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White Racist Air

White Racist Air

“The deepest expression of white privilege is that a part of our village is hurting, & they are forced to try to save their lives & for white people responding to this pain feels optional.” – Tara Brach

I have felt the looming presence of this blog post. This felt heavy as I was active in the thick of realizing my own complicity within white supremacy. So, while I have been in the weeds doing research, doing my best to support, & process this – I have realized that I can’t come to this post through the armor of academics or education. That I can’t pretend to be an expert in any capacity. Instead, I write this & to all of you, feeling as vulnerable as ever. Fully understanding that the more I make myself vulnerable in this reckoning, the more I can show up most honestly.

ANGER: When I first began my deep dive into social media & took in the words of black & brown activists, I felt angry. I was angry at all white people for not caring enough. I was angry at all of their racist comments. I was angry that most whites I know are secluded in their white bubble. I processed this righteous anger for days. Every time I saw a post on Instagram, I felt angry. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks through a clear & Knowing question, “Sadie, why are you so angry at them?” And I knew – that by channeling my anger outwards, I was deliberately bypassing the anger I felt towards myself. Because then I wouldn’t have to deal with all the ways I too have been complicit, silent, complacent, lazy & ignorant in this racist society. From that moment on, I just felt sad.

AWARENESS: I participated in silencing my white narrative for one week. I listened to all of my elders in the Buddhist community who asked that we white people, “stay in the heat.” I took that to mean, be quiet, be still & listen to melanated voices. What struck me as I practiced “muting the white narrative” was how difficult this was for me. As I had conversations with my friends of color, I struggled not to make this conversation about me – how I was processing this & the relevancy of my feelings. So, then it hit me again – that my whiteness is everywhere. I breathe white racist air that makes everything revolve & prioritize me. Asking me to be quiet for one week – to pass the mic, demonstrated the depth of my white dominance. It showed me that I claim space because my privilege has always shown me that my white experience matters the most. That by constantly claiming, dominating & owning all circles, I was blinded by the nuanced privilege that my whiteness brought.

SHOCK -> GRIEF: My best friend is of mixed race. I grew up with this friend & I will grow old with this friend. She confronted me on how the things I have said, had caused harm. For twenty years I have acted the same – merrily cozy in my whiteness – but now she was confronting me. I was stunned. I knew instantly that I needed to apologize for my ignorance. That I needed to make amends. I needed to tell her I will be better. I knew that if this friend was calling me out now, she will call me out in the future. That I needed to support her in this process & not let my wounded ego convince me that my feelings mattered more. So, we talked & we processed. I estimate we logged about ten hours within a week processing this tough shit together. Both of us asking the hard questions. I couldn’t help but cry as I said I was afraid of losing her. Knowing that she would no longer tolerate an ignorant friend & that our shared life together depended on me figuring this out.

SPIRITUAL BYPASSING: I have always felt the injustices of others as if they are my own. So, when I was triggered by intense emotions in realizing my white racist group identity, I sprang into action. This included copious amounts of reading, listening to podcasts, consuming news, posting on social media, donating to the cause, marching in the streets, & volunteering for several political campaigns. While I wanted the intent of this work to be the “right” response, the impact is harm if I still don’t do the inner work. I was hoping that through my actions, I could bypass the spiritual work of feeling. I wanted to jump over this pain & get my shiny activist star. I wanted to appear like the Wokest White Person so that no one could question where I stood on the matter. Once again, awareness kicked my ass.

DEFENSIVENESS -> SHAME: I mistakenly used tokenism on social media so that I may appear better at this racist reckoning. Again, this was not my intent, but it was indeed the impact. As I was called out for this I shouted, “well what are you doing to become an anti-racist? Don’t judge me!” I was deflecting because I wasn’t ready to feel the heat, burn & grip of shame. But while shame reared her ugly head nonetheless, I had nothing left to do but cry some more. So, I called this same friend & she showed up for me. She showed up for me as my best friend, life partner & as a person of mixed race.

She gave me crucial advice: “This feeling of discomfort, this feeling like you are a fish out of water, this feeling of not knowing the proper way to act/feel/speak – this is a fraction of what people of color experience every single day. And this feeling is exactly where you need to be.”

At that moment, I realized that I can’t seek the approval of every person of color or every woke white person. That I will have to sit in this mess & lean on myself. That my tokenism mistake actually brought to my attention a gem: A greater awareness of my approach to all this. That I was hustling, grasping, & striving to declare, “I AM NOT LIKE THEM. I AM AN ANTI-RACIST. I AM AN ALLY.” All of this was loud because deep inside the shame said: “just shut up. You know nothing. You still don’t get it. You ARE the problem. Go away.” I brought that shame closer. I examined her. I acknowledged a mistake. I realized I didn’t die. I realized I wasn’t (yet?) canceled. I realized my best friend was still by my side. So, I continued.

DISCOMFORT: This feeling is where I will be for as long as she will have me. I also have cultivated enough awareness through this process, that I will vacillate between all of these emotions. That this will be the spiritual part of my “lane.” That discomfort is an earned position. It has enough wisdom to experience ALL of these emotions & remind me that they are transient. That I will again experience the intelligence of anger, the grip of shock, the weight of grief, the heat of shame & the mess of discomfort.

To me this movement is not a moment, it’s not a trendy hashtag on social media, & it’s not going away. This will be my life’s work. By understanding the trauma my white ancestors caused, the harm my whiteness causes & the racist air I breathe into my body –  I am understanding myself. I pray to keep showing up in a way that allows it all to exist.



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