I’ve been trying to write this all week, and each time I get overwhelmed by the multitude of thoughts that are swirling around in my head. Watching and reading about the events unfolding in this country — and now around the world — have me vacillating between sadness, hope, and rage.
While protests and violence are uncomfortable to witness (and exponentially more painful to participate in), it’s important for us all to not look away. Lean into the discomfort of the situation. If watching the protests makes you uncomfortable, take a deep dive into why. Being uncomfortable is okay. It’s the place that we begin our growth.
It’s a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it your whole life. ~Ahmed Ali
This past Monday there was some looting near my house. For the first time in 20 years of living here, I felt scared. I went to bed with a light on, covered my windows so no one could see inside, and slept like shit. This is the nightly reality of millions of people around the world, and here I am whining about it as a white woman who lives in a city that was literally voted the most boring city in the U.S.
Make no mistake, I don’t condone violence. But while looters may be opportunists, remember that we don’t know the whole story. We can’t pretend to know the reasons why people do what they do. I don’t know if someone is taking this opportunity to get food for their family, or maybe they’re taking a TV that can be sold to pay their rent (I’ve read many COVID-related stories of women being propositioned by their landlords, offering sexual favors in exchange for overdue rent). While I’m saddened that people are looting, I’m not judging this behavior, because appearances don’t always equal reality.
Using myself as an example of that: I present as a middle-aged, unmarried, white woman who owns her own business, owns a house, and has a new car. Last year I made $19k. In case you’re wondering, that’s just above or just below the federal poverty level. I’m on MediCal and have been on food stamps in the recent past. For those that know me, you know it’s not for lack of hard work. But even though I’ve been in the low-income classification, I present in a way that is different than my reality. Putting it another way, my financial reality is different than what my appearance is.
I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that, as a white woman, my story will give you food for thought. Maybe it’s more relatable to you than, say, a black man who’s accused of buying cigarettes with a possibly counterfeit $20 bill and getting killed by police officers because of it. As I white woman, I am certain that, had it been me showing up with a fake bill, I’d be treated very differently and wouldn’t be in fear for my life.
On Friday L.A. County Sheriff’s officers fired upon peaceful protestors in my city. And while these actions make my heart ache, I realize that this is going to keep happening until we make systemic changes. We have to demand changes within the system that by design is meant to oppress. Additionally, we have to confront our own racism — and we all have it, you just might have to dig deeper than others to find it.
These types of discussions are very uncomfortable, but they’re a vital part of our evolution as a global community. Everyone wants to be seen. Everyone wants to be heard and understood.
If you’re like me and are newly on the path of self-identifying your internalized racism and you’re interested in learning more about systemic racism — especially if you’re a white person — there are so many incredible resources out there to choose from. Some of them might be difficult to read, because confronting our deeply-rooted racist history and actions highlights the ugliest parts of ourselves.
From our friends at the Yoga Prison Project:
If you are new to or uncomfortable with the term white privilege, please read or listen to “Waking Up White” by Debbie Irving.
If you would like to become more skilled at challenging systemic racism and helping your white friends understand and acknowledge white privilege, please read or listen to “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.
If you would like to develop greater empathy for the black American experience, please read or listen to “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
If you would like to develop greater awareness of a group of people often overlooked, read or listen to “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” by Monique Morris.
If you would like to understand the power of systemic racism better, please read or listen to “The Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein.
For an embodied perspective on healing racialized trauma – for black bodies and white bodies – please read or listen to “My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies” by Resmaa Menakem.
In honestly examining our internalized racism, we’re one step closer to a more peaceful planet. Remember: it’s okay to be a Republican and despise this administration. It’s okay to be pro law enforcement and/or military and condone violent behavior. Both can be true.
Move with compassion right now. Everyone is in pain. And that being said, if you feel that white people are superior to people of color and you’re not looking to change your opinion on that, please scroll on by when you see us on social media and unsubscribe from our email list. At Sundara we have a zero-tolerance policy for hate.
Friends, this is not the time to stay silent. By being loud and having the uncomfortable talks, we will stand together as a community to work towards ending systemic racism once and for all.
If you have any additional resources you’d like to share on the topic of racism and white privilege, please share them below so others can benefit.