Updated: a day ago
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? The question gives me pause because 1) I will not refer to anyone as a “minority” for reasons I will discuss shortly, and 2) 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 publications, but once I spoke my truth, the articles were killed.
I’m choosing to share the truth from those interviews in this short-story-style blog post (an almost 30 minute read) to 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.
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 healing strategies as you read.
Because many people seem to be too afraid (White people) or too frustrated/emotionally triggered/exhausted/shut down (Black, Brown and 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), 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.
On the night of the show, while we were getting dressed, one of my teachers, who was white, 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.
My elementary school had very few Black students (less than 3%). 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 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 want so badly 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. I was raised by a single parent who worked long hours and we struggled financially, so I handled problems at school on my own. During this time, we didn't have a car. I didn't have access to books or therapy. I had television and not much more, so I used what resources I had to keep me balanced. I was blown away by how similar my personality was and how much I had in common with the mild mannered Dr. David Banner.
Middle school was better because the TV mini series "Roots" made White people uncomfortable, and I started to grow even taller which inoculated me from being an easy target. Through the craziness, I consistently found silver linings and managed to connect with every ethnicity, including many white students. My music teacher, who was white, noticed this special ability of mine and called on me to settle a dispute between the Black students (who wanted to sing It's My Turn) and the White students (who wanted to sing Dream On) for our eighth grade graduation ceremony. Although I resented my teacher for putting me on the spot to take on the responsibility of an adult teacher without warning or preparation, the experience taught me a great deal about the art of racial mediation and negotiation.
High School was a different animal and will take a considerable amount of time for me to unpack. Although I have a lot of great memories from high school and befriended many wonderful people, the racial dynamics were sort of like a cross between "Roots," (but would be more accurately titled "Roots: The Post Jim Crow Years"), "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (without the murder) and "Flatliners" (without the apologies). Our family moved to a more rural area, meaning that I would have to start over making friends at a high school much further away. I ended up at a high school with a Black superintendent, a few Black teachers, custodians/other staff, and about 25-30% of the students were Black. What a reprieve from my K- 8 experiences.
Though I refused to become a member of the social cliques at school, I was warmly welcomed and quickly made a ton of friends in every grade level and of every ethnicity. I took my first psychology course in ninth grade and it totally rocked my world. It was the first time that I considered that the world may not be the way I perceive it. My psychology studies inspired me to continually run an array of experiments to test my perceptions and create my own diagnoses for patterns that I noticed. Almost immediately, I experienced what I diagnosed to be called "Slave Master Syndrome."
During the Euro-American slave trade, White males would marry White women and parade their whiteness and privilege in public, but then at night they would sneak down to the slave shacks to rape the Black females (though not often discussed, the Black males were raped as well by White men and White women - a painfully deep topic best reserved for a book). It didn't matter if the Black women were married. In fact, married Black women offered White men the opportunity to assert their power and keep Black men in their place. Their offspring would be sold for profit or kept around, perhaps as house slaves to torment their wives (they had to make sure that White women also knew their place).
I noticed that if I were hidden from public view (in between school busses, alone in the hallway, etc.) there would be some White boy there attempting to touch, kiss, grab or otherwise behave as if he had carte blanche with my body. If only I knew the language of consent and how to enforce it. The only way I could get rid of them would be to say "if you want to kiss me, then kiss me over there where everyone can see us." This would make them disappear. Of course there were a few select White playboys who would flirt with me (and every other female) in public. If a gnat and an octopus could have a child, it would be those White playboys.
What I called "Slave Master Syndrome" afflicted some of the more popular White boys in school - often those who generally or even avidly pretended to not even like Black girls. Although I'm not thrilled about putting my personal life on blast, these dynamics need to be outed and discussed so that they can be healed. The popular White boys used peer pressure/their status to intentionally sabotage romantic relationships that I could have had which caused me considerable emotional pain.
As an example, one of these boys came after me (thinking that he could seduce me with his significant popularity/status) even though he knew how deeply I cared for his Brown friend (who was seeking acceptance and had no idea that his loyalty went one way). Slave Master Syndrome makes a person betray their friends in order to serve their own interests. No one is safe on the plantation. If a slave master wants your woman, he will take her. The incognito look that he gave me when I passed him in the hallway sent an unnerving chill up my spine. Disgusted by this White boy's actions, I told two gossipy girls about his sly move hoping to shut him down and praying that the rumors would make it to the Brown boy's ears. However, the slave master was too powerful and shut the rumor mill down. That White people could create an environment toxic enough to keep two brown-skinned people from connecting with each other filled me with a sort of hopeless pain. Just like a slave girl, I powerlessly watched it happen before my eyes.
