All Black Lives Matter…no ifs, ands or buts

“The response of “All Lives Matter’ is not understanding that a social justice movement would not have to exist if all lives were treated as if they mattered equally.“  Sit. With. That.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, an investigative journalist known for her coverage of civil rights in the United States, recently wrote an extensive piece that appeared in The New York Times Magazine. In it she writes: 

It has been more than 150 years since the white planter class last called up the slave patrols and deputized every white citizen to stop, question and subdue any black person who came across their paths in order to control and surveil a population who refused to submit to their enslavement. It has been 150 years since white Americans could enforce slave laws that said white people acting in the interest of the planter class would not be punished for killing a black person, even for the most minor alleged offense. These laws morphed into the black codes, passed by white Southern politicians at the end of the Civil War to criminalize behaviors like not having a job. Those black codes were struck down, then altered over the course of decades eventually transmuted into stop-and-frisk, broken windows and, of course, qualified immunity. The names of the mechanisms of social control have changed, but the presumption that white patrollers have the legal right to kill black people deemed to have committed minor infractions or have breached the social order has remained. In a country erected on the explicitly codified conviction that black lives mattered less, graveyards across this land hold the bodies of black Americans, men, women and children, legally killed by the institutional descendants of those slave patrols for alleged transgressions like walking home from the store with Skittles, playing with a toy gun in the park, sleeping in their homes and selling untaxed cigarettes.

Here it is, July 2020, and we continue to see case upon case where a black life has not mattered. There are thousand of names we’ll never know of- we only know of the ones that we’ve been made aware of over recent years thanks, in part, to social media. And despite all this, I still cannot believe how the phrase Black Lives Matters hits a nerve in some of us white people who are quick to point out that All Lives Matter. It’s pretty disheartening to see how twisted and defensive people can get,  given the 400 years that carefully crafted systems of racism and oppression have been dehumanizing, destroying, killing, incarcerating,  and inflicting racial wounds on people of color.

If we stop, feel, listen, be willing to become accountable for our own learning and unlearning, we will see see how saying “All Lives Matter” is a form of racism in and of itself. It’s called White Centering.

White centering is invisibilized and normalized. We can’t dismantle what we can’t see, so unless we consciously take an active part in learning, unlearning and trying to “get” it right (not “be” right), we will fail to see how these norms further marginalize and attempt to erase Black and Indigenous People of Color. That in itself is a deadly aspect of White Supremacy. 

Another dangerous aspect which is at the core of White Centering, White Fragility, White Superiority, White Privilege, White Silence and all matters dealing with racism, is this feeling of being “attacked” some of us white people feel when we are not ready to hold ourselves accountable for how our actions, behaviors, biases, prejudices, stereotypes and the internalized racism we were born into actually harm BIPOC.

We’ve become so accustomed and comfortable with looking away, letting others do the work, or looking at the world with our own set of White lenses, that we fail to see there’s something morally and consciously wrong with how we are personally perceiving equality and justice related issues. We’re unaware of our blindspots. Ultimately, we fail to see how this feeds into the hierarchy that White Supremacy upholds and, therefore, are just as quick to join the All Lives Matter caravan. Or, as we’ve all witnessed on many occasions, a whole lot of silence or spiritual bypassing ensues because God forbid we should feel “uncomfortable.” Remember darlings, silence is violence…as is Whitesplaining!

How have we become so numb to the violence? Are we truly comfortable with the numbness? How is that serving us? How is that serving our health and well-being? How is that serving our society, the world at large and future generations? What stories are we telling ourselves? How are they serving and honoring our ancestors and the work they did in the name of change? 

Change and growth are not comfortable. Trauma is not comfortable. Social Justice is not comfortable. Activism is not comfortable. Not getting it right is not comfortable. Speaking up is not comfortable.  Feeling frustrated is not comfortable. Constantly seeing BIPOC killed again and again should not be comfortable, acceptable or excusable!

If we were to stop, breathe and tune into our bodies every time we feel “uncomfortable” we will sense different things going on in our body and that’s because our nervous systems are on high alert. The nervous system is sensing for danger, the protective brain takes over,  and it’s ready to fight, flee or freeze. It’s important to take a pause here when in this state and check ourselves. Allow ourselves to feel. Allow our pre-frontal cortex to take over. Allow ourselves to question why we are feeling this way. Allow ourselves to put ourselves in another’s shoes. Allow ourselves to open our minds and hearts and  be willing to look through another set of lenses… that aren’t White Centered. 

