Revisiting Your Reflection: The Inner Work Required for Radical Racial Justice
To celebrate the start of winter we’re teaming up with Gearmunk to bring you 12 things that you can do this holiday season to support the women led and powered outdoor ecosystem. For Day 9, we turn to the pages of Issue 1 of Sisu Magazine for a story written by Rachel Ricketts about what we can do to support ALL women.
There’s been a major awakening in the collective consciousness as of late. For the first time in history White folks are truly leaning into and holding space for the impact of racism and the experiences of POC. And it’s about damn time! Conversely POC, particularly black and indigenous womxn, are doing what we’ve done for centuries – rally, educate, voice our pain and triumphs and caretake for our communities. The difference now is the increased appetite for hearing what we have to say and seeking to engage. But the question that undoubtedly still arises is: how?
What I see time and time again, are well intentioned hue-mans (usually the fair skinned folks) who seek to engage in racial justice by addressing the oppression they see “out there.” And this is where we fuck it up. Because real talk– creating racial justice starts as an inside job. It begins with you taking a long look in the mirror at all the parts of yourself and the ways you may be (and likely are) perpetuating the problem.
No matter your race, shade or origin, white supremacist patriarchy harms everyone. Not equally and no one more than black + indigenous womxn. Still, it is one of, if not the, greatest forms of social trauma be it historical or present day. This is why bringing about racial justice starts within.
Real Race Talk
To all my white folks – you belong to the construct of whiteness, benefit from white privilege and uphold white supremacy. That’s not a personal attack for the record, it is simply a fact. The status quo is white supremacist patriarchy. It’s a truth that most POC have had no choice but to contend with as we’ve been battling whiteness our entire lives. White supremacy is the air we all breathe and white folks are just beginning to notice its stench.
Being anti-racist means acknowledging and owning the racism, intentional or otherwise, inherent in you and ALL white folks. Then, committing to the active, daily, lifelong work of causing the least amount of harm moving forward. You cannot BE an ally, but you can work your hardest to partake in allyship as often as possible.
For my fellow folks of colour - our racial justice work is to unearth and address our internalized oppression, meaning the ways in which we have bought into a corrupt system that works damn hard to keep us small and powerless. I for one spent much of my life believing I was unworthy. That I was too loud, too emotional or too extra. That my requests to be seen, heard and supported as my bold Black self must be invalid. I was subjected to gaslighting, spiritual bypassing, daily micro-aggressions and an onslaught of emotional violence; and I was made to believe that I was the problem.
Well, no more! We deserve to prioritize our needs and desires. To stand unapologetically in all that we are and refrain from constantly ensuring white people’s comfort to the detriment of our own.
We need ALL hands on deck to achieve this mission. White folks need to lead the charge in doing the internal work to unplug from the matrix that is white supremacy, and POCs need brave, sacred spaces to heal from the grief and trauma of oppression.
Some Tools for Reflection
My guess is by now many of you are thinking “ok but, how the heck do I do this!?”. Below are some initial prompts for a deep dive within:
#1 - Embrace Vulnerability
Embracing vulnerability means trying with the knowing that you may get it wrong. It means dropping your defenses and accepting things as they truly are. It means sitting in your discomfort so you can learn why it’s there and using that information to create deep and meaningful change.
#2 - Get Honest
The need to be good and right often trumps any chance at meaningful change. We need to lay down these patriarchal “needs” so we can create the groundwork for action. For my POCs, let’s get honest about the harms we’ve caused ourselves or other POCs by internalizing white supremacy. For White folx, get honest by owning your racism + whatever harms you’ve undoubtedly caused people of colour.
3) Acknowledge Your Anger
Many of us were made to feel ashamed or guilty for expressing anger. Anger arrives to inform us that something is wrong and needs changing, which is pretty helpful! Righteous anger has and continues to be at the forefront of many leading social justice revolutions so we need to learn how to embrace and channel it for good.
4) Stand in Integrity
It can be easy to talk the talk, but are you walking the walk? Are you following, supporting, voting for, uplifting, checking in on, learning from/about and paying BIPOCs? If not. There’s a disconnect. What we say AND do has all the value. Impact over intention every time.
5) Accept AND Act
Feeling guilt, grief or shame is part of the process of stepping into the truth. But if we get stuck there we won’t keep growing and flowing and engaging in this fight. Accept what needs accepting, and then get the eff to werrrrrk. Practice loving kindness towards ourselves for what we did not know AND do better.
Each and everyone of us is needed to bring about racial justice. Your best chance at making meaningful change and sticking up for social justice is by continuing to do the inner work and commit to leading from and with compassion. Now get to it!