Featured

Kusum Crimmel-

thoughts, observations, theories

this is a blog for dissecting whiteness, breaking open the hidden and not so hidden generational trauma inflicted and received, taking a deeper dive into privilege, power and healing.  we can’t heal what we cant see, what we can’t remember, what we are unwilling to admit… we must wake up from the united states of amnesia and remember, so we can change, so we can heal, so we can build relationships of trust and connection and mutual respect… so we can all be in our highest and best selves!!

 

 

 

Advertisements

A Divine Being in a White Body… the contradictions and awakenings

Acknowledging privilege sucks.  It just does.  It doesn’t feel good and it brings up some deep questions about self-worth. It has forced me to question what in my life I have because of the time and energy and work I put in, or what I have received based on the societal privileges I have benefitted from.  When I started writing my blog on white privilege, I thought I was pretty aware and conscious of privilege.  I thought it would be easy.  I thought I was doing it because my awareness would be helpful to other’s who might be new to this conversation.  What came out was a dive into my life and our society that is much more layered and heavy than I had expected.  My own emotions have been churned, awakening more humility, more compassion, more awareness than I had previously had.

It also opened up a profound sadness, similar to how I felt when I took my first racial justice training program more than 15 years ago.  I had begun to learn the untold history of the United States.  The history I was never taught in school. The history that has been purposefully kept out of my common discourse. Stories of oppression and resilience, of cultural genocide and dehumanization, of uprisings and defeats.  Historical details about this country’s economic and social system that has benefitted my people at the expense of so many others. At the time I was in my early 20’s and my sadness was mostly for the people, both current and ancestral, who are impacted the heaviest by white supremacy.  I was angry at the people who had lied to me and kept so much truth tucked under rugs, hidden in family secrets and conveniently forgotten so they didn’t have to acknowledge their responsibility in it.  A feeling of shame for my own people joined with the sadness and the anger and these feelings began to churn with an internal turmoil.

My sadness has now broadened to include myself, my family, my ancestors, and white people as a whole.  We have been deeply harmed by white supremacy as well, in ways I can see and in ways I’m still uncovering.  My heart aches for all of humanity as the historical legacy of racism has built chasms of distance between people.  We are humans, meant to connect with each other, to form relationships and learn from each other.  Our minds expand as we learn new things, experience new environments, hear different perspectives on life.  Racism has caused a stunted growth pattern.  We are all walking around in layers of unhealed grief and trauma, without realizing it.

The discomfort, sadness and painful emotions that come from acknowledging privilege is often what keeps people away from it. It’s understandable.  And, because I know there is infinitely more possibilities in life when we are living from a healed place, there is a higher purpose in feeling the difficult emotions.  There is purpose in facing into our privilege, because the growth and healing that can come out of it, is worth the pain it feels to go through it.

One of the techniques I have learned to use to help sit in this pain is the acknowledgement of contradiction.  My training with an organization called, Generative Somatics, helped me to have more awareness of the forever existing contradictions in life. For example, in my spiritual beliefs, everything is energy.  I believe we are all divine substance and the expansive power of God is in us and using us to express itself to its highest potential.  I am here to do amazing things, because I am allowing the divine to work in me and through me to express its greatness.  I believe each of us is made of this same divine substance, with the ability to be guided to greater and greater expressions of ourselves.  This would mean I should be big and amazing and powerful and brilliant!!

The other side of my contradiction is that I have been born into a white supremacist society as a white woman and this comes with privileges that I never asked for.  Privileges that everyone should have.  The privilege to live without being hated or harassed or hurt or killed because of my shell, my skin, the body I was born into.  Every step along my path, I have been given access to spaces and places, given opportunities for advancement not afforded to everyone, been free of the daily stresses of micro aggressions that impact people of color on a regular basis.  I have taken up space and believed stereotypes and assumptions that were instilled in me from my family and generations of people who didn’t seem to know any better.  My father’s family has been in the U.S. for many generations, so any of the wealth he has, is saturated in historical privilege.  It’s unlikely that I would be where I am today, or have what I have today if I didn’t benefit from generational and current lifetime of economic and social privilege.  What does that mean for me?  What does it mean about me?

