Can You Put Mindfulness and Racial Justice in the Same Lane? Yes you can!
On my latest interview with Doers Podcast Host Jason Mundok, I discussed the difference between mentoring and coaching, pivoting between an artist identity and racial justice expert, and what it takes to keep dancing even while we work to make the world a better place. You can listen here.
I know some people prefer to read interviews rather than listen, so please check out the edited transcript right here.
If you would like to find out more about our racial justice from the heart mentoring programs, please drop a note on my contact page . I love sharing with folks our self-compassion practices.
I screwed up! I made some mistakes while facilitating a group and caused harm.
As I told my son, it was a crash and burn moment.
I've had three such moments in my professional life, and they HURT!
In the past those experiences have caused me to put up my defenses externally and to engage in endless self-harm internally.
Twenty years ago I felt so embarrassed at the holes found out in my knowledge that I literally cut off contact with an elder professor who wanted to mentor me.
This time, thanks be to God-Is, I was able to recover and learn--to fail forward. (Thanks to Marissa Colston for this term.)
I love that it implies movement.
Failing forward isn't just mentally reviewing what you did or did not do.
Failing forward isn't just dissecting what happened with a trusted mentor/coach or loved ones.
Failing forward also requires you to FEEL all the feelings that your failure bring up in you.
When I failed a couple of weeks ago I stewed in a bunch of thoughts, but I RESISTED feeling.
I rehearsed my defense. I made the other parties wrong. I made me wrong. I defended myself. I criticized them. I attacked myself, etc.
After a couple of days, I started to notice the chemicals flooding my body when I had these thoughts.
I noticed that I couldn't hold tree pose in yoga when I kept replaying the situation.
My balance was off when my mind went there.
I resolved to only talk about it with my coach--to stop THINKING.
My coach helped to shift me to learning rather than defending.
That helped shift me to what I could do differently next time.
But during my next yoga class, while lying on the ground in wind removing pose, another insight came.
A critical error that exacerbated everything else.
Good to know.
But not enough.
When I got home, I finally let myself FEEL my feelings.
For 90 seconds. A few times.
Then I practiced my Black Girl Style Ho'oponopono.
I caressed my hands and arms while saying the phrases to myself and to the group.
"I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you."
I finally "got" the learning. I failed forward.
Here's what I know and must confront every time: I am a FEELING being. Mental processes can help, but real integrated learning and peace come when we FEEL and forgive ourselves and others.
Do you want to hear more or try it out?
Go here to this interview with Lisa Graustein where I walk her through what I call Feel Flow.
Peace and love,
P.S.--If you know that feelings are a key piece of the puzzle and want to go further, join us for My Grandmother's Hands discussion group on Oct. 10. We will focus on Chapter 2. Get more info here.
Yesterday I had a conversation with someone I respect in our community where ultimately we agreed AND disagreed.
We share some common values and yet have a different approach to community building.
What I noticed was that I felt nervous and jumpy before our conversation. My body was ready for fight and flight. After some mutual pleasantries, we got to the point--but what was the point?
As it turned out, I misinterpreted something she said on social media.
Ok, relief that we did not let Facebook mediate our conversation and ultimately relationship.
But nonetheless when we got to the real point, we did not agree.
I'm stirred up as I consider her point of view and her pain.
I don't know how she feels today.
But I know she planted a seed in me.
I'm searching for how and where my integrity directs me to act now.
And, I want you to know that I used the 5 steps to Transform your Conversations about Racism to have this conversation.
I did not want it to be debate or a fake polite unity.
I wanted an authentic exchange where I could share my questions and my certainty and where I could really hear her out.
We weren't talking about racism, but the principles worked.
Today here's what I noticed with the help of my mentor.
I did good. I showed up. I came with my heart open and consciously breathed into my heart.
As I breathed into my heart, the other person shared her pain which was underlying her perspective.
We shared the struggle for integrity and right action.
I did not fully share what it was like for me.
I avoided being vulnerable.
