It’s been a while since I last wrote to my email list, and in that time, the energetic landscape of our country has dramatically shifted. We went from the beginning throws of a shelter-in-place and Covid-19 global pandemic to full scale protests about Human Rights in the form of Black Lives Matter, which has occurred in all 50 states, and has have garnered complete global support. It amazes me how much these two events have stirred up in people, both spiritually and emotionally. It’s as if our country was a great lake, and the majority of people never knew that there were deadly creatures and forms lurking in its waters. Now, people are afraid, confused, and don’t know what to do with all of these ideas and realities floating up where we can see them.
I’ve been posting a lot on Facebook and in the Success Circle about ways we can stay heart-connected during this time, but honestly friend, it has been quite a challenge. As a black woman who has lived through many racism experiences, often been dehumanized, and feared for my life due to the color of my skin, I feel no end of heart ache for current events and how they've exposed how deeply that racism runs in even the otherwise kindest folks.
While I absolutely do believe in a few conspiracy theories circulating about "these times," it doesn’t change the fact that we need to deal with and address the feelings and needs of people that have come up as a result of this year’s events.
ECONOMIC DEPRESSION & FEAR OF SURVIVAL
The huge hit on the economy due to the handling of Covid-19 has created so much fear. Locally, it looks like friends and acquaintances not having work, being forced into homelessness, and being hungry. Often because of shame, people don’t share how much they’re hurting. They put on a brave face, but these real needs must be addressed. Check in with those you know and see if they have food, if they are working, if they are drowning under bills. You may have issues too; don't be isolated in that experience. Together, we are stronger.
HUMAN RIGHTS & RACIAL BIAS
Black Lives Matter highlights centuries of systemic racism in this country. The open discussion about that has created fear, denial, and pain. People like to tear down, reduce, or attack truths that they don’t understand. I’ve heard many people dismissing Black Lives Matter: “BLM is a Marxist group and only out to cause trouble… And of course nobody is going to listen to the pain of blacks if they’re acting like animals rioting in the streets, they're sharing their needs in the wrong way...And what about us. We all suffer!”
This kind of thinking is actually textbook systemic racism (I'm happy to explain why, but not today), and there are ways to recognize and heal that, no matter what color your skin is. Black Lives Matter is a movement (beyond the original founders) that asks all of us to wake up to ways our lives have been shaped by a culture of self-interest, and to heal. Systemic Racism has resulted in the criminalization of black people, and we see this also in what’s happening with brown people in ICE. Why is it okay that brown people are being taken from their homes, and from the streets without warning and disappearing? Why have over a thousand children who were put into Ice detention camps gone completely missing? Why are their allegations of child sex trafficking that have not been explored? Documented detention camp rapes by officers that have received full acquittal?
These, too, are a result of self interest (greed), and ingrained beliefs that have allowed too many people in this country to view undocumented workers and also brown people as “alien,” or "them, not us," or inhuman. That same dehumanization is what made people believe it was okay for black people to have been enslaved, for Jewish people to have been hunted during the holocaust, and for brown people to have been made to seem invisible, often underpaid “because they'll do it” without a closer look at why. This is terrible rhetoric we need to shift, and this is what Black Lives Matter is fighting for.
Discovering you are a byproduct or even an active agent in a racist system does not make you evil, and does not mean you’ve failed. But it does mean it's time to own it and heal it. Discovering you have privilege does not make you racist! But it does mean you can look at your privilege and figure out how it best serves the entire community. And again, topics like this can bring up a ton of shame, but it’s shame that doesn’t belong and ultimately needs to be moved out if we are going to heal as a community. This applies to everyone of every color, in different ways.
The wearing and use of masks has created another crisis. People are desperately afraid that their human rights are being violated and will continue to be violated by the use of masks. There’s such truth to the fact that we—especially in times of crisis—need to keep fighting for our human rights. That said, both practicality and science dictates that if we are all wearing masks, then these will be a minimization of the spread of disease, which flattens the curve and allows hospitals to treat people without the type of dead-body pileups that were happening in middle American two months ago.
WHEN SYSTEMIC RACISM OBSCURES ISSUES OF PERSONAL FREEDOM
Sadly, the biggest objections I have heard about mask wearing are that they minimize oxygen, and that they dehumanize us—that only thieves, terrorists, and people with something to hide wear masks. I’m not sure if people realize that this too is an unconscious bias that is the result of racism…? All around the world, there are people who wear masks or restrictive face wear from childhood to adulthood, and regardless of personal belief, we have not found restricted oxygen intake resulting in people who are any less loving, intelligent, warm, caring, or vivacious about life. Some people prefer coverage. So there is no lasting danger to us being dehumanized by the wearing of masks. However, even if it's temporary, this is a huge cultural shift for Americans and it's important to mourn the losses associated with it, so that we can think clearly about how to shape the future without grief getting in the way.
Doctors, military, and many other people wear masks on a daily basis without ill effect. They are not dying from lack of oxygen. There are no noticeable instances where mask wearing people have higher instances of illness or death because of the use of masks. Perhaps the real concern is that we should be able to do what we want with out bodies--then that's what needs discussing.
MOVING BEYOND SURVIVAL FEAR
I’m not here to create huge arguments for all of these philosophical crises. My point is that, in all of these cases, survival-fear is at play, and it makes us emotional. When we’re afraid, our brains function differently, and we are not always working from our higher mind.
The intensity of this year’s growth and learning themes have not let up. If you hear things you don't like, it’s easy to say, “You’re wrong!” But now we’re being asked to go to the next level and engage our friends with real responses, and real questions. Instead of calling people crazy for their believes, how can we build bridges of mutual insight and perspective?