These two different ways of looking at the world feel contradictory to me.  How do I continue to let myself be the greatness of divine energy, if my greatness exists because of privilege?  It would be one thing if everyone had the privileges of being treated with respect and dignity, but white privilege is often in direct assault to people without white skin. For a long time, I didn’t know how to be a responsible white person, while at the same time being powerful and amazing and big.

Many years I silenced myself out of shame for the privileges I had. I held myself back in everything, in order to make space for other people to shine.  I stopped pushing myself to be a good dancer, because I didn’t want to be another white woman, AGAIN, in the spotlight.  I stopped writing poetry, because I didn’t think anybody wanted another white woman poet processing publicly about life’s dramas. I became excessively humble. Nothing I did felt like there was space for me to shine.  The only time I allowed myself to shine was in racial justice work with white people. This was where I felt like it was my place to be big, to reach into my fullness.  In everything else, I shrank.  It was what I thought I needed to do in order to balance out the privileges I had.

My spirit was starving, yearning for wholeness, yearning for greatness, but my mind wouldn’t let it be.  I became the white person that people of color were comfortable around, because I didn’t take up too much space.  I didn’t try to out-do anyone, or prove that I knew more than they did.  I listened to stories and believed their experiences.  I learned about life from perspectives I had not grown up around and I loved the people who told them.  I was humbled by my ignorance, taken back by how little I really knew.  I encouraged my friends to be their best, to expand into their greatness no matter what the racist world brought forth. I wanted them to fly and soar above all the hate, all the unfairness, all of the pain.  My focus was outwards because if I looked within, I would confront my contradiction again.  I didn’t understand.  I didn’t know how to move in greatness and humility at the same time.

For a long time, I felt like I had to reconcile these contradictory experiences.  They have shifted over time, warped into slightly different versions, but ultimately I still hold them in my awareness.  As time has gone on, I’ve become more comfortable with contradiction and have learned a lot from them.  The humility that came with acknowledging my privilege was pivotal in my ability to connect across racial and cultural lines.  Privilege has a way of inflating our ego, creating blinders around us so that we don’t even see the fullness of the world, or notice our own behavior towards other people.  The internalized superiority that subconsciously inflates our sense of self, creates behaviors that are unpleasant to be around, causing challenges in our ability to connect across cultural lines.  Behaviors such as taking up a lot of verbal and physical space, denying people’s personal, lived experiences by saying things like, “you’re being too sensitive” or “that couldn’t have really happened, you’re being overdramatic” and physically not having respectful boundaries.  An example of this would be how often white people want to touch the hair of Black people without consent, something so frustrating that Beyonce’s sister, Solange, made a song about it; Don’t Touch My Hair. My awareness, my humility, my choice to pull back allowed me to see more, to hear more, to learn more.  It allowed me to notice behaviors that I wasn’t aware of before and consciously make changes.

I still hold the contradictions, but I don’t have as much need to find reconciliation.  They are both true.  I am a spiritual being with infinite possibility, allowing divine light to unfold from my being.  I am also existing in a human body.  This human experience includes the social construction of race and all the historical legacy this has had.  I was born into and have lived my whole life in a white body. That gives me social and economic privileges in the material world.  And, on the other side, my spirit is timeless and has the infinite potential to be anything.  I am here to be great and do amazing things.  My awareness of living in this particular body with the historical and social legacy it holds, helps guide me to make choices and act in a way that is respectful to others and aware of my privilege.  It guides me to act differently than my ancestors who didn’t know any better, or who chose not to care. It guides me to do what I can to heal the generational trauma in my family line so it is not reproduced in the next generation. I recognize now that my light, when expressed without superiority, is not dimming anyone else’s light. It is clean energy.  It allows me to be in mutual encouragement with others so there is enough room for us all to shine as brightly as we can.  Energetically, we need brighter lights coming from every person, no matter the race or culture they find themselves in.  Our society as a whole will benefit when we are all shining more brightly, and making sure our light doesn’t dim the light of others.