I can ask her to listen; I can ask for another conversation.
This feels scary.
I don't want to be rejected or ridiculed.
But I promised my coach that I would ask anyway because this will stretch and honor me.
I'm sharing this because even though I did not do it perfectly, I took the 5 Steps and they guided me through a conversation that scared me.
Is there a conversation you are avoiding?
is there some unfinished business that's holding you back?
Would having some simple steps help you?
I'm going to share the 5 Steps and my breakthroughs with them in an online master class: "Afraid to Say the Wrong Thing? 5 Steps to Transform your Conversations about Racism."
During this class you'll learn the key to avoiding exhaustion and bitterness as a person of color.
You'll learn how to transform your fight, freeze and flight tendencies so you can stay present and empowered.
And, what to say and where NOT to say it.
This class is only an hour but it will be packed with what you can IMMEDIATELY put into action in regards to a conversation you've been putting off.
I know not everyone can make this time, so I'm going to record "Afraid to Say the Wrong Thing? 5 Steps to Transform your Conversations about Racism." and make the replay available for 48 hours.
This is FREE. And it's GOOD.
If you already know that you'd like to have a PERSONAL mentor and that you're ready to have a breakthrough in having difficult conversations about racism (and other isms), please reply to this email. I'm reserving 5 spots on my calendar for FREE 1:1 sessions. You will walk away knowing why you're stuck and at least one next step you can take to have your voice.
These Breakthrough sessions are for people who are willing to say YES to themselves and invest their time, energy and money in developing their skills. Just reply to this email and I'll send you what you need to get on my schedule.
I hope to "see" you all at "Afraid to Say the Wrong Thing? 5 Steps to Transform your Conversations about Racism."
Peace and love,
P.S.--Whether you know nothing about the 5 Steps or have been trying to apply them for a long time, you will get something from this class! Sign up here.
According to the British, the year was 1619. I don't know how African peoples counted that year. I don't know how the Arabs, the Hebrews or the Chinese counted it. But to English colonists living on stolen land in Jamestown, VA —it was 1619.
Amongst the "twenty and odd" African people sold to the Virginia colony there was a woman "Angelo," as she was first called, later Angela.
Scholars know that she survived a 100 mile forced march from the interior to the coast of Angola; that she survived horribly overcrowded conditions on a ship owned by Portugal; that she was kidnapped by English pirates on her way to Veracruz, Mexico; and that she was ultimately taken to the stolen land "Jamestown."
And so started the four hundred year experiment of African descended people in what is now called the U.S. We now know that such trauma experienced, witnessed and even that of the inflictors is passes on to multiple generations unless healed.
According to Resmaa Menakem, the author of My Grandmothers Hands, our bodies hold non-verbal stories of white supremacy violence. Today these non-verbal stories tell our bodes when to fear and when to relax.
Menakem argues that in the U.S. white bodies have been trained over time and generations to fear black bodies on sight. And black bodies have been conditioned to feel hyper vigilant, careful and uncomfortable around white bodies. It's what the bodies do despite what the conscious mind might choose or know.
He goes on to argue that before you can begin to heal, you have to settle the body because an unsettled body resists healing.
I'm thinking about you.
It turns out we have this organ that Western-Euro-American medicine has only recently identified--the vagus nerve. It connects to our guts, our heart, our spine, and our hind brain. It reacts instantly. It's not connected to the conscious mind. It holds the impulse to survive. It keeps the score.
I met a Black spiritual teacher once who told me that she made a commitment to heal her lineage. Not just herself and her kids and her parents but her entire lineage. She took a seven year sabbatical to do that.
I'm thinking about fires burning in the Amazon, what some traditions call the lungs of the planet.
But the English brought you here.
Now today, I acknowledge the icy fingers in my gut. The low grade anxiety. The constipation. My inheritance.
So how did we not become a "race" of sociopaths, narcissists, and other self-destructive patterns?
Our bodies also reach toward settling and healing.
