I tend to avoid discussing political issues on a website about healing, but if there is a situation that needs talking about and healing more than racial inequality right now, I don't know what it is. I have thought long and hard about posting this, and I'm concerned about getting it wrong. However, I've been learning about the impact of white silence and see that if I say nothing I am complicit in what is happening.
Picture Credit: Maria Oswalt
Despite the fact that my mother is mixed race, it has taken the recent events - sparked by the killing of George Floyd and far too many others - for me to begin doing the messy and uncomfortable work of educating myself about the significant impact of racial inequality and my part in it. Why has it taken me so long? Because of my white privilege.
White privilege describes the unearned advantages that are granted because of one's whiteness or ability to 'pass' as white. - Layla F Saad
Despite having many BAME/BIPOC family members on both sides of the Atlantic, I grew up with fair hair and blue eyes in a society run by white people. I appear to be completely white and see that I have benefited from that throughout my life, even though I desperately wanted to share my mother's dark hair, her big brown eyes, and 'tanned' skin when I was younger.
I was educated by white people. Employed by white people. I had the opportunity to grow up without race ever being an issue for me so that I have never had to think about it. Now, I live in a village where the vast majority of people look like me. I don't have to worry about my children being attacked or called names because of the colour of their skin. Compared to their counterparts of other races, my children are much 'better off' in socio-economic terms. They have obvious and unseen advantages, for example, my son is less likely to be stopped or arrested by police, and more likely to survive COVID-19. My daughter is less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to have access to help if she chooses to breastfeed her children. That's white privilege.
I recognise that throughout my life, I have had the freedom to remain removed - and blissfully ignorant - about the impact and injustice of racial inequality, despite the fact that I am from a mixed heritage myself. I'll be honest, it is a very uncomfortable feeling.
With my maternal grandfather and my three beloved uncles
After much soul-searching, I've been listening deeply to various Black and ethnic minority people. I watched '13th' on Netflix (it's also on YouTube) to get a clearer understanding of the context and history of what's happening in the USA. I've joined some relevant groups on social media and also started working through the book 'Me and White Supremacy' by Layla F Saad. It's very practical with explanations and exercises for personal reflection. I'm a few chapters in and it is already eye-opening. I'm learning terms that I didn't know about before - 'white fragility', 'tone policing', and 'white silence', for starters. I've been referencing www.antiracismforbeginners.com.
It’s really uncomfortable to recognise one's own ignorance and now that I have, I can't continue to see racism as “over there” or “someone else’s problem”. I see that it's really not enough to be ‘not racist’ - it's time to be ANTI-racist.
White supremacy is a system you have been born into. Whether or not you have known it, it is a system that has granted you unearned privileges, protection, and power. It is also a system that has been designed to keep you asleep and unaware of what having that privilege, protection and power has meant for people who do not look like you. -Layla F Saad
One of the many things I've read lately - and for that reason, I am unable to quote the exact words or source - is that when we are born we don't know about air but we immediately breathe it in, it's just how things are. White supremacy is the same. We may not have personally caused it, but we are a part of it. So I spent much of the last few weeks asking myself 'what can I do?' This is where I've arrived in answer to that question, and maybe you will relate.
I believe that it's time to educate myself as a 'white woman'. I have to take the initiative and responsibility for my ignorance and complicity. I need to speak up and use whatever voice and influence I have - at home, in my family, with our other circles of influence, and whenever else I see the need. I need to consider how to be a better ally. It's a start. Based on the clients I see, and the people who comment on my posts, I believe that the majority of my audience are also white women so I'll address this directly to you. If you're not within that demographic, please consider whether the same is true for you. I like to believe that whoever is reading these words cares about what's happening and that we can start to put our 'privilege' to some use - not just today, or while Black Lives Matter is trending. There needs to be a lasting change. That doesn’t necessarily mean we all need to become activists (unless you want to, in which case go for it). I really feel that we have a responsibility to do something.
If you're up for this, expect it to be challenging and involve looking at things you probably don’t want to see. Expect it to involve conversations you probably don’t want to have, and the likelihood of getting things wrong. But please don’t let that stop you. Be honest. Be open and willing to learn, and to self-correct where necessary. Remember to be kind to yourself and others as you go through the emotions that come up (there may be a lot of those, don't hide from them).
As a student of 'A Course in Miracles', I've been reminded of the Course teaching about "inability to tolerate lack of love in yourself and anyone else" - this is labelled the "Great Crusade", the slogan for which is "Listen, learn, and do." This means: listening, undoing the error (the lack of love) and doing something to correct it! (ACIM CE T-1. 26.6:4-7)
So much healing is needed, and it goes back generations - this is not going to be fixed overnight so we have to be in it for the long-run. And I believe that this is how we start - by doing our work and taking responsibility. Of course, we can also pray and send healing, or anything else that we feel will be helpful and supportive, but that's not enough. We (collectively) need to get to work. Are you ready?
If you're white and find yourself affronted by this post in any way I’d invite you to start your work there. Ask yourself why you feel this is and what it's bringing up for you, then look up 'white fragility'. It may be helpful to work through this with the support of others - that's what I'm doing. There's a lot to unpack and so many of us are beginners. Let's support one another. A little willingness goes a surprisingly long way.
With much love,
P.S. A few of the many books I've been recommended:
Sarah Knight is a Reiki Practitioner, Women's Circle Facilitator, and runs various workshops and groups online and in-person from West Sussex, UK. She is also a student of A Course in Miracles. Read more at www.intentionalhealing.co.uk.