I hope this message finds you well. I’m here in sunny London, playing catch up admin after a month book-ended by viruses. Feels good to be at my desk, getting a few things done finally.
I have been processing a lot these past 6 months. Instagram posts have been thin on the ground, and fewer newsletters than ever. I’d like to share a bit about what I’ve been working with. Even as I write this I can feel a slowing of my mental acuity; I recognise in my system the ‘freeze’ part of the fight/flight response as I broach this subject. It’s tender and I have both felt compelled to share and deeply resistant to open this subject matter up. Yet, the time is now for this kind of sharing. And, as my intimate confidants have pointed out – I am being called to serve, and I am a bridge. Come what may.
Last year, one of my oldest friends reached out, wanting to meet, with something specific she wanted to speak about. I could see she was upset, so we made a date, and I prepared to hold space for her. When she came over later that week, I could see her distress. I wondered what could be so upsetting for her, praying it wasn’t a health issue.
She proceeded to share about her reading and podcast listening on the subject of white supremacy and matters of race and identity; she spoke of how, in her new study on this subject, comments I’ve made and experiences I’ve shared over the years rang through her mind continually.
Then she asked me to share my experience of not being white in a white supremacist global culture.
And, as it turned out – I had a lot to say. A well spring of feeling and a torrent of memories- diminishing moments of being disrespected, and challenged and ignored and aggressed flowed through my mind. I could have gone on for hours.
Up until that point, none of my white friends had ever asked me about my experience. And I have been sitting with all of this alone, for all this time. Countless comments I have made regarding my experience have been ignored by even my most beloved friends over the years.
I have been unpacking years of private inner anguish. The overt racism and sexism is one thing – and is certainly bad enough – but the endless microaggressions, the always-wondering if certain outcomes in my life are down to my non-whiteness – the sense of being de-centred in a world that centres whiteness, my sense that the rules that worked in favour of my most intimate friends and even my own (white) mother didn’t work for me… the (infuriating) ease of white people moving through white supremacist culture, when for me and other BIPOC it’s quite the opposite…
And my own silence, my own practice of white-centering, and the white-supremacy that has formed the root of many of my life’s aims. All the ways I have not felt ready or able or encouraged to speak publicly on something so utterly fundamental to every aspect of my life.
My own privilege.
My own disenfranchisement.
In the midst of this processing, I had a total white supremacist patriarchy-driven breakdown with a beloved white male teacher/friend. There’s a residual dissatisfaction on my part with the way that has been left and what lingers unexplored in the privilege gap between us. A sense that I need to speak up and speak out more. Loads of microaggressions on the part of well-meaning and uneducated white friends/colleagues. The emotional labour of helping people do a bit better, and my disgust-laden doubt that some folks will be bothered to try. Feeling unqualified to educate people but knowing I need to rise.
The astonishment of letting myself hear the truth about my own life that I have always known but almost never spoken about.
And the relief of reaching out and starting to connect with community of beautiful individuals who share similar experience.
There’s so much more to do and say. I have begun to articulate my own commitments to the work of dismantling white supremacist patriarchy. I consider this to be synonymous with spiritual awakening as a practice and a life goal.
I have a lot to learn. And a lot to acknowledge and reclaim and integrate. That’s clear.
When my friend asked me to share my experience, she expressed a deep regret and apology for having been unable, and unconsciously unwilling, to hear what I have said to her over the years about my experience. I did not get the sense that she wanted to hear my story in order to assuage her guilt, but rather to honour that a story is here in me, an uncomfortable and painful story, and one that is implicating for her and for all of my white friends and family.
I say this because it’s a tricky territory, a white friend asking a POC friend to share their experience, as it can be asking them to do emotional labour – to ‘explain’ something that can be researched independently – it can also be a way to assuage guilt or make a superficial gesture. Let my sharing here not be an opportunity for the white friends to haul off and start asking to hear stories of the pain of being BIPOC. In this situation with my friend, the approach was handled with care and respect. I did not feel it was all for her benefit, but rather for mine. She asked me to share and was willing to be told ‘no’. It was an apology, and an acknowledgement, and it was handled with appropriate sensitivity.
To my friends, students,and family who benefit from white supremacist patriarchy: I invite you to begin the work of taking this apart, if you have not done so already. There are books and there are websites and podcasts and workbooks and educators, including this and this amazingly impactful offering. Get educated. Read White Fragility. Get educated before you take action. Spend time with it. And then take action. The time is truly now to take this on in a committed way.
We cannot truly compassionately operate in mixed race/gender/ethnicity/ability/etc spaces (i.e. the world) without a clear understanding of the underlying, pervasive entanglements of white supremacist patriarchy – without a clear understanding of our own complicity and power to turn that around, and without sensitive, appropriate language and the understanding to bring systemic oppression into conversation and dialogue with all people. Learning how to hand back privilege is the work of a lifetime. It will take a lifetime of work to make a difference for future generations. Let us begin now.
Yogis of Colour – I started holding a private affinity support group for BIPOC at my home. Next one in July – let me know if you would like to come, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The amazing educator [Hala Khouri] (https://ompower.org/workshops/yoga-with-hala)is coming to London July 12 -14. CANNOT RECOMMEND HIGHLY ENOUGH. FOR ANYONE WITH A BODY – details below. Part of this is learning about systemic oppression, and it’s AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY to get started with this. Turns out that stress, anxiety, trauma, and social justice are all profoundly related. Come find out how with my longtime mentor who is a world class expert in these matters.
More on this, and more – below.
Blessings of Highest Love, Always,
L x x