Ever since the November 2016 US Presidential elections I have been quietly watching as people have been getting more and more intimately familiar with race relations, gender inequality, and other social and political injustices. I have been watching my Facebook feed. I’ve been following threads in Facebook groups. I’ve simply been observing.
I’m a brown woman. I was an immigrant to this country. Race relations, gender inequality, class divisions, these experiences aren’t new to me. Having moved to the US at the age of 3 and having lived in areas that were lower income, I got to witness and experience first hand what this feels like.
I got to watch both my parents hustle, working 2 jobs each to achieve the American dream while my grandparents raised my sister and me. I got to experience racial, gender, and class discrimination as young as grade school. Kids were mean. And it wasn’t just the white kids (I actually went to a school with very few white kids).
I would also like to add, my family history includes colonization and slavery and indentured servitude as well.
I have lived it. I have felt it. I know it. My ancestors have as well.
That’s part of why I’ve been quietly watching as the rest of the country wakes up to the reality of what so many of us know very intimately. If you recall some of my posts from November, I wrote about how what is happening today is exactly what needs to happen for humanity to wake up. We have fallen asleep, and it is time to awaken. And, as I watch, I’ve also been quietly listening for my cue that it’s time to speak up again. (Hence my silence for the past 7 months.)
Today I came across a post in one of my Facebook groups, one for persons in my psychotherapy profession, and it served as my call to action. It was a very well-meaning post asking about safety, and how the group moderators can help POCs (persons of color) feel more safe in the group when things start to feel discriminatory, incendiary and unsafe.
The entire time I was reading the comments, the only thought that kept crossing my mind was, “safety comes from within.”
So, I hopped on the phone with a spiritual mentor and friend to reason out my thoughts, to get more clarity. Following our call as I was reflecting on our conversation, the words, “It’s all about our stories” kept going around and around in my mind. I allowed myself to go deeper and here’s what I came up with:
As I mentioned, I am a person of color, and a woman on top of that. I am also an immigrant to this country. Not the kind that immigrated here with money and riches. Rather the kind that immigrated here and lived with extended family while both of my parents worked two jobs to make ends meet so that we could move out on our own.
I have plenty of examples of people discriminating against us, and not many of them were white. Yet, in our household we were always taught people are people no matter what the color of their skin or their religious beliefs. We weren’t taught to turn around and hate the people who were hating on us. Instead we were taught, you let them say what they are saying while you keep doing what you are doing and doing good work in the world.
Even though that is what I was taught, there have been times in my life where I have felt discriminated against, and my mind has learned to go to, “It’s because I’m brown.”
When I deepen into that experience, I can come to terms with my truth that the excuse, “It’s because I’m brown,” comes to me in times where I feel scared, angry, or hateful.
I got pulled over. “It’s because I’m brown.”
I didn’t get good service at the restaurant. “It’s because I’m brown.”
I wasn’t acknowledged by another person. “It’s because I’m brown.”
When I feel wronged, or that I am owed something, society has taught me my default thought, “It’s because I’m brown.” When fear or self-righteousness (which is just another form of fear) creeps in, it brings all sorts of crazy thoughts with it, and it usually makes it about the color of my skin (or sometimes my gender).
Ultimately, it is all about the stories I tell myself.
And yes, even though I walk a spiritual path, I am also human and these fear based thoughts can creep in at times (less so today than they used to). And it still comes down to the stories I tell myself.
When I allow myself to be honest with myself and with all of you, here’s how things look different:
Why did I get pulled over? Probably because it’s the end of the month and I may have been breaking the law by going a little over the speed limit.
Why didn’t I get good service? Probably because nobody being waited on by that particular server got good service. Or, *gasp* even worse to admit and own, maybe I got bad service because I came into the restaurant with my bitch face on, so I got someone else’s bitch face back. That’s also probably the same reason I didn’t get acknowledged by someone when I wanted to be acknowledged.
Nobody wants to be in the presence of someone who has a bitch face on.
Yet, when I’m in my stories, I turn it around and make it all about the fact that I am brown.
Because it’s easy.
What purpose does it serve?
I can make it all about YOU, out there, and not about me. It gives me an opportunity to not own my own stuff. It gives me an opportunity to keep living out my story of victimization and all the ways I have been wronged. It gives me continued ways to feed into the external power plays of you above me. It gives me continued opportunities to carry fear and anger in my heart. It gives me continued ways to keep you over there and me over here, divided and separated by fear which eventually leads to hate. And worst of all, it allows me to continue living in the illusion that the world is a fearful place and my power and my safety lie outside of me.
I invite you to take a moment and consider, how might our world look differently if we allowed ourselves to own our stories, all the shit we make up in our heads? How might things look if we actually allowed ourselves to be honest, with ourselves and with one another, and claim when we feel scared, claim when we feel abandoned, claim when we feel alone? And how might things look differently if rather than turning externally and making it about what someone else isn’t giving to us, we instead own what we are not giving to ourselves? That is what this journey of healing and awakening is really about. That is what we are being invited to do at this time.
If each and every one of us was able to own the things we disown, and if we were able to do so from a place of love and compassion for ourselves, we would experience a very different world. Who is ready to be a part of that world with me?