When I heard about it, I did not watch the video of George Floyd being killed by a white police officer. I avoided entering this arena under the veil of “I care too much, it is too hard for me to see, watch, feel.” I chose not to participate in learning about it or feeling it.
Thanks to the courage of some of my the black members of my business community speaking their truth and also sharing with me Why Are White People so Bad at Talking about Race1, I see now that this is a form of denial to choose to not see, to have the choice to “turn off” racist acts. Going on about my day without feeling it is a form of white privilege and denial.
I have also now learned from Professor Kendi that “Denial is the heartbeat of racism, beating across ideologies, races, and nations. It is beating within us.”2
This experience prompted me to watch When They See Us 3 and through my practised awareness I watched my thoughts of “not me”, “not here” ,“not now” and “what can I do?”. I felt my emotions of sadness, guilt, shame, fear, anger and frustration come up.
These thoughts of denial, and seeing them as denial, has only just been brought into my awareness through this combined series of events.
As someone who connects with the world intellectually – my all too familiar response to feeling extreme emotions like these are to reach for the intellect to avoid them. As an academic, maybe this is what you are doing too? What book can I read? What do I need to know to do better? How can I get a grip on this through knowing something? And yes, through this recent realization I am committed to educating myself on being white, white privilege, being black, racism and anti-racism.
However, I also now know that intellect and knowledge are not only where the answer lives. I am in process with feeling all of the emotions that are coming up for me instead of ignoring them and pushing them aside. It is actually the resistance of your feelings that makes feeling them so draining. When you allow them and create space for them to pass through, you can begin to be curious and ask what is this about for me and where do they come from? What needs to transform here? Where can I begin?
There’s so much to unpack here and I do not pretend to have the answers.
If these are questions that you have for yourself, what I do know and can offer is that change can start with each of us as individuals. By beginning to turn inwards, looking at your thoughts and feelings, to understand more about yourself; this is where sustainable change emerges.
With this awareness, we can begin to take meaningful, steady, consistent actions that are aligned with who we want to be and not the unconscious defaults that we are swimming in. It is in this way that we bring change into our hearts with more resilience and sustainability.
If this is resonating for you, I encourage you to explore a resource that I see as being incredibly supportive to take steps to create your personal change with respect to racism: Please listen to Tara Brach’s Courageous Presence with Racism podcast. It’s a place to start.
1. An interview with Robin Diangelo about White Fragility
2. Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist