Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Image Credit: @brwnplace on instagram
Last week I answered the call to mute myself on social media and use my platform to amplify the voices of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). This piece may feel different from some of my other writing, I feel like a new layer of “seeing” has been peeled back for me and my eyes have been opened to a lot in the last week. I’m still processing and I usually don’t publish about something until it’s fully digested and integrated into my life. I do that in an effort to share what I know and hope that I can be a solid stepping stone for others along the way. I feel like in this writing I’m simply sharing my observations with you, I’m lending you my perspective not as truth but as another lens for you to see the world through. I’m still chewing, I’m connecting dots that bring us deeper than racism to the roots of patriarchy and white supremacy.
I was careful to observe what came up for me this last week; I observed what was happening in the spaces I’m occupying, I looked at what arose for me internally as I moved through the week and I also looked at how I was received by others for what I shared. There were a few main themes I observed across the board; to try to make this digestible I’m going to discuss some themes I witnessed. As always what we notice on the outside is always a reflection into noticing something on the inside so I’m sharing it all.
I observed many businesses, yoga teachers and other people in the “wellness” industry keeping things “professional” by either not mentioning what is happening in the world or by posting Bob Marley quotes in between pictures of their selfies, gardens, dogs and weekly offerings. I noticed a lot of white business branding of BLM messages...business logos imposed on the images and graphics shared. BIPOC voices laid on top of the quote template used in all of their communications so as to not disrupt the image of the brand. I also noticed as the week progressed people began calling others out and demanding that organizations and businesses provide a stance.
I shared a long post about my process in the feel.focus.flow.community facebook group and I almost forgot about sharing on the feel.focus.flow. professional page. I consciously chose to make sure I shared controversial, not particularly white friendly posts while amplifying BIPOC voices in my instagram stories on both my personal and professional pages; I intentionally muted myself from self promoting or self sharing for the entire week. I noticed fear of losing followers or momentum on registrations for my upcoming online workshop. I noticed this and stayed muted to continue listening to and amplifying BIPOC voices across all of my platforms.
I hate to break it but this expectation of “professionalism” is white supremacy in action. When we suppress meaningful discussion to enable toxic patterns & practices that uphold white comfort and privilege at the cost of others it is white supremacy. Everyone, businesses included, need to have a long term, non performative, vocal position on anti-racism and if they don’t their silence makes them complicit. I will not give my money to any business, healer, health coach, yoga teacher, etc. unless they are actively and vocally non-racist. We demand this for environmental issues and animal cruelty practices, we enthusiastically boycott bakeries who refuse to make a cake for a gay couple; why is it taking us so long to get on board with authentic racial equality?
“Wanting To Share The Fun Stuff/White Centering”
There were quite a few people on my friends lists who said they were going to amplify BIPOC voices but then after about 3 days I began seeing photos of wine glasses cleverly instagrammed on perfect porches and silly memes that had nothing to do with the current reality of the world. This showed me two things:
1. White people have the privilege to look away and use facebook for more than a cry for help right now
2. White people really like to talk about themselves on social media.
This outer observation caused me to look within; I found myself feeling judgemental of this, I felt myself “looking down” on those who were not using their platform to mute themselves and amplify those whose voices are continuously unheard. Aside from noticing my judgement and tenacity and pride in doing as I say, I also noticed that I too had the desire to share the fun stuff even though I didn’t actually share. There was a part of me that wanted to share the self care I was doing to show that I was keeping it balanced and “inspire others” to show them they can be advocates for change while not giving up all the benefits of their privilege. I am aware that this desire to share myself in an effort to “help others”, if not kept in check, can be another manifestation of my codependent tendencies.
This is white supremacy in that we white people are so used to making everything about us it’s really hard to spend a week making it about someone else, especially if it makes us feel uncomfortable in the process. I felt the urge to police my fellow white person on how they were advocating and I was also prepared to coddle them through the experience by reminding them to practice self care. Which brings me to the next observation which includes the shadow of my aforementioned judgement…
I noticed a lot of posting about “the rules”. I noticed a lot of white people’s explanations on how to amplify BIPOC voices as a white person while not actually using their platform to amplify said BIPOC voice. Oftentimes these same people would be quick to comment and correct their white friends when they were “doing it wrong”. I saw a lot of bitchiness while correcting other white people, there was a punitive, passive aggressive quality that I felt when reading discussions in the comments. This isn’t a judgement, this is an observation of a typical white behavior. I’m familiar with this feeling, I get bitchy when I’m irritated and frustrated and a part of me wants to “punish” the person who’s “just not getting it”. When I notice this, I ask myself where I’m also being impatient with myself. Where am I expecting myself to be other than where I am? Usually I end up unravelling an unrealistic expectation of perfection rooted in, you guessed it, patriarchy and white supremacy and I have the capacity to cut my fellow white person some slack and make room for a learning opportunity. I am incapable of slack cutting when the comments are blatantly racist though...those are the people who get deleted. As Ijeoma Olou says, "I don't spend my time arguing with flat earthers, you shouldn't either."
“Gaslighting and Expectations Of People’s Response To Experience”
Telling people to "get over it" is part of our American culture. It’s spoken in regards to racism and the epigenetic effects of slavery, trauma, divorce, death, abandonment or sudden loss of any kind.
I do this to myself all the time...I expect myself to be somewhere other than where I am; more healed, more awake, more calm. This is bullshit and we all just need to agree to no longer expect anyone to show up any other way than how they are.
