by Melia LaCour
This is a call to white people. No, this is not a list of ten things you can do to end racism. Nor is this a multi-step roadmap to guide you from racist to ally. And no, this is not a solvent to relieve white guilt. This is in fact a call, erupting from the soil, soaked with the blood of my Black ancestors who have suffered multi-generational trauma from the intentional destruction and lynching of beautiful Black people. The call is to fully step into your role in the fight for justice.
This call has resounded for generations. Why won’t you hear us?
Instead, as you witness the violence and destruction, your responding questions pack a hurtful punch: “How did this happen?” “Why is this happening?” “What do I do?”
I want you to know that these questions fuel the fires of our destruction.
To live in these questions, is to stay in indecision, to rest in the false comforts of denial, to absolve yourself from taking the very actions necessary, that because of your white-skin privilege, you alone can take. As you spin in indecision, Black lives are taken, systems continue to churn and grind away at our humanity, and the world, as you watch in horror, burns to the ground in full-blown righteous, explosive, and incinerating rage. What could you possibly expect after generations of suffering abuse and domestic terrorism?
This is what happens when you choose to live in these questions.
So here is the call. Break out of these questions. Break out of the tendency to spin in your own guilt, ignorance, shame, resistance, or whatever is preventing you from living into a life of anti-racism and love for the humanity of Black, Indigenous and people of color. Break through the hardness of white supremacy so you can see every single way you uphold it. Break free of this harmful and incessant inquiry, and step into a place that may be the only way out of this disastrous mess: a scrupulous interrogation of your complicity.
Summon your courage and ask the RIGHT questions of your own heart.
“Why have I chosen not to see the racism that is happening in front of me every single day?” “Why have I chosen to remain destructively silent and immobile as I watch Black people lynched in our streets?”
Follow the wisdom of Dr. Cornel West. He is quoted as saying, “It takes courage to look in the mirror and see past your reflection to who you really are when you take off the mask, when you’re not performing the same old routines and social roles. It takes courage to ask — ‘How did I become so well-adjusted to injustice?’”
Hold yourself to the highest integrity and accountability by not resting until you are crystal clear with your answers.
And then. Go deeper.
Ask, “How will I work on my anti-Blackness?” “Why is my heart so closed to the public and private suffering of Black, Indigenous and people of color?” When you fail to act in resistance to systemic racism, your heart is closed. Unpack the mechanics of a heart that refuses to open in the face of destruction.
In an interview, Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Zen priest and co-author of Radical Dharma: Talking Race Love and Liberation, said the work is to liberate the self from anything that obstructs the heart, for the internalized racist narratives block capacity to love ourselves and others. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ac_bHwOWyw
There is much truth in her words. It is why we have heard them in many forms throughout our lifetime: “You cannot love others, unless you love yourself.” While you may be tempted to shake your head in disdain, ask yourself, “How have I closed my heart to myself?” “How have I shown myself so little love that I cannot extend love to Black and brown people?”
I do not need to hear the answers to these questions. Yet we will know whether you took care to answer them. When racism comes calling, the way you speak, live, love, give, ally and sