You & White Supremacy, Part 4
About a month ago I came across Layla Saad of Wild Mystic Woman. I had just finished listening to So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo's and I was looking to continue my education and dig through some deeper aspects of the environment I grew up in. Layla Saad posted on her Instagram that she was hosting a free challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy.
Now even though I knew I wanted to dig into this, I ignored it for the first few days because this topic is uncomfortable. Realizing how complicit you are, in your actions, without your knowledge, is not a pleasant experience. However my discomfort at sharing this and uncovering my complicity is nothing compared to the issues at hand. It's nothing compared to what minorities, people of color, deal with on a day to day basis. For the next few Mondays I'll be sharing some of my answers to Layla Saad's prompts. These are my thoughts, my opinions and while I think everyone should be examining their actions, I acknowledge that not everyone is ready to do so. So if you are going to comment please be kind (all comments are moderated).
THE CHALLENGE POSTS FROM LAYLA'S INSTAGRAM
Day 23 - What have you learnt about You & White Leaders
Knowing what you now know about white supremacist behaviours across days 1-22, how do you respond when you witness white leaders behaving in these white supremacist ways? Do you call them in/out on it? Do you ask them to do better? Do you project your own white fragility on to them and fear calling them in/out, because you yourself fear being called in/out? Do you act like it didn’t happen and keep buying their products/services or following their leadership regardless? Do you challenge them, or do you silently seethe inside while hoping someone else will do it? Do you allow them to do the bare minimum and give them a cookie when they do (whether through speech or in your mind)? Had you even noticed before this work that your white leaders have been showing up in these ways? And if you now realise they have, how do you plan to respond (if at all)? If it’s you that’s in the leadership position, how do you plan to respond to your own behaviours going forward? Do you understand that holding yourself accountable to do better also includes holding your leaders accountable to doing better too? Does your fear of loss of privilege and comfort hold you back from asking your leaders to do better?
I wanted to have an excuse and say that right now in my life there aren't many leaders I am aware of. That I don't have any because I am not working. Except that isn't fully true. The follow I women, I follow because they are leaders and I follow them because they are strong feminist women who I want to emulate. They are actually who have brought me to this place of growth and awareness in my white fragility and supremacy. Many of the women I am following have been called out and are stepping up. Some more than others. It is through watching them that I have realized where I am and where I need to be.
I am afraid of calling someone out and their behavior because I am aware of how bad my own is. This is especially true when it comes to my own fragmented family. My family never hear the words I say until I write it in a blog post (this is especially true when it comes to body image. The topic of racism has never come up in my minimal interactions with my family). Which is a huge reason why I am also writing my answer into blog posts. It's a scared way of calling them out. Holding myself accountable to this work is important and making my answers public also does that. I have stopped participating in some communities because the leaders white privilege has gone unchecked. But I am part of that problem, I left quietly, doing my best not to disturb others in those spaces, meaning I have not called out anyone on their behavior or acknowledged my own failings.
White leadership is hard but it's also about building others up and the longer I dwell on this question, the more obvious to me it becomes that white women don't hold others up often. That I don't hold others up.
Day 24 - What have you learnt about You & Your Friends
How have you responded when you’ve witnessed racist words and actions from these people? Have you stayed silent or made excuses for them in your mind? Have you thought it wasn’t worth the hassle because of the discomfort of rocking the boat? Or have you seen it as your responsibility to address it with them since you have more influence over them because of your friendship? Are there certain people you feel more comfortable speaking up to than others? Are there certain people you continue to stay in friendship with even though they are problematic and refuse to change? Have you risked any of your friendships to call in/out, even if nobody was going to give you a cookie for it? How do you feel about your friends who are not doing the work (whether here or elsewhere), and what responsibility do you feel to encourage them to do their work?
