“In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist—we must be anti-racist.”
— Angela Davis, 1979
I've written this official statement of purpose as a point of accountability with my Anti-Racism Coach Sharyn Holmes and update for my readers/community/clients. It's no secret that online white spiritual "leaders" are yet another arm of white supremacy in action, rife with dysfunction and incognito racism/ableism/classism, etc.
Because the impact of my words matter more than my intention, I've set forth a few guidelines to keep this "discussion" on track, anchored in the real work.
#1 Tell The Truth
As Desiree Adaway says, 'write to get free, not famous— that is what I am committed to doing. What I've noticed in writing this piece is just how strong my attachment is to being good, doing good, and being seen as good is. What I've learned is that this attachment to goodness is a weapon of whiteness, a profoundly ingrained function of white supremacy and obstacle to forward movement in race-related issues, especially amongst progressive/liberal folks. What I know and believe is that my goodness is not more important than the lived experience of BIPOC(black, indigenous, and people of color) who are systemically, culturally, socially, economically, educationally, and medically oppressed, marginalized, underserved, de-valued and de-humanized regularly, without a second thought.
#2 Avoid Causing Additional Harm to BIPOC
I pledge to fearlessly and appropriately tell the truth while sharing my experience, strength, and hope. The journey to anti-racism work is at the core a process of soul repair and re-humanization, it can be tricky and triggering. We need more examples of white folks showing up to this work without a hidden agenda of selling a product or attempting to lead the conversation. Let it be known that absolutely ZERO of the insights yielded originated with me. People of color and in particular black women are leading the way. With that in mind, I did receive outside counsel regarding this post to ensure I minimized harm.
#3 Stay In My Lane
I come to spiritual work legitimately by way of a Master Degree in Transpersonal Psychology, a lifelong study of mysticism, healing, and spirituality, and clinical spiritual care experience as a Hospice Chaplain. Therefore I have a responsibility to examine whiteness and dismantle racism, white supremacy, and the destructive patriarchal powers whose talons are present in my psyche. Recalibrating my spiritual practice and perspective is my civic duty. I'm not an anti-racism educator nor do I teach sacred activism. Throughout this article, you'll find links to the sources/authors/educators that have had a significant impact on me and shaped my anti-racism efforts. It is worth noting again that women of color have guided every pivot I've made.
“The destroyers will rarely be held accountable.
Mostly they will receive pensions.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
I have made these commitments knowing that they are not a quick fix but rather a life-long process. Again, this piece is for me, but I hope that it will serve to connect the dots for fellow white women circling the field of anti-racism work. So hold your applause and keep your cookies. I have so much to learn and undo.
#1 Be A Good Ancestor
This is a calling— both a demand and a request I hear from other writers and healers, particularly women of color in the field of spirituality and social justice.
What I see as unfolding in America and in the collective winds of consciousness is a reckoning of sorts. Firstly, the heaps of disembodied spirits and hungry ghost energy (as Darla Antoine my trusted Ancestral Healing advisor says) is costly. Secondly, the soul of America is in a state of collapse. The only way forward is total rehabilitation, renegotiation, and making all parts whole.
Colonization and capitalism have taken its toll globally. We are all paying the price— some much, much more than others and that is the point.
Things aren't getting worse, they are merely being revealed. Wonky and wrong things have played out for centuries with no accountability or push back.
Kavanaugh's confirmation and Trump's presidential win came as no surprise to women of color. They've known for a long time that our government does not care for, protect, or serve them or their communities. Black and indigenous people of color never rest— forever organizing, protesting, and voicing outrage over racial injustice. Meanwhile, bodies pile up with zero media coverage and very little give a f*ck from white folk.
Excuse me America. Your inequity is showing.
Somewhere along the line, perhaps from the start, whiteness sold its soul. It put on a cloak of goodness, morality, and justice enacting violent ways in almost all things until it became so normal, blindness equated seeing.
The privileges I hold as a result of being a white cis-gendered woman are prolific. One example includes the ancestral data records and availability of information regarding my blood lineage. I have fairly extensive knowledge regarding my ancestors up until the early 1600's, for better and for worse.
When I hear people of color saying 'stop apologizing for your ancestors and do better,' I believe the point is not to elicit inertia made of disassociation and guilt but to provoke inquiry, self-reflection, analysis, and action.
And so to do better, specifically about being a good ancestor, each successive commitment applies to #1.
“Becoming anti-racist means taking personal action to end external racism that exists systemically and in the action of others.