Many Brown people have parents who are immigrants and, having been seduced by the illusions of life in America, have no idea how to prepare their children for the insidious racism in schools (and its complicated dynamics based on the contemptuous, intentionally hidden history between Black and White people). They see how poorly Black people are treated and (hoping for conventional acceptance and to avoid being treated in similar ways) pledge allegiance to White people (erroneously believing that their allegiance is equally reciprocated). Gradually, they begin to feel ashamed of their family, skin color/hair/language/indigenous clothing, date/marry people they don't love and drop their cultural heritage. They think that by aligning with White people, they will have more success and be treated better, but this is an illusion of whiteness.
Although they may feel that they have gained some privilege, it often takes them a lifetime or even a few generations to realize that they are nothing more than house slaves who could be bought or sold at anytime. I grew up with an East Indian family who insisted that their children married White people. As I have observed them over the years, I've noticed that this decision seemed to bring no fulfillment to their lives and often invited pain. One member of the family (now in his 60's) remains unmarried to this day because he fell deeply in love with a Black woman and his father forbade the union. Another was continually beaten by her white husband. To fall in love with the soul of another who matches yours (even though they are of another ethnicity) is a beautiful occurrence. But, to only date and marry people simply because they are white, regardless of their character or compatibility, is a reflection of deep, internalized self-hatred.
Black people have been betrayed/manipulated so much, by so many and for so long, that we make Brown/immigrant and even Black people (especially if they are also bi/multiracial) work hard for a long time to prove their loyalty (i.e. by requiring that they like everything about Black culture, insisting that they be considered to be Black instead of their own ethnicity/reject the part of their ethnicity that is not black, arbitrarily deciding what actions make them "Black enough," etc.). Make the wrong move or say the wrong thing, and you can be dropped quickly. Even if a person initially passes these inefficacious loyalty tests, Black people still struggle with trust and create more and more requirements for acceptance that never seem to be fulfilled because trust and loyalty cannot be proven, it must be cultivated. This extremely unhealthy behavior is a by-product of oppression that can be deeply unconscious and embedded in the Black psyche.
A way out of this negative merry-go-round is to recognize/accept that Black people are inherently and deeply affected by actions that trigger emotional responses. To this day, slave masters intentionally trigger emotional responses in Black people (which is especially effective when we gather in groups) to distract and manipulate us - sort of like the "no-look pass" technique in basketball. It is imperative that Black people consistently practice raising awareness to consciously disrupt these cycles of manipulation.
An excellent response would be to resist the temptation to knee-jerk react (which gives away our power) to feeling emotionally triggered/awakened. Instead, pause and take a long slow deep breath in and out before choosing a response (or if deeply upset, walk away and spend some time in contemplation before choosing an appropriate response). This is a simple, yet powerful technique in theory, but can be very difficult to access in real life situations without a dedicated, consistent practice. Then, take the time to look deeply within oneself while developing an ever-evolving spiritual practice (that must also include nourishing our bodies) which would enable us to heal/release past traumas and monitor, set and enforce healthy boundaries with ourselves and others. Integrating these contemplative practices into everyday life will help Black people to become aware of and develop effective counter strategies for cloaked manipulative tactics which will help us to cultivate trust and loyalty in ourselves while also attracting an abundance of ethical, virtuous and integrous allies of all ethnicities, including our own (which is what we truly desire at our essence). Whether we are on or off the slave plantation, we have to face the fact that most of us have been corrupted (consciously and unconsciously) and are in need of deep healing.
What I found to be most repulsive was that the slave master White boys in high school were not interested in legitimately dating me because they devalued and dehumanized Black females. They just wanted me to be available for them in case they wanted to sneak around with me while simultaneously maintaining their public image as bona fide members of the elite, jock, Risky Business White boy's club. I'm not sure why any of them thought that I would consider their actions to be acceptable, let alone attractive. I did my best to avoid making eye contact with them. It is very important for me to be respected, and I was not going to be some White boy's secret breadcrumb snatcher on the sly.
The Black students knew what was going on, but we didn't talk about it. We didn't want to put the Black males in conflict with the White males, because there was not enough protection for the Black male students. If a fight broke out, only the Black males would have ended up in Juvenile Detention Centers. Just like on the slave plantation, we silently and collectively carried the burdens, sometimes communicated telepathically and did what we could to protect each other. During this time, crack cocaine was intentionally dropped into Black urban neighbors across the US which decimated Black families and fueled the prison industrial complex. Even though we didn't really understand what was going on in urban America, there was no way that we would dare do anything to increase the targeting of Black males.
I occasionally catch myself walking through the airport or stores avoiding eye contact with White males (an unhealthy avoidance tactic/self-protection habit I developed in high school) which lets me know that there is still more healing for me to do.
If "Roots" reflected the actions of some of the White boys, "Mandingo" is what comes to mind when I think of the some of the White girls. Whenever I would go to the mall or walk down the halls in school, I would inevitably see a bunch of Black boys hanging out, but I couldn't ever figure out how to even get close enough to say hello to them because of the swarm of eager White girls all up in their faces. The White girls seemed to be experimenting, flaunting themselves, not necessarily because they genuinely liked these boys, but because they just wanted to test the waters. Brown boys were even more of a target, because they were less risky - too dark to be white without actually being black.
I remember having a crush on one of the black basketball players in ninth grade and thinking that the line of eager White girls to date him was so long, I would still be standing in that line today. I refused to compete with the White girls because mimicking their behaviors would have made me feel as if I were sacrificing my standards, self-respect and self-esteem. To my dismay, the Black, Brown and immigrant boys readily picked this eager low hanging fruit. I felt like if by some miracle these boys were ever interested in me, they may expect me to engage in some form of subjugation because of their experiences with the White girls. I do not deny that there were White girls who may have genuinely cared for these boys, but many seemed to just be having a little fun.
That said, there were many honorable White people at my high school including one boy in particular who was a dear friend and was protective of me while maintaining respectful boundaries (which I greatly needed and appreciated). We were curiously different yet like two peas in a pod in high school, and I loved him like a brother. I used what I learned in psychology class to help me experiment to figure out how to navigate my way through these complicated/shades of gray racial dynamics while doing my best to stay positive. I could write several books on what I learned about race and how I healed my secret pains and traumas, but I wasn't quite aware enough to truly understand the societal effects of racism until my university years.
The University Years
The College Boy
When I was in college, I remember being the only Black person in my screenwriting class. For one particular activity, we submitted a short scene which our professor, who was white, read aloud without revealing who wrote the story. When my story (which was about a wealthy woman living in a Victorian style home) was read, the class went wild and kept trying to figure out who wrote it, but not one person in the class looked at me. It was as if I were invisible. There was a moment when my professor silently caught my eyes and shamefully shook her head. I found it interesting that, while I did not specifically identify the race of the woman in my story, the students assumed that she was a White woman.
At one point, I noticed that my professor seemed to be stalling. She kept shifting in her seat and shuffling papers as if attempting to avoid reading one of the stories. She then took a breath and, reluctantly, read another story that was about a Black female slave. When I heard the story, I could understand why my professor did not want to read it. The character was so flat and the story was so ridiculously inaccurate (and thoroughly insulting), I could barely believe my ears. When she finished reading the story, the room went dead silent, and I soon realized that the students thought I had written it! Suddenly, a White male student proudly broke the uncomfortable silence and the rule of not revealing himself.
Perhaps I was too unaware to have made the connection in my youth, but in this moment I realized how little White people knew about Black people, but how much I knew about white culture. The college boy's story revealed a lack of cultural competence and an abundance of willful ignorance that was astounding to me. I waited until everyone left before approaching my extremely embarrassed professor, and before I could say anything, she lifted one hand in the air to pause me and said "sometimes, I'm so ashamed of my people." We both laughed out loud in disbelief and were able to have the kind of healthy discussion about race that seeks understanding over shaming.
The Fired Professor
In another one of my college courses, half of the White students dropped our literature class because the professor, who was white, insisted on including one Black author in our list of books to read about the Reconstruction era. Because the Reconstruction era (1865-1877) was the period following the Civil War, I’m not sure how a Reconstruction era course could omit Black authors and be accurately taught. The White students who chose to stay in the course were absolutely moved by the book (“Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” by Harriet Jacobs) and were surprised/amazed that they could relate to it. I read books whether or not I thought that I could relate to them. I remember sitting in class bitterly thinking that I can’t "relate" to being a White man with a peg leg or sleeping with a religious minister but I read “Moby Dick” and “The Scarlet Letter” without protest.
