Sidewalk sign from downtown Anacortes, WA, June 8, 2020.
“And I saw that what divided me from the world was not anything intrinsic to us but the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named us matters more than anything we could ever actually do.”
-Ta-Nehisi Coates from his book Between the World and Me.
Like the rest of you, I’ve spent some soul time reflecting on the image of George Floyd in his final minutes. And what my role is in it. I was taught by Mary Magdalene that the bravest thing we can do is feel our feelings. I hope you will join me in this vulnerable act of sharing by reading what I have to say.
To be transparent, I’m a Caucasian affluent woman who lives in the Northwest. While I’ve never suffered from lack of material goods and the affluence it affords, I strive to make a difference in my work life and pay it forward. I grew up in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, in the Holy Redeemer Parish. My childhood neighborhood was a white-bread kind of place and most families were of Irish, Polish, or of North European descent. My multicultural education essentially didn’t begin until college.
Talking about racism or any systemic acts of exclusion isn’t comfortable. I need to speak my truth here. I believe it is a necessary step towards facing one another. With that in mind, here is some of what is on my heart and conscience.
I believe as a cultural collective Americans have largely lost the ability to find common ground. Perhaps the truth is that there never was a common ground.
We tend to blame partisan politics but that is a hypocritical lens when the majority of us tend to live our lives in groups we mostly agree with and find solace in. I understand that this is often necessary for identity and development but what is advantage for most is a necessity and survival for those who are often black and/or are on the margins. “Other.” Which brings me to a new point, I advocate dropping the usage of the word other from our communications regarding the disenfranchised, especially in academic journals. Quantum physics has already made plain that we are all connected as part of a universal energy field. There is no other. Speaking this way is building yet another human construct where there is none. We are one. We are unified in this universal field.
No matter our socio-economic status, we lead very busy lives. Some, like me, are thriving; most are doing their best to survive, grow and find community. Americans are front burner people. Not that we necessarily bloom this way but it is a lifestyle that many-including myself-have created and condoned. We keep pace with standards that our capitalistic society has collectively engineered and embraced. Overall, I take no issue here. I have benefited from it. But any sense of statis or balance seems like planning for another day. In my own life and in listening to more clients and friends, there seems to be a rising sense of how much “bypassing” is actually happening.
Spiritual bypassing* is a concept that recognizes the inherent problems that arise when we bypass, or skip over, the deep work in our lives. In our personal lives, in our work lives and in our relationships in the wider community. This may include skirting feelings, making unhealthy or unethical choices, or not taking responsibility for our personal boundaries. It certainly includes our bypassing race relations. Spiritual bypassing applies to persons, to families, to cultures and to nations. To humanity.
I feel that white bypassing has gone on for so long that our national immunity as a whole has suffered gravely. I absolutely include myself in this. We’ve become numb-until people like George Floyd shock us out of our avoidance and denial. It is easy to bypass and condone our own behaviors in our busy lives. Until we watch an innocent unarmed man slowly suffocate. This pandemic, systemic racism, is far worse than COVID and has gone on since before the birth of our nation. As a collective, we each share a part of the whole. We all watch and part of each of us, dies.
I do not want my words to add more white noise (pun intended). I want to emphasize that we all have a stake in this. Which is the good news. What do I recommend? Let’s give it the attention it is seeking, that we are all seeking.
There is nothing that doesn’t benefit from awareness, attention and compassion. Even systems need compassion. The bigger the problem, the greater the need for sustained compassion. The fact that these are unconscious or implicit biases we all have is just the beginning of the iceberg. But I know that following a thread of compassion is always a sure path. If you have a friend or worker who is African American, offer to buy them coffee and ask them to share just one story. Listen fully. Surrender judgement. Rest your assumptions and your response for this sitting. Be sure to thank them afterwards.
Consider yourself a cultural anthropologist because that is exactly what you are.
In 1984, Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee established to address apartheid atrocities in a courtroom setting. The unifying concept that he used to bring people into reconciliation is known as UBUNTU.
It means humanity and the powerful phrase, “I am because of you.” It is a concept of community that is simple and powerful. It has been used in many different arenas including climate change and pro basketball.
Let’s consider how we each can bring ubuntu into our own lives. For ourselves and the greater good. Because “we are because of us.”
Make a commitment. Learn, share, listen. Wag more, bark less. Vote.
Thank you for listening to my truth. Try something new below.
Please remember to be gentle with your thoughts and listen to your hearts.
My ideas for consideration:
1. Read: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. A moving letter to Coates son about history and growing up black in America.
2. Take the “Hidden Bias” test at the Teaching Tolerance or tolerance.org. You can find the websitehere.
3. Pick a TedX talk to watch that interests you here. Better yet, invite some friends over and compare your thoughts. Lean into discomfort together.
4. If you have never seen it, watch Spike Lee’s movie Do the Right Thing. It’s the right thing to do right now.
5. Sit down with a friend and feel out how you might act on something together. Ask yourselves what is it exactly that you fear.
*”Spiritual bypassing…is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs…spiritual bypassing fits almost seamlessly into our collective habit of turning away from what is painful.”
-Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters.
-by Robert Augustus Masters, Ph D which you can view here.
Sally O | My Inner Lighthouse