The invisibility of White privilege and Whiteness allows denial of the pain and suffering experienced by people of color, but more importantly, it absolves White Americans of personal responsibility for perpetuating injustice and allows them to remain passive and inactive. ”
― Derald Sue, Race Talks
#2 Be a STUDENT OF Whiteness
I am committed to facing what it means to be white and to be born into a group that holds power.
To understand whiteness, I must direct a considerable amount of effort to study, reflect, and analyze before concluding and always before othering myself from white people.
White supremacy and racism are relegated to a small (secret) group of radical folks bonded by hate and violence, but I know that this is part of the lie.
Whiteness is deception by design.
By refusing to examine how I both consciously and unconsciously participate in and perpetuate constructs that are in direct conflict with my values and beliefs creates harm.
Real harm in the real world impacting real people. And that's the point.
Whiteness takes what it wants and then rewrites the narrative in a way that paints white folk as superior in all ways (morally, intellectually, relationally, etc.) while also erasing and minimizing opposition by any means necessary.
White supremacy doesn't give a f*ck about consent. It automatically bypasses it and had me locked and loaded at birth to buy into racial differences in the social stratosphere, executing altered programming without a second thought.
Whiteness, however, can be interrupted.
History can be retold.
And the future has not yet been decided.
I belong to a demographic of voters (white women) who are the primary reason why toxic masculinity, rape culture, and white supremacy in the administrative, legislative, and judicial branches of government persists. Why? We have yet to become a collective force of disruption.
Sure we'll gather to protest reproductive rights and gun violence, but it's crickets when it comes to pipeline battles, #blacklivesmatter, and prison reform.
What's with that?
White women exclusionary efforts are no longer tolerated.
They were never acceptable.
We (white women) must be willing to hold ourselves accountable and our partners, our children, and our kin— we have blood on our hands.
The way in which black and brown bodies are discarded is unforgivable. Case closed.
It's been a surreal experience, to wake up to my whiteness. To peel back layers of bias and social conditioning and come face to face with my own identity: a white cis-gendered woman and the vast privileges it affords me while suffocating others. The truth is it is also suffocating me; I just didn't know it.
Catrice M Jackson speaks and often writes about how traumatic it will be for white women to come to terms with the violent dissociation perpetuated in our psyche. She's right.
Waking up to the truth of how white women, including myself, have participated in racism is embarrassing and incredibly difficult to reconcile.
There were days when I felt like the matrix had a glitch and I was finally seeing clearly, for the first time. I also questioned whether the Earth was round. I mean it rocked my world. And rightfully so, however, the discomfort I’ve encountered in this process pales in comparison to the lived experience of people of color and therefore is also insignificant.
Also, history matters.
Rachel Cargle's work has opened my eyes. Once again my naivety was obliterated by facts never revealed in any history class I took. Did you know that white men, women, and children gathered at lynchings as if they were parties? BBQ, photos and all. Memories shared with joyous captions.
The last lynching in America was in 1981. Two years before my birth. Two years! Currently, we live in a disillusioned post-racial America where folks believe that all is well and equal after the civil rights movements. This is part of the lie.
(since hitting publish on this piece, Danye Jones a black man and Ferguson activist was hung from a tree in his backyard.)
People of color are demanding white people come to terms with whiteness because it's a deadly, violent condition.
Instead of doing what we always do: immediately reject the notion that we aren’t racist (claiming it's not possible to be racist if you have a black friend/spouse etc.), attempt to prove goodness through performative grief/rage/allyship, or worse hijacking the conversation by bursting into tears— what if we faced our white identity without unnecessary fragility. .
The first hurdle was identifying that whiteness is, in fact, a silo, creating separation and incongruencies in who I think I am versus who I really am.
And so brick by brick I've begun to deconstruct the silo of whiteness, identifying and owning the ways in which I participate in racism and giving lots of space in my sphere to the voices and perspectives of those directly impacted by racism.
Did I say this work is not fun?
But that’s not the point. Being a good ancestor is.
“Awareness and analysis are not enough.
We need boots on the ground and participation. This can be organizing, donating, supporting. It’s not about taking action sometime, or occasionally but about being in the arena all the time fighting for freedom.”
― Desiree Adaway
#3 Value-Based Action
As a white person, I believe the point of anti-racism work is not to disengage from society or even from my own identity but to find ways for it to become a harmonizing force instead of a destructive one.
Anti-racism work is discombobulating. Side effects include rage, grief, disappointment, confusion, disbelief, and a feeling of uselessness. But action: thoughtful, informed action is the remedy.
Action which serves progress and healing.
