“What’s your dharma center, teacher, church, synagogue, pastor, Rabbi, reverend, yoga center, ashram, spiritual-not-religious instagram meditation leader saying about Black lives.” Angel Kyodo Williams
It’s been almost a month since my last blog, Inspired Action, on May 24th. The following day, our world saw the police brutality that took George Floyd’s life. The fact that this brutal murder was captured on video, we got to see the killer’s face and body language, and bear witness to what’s been going on for lifetimes for Black and Brown people has awakened and propelled the masses to yet another level of truth, re-examination, demonstration, and activism. We are living through the most historic and monumental civil rights movements the U.S. has ever seen. And the global impact it is making speaks volumes!
During this time, there has been a call to action to FINALLY listen to the voices of BIPOC (black, indigenous people of color). For those of us who are white (or pass as white), we have been called to educate ourselves on White Supremacy, White Privilege, White Fragility and how knowingly, or unknowingly, we have been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression. These words alone make many people uncomfortable…as they should. Change and growth do not come from being “comfortable.”
Resources of all kinds- from books, movies, documentaries, podcasts, articles, videos, TV shows to information that has always been available in various formats- have been circulating for us all to truly understand the systems that were specifically created to uphold white dominance. The time to start dismantling White Supremacy is upon us. However, the change must start within. Truly taking a deeply uncomfortable dive within ourselves to examine our own biases, stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations is shockingly revealing regardless of how evolved, open-minded, anti-racist, socially conscious or “woke “we think we are. The work we white people (or people who hold white privilege) are being called to do is raw. It’s humiliating, and it’s humbling to say the least…and it’s our responsibility to continue this work day in and day out.
For almost 3 weeks now, I’ve silenced my voice on social media. It started as the “amplify melanated voices challenge” on June 1st, but I’ve kept it going. This has allowed me to continue to do my work, keep educating myself, intentionally use my social media platform to share what I learn and what deeply resonates for me, and share the voices of BIPOC leaders and teachers of all kinds and from all walks of life from whom I’m learning. I’ve also had hard and meaningful conversations with friends and family. Being in community with people who are talking the talk AND walking the walk has provided me with lots of learning opportunities. Re-examining how I spend my time, energy and money has also led me to look at the businesses, organizations and individuals I want to support. I’ve already made a few changes in those areas. I feel like it’s just the beginning, but every little bit matters. Being neutral is not an option in my book. There is no neutral!
While the work is unnerving, heavy, raw, emotional and can be disturbing, it’s only a fraction of what my BIPOC brothers and sisters have been living with for generations. Generations of being dehumanized, oppressed and destroyed! I wholeheartedly acknowledge that it is NOT my place to speak about these experiences because they are not my lived/shared experiences. We white people tend to jump in and throw our voices into the ring- “Whitesplaining” as it has been coined- as if we could even remotely begin to speak to injustices we have never lived…talk about white privilege!?!?!?!
The most profound lesson I’ve learned thus far has been to be quiet and deeply listen….oftentimes, the silence from white people, friends, businesses and organizations, is actually deafening and clearly speaks to white privilege, white fragility and white apathy. The other thing I learned deals with conversations that go nowhere. These dead-end conversations speak to a person’s unwillingness to recognize and accept that knowingly, unknowingly, and oftentimes unconsciously, as a white person (or a person who passes as white) has internal biases, stereotypes, prejudices and discriminations built in as a result of being born (or living) in a country where systems and institutions were intentionally created to uphold white dominance.
If a person is not remotely interested or willing to to examine their relationship to the systems they engage in and navigate every day, then I have no desire to waste my energy or resources on them. There’s too much work to do! I want to engage with people who are truly and authentically making a difference with their voices and their activism. So this is the road I find myself navigating these days.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, White Supremacy is a system we were born into. There are layers and layers to unpack! For the last 400 years, these carefully crafted systems have been dehumanizing, destroying and inflicting racial wounds on People of Color resulting in historical and generational trauma. When will it stop? How? By whom?
It simply speaks to the fact that dismantling systems of institutionalized racism and systemic oppression FIRST begins with each and every white person (or person holding white privilege). We need to genuinely make a concerted effort to educate ourselves on things what we were not educated on in schools. Are we so arrogant of a species that we feel it is beneath us to do so? The answer is simple: yes, because that’s something that comes with holding white privilege.
One of my biggest history lessons came from the Netflix documentary 13th. If you’ve never seen it, that’s a great place to start! And if you are serious about taking a deep dive and creating change from within, pick up Layla F. Saad’s book, me and white supremacy-Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor. The work is difficult but so transformative! These two bodies of work will impact you in powerful and profound ways.
The way I see it is that regardless of our political affiliation, religious beliefs, or lack thereof, we all have work to do. It’s a privilege and an honor to be alive at this precise moment in time. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to waste it or just sit around waiting for others to do the work and then weigh in or criticize the decisions and actions being taken by those who are in the trenches doing the work.
The time for personal truth-telling and reckoning has arrived for all of us. We can truly change the course of the new nation that is waiting to be birthed and the new world that is waiting to emerge. We can all have a hand in the reimagining and the remaking of this white institution of power that orders our lives and continues to dehumanize, criminalize, incarcerate and kill BIPOC.
I believe the time has come for us to get really clear. This is not a time for neutrality. There is no neutral. This is not the time to sit back. This is a time to take action. This is not a time for spiritual bypassing. That in itself is privilege. This is not a time to say we are all one. We cannot all be one until ALL people have the same access to civil, political, economic and social rights…until we can truly say “liberty and justice for all.” This is not a time to say all lives matter or blue lives matter. All lives cannot matter until ALL Black lives matter….it doesn’t get any clearer than that!!!
And on that note, may we all remember to check in with our black and brown friends. The trauma, stress, frustration, anger, fear, emotional and physical pain, and feelings of overwhelm white people are feeling are no where near what our black and brown friends have been feeling for generations. They don’t need to see or hear our white narratives, comments or explanations. They need our support. They need us to listen. May we hold that space for them, and hold them close!
I will leave you with the words of Sonya Renee Taylor:
“If your spirituality or self-care practice invisiblizes oppression and harm, then it’s just another form of oppression and harm.”
May we continue to move forward with intention, unity and hearts wide open, JTC