As a white American citizen, I used to understand racism through an old lens, the lens of hatred and violence. Therefore, I determined, I wasn’t racist. Why? Because I wasn’t violent or hateful against people of color. Phew. Conversation complete.
But I couldn’t have been more ignorant.
In the past few weeks, I have been listening to my BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) community with a heart wide open, realizing that my BIPOC brothers and sisters were telling me something I didn’t yet understand. And I realized, too, that in my quest to dismantle my own ignorance and bring to light the hidden pockets of my psyche, I was about to exert a great internal effort. Motivated by love, I catapulted myself out of my own comfort zone. And in doing so, shattered my former understanding of racism.
What I can share with you today, is that I will never un-know what I understand now. And what I understand, first and foremost, is that this is just the beginning of my partnership for a just society…
White privilege is not an opinion or a perspective. It is a fact. It is a systematized discrimination imbedded into the fabric of our nation; and one that I benefit from every day. White privilege assumes that I am safe inside the routines of my daily life; it assumes that I am protected by law enforcement; it assumes a life ignorant to the weight of this inequity… And as this awareness surfaces, like the tip of an iceberg, I enter a new conversation about race; one that includes all of us, as either racist or anti-racist. Our ability to avoid this conversation or remain apathetic to it, is white privilege. And the undoing of this ignorance is one act of anti-racism.
Experiences of feeling safe, protected, having access, and ignorance, are just a few qualities granted to a white skinned person at birth, fundamentally handing him or her a life free from a level of oppression they will never know unless they look and listen. In other words, the subtle and subversive ways racism lives inside of us as white citizens comes from the fact that although the United States was born from powerful ideals such as equality and justice for all, it was built on a foundation of inequality and abuse of power – slavery. (If you are new to this conversation, white guilt and white fragility could be kicking in right about now and it’s okay, take a breath and stay with me). This is a hard thing to feel. This is a hard thing to talk about. Why? (And I’m going to be a therapist for a moment here…) Because it opens the door to seeing a problem that no one has an immediate solution for. And this means, we just have to feel the feelings.
But as your loving therapist in this moment, I will tell you that great possibilities and breakthroughs are born from simply feeling our feelings and not looking for a solution to save us from the discomfort.
My personal journey, which continues to unfold, has sent me careening back and forth between outrage and heart-brokenness. I have also been aware of an eternal impassioned fire burning through me. I have also felt raw, vulnerable, and unsure. And from this place of allowing myself to feel, I have been able to remember that not only was I diving into this exploration from love, but the invitation from the BIPOC community comes from love too. By admitting I was ignorant, I was able to listen, and by listening I was able to begin to actively work toward extinguishing my own ignorance. And this is the journey I am on today.
In summary, this conversation of race is not one that started this month, and it is not one that will end this year. I, by no means, have “arrived” anywhere. But the invitation is stronger than ever to examine the racism that lives deep inside our own psyche’s. It is a call to look at how we contribute to racism – to bring what has been unconscious to light. This is the journey of evolution. It is also the journey toward fulfilling this country’s great ideals – liberty and justice for all.
In the words of Dr. King, “Justice, at its best, is power correcting everything that stands against love.” So, my dear loves who are white and reading this, it is time to listen, learn, and take action. As by listening, we can elevate BIPOC voices; by learning, we can deepen our awareness; and by taking action, we can support this human family to rise, together.
HOW TO TAKE ACTION
Listen. Learn. Donate. Discuss.
I am not an expert on the topic of white privilege. I am learning alongside you. But I did want to provide some powerful resources to support you on your journey. Engage these BIPOC voices, authors, & organizations as you choose and remember that there are hundreds of resources beyond this list. I encourage you to continue to explore.
It’s time to pass the mic and sit quietly ya’ll.
Explore these authors and deepen your understanding.
THICK: AND OTHER ESSAYS
by Tressie McMillan Cottom
THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE
by Gloria Naylor
Hidden Biases of Good People
by Mahzarin R. Banajir
Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism
by Robin DiAngelo
Re-allocate funds to support black mobilization and activists who have their finger on the pulse.
THE LOVELAND FOUNDATION
The Loveland Foundation is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls.
COLOR OF CHANGE
Color Of Change helps you do something real about injustice.
They design campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS CAMP
The mission of this organization is to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.
NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE & EDUCATION FUND
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. is America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans.
Share – white person to white person – how you feel, how you think you contribute to the issue, what you are learning, what you are afraid of, and what you are awakening to. Support one another to be honest and fearless.
Discussion supports the idea of bringing light to what is hidden within us and within our everyday lives. In psychology, I call this process ‘unearthing.’ And it relates to the deep and sacred work of healing trauma – illuminating what lives in the shadows. By bringing light what is hidden, we expand our awareness and thus create new choices. And having new choices ignites empowerment. Empowerment liberates us to feel alive in our life. We become conscious creators. And although a white person can never fully understand the experience of a black life in this country, being able to act with new awareness can support change and deeper connection, which, step by step can influence families, communities, and in due course, a nation.
THE POWER OF GRATITUDE – WEEK 2
This is where I do get to come in as a professional and guide you into the heart space. Because living life from love is a life lived well.
All too often, we can get caught in the cyclical nature of the untrained mind and find it hard to return to the heart. Especially when faced with a problem that we want to solve. And solving -side note- can catapult us into the mind and keep us from processing the feelings that give way to new insight, compassion, understanding, and change. The good news is no matter how mired we are in the mind, the easiest way back to the heart is through the door of gratitude.
In this meditation you will be asked to cultivate the feeling of gratitude, and then flex that muscle in the face of triggers. The greater our ability to be in the heart, the more fearless we can be to explore discomfort, reframe our emotional experience, and be present to others.