"People think Racism is a "fixed" concept but white people are still hurting African Americans" This was a quote from my 9 year old son after attending a talk about Racism and the relationships between Caucasians and African Americans today.
I have been on a deep journey looking into the ways in which my white privilege has costly effects on my world and the world around me. I began by going to a talk my friend was giving on racism, specifically on the relationships between African Americans and Caucasians and how these issues are present today. This talk was heartbreaking and it lead me into wanting to learn more and to go deeper.
A group was formed and we learned about racism, white privilege, cultural appropriation, decolonizing the mind and much more. I read books and had many conversations around these issues. I began to understand how my ignorance around racism in our country was perpetuating the problem. I still have much to learn and it is not an easy thing to look at within myself.
Below I share a story with you that is vulnerable and real around the injustices of racism.
If you are interested in social justice and healing racial wounds let this be an opportunity to investigate your own white privilege, in order to bring awareness to the harmful thoughts, feelings or justifications within ourselves and our society.
White people have privilege that is undeserved and harmful to people of color.
I had to be ready, willing and open to do this work. Before doing this work I would not have understood my own white privilege. Realizing this privilege was painful because of my own unconscious behaviors. These behaviors are not just mine they are systematic and result in violence, hatred and abuse of power over our fellow brother and sisters. This systematic oppression is devastating once you begin to look at it deeply and understand it.
If your like me and any of these things offend you, make you question or feel fragile, I invite you to stay with it try and understand these places within yourself with love and understanding.
I ask this for the love of humanity and for the love of other. To be able to see the Divine and Humanness in us all. When one suffers we all suffer. The violence we inflict on another is a reflection of a violence that is also within us.We are all human and we are all fragile and tender beings, each beautiful, divine and incredibly precious. I am asking you to look outside of yourself and inside of yourself to understand what it might be like to live in someone else’s shoes, body and reality and to know that it is not the same as yours. By doing this our inner world and heart change and this will change the world. We will have peace within ourselves and allow this for others as well.
So, again I ask you to open your heart and your mind to begin to explore and be able to see what it might be like for someone else. Receive their story and know how your thoughts and actions may contribute to this. Then love it all.
One day, I was having lunch with a friend. This friend is beautiful, kind, generous, loving. Her skin is dark. She is an African-American woman. She has a huge smile that lights up a room. She has a caring heart, she is highly intelligent, she loves her brothers and sisters and fights
for their rights daily. She educates others on the oppression of African-Americans and the history of slavery and racism in America. It is still in almost everything we do. She is fierce and courageous in her boldness to not allow people of color to continue to suffer and be abused, be less than or treated any different than anyone else. She speaks for equality and the rights of people of color. She educates, and is gracious, kind, and tolerant.
She is an incredibly wise woman. I am grateful to know her and have the chance to sit with her and learn from her. I asked her to meet with me today to talk about racism and how she finds it helpful for white Americans to help, to step up, to interrupt or stand for the rights of African-Americans. What can I do? How can we can learn more? What does she see as most valuable? She told me to listen, to not assume we know, to hear African-American folks, to ask questions and be open to feedback.
The thing that stood out to me the most was TO LISTEN, to honestly listen, with our whole hearts. To feel each other. To feel the pain of slavery and racism and history with her and with people of color. They are asking for our attention to this. They deserve to be heard and seen for who they are and the pain they have endured, the pain we have caused and continue to inflict upon them daily. While we were having lunch, there were four white men that sat down in the booth behind us. I saw them come in and had a feeling that our conversation could be a “sensitive” matter to these men. My friend and I were talking, and I was asking questions. She told me they were beginning to stare at her and lower their voices, talking amongst themselves. She was staring back at them, while telling me of what was happening. She heard one of them mention Hitler. I asked, "What can I do?" I had no idea what to do. I was shocked, stunned, and somewhat paralyzed myself in fear. I told her of this. She graciously said, "They are leaving soon. This is just what happens.”
How can this be? What must it feel like to be my friend? This is what is normal to her, to African-Americans, to minorities, different ethnicities. It was what was also so normal to me that I didn’t see it. I have been ignoring it. I later began to ask the questions: How does she feel safe? How can she feel safe? How could I have helped her to feel safe? What did that feel like to her? What would love do? In the moment, I wanted to turn around and say, "If you are so interested in what we are talking about, then why don’t you come over and begin to look this beautiful woman in the eyes, to see her and ask her who she is, see the blackness of her skin and ask her of her intelligence, her loves of life, what is in her heart and how has she suffered because of the color of her skin?”
I have been one of the ones that have always said, "I don’t see the color of skin." I am learning to see the color of skin now and know her because she is a beautiful, proud and smart black woman. When we say we don’t see color, we make African-Americans and minorities invisible because the world we live in is white. The world you live in is white. You may also say, "My best friend is black" or "I have friends that are black." Yes, but do you know what it feels like to BE black in a white world? Do you know what it feels like to be enslaved, owned by a race and a culture? Do you know what it feels like to walk down a street and be targeted for a crime that you had nothing to do with? Do you know what it feels like to be treated like garbage? Like throw-aways? Like you can’t be a part of a system you serve and contribute to everyday but don’t have the same rights? You can say that African- Americans do, but if you look at history, white men predominantly have made choices that have cut them out and continue to do so. Do you know that African Americans have to work 10 times as hard as whites just to do anything, like buy toilet paper or go to the grocery store. They are a constant target, a constant minority, in constant oppression.
This experience is not up for comments that are racially charged. It is here for you to begin to ask yourselves these questions honestly and to look and see into a world that maybe you are denying or have turned the other cheek to, or have not had to think about because of your white privilege. I am here with you. I am looking into the ways I contribute within my thinking, within my actions, within my heart. If I don’t, then I am not loving, I am not listening to a large population of our brother and sisters that are suffering greatly, and I am making choices every day to contribute to this. I was a person who when someone said, "Black Lives Matter," I would have said "all lives matter." Really, just my white world mattered.
I did not understand, and I am ashamed of what I did not know. How I have been so careless in my privilege. Now I just want to learn more and learn how I can contribute to the upliftment of this oppression of people of color and minorities. How I can stand? How I can love deeper and more fully? How I can begin to have conversations that bridge the gap and bring awareness to
others? How I can be present to it all and not fall into my shaming traps, but stay open and just listen with my whole heart? And hold others accountable for the suffering of others?
But most of all ... hold myself accountable.
I read the following quote from Andrew Harvey in Layla F. Saad workbook called Me and White Supremacy, a 28 day workbook that was helpful in prompting me to look deeply into my thoughts, feelings and responses within myself around deep systems and issues within
our country, communities and cultures.
“A spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic
political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of
history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and
psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom, and compassion will
only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When,
however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and
pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic, and social institutions, a
holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born. This force I define as
Here are a few other resources you may want to check out
~ White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
~ Waking Up White by Debby Irving
~ The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
~ Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M Steele
Thank you for taking the time to read through this. To begin to ask yourself these questions, begin conversations and sitting with your own thoughts, feelings and reactions around these issues we are still facing today.