One White woman in the class said she was so absorbed into the story that she forgot she was reading a Black story and just saw it as a human story. In that moment I realized that, either consciously or unconsciously, White people still did not recognize Black people as humans. I reflected on my high school experiences and began to have a deeper understanding about racial dynamics.
We still haven't healed from the legacy of slavery because we refuse to look at these elephants in our rooms.
Unfortunately, the White students who dropped the class complained so much that the professor (who was truly an outstanding educator) was fired after that semester. I was appalled by the power of these students to rid themselves of one of the best literature teachers that I had at that university. I’m not sure why, but up until this moment, I hadn’t considered that an American person could be in their early twenties and had never read one book by a Black person (or any other ethnicity).
Elephant #1: Will we become humbly honest with ourselves, recognize, take responsibility for and seek to overcome our own levels of deep ignorance?
The Professional World
The Icelandic Flight Attendant
My sibling-cousin, who happens to be half German, invited me to visit him while he lived in Denmark. His sister had previously invited me to visit her while she was working and living in China, but I procrastinated so much that she was gone before I could get my act together. For this reason, I wanted to make sure that I made it to Denmark while he was still there. Because he worked with Icelandair at the time, he recommended that I do the traditional stopover in Iceland before heading to Denmark (to promote tourism, flights on Icelandair land first in Reykjavík allowing you to stop over for free). At first I wondered how a Black woman might be treated there, but since my cousin had previously lived there I felt confident about taking the trip. I was treated wonderfully.
While in Iceland, I met a Flight Attendant who initiated a conversation with me after noticing that I was thoroughly engrossed in reading “The House of the Spirits: A Novel” by Latin American author, Isabel Allende. We shared our love for Allende's work. She told me that the people of Iceland endeavored to be well read, particularly when it comes to learning about other cultures because Iceland is so isolated from the rest of the world. I talked to her about the brilliance of my favorite author Octavia Butler and we discussed authors of other ethnicities.
The level of conversation that I had with her was, in comparison, superior to conversations that I have had with White people in America. She humanized me because she took the time to learn about other cultures. This delicious experience wasn’t quite enough to tempt me to move to Iceland, but I have to admit that every time I leave the US, I wonder why I return because, even though racism exists everywhere, I have felt safer and have been treated better in other countries.
Indigenous and Invisible
Black, Brown and immigrant people do not feel seen or understood. I listened to a young Navajo male speak on a panel once. My heart broke when I heard him say "we just want to be seen." I attended a conference for Indigenous people and heard a young Lakota poet say that when her Uber driver asked her where she was from and she told him, he replied "I didn't think that there were any more Native Americans left." While searching for images for this post, I typed "Native American" into one particular image bank search bar and got over 10 images of football teams.
The Beauty of Cultural Exploration
Having had the awesome privilege of being heavily exposed to many cultures such as, but certainly not limited to, African, Latinx, Caribbean, Indian/Asian/Asian-Pacific, German, Jewish and Italian culture in my early years, cultural exposure and celebration has been essential for the wellness of my soul. I'm so grateful for unapologetically Asian art, food and films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Certainly Trevor Noah's work is a true gift to humankind. Born a Crime is an exceptional gift to Black, Brown and immigrant people because it masterfully demonstrates how to acknowledge and look deeply into our pain while at the same time laughing through it (healing at its finest). Sharing with and learning about other cultures has expanded my perceptions and made me a better person in every way. I am deeply humbled by how much I do not know and will spend the rest of my life endeavoring to become less and less culturally ignorant.
Elephant #2: Will we choose to learn about and celebrate other cultures to reduce our level of ignorance, cause us to question and correct our fallacies/biases and create a healthier ecosystem for all people?
Overcoming Fear, Ignorance and Oppression
Racism is fueled by cultural incompetence and willful ignorance. People are afraid of what they do not know, yet these same people are unwilling to pursue understanding (as was demonstrated by the killing of my interviews in the white publications). What are we afraid that we will discover? Do White people fear annihilation? If so, they can drop that irrational fear because who in their right mind would initiate such a bloodbath? It would behoove White people who share that fear to study A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. I recommend studying that book (for all ethnicities) because it cannot be understood through reading alone. It requires active contemplative thought and time to examine and question our thoughts and behaviors. I listen to the audio book at least twice every year, and continually gain new insights as I evolve and grow. Understanding the pain body and the ego as broken down in that book would eliminate irrational fears that White people may have.
For many other reasons, I would also recommend that Black/Brown/immigrant people study Life Visioning: A Transformative Process for Activating Your Unique Gifts and Highest Potential. This book includes specific instructions and demonstrations that help Black/Brown/immigrant people detox oppressive programming and rebalance their mind and emotions. For the same reasons that I stated above, I revisit this masterful work each year as well.
A child that is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth. - African Proverb
Will We Talk About It?
I'm certainly not attempting to speak for all Black, Brown and immigrant people, but I can generally say that we aren't interested in subjecting White people to tit for tat style repercussions. We are not interested in corrupting ourselves by inflicting pain so that we can make ourselves feel like we are better than White people. We don't want White people to suffer. We want White people to heal so that they can stop taking actions that cause the rest of us to suffer. We certainly are not moved by the tears of White people, unless those tears transform into healthy and right actions. We want White people to stop putting systems and structures in place that prevent Black/Brown/immigrant people from thriving. We are arguing over who gets the glass of water in front of us when there is an ocean of water behind us. We have to heal from zero-sum ideology and understand that the world is abundant and thrives on variation.
The recent racist attacks in the news are nothing new to Black, Brown and immigrant people. The advent of cell phones and social media has made it more difficult to ignore what we have had to endure. Now that we have society’s attention, perhaps we can look within and critique ourselves without judgment so that the healing can begin.
Elephant #3: Will we acquire, understand and consistently use language that heals?
Co-creating Affirmative Language
Let’s take the words “diversity” and “minority” as an example. The word “diversity” has the energy of “divide” in it so why would we use that word to inspire inclusion? The word “minority” has the word “minor” in it. If we took the countries of the world and put them inside the continent of Africa, there would still be more Africa.
For this and many other reasons, I do not refer to myself as a minority. Nor do I consider any of my brothers and sisters from other ethnicities to be a minority. We insist on using these words to describe Black, Brown and immigrant people while using words like supreme (i.e. supremacy) or privilege to describe White people. We must find words to describe people that are not demoralizing and minimizing. It is just as damaging to overstate who we are as it is to understate who we are as a people.
Does Racism Benefit Anyone?
When Will We Talk About White People and Suicide?
We don't talk about it or seem to recognize a connection, but White men aged 25-64 are twice as likely to commit suicide than men of every other ethnic group (except Indigenous men). As a group, White Americans have higher suicide rates than most other ethnicities (Source: CDC).
When I worked as a Mental Health Coach, most of my clients in general, and all of my clients with suicide ideation, were white. Some of my clients were extremely wealthy and equally as miserable. Does the need for superiority actually contribute to the fulfillment of White people? Whether we want to admit it or not, we are on this planet together and if we refuse to cleanse ourselves and take these elephants seriously, in one way or another, we will suffer.
A Few Ways to Unblock Ourselves and Facilitate the Healing Process
Actively Engage in Self-awareness/Love/Empowerment by Seeking Value Within
Take the time to learn more about your family, ancestry, history and culture. It’s true that some of your history will not be positive. I had a client who found out that her father was a Nazi who had committed terrible crimes. She hated anything German. As I considered healing strategies for her, I silently thought about the irony of having both German and Jewish ancestry. I had to remind her that while the past cannot be changed, the actions that she takes today could change her present and future.
I worked diligently with her to redirect her anger and shame away from "anything German" into positive actions that heal. Thanks to my family, my growing understanding of German culture helped me to quickly locate some German traditions that she could embrace and accept as a part of her healing process. I utilized my connections at the local Jewish Community Center to find ways for her to do good work in their community and learn about Jewish culture which enriched her life. She was able to heal and offer herself in service to the Jewish community because she faced and healed her past. The more you learn about yourself, the more you are able to face and take actions to heal what hurts so that you can create the space to love yourself and others. She is no longer haunted and tormented by her inherited past.
The Journey to and Work of Loving Yourself
The more you love yourself, the less you’ll be triggered by other people’s actions which allows you to engage in contemplative thought and respond with heightened awareness to the events of the outside world. The Black and Latinx populations share similar histories:
We suffered a historic catastrophic event which included ongoing violence, rape, pillage, the altering of at least 20% of our genetic makeup (creating a new hybrid race of people), the creation of systems of internal competition (i.e. preference given to lighter skin tones, etc. to pit us against each other), being forced into acquiescence to all aspects of European culture and the mass abduction of our resources.
