This week I learned many powerful lessons about what happens when you post political shit on Facebook. I tend to be a more keep-to-myself type on social media, reflecting my introverted tendencies. My Instagram feed feels to me like the cafeteria of my middle school, with me standing along the edges assessing where the cool, beautiful, happy, successful kids are and what they are doing, and wondering where I might belong among them.
But as I deepen in my spiritual growth work and how it intersects with social justice work, I realize that is an handy mechanism of my privilege, this instinct to stay quiet and simply observe what others are doing, this shying away from boat rocking and wave making, of upsetting people and contributing to their discomfort. I don’t have to make waves if I don’t want to. I can stay in my bubble of privilege in the beautiful bubble of Central Oregon, I can create abundance, prosperity, and magic for myself and the women who have the means to work with me, and I can have the life I have always desired (coming from a place that felt extremely underprivileged to me…not graduating from high school, a history of intense trauma, addiction, and abuse in my family lineage, navigating debilitating anxiety and suicidal depression…the list goes on).
And so for a while I did that, and that’s okay. It’s okay that I scrabbled myself out of the pit of darkness that was my late teens and early twenties to create a life that includes a fulfilling career, a loving partner and amazing child, a home in the country with mountain views, a kick-ass community of inspiring and powerful women, talented artists, musicians, and writers, healers and teachers. I love my place and I love my people. I love what I have called in, cleared out, allowed and created.
But when I got here, up at the top of the mountain of my life after an incredibly difficult decade filled with therapy sessions, EMDR, shamanic healings, graduate school, starting my own business, and confronting my deepest fears and most painful wounds, I looked down and noticed a wall on one side of that mountain, where my sisters of color were barricaded from the ability to climb their own mountains. A wall created by our cultural narrative, our institutions, our government, and our own internal constructs. I realized that if I had been a woman of color dealing with all the shit I was dealing with, it’s entirely possible (and likely) I would have never made it up here.
Let me tell you, that shit hit hard. Yes, I did the hard work. Yes, I’m damn proud of myself. But I also never had to contend with certain realities that are a daily occurrence in other people’s lives. I’ve never worried for a moment that I’m bringing a child into a world where he may be assaulted and killed by law enforcement just because of the color of his skin. I’ve never worried that I’d never see my child again because a government entity would separate them from me forever and lose track of them all together. I never had to flee violence caused by war, greed, and the lust for power to save myself and my children, only to be turned away and starve, or drown, or put right back in that violent situation I was fleeing from. I have never had to worry about access to an abortion if I needed it, or access to education if I wanted it, or access to work and a paycheck if I was willing to pound the pavement and make a case for myself. Clean water, health care, safe affordable housing, all things that become much more difficult and complex depending on how much melanin you have. Yes, there have been times I have been unemployed and penniless, where I lacked access to quality medical care, where I was discriminated against because of my socio-economic status or how I dressed or what have you. But it had nothing to do with my skin color, I promise. So it was easier for me to scrabble out of those situations (even though it was HARD) than it would have been had I not been white.
And yes, I have experienced oppression because of my gender. I have been dismissed, talked over, ignored, assaulted, touched inappropriately, sexualized at a young age, threatened, passed over for a promotion, called a cunt and a bitch and a whore and a slut and a pussy and a tease and a ball-buster. All the things. I recently attended a gathering made up of all female-identifying persons, some 700-800 women all in one place, and walking around I felt that refreshing feeling of total safety, that no man was going to come around and take up space, centralizing his own opinions and experiences over mine, not realizing that he is doing it and therefore considering it totally acceptable to do so. Not all men do this, I know, but it sure is nice to not have to wonder if they will or won’t.
As the days passed I began to see: many women of color feel this way about us—white women. We feel perfectly entitled to take up all the space and centralize ourselves and our own feelings and needs over those of our sisters of color. We use their traditions, their sacred tools, their songs and ceremonies, but we often don’t take the time to understand where and from whom they come, the stories behind them, and the oppression of their people that continues under this white-dominant society.
I saw my own ignorance in my own lineage, my aversion to my own whiteness, the stories of perpetrator and victim that live in my own blood. It’s messy, it’s complicated, it’s painful. And I have had the privilege to ignore that too.
In my work as a therapist, coach, witch, and whatever else you want to call me, the roots of all I do is to be of service. I work a lot with teens and I feel extremely passionate about it because they too are silenced and unappreciated in this culture. I love what I do. I want it to help change the world. I want my clients to change the world, and I want to help empower them to do so. And here’s where the work comes in: we need women of color to be heard, we need them to have space and support to create and dream and thrive, we need them to LEAD US. We need to be willing to follow them. We need to listen and respond to their needs.
The need that is coming through loud and clear right now is to SHOW UP. White women, we need to show up. We need to use our voices to speak out for equality and compassion, then we need to get quiet and listen to the leaders who have been working their asses off while we have been blissfully scaling our own mountains. We need to support women of color in being POWERFUL, AUTHENTIC, and WHATEVER THE FUCK ELSE THEY WANT TO BE.
Because as we become liberated through our own work, it is our responsibility to support and actively engage in the liberation of all people. This is integrity and congruence. When we learn to truly love ourselves, to be gentle and kind with our bodies, to listen to our own needs and make space for them, to deconstruct the patriarchy within us that says: “hustle, succeed, achieve, never slow down or show weakness, have it all, be perfect, be thin, be desirable, be pleasant, be quiet,” then we can understand how to translate a softer, more loving and open way of being in the world to our systems and institutions. We begin to understand there is no other choice. We cannot fully embody unconditional self-love while being complicit in an unloving system. And we can support women with less privilege and opportunity to deconstruct that shit inside themselves as well.
At this point, I have two main areas of focus to start putting this into practice. First, I am making a priority to listen to the voices of women of color through their art, writing, podcasts, etc. I am supporting them with my dollars and I am giving them credit when I share what I have learned from them. Specifically, I am feeling moved and inspired by the following brilliant women:
Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, Jungian psychoanalyst, and all-around wise woman and badass.
Small Doses Podcast with Amanda Seales
The music of the incomparable Lizzy Jeff (whom I first came across at the women’s gathering I mentioned above).
The Dream Freedom Beauty podcast with Michelle Johnson.
She also has a book called Skill in Action: Radicalizing Your Yoga Practice to Create a Just World which I am waiting on in the mail and cannot wait to dive into!
I would love to hear from you what you are reading/listening to/looking at/inspired by as well! Let’s lift women up and share the abundance!! Call out their awesomeness!
The other focus I have right now is to make my work more accessible and equitable to women of color. This means scholarships and donation-based offerings for women of color, not because they need a handout and can’t afford it, but because they deserve it and we can share our abundance to make up for (in the most paltry way) the hundreds of years they were denied resources and access to healing offerings because of racism. I am still working on how to get the word out and more connected to a more diverse group of women, to make my offerings as inclusive as possible (not just in accessibility but in content as well)….more on this to come.
I also want to say this: I understand that I still carry internalized racist programming, and that some of the things I wrote in this blog may come across as ignorant and racist as well. I’m willing to take that risk and I’m willing to be called out for it. I’m doing my best and I want to keep doing better. That means putting my words and feelings out there, even if I make mistakes. We have to be willing to be wrong, that’s how we learn and grow. I realize there is an amount of “othering” happening in this writing referring to white women as “us” and women of color as “they.” And all women of color are not the same, nor do they have the same experiences (same with white women). This does not even touch on the issues of the LGBT community and other intersectional identities that compound the effects of oppression and prejudice.
I do not have all the answers, none of us do. There are lots of questions, lots of missteps, lots of repair needed. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Don’t let guilt overwhelm you. Be gentle with yourself and others. Do magic. Heal yourself. Give offerings to the Earth and to your ancestors. Learn about the people who lived on your land before white settlers occupied it. Learn about where your people came from. Use spiritual tools and ceremonies with care and reverence and speak about where and from whom you learned them (or didn’t) (thank you Katina Mercadante). Be patient but never never never give up.*
*paraphrased from a much disputed Winston Churchill speech in 1941