During this time of escalating polarization and disconnection, you've undoubtedly witnessed a social media call-out and take-down or two (or ten!). And, as a person committed to love and justice and community, it makes sense that you're worried about triggering this kind of response. In this piece, we go to the root of this fear, so we can come out on the other side, breathing easy & truly connected.
YOUR FEAR IS GENERATIONS IN THE MAKING
White people – even progressive, social-justice-oriented people – still often carry a deep fear of people of color within them. An intellectual understanding of our history and a desire to change is often not enough to shift these deep, learned patterns. Research shows us that trauma (aka fear-based reaction patterns) gets coded into our DNA, and is passed from parent to child, for up to 14 generations.
Many modern white people might not walk around consciously seeing themselves as superior than and fearing assault by black people the way our ancestors did. However, I invite you to see the ways in which this fear still shows up as social, emotional, and physiological panic. The fear of being called out. The concern about having your brand tarnished because of unconscious bias. The anxiety of being close to someone you are afraid you're going to "offend."
Even if we manage our external reactions, these conditioned responses often still happen.Latent fear can arise regardless of how much we understand about white supremacy or how much we want racial equality. And our fear-based instinct is often to retreat back into the protection of whiteness: to side with another white person in an argument, to delete a call-out rather than responding, to hire someone who looks and talks more like you, to call the cops because you are scared.
We have work to do. And it includes not only ongoing education and action, but also deep emotional and somatic reckoning and healing.
To release the racism into which we were conditioned, white people must name the patterns, dig deeper into them, and bring them to the light before we can finally be rid of them for good. We must be brave enough to acknowledge the fear and pain we still carry within us, become willing to fully see it, and accept help in releasing it. Only then can we honor our essential human unity from a place of true integrity.
INSTITUTIONALIZED RACISM DEHUMANIZES US ALL
A core goal of anti-racism work is to end the subjugation of people of color and rebuild our society to treat them as full and equal human beings. A crucial step in this process is actually rebuilding white people's humanity as well, from one dependent on hierarchy & oppression to one rooted in repair, care, and equality. White people may have privilege, but access to material & social resources does not a whole and healed person make.
Dehumanization is a reciprocal process. Everything from modern spiritual teachings to Buddhist philosophy to advanced quantum physics tells us that humanity is essentially a mirror. How we treat another is an exact representation of how we regard ourselves on a psychological and spiritual level.
Under institutionalized racism, white people have historically given up their empathy, in exchange for complete social and economic power created by black people’s labor and pain. This is why some white people react so strongly when asked to care for and make space for people of color. They experience this as a request to give someone else something they do not even have themselves: a fully intact sense of self, a whole humanity, a spirit that lives in integrity.
Writer Sara Haile-Mariam powerfully explains this dynamic: “White supremacy does nothing to make white folks more free, or more whole, or more human. It does the opposite. It is a prison masquerading as a palace. It keeps you small and codependent on the suffering of others. It keeps you righteously in your wounds.”
Under institutionalized racism people of all races have an experience of loss. White people carry the psychic weight of generations of theft, murder, dissociation, and codependency. It is hard to feel secure and complete when you’ve been conditioned to think that what you need must be taken from others by force.
To more authentically connect with people of color, to honestly honor their experiences, and to make amends for centuries of harms done, white people need to expand their own spiritual and psychological integrity. And that can only be achieved by facing our history and our investment in the protections of whiteness.
RETURNING THE WHITE SUBCONSCIOUS TO LOVE
Historically, our white ancestors were trained to experience white supremacy and black subjugation as safety, to be maintained at all costs. Today, we are evolving our consciousness, our nervous systems, our hearts, to experience the world in a new way. One that honors the full dignity of all people and does not require black pain to uphold white security.
So where do we start? How do we, as white people, repair ourselves and our world so that we can fully validate and connect with people of color?
We start with understanding our history. We then move from intellectual understanding, to emotional awareness, to somatic release. We have to go deep into the source of our fears and root them out. We have to reprogram our nervous systems, just like any other kind of trauma healing. We have the opportunity to teach our highly adaptable and creative brains new patterns. This is why I've developed a series of guided meditations that are designed to facilitate this transformation.
Meditation creates greater space between stimulus and response. When it comes to race, that increased awareness can mean the difference between a knee-jerk reaction to call the police on a black neighbor, and the ability to catch bias and make a different decision. Those few mindful seconds can mean the difference between destruction or connection, fear or love.
Meditation also realigns us with universal intelligence, with the wisdom of our ancestors, with the love and compassion of our higher selves. This practice is a daily return, to ourselves, to each other, to love.
RECOVERING FROM RACISM IS A DAILY PRACTICE
Just like any other healing process, releasing our subconscious connection to institutionalized racism is a daily practice. In a world that continues to reinforce a paradigm of racial hierarchy, we have the opportunity to remind our bodies and our hearts what safety truly is. As ambassadors of cultural change and collective evolution, we have the responsibility to return again and again to our commitment. Yogi Bhajan said: "When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off." Now is the time to start. Let's start together.