We were forced to adopt another culture's religion which was altered and deliberately used to psychologically brainwash, manipulate, suppress and control behaviors.
We were forced to forget our indigenous languages and exclusively speak another culture’s language until our own indigenous languages were forgotten/lost, and we were forced to subscribe to European naming conventions.
Because of these commonalities, I refrain from assuming that I understand people of other ethnicities or even my own ethnicity. I've lost so much of my own history. I am still attempting to understand who I am while mourning/having to accept the fact that I am 26% European not because of love (which I would have happily welcomed/accepted) but primarily through rape and violence. I know that I must heal, transmute, integrate, love and accept all of who I am even though part of me belongs to a culture that dehumanizes and often despises me. If I don't heal, I risk psychologically destroying myself from the inside out (something for us to consider the next time we see a mentally ill homeless ethnic person roaming the streets). Therapeutic movement and healing music has been my saving grace, and though I have much to learn about other cultures, I am committed to lifelong learning, exploration and engaging in practices such as walking in IRE.
The ignorance that I seek to overcome is as real and runs as deep as the love I feel for humankind. We cannot love ourselves or others by remaining stagnant and refusing to grow. I actively and humbly seek to discover the truth about myself and about other cultures (regardless of how painful that truth may be to face). Even though I have been completely immersed in white culture since early childhood, (which is tantamount to eating vanilla ice cream for breakfast, lunch, dinner and all my snacks while watching TV, movies, listening to the radio and reading about vanilla ice cream all day/every day) I still continually question my views of White people, actively resist judgment and seek understanding to hold myself accountable to potential biases and fallacies. For this reason, I was especially annoyed by the college boy who didn't bother to understand even a little bit about Black history/culture before writing a story about us.
Ignoring It Will Not Heal It or Make It Disappear
We cannot heal what we refuse to acknowledge. As an American, I am appalled, embarrassed and humiliated by our Declaration of Independence which refers to Indigenous people as "Indian Savages," yet conventional society still refuses to acknowledge that America was founded upon and deeply rooted in racism. In 1776, my ancestors were still enslaved so whose freedom do we celebrate on the 4th of July? Why won't we acknowledge the fact that my ancestors were a major funder for the freedom of White people and paid dearly with their blood, sweat, tears and free labor? How do we heal as a society if we are completely unwilling to acknowledge and cleanse ourselves and our past?
If we do not continually question and challenge our beliefs, we will not evolve personally or as a society.
When You Wake Up in the Morning Check in With Yourself First
Refuse to allow someone or something outside of yourself to be your first point of contact for your day. Instead, spend a few moments in gratitude for another day and for the opportunity to do your part to make this world a better place. Then, take a few slow deep breaths. This type of exercise brings you into the present moment and in touch with your true self.
Refrain from Engaging in Disturbing Activities at Least 60 Minutes Before Bedtime
The news consistently places its focus on issues that represent the lowest common denominators of our society and repeats it constantly throughout the day to increase their ratings (i.e. "breaking news" only happens once). Try skipping the news for a day and see if you truly missed anything of importance.
Make a habit of breathing and pausing before speaking or acting. Resist the temptation to be seduced into knee-jerk reactions.
Take the time to practice self-awareness and self-control through breathing exercises and practices such as qigong, meditation and yoga (or some other contemplative practice that nourishes you). These practices allow you to digest what is happening in the outside world (that may be awakening something painful inside of you) and help you to distance yourself and watch it from a place of detachment and stoicism until you are able to process the emotions, find balance within yourself and respond with awareness.
Choosing to read this entire blog is a test - a sort of rite of passage. If you've made it this far, please know that I recognize you may have found this blog to be unsettling. If so, congratulations! I applaud you for hanging in there and beginning/deepening your beautiful process of spiritual awareness.
Will we face the elephant(s) in our room(s)?
There can be no growth inside your comfort zone. I invite you to continually question your beliefs and sit with the discomfort that you may be feeling in silence for at least a few minutes each day. Some days/seasons will be more challenging than others, but if you continue to cleanse yourself and stay the course through the peaks and valleys, you will tap into a tranquil state of deep peace within you. You may even find that you'll laugh out loud when you come to realize the simplicity of what you thought was so complicated. I wish you peace and a fruitful journey. Be well and be radiant.