Updated: Jan 3, 2020
I cannot stay silent about this any longer. I have been afraid that my words may offend someone for too long, and that time has gone.
My ask for you, dear reader, is this: can you receive these words with an open mind, and can you feel the undertones of my deep care for ALL of us? No one is left behind here.
I have witnessed too many instances that perpetuate social injustice to the victims of racism and colonization. I want to preface this piece by stating: white privilege is alive and well; colonization is in present tense; and racism is real.
The fact that I see a need to state these facts shows that there is a widespread ignorance and refusal by people in power to look at what is happening in the world and see that this is truth. I state this from my personal experience of hearing people make statements that deny that racism still happens, from my University studies, and from what I see in the global arena of policy that perpetuates White privilege.
Who Am I to be talking about this anyways?
I want to preface this by stating that these are not whimsical or emotional claims, but that they come from 4 years of in-depth study as an International Studies student with a minor in Cultural Anthropology, who took entire courses dedicated to discussing colonization and racism with a global lens. This does not make me an expert. In fact, it pointed out my own ignorance and showed me how much I have to learn, and this illumination has continued to unravel in bite size pieces ever since.
I want to clarify a few things that I’ve noticed the general public stumbles upon when conceptualizing what racism is. In one simplified statement, it is institutionalized oppression of people because of their race. Racial prejudice is a biased outlook towards a person’s race that is based upon unfounded beliefs and preconceived notions. Racial discrimination is an act of hostility towards another because of their race. And often times, these actions are so subversive and subtle that they go unnoticed. These are important distinctions to know about. These are not Google definitions, but a synthesis of what I learned from an entire course dedicated to teaching about racism and literacy.
I’ve noticed that people get tripped up on thinking that racism is racial discrimination, and because they have not noticed acts of racial hostility with direct experience, they think racism is a thing of the past. In reality – it is institutionalized oppression of people, due to their race. This has not gone anywhere. The very architecture of our society gives power to White people all over the world. Anyone who is not White is the victim of racism, because the very institutions that exist make it harder for any POC to succeed and this happens through a multitude of discourses: language, religion, access to education and resources, not having representation in court, not having the ability to influence policy change, etc. etc. etc. Until the institutions change, racism remains.
And so why am I talking about this right now?
I have noticed too many instances (this month alone) in which I have watched POC speak publicly of their experience of colonization and racism, and then had it shit all over with projections, that I feel a responsibility to use the position of power that I have as a White person to speak out.
My ask is that we as White people (I am included in this) look at what White privilege gives us in terms of power and access to resources and then own that, take responsibility for it. We need to accept that this is real, that we benefit from it and be present with all of the emotions that this brings up – the shame, guilt, grief and rage included – the desire to deny it included.
When we fail to recognize that we have White privilege, then we are left in the pit of ignorance. Because really, our privilege shows up in so many ways that we cannot even see. It’s the prince/princess syndrome in Disney films. They can’t quite see how blessed and comfortable their lives are in the palace until they get out of the gates, live amongst the peasants, and see the hardships that everyone else endures.
We instead need to take responsibility by being aware of the ways in which we have culturally appropriated as the colonizers of the world and give space for POC to be witnessed and heard, in their pain, as they speak out about the atrocities that have happened to them and their entire group of people, both historically and in the present tense.
We are in an age in which we can no longer ignore the truth, in which we can no longer spiritually bypass and say “we are all one people,” and therefore it is okay for me to take things from your culture as my own. Because right now, we are in a time in which our diversity needs to be recognized, in which people’s cultural differences need to be honored, and in which there is more space for acceptance of that diversity.
We are in an age in which we need to honor our roots and accept our lineage. This one has been the hardest for me to do. I recognized that my desire to learn about all other cultures, except for my own, stemmed from a place of deep shame that some of my ancestors, as the colonizers, have enacted horrors on other cultures to dominate and own land, and that I, as a White lady, continue to be a colonizer as I own residence on a land that was not originally earned in an ethical way by the Europeans who originally came. And that has been a hard pill for me to swallow. But what is harder than my own shame, are the experiences of the people who have had to LIVE everyday with the impacts of this. And this is what propels me to heal and grow.
With all of my being, I believe that we are one humxn race, one group of people, one collective consciousness – but that does not give me the right (or those in power the right) to steal from and claim from other cultures what is not ours to take.
We cannot truly be one group of people, in spiritual truth, until there is equality on Earth for all and no ethnicities are left behind. When ALL people have equal access to resources and power, then and only then, can we claim that spiritual truth and say we are all One people.
I recognize that this piece of writing may evoke a strong reaction, and I ask you to take responsibility for that projection and to get to the root of where that heat is coming from.
And believe me, I’m still stumbling on this path, as I continue to awaken to new ways that I have been culturally appropriating… But thankfully, I have kind teachers who illuminate this to me in small doses, so that step-by-step, I can make positive change.
I have no desire to point my finger and shame anyone; I only desire to illuminate truth and to inspire positive change for social justice and equality.
Remember that I am not excluded from any of my asks, and I have been sitting with, acknowledging and learning how to heal from the shame that I carry for the actions of my ancestors and for being a benefactor of privilege. I have stumbled, continue to be ignorant and am humbly trying to move forward to make amends for the trauma of colonization and racism that has benefited me and has afforded me a comfortable life.
I am looking for solutions as to how to make amends and how to move forward, so that we, as a species, can honor our diversity, yet still move forward in unity.
In honor of all of those who have been the carriers of ancient and Earth-based ways – this is particularly dedicated to you.
With all that I am,