March 25

08aI want to come out here by saying that I am considering for myself how I can continue to show up in this group. I am at my limit in a lot of ways and especially, after our last meeting, I am struggling to maintain a sense of possibility around anti-racist work in the larger context. I will continue to do the work: it has been 7 years since Trayvon was killed, and going back is not an option. All the paths of my life have brought me to this. But for the first time in this journey, I find myself in the first loop on the Cycle of Empowerment: I am exhausted, and I am afraid. I don’t blame POC, of course. And maybe I feel this partially because I can no longer distance myself from white people in the way that I have. On the outside, I think most people who know me would locate me in the Collective Action area: I can say yes and give daily examples for each of the actions there. I have changed my daily life completely in the last two years to make this possible. On the inside, though, it is hard for me locate hope. It is hard for me to feel that anything will ever be enough. I can’t possibly crave comfort because it is so hard for me to feel it. In any given moment, I move toward discomfort, and drag my family and friends with me.

There is a temptation to justify myself by explaining what the last month, or the last year, has held – how fully immersed in whiteness; cultural, institutional, and personal racism; and trauma I am everyday. If there is anything I learned from years of watching social media interactions around racial justice, though, it is this: as a white woman, it is never helpful for me to center my experience in a public way when race and racism are what is being discussed. 

To an extent, this is why we have affinity groups: to lessen the harm my emotional self-centeredness may cause. 

As a long time meditation practitioner and source of compassionate support in many people’s lives, I can say with confidence that shutting down my (or your) emotional processes or shaming myself (or you) for how I (you) feel is a great way to feed white dominance, patriarchy, and capitalist manipulation. That said, there are more and less appropriate, responsible, aware, and authentic ways to be present to our responses, emotions, and urges. 

Which is I guess to say: when and how I show up to this group is my own work, my own concern. Like Angeline, I’m not sure I want to hang my evolving beliefs up somewhere and look at them everyday. I definitely considered not sharing any of this. I feel the risk of doing harm almost continuously, and I navigate the threats borne of my own conditioning as well as I can. But I think we all, often, consider not sharing. I think we all feel fear. And I benefit pretty much every time someone else shares. 

Old belief: The USA is a mostly safe, mostly free place, with deeply problematic politics and beautiful, dramatic, living land that supports me, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

Current belief: The USA is a terror state, based on paternalistic racial and capitalist domination and exploitation, historically, presently, and internationally. My access to support through connection to the land is rooted in how I – as a educated, middle class white person – benefit from, or am protected from, the American practice of terrorizing people, animals, and plants. 


Old belief: People are basically good and kind and want to learn from and support each other. 

Current belief: People have the capacity to be kind, curious, and empathetic. Biologically, each human requires a huge amount of unconditional support from people experiencing connection, love, cultural authenticity and integrity, as well as stories, dances, songs that make sense of the chaos of emotional and metaphysical experience. When this support is not available, people are basically afraid, angry, and ignorant. 


Old belief: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Current belief: Healing is possible, but trauma and alienation alter the (inner and outer) landscape in ways that make healing less likely.


Old belief: The truth is inherently good, if painful.

Current belief: The truth is inherently neutral. Too much truth is trauma. Not enough is ignorance.


Old belief: Race is a mistaken mental image and can be altered with education.

Current belief: Race was born of colonialism, which was born of Capitalism, Patriarchy, Violence, and Trauma. All of these forms of division and hierarchy inform each other, and shape communities, which shape relationships between people, which literally shape the next generations. 


Old belief: History is in the past, but expresses itself in the present.

Current belief: Time is not linear. Time lives in the body. Trauma can be both buried and uncovered.


Old belief: Hope is a useful feeling that connects discomfort with action.

Current belief: Hope is a physiological belief that comfort can be accessed. 


Warring beliefs

  • Comfort is a feeling of being safe and held that we learn in our cells during gestation and infancy.
  • Comfort in white supremacy is like cheap sugar in Portland Public Schools: a substance used to manipulate, excite, control, and distract the masses. 


Old belief: BIPOC have access to a sort of righteous wisdom and deep joy born of not being co-opted by white dominance.

Current belief: I cannot predict the mental, emotional, or physiological state of any BIPOC based on my ideas of their life experience. 


Old belief: Industrial and institutional systems can be altered to benefit more people.

Current belief: Industrial and institutional systems put in place to create and maintain white dominance will by their nature morph to sustain white dominance. 


Old belief: Anti-racism work (intersectional feminism) makes more space for me to be me. Uplifting the least privileged uplifts us all.

Current belief: Sometimes, doing the work just feels like work. It turns relationships into work. It turns my life into a measurement: did I do enough work?


Old belief: Walking toward discomfort increases my opportunities to grow spiritually; I have both privilege and support; I can always dig deeper. 

Current belief: My limits are real. It is not morally responsible or spiritually developed to ignore them.

Published by Devon Riley

lately: youth work, parenting, sorcery, books, walks in the woods

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