When we deny or dismiss these lived experiences of another we are shaming them into suppression and we are harming our fellow human being. While digesting and integrating all of our experiences is necessary for healing, expecting that individuals or groups be more forgiving are strategies used by oppressors and perpetrators to gaslight and deflect personal responsibility. The rate at which we heal, awaken or come into consciousness is an individual timeline; we can not expect anyone to be anywhere other than where they are. You may see a different outcome but until the person carrying the trauma sees it themselves your job is to hold space with compassion and empathy. It is not our role to tell people where they “should” be in their spiritual, emotional, healing journey. This includes spiritual bypassing and claiming unity and “oneness”; If you aren't naming the impact of privilege and systemic oppression, then it's completely missing the lived realities of many people. We aren't all the same, we don't have the same lived experience.
This has been getting a lot of airtime lately. This is the phenomenon of dissolving into tears or other emotion when exposed to anything uncomfortable alongside the expectation that one should not feel discomfort. When confronted with discomfort the white nervous system often reacts with a fight, flight, freeze or fawn response rather than authentic listening and compassion. Living a life protected from uncomfortable experiences and emotions OR a tendency to have emotions shut down in early childhood is a part of white supremacy. As a child I fell into the second category; I lived a life of traumatic experiences yet I was expected to act “normal”. I spent my twenties and thirties learning how to have healthy emotions and be able to get angry without dissolving into a puddle of tears; I’m well practiced with this aspect of my being and I am happy to hold space for those willing to detangle it. There’s nothing more empowering than taking your emotional body back.
Now just because I have a relationship with my emotions doesn’t mean that the “white program” doesn’t play in my head; it does. I just notice it and process it before it results in an outer action. I read plenty of things that punched me in the gut last week. I felt shame. I felt anger. I felt grief and sadness. I heard the thoughts in my head wanting to excuse and deny some of the things I read. I felt myself wanting to dip out and not play. If my automatic response to a comment, post or article is irritation and defensiveness I stop what I am doing and I ask myself a series of questions: Why do I feel targeted? Am I letting my ego and white fragility lead? When can I remember feeling like this in my past, maybe in my childhood? Oftentimes we got in trouble as kids for doing something “bad” and the feelings of shame cause us to be defensive.
This wasn't just about amplifying BIPOC voices it was also about holding safe space for them to be heard. Throughout the week I fielded DM’s and a few really racist comments on my personal facebook wall, some from other white yoga teachers/spiritual "leaders". That was hard, not the using my voice part but the disappointment I felt when I realized the truth. I was met with curiosity and open mindedness from a small few but the majority of people in my DM were too entangled in their own emotions and self righteous beliefs to hear what was being shared. I unfriended and unfollowed a lot of people and my eyes were opened to the surprisingly high amount of spiritual bypassing and denied racism happening in the yoga, spiritual, “lightworker” community right now.
To be quite honest, the denial, back turning, performative allyship and spiritual bypassing scares me more than the white guys with confederate flags and semiautomatic weapons. Watching my suburban white friends, who I know to be loving, kind, caring people post the same flippant posts they did before the truth of racism erupted to be met makes me nervous. Why does this scare me? Because I don’t feel the activation needed to make a difference yet; I see too many people still too afraid or reluctant to let their nervous systems shift into a healthy fight response. Our nervous system fight response is IMPERATIVE in the presence of a threat; it mobilizes us into action and allows us the momentum we need to create real and lasting change. To put it into Somatic Experiencing® language, I’m watching a lot of “stuck on” and “stuck off” happening. We are swinging fiercely between panicked action that is unsustainable and denial and apathy that got us where we are today. Nervous system knowledge and tools for regulation are extremely important now.
The only path forward is for each of us, as individuals, to do the work necessary to unpack what’s in our subconscious and get intimate with our emotions and our nervous systems so we can build and maintain the resilience needed to fight this battle. Yes I said fight; peace does not come by imagining the light it shows up by bringing all that is keeping it from manifesting to the surface and doing something with what we find.
This experience has caused me to re-think so much. I don’t do what I do to run a business but rather to fuel a movement. I don’t need to amass wealth and abundance to hoard it away like a chipmunk in the fall. I want to continue to move f.f.f.community from a service industry model that is rooted in white supremacy to a true community resource that continually gives back.
When the shelter in place began I opened my platform to teachers who felt called to serve. These teachers were already a part of my community and they, alongside me, paid money plus creative and emotional labor to make that happen. We all contributed to the operating costs of the studio and we were teaching with the intention to gift everything over operating costs to a cause in need. We raised $600 over the last two months and we were able to support a much larger number of people than I could’ve imagined. Half of that money went towards supporting racial trauma education and healing where over 500 people benefited from learning about racial trauma and the tools that help heal. The other half went towards helping to fund a Black owned birthing center in a San Diego neighborhood; our $300 became $106,000 and it’s still climbing. This is Sacred Economy. I remember telling one of you a few years ago that if I won the lottery I would use the money to fund people’s dreams of a better future. Trauma healing, sustainability initiatives, alternative energy, collaborative community...the list goes on. I’m realizing today that I don’t need to win the lottery in order to do that; everything I seek is in front of me. Through unpacking where competition and division exists I am continuing to refine what reciprocity looks like; I see what is possible and I have the curiosity and desire to keep going.
I have more to share but this is already forever long, if you've made it this far thank you for your support. It's people like you that will change the world by staying curious and supporting systems that support each other. I'll be sharing my personal reparations plan with you next time so stay tuned.