I have to make a confession.
However, the last couple of weeks have been ones of intense self-searching, reading, listening and learning. Some of the thought leaders that have been especially helpful are: Freedom Cartwright, Tonya Gonzalez, Rachel Rodgers, Freedom Cartwright, Iverlei, Leona Carter and Erica Courdae. Although I am at the very beginning of my own growth in this area, I want to share a few of their suggestions:
Step One: Recognize that the colour of our bodies makes a difference to our lived experience.
Freedom Cartwright shared how important it is to recognize that, while it is true that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, we also need to recognize that we also inhabit different kinds of bodies. Our lived experience here on earth is largely shaped by the colour of our bodies (and I would add a few other qualifiers, such as gender, body shape and sexual orientation, but that is a subject for another post.)
Those of us who inhabit white bodies enjoy a variety of advantages, opportunities and safety that black bodies simply do not have. Add onto that the generational trauma that those in black bodies experience. Consider what it means that your ancestors were slaves. Breathe this reality in. Feel the huge disparity in our backgrounds and experiences.
I didn’t know that many descendents of slaves still bear the last name of their ancestor’s owners. Our names carry so much meaning and, to a large part, our identity. Most white bodies take pride in their names. What would you do if your name in itself labelled your heritage as someone’s else’s property? Would you change it in order to shed the constant reminder? Or would you keep it in order to stay connected to family? That in itself is a big deal.
Step Two: Avoid the Spiritual Bypass:
Those of us who walk a spiritual path would like to deny the physical differences. While it may be true that we don’t see colour, many do and abuse others as a result. Being colour blind does not affect discriminatory institutional policy, social structures and history. We cannot deny how our physical bodies have shaped our lives and the lives of others. Those of us living in white bodies have enjoyed great privilege, whether we recognize it or not. We have to go beyond just being nice to people with different coloured skin. It is time for us to be advocates for racial equality.
Step Three: Extend love to both sides:
This is perhaps the hardest part to swallow. If we want to change the world, we must extend love and forgiveness to both the victims and the perpetrators. In one of the latest cases in the United States, this would mean to both George Floyd and the men who killed him. This would also mean sending love and forgiveness to the political figures, other police officers and the entire system.
This is not an easy task. Yet, as Freedom put it, if we don’t – we are all in shackles! We only gain freedom through the forgiveness of all people. Until I take the log out of my own eye, I cannot look at the toothpick in yours. This leads me to the fourth point, looking at the log in my own eye.
Step Four: Look at where I have inadvertently supported racism by not getting involved:
Where have I been complicit in allowing racism to continue, either through ignorance, lack of compassion, or not making it a priority? This is deep, hard work that we can only pursue if we are willing to go within. We must face our dark side, and be willing to accept the mistakes of our past. Once we do this, we are fully freed to be our best selves in a difficult world. We become true light workers, carrying the message of love to all people. We even extend love to those who appear to be stumbling around in the dark You know who they are. They are the ones doing and saying what appears to us to be foolish, ignorant, or even cruel. This is not to say that we condone or allow the behaviour to continue, which leads me to the fifth point.
Step Five: Stand up and speak out:
Iverlei talked about how we all have our sphere of influence, and it is important for us to speak up. Whether it is around the dinner table with friends or families, or in our places of work, we say something. We need to get past our own fear of rejection or retaliation. It is the silent white majority that allows racism to grow and fester. It is our responsibility to change it!
We stand up, speak out, and challenge people who still cling to the idea that skin colour makes them somehow superior. However, we do so in in a thoughtful way. We first be sure that we have done the internal work, and are coming from a loving place. And we always speak from a place of how we handle such situations. For example, we might say something like, “I used to think the way that you do, but I no longer do. I have studied how racism has hurt people. They have not enjoyed the same opportunities as you and I. Worst of all, they don’t feel safe to go out in their own neighbourhoods for fear of being harassed or even killed. I have witnessed mothers crying out of fear for their son’s lives because of their skin colour. With my whole heart, I want to see this change. I hope you feel that way too.”
Step Six: Support businesses owned by People of Colour:
Search out businesses in our area that are run by different ethnic groups. Shop the world online. Buy books to help us understand their lives. I have included the names and websites of the people that I have been following and learning from. I encourage you to do the same.
Step seven: Create greater opportunities for People of Colour:
The seventh is to consider how we might give greater opportunities to diverse people in our community. Offer scholarships. Invite them to apply for job postings in our business. Show pictures of people from different backgrounds on our websites and social media as participants in our work.
But, we need to be careful that this is done with heart, rather than putting lipstick on a pig. If we do it only for appearances, it will do more harm than good.
I am convinced that we are at the beginning of a new love revolution. I want to be part of it. Will you join me? Come and join us next Saturday at 11:00 pst as we begin our book study of “White Fragility” by Robin Diangelo. Send me an email to register.
Lilly Bowean; The unspoken history hidden behind a surnamehttps://www.chicagotribune.com/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-surname-names-history-heritage-1227-20171221-story.html
Leona Carter: https://www.heycoachcarter.com
Freedom Cartwright: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000089799398
Erica Courdae: https://www.ericacourdae.com
Tonya Gonzalez: http://tonyargonzalez.com
Rachel Rodgers: https://helloseven.co