The Invisibility of White Culture

What is white culture? What do white people value, what do they believe in?  How do white people communicate, verbally and non-verbally? How do we show emotion, how do we discipline? What are our aesthetics, our definitions of beauty? How do we experience personal space, tone of voice or how do we value behavior or family dynamics?

I facilitate an activity in many of my workshops where we dissect white culture.  I’ve lead this in exclusively white groups, as well as racially diverse audiences.  It invites us all to define a culture that is rarely categorized. It asks us to do to white people what is often done to every other racial group.  Generally speaking, white people feel confused and uncomfortable during this activity, while people of color find it to be easy and even liberating to name it and break it down.

If you’re white and these questions bring up feelings of anxiety and defensiveness, I get it.  It’s uncomfortable to put us all in a box, right? Especially if this is the first time you’ve been asked to describe white culture, it can feeling jarring and confusing. I’ve been there too.  When I was younger, I knew I was white, but I had a strong resistance to accepting that I was a part of this culture.  I grew up feeling like I was different because I was raised without wealth, without economic comfort.  I was different because my mom was an immigrant, came here after I was born, more rooted in an ancestral land without the generational stains of slavery and indigenous genocide. I was different because my mom was different.

These excuses about why I didn’t fit into white culture soothed me.  They made me feel like I didn’t have to relate to or take responsibility for my people, specifically the ones who really fit into the stereotypes, who displayed behavior that I perceived as offensive or oppressive. I took efforts to distance myself from them and this culture. If I could convince myself that I was different, then maybe other people would also see me as different.

For most white people, we have simultaneously been asked to embrace our whiteness and accept its privileges, while also distancing ourselves from the culture because it feels lifeless, plain, not connected to anything real.  Understandably we cling to our religion, our class, or sexuality, our spaces and places of difference in order to be on the outside of this blandness. Anything and everything white feels shameful, saturated in historical pain and trauma that has not been dealt with or healed.  Or it’s watered down, so distant from traditions that there isn’t anything to feel proud of or joyful about.

Now, every time I do this workshop, I hear many familiar defensive responses.  Voices of those who identify as Jewish, Irish, queer, poor, and so many other ways our identities can keep us from acknowledging white culture. These all make sense because there is always nuance in culture and identity.  Nothing is ever a simple categorization of all people with one skin color having all the same ways of living, of being, of believing. This is true for every group that humans have tried to categorize into a color.  Nothing is true for everyone. Each of us represent various experiences of class, religious beliefs, family history and stories; all of which play into the unique fabric of who we are and who our families are. There are certain cultural aspects of being poor that I experienced and can recognize across all racial groups, which differ from cultural norms of people with wealth.  In my observations, the same goes for people who are wealthy. There are cultural differences for white people who are Jewish or Italian or any other ethnic group who have not fully melted into the huge pot of American whiteness.

Even in the midst of the many ways we differ, to deny that white culture doesn’t exist or doesn’t infiltrate into all European descendants in this country in small and large ways is living in denial.  Ever since the first law categorizing Europeans as white back in 1669, people with shades of beige skin have been systematically boxed into a racial group.  Some people who immigrated were, at first, denied this categorization, but eventually all people of European descent were accepted as white. This creation of the white race came with laws to keep people who are white away from people who are not.  This has impacted many behaviors, ways of acting and seeing the world. When you are of this culture, it is difficult to see the nuances that are woven into it because we don’t see ourselves as a part of something.  We ARE the thing.  Even when we try and deny our connections to it, or find reasons why we are different, we are not acknowledging and accepting the ways we are of it.  To accept this, offers more room to make changes from behavior that is inherently oppressive and dominating, into behaviors that are liberating and respectful.

Other cultures can often see whiteness more clearly because they witness it from the outside looking in. This is why my white culture activity is usually uncomfortable and more challenging for European descendants than it is for people who are from ancestral lands outside of Europe.  The voice tones that are used in different situations, the way body language is expressed and understood without question, the words, sentence structures, and references used to explain things.  All of this is specific to culture but because white people don’t interpret us as having culture, white space is seen as common territory that everyone would be comfortable and safe in.  We assume that what is normal and comfortable to us, is neutral and easy for everyone else as well.  For example, when I was young, I had no idea mostly white environments would be uncomfortable or emotionally unsafe for people who are not white. This awareness didn’t set in until I was able to hear the experiences and stories of people who are not white.   People of color have had to study and learn white culture for survival but as a white person, I can go through my whole life completely ignorant to the experiences of people from other cultures and races, without any social or economic repercussions.

I experienced an example of this at my job recently.  I was talking with a white, female student who had been involved in a racialized conflict. I had a conversation with her and she shared with me pieces of her life in Texas, where she lived before she moved to Oakland.  These few stories from her past helped me understand her more and offered a wider perspective of why she acted the way she had acted in the conflict.  In the conversation, we were talking about culture and she shared with me that she had no idea that a majority white class could make a Black student feel uncomfortable. Even after the Black student explained her discomfort and feelings of being emotionally unsure and likely unsafe, the white student seemed confused and surprised.  She got schooled by this other student and her white veil of privilege was shaken loose. She never even knew it was there in the first place.

In this particular situation, the more academically “elite” classes at the school are made up of mostly white students.  Many Black and Latino students who have taken these classes have shared their feelings of discomfort and not feeling emotionally safe enough to be their full selves. I’ve heard about these experiences directly from students I know as well as second hand stories told to me about their friends.  Black and Brown students may get encouraged to join and participate in these classes or programs, but the culture doesn’t shift. It still upholds certain behaviors, language use, tone, knowledge base and other cultural indicators as the norm.  When students join these spaces who aren’t of this cultural norm, they share with me a feeling of not being smart enough, not having the correct knowledge base, or being tokenized or asked to speak for all Black or Brown people.  More and more programs or organizations or companies  say they “want diversity” but without the awareness to support and encourage diversity once people of color join.  The culture of the space remains rooted in whiteness, which doesn’t allow for a healthy and culturally diverse space for all people to feel comfortable and accepted.

Being unaware of white culture and how it operates, blocks our ability to notice how it impacts people who haven’t been raised in it.  When people of color either don’t come into white spaces, or if they come and end up leaving, there is little to no accountability from the white people of how our culture and behavior has impacted this. Most often these situations create a narrative of “othering.”  It’s the students or people of color who have the problem. “They” aren’t prepared enough, responsible enough, focused enough, to stay and be successful.  They’re too loud, or too aggressive, or too opinionated, or too angry.  They just don’t “fit in.” White people don’t take responsibility for how our culture has impact on the comfort level of others or how our culture is offensive and disrespectful towards other people from different races and cultures.

To dissect whiteness means to break apart the cultural aspects that have gone unnoticed and unexamined; to recognize the ways the normalizing of white culture impacts others.  When we can examine it we have more ability to change cultural behavior that is rooted in dominance.  We can widen our awareness to make room for people who’s cultural ways of being and interacting in the world are different than our own.  For white people, this can also help us find ourselves underneath the whitewashing our people have gone through to gain social privileges.  When we can have more depth beyond the blandness of whiteness, we have a wider ability to embrace self love.  When we embrace a deeper level of self love, there is more ability to embrace all people and experience joy when other cultures embrace self love.

Collective community trauma in Oakland

Last night, in Oakland, a white man stabbed two young Black girls, killing one of them (18 year old Nia Wilson) and putting her 19 year old sister into critical condition in the hospital.  The situation was likely racially motivated and many are saying the killer may have been in town for a gathering of white supremacists scheduled to happen in Downtown Oakland today.  Are these two incidents connected?  Possibly, probably,….?

My heart hurts, I’m super angry and sad and overwhelmed with emotions.  I have a 19 year old family friend living with us.  She is Black.  She is the one who told me about the situation and I sat with her for about an hour this morning as she shared her fear… or more so terror and anger and sadness.  This could have been her, she shared.  This could have been her close friends.  She was born and raised in Oakland and said she has never felt so scared to be out as she does today.  She was crying and shaking and wondering what this meant for her own life in Oakland and her own safety.

