Confronting my white silence

This is a post written by a white lady for a white audience– especially those well-intentioned whites who believe that if they vote the correct way and don’t wave confederate flags then they have done their part and are not racist. We need to talk about that.

I went back and forth on posting –I do not want to add to the trauma or grief that black and brown folks are experiencing, and I don’t want to center discussions on white people whom frankly we hear enough from thank you very much–but I also firmly believe that white people have not stepped up and had these discussions for like, forever, and the burden of this work cannot remain on the shoulders of people of color to fix or solve a problem THEY DID NOT CREATE. So – if this is not your cup of tea, feel free to go “Thank you, next” on this piece. If you are still here, let’s carry on!

White people, we need to get our collective sh%t together! Doesn’t matter if your people didn’t own slaves, doesn’t matter if you have suffered your own life trauma’s that made life hard. The bottom line is that if you are white you benefit day in and out, since the moment of your birth (even the manner of your birth or the fact you or your mother survived birth), from a system of white supremacy. We are fish swimming in a sea of supremacy. We live it, we breathe it, we benefit from it. And it’s time we end it.

If there’s one thing I hope to be true during the past few weeks in America it’s that well-intentioned white people like myself maybe, just maybe, are finally starting to truly see the truth in themselves–that good intentions are not enough. It is your ACTIONS that matter, even when difficult, hard, uncomfortable and foreign to your way of being.

This isn’t my first rodeo in addressing my white privilege and the ways I maintain racism, but damn if I’m not seeing a whole new host of issues in myself that I JUST TRULY DID NOT SEE, and they just keep popping up like whack a mole game. I address one within myself, I face the shame and guilt, I move the energy, and the next ignorant belief I didn’t see comes rising up. In the beginning of all this I was feeling raw, ashamed, like I wanted to hide. But I stuck with the discomfort. I don’t say this asking for pity, but just to encourage you to sit in the discomfort and keep going. Too much depends on it!

I won’t bore you with the details of all the realizations I’ve had, but I will share that the biggest of them is finally seeing with wide open eyes the ways that I’ve maintained white silence.

I’ve seen how I’ve subconsciously maintained white allegiance rather than stir the pot. I’ve chosen to be “nice” and “comfortable” rather than make waves. What I’ve come to realize is that my silence in the face of every small micro-aggression toward minorities was me going “Nah this system is cool, I’m just gonna sit back and let it be.” In those moments of silence I acquiesced and aligned with an energy that sought to demean another human. Damn if that isn’t dark.

Why do we continue to do it, even when we know it’s wrong? Even when the racist uncle or colleague says something that makes our stomach churn, why do we carry on like we didn’t hear it, or laugh uncomfortably?

I think many white people — myself included –we have thought, what’s the point of speaking up? Me pointing out my uncle’s racist view will do nothing to change his mind. But that logic can no longer stand. It is time we take responsibility, reclaim our honor and dignity and use our power for good.

What I’ve learned, especially in the course of my spiritual work, is that if I am love itself, why would I stand for any action, words or thoughts that don’t align with that love. My actions on the outside my align with my heart– no more disconnection, no more indignity.

It means reclaiming my power and my responsibility. Confronting the part of myself stuck in shame and guilt and healing it. Addressing the parts of me that feel dis-empowered and moving it.

Imagine that the world we live in in the United States is setup like a large white supremacy system Jenga game. When you see something racist but let it stand, you allow that Jenga piece to stay solidly in the system, propping up the whole. You tell yourself that your one piece seems meaningless, but if every single person decided to make choices aligned with their humanity, and called out every racist act, or chose to align with efforts to dismantle racist systems–basically chose to use their power for the highest good of EVERYONE–well, eventually that entire stack of bricks would fall. You can’t see it when you are only thinking about yourself. It requires you to be an active, diligent, engaged, and dedicated human being who minute by minute, day by day, chooses over and over again to align with humanity. It requires you to be conscious.

Sound exhausting? It is–but in my experience only at first. The reason for that is because you are overcoming a resistance that lies within yourself, and there is a tension there. An energy that you must overcome. (Of course, imagine the flip side of this….feeling that pressure against you all day everyday, aimed at destroying your spirit, your livelihood, your existence. I don’t know what that feels like, I haven’t lived it, and I don’t think most whites have the resilience or grit to get through even a day of it.)

White people, it’s time we choose the kind of world we want to be a part of. Do we want to keep swimming in that nasty water of white supremacy, swimming along like everything is cool when our brothers and sisters of different races aren’t able to breathe (literally and metaphorically?) Or will we choose as to realign with our humanity and stand united with the dignity of all human beings, in words, in actions, in thoughts?

