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Accept—No! Acknowledge—YES!

One of the dictates of mindfulness is the importance of accepting—even accepting our unacceptance. Acceptance is hard for me. Besides for the difficulty of being present and seeing clearly what is occurring, acceptance in its common usage implies acquiescence or resignation—believing that this is how it will always be. This sits uneasily with me. There is much in the world that I don’t want to accept. For example, as so eloquently and compassionately explained in Pushout by Monique Morris, Black girls are way more likely to be incarcerated and less likely to graduate on time from high school than White girls. I don’t want to accept that truth as immutable.

Accept can be defined as to endure without protest or reaction; to regard as proper, normal, or inevitable. Given these definitions, there’s a lot in this world that I am unwilling to accept. In contrast, to acknowledge is to recognize as genuine or valid. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, acknowledge evolved from a Scottish word for investigation and trial. Acknowledgement is not a superficial “yes, but” response. Rather it is a deep grappling with and examining what is true—challenging what I have actively or passively ignored.

If I am to affect change, I must acknowledge that there are huge racial inequities in educational experiences and outcomes in the US. I aspire to acknowledge, but not accept, this. Without clarity in the distinction between acknowledging and accepting, my desire to not accept a reality as unchangeable can also lead me to deny that reality—to not acknowledge its truth.

A first step in claiming our agency and finding compassion for ourselves and others will be to acknowledge the inequities, the pain, the fears in our relationships. I seek to acknowledge the current and historical pain in human relations—including my own. I also seek to acknowledge my White privilege, and how it has served my ancestors and continues to serve me. This requires grieving: accepting the loss of a past that never was, and that we may not see the future that we desire. Beliefs of equal opportunities, that some people are evil and others good—lots of justifications and binaries—need to be acknowledged as the delusions that they are. Acknowledging is an act of love—and reveals all the ways that unacknowledged fears have obstructed love.

As I acknowledge, I am able to aspire (see blog, Striving vs. Aspiring) for change. I acknowledge the current reality, seeking to compassionately understand each player, and aspire to equity—where each person is supported as they need to flourish. I aspire for my behaviors to be grounded in love, informed by fear but not unthinkingly driven by it—also acknowledging that I am a work in progress, and will undoubtedly blunder. In 2020, the US’s first Junior Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman declared,

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew

That even as we hurt, we hoped

That even as we tired, we tried

As I acknowledge, my aspirations grow. Sixty years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated at the Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C., "I have a dream ... where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers." As I acknowledge that we are far from realizing this dream, love shows that it is possible for this to not be a quoted platitude, but a reality—if people can create racism, with love and dedication they also can eradicate it. We can have an educational system where all Black girls are cherished, nurtured, and able to realize their potential. We can walk together, hands joined, as a global family.

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