“The fact that the programmed poison of racism was pumped into us may not be our fault, but getting it out is sure as hell our responsibility.” — Glennon Doyle, Untamed
The following ramblings will be choppy. My brain feels choppy, confused and angry. I’ve been heartbroken this week like so many others about the injustices and the murder of George Floyd and so many before him. I also feel a deep level of shame and sadness.
I’ve been reading Glennon Doyle’s book Untamed. Most of the book is themed around womanhood and breaking out of the “cages” that society has created for women to be quiet, tamed and polite, rather than fierce, brave and courageous. I read her chapter on racism yesterday and the above quote put into words some thoughts I’ve had while trying to process this past week.
Death & Rebirth
There is a theme in literature, religion and life in general that in order to become or create newness, something else must be put to death. But that takes work. And it takes courage to get close enough to the mess to even admit you have mess in the first place.
I’ve become familiar with pain and the icky, scary parts of my soul and mind throughout the years. I used to avoid it all costs, but then I noticed that the closer I got, the faster I changed. Now a part of me even enjoys the pain & ick because I know the pain becomes my teacher for Joy.
But what I am less quick to confess, is that there are parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. Parts that I don’t want to believe exist. Biases or world views that may have been placed there without my conscious knowledge. Quietly infiltrating my subconscious as a white woman. In order to become fully yourself and alive, parts of the old you must die. Even parts you didn’t know existed.
Getting back to my actual reason for writing this now…I don’t want to believe it for myself, I’m so nice blah blah blah. But I know biases and underlying racism exists inside many well intentioned white people. And I am well intentioned white people. I’ve always seen myself as someone with compassion and love for all people. I don’t belong or associate myself with the kind of evil that takes human lives based on the color of their skin. My worldview is deeply rooted in justice and equality for all of my brothers and sisters. It always has been. BUT over the years I have become increasingly aware (by the grace of close friends, scholars and leaders) that I am still very broken and naive to the overwhelming systematic and individual oppression to our communities of color in America.
So this is one of the many steps I will take probably for the rest of my life, towards recognizing my privilege. I was given a step ahead in life without earning it. Just because of the color of my skin. Whether that was by chance or by God. That’s what I was given. I recognize I live in a different America than so many. I claim to love and desire not just basic life for all, but I desire beautiful, thriving lives filled with love, purpose and meaning. But my privilege keeps me complacent and comfortable. I forget. That isn’t possible for so many. I wishfully hope that progress is moving forward as it is meant to. But it’s weeks like this that pull me back to the reality that so many face daily. That hate and evil continue to run rampant. Oppression is far from gone.
I don’t have answers. I hate even posting this because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I run the risk of criticism and finger pointing: “She said too much. She didn’t say enough. She’s Racist. What are you talking about, Racism doesn’t exist.” But this isn’t about me. I want my friends to know and feel confident that I want to be and am their ally. But I am still a learner. I am still becoming. I feel shame and anger. I admit my instinct is to run away from these feelings, but I have a responsibility to show up and have hard conversations with myself and others.
To my beautiful friends who experience the devastating reality of Racism daily:
I don’t know if true empathy fully exists, nor is that my ultimate goal. I do not live your life and I do not live in your skin. I wish I could. I cry hot, burning tears for you and your community, but I am not you. Since I will never know fully, I will listen and trust your stories and grieve with and for you. I hate what people who look like me have done to you. I hate it. I want to destroy anything inside me that might be quietly allowing this kind of racism to continue. I want it gone so that I can be a better advocate and ally for you.
It isn’t much. But I will continue reading, writing, talking with friends and loved ones. I appreciate those who have pointed me to book recommendations, community leaders, resources, organizations to donate to, etc. Please know I’ve “watched your stories” and I see you. Even if I’m not responding or reposting, I am absorbing, listening and holding space for your grief and anger in my heart and mind. I’m trying to be still in order to tear down old ways of thinking and rebuild new ones.
Sharing my writing is vulnerable and scary, but my black brothers and sisters go through FAR scarier things every day. It’s my privilege that allows me the opportunity to share my thoughts so freely. I know full well that criticism and someone disagreeing with me is the worst case scenario for me. My life isn’t in danger. But so many lives are. So I’d rather try and fall on my face, than say nothing at all.
To other well intentioned white people: As someone speaking from the inside of the majority culture, we need to do better. I need to do better. We need to let our egos and pride be bruised. To admit that we aren’t the saviors, we don’t have the answers but we can educate ourselves and listen.
Thank you to so many beautiful friends who have let me into their stories, lives and personal experiences over the years. Who have taught me without probably even knowing it. You have changed me and continue to change me from afar. I love you.
And thanks to my sister and forever roomie Amanda Chiang for giving me the courage to put my feels out there in the open. Click her name & check out her piece, which inspired me to download Medium and try to remember how to “blog” again. LOL. But on the real, thanks for reminding me how important it is to show up in our respective communities. Even though our Enneagram 7ness’ want to run away and play in nature, I’m grateful for brave friends who lean into the pain and sadness and strive to become beacons of love, not hate.
Be good to each other.