She was traumatized in a way that I, and every other white person, won’t be able to fully understand.  The stabbing of these two girls doesn’t just impact them and their loved ones.  The trauma reverberates out to every young Black girl in Oakland, and possibly across the country.  It impacts the whole Black community because it’s collective community trauma. These two girls didn’t do anything wrong, they were just traveling on the BART train when this dude followed them off the train and then attacked them, slitting Nia’s throat and seriously injuring her sister.  And it’s likely because he doesn’t like Black people?  Because he thinks his skin color and his people are more superior than others?

Our country is splitting apart at the seams, the unhealed racial wounds seeping out everywhere and it’s scary.  I believe that racial trauma, both old and current, causes people to be in a trauma response, which means there are currently a whole lot of people walking around right now in a fight, flight or freeze response which means the logical mammalian brain is not working… only the reptilian brain is.  That means people are responding from a “I need to find safety no matter what” place, which is not logical and doesn’t think first.  It just responds.  This is not a good place to act from.  It causes more conflict, more hurt and often times, more trauma.

I am left feeling confused.  Maybe I’m in a trauma state of freeze… that would make sense.  My heart is hurting and I ask again, “What more can we do to make a change?  What is really going to make a difference?” We have to shift the energy around by changing the energy within.

I pray for the family of Nia Wilson and for us all.  I pray that love truly does overcome hate.

 

#permitpatty and #bbqbecky

#permitpatty is an example of a much wider and deeper problem. This woman, whose real name is Alison Ettel,  is the current sacrificial lamb while so many others who justify this behavior and still don’t understand the current and historical impact of her actions are living all around us.  This situation happened in San Francisco, while the situation with #bbqbecky (real name Jennifer Schulte) happened in Oakland.  Both so close that it is surprising Ms. Ettel hadn’t heard about the other situation and this would have caused her to have caution with her actions.   But no, she picked up her phone and called the police (later, she said she just pretended to call) on an 8 year old African American girl who was selling waters to passersby.  For context, this little girl and her mom were selling in front of the apartment building they lived in, which is close to AT&T park, and at a time when the Giants were having a home game.  Thousands of people come to these games and many people sell things all around the park to the game goers. This young girl was trying to make money to fundraise for a trip to Disneyland.  Ms. Ettel was bothered by the noise from the girl and her mom as they were calling out to potential customers letting them know what they were selling.  Her discomfort was seemingly the only thing on her mind, with little to no thought about the impact of her actions.  Her instincts went straight to using the “authorities” to control the behavior of this 8 year old girl and her mom, in order to regain her sense of comfort.

What I believe to be true is this instinctual action of using the police to control Blackness  is deeply rooted in white people’s behavioral reflexes.  What I mean by this is, white people have learned this behavior for so long that it is apart of the automatic reactions when faced with Black and Brown bodies who are in the way of their perceived safety and/or comfort.  Without thinking about it, white people have learned that their personal safety and need for comfort is primary and that they can and should use the police system to help them when they need help. Also, white people seem to believe strongly in the law (which makes sense, because white people are the ones who have been writing the laws since the beginning of this country) and when it is in their favor (meaning, when it leans towards their own comfort and safety), they staunchly believe they are the people to uphold it and enforce other people to follow it.  Both the BBQBecky and the PermitPatty situations involved two white women so set on holding Black people to the law, that they felt the need to call police for a very non-emergency situation and one that could create a potentially very dangerous situation.

