Updated: May 9
Race in this country is still the elephant in the room that no one wants to discuss. ☥ ☥ Lenny Kravitz ☥
It is a question that I have been asked a lot lately: As a Black woman, what would you like for your community to do to better support minority folks in today's society? I consider this question to be offensive because:
☥ I will not refer to anyone as a “minority,” an inaccurate label that perpetuates harmful ideas
about racial hierarchy; and,
☥ I realize that the people who ask me the question don’t actually want to hear an honest answer.
I generally get asked this question once, and when I share my truth, I am not asked again.
The recently publicized racist attacks in the news caused me to be interviewed for white
I have carried the burden of knowing how to heal what hurts and grappling with how to bring the light so that people will want to heal for far too many years. The most important lesson that I've learned on my own healing journey is that we cannot heal what we are unwilling to face, so even if very few people choose to read this blog, I must share my stories. We make this world a better place by healing ourselves and sharing that love with the people we know. ☥ That said, sometimes the truth hurts as it sets us free ...
My affirmation is that these stories will encourage those who read it to acknowledge three elephants in our proverbial rooms (and a host of sub elephants) blocking the healing of ourselves and of our society so that we can transcend repressed emotions, transform our lives and communities.
It would be a grave understatement to say that racial dynamics are multilayered with many shades of gray requiring thoughtful analysis from an array of vantage points. For this reason, I need to provide a rather lengthy amount of context, so it will take a while to get to the elephants (which I offer as affirmative questions). I humbly invite you to refrain from skimming/reading ahead, and encourage you to read through the discomfort of this truth and reconciliation type of experience from the beginning to the end in order to receive the complete understanding of this post as well as the healing strategies that it provides. I invite you to click on the hyperlinks to gain additional knowledge and practice an array of breathing and movement exercises as you read.
Because many people seem to be too afraid (White people) or too frustrated/emotionally triggered/exhausted/shut down (Black ☥ Indigenous ☥ Immigrant People) to talk honestly and at least somewhat objectively about race, I use true personal stories, compassion and love to assist us in reaching a higher level of understanding.
A Troubling Glimpse Of My K-12 Years
For reasons that require a separate blog (or book) to unpack, I truly believed that I was an ugly little Black girl. This feeling was reinforced continually throughout elementary school, but through my part in our Christmas play, I finally had the chance to be pretty. For weeks, I practiced being a pretty doll with the rest of the girls in my class. Our teachers were going to put makeup on us and we would dance around a Christmas tree. I practiced the dance at home. I was excited and ready. Or so I thought.
On the night of the show, while we were getting dressed, one of my white teachers walked over to me and said, "Phyllis, we were thinking that since you are so tall, we would like for you to be the Christmas tree in the play." The teacher didn't sit in a chair or squat down to meet me at eye level and provided no explanation for the abrupt change. She looked down at me, asserting her authority in a friendly yet condescending way. I remember crying and asserting that I didn't want to be a tree. I wanted to be a pretty doll just like everyone else (and like I had been practicing for weeks). Shocked by my reaction, the teachers went to get my mother. I'm not sure what they said to her, and I can't remember what she said to me. But I do remember letting myself go numb, becoming the Christmas tree and making myself put on the happy face so that the White people could have their show, all the while feeling like something inside of me had just died.
Less than 3% of my elementary school peers were Black students. There were no Black teachers, custodians or any other personnel so the White kids thoroughly enjoyed taunting, teasing and even hunting us with no repercussions. In second grade, I had to walk past one White boy's house on my way to school with a barricade of kids around me to keep him from charging me at full speed and knocking me to the ground every day.
The one time that I went to school with braids in my hair, I was bullied to the point that I begged my mother to let me "perm" (chemically straighten) my hair to make me look less "Black" (a decision that I deeply regretted later). It took many years of experimentation for me to figure out how to reduce the burning sensations and prevent the scabs, caused by the chemical burns, from forming on my scalp when I permed my hair (which happened every six weeks). I did not cultivate the courage to reverse that decision until decades later when I became a Doctor of Natural Medicine/Ayurvedic Practitioner and could no longer deny the damage to my hair and scalp.
To this day, beautiful Black women continually approach me in private and tell me that they desperately want to stop putting chemicals in their hair, but they are afraid of how they will be treated by White people and fear that their husbands/Black men will no longer find them attractive (a complicated dynamic that I'll save for a future blog post, or perhaps a book). As a healer, I have consistently encouraged Black men, who prefer straight hair, to consider how conventional standards of beauty have influenced/brainwashed them and to lovingly support their woman's desire/need to fall in love with their natural hair.
When the movie 10 was released, White girls went from taunting me to asking me if I would braid their hair. I was consumed with rage. I became an avid fan of The Incredible Hulk to help me understand and learn to control my intense feelings of anger.