There are five women that come to mind. Three have made me a better human. They have supported me, while questioning me, and forcing me to think outside my own preconceived notions. Calling them out on behaviors would not bother me nor them because we know each others hearts and know that any criticism come from a place of love. The other two though are supported until something makes them uncomfortable and then it's head in the sand. I don't speak out to these two women, I don't call out their behavior. They are not open to it and they do expect cookies for when they do make connections. They are fragile and unwilling. But even as I call them fragile and unwilling, so am I. I am too fragile to call out behavior. To worried about affecting things negatively. I don't want to rock the boat. These are the women I stay in a friendship with even though there's a huge unwillingness to acknowledge anything outside their own bubbles.
Outside of this group of women. I struggle too. It's been hard for me to calling out sexism, let alone any other behaviors. When I have called out sexism, most times it goes alright and it gives me courage to keep moving forward and I feel like I was able to do more, until we moved. Since moving there is so much fear. I am filled with it, the one time I called out someone's behavior, I lost the one group of friends we had made here. People in the US are very fragile when it comes to being challenged.
I feel huge responsibility in living my truth but no confidence in approaching others.
Day 25 - What have you learnt about You & Your Family
What have you learnt about You & speaking up with Your Family about racism and white supremacist beliefs and actions? Do you speak up or do you remain silent? Do you excuse your family members’ racial aggressions because it’s ‘not worth it’ and you want to keep the peace? Do you justify your silence with your family by referencing your mental health? And do you understand that BIPOC have mental health issues too and *still* have to deal with (your’s and your family’s) racism? Do you excuse your elders’ racism because they are ‘from another time’? If you are a parent, do you speak to your children about racism? And not the ‘we don’t see colour’ talk, but the ‘white privilege’ and ‘white supremacy’ talk? Do you realize how early BIPOC have to talk to their kids about racism? Did your parents/caregivers ever speak to you about racism? What racist beliefs have you internalized from your family? Do you believe talking about racism is important, but not important enough to disrupt your family dynamics? To what extent do you place white comfort over anti-racism in your family?
I knew that this question would come up and the line that hit me the most in Layla's post is "However, your unique and complex family dynamics do not exempt you from doing this work in your family circles". And I wasn't looking forward to facing it. I keep saying I have very little dealings with my family but that isn't completely accurate. I do not speak to my parents and that's it. But they aren't the only thing that make up a family and you don't need the people who gave you life to have family. I have my siblings and I have my husbands family.
On the subject of race. I can only think of one time where I spoke up and the only reason was because we were in public. The person I was with was saying some things that I knew the people in front of us could over hear. They were brown and what this person was saying was cruel. So I addressed it by saying we don't say things like that and when that person argued back I said it was cruel and wrong and that the belief of others aren't the belief of all. It ended the conversation but I have never forgotten it and I have no idea what the people in front of me though. I do know that what I said wasn't enough. It was a cop-out said because I was in public. I absolutely have excused some by saying they are from another time and I am thankful that I don't have children so I don't have to have the conversation with them. But just because I don't have children doesn't mean I shouldn't be having the conversation. I know very well that some members of my family will never speak to their children about race and that it comes down to me and my example. So I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable and call this behavior out.
Chatting with my husband on this challenge and we discussed his family. Race was never something discussed for him and we both wanted to say it was because of living in a very, very white city. But I already challenged that in my day 12 answers. People just pretend to not see and so continue to allow the very blatant racism happening around them to grow. Again I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable, start to see what's happening what in front of me and take action.
Day 26 - What have you learnt about You & Your Values
Today I’m inviting you to take a look at your core values and beliefs and examine, in the context of white supremacy, to what extent they help or hinder your ability to do this work. I also invite you to look at whether your core values and beliefs have been weaponised to do harm to BIPOC in the past (eg spiritual bypassing, white centering, superiority, ‘positive vibes only’, ‘we are all one race, the human race’, Law of Attraction, etc). And I invite you to take an honest look at whether or not you have been living in integrity with these values and beliefs when it comes to white supremacy (eg Has your spiritual practice included justice? Has the practice of your core values and beliefs extended outside of your white bubble? Have you actually treated everyone as if we are one race, the human race, etc.). And lastly what new core values and beliefs do you feel you need to integrate after doing this work in order to better practice life-long anti-racism?