The action of calling the police, inflicts trauma on Black people.  When a Black person is killed by the police in cold blood, this traumatic impact is rippled out to include people who see themselves in the ones killed.  This includes a few well known examples such as Stephon Clark and Tamir Rice, but outside of the well known examples there are many, many more.  The continual examples of Black people, whether young or adults, being shot down by police when they aren’t doing ANYTHING wrong is not only an assault to the people being shot and their families, but to Black people everywhere.  So the trauma is felt by people who don’t even know the ones who have been killed.  They understand that if it could happen to Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy playing in a park, it could happen to their sons or to them.  From the extensive examples of police brutality and death caused overwhelmingly to Black people, we can clearly see that when police are involved with Black people, there is a much higher chance that violence, police brutality or death could be a result of this action.  So when you call the police on a Black person, or “fake” like you’re calling them, you are inciting a traumatic reaction in many Black people’s bodies.  Most Black people will automatically get worried because they understand that the experience of dealing with police is not the same for them than it is for white people.  They understand intimately, or socially, that calling the police could mean several outcomes, and most of them are negative and dangerous.   

So, to white people I say, STOP CALLING THE POLICE!! Have a conversation with someone. Listen to other people talking and recognize your own white body privilege in the face of police and understand on the other side of privilege is oppression and Black and Brown bodies have not had the luxury of privilege in the face of police ever in this country. Let that sink in. 

 

 

 

Collective trauma

Ok my people. If you identify as white, as European American or as caucasian I want you to go on a journey with me.  The more you actually feel into this experience, the more impactful it will be.

I want you to imagine that you have a son.  Your son is 14 years old and goes to high school several miles away.  You love him like nothing else and see him growing up so fast and becoming more and more independence.  It’s his first year in high school and it has definitely been a lot of change from middle school for him.   He’s been getting up and to the bus on his own and doing pretty good with this new responsibility.  Then one day, he oversleeps and misses his bus.  He knows he can’t get a ride from you because you’re on your way to work, or maybe you’re already at work.  He decides to start walking.  He’s not the best at directions, but he figures he can get there if he goes the same route as the bus and he’s pretty sure he can remember that.  After a while, he realizes he doesn’t know where he is.  He’s definitely lost but doesn’t have a phone on him because you had taken it away from him. He can’t look on google maps or call anyone so he decides to ask for help.

He walks up to one of the nearby houses and knocks.  Behind the door he hears an older woman yelling at him and asking why is he trying to break into her house.  Remember this is your son, your 14 year old son.  He’s young and confused and tries to explain that he is just trying to get directions to his High School because he’s lost.  But the woman doesn’t hear him and keeps yelling.  Then her husband comes down and grabs his gun and starts coming to the door.  Your son sees the gun and turns around, running down the steps and away from the house.  He hears a gun shot, louder than he ever imagined it would be.  He has never heard a gun so close to him before.  He runs as fast as he can down the street, scared for his life.

His heart is racing, mind focused on safety, on getting as far away from that house as he can.  He finds a safe place, crouches down, checks all around him to make sure he’s unseen, and then collapses.  His body is shaking, tears streaming down his face, fear pulsating through his veins, while anger hovers just below his skin.  The very skin that these people couldn’t see past.  His skin pale, but flushed red now from the blood pumping throughout every part of his body.  This skin that has been stereotyped to be criminal, seen in every type of media as violent and something to fear.  This skin that so many people don’t get to know what is underneath, yet think they know, act like they know.  This skin that caused this man to get his gun and shoot at your son, based on these stereotyped fears.

And now, your son, huddled in his hiding spot, still shaking a little while his breath starts to regulate, tears drying on his cheeks, starts to run through his mind what just happened.  What had he done wrong?  What should he have done differently?  The overwhelming and irrational feelings of shame and self blame are difficult to push past. They trickle into almost all traumatic events, no matter if they make sense or not.  Even later when you finally hold your son and explain to him he didn’t do anything wrong, he still might question the “what if’s.”   What if that shot had hit him?  What would his mom have done?  What if he hadn’t overslept and made his bus, none of this would have happened.  What if he had gone to a different house, maybe another house wouldn’t have hated white people.  But, what if they would have?

These questions will be mixed in with his anger towards a world he lives in where he can get killed because of his skin color.  He is 14 years old.  He just needed directions because he was lost.  He will likely be more anxious, have nightmares, feel unsure in his environments, jumpy and hyper sensitive to sounds.  He has been traumatized.

