Thoughts on white privilege
13th June 2020
'The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel it's warmth' African proverb
I'm writing this as a white female and so first of all I would like to say to any black, brown or indigenous people reading this - please forgive me for the mistakes that I will make in writing this.
It is clear that to the white race black lives have not mattered. Like many white people at the moment and as a therapist I have been doing a lot of listening and sitting with feelings of shame for the toxicity of racism that I too carry. I'm noticing how white people are responding and I recognise the 'I'm not racist and therefore it's not my issue' attitude. We all belong to the village and as white people we all carry the racism of our colonial ancestors in our cells and unconscious minds. The deepest tragedy is that part of our village is hurting and responding is optional.
Many white people are feeling guilt and shame - two of the human emotions we are most likely to avoid and are struggling to know how to hold those feelings. Perhaps it's easier to cut them off, numb them out or escape from them. I'm noticing that right now it feels appropriate to bare them, not to collapse into a pit of shame but perhaps to allow myself to hold the shame of knowing that I have participated in this cultural wounding and my ancestors did too.
I've listened to stories of black people sharing how it feels to constantly be alert and having to adapt and help others feel safe because white people look at you and because of your skin colour imagine you are going to hurt them. I've heard how black children raised in the UK were taught to speak English better than the British so that they would be accepted and given opportunities in life. I've considered how it feels to be singled out in a group just because of the colour of your skin by the police and searched, humiliated and abused in public. I do believe as Nelson Mandela said that our blood, sweat and tears are all the same but how do we put a stop to 'more than' 'less than' projections when they seem so deeply embedded?
A statement that I heard recently was 'it's not enough not to be racist, you need to be anti-racist' and I do feel the call to show up for racial justice. I'm writing this because I want to intersect the strands of racism that I know exist in my life and the people around me. I want to encourage white people to stop denying and start being honest about the racism that does exist in their families and communities and to do something about it. It is about noticing what happens to you when you walk down the street and you see a black, brown or person of colour walking towards you and consciously doing something to transform your responses.
We all know deep down what it feels like to be rejected for who we are and so maybe this is the starting point. Then to imagine how it must feel to experience this everyday and to have to constantly attune to everyone around you to make sure you are safe to just breathe. Then to imagine the grief of a mother whose son was murdered in public. We do need to educate ourselves but we also need to show up and act. Perhaps by supporting organisations such as www.blacklivesmatter.com and those listed here: http://blackeconomics.co.uk/wp/black-organisations-support-young-people/. Or by supporting black owned small businesses, advice is listed here: https://www.finimpact.com/blacklivesmatter-support...
White people need to deeply understand the rage of the child who is not embraced by the village and listen with humility and curiosity. Racism leaks out in conversations and needs to be addressed in the moment and never ignored. Most importantly ask yourself - how many black, brown, indigenous and people of colour do I actually know well? Do you live in a white bubble and if so what's that saying about you? How can you come into relationship with people who are different from you?
Every child in the village deserves to be loved completely in their uniqueness. We are all responsible to bring about this change.
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