I recently sat down and wrote out what my core values are; authenticity, peace, creativity, community, and freedom. I have never taken a look at these values through the lens of white supremacy. Authenticity - am I being honest with myself? Am I being honest in the changes I am making? This value goes back to my integrity. I need to stand up, speak out, and be present. I can no longer hid behind others or expect others to applaud me for doing the work. Peace - how can I be at peace when discrimination is happening? How can I be at peace in my soul if I stand by and do nothing? Creativity - I am a creative thinking for a reason... why haven't a found a solution outside the box to my fears and worries regarding why I haven't stood up or done things especially in the last three years. Community - How can I settle into the yoga community when it's blatantly harming others? Why am I not seeking out communities of people who are doing the work and working towards change? Freedom - how can I be free to do my thing when others are not?
My values have not included justice. They have included ignorance and fear. Beyond the five core values I need to add another, Ethics.
Day 27 - What have you learnt about You & Losing Privilege
In what ways will your privilege need to change in order for you to consistently practice anti-racism? How will you need to change the way you take up space? How will you need to show up differently (or at all) for BIPOC? What risks must you be willing to take? What sacrifices must you be willing to make? What comforts must you be willing to lose? What ways will you need to take greater responsibility? How will you need to de-center whiteness and The White Gaze? How will you need to lose privilege in your friendships, workspaces, businesses, families, spiritual communities and other white-centred spaces? And are you willing to lose your white privilege after everything you’ve learned here?
My language and actions will grow to to better reflect the things I have learned from this challenge. My values will grow to include POC. The risks I am willing to take include no longer allowing my fear as an immigrant to keep my mouth shut. I am willing to give up my privilege. I will no longer unsee.
Day 28 - What have you learnt about You & Your Commitments
1) I want you to share 3 concrete, out of your comfort zone actions you are committed to taking in the next two weeks toward anti-racism. These could be uncomfortable conversation you need to have, significant changes in your life you need to make, someone you need to call in/out, sincere apologies you need to make, announcements you need to make, etc. Make these actions as SPECIFIC as possible (what/where/when/how/who/why) and also make clear how you will be held accountable for these actions (eg tag an accountability partner).
2) Starting today and over the coming days after this challenge, begin to write down your commitments to this work. Craft a commitment statement you will be able to refer to everyday, and especially on the days you screw up. your commitments are not what you will 'try' to do or 'hope' to do but what you WILL do. To craft this document, go back through all the days of this challenge and recall the ways you've done harm and ways in which are you committed to change. Think about what you are ready to commit in your personal life, your family life, your friendships, your work and business life, your community life. Where and how are you committed to showing up? Where and how are you committed to stepping back and de-centering yourself? Where and how are you committed to continuing your life-long education? Where and how are you committed to putting skin in the game instead of staying on the side lines? Commitments are strong statements of solidarity and action. They are not guarantees that you will actually do the work. But they will help focus you so you know what work you are supposed to be doing. COMMIT to this life-long work. Write it down and then live your life accordingly. (Remember you don't have to write it all down today. Begin today but continue this over the coming days, weeks, months, and years.)
Part 1 - Action one - Continue education. Action two - be okay with being uncomfortable and call out actions.
Part 2 - coming soon in a separate post.
With the wrap up of day 28 I have finished the challenge, but I have not finished the work. There is much to dive into in my own complicity to the issues and it will be a never ending time of growth for me as I take what I've learned and begin to take action. If you would like to participate in the conversation leave a comment or if you would like to have a private conversation fill out my contact form.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The questions and italicized text are copied from Layla Saad's Instagram. I highly recommend that if you are going to participate to please check out her information and links. Please be aware that you have no right to harass her or be cruel to her in any way when it comes to this topic. All opinions within this post are my own.