The Beginning of An Awakening
I am straying from the typical form and function of this blog, which mostly highlights the trials, tribulations, celebrations, and challenges of motherhood, to write about a smoldering fire I have been sitting on for quite some time, but have never mustered up the courage to let such a flame burn for fear it would engulf and destroy me. This is part of my story of waking up to the difficult and harsh realities of the unfair and unjust world we live in. This is not The Story, which is to be told by Black, Brown, and Indigenous persons through their own experiences, expertise, resilience, history, and pain. I am not and will not take the lead on their fight. I will, however, take the lead in course correcting my own heart and the way I use myself for the good and social equality. I recognize that as I proceed in writing this, I will make mistakes and trip over the right words to use. I am writing as consciously as I can with the current understanding that I am learning....rapidly, furiously, and passionately.
The wrongful killing of George Floyd, and the MANY that have preceded him, was the gas for an explosion of anger and grief that rippled through my body like an electric shock. The peaceful protests by community members and alleys was a grounding force that came alongside the pain and anguish of a people that have been oppressed and targeted for centuries. The peace has turned into destruction of a beloved city as riots break out and continue to burn away the complex and multi-diverse layers of a land I have been grateful to call home.
I would be remiss and unfaithful if I didn't place a commemoration of the man that lost his life at the hands of the very people that were supposed to protect him. George Floyd, you are a man that lost your physical life, but your spirit will live in the minds, hearts, and bodies of the people and the nation forever.
I am a white woman who grew up in suburban Minnesota with all my basic needs met, and I subconsciously swallowed the conditioning of white privilege in massive gulps. I traveled into the urban city often all throughout childhood, and lived on the corner of 33rd and Grand Ave. for a year. I have worked with minority and poverty stricken groups as a therapist for years. Yet, each and every time I traveled, lived, and worked in the city with its diverse community, I was always just a visitor. As soon as I felt uncomfortable, I left. I looked away. I went back to my safe place of an abundantly stocked and clean living space with safe people and the absence of thinking I would not be protected by the police and institutions I affiliate with. I silenced my voice. As I take a very long, hard, HONEST look in the mirror, I can painfully see where I have lived out and benefited from the fact that I am white and I am privileged.
The topic of white privilege, racism, and prejudice has made my insides constrict like a snake wrapped around stomach. I tense up every muscle in my body, my head bows down, I look away, and I shut my mouth. The fear of saying or doing the wrong thing, other's backlash, and my own sense of shame created a vortex of silence. My ears and eyes have been half open, somewhere between the safety of an illusive dream and the harsh reality. I know I am not alone as I see my white counterparts live the same way. I am now startled into a fully awake state. I see it clearly. I see the privilege. I see the racism. I see the prejudice. Among the smoke and flames and debris, I see it clearly. I have rubbed away the ash that has sat heavy, yet comfortably, on my eyes and over my heart. I have not been enough. We have not been enough.
I feel deep shame and guilt for turning my back when my heart and voice could have been used for the betterment of not only my relationships with diverse groups of people, but also for the social collective. I believe that a kind, compassionate, and firm voice and action has the power to ripple out and affect many. I should have been the person I believed myself to be. Now, with my eyes open and my heart awake, I will be.
Writing is the language of my soul, and my soul is devastated. Watching the destruction of my beloved city, as well as hurting deeply for all BIPOC and Twin Cities citizens, has made me grip my heart and collapse to my knees multiple times. As difficult as it is watch the city burn away, I am not surprised by the anguish, rage, and pain of its people. A person or group of people can only be oppressed for so long before their soul lights up with the fires of rage and they seek justice. Not for just what they have been through and lost, but for all the people that have come before them and have endured insurmountable and collective trauma. I am also enlivened and proud of how the communities of the Twin Cities are banding together, restoring peace to the streets, protecting what is theirs and ours, and fighting for justice. The love will always shine.
The writing is only the beginning of this journey. It is a way to chronicle a path that has been layed before me, and I hope society as a collective, to walk down. This is not a path that ends when the riots and peaceful protests stop. It is a lifelong road that will be illuminated as I and we rise up, pay attention, challenge conditioning, dismantle oppression and repression, and create a better future for all. You have my attention. I am sorry it took this long. I hope we are all listening now.
Please take your own personal inventory of your privilege and how you have contributed to the massive oppression that is so woven into the fabric of our nation. What can you change, shift, transform NOW that will make for a better tomorrow? I have steeped myself in Resmaa Menakem's Cultural Somatics course and have mobilized several conversations and actionable plans to bring more awareness and morally just behavior to a broken society. You can donate, educate, volunteer, LISTEN, and most importantly be compassionate and kind.
I am open to any and all resources and education to further my understanding of white privilege, trauma, and racism. Please comment, send me a message, talk about it in your circles and communities. Please note that I am not asking anyone of the BIPOC community to educate me or spend emotional energy to wake me up further. That is not your job, it is mine. Do not wait, do not turn away. Please, pay attention and respond.
Written in collaboration with Kelsey Kreider Starrs, LICSW