Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
For many years, I wanted to be right and good.
My well-meaning parents, my education, my friends, and my community programmed this “rightness” and “goodness” into me at a very young age. Before long, I was hiding, people-pleasing, and self-shaming with the rest of ‘em in order to be Right. Because being right and good meant being loved. And like all of us, all I wanted was to be loved.
In the past couple of weeks, for obvious reasons, I have re-invigorated my anti-racism work. Dismantling white supremacy and becoming anti-racist forces us to look at our role in structural racism. How do we benefit, why are we silent, etc. It shines the light right onto you (me) and looks at those parts that might be hidden away, or that we don’t want to think we have within us.
On social media, in workplaces, and in families, people are being called out on their behavior and language. I have participated in some of these discussions. Our Black colleagues and community members are cautioning against “performative allies” – those who give lip service to Black Lives Matter but don’t take action to support and empower Black people. I believe this performance stems from the desire to be “right” and “good” without being truly honest, soul searching, and getting to our shadow selves. People are afraid to be wrong and/or to say the wrong thing.
White people want to separate themselves from racists or white supremacists. We want to feel that we are right and good (and loveable), and for some, this is stopping us from doing the real work. Because you cannot be afraid to be wrong and do this work. You have to be willing to be wrong. Again and again.
The murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor coincided with my re-reading How Emotions Are Made. This incredible book by Lisa Feldman Barrett talks, among other things, about how we form concepts, utilize language, and co-create reality within our communities.
Our brains are predictive in nature; our brains take past experiences, simulate what might happen next (in order to keep us safe), which helps form our perception of the world. Our bodies experience the world and our brain works to make sense of what’s happening. We use language to describe these experiences and knowings in order to make them real. I’ve talked about this in past blogs, about the need to name something.
We can change our future (perceptions) by opening ourselves up to new experiences and new concepts. This is partly why the anti-racism work is so important. Listening to others’ stories, learning new language (white fragility, white silence) broadens our minds and understanding of our world.
Collectively, we impact each others’ experience. In community, we actually help regulate each other’s minds & bodies through words, touch, and “vibes.” We can physically impact each others’ energy fields. We can use
Anytime you are certain that you are right (and good), take a pause. Certainty closes the door to dialogue, action and change.
Beyond being open to new concepts, we can also re-frame our perceptions in new ways and use new (more granular) language. When we cultivate what we want in this way, we truly construct a new future. What is the future you want?
After decades of saying “I don’t know how to cook,” I decided that I wanted to change that self-perception. I actually did know how to cook, what I lacked was confidence. I was afraid that I was a terrible cook and I was perpetuating that as my reality. I would highlight when I burnt dishes or nearly set the kitchen on fire. I was scared to cook.
One day, I decided that I would rather be wrong about my cooking ability. I changed my words. “I cook,” I started to say. “I’m going to go chef it up in the kitchen!” and “I’m making dinner tonight!” I would say to my wide-eyed children. I felt them thinking uh oh. I watched videos, tried recipes, and I cooked. I made mistakes, I made some terrible dishes, I also found a dish that I cooked well and everyone liked! A year later, I make dinner for my family more often than not (rather than leaving it to my husband). I changed my perception and thus my reality.
But, I had to be willing to change it. And I had to be willing to be a beginner, to suck, to try and fail. I realize this is a tiny example in comparison to systemic racism. But I know that the same practice translates across every aspect of our lives. Be open & willing, re-frame your concept, add words, repeat.
We are un-learning racism. We are de-programming ourselves. We are breaking down the systems/concepts we have created in our society in order to build something new. It truly starts with each one of us. Just think of what we could do.
Shit is getting real (for white people).
After hundreds of years of countless Black deaths, all major systems (political, justice, healthcare, education, banking/credit, etc) built on white supremacy, things are at a "tipping point". Why now? Is it because now the murders of Black men are being filmed and circulated? Is it because COVID-19 has brought things to a halt - we're at home, millions are out of work, we are tasked with educating our children, people are dying, etc? Is it because we have an overtly racist asshole in the White House?
On #Blackouttuesday, I found myself posting this message: Don't go silent.
I first heard the term "White Silence" when I started working through the Me and White Supremacy workbook in December 2018. One of the questions stuck out to me, "Why do you stay silent?" and a prompt about whether or not you/I leave conversations when they get uncomfortable. Me and White Supremacy talks specifically about race. And as I worked through this particular piece, I realized how often I walk away from many conversations that make me feel uncomfortable, agitated or distressed.
It is almost easier for me to stick around and NOT be silent about race and Black Lives Matter because it's not about me. Because it's about justice and re-humanizing. But when I dig deeper, my White Silence, and my silence in general is 100% about me. (PS, that's the point of the whole workbook. I suggest you buy the book and do the work).
It's ironic because on the one hand, I am drawn towards taboo subjects, loud & opinionated friends, and speaking up. And on the other hand, I am afraid to say what I believe or dissent because I am afraid of losing love or respect from others.
I am so deeply afraid of rejection and abandonment, that that is why I have stayed silent.
If people abandon me for my ideas and beliefs, what then. Does that mean that I am no longer valuable or lovable. Does it change my inherent worth if people leave me? Of course not, right? And yet, a look at my history...
When I look at my relationships in high school and college, I was the cheerleader for the (White) men in my life. I let them lead completely. I stayed in the background, the supporter. I let my BF's friends be my friends. I didn't invest in my own relationships beyond that of me and my BF.
Often with men, I would pretend that I didn't have an opinion, to be seen as "cool" or easy going, or "not like other girls". I pretended for so long that eventually I had to do a lot of work figuring out what I felt and knew and wanted.
Early in my marriage, my silence came through as passive-aggressiveness. I wouldn't say how I really felt because I didn't want to rock the boat. I was afraid I would say the wrong thing. I was afraid if my husband really knew me then he would leave me. In fact, that is what I ultimately told him in our therapists office three years ago when we nearly divorced. I'm afraid if you know the real me, then you won't love me.
Glennon Doyle talks in Untamed about how girls look to each others' faces to see if they are hungry. I caught myself the other day doing this exact thing! Looking to my kids' and my husband's faces to see if they thought the movie we were watching was funny. Was I looking to see if I should laugh?
In my work place I often stay silent, too. When I owned the yoga studio, I was silent about the financial distress that we were in. I was silent about how others' cut me down. I believe that my silence brought down that business.
In the corporate world, I find that I am silent because I don't want to be wrong. I'm afraid of making a mistake and being laughed about or fired because of my incompetence. Rejection.
Funny enough, an anti-racist rant that I had over email made it's way to a "big boss" at my company. (Thank you Universe) I was so scared that I would be judged or worse because of my words. Instead, I received a thoughtful response and a reminder that it is more than ok to speak up, it is expected.
What I am realizing about my silence today is that Silence IS Violence. It's violence towards Black people when we don't stand up and say that Black Lives Matter. And it is violence towards myself when I don't speak the truth of my heart. Silencing your heart is self-harm.
The core wound for me here is abandonment. This is the work for me today.
What is your work?
You gotta feel it to heal it.