Thoughts for my white friendsShare the burden. Discomfort about racial tensions are good. They are your growing pains.
I’ve been silent for the most part for days. I’ve been reading, watching, listening. Today, I’ve decided to write too.
Because of the color of my skin, I’m a person with the privilege of not having to deal with systematic racism on a day-to-day basis. I’m aware of this more than ever and I’m still confused about what is expected of me to say or do. It’s uncomfortable, but I’m not asking to be soothed. I will continue to navigate through this confusion on my own or talk to other people who feel the way I do, but I won’t turn to those for comfort or answers who are abused and victimized by the system. So I mainly write this with you in mind, my fellow white people.
I’m open to listening, to educating myself, to keeping very open eyes in my day-to-day life to intervene with loving compassion to all parties involved in any racial or discriminating conflict. I’m not interested in shunning or shaming or aggressively fighting against anything. That doesn’t work. It’s more of the same.
I wanted to write about all this for whatever it’s worth. I’m aware that it’s long and I wanted to mention something up front before I get into other things. I don’t respond well to being bullied into speaking out and shamed for not speaking out or joining a rally or taking action in a way that isn’t resonant with me. I grew up in a highly emotionally abusive family and schooling culture where shaming was a way of exercising control, so it has the opposite effect from what is desired. Shame me and I shut down. Shame me and I freeze. Shame me, correct me, tell me I’m wrong and try to get me to say something or do something without telling me exactly what you expected of me, without telling me what you need from me, and I shut down. Shame me and I don’t learn. I learn that I’m bad. And that doesn’t do anyone any good. That’s my personal history and how I react to things, and it doesn’t work for me. I don’t think it’s going to work for others either. I see it happening on social media and it’s very divisive. It’s also what keeps a lot of people too scared to speak up.
I’m looking for another way.
I know enough about trauma that I can’t be effective if I am not resourced in good self-care, if I don’t have the capacity or the resilience to do so, I won’t be of use or help to anyone if I harm myself and my already dis-balanced system. But I strongly feel the pressure to “DO” something. So right now I write as I continue to navigate my way through each day.
I stand for the dismantling of this system that I’ve benefited from my whole life simply because of the color of my skin. This system is far from ideal and the World could be a much better place when diversity is inclusive and ideally celebrated. We are still very far from that.
Being a white female in America, my personal history with discrimination and oppression is invisible. You wouldn’t know this about me by looking at me that I’m an immigrant who has experienced a lot of bullying as a young teen for being a weird foreigner. There was a period of time I feared for my safety going to school every day. I also have ancestors who were taken for being Jewish in Austria and for speaking out against Stalin in Russia. Taken, disappeared, never heard from again, most likely killed. I have collective trauma from that too. We all have collective trauma no matter the color of our skin.
Being “othered” happens every day to POC (people of color). My trauma is historical. I still have pain and struggles and have the privilege to spend time with myself to heal my past wounds for years, both individual and collective. I have the privilege of doing this without day-to-day acute traumatization simply because of what I look like. I get to do this in relative peace (unless I meet my relatives again, haha! but I even have a choice not to go there if I don’t want to)
POC don’t have this luxury. They are often traumatized daily to varying degrees – whether it’s the conditioning and constant reminder by the system we live in that they are “other” simply from all the media, pictures, advertisements, movies, that all perpetuate that “white is good”, (this is every day, average, typical) to being stared at like a zoo animal, being treated unfairly at the store, to being ignored, dismissed, to being laughed at, body or hair touched without consent, exoticized, sexualized and more (this is an average shitty day). POC numb to and also conform just to survive. Override their own sense of what’s right and wrong, to survive the system. And of course, this would understandably, over time, build a lot of resentment and anger. Anyone who would have to override their own sense of what’s okay or not okay for them, would be angry.
Today, we live in a World that there is outright attack on POC, in plain sight, shown on media daily. We have a president in office who has encouraged it from the start, emboldening more vicious attacks. POC abused and killed by the police, people being killed for standing up to protect the victimized, and having to hear about this daily, weekly, when you are part of the group who are victimized takes an enormous toll and is highly traumatizing. It’s tense out there. I feel it. It’s tense in here, I feel it. And I am also looking at this as enormous opportunity for us white folk. We can use this time of discomfort and realize that it’s an opportunity for growing pains while we stand to learn about the varying degrees this system is in place and by becoming more and more aware, we have the chance to dismantle it.
