The Grace To Fail By Sophia Ned-James

The recent demise of Senator Kamala Harris’ U.S. presidential bid got me thinking about how Black women and other women of color are rarely ever allowed to “fail up”. White men do it all the time! You need look no further than the current occupant of the White House for the most glaring example of this.

Even Black men are allowed to “fail up”, or at the very least, are afforded enough redemption to make money. Yes, Black men have it a lot harder than white men, because of white supremacy. But for every Colin Kaepernick that can’t catch a break, there are 10 Chris Browns out here flourishing. Yes, the same Chris Brown who has a nasty habit of beating up women is still out here selling out shows. That’s how patriarchy works.

Black women and other WOC don’t have it like that. Senator Harris, the only Black woman in a ridiculously large field of Democratic presidential candidates, certainly didn’t get to “fail up”. Hers wasn’t the only campaign with organizational and money issues. Yet she still suspended her run for the presidency way sooner than many of her lower polling, lesser known white male counterparts. Even if, as some hope and predict, she ends up on the ticket as the vice presidential nominee, that she “had to” quit so soon is telling.

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about how Black women and other WOC don’t get to “fail up” the way that men do. And I realized that a big part of the reason for this is that we don’t allow ourselves to do so. We’re our own harshest critics, and are often the loudest voices telling us what we can’t or shouldn’t do.

I really wish that Black women, in particular, gave ourselves the number of chances that mediocre white men give themselves. After all, we’ve proven time and time again that, when it comes to beating the odds, Black women truly are undefeated. By the time most of us reach adulthood, we’ve learned how to make a way out of no way and overcome obstacles that would have flattened anyone else.

Yet, when we make mistakes in our careers, our families, or in life itself, we beat up on ourselves harder than anyone else. Sure, we pick ourselves back up and keep it moving, but we often carry the baggage of those mistakes with us, limiting how far we allow ourselves to go.

I just think we need to get better at forgiving ourselves for the stumbles we make in life. I mean, aren’t we supposed to learn and grow from our mistakes? Aren’t we often better people for them? So why are we so hard on ourselves?

Today I implore you to allow yourself the grace and freedom to make mistakes and grow. You are the sum total of your experiences, both positive and negative. You wouldn’t even be YOU without the tears you’ve shed, the pain you’ve felt, or the stupid stuff you’ve done.

Mistakes and pitfalls are part of the process and integral to your journey. You’re stronger because of them. You’re better equipped to take on even tougher challenges because of them. Now you only need to believe that you’ll ultimately win because of them.

So when you fall, pick yourself back up and reach higher. Don’t just keep it moving, keep it moving on up (cue The Jeffersons’ theme song here). When you reach one goal, aim even higher for your next one. And when you reflect on your life, be sure to celebrate the fullness of your journey, because you couldn’t have gotten where you are without being where you’ve been.

We all fail sometimes. That’s just how life goes. But as Black women and other WOC, we have to realize that we can “fail up”, too. We can falter and then climb higher. Because we really are that amazing.

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