The photo above sends chills through my spine and the absolutely horrific events that took place in Charlottesville this past weekend have been weighing heavy on my heart; I feel a deep sadness within my being. I watch the hate and bigotry run rampant as people turn away and deny any responsibility. I am a very sensitive person; I avoid violent movies and I curate my facebook feed to show mostly positive posts. Even though I am highly sensitive, I do not avoid staying present with what is unfolding in the world around me. I make sure I am in a centered and grounded space before reading the news because I feel deeply that we should all be informed of what is unfolding in the world around us. I feel equally as deep that we should also be talking about where racism and privilege live within us so we can dissolve the shame and finally begin to heal this collective wound.
I am privileged. I am a white woman living in Boulder County, Colorado. I have a platform simply because I am a spiritual leader who writes this blog that you are all reading. Therefore, I have a responsibility to speak up and begin to peel back the layers of our collective denial of racism, white privilege and shame. I have been ruminating on the topic of racism, privilege, and shame this week. Or more appropriately the denial that racism, privilege, & shame exist. If we were more capable of owning the shame related to racism and privilege would we be able to recognize it inside of ourselves and shift our subconscious thinking?
We humans like to categorize things, it's the way our brain prefers to remember. So, when we take in information, things get filed away in their individual boxes...There are two problems with this. The first problem with this is that we tend to oversimplify our categories. We begin to polarize, and label things as good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant, comfortable, uncomfortable, etc. The other problem is that our brains operate much like a computer and some of these oversimplified, overstuffed and outdated files are running in the background causing our current operating system to perform incorrectly. This is how racism acts in the collective. It is that app running in the background that you don't notice until it causes a major malfunction.
I'll give you an example from my own life, a not proud revelation of how I saw the racism app running in the back of my mind...The other day I caught myself only half listening to a voice on a podcast. I backed the podcast up and began to re-listen. A few minutes later I realized that I stopped paying attention again. In this moment I noticed the racism app playing in the background. The voice of the man being interviewed in the podcast was the voice of a black man. When I dove deeper into the layers, I recognized there was a part of myself that deemed him uneducated and not worthy of my time. WOAH! The shame I felt in that moment punched me in the gut. I have never used words like that to describe anyone; these thoughts were not mine. Where were they coming from?
I grew up in middle class Chicago suburbia, my parents were the type that "had black friends" although I can't remember any of them coming to dinner at our house. My grandma told my sister and I not to hang out with our black friends because "their dad was probably a drug dealer" and when my dad thought my sister may have been dating a black boy unkind words were said. The apartment complex near my house was dubbed "Little Africa" and all of the white kids AND their parents used this title without batting an eyelash even though they all "had black friends". All of these memories are contained in my operating system, causing subconscious patterns to arise in response. Typing those words right now makes my stomach roll with shame. It makes me feel like declaring to all of you that I know better now, that I am a good person who doesn't see the differences between humans of different colors, that I am not like them; the white supremacists.
I have two choices here:
I could feel the shame rising up and meet it by declaring all of these things which are true, I can continue to be heartbroken by all that is going on in the world, and I can sit in my friend's kitchen in Boulder County, Colorado sipping a glass of red wine while we complain about the sorry state of the world.
I can recognize the rising emotion of shame as a signal that there is something out of alignment with my core values; I have an outdated app (belief system) running in the background. I can get curious about what that means and I can then make a conscious effort to update my operating system. I can use my practice to shift my beliefs.
We have developed so much shame around shame...shame is an important emotion that signals to us that what we are doing is not in alignment with our highest good. We must feel shame without pushing it away if we are ever going to evolve on this path. Do you feel uncomfortable when someone says you are privileged? Do you defend yourself by declaring that you were a white woman on food stamps raising her kids by herself, so you can't possibly be privileged? If you are, I am here to remind you that it was your privilege that allowed you to do so without being accused of accepting food stamps for greed over need. We must stop resisting the shame that comes from racism and privilege, but rather allow ourselves to dive into it and receive the teachings it has to give. When we truly heal our inner wounds, we can begin to use our privilege to spread the word to other privileged white people who are stuck in the same old shame cycle. Let the shame reveal the old belief systems that are ready to be retired and do the work necessary to evolve to the next level. When we peel back our layers it does heal the collective. Our activism starts from within; see your shadows and deal with them with the most love and compassion that you have. When you see racism and denial of privilege at play in your world speak up. Don't be afraid of being impolite. Be a loving light filled person by illuminating the shadow and calling racism and privilege for what it is.
How can you see the racism app playing out in your life? Where are you running from shame instead of following it within? How can you personally make an impact towards healing this collective wound?
I want to hear from you; your community wants to hear from you.
Please share your stories, struggles, and triumphs.
Together We Rise.