Action which honors those who've been harmed. Quite literally bulldozed by colonization and it's spawn: white supremacy.
Action which partners and supports efforts and advocacy campaigns led by those who've been systemically marginalized and oppressed. They don't need me to help or save them. They "need" me to be a whole human who gives a f*ck and is willing to stand with them and echo their cries for justice.
A solid understanding of value-based action, as a white person, I believe comes only after a considerable amount of education, self-reflection, and analysis and even then it's a slippery slope. I am bound to be problematic even with good intentions.
But I must proceed anyway.
It seems fair and just to reallocate resources and spend my privilege (credit: Brittany Packnett). The goal? Redistributing power and disrupting the status quo. How this is accomplished is multi-fold and extends beyond my wallet.
Yes, every dollar counts. I can support BIPOC-led creative/artistic ventures, businesses, and political/social justice campaigns.
Every “tweet” counts. I can put social capital to work, sharing powerful words and works of BIPOC voices. My job? To “pass the mic”, and to not center whiteness,“other” myself from white folk (*ahem #notallwhitepeople), or request a most palatable version of their message (i.e., tone police). I can also, as appropriate, help share the burden of providing labor in the comment section, but this is tricky too, because I run the risk of unconsciously exhibiting my racism in addition to being unhelpful and creating harm.
The gap between what is helpful and not helpful is far and wide.
Sharing the latest viral video of yet another daily injustice against a black woman or man is merely a modern-day form of white folk gathering for a BBQ lynching. I write that not to be coy but to echo the words of Rachel Cargle and her insistence that black people are merely considered disposable, sub-human bodies by white folk and our voyeurism is disgusting. She's right. We can do better.
We can demand justice and hold people and institutions responsible each and every time f*ckery happens.
I will not lose sight of the fact that my voluntary participation is a direct function of my white privilege. I will not succumb to rage fatigue. Nor will I buy into the belief that I cannot make a difference. I've seen more than a handful of examples in the past year where public outrage has forced consequences.
I will make time to write that email, make that phone call, and blast on social media to ensure my inner circle knows what's happening, so they too have the direct prompt to action. Strategic action and community organization have not lost its power.
Likewise, I understand that the internet has a significant influence in shaping how our society operates. I will wield my voice and influence appropriately.
Value-based action requires that I remain personally intact and practice impeccable self-care, protection, and consideration of my actual resources (health status, emotional/mental bandwidth, available cash, etc.). No one is asking that I sacrifice my wellbeing, go into debt, or perform for a cause.
In the event where I make a mistake, I will seek to make things right. I will promptly own my wrongdoings and course correct with authentic amends that acknowledges the harm done, what I've learned, and how I will do better going forward.
Top of mind for me these days is preparing for how to interrupt racism appropriately. Racism runs the gambit from outright violent, inappropriate behaviors with high visibility, to everyday microaggressions which are more subtle and socially acceptable. But I've come to understand that whiteness affords me some protections and leeway that those with different colored skin do not have.
Disrupting whiteness has consequences. This too is by design.
As a white woman, I've learned that the ultimate betrayal to whiteness is to break from white solidarity. It's a real thing— an unspoken dynamic always at play.
Given that my own response in the face of trauma is to panic and freeze I've been running through possible scenarios along with an action plan and possible scripts to use. I know I need preparedness training in this area and to continue to increase my window of tolerance for disruption.
Even in the face of risk, however, I understand that the discomfort is part of the lie. I'm merely accustomed to a system which allocates "others" to the bottom of the food chain, resulting in desensitization and normalization of racism and oppression.
Therefore, I must learn to put my whiteness to work to fight for liberties stolen, online and on the ground in everyday life and never lose sight of the importance of developing a strong integrated non-racist and anti-racist identity.
“To end racism, Whites have to pay attention to it, and continue to pay attention. Since avoidance is such a basic dynamic of racism, paying attention will not naturally happen. We Whites must learn how to hold racism realities in our attention. We must learn to take responsibility for this process ourselves, without waiting for Blacks’ actions to remind us that the problem exists, and without depending on Black people to reassure us and forgive us for our racists [transgressions].”
― Winters pg198 of Race Talks
#4 Root, Recalibrate & Remember
The current crises in consciousness and arc of human development (in my opinion) is one of maturation. Our understanding of ourselves, each other, and all technologies must mature in order to meet the needs of all, not just a few.
Trends such as redefining gender and sexuality norms, intersectional feminism vs white feminism, and pressures for all spiritual/religious "authorities" and seats of power to possess greater integrity and inclusively are magnified.
