Who Is Responsible for Black Fragility?

Uncategorized Apr 13, 2019

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.

We asked:

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!


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