What would you do?  How would you feel?  What emotions would be running through you?  What actions would you want to take?

Can you imagine this happening to your son, or does it feel too unrealistic? It’s not an experience we often hear about.  It is not a part of our collective consciousness, meaning the fear of our sons being killed based on the color of their skin has not happened enough for it to become a fear instilled in our racial group at large.  If one of our people is killed or attempted to be killed based on their skin color, we can observe these situations as singular incidents and not regular.  We don’t have a feeling inside of us that it could happen to our own child, or our own brother or nephew.

Unfortunately, this situation did happen.  It happened April 12, 2018 in Rochester Hills, Michigan.  But the 14 year old boy was Black, not white.  The trauma is real and intense and the young man, Brennan Walker, will never be the same.  His mom will never be the same.  His mother’s husband is deployed in Syria, putting his life at risk for the United States, while her son, 14 years old, is being shot at because he asked for directions.  And later his mom found out the only reason the man missed the shot was because he forgot to take the safety off.  Brennan, thankfully, was not a hashtag.  He is a survivor, although he did not walk away without a scar but his scars are beneath the surface of his skin. And they take longer to heal.

When other Black families read about this story, many of them feel impacted.  Many of them feel the collective trauma of this incident.  What I mean by this is that many feel personally impacted almost as if it was a family friend because it reflects on the safety of their own children, their own cousins, their own uncles, their own brothers, etc.  It means that they could all be at risk for the same treatment.  Now, not just this family, but a large collective of Black people in the U.S., feel scared to knock on people’s homes.  Now, Black mothers are going to feel that they can’t confiscate their children’s phones as punishment, because having the phone could keep them alive.  This is collective trauma.  The anger, the confusion, the fear, etc. is felt collectively. As the country reads about this story, and will soon be hearing the audio recording of the incident captured by the Ring doorbell, the anger and frustration will not just be felt with this family, it will be felt collectively within the African American community.

Unfortunately, this is not new. This is how Black death in the U.S. has often been treated; like a public display to make other Black people feel the impact. That was the purpose of beatings, whippings, lynchings, most of which happened in the view of other Black people.  They were public to create a collective trauma, a collective fear in order to collectively control and manipulate.  So, it comes as no surprise that today, murder of the Black body continues to be felt across Black communities.  It continues to create more collective trauma, which impacts millions of people.

I wonder if any of us (Europeans who have become white) can fully grasp the layers of collective trauma on Black and Brown communities.   And in recognizing these layers, can we recognize the emotional, physical and spiritual toll it is taking on people everywhere.  This is the unspoken impacts of racism.  The impacts that are hard to quantify or chart or publish in a fancy book.

 

 

 

Gun Violence, Microaggressions & Youth Power

I work with teenagers.  I’ve been working with teenagers for 15 or 16 years.  I love them, I truly do.  The excitement of the young mind is inspiring, especially when they get caught up in something they truly believe in and then tirelessly push forward with their vision for change.

This is why it has been so incredible to witness students coming together to stand up against gun violence, against a cultural trend in the United States that supports policies  protecting access to weapons over policies that protect human well-being. Last week young people across the United States came together to show the government their power, to tell the country that they are the next generation and they are here now and ready to vote.  It has been beautiful.  At my school, which had the largest school protest in all of Oakland, was entirely run by students.  I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear from students about how much they enjoyed the event.  Completely youth planned, there were speakers, poets, and and open mic for young people to express how they felt about gun violence.  And in the audience there were more than 1000 (some estimated 1500) students standing in the rain to listen, to observe, to be a part of change.  There were of course a lot of students who were there primarily because they wanted to get out of class, but that’s to be expected.  They still stayed there in the rain and listened.

There was a part of me that was so proud of them, so inspired by their actions and their passion.  AND then there was this other part of me that was irritated.  Bothered by the contradictions, by the way this rally, this call to action, this mobilization, was like a really big microaggression for students of color, particularly the students who have felt the real impact of gun violence.  Students who walk and live on streets that have taken the lives of their friends, their family members, people who were close their hearts.

