“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”
Naomi Shihab Nye
The other day I fell asleep while writing during a group writing practice on Zoom.
As I wrote, sudden exhaustion overtook me, I began to nod off and realized I was dreaming even as I continued to write.
Fifteen minutes of dipping in and out of sleep and dreams and when the class finished, I immediately fell into a deep sleep for three hours.
It was ten o’clock in the morning.
Waking up, falling asleep, waking up again, I don’t know why it happened, but I knew I needed to pay attention because it felt like a coping mechanism to process my sorrow at the state of life these days.
Everywhere I look, the collective shadow of racism is rising, spilling the reality about the way our world operates. The degrading, cruel way we divided, still divide and oppress people of colour has, at last, been thrust in front of our eyes in a way that can’t be denied or ignored.
These days, I walk with profound grief, sorrow, hard guilt and simmering rage that reaches down into my bones. Rattling my cage of ideas about who I think I am. Opening doors I didn’t know I was hiding behind, reaching in, pulling me out to see the truth and, I am so grateful.
This world is changing, it will never go back to the way it was.
I believe our hearts will not allow it this time. Mine won’t.
As hard as it is right now, as much as some of us, as white people, want to cling to the narratives that defend the old familiar ways, it’s time to let those ways go. They never belonged and cannot be allowed to exist in this new world that’s emerging. We have to stay present and have the difficult conversations we must have in order to grow. To bear witness to the soul breaking truths we haven’t wanted to face.
It’s clear to me that we have to stop leading with our egos, quit justifying, defending and reacting instead of listening with our hearts and souls. The problem of racism is one that white people like me have to own. We started it, we kept it going and, we have to put a stop to this insanity. It is up to us and us alone. This exclusionary path we’ve been walking keeps us stuck in a never-ending circle of separation, violence and cruelty. For what?
So our undeveloped egos can keep beating its broken drum?
I am so over this dividing up the human race into us and them. It has always been inexplicable to me, I just didn’t understand the damage my unconscious participation caused or how my own traumas interfered in my ability to see myself and the undisputed freedoms I took for granted for so long.
I watched the horrifying video of the murder of George Floyd. It took me a few tries to get all the way through.
Helpless, face down on the pavement, handcuffed, as white police officer Derek Chauvin, hands in his pockets, kept his knee on his neck for 8.46 minutes.
” I can’t breathe.” Those words sicken me, and they will never leave me.
8.46 minutes is a long time, I know because I timed it for myself. A world of time for Darin Chauvin and his fellow police officers to make a different decision.
He didn’t, they didn’t but I can, and I am.
I can not live in a world where my comfort, my prospects, my safety are all at the expense of groups of people whose skin pigment is different than mine. It diminishes my soul.
Here is where I stand.
I am educating myself every day. Books. documentaries, real-time stories, listening to discussions in the media. I want to understand as much as I can about walking in the shoes of a person of colour.
I will not put myself back to sleep, closing my eyes to the experiences people of colour live every day of their lives because I feel helpless in the face of their pain. The managing of guilt and shame is mine to manage and heal as a white person, and it is not and never been the job of people of colour.
I will not let racism slide in my presence or online. I will call it out both in myself and others.
I will not tolerate self-justifying victim bashing, social media posts or emails, ones that inflame and blame and sometimes filled with false information. Some have come my way, Reading them made me feel physically sick and outraged.
Send them to me or post it on my page, and we will have a problem.
I stand one hundred percent with BIPOC.
I check facts. I check sources. I check myself.
I am weary of blame and blaming.
I am tired of shame and shaming.
I am sick of hate and justifications.
I am through with divisiveness.
I want unity. I want the playing field levelled, equality for all skin colours, not just mine.
I will not be going back to sleep.
Image by: truthseeker08 on Pixabay