Our bodies also passed down singing, humming, making music, rocking, touching, protecting, breathing, and chanting,
These practices don't remove slavery or jim crow or lynch mobs, but they give us the capacity to recover without completely breaking.
I don't know what you did to survive all that you did.
But I re-member you.
And I offer this prayer of forgiveness:
Please forgive me.
I love you
Do you want to stand for justice AND want to come from a place of compassion?
I'm sharing with you a short audio excerpt "How to Stop Judging People." It's a real and searching conversation by folks who stand for racial justice from the heart.
My own experience shows me that the pain of the hurt gets extended by judging. But that doesn't mean we can't set boundaries or say no to harm.
If you'd like to talk through your judgements, and you have a Deep Calling to stand for Racial Justice, we invite you to apply for a FREE Racial Justice Breakthrough session.
This is your chance to get our 30+ years of experience on your problem. We help you to get "un-stuck" wherever it is you are feeling challenged so that you can take the next right step for you.
It can be hard to figure things out on your own.
Every so often I open up space in my schedule, and I've got 3 spots over the next two weeks. These are first come, first served.
Peace and love,
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Ruth about her experience getting out her white bubble. Click on the link to view.
Michael is watching Rambo as I write this . I'm trying to ignore it because I'm not a Sly fan, but it's hard to avoid the story. A green beret, suffering from PTSD, gets jumped on by a small town police force and fights back. It's frustrating because this entire town's police resources go into apprehending a man who they triggered into trauma, resulting in lots of killing for no good reason.
Imagine what would be possible if the police force was staffed by people who know how to de-escalate. What if peace officers actually knew how to create peace?
Well, meet Kerry Mensior, a 30 year veteran of the San Diego Police Department. He trains police and sheriff departments around the country on how to create strategic empathy and rapid rapport with people they are policing. Kerry says it's key to speak to people in the language they can hear which means all of us need to be fluent beyond what makes sense to us. I interviewed Kerry last week and wanted to share part one of our conversation with you.
Peace and love,
P.S.--Let me know your thoughts after you listen.
Since I returned from our Strong Voice Compassionate Heart Retreat, two people, two beautiful change makers have told me this.
They are not alone.
One of the most important things I got out of a self compassion class is that our minds are not here to make us happy.
The mind is conditioned to keep us safe.
Safety means staying vigilant about harm.
We’re constantly thinking about what’s wrong; what’s a threat; and how we are not doing enough.
The Trump onslaught is so constant and on so many fronts, that it's easy to slip into a low level of panic.
Just ask yourself to watch your breath for one minute and notice all the resistance come up. Even though the panic and worry don't feel good, they seduce us. Tara Brach calls it a trance.
So, what to do?
Stop listening to or reading the news.
Connect with something green.
Drink water and really taste it.
Thank yourself for showing up on this planet.
Take care of your self.
The way to break out of being stuck isn't to yell at yourself or shame yourself. It's through honesty and kindness.
If you want to experience joy like you've never known it WHILE working for racial justice, please apply for a free Racial justice Breakthrough Session. We will help you to see why you're stuck and at least one action you can take to restore your energy and strength.
I've got space in my schedule for 3 sessions this week. First come, first served. Apply here.
Peace and love
PS.--If you've been struggling with how to take care of yourself and show up for racial justice, apply for a one on one session. You'll get my unique perspective as someone standing for compassion and justice.
I’m sitting at a roof top listening to Michael and Francis talk about how musicians make time, generating past and present and future. We move on to Sun Ra. Then Francis shares how our mental strength correlates to how much awe we experience in our daily lives. Music and art including Mother Earth’s creativity can make us feel AWE!
This is what happens when composer Francis Wong is in town from San Francisco!
We're celebrating by having friends and artists of all sorts come to our home for a house concert/jam session on July 13th for a Transformation Symphony Sneak Peek House Concert. More information here. Eventbrite.com/e/transformation-symphony-sneak-peek-house-concert-tickets-65045049494
What's the Transformation Symphony? In 2020 we’ll celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 15th amendment--the one that gives citizens voting rights. But it's also a time to mark all of the Reconstruction amendments and the lives of people like Frederick Douglas.
This symphony is going to draw on the words of Douglass who spoke on abolition, immigrant rights and human freedom more broadly. We will also draw on the healing words and practices that I’ve been exploring in the era of Trump. We want to transcend and transform not protest or resist because the latter usually happens inside the consciousness of white supremacy.
We won't have an orchestra at our house concert, but you'll get to hear some of the melodies, themes etc. that we are playing with as we create this new work. The jam session is an opportunity for any musicians to bring their instruments and sit in with us as we improvise, read music and have a blast! So come to listen or come to play--BUT COME!!
Because of space limitations, we have to cap our numbers at 25. Even if you can't come, please send your energy by giving or checking out my Dr Amanda Kemp page on Facebook. Your donation will help to fund the symphony and is tax deductible. Order your Frederick Douglass T-shirt. IF YOU CAN'T COME, email us with your mailing address and add $10 for shipping
Yours in evolution!
Have you ever been in a conversation when someone complimented you in a way that put themselves down?
Have you ever thought OMG, that person (Michelle Obama or Lupita Nyongo for me) is so confident, smart and comfortable in her skin--and I'm not? I suck!
Well, I recorded a conversation with my friend and former client Melody Leon about what to do when that happens. Listen here!
We also talked about how you can recover when your nervous system gets hijacked.
This conversation is for you if:
You're dealing with the day to day trauma of chronic racism
You get choked up and lose your voice when people say racist crap
You want to own yourself completely and not let other people dictate your actions!
Melody is a Puerto Rican homegirl from Brooklyn who has overcome and healed her own PTSD to become a successful entrepreneur and Beauty (inner and outer) Enthusiast. Check her website here.
Spoiler alert: We will be practicing ways to recover from automatic emotional reactions in our Strong Voice Compassionate Heart Retreat. Three spots left. More info here!
Peace and love,
Let's take a moment to thank Malcolm and to thank Yuri. Sunday May 19th would have been their birthdays.
They saw the interconnection of the movements of people all over the world for freedom, dignity, and self-determination.
How fitting that they shared a birthday and that Yuri, a Japanese American held Malcolm after the assassins bullets brought him down in 1965.
I want to share some beautiful art that shows Black and Asian unity.
Please give a listen to Francis Wong's "Prayer for Melvin Truss," an African American youth who was killed by police in San Jose, CA.
Read my blog: Art Leads which focuses on Chinese American jazz composer Jon Jang's "Can't Stop Cryin for America; Black Lives Matter Now."
Reply to this email if you'd like to get the CD featuring my collaboration with Jon Jang--It's coming soon!
Let's keep our hearts open to each other.
Peace and love,
P.S.--We've extended the White Women's Tears video replay until midnight Sunday night. Watch here.
One of the most important relationships in racial justice is that between European American women and African American women. If we could heal this partnership, what would be possible? To do that requires a reckoning...
How do white women use their power? Often it is subtle, appearing as weakness and fragility. However, historically and to this day, a white woman in distress triggers a powerful reaction of sympathy and protection, especially when its in the context of an interaction with African Americans. Think Birth of a Nation, Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, and on and on. Literally, Black people got killed when a white woman cried. More recently, people have been pointing out that those tears in "diversity workshops" are often an unconscious way for white women to resist owning their part in white domination.
But there's another side to this.
What if you're a white women who cries while standing up for racial justice?
What about white women who cry for their friends, children and partners of color?
Must those tears be shed privately?
Can those tears be present without pulling the attention of the group away from racial justice?
What happens to the movement if we make all tears "fragile"?
I got a chance to discuss this topic with my friend Lisa Graustein who is a racial justice educator and co-facilitates Beyond Diversity 101 intensives with Niyonu Spann. Lisa holds European American, Queer, woman and Quaker identities. She has spent most of her adult life working with young people and is one of the people I trust.
