What is MINE to do?
I have honestly been working on how to address this since last week, as I was finishing Nuggets of Care #5. It is important to me to use these blogs to share my insights from the work clients are doing, as well as provide recommendations and resources for on-going healing and self-care during this extremely challenging time. This was particularly difficult.
Many of you have expressed your anger, hurt, despair, heartbreak, sense of helplessness, outrage, disbelief, anxiety, fear, and grief about the stories of race-centered attacks on African Americans over the past couple of weeks. We have faced one example after another, culminating in our witnessing the murder of Mr. George Floyd.
I took a class entitled American Historical Development in high school (a city public school). The class introduced us to readings outside of the normal history book, covering topics like Manifest Destiny and the impact on Native peoples, Lincoln and the Abolition of Slavery, and more. The goal was to explore the cultural, political, and economic forces going on during the time, and their impact on how these events unfolded. We read, discussed, and debated the information we were learning, developing new perspectives than we’d been fed about history.
Of course, I’d already been exposed to the American slave trade, Jim Crow, Civil Rights and the viciousness this history revealed. But this class presented a deep and pervasive pattern. As we looked into Manifest Destiny and its lived consequences for Native people, our first stop on our journey, I thought surely, those who knew what was happening, witnessed the atrocities, were asked to pass laws on the backs of people’s lives being shattered because they happened to inhabit land that someone else wanted (a.k.a. theft, looting, destruction of property)…surely some significant number of these human beings stopped and saw the wrongness of what was happening.
No, my teacher said, that is not what happened. Yes, there would have been voices that raised concern and of course The Bureau of Indian Affairs was created to bring some semblance of order to the chaos, as long as it didn’t stop the claiming of lands and resources in the name of “American Progress”.
In my teenage mind, I was really asking what makes human beings so cut off from the humanity of another human being to act in these ways, repeatedly. I realized that there just might always be humans who are vicious and dangerous to other humans.
But my bigger lesson was that the apathy and even righteous justification in those witnessing but not being directly targeted…the shoulder shrug, the idea that “'they’ must have done something to deserve that”…this is what actually creates the condition in which these atrocities will continue to fester and spread.
Denise Breton runs a publishing company, Living Justice Press in St. Paul, MN; she lives near the Midway area where buildings burned. She taught me to focus on “What is MINE to do” in situations such as this. She and those who run this publishing company with her also work in their communities to teach, promote, and practice Restorative Justice and Circle Process. It is hard work, so she knows what she’s talking about.
The key is to center yourself on identifying what you can do in your everyday life, your walk, that can be your individual contribution to bring about change. If your heart gets broken when these things happen, what can you do to sustain yourself, while bringing the light of awareness and the power of loving challenge to this issue in your circles. If your heart does not break, what can you do to re-humanize yourself to become moved by human suffering. That is how societal illness (and the individual heart) is healed.
Here is a very small sample of actions that can allow you to participate in awareness and healing whatever your comfort zone is. Some of these are actions some of you are already taking (thank you for sharing them):
--Educate yourself about what is happening so you can speak with knowledge and wisdom if asked. Challenge yourself to seek sources outside of your favorite mainstream media.
--Educate yourself about the history of the long and uniquely painful relationship dynamic between police and African Americans.
--Share what you learn with others who don’t know.
--Notice the content of your thoughts (or lack of thoughts) about these events. Then, notice how those thoughts interact with your emotional response (or lack thereof) to the events. Ask yourself, explore where this places you in this American struggle.
--Realize that how we think about and feel about these events is being held in our bodies as unprocessed inflammation and needs to be addressed.
--Practice breathe awareness and self-care if you are feeling flooded because you can’t do anything to promote awareness and healing if you are unraveling.
--Join or start your own group for addressing racial injustice, racism, and/or internalized oppression with people you know.
--Join a protest that resonates with you.
--Donate to organizations that are working towards awareness and healing.
--Examine your own manifestations of internalized racism/oppression (…do you live in the U.S.? If so, yes, you are definitely “positive” for this virus.)
--Take a social media/news break so you have the capacity to engage with others who are hurting.
--Remember: news programs live off of explosive and dramatic scenes that grab your attention with anxiety and fear to keep you watching. So, you must be a wiser consumer of information and dig a bit deeper to find a broader perspective on what's happening.
--Practice sending loving kindness, peace, open-heartedness out into the world and back to you, on repeat, on repeat, on repeat.
Here are some additional resources that might help:
Love’s in Need of Love Today
That’s the Way of the World
Healing Guidance for African Americans, White Americans, and Police
Baltimore Racial Justice Action
Help for White people to address injustice
White Fragility Explained
Living Justice Press
Tapping for Racial Anxiety Relief