The Key to Unlocking the Change We Wish to See is within Our Bodies
All right y'all we are in the big cusp of change. It's working, it's happening. I feel a lot of hope.
Our lives have been completely impacted by a global pandemic and major racial horrors and injustice. I see us now in a massive public consciousness awakening to the much needed racial justice and social justice in our society. This is a necessary awareness shift to wake us up and to turn all this around.
As we awaken public consciousness, moving forward, we can’t go back. We can't just close our eyes and pretend not to see what we see - well, we can try but it won’t work. You simply cannot “unsee” what has been seen.
Trusting our bodies, listening to them, is the key and the way through this.
As we're in a time of waking up around racism we are noticing that it’s not just overt racism but the the particularly destructive subversive racism that's amidst our institutional systems of this country.
We live in a white supremest culture, the dominant society is a white supremest culture. It's so unfortunate that it took these waves of murders of and injustices against black beings by white beings to bring that to the surface again.
But if we look through history this isn't the first time, it happens all the time. It's still happening. If you thought you were resting this week in the wake of the injustices toward Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Tony McDade, look closer. There are still horrific things happening: in the past week deaths of two black men found hanging in trees, two black trans women were killed. Those are just the ones that have come to my attention, I am sure there are others.
This is the stuff we can't let continue to happen.
We have to face it and talk about it and see it and be with it together and we can't just be silent about it anymore. Silence is violence. White silence is a really horrific thread that weaves through many of our bodies, mine included.
I'll speak for myself personally. In my own body, when I read about what's happening, I’ve seen a tendency towards freezing, tight throat, clenched ass and belly, heat waves rising, a nauseous sensation in my gut. In the past I would almost exclusively respond to this discomfort by ignoring and sweeping away the horror and not talking about it - essentially shoving it down into my body (which was causing major gut body distress). Or getting defensive and angry, but not actually take any right action - I would passive aggressively let it blurt out rudely on other people.
I’ve witnessed this in my own body and have also seen it back through my family lineage, and through many other white folx. We tend to ignore things, shove them aside, think “well, that doesn't directly impact me, so I'm gonna move on because I can't do anything about it” and we push it away.
This silence response is devastating. We are complicit in the violence when we don't take a stand and do something about it. We must do something about it.
Yes some of those ways to take action are to go out and protest, speak your voice, hold space for black folk to speak their voice (not do it for them) and put this information out in ways others people see it.
Also, to pay forward the privilege that you’ve walked with in this life to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by these horrors. Donate to funds, and families, and organizations that support Black Lives Matter, LGBTQIA justice. Set up monthly donations, tithe 10% of your income to support others ongoing. I understand how that can feel hard, I’ve felt it myself. Paying forward hard earned money can feel difficult - yet think of it as a generous gift that opens an amazing flow of energy. As I move that energy forward and through, it makes way for more to flow in toward me. Commit to a time frame. Can you tithe for 6 months? a year? and then do a check in and see how it is going. I have committed to 6 months and it feels like a good start, I am sensing the momentum happening. My intention is to continue well beyond that.
Yes we can do those things and I encourage we need to do those things. AND it's not simply a one-time thing. Notice if during this massive wave of attention you do a thing or two to make yourself feel better then stop because you feel like it’s over. It’s not over yet. This is a lifetime of work, stay in it, build the strength and resiliency in your body to continue growing and learning and changing. And don't forget to care for your body in the midst of it, amp up your anti-racism work and amp up your self care to fuel it.
In addition to all the outward things to do, which are important, what is even more important is unpacking this stuff from our bodies. We must do our own human homework. Listening deeply to your body to unwind the trauma. Historical trauma, Intergenerational trauma, Persistent institutional trauma - in addition to all the things that have happened to our own bodies in this lifetime (Personal trauma). See Resmaa Menakem’s work and his book My Grandmother’s Hands for more about what he calls HIPP theory and as an excellent resource on unwinding embodied racial trauma and the differences in how white bodies, black bodies and police bodies carry it.
What I and others carry as white folx looks really different than what those carry as black, indigenous, latinx, or people of color. There are ways each of our bodies carry the intergenerational trauma and so our particular bloodline ancestry, influences how we walk in the present moment. Many of us as white folk have shunned our lineage, and don’t know much about it. I invite that also has to change for us to heal.
And what's true is black bodies, in addition to carrying their own burden, have had to take on the additional load of noticing how white bodies react (often from stored trauma being blown through). They must make changes in how they relate with others (for example police) to account for it, because without placating, soothing or making nice to white bodies they are in even more danger of being violently harmed or killed. Black parents have to have conversations with their children that white parents never even think about. White bodies have had the privilege of not needing to pay attention to how black bodies carry trauma because with white bodies they pass as part of dominant society.
Nervous system activation and awareness that many black folx walk with on a day-to-day basis (that is EXHAUSTING for them) white folks don't even realize is a thing. So this whole idea that everybody can just work harder and get the same privilege is wrong. It's actually not possible in our current institutional structure for racism to be abolished. We must change the institutional structure to abolish racism.
What we have to do is rearrange and restructure our institutional system so that we give more space for all bodies to be heard. We must pay attention because this is a time of inviting those as white folx to wake up to witness our own personal impact as well as the systemic impact to other people.
I think many of us don't see it. I certainly didn't for decades and I'm only beginning to. I definitely have been on a journey of noticing now and gosh, you know, I was 48 years old before that really started to wake up my consciousness a little over a year ago. So you know, I get it. I get that that many of us walk through this life seeing in a different way and that it takes shedding aways layers of ego to be willing to see something different no matter how old you are, no matter what your life experiences.
I have to start seeing things different because that's how we're going to make a change and get through this. And so back, once again, to the hope it's possible and it's already happening.
I began this discussion with hope - there is hope.
There are institutional changes happening. There are ways that we're starting to rewrite the new culture. I’m seeing structure shifts happening. (One example: The majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged to disband the local police department and replace it with a new public safety model.)
I see now on social media the wishing, the dreaming of what is the new possibility. People are writing about the possibility of revamping what it means to have community protections without police brutality: (the following words are inspired by others I’ve seen posted, authors unknown): “imagine in the future, you are driving down the road and your headlights out. You're pulled over by a Community Support member who says, “hey did you realize your headlight is out?” And you are grateful for the info, and pull over at the next auto supply store and replace it because you care about yourself and the safety of your community.”
OR: “Imagine that you have a scuffle with your neighbor and now you call the Community Support member who comes in and supports mediation to get to a win-win solution between you and your neighbor.”
These are different ways of being and living that we can create in our society. One step at a time. A key step starts with our bodies. Until we unpack this from our bodies, we are going to keep blowing the old trauma through to other people and future generations.
It is crucial that each of us take time to look within and unwind old stories from our bodies, everything else depends on it.
Many black folx are exhausted and not interested in the emotional labor to teach us white folx, which I deeply respect. And some are offering this work, and I encourage you to support and learn from them directly (here are a few examples that have been important to me, there are many others as well):
Layla Saad, Me and White Supremacy book
It is crucial that each of us take time to look within and unwind a stories from our bodies, everything else depends on it.
This is the core of my personal journey, and the work that I offer.
And I am all in! I am doing the work not only for myself, but to support others. I see you having the courage to make a change in you and to see things differently. I see your curiosity that there has to be more than the horrors. Yes! Being willing to see a new way opens a portal into so much possibility. Claiming our sexual sovereignty is so deeply connected with our anti-racism work, our grieving and our pleasure. Reach out, let’s do this together.
I support beings of all gender, racial and sexual identities to look deeply within, to trust their power, claim their sexual sovereignty, unwind old stories from their bodies. We do this so that you can feel really good about being alive, and get really clear on your purpose on how you're going to take action in the world to make these changes together.
Image credit: Original artwork - marker and colored pencil on paper, by artist Hannah Blackburn (full disclosure, and proud mama moment, she's my daughter!), and here is her statement about it:
"I am Hannah Blackburn, an 18 year old artist located in southeast Michigan. I have been creating art for as long as I can remember. Currently, I am in college for Illustration and an apprentice in tattoo artistry. The piece featured above was created with the intention of bringing awareness to the issues in the world right now regarding racism and police brutality. ALL of the proceeds of this piece will be donated to Black Lives Matter organizations and local black artists."
Originally published 2020