You can read a transcript of our conversation here.
On May 13, Lisa and I will be offering a training and live Q&A on how European American women can show up with their WHOLE hearts for racial justice. Find out more here!
Please join us!
Peace and love,
Have you ever asked yourself:
Am I being used by this organization?
Is my image or participation being used to make it seem like this school is more racially diverse and just than it is?
If so, you are not alone. I share some suggestions on how to avoid being tokenized as change makers as well as how to deal with trigger words that make us shut down in conversations.
I hope you will join me for the Strong Voice: Compassionate HEART Retreat.
We are going to focus on taking care of ourselves and having a strong and effective voice when talking about racism.
I want to share with you the value of private mentoring. Especially for those of us who experience imposter syndrome. You know that feeling like you’re not REALLY qualified because so few people who look like you hold certain positions. Or, maybe felling like you're not REALLY Black/Latinex/Queer etc because you've overcome barriers that folks from your community rarely overcome.
My spiritual coach said something profound to me yesterday.
You probably know I grew up in foster care and prior to that I had gone hungry. Early on I experienced neglect and abandonment because my mom was addicted to heroin aka opioids. To this day, it’s hard for me to be early because I feel sad and anxious when I have to wait. If you cancel an appointment or date with me, I feel angry and a little sick to my stomach— especially if I love you. Clearly, those early days of waiting for my mom to come home (which sometimes took days), have left their mark. Similarly, I grew up in a low income Black and Puerto Rican community with a lot of violence and barely enough.
I was telling my mentor that sometimes my current life feels unreal, and I worry that I’m abandoning my people by living in my affluent neighborhood. Sometimes I feel distrustful of my partner. My life is so different from my early reality that it seems unreal.
My teacher and elder looked at me and said
“You’re rooting your identity in the Middle Passage, but that’s not where you started.”
With a little nudging, I saw how I had tied up my African heritage to poverty, abandonment, and other painful experiences. So, to heal those which I have done to a large extent feels like my current situation is unreal. The authentic African in America experience is oppression. Yet, that is only partially true. When I dig a little further, I also see intellectual brilliance, financial wealth and generosity, creativity up the wazoo, and huge compassion—to name a few qualities.
Sometimes folks confide in me that they feel like an imposter because they are the first to have a beneficial marriage or they are the first of their gender and/or race to hold a leadership role. For those of us who grew up without enough, it feels unreal to go into a cafeteria and get a bunch of food without having to count how much is in your purse first.
Thank God-Is, for whatever blessings we enjoy that allow us to practice self-love and love for others.
What’s real is my connection to God-Is, the earth, my ancestors, the galaxy AND the PRESENT MOMENT.
This is no small shift in perspective. It is seismic and will need nurturing to integrate. Thankfully, I have a mentor and a circle that is willing to affirm my liberated reality.
If you’d like this kind of support in your journey, I hope you can check out my album:
Black Girl Magic: Poems, Meditations, and Spells for Self Care and Liberation
Peace and love,
P.S.--Making big changes in yourself so that you have the courage to do something new requires support. If you're tired of feeling insecure about being called out or ready to learn how to take care of yourself even when you are the trailblazer, please check out this opportunity.
I'm sitting here with my fave decaf coffee.
I want to share with you what it's like for me right now.
Yesterday I read an article where a Black woman academic explained why she resigned from her tenured position at a small predominantly white college. She told of the psychological and emotional cost of taking a public stand with students protesting racism at her school. In anger, she had verbally lashed out her colleagues of European descent. She was caught on video and experienced a months-long backlash that caused her to fear for her life. Her college administrators minimized her fears. The attacks and threats on social media mounted. She became unable to work. She resigned.
Over a year after the incident, the professor wondered if she was to blame. She felt betrayed by her colleagues and her institution.
My gut churned as I read her story. What's that 12-Step phrase? But for the Grace of God, there go I.
