Systemic Resilience

Speak Up for Your Needs
February 1, 2023
February 15, 2023

Systemic Resilience

Being Black and Resilient in America is too much. 

February is Black History month, a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans throughout the history of our country. All of which happened, and is still happening, against the backdrop of a horrific history of oppression and ongoing racism. The amount of resilience needed to create, develop, parent, invent, lead, teach and otherwise do amazing things is impressive and awful. I have seen posts from Black colleagues stating, “I am tired of being resilient.” I agree. 

It is not enough to admire people’s resilience. We also need to look at the conditions they are operating under and ask how we might make it easier or more equitable. Life is hard enough for each of us due to our vulnerability as mere mortals with more emotions than intellect. Improving society is a big task that can feel super overwhelming. Thankfully this is not a solo sport.  

I am a 60-year-old white woman who grew up surrounded by family and friends who look like me. I had no awareness of how exhausting day to day incidents of racism are, until I was past the age of 50 and started to have friends who are black. I would describe my previous awareness as oblivious and naïve, which is a big part of white privilege. I am still on a steep learning curve.  Fortunately, there are things I plan to continue to do to make a difference. 



  • Pay attention to my friends and colleagues in meetings and conversations about the reality of racism. 
  • Notice the posts and videos online that speak to ways to make a difference.  
  • Believe people when they describe being treated differently due to the color of their skin. 


  • Use my voice and position to encourage policies or ideas that are helpful. 
  • Support colleagues or friends in the work that they are doing.  
  • Talk about what I am learning with my family and friends. Explaining ideas to others has helped me clarify my thoughts. 

All of these – learning, listening, acting – involve noticing what is going on right around me and finding ways to alter the narrative. When I first started to pay attention, I felt like an idiot for not recognizing the layers of racism all around me. I probably still miss a lot. So much is built into “business as usual.” Continuing to learn, listening to those who have experience, and finding ways to increase equity and fairness builds resilience in our community. 

Paying attention to the inequalities in our world builds your wisdom and capacity for change. Working together against racism builds social bonds that make all of us stronger, together. We will always need resilience to face the challenges in our lives. I hope that someday the need is more evenly balanced and that as a community we are there for one another.  


Laura A. Gaines

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