Darlings, if there is anything that has become apparent as I continue to learn, unlearn and learn again and again these days, is that proclaiming to be a “good white person” is not enough today. This work we are being called to do is life-long work we need to commit to doing. While I’ve always been saddened  to see how some people aren’t committed to self- growth or aren’t willing to keep learning and evolving, I can now clearly see the harm those behaviors inflict on BIPOC when we are unwilling to take personal responsibility for our own anti-racism education. It’s White Apathy at its best! 

Instead, we white people have the audacity to feel “attacked” when asked to  be accountable for our antiracism education and grow in our understanding of White Supremacy and what dismantling it looks like. We become defensive, silent, or even put an end to the conversation. Why? Because God forbid we should feel uncomfortable! 

During this historic moment of our lives, one that will define what kind of white people we were for future generations, we are being asked to put ourselves in uncomfortable positions. We are being asked to do things differently. We’re being asked to question everything. We are being asked to stop making excuses. We are being asked to engage. speak up, and have hard conversations amongst ourselves, our families, friends and co-workers. We are being asked to hold ourselves accountable for learning and unlearning. We are being asked to accept responsibility for being complicit when we didn’t even realize we were doing so. We are being asked to show up. We are being asked to disrupt our thinking and our behaviors in the name of racial equity.

We are being called to accept that anti-racism works starts with us, that is uncomfortable as hell and more complex that we  could have ever imagined. Failure to do any of these things just feeds White Supremacy. 

Those of you who know me, know that I’ve always turned towards the discomfort. For me, discomfort signals that change is needed. That growth is awaiting. This is a space of possibility, of expansion, vision and alchemy. I tend to thrive in this space. Being committed to life-long learning sets me on fire. It brings me joy. It shakes me up. It’s one of my passions. More importantly though, it humbles me because there’s so much I’m learning and want to learn.

How much time do I have left on this earth? I don’t want to squander it! I know I’m here to make a difference, and I’ve always taken that responsibility to heart. “How can I serve?” is a question I’m always asking myself. 

Darlings, as I noted in my previous blog, There is No Neutral, we have knowingly or unknowingly been complicit in the participation of institutionalized racism and systems of oppression that were intentionally created  to uphold white dominance. Whether we want to accept it or not, it is truth….an uncomfortable one albeit. Just remember, comfort is not the key here. We have a responsibility to humankind to sit in our own discomfort and unpack layer upon layer of uncomfortableness in the hopes of creating a better world for future generations.  

If after reading this blog you still don’t understand the All Black Lives Matter social justice movement, and continue to rally that “All Lives Matter,” I will leave you with the following, which has made its way around social media, in hopes that you will see through a different set of lenses:

  • When the Boston Marathon was bombed and everybody’s profile picture changed to “Boston Strong,” nobody said “All Cities are Strong.”
  • When the Las Vegas shooting happened, people changed their profiles to “Stand with Vegas.” Nobody said “Stand with Everywhere.”
  • Have you ever seen someone counter a breast cancer post with  “Wait, what about colon cancer?”
  • But for some reason if someone says “Black Lives Matter” it turns into an all inclusive “All Lives Matter,”
  • This is not an either/or proclamation. When there is a crisis, we have always rallied around that particular group/city/cause. It does not diminish any other group/city/cause, it just brings awareness and support where it is needed.
  • No one is saying all lives don’t matter, but right now our Black friends, families, colleagues, neighbors and strangers need our support. 

Are you willing to do the work? 

Darlings, I started my blog almost 3 years ago as a way to inspire, love and serve: hence, the name. I’ve always shared resources, practices, and tools that have gotten me through the darkest and most challenging times of my life and that have allowed me to be resilient in the face of adversity and hardship.  I’ve shared my stories, life experiences and wisdom gained and have always encouraged the reader to “take what you need and leave the rest.”  I will continue to share the work I’m engaged in and things I continue to learn or that call to me. I hope you stay along for the ride, that seeds of change continue to be planted, and that we all collectively and consciously work to create a better and just world for future generations.

May we continue to move forward in love and with intention, curiosity, unity, and hearts and minds wide open, JTC

PS- Shout out to all my friends, family and teachers who are holding spaces for us to dig deep, do the work and engage in difficult conversations. You inspire me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is No Neutral

“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

Hello, darlings!

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