On our Women of Color Leadership call last night, we talked about this incident. We delved into who is responsible for Black Fragility.
Can I be responsible for how I deal with the confounding, oppressive, awful system of Whiteness, without being to blame?
Who is to blame for the racism that shatters my children's confidence or that renders my workplace a toxic exclusive environment?
Who is responsible for changing it?
On the one hand, it's not fair to ask people who are psychologically degraded by our mass racist, homophobic, misogynistic culture to regulate themselves and always act "civilly." Yet, when I "lose it," I am in grave danger.
So, what are we to do?
Reject blame. African Americans are not to blame for this system. We did not create it and we don't benefit from its continued existence. Similarly, people are not to blame for what their ancestors did or did not do.
Take responsibility. You are response-able to tend to your body, emotions, learning, mind, and actions.
Here's what I'm sharing with women of color who work with me:
1. Take care of yourself. Know when to say no. Say yes to what fills your cup. Say yes to practices, books, relationships, that expand your capacity to compost racism and restore you to your wholeness.
How many of us take the time to heal the hurts and wounds of past aggressions and micro-aggressions regularly? Just like I can't brush my teeth on Monday and expect them to stay clean without care until Thursday, so too, I can't do one workshop on internalized racism or implicit bias and expect it to cure me. I am exposed to racism, sexism, and other violence daily. I need safe, trusted space to feel each hurt, transmute it, and be affirmed as a MAHVELOUS EXPRESSION OF DIVINITY. Just because Amerika hates me, doesn't mean I have to go along with it.
Practicing self-love is my most important task EVERY DAY!
2. Get with other people who care and want to change something.
One of the hallmarks of white supremacy culture is individualism. We internalize the belief that we SHOULD handle something on our own. We blame our individual selves for the oppression we face. We compare our insides to someone else's outsides and find ourselves lacking.
Think about what you've criticized yourself for lately. Here's what folks say to me about themselves: too emotional, too quiet, too loud, too intellectual, too stupid, etc.
In contrast, when we honestly share with others, we see larger patterns of oppression and reaction. But just venting isn't enough. Ricardo Levins Morales (who I adore) says that movements for change can heal trauma because they restore your sense of power. Venting without action reinforces your powerlessness. Sharing your experience and taking some kind of positive action reminds you that you are main character in your movie. Niyonu Spann suggested that I ponder the question: "What is my part in this?" and it has changed my life.
What if that woman professor had a group to help her see she was about to explode before she did? What if she had a mentor of friend who was holding her to account to fill her cup, to say no, to reconnect with Spirit? What if she had a safe space to talk through how to stand with the students, how to use her position for the greatest good?
Alice Walker wrote "each one pull one back into the sun."
We need each other.
That's why I created Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. My whole purpose is to give support and accountability to those of us who have a Deep Calling for Racial Justice so that we can experience life abundantly and make a serious impact.
And, as one Black woman who just sent me an email put it, "It's working." She works in education and is the only African American in her job where everyone who supervises her or leads the organization is of European descent. Not easy. Prior to working with me, she exhausted by multiple conversations about racism with people inside a "white script." She started using my teachings and now her work environment and her experience of it is changing.
Another Black woman told me that holding space for transformation a few times a week was changing her life. She's getting in touch with herself and the divine enough to say "No, I don't want to do that." This is someone who has a pattern of staying in abusive situations.
I don't have all of the answers. But convening and being part of a circle of heart centered folks who are working for justice and simultaneously doing their own self-care, is definitely working for me.
If you want to learn more about my Women of Color Leadership Program or the Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. for European Americans, reply to this email. I'll invite you to a conference call for each one where I'll describe the programs and let you hear from people who are currently enrolled or recent graduates.
Peace and love!
P.S.--If you are super busy, then you really NEED to make time for this!
Recently a European American woman I mentor told me that she's working to desegregate her life. I love it that she put it this way. Desegregating implies that she's aware of the systems of segregation that have kept her in a white bubble and that she's responsible for desegregating her whole life.