I hope you’ll roll up the sleeves and commit to doing the work. What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Like I said, we haven’t spoken about this enough. It’s time we break that silence.

with love,

Sarah

I want to share Andréa Ranae’s perspective on silence and the consequences of silence. WOW. Checkout her instagram post and follow her at @andrearanaej:
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Silence is not violence. Silence is a decision. Every decision comes with consequences. Consequence: the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier Consequences are not inherently bad or good, they just are. A consequence of silence might be that you get to rest or reconnect with what’s true for you. A consequence of silence might be that violence continues on without intervention. A consequence of silence might be that you’ve made space to listen to the unheard. A consequence of silence might be that other people assume you’re doing nothing. A consequence of silence might be that the rest of us may never get to experience what you have to contribute to the world. Whatever decision you make in any moment comes with consequences and you are responsible for those. Meaning you are able to respond as you see fit. If the consequences you’re experiencing are not getting you what you want, you can always make a different decision. “Silence is violence” often comes with a binary of right and wrong and an accusation of “if you’re silent, you are wrong.” White supremacy thrives off these rigid binaries and absolute truths without space for complexity. Silence is a decision. You get to decide when and how you use silence. Only you can discern whether that decision is aligned with your integrity. Only you can discern whether the consequences you’re seeing/experiencing from that decision is what you want or if you need to pivot.

A post shared by Andréa Ranae | she/they (@andrearanaej) on

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This excellent piece about being an anti-racist white educator has some great tips for everyone, not just those in teaching professions.

Pursuing joy

At some point this past year I decided I wanted my life to be about pursuit of joy rather than reduction of suffering. And to paraphrase Frost, it has made all the difference.

For me it looks like embracing my inner artist. I was born an artist but along the way morphed, conformed, forgot. It’s all good. The journey back to myself has been so sweet! I’m leaping into fear, taking an undergrad art class with students who are literally half my age. Fear and joy! Fear and joy! Even the smell of art supplies makes my heart sing.

Are there any small ways you can increase joy? Share you victories below!! I’m so happy to give virtual high fives to you brave souls.

My postcards are here!

Yes, that’s right, I’ve begun penning my note to Marco Rubio. I’ve got lots to say.

What’s this all about you ask?

I make art and I decided I wanted to give it away AND help shine light on the horrific child separation policy. Here is my plan: I’ll send you five free cards in the mail in return that you use them to advocate to end the child separation policy. Send a note to an elected official, the media, friends, whomever. We will nudge each other to raise our voices and send disillusionment to the curb. AND if you are still on the fence about doing this–when you sign up you will be entered to win a tote bag or a print too!!! Because why not spread even more love?

It’s that easy!

Here’s the tote. Oooo! Ahhhh!

Here is the full print (pardon the shadowy picture, better picture to come soon):

You can sign up for your free postcards here. Whaddya say. Let’s shine some light into the darkness.

The Girl Who Sat in Trees

Before there were synced calendars and day planners and even before there were trapper keepers, there was a little girl who sat in trees. She sat in the trees for what felt like hours, though it might have been mere minutes. She dreamed, journal-ed and sketched. She transported to a place of joy and bliss, cradled in the crooks of maples and oaks, conversing with imaginary beings.

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Creative Commons license “CentreOfAttention” .

Eventually the little girl grew up and as happens, she stopped sitting in trees. She loved her art and writing and singing, but she was so very good at accomplishing what was asked of her –grades, scores certificates and awards–that little by little the doing and achieving overtook the being and dreaming. Sure, there were times she held on tightly; she traded calculus for art class, she filled nearly three dozen personal journals, and she took an art class here or there even as an adult. But no doubt, over time she shifted. She was a girl with goals and one day even the art was remembered as the silly musings of a child; the dreaming became purely the intellectual kind.

Nobody told her to put down the paint brush. They didn’t need to. She was a good rule-follower and she understood the unspoken rules of a world that stood in direct opposition to the place in the trees.

And so it was that decades later she found herself at the finish line all burned out and dried up. Even then she didn’t understand why. She was doing her very best to practice self-care and find balance within the system. She followed her heart within this system. She defied norms within this very system! So why wasn’t it working? What she didn’t know then is that no system–even this artificial world dominated by deadlines, goals and outputs, where rest was seen as a means to at some point get more done–did not exist outside the laws of nature. As far removed as she was from those trees of her childhood, the moon still waxed and waned above her. The seasons turned. The oak rested in winter and sprouted leaves in spring. Try as she might to will herself to make it work–to power through as she had always done–simply no longer worked because the answers would never be found in the wasteland.

Opening the door

I thought I had writer’s block. For three months (almost) I despaired that the writing gods had gone away and it was officially over. No more. All hope was lost.

What I did not see (or more accurately, did not want to see) was that I was avoiding my truth.

We write to expose the unexposed. If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in. Most human beings are dedicated to keeping that one door shut. But the writer’s job is to see what’s behind it, to see the bleak unspeakable stuff, and to turn the unspeakable into words–not just into any words but if we can, into rhythm and blues.

ANNE LAMOTT, Bird by Bird

I didn’t want to look behind the door. Behind the door was pain and despair, and only a writer would want to open that door!

I forgot that I write in order to know myself. It isn’t optional, this writing thing. It is core to my being and how I experience the world. I need to put words on the page–whether anyone sees them or not. I have over a hundred “draft” posts in my blog for that reason. The truth needs to be seen–even if only be me in the early light of the morning.

