For the first two decades of my life, I was oblivious to my white privilege.
The 1967 Detroit riots made the first dent in my belief that we lived in a just world. Countless experiences came afterward, and now The Black Lives Matter Movement and all the racist incidents that led to its establishment make my white privilege impossible to deny.
Most recently, George Floyd’s murder has heightened my awareness.
In my attempt to use my quarantine/social distancing time both politically and creatively, I followed my daughter’s advice and committed to reading Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. It is a highly valuable book for white readers because it points out the fruitlessness of guilt. While many progressive white people – the group to which I belong – may not consciously take advantage of the racist systems created by white-supremacy ideology, we do benefit from them.
If I am stopped by police, I am relatively certain I will not be beaten or shot. If I show up as a visitor at a school, I am not likely to be frisked. If I walk into a retail store, I won’t be tracked as a potential thief. Writing these words makes me sick at heart. I don’t feel guilt; what I feel is grief.
Using my energy psychology tools has become indispensable to addressing COVID-19 fears for my beloveds and for the world. My daily practice of tapping on my fear lifts the heaviness that I feel when I think about the endangered lives of countless people. Since George Floyd’s death, I have been using these same techniques to address the overwhelming grief I feel when I face the racist narrative that is played out daily. As I write these words, my internal critic says, “Big deal, Jane. You live in safety, from racism and from disease.” A wiser voice assures me, “Acknowledging and releasing grief in this time of political tumult is a very big deal.”
When I do my daily personal work, including addressing my fears and my grief, I am able to be more fully present, less reactive, and more able to support the causes of justice in the world, with my dollars, with my learning time, and with my voice. I am not so paralyzed by my grief that I feel unable to act. I can explore solutions rather than add to the cacophonous chorus of defensive racism deniers. I can ask, earnestly:
How can I contribute to creating a more just world, right here, right now?
Privately grieving for all African Americans, people who have been holding the front lines of resistance since the first white men captured and sold black men, women, and children, increases our human bond. I recognize the dehumanization process at work in the world ever since colonizers committed to trafficking human beings to increase their wealth. Grieving makes it possible for me to remain fully present to the suffering that is exploding in our contemporary world. I do not want to live in a world that distracts with business as usual while an entire race and its myriad cultural threads are torn to shreds. Before I address the grief I feel over systemic injustice using EFT, I feel paralyzed by shame. After I’ve released my grief, I find the energy I need to take action.
While it remains true that I can’t do much, I can take some meaningful actions. I can read White Privilege and become more informed about white defensiveness and how to end my personal contribution to racism. I can listen to Angela Davis’s interview on democracynow.org and learn more about the challenges of participating in intelligent dialogue when fear prompts so many of us to create false choices between having militarized police and having no police at all. I can support Yes! Magazine with my money as well as my willingness to learn about how we can act to end systemic racism.
Alone, my actions count for little, but I am not alone. As part of a growing group of justice seekers of all races, the effect of even our smallest actions in support of a fair and safe world for all peoples is influential in the moment and cumulative over time. This is a long-haul justice movement.
So, let’s do this. Let’s grieve for the state of the world. Let’s grieve for our part in reaping the benefits of white supremacist systems – political, educational, judicial – and the injustice these systems cause, and then get on with it. Let’s watch Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, let’s read Alice Walker’s interview in Yes! Magazine, let’s watch again and again Ava DuVernay’s masterworks, 13th and When They See Us until we can admit and speak against systemic racism. Let’s move into activism with our African American brothers and sisters. Let’s participate in dialogues that support justice and end racism.
And let’s be sure to take some time to release our store of grief, for ourselves and others, every single day.
Feeling and releasing grief may not seem important, but it is. More than any other self-care action we take, grieving racism’s brutal severing of human bonds short-circuits shame and defensiveness, rage and impotence, and so frees the energy we need to keep on keeping on together.
Be Safe. Be Just. Be Aware. Be Love.
Until next time, Jane