Desegregating your life means consciously looking for places to support the leadership of African American, indigenous, or colonized folks. Segregation is not just about separation. Segregation subjugates and renders Black people and others invisible or less-than European Americans and whiteness.
When you desegregate your life, you want to disrupt power relationships and actively go towards that which you've been cut off from with humility. Years ago my friend David said you go through doorways that the community has invited you to walk through--rather than crashing private or sacred recovery spaces. Supporting artists or arts events are a good way to do this!
In contrast, when people lament how "non-diverse" their worlds are and ask me for advice on how to have more people of color in their lives, I cringe. Having a multiracial friendship group or faith circle is not going to happen without a lot of intentionality. And, "getting more people of color" in your world sounds very selfish and extractive. It's just more of putting whiteness in the center.
Honestly, I recommend that most European Americans do their work--that is the work of uncovering their inbred sense of superiority and its historical context--before focusing on building more relationships across the color line.
If you don't delve deeply into this, you will undoubtedly harm people.
Not only do you have to accept and take daily steps to transform your implicit bias, but you also have to get practiced at talking about racism and your own racism.
This way, when people hold you to account or point out your blindspots, you don't collapse or freak out. If you are doing the ongoing practices, then you no doubt see your internalized bias every day and don't have to walk around with extreme fear of unconsciously screwing up
Robin Di Angelo quotes an African American who says it would be "revolutionary" if European Americans could take feedback on their racism without lashing out, collapsing or shutting down.
Yes. Then we could have partnership. Authentic community.
I'm saving space in my calendar for folks who excited about desegregating their worlds. Please apply for a Free Racial Justice Breakthrough session. If you have a deep calling for Racial Justice and are ready to do your own work, I want to support you. We'll uncover why your stuck and at least ONE action you can take to desegregate your world!
Peace and love,
P.S.--If you're not ready for a conversation but want to build up your knowledge and understanding, Check out this Stop Implicit Racial Bias training video. Moving at your pace is legit--just keep moving!
I was recently mentoring someone who freezes and panics when she hears or sees overt racism.
I could hear the shame as she apologized for letting me down.
Here’s what I told her:
Start with getting your feet on the ground and conscious breathing.
The first step in having a strong voice is merely staying present.
You may have all kinds of good reasons why your body adrenalizes or shuts down in the face of racism.
Instead of shaming and blaming yourself, I suggest you make a commitment to stay present.
When you have the ground underneath you and your breath, you may find the perfect words for the moment.
It could be as simple as "I don't see it that way."
I've recently developed a series of baby steps that folks can take to cultivate a strong voice.
It all starts with holding space for transformation.
Click here — fill in with your information & mention this blog and we will send you something every few days to get you started.
You can check your implicit racial bias if you are willing to do the work.
A lot of folks have written or are talking about implicit bias. I recommend Jerry Kang’s excellent Ted Talk "Immaculate Perception" and this NPR story on the Yale study of Racial Bias Amongst Pre-School Teachers.
The data on implicit bias in health, criminal justice, education, employment is so consistent that it can be daunting. There’s very little readily available information on how to stop implicit racial bias.
Well, I decided to do something about it.
In this blog post I include ideas and suggestions from a variety of sources to recommend 5 steps that people who want to be part of the solution can take to stop their own implicit racial bias.
This blog post is a tool to help yourself--before you go and suggest what others need to do. Start taking these actions and see what happens in your world. To help you do these steps systematically and to create some accountability, I’ve started a Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge. It’s free and starts on Oct. 29 at 9am. Get more info here.
The first step is to cultivate awareness of implicit racial bias. Today take the Harvard Implicit Association Test. Notice your feelings about your results. I wrote about my feelings in: If You're Black, Jump Back.