Those of us who’ve had time for the last few years to look inward, to inquire and look at our core wounds and collective family and ancestral wounds without having to deal with systematic racism day-by-day, this time in the World is what we’ve been “training” for. We are currently highly aware of all these things that POC have been dealing with for a long long time. It feels more shocking and new to us because we are now faced with it full on. They have been dealing with this for many many many decades, centuries. It’s not really new, but how we respond to it matters. It is good that we have such a strong reaction because for many this new awareness of systematic racism, is, well, new. It was for me too until fairly recently. New on this level of awareness to it anyway. But it’s time to own it and let it sink in. It’s here to stay, this awareness, and the growing pains that come with it.
I’m still finding my way with all this but it’s the very least I can do to write about what I see, what I understand, what I know, what I don’t know and to be open to be made aware of not knowing what I don’t know. I share this mostly for my white friends and anyone who is NOT affected in their day-to-day lives by what is going on. If you are not able to resonate with all that I listed about the day-to-day trauma that some people go through just because of the pigment of their skin or their way of dress because of their religion, or sexual orientation, or all of the above, I wrote this for you. Just to let it all sink in as it’s been sinking in for me. Not to make you feel bad outright. But if you have heart, you will feel bad or at the very least a little uncomfortable with reading about what POC have to deal with daily.
I’m grateful for this time of discomfort. It’s growth. If I can be with this confusion and discomfort and let it marinate a while, I come out more resilient for it and be more available to those who need me. That’s been my experience anyway. I’m also incredibly grateful to be living with a person of color who just by their existence has opened my eyes and my heart to the reality of what they deal with daily or weekly. And this person’s experience is mild in comparison to the events going on, but traumatizing enough that it disrupts their lives in a way that I will never have to experience.
I wrote all this out for me, for us. Just to get it out of me and continue learning from here. To keep our eyes, ears and hearts open. The time and space for compassion and understanding on a personal level is a privilege we have. Let’s use this privilege to connect to others, talk to “your own” about this, even if is obvious to you.
Blanket statements like “I don’t see color”, “We are all one”, “Why can’t we all just get along” don’t help us now at all. They are high spiritual truths, yes, but they are also bypassing. I’ve been guilty of that in the past many times.
Pull it down to the personal in a new way. Not about you, not about defending yourself and where you stand on the racism scale. Just assume you are on that scale and move on. It’s not comfortable, no. But use the privilege of all the years of being able to turn inward and heal your individual wounds to now turn outward and connect compassionately to what POC and anyone who is undermined by our system (and even we are, I get that) but those less privileged than you, to keep open, keep listening, learning, educating ourselves and take a stand and speak up with love, like a fierce mother would with instinct when protecting their young. When you see or hear something that isn’t right, even if it’s as subtle as a whisper, it’s time to say something. I’m still exploring how to intervene without shaming because when you shame, people won’t learn, they will shut down. If I’m this way, I know others are too. Period. We need to share the discomfort that POC have been dealing with always. We are feeling it. Just feel it. I promise you, you can handle it. There is no hiding and ignoring it anymore. Time to turn toward it and share the burden.
Every bit matters. I am alert. I’ve done some small scale interventions recently but I don’t really feel like sharing it, it’s not about me and what I’ve done and how wonderful I am for taking a stand, even for small things. I really get that this isn’t about me. By the way, if I do share anything in the future about taking a stand, it’s to embolden and inspire you to do the same.
Plenty of other stuff in my life is about me and I’m lucky that I get to do those things without fear, without being micro-aggressed, accosted, harassed, stared at. I get to do things freely and that’s okay and I can enjoy that. But this, this isn’t about me and my feelings of discomfort about racial tensions and not knowing what to do about them.
We won’t get it right each time, it won’t be perfect, there will continue to be a lot of discomfort and big feelings about this, but it’s better than saying nothing and pretending it’s all going to vanish into one LOVE on it’s own.
With all that said, love and peace to all. More about this to come, I’m sure.