None of that can happen if I don’t sit in this chair. So sit in this chair I will, once again. Some days it will appear that I wasn’t writing, but those are days that I need to see my own truth before I can share it with the larger world. And then you too can have a glimpse into these rooms.

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The Heroine’s Journey

The Wasteland burns us up and burns us out. Instead of following your own instincts, instead of discovering what it is that gives us joy, what makes our heart sing, we spend most of our lives trying to make other people happy…living from our head rather than our instinct for what is good and healthy.

[…]

The Heroine’s Journey for these times is a journey out of the Wasteland. Each of us has our own unique set of stories to tell: the story of the years we spent in the Wasteland, the story of our awakening, and the story of the path we took out of it.

~Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted

What I know for sure

What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.  – Oprah Winfrey

My soul was stirred by Oprah Winfrey’s words

When we speak our truth we claim our power. We rewrite the ending to the our own stories.

Each and every time we acknowledge our truth— in a diary, over a cup of tea, with a therapist, with a healer, with a hashtag, to a boss, to a boardroom, or to a ballroom full of Hollywood elites— each and every utterance matters.

With each word we transform the entire fabric of the universe and take our world one step closer to alignment of its highest good.

Every word creates a crack until suddenly. . .the world is split open and from it a new world is born.

Your time is now.  A new day is on the horizon.

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” Muriel Rukeyser

What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. - Oprah Winfrey

A thousand me toos tossed into the light

The man who gives you a back rub without your permission. The guy who stands a little too close to you on the bus, so close you can smell the alcohol on his breath. The boys who joked and the men who joked and so many jokes but you were never laughing. The jokes you didn’t understand because you were too young to understand. The gut punch when you were old enough to finally get what they meant.

The prayers not to be raped by the guy who was angry you wouldn’t have sex with him. The relief when you weren’t. Rage over feeling relief.

All the winks. The condescending sighs. The “hey baby”s. The talking, always the talking, louder and over and in between and beneath. The drive-bys and the phone call after phone call after phone call. Will he stay or will he go now? If he stays it will be trouble. Another damn fork in the road. So many forks in the road decided by someone other than you.

All of it a catch in the throat, a drop in the gut. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. An entire lifetime dictated by fight or flight. Learned at an age when you couldn’t spell rape but lived it followed by an entire lifetime of repressing, running, hiding, cajoling, negotiating with it and then finally healing it. The slow release of a fist when you heard the first me, too. Healing when you utter your first me, too, into a microphone into the dark to mostly strangers because they all have me toos or have loved ones with me toos and they don’t know you so that makes it even better. Healing healing healing healing so much healing you are so tired of the healing please can I stop the healing? And the relief when you suddenly wake up one day and it’s three-and-half decades later and you discover that your life is no longer a series of fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. You didn’t know it was possible.

So much healing mixed with a little bit of telling. The telling is mostly over and above around and beneath. Yes you spoke into the microphone and in circles of women in social workers’ offices and in therapists’ offices. But part of you is afraid and you are not sure why because you have already lost the support of so many and how could you lose more by speaking? How is that even possible? Anything is possible. The walking rape-trigger might become president and this, this is what finally does it. The walking-trigger at a microphone about to become president and this feels like another fork in the road. You decide you want to have a say for once in these forks in the road so you tell it like it is, not above or beneath but through the middle, a straight arrow of truth. And the world doesn’t crumble. And you realize this whole time you were afraid it wasn’t about them. It was about you seeing yourself,  standing in the light the in truth of it all, the full unadulterated whole entire truth. All its horror and strength and despair and rising above.  A thousand me toos tossed into the light. An arrow of truth pointing toward a future no longer full of too many me toos.

Thank you for reading. If you are a survivor and need someone to talk to, the most up-to-date information on services in your community can be found here (on the right hand side of the page). 

Feeling frazzled? To-do list too long?

Take heart. I bet you have it together more than you think.

For goodness sake, it’s not like you still have Christmas decor lying around in your shrubs in July!

In my defense you can’t really see it from the street. And I even unplugged it seven months ago! (Maybe six.)

. . .and we’re up at Mommyish.com!

I am so excited to share with you all that a piece I wrote, ‘Seven Things Nobody Tells You About Miscarriage” has been published on Mommyish.com! They are all about sharing the day-to-day truths related to ‘parenting imperfect’–what better home for some truth-telling about miscarriage than their site?

(Plus Mommyish loves listicles–even listicles about miscarriage despite the fact my husband thinks it’s creepy.  Plus they appreciate my love of animated gifs. My piece even includes a gif from Jane the Virgin! AND LIZ LEMON IN A SNUGGIE.)

A listicle about miscarriage? Are you sure?

Needless to say I’m a little bit excited about this (ok a LOT!) because it is my first official byline.  And nearly a paid one at that! (Alas, I wrote a previous version of the piece on this blog so they can’t pay me. But just the idea that I could have been paid makes me want to dance a little jig!)

Thanks for reading, as always. Have a great weekend!

Sarah