Notice implicit bias on television, social media images and stories, in comments about "good schools" or "sketchy neighborhoods," etc. One way to test if there's implicit bias at play is to shift the point of view of the story. For example, ask if a straight white man in a business suit would be subject to the same characterizations, treatment, etc. as the person of color in a given news story or movie storyline. Why have we never had a Black 007? Wonder about these things out loud with your children, spouse, business partner, parents, etc. Say it to another human being.
REMOVE ANYTHING THAT CUES NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES/BIASES AGAINST PEOPLE OF COLOR.
Look around your home, office, computers, phones etc. and remove any images or audio that reinforces negative stereotypes. This could include having ONLY European American images. By omission or over-representing European Americans, you are implicitly dismissing the presence, value, contributions of people of color. So, it can be subtle.
I recommend listening to Guante's spoken word piece: How Do You Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist. If you want to hear what it feels like to be stereotyped check out, Walking While Black.
Add audio and visual cues that promote positive associations with people of color.
Feed your subconscious something positive. Just as you would deliberately include healthy life affirming food in your diet, you need to give yourself positive audio and visual EVERY DAY. Make it a positive habit to consume something at the beginning and/or at the end of your day.
In Why I Love my Black Yoga Teacher---and You Should Too, I argue that having Black people in positions of authority is psychologically beneficial to everyone, especially people of color. If you want to see beautiful, arresting images of Black people in documentary style photographs check out Arvia Walkers’ **The Coming of the Sun** website
Go towards what you fear.
Do you remember Obama's speech about race in 2008? He mentioned his grandmother's automatic fear of Black men. What are you afraid of? Can you talk about that with someone?
Now this step is a little tricky. I want you to step outside your bubble and go towards a culture or demographic that you have some anxiety or discomfort. Do this respectfully by supporting or participating in something that is public. For example, visit a church that says all are welcome. Check out a mosque or a temple and confirm that your participation would be welcome. Maybe walk into a bookstore or art gallery that focuses on people of color. If you can't do the actual visit today, then set up an appointment. Artists almost always welcome support from diverse audiences.
Check out this music video Make America Great not the Land of Hate Again. Do you recognize any of the heroes and sheroes mentioned? Add them to your library, playlist, or wall of quotes.
Step Five is: Talk about Racism, especially your own implicit racial bias.
This step comes from my Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. System. In this case I'm asking you to reflect on your fragility--defensiveness, wounds, guilt, shame , etc regarding white supremacy and racism. I wrote about how the lack of honest self-reflection leads to breakdowns between white women and black women in Black Women; White Women--The Rub.
Talking about racism is not easy. I teach you how to lean in and take a seed planting approach to difficult conversations about racism in this TEDx Talk "How to Lean into Conversations about Race..." .
If you’d like to be set your intention and attention on stopping your own implicit racial bias with us, please join the Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge. We begin Monday Oct. 29- Friday Nov. 2. Make sure you click here to join us!
When Franklin and Marshall College asked me to address the entire college join at their common hour I was terrified. Seriously, every time I thought about it I would get sick to my stomach. After I said yes, I avoided emails about the engagement. This started to shift one week before the event when I moved from terrified to merely scared. It helped when my husband Michael agreed to accompany me. But the biggest shift came when I heard a speaker the day before I gave my presentation. Theater artist and teacher Nilaja Sun Gordon concluded her remarks by having each person put their hands on their chest and repeat silently “I belong. I belong here.” Then she invited us to say it to the person sitting next to us.
That is when I saw once again how the default experience for me in predominantly white elite spaces is to feel like I don’t belong, to feel like I don’t belong here. It’s ironic that the piece Michael and I had decided to perform is called walking while black because it points to feeling like I don’t belong while walking on the street in a predominately white neighborhood in Connecticut. In that piece I say I feel fear.
I’m grateful to Nilaja Sun Gordon for reminding me that I belong, that I belong here.
Now I’m sharing that message with you. Below please check out the video of our presentation. You’ll see that Michael and I use art to create belonging, common vision, and connection with the divine.
We belong here.
(please fast forward to minute 10 to view performance or click here)