During a summer on the streets of Oakland, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, etc there can be more than 17 murders.  Where are the rallies when the students in these cities come back to school after a summer of gun violence?  Where is the training for teachers to learn how to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or the Trauma response from these kids impacted by intense grief and fear?  Where are the therapy sessions or the healing circles for the students as they come back to school?

When I asked students in my class and my after school program about their thoughts on the rally, many students were upset.  Some even said that, although they feel bad for saying it, they didn’t really care much about the shooting in Parkland.  They felt like the same people who were wanting them to come out and support the people in Parkland were nowhere to be seen or heard when it was Black and Brown people being killed by police or community violence.  To some, this might seem insensitive, and to others they understand this sentiment completely.  These students were frustrated that the people on the mic at the walk-out rally were mostly people who were not directly impacted by gun violence and kept referring to the school shooting in Parkland as the reason for taking action for gun control.   They were white and lived in all mostly white middle to upper class neighborhoods.  They referred to gun violence in this far off place, without even acknowledging the gun violence that happens right here on the streets of Oakland.  This, I believe, is a microaggression.

Microaggressions, as defined by Derald Wing Sue Ph.D., “are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. In many cases, these hidden messages may invalidate the group identity or experiential reality of target persons, demean them on a personal or group level, communicate they are lesser human beings, suggest they do not belong with the majority group, threaten and intimidate, or relegate them to inferior status and treatment.”

Having this movement focused on gun violence and gun control, yet center it around one type of gun violence, mass shootings, is a snub and an insult.  It is likely unintentional but very impactful to Black and Brown communities, many of which are heavily impacted by gun violence.  In all of the school shootings I have been aware of, the shooters are almost always white and the overall majority of the victims are white. This communicates to people across this country that when white lives are taken needlessly, there should be an outcry for help and support, but when it’s Black and Brown lives that are taken needlessly, it’s normalized brushed off as if their lives are worth less. This is a microaggression.

My deepest hope moving forward is that the student organizers expand their understanding of gun violence and the people who are most impacted by it.  My hope is that the students most deeply impacted by gun violence are the ones on the mic and whose voices are prioritized in organizing and planning ideas and strategies for creating change.  My hope is that we can look at the different forms of gun violence, whether it be about mass shootings or street killings, and understand the ways they are connected as well as understand the ways they are completely different.  Gun violence in the United States has many forms, none is more important than another.  When our society prioritizes the grief and care for victims of one type of gun violence more than others, this can be deeply hurtful and continue a legacy of white superiority. This is a legacy that we should be doing everything in our power to change.

 

 

Healing Circles

Tomorrow will be the first of an on-going series of healing circles that I am facilitating, happening on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of each month in Oakland CA. These circles are focused on the ways racism and white supremacy have impacted generations of white people in this country. White people who used to have a connection to a place in Europe, and who would be considered Europeans, have been melted into a white identity and have historically and currently benefited socially and economically based on this identity.  The privileges white people receive based on this skin color identity are immense and the internalized white superiority has been woven into every institution we interact with.  I believe deeply that in terms of trauma and harm, all people involved are traumatized and harmed; whether it’s the person/ people causing the harm or the people/ person being harmed.  White supremacy has caused generations of harm and has impacted people of color and white people, but in different ways. In these healing circles we will be exploring how it has impacted white people in order to heal and therefor be more active participants in a society of racial equity.

To view and RSVP on the Facebook invite, click here 

If you’re not on Facebook, RSVP to: restorejustice9@gmail.com or send a text to (510) 220-1589

 

Healing Circles
For Europeans who have become white
To face into the trauma of white supremacy
To heal it’s scars and awaken our internal and eternal truths
To align with our values and deepen our integrity
To end the cycle of internalized superiority and legacy of amnesia
To heal
In connection, in Community

This is an intentional healing space to circle up and dig into the generational trauma of white supremacy in the psyche of white people, because …
Hurt people, hurt people
AND
We are working towards being healed people who connect with other healed people