Breaking the Binary
Binary thinking is good/bad, this or that. Not both, and…
In my former Hospice gig, I was responsible for providing appropriate, effective spiritual interventions and care to a diverse population of folks who more often than not were moderately unprepared to die. Of course, this wasn't their fault; medical staff and the patient's family are included in this conundrum. It's a natural consequence of a nurture-deficient culture, and our societies desire to tuck anything uncomfortable, chaotic, and painful under the rug.
So, for example, I witnessed "good" folks who did everything "right" in their lifetime have a terrible death. Dying is a process people fear and desperately try to avoid. Ironically it has the potential to be an experience rich with meaning and mending, but the only route to those things (healing and repair) is discomfort and disintegration, not spiritual platitudes or positive psychology tactics, Bible verses, etc.
Indeed faith, love, and kindness matter but I’d argue they are most valuable when we stay with the trouble.
I thought I was a free agent, but at some point, after celebrating a decade of recovery, I started to hear the messages of my 12 step program differently. I started questioning all things, and now I see its "spiritual, not religious" framework as Patriarchal programming aimed to keep me in line.
I finally reached a place where I couldn't unsee the racial inequalities and barriers to recovery. Nor could I overlook references to "a god of our understanding" as "Him," and it's symptoms of the greater foothold on my spirituality and humanity.
What was once helpful was now weaponized.
I could now see how I had learned how to levy spiritual principles and tools of recovery as weapons against myself. Catchy phrases like "keep it simple, stupid" repeatedly parroted reinforces spiritual bypassing instead of teaching processing skills to create a healthy resolution. And sharing at meetings became a barrier to real intimacy with my life partner serving as a band-aid, relieving emotional pain just enough not to prompt more action.
Having reached this point in my recovery and "spiritual growth," it was not a stretch to imagine my complicity in racism.
When studying for my Master's degree in transpersonal psychology I was exposed to various Eastern ideologies, spiritual paths, and practices but never once did the topic of cultural appropriation come up. I'd call this an epic institutional fail.
To root, recalibrate, and remember is to develop a new healthy white non-racist and anti-racist identity firmly anchored in the spiritual gifts and blessing of my ancestors.
So far what that's looked like for me has included:
Awakening to inter-generational trauma
Engaging in ancestral healing
Ceasing all forms of professional healing/spiritual work to recalibrate
Deepening my understanding of the various types of ancestors and unhooking myself from wayward programming
Cultivating an ancestrally-led spiritual practice and personally deepening into magic and spirit medicine by way of ancestral knowledge, power, and guidance
Updating all forms of spiritual technologies used to ensure ceremonies, tools, rituals, and sources of power/medicine are not based-in appropriation, colonization, or capitalization. Bye-bye sage, hello homegrown mug wort, rosemary, and lemon balm.
Returning to professional spiritual work in a limited capacity with a renewed integrated approach and explicit ties to ancestral roots
Dismantling the patriarchy is underway. This is the work to do. Join me.
In all honesty, I have waffled on writing such an in-depth piece featuring such considerable personal reflection. However, in fleshing this out with my anti-racism coach, we landed on the value of the article.
My goal? To create visibility on my anti-racism journey, naturally revealing the stages of growth and awareness, inevitable pitfalls and the need for dedicated efforts while also introducing you to incredible teachers, books, and resources.
And yet, I've come to see any of my behaviors or responses as potentially problematic. I have unconscious racist patterns that require ongoing identification and processing.
But silence is our enemy.
This is a statement not an invitation for debate nor is it a ploy to establish me as having "done the work" or even as a role model. Keep me off a pedestal.
In the two+ month span of writing this, I've kept my family of 5 humming along, traveled for a work project, had an out-patient surgery and several other illnesses.
My point is simple. If I can do the work, you can too.
The quintessential manifestation of white privilege looks like refusing to engage in anti-racism work citing, “I’m just not into politics” or evoking colorblindness stating “I don’t see color.”
Please don’t be that good white lady.
Please be a good white woman willing to unpack her unconscious biases and to unlearn deeply ingrained, often socially acceptable forms of racism and do better and develop a healthy white anti-ractist identity.
Our world depends on it.
>>> ONE FINAL NOTE: Within this extensive piece I have linked many specific works and Instagram accounts of folks who I think you should follow. As a matter of respect for each creator, particularly women of color, please be mindful when entering their spaces. If you find their way to them through me, I ask that you not argue, debate, or pushback. Instead support their work by hiring them, sharing their ideas with attribution, and most importantly learn from them. They are leading the way.