26 Jun Peeling the Onion
I have missed you. I know my silence in the past month+ may make it may seem I haven’t, but I have actually been thinking of you more than ever. I have written quite a few emails about a variety of topics, but none of them seem to feel right by the time I’m going to share them. Because I have often felt at a loss for words, that it’s not my place to speak, but also because I am unsure of what place and part The Connected Way™ is meant to play right now.
I still don’t have the answers to any of those questions, but I have decided that it doesn’t matter. It is time for me to reconnect with all of you. And it is time for me to share my own thoughts and experience as someone who is driven by connection and has this beautiful network/community of people I can connect with.
During the past few months, it has become increasingly apparent that so much of our darkness is emerging. On an individual level, many of us are isolated or with our close loved ones. This is bringing up all kinds of stuff as we’re forced to really be with ourselves and our relationships. For some, this is wonderful and affirming. And for others, it is uncovering deep struggles and cracking foundations. On a local level, with the pandemic and all its many-faceted impacts, we are witnessing and experiencing how people are committed to supporting one another (or not) and the implications of that. On a national and global level, of course, it is uncovering imbalanced, ineffective and corrupt systems and leadership.
We cannot change what we don’t see, and it seems that we are being shown pretty much everything that we need to see and change, on a global, national, local and personal level. My hope is that all of this is showing itself because a shift is occurring that requires we address it all so that we can move forward in a new way. But, that process is obviously not the most pleasant or smooth. So you are not alone in if you are feeling exposed, raw, confused, overwhelmed, stunned, emotional or really anything you’re feeling – it is all coming up right now. Everything is literally on full blast (and I do believe it’s for a reason, which I’ll likely share more of later).
Of course, a big piece of the darkness that is “being uncovered” is racism. I want to first say that I will no doubt make mistakes in what follows. I may say something wrong or insensitive and I am absolutely open to feedback and correction. I have struggled with whether or not it is my place to address this, if my voice is needed or helpful here, amongst many other questions, but I feel that right now, it’s more important to share than not share, and learn from my missteps. I also will use the term “we” in what follows and hope that you will understand and forgive me if it offends you that “we” refers to white people. So here it is…
I am one of those white people who has been waking up in the past month or so. I cannot imagine how infuriating this must be for the black community, that I/we are just now discovering how bad things really are, and I own that and apologize for not educating myself and doing better sooner.
As I’ve been educating myself, learning from others, having difficult conversations, observing the depths of my privilege and waking up to the crazy systemic web that is racism, it feels like I’m peeling an onion. Layers upon layers that have always been there just sitting on my counter. It’s rotten and it smells. And as soon as I open it up, the inevitable tears come and I have to force my eyes open despite them wanting to reflexively close. But I force them open. Because it’s necessary.
I am appalled and stunned. And I am ashamed of myself for how much I have benefited from a terrible system, how little I’ve understood it and how little I have done to educate myself and change it. And I am ashamed of my country – a country I was taught to be proud of, but I now see what I learned is not even close to the full truth.
As a progressive white person, my education included that it is terrible to be racist in any form. That racists are bad people. But now, it is imperative that I recognize and face my own racism and the racism that this country has been built upon. But the view that being racist makes me a terrible person sends me into a shame spiral, which just makes we want to peel that onion less. But still, it’s necessary.
So let’s talk about that shame so we can keep peeling the onion. You likely know by now how much I love Brene Brown’s work. Her understanding of the difference between guilt and shame (shown in this videoif you’re interested) is really helpful here. Very boiled down, guilt is feeling bad about something we have done wrong. And shame is feeling bad about ourselves because we have done something wrong. Shame is personalized guilt.
I wonder… what if we could shift the shame a bit. To recognize that we are not terrible people for being racist through our experience in a system that has been built by others to benefit white people. We did not personally construct this complex system, but it is absolutely our responsibility to be part of the change because we are part of the system. Perhaps in shifting away from the personalized shame (and feeling like a terrible person), every time we look at racism, hopefully we can more effectively peel that onion and move through our process so we can actually begin to make change. Because my/our shame and guilt, discomfort and growth are not the point. Yes, this process will likely bring about personal growth and transformation (it has for me), but that’s not the priority – the priority needs to be on actively making change.
For many of us who are seeing this more clearly now and want to make change, there is overwhelm – the system is so complex, so how do we address it – how do we help? That is an excellent question that I don’t have an answer for. That’s not what this email is about. We cannot change what we do not see. And this is uncomfortable to see, but I am here to tell you you’re not alone.
As for making that change: I’m focused on educating myself, learning about the policies and systems that created and impact the system, I’m voting and helping to shift and get out of the vote, I’m donating to important organizations that are impacting change, buying from black-owned businesses, and having difficult conversations with many of my friends an family. I also am committed to being anti-racist, using my whiteness and privilege to advocate for black people and creating space for them to be seen, heard and treated fairly wherever I can. There is so much more I can do – I know this is just the beginning, but I’m committed to being part of the change.
If you are interested in exploring some of this yourself but don’t really know where to start, I am including below a list of resources that I’ve found to be helpful (or have been recommended to me). There are clearly so many lists and I am clearly not an expert on this, but in case it’s useful, I’m sharing.
I know these discussions can be polarizing. But, I also feel that these conversations need to be had, especially amongst predominantly white communities, which this happens to be. These are my beliefs and this is my journey, which I share in hopes that it supports you. I have no idea if I have done anything justice here, but if it helps one person to more easily peel the onion, it is worth it. WithThe Connected Way™,I will continue to share insights and perspectives on many topics, but this felt essential to address.
I may know a lot less than you, but I am here if you want to talk about this. And I am here if you don’t. Regardless, I want you to know that I’m thinking of you and you are not alone in all of the darkness that is arising, whether it is related to racism, politics, the pandemic, your community, your relationships, or your own experiences or struggles. So much is cracking open right now and we are being shown every opportunity for change and transformation. I believe there is an abundance of light on the other side of this darkness, but we must go through it and create the change.
In love and light,
The Connected Way™
Scene on Radio Season 2: Seeing White Podcast: Events of the past few years have turned a challenging spotlight on White people, and Whiteness, in the United States. This series by John Biewen explores what it means to be White and in effect breaks down the history of whiteness, blackness and racism in the United States. It is arguably the most impactful and educational thing I’ve listened to yet.
The 1619 Projectand Podcast: The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.
Ava DuVernay’s 13th: In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activits and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom. Ava DuVernay also created When They See Us Now connecting with the exonerated men known as “The Central Park Five”
James Baldwin’s I am Not Your Negro: Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished book, this visual essay explores racism through the stories of Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
10 Must Watch Documentaries from pbs.org’s Black Culture Connection
Layla Saad’s Book Me & White Supremacy: A 28-Day Challenge to Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on black, indigenous and people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too. The book goes beyond the original workbook by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and includes expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.
Ibram Kendi’s Book How to be an Antiracist: Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science–including the story of his own awakening to antiracism–bringing it all together in a cogent, accessible form. He begins by helping us rethink our most deeply held, if implicit, beliefs and our most intimate personal relationships (including beliefs about race and IQ and interracial social relations) and reexamines the policies and larger social arrangements we support.
Robin Diangelo’s Book White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism: This book has been receiving some criticism as of late, but it might be an okay place to start. I am listening to it and it is helpful as an entry point to understand our hesitation to dive into understanding racism and some of the systems at work.
A list of Black Owned businesses in Maine. If you do not live in Maine, there is hopefully a similar resource for you where you are. Google it and frequent them.
21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge: This challenge provides a wonderful list of resources and suggestions and also provides the opportunity to be held accountable. I highly recommend this.