are complicit in upholding racism. We don’t want to upset anyone—we don’t want to ruin the Thanksgiving dinner by calling out Uncle Fred’s racist comments, or risk alienating our relationship with our sister by confronting her racist attitudes. So we stay silent. And silence is complicity. In order to do our part, we white women must get over being nice. We have to be ok with causing discomfort. With people being unhappy or angry with us.
That idea has stuck with me, over four months later. Because it had the ring of a profound truth and I try to pay attention to those. That’s why I leapt upon this graphic when I saw it. Yes, let’s stop trying to be nice and be kind instead.
I love this definition of kindness because it extends beyond the self and asks what the kindest thing to do for the community, not for our own self-image. It made me think of the 3 gates of speech that I have seen attributed to Rumi and to various Buddhist teachers. Whomever said it first, it’s a valuable practice. Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates:
At the first gate, ask yourself “Is it true?”
At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”
At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”
If we apply this to calling out racism and any other injustice, the first gate says you must speak the truth regardless of fear, the second says it is necessary for us to speak up for change to happen, and the third asks us to consider how to frame what we have to say in a way that maybe can be heard by the other person, and even if it’s not, we are being kind to all those who are oppressed by such words and actions.
Starting today, I am striving for kindness, not niceness.