I feel moved to share some thoughts that have surfaced recently in light of the issues of violence and discrimination that are very much alive in our world right now. Though I am a multi-racial woman, I speak here from the point of view of my white ancestry, which is most visible as I navigate my life.
At this time in our world, none of us is exempt from taking a good deep look within, and how we ~ through cultural and family conditioning ~ play a role in the issues in this world. Any American on a path of wisdom, awakening, and expanding consciousness has the responsibility to look inside and be honest about the ways that our contemporary American culture perpetuates the problems. Having diverse friends is great. I do too, and from all over the world. And yet, I am infinitely grateful to a grad school advisor that pushed me to take the time to look at how white privilege is built into every single white person in the US. Having diverse friends doesn’t exempt us from that.
Being sick of police brutality and violence and racism is widespread right now. But being BLACK or MUSLIM and being sick of it means something totally different. Walking out the door of your house every day and fearing for your life as a reality? That is something that no white person in the US can even fathom. And it’s the very reality for many black people and Muslims. Though many white, liberal, open-minded and -hearted Americans want to believe that they are not a part of the problem, and may make offhand comments referring to the ones that are perceived to be the true problem, the truth is that we are all embedded in the issues at play. Most white Americans of conscience do indeed want to learn and grow and transform these dark issues, of course! But I have all too often seen white Americans want to make light of the issue, or expressing their own fear as they enter into areas recently affected by racial/cultural violence. These thoughts may seem innocuous enough, but to someone facing the reality of just trying to make it to work each day, it does indeed scream entitlement.
We must all be willing to look at the ways that these entitlements are unconsciously embedded within us. And yes, there are lots of people who will be offended by the idea and say “not me.” But if this triggers you, I invite you to look a little deeper. In the name of true universality, we are all a part of the problem, as we are a product of our culture and our time. And we all have the responsibility to look within and become a part of the solution. At this escalated time of suffering, the attitude of “us vs. them” does not honor any of us. It is one that places blame and responsibility for these issues with someone else. We are all a part of the problem, and we can all be a part of the solution, but that requires taking a good deep look inside, and asking “how am I part of the problem” and “how can I help.” If this conversation continues to push your buttons, then you can surely look the other way, feel angry or hurt, or hold staunchly to the denial that you have any role in this situation. But if it pushes your buttons, there is some charge there worth looking at. Only as we bring our own darkness to the light of understanding are we able to truly grow and heal, and through that process, we are able to transform the darkness in the world.
I personally don’t think there ever has been a “better” time in our current written history. In my study of Nonviolent Communication, I was introduced to two power paradigms: power over and power with.
As I understand it, power over is the conventional way that we believe that there is a chain of command, and that there are people more powerful than us, and less powerful than us, and in the desire to climb higher, we want to dominate and control (and harm and degrade) others who we have some story about, making us believe that we are better than them, and have the right to dominate. Now, this is largely buried, and I’m not suggesting that most people even acknowledge this and definitely don’t do it intentionally. But it’s woven in so tightly to our culture: work situations, school situations, even family dynamics. This is VERY much the paradigm that allows the stories in our culture to allow discriminatory violence to exist, and in fact, thrash about, as it is now.
And power with is such a difference! Not widespread by any means, either. Power with means that we all have unique gifts, knowledge, and paths, and that when we come together in full respect and acknowledgment of that truth, we can co-create reality based on shared power toward a greater, common good. This is a pathway of Love. Love in action. Respect in action. Unity in diversity in action. There’s nowhere to climb, no one to dominate. We’re all just able to be who we are, and do what we do, and come together in that.
What keeps the intelligent, progressive, solution oriented people in our country from making this colossal leap? It’s the unhealed, unconscious shadow. The things buried in our unconscious thoughts, actions, and feelings that drive what we create in this country. And the path forward is in making the commitment and space in our lives to exploring there with total transparency and honesty, and not judging what we find. We must open the poisonous, dark places within us that are indeed there! And we must clean them out like infected wounds, which they are! This is the path of self-healing that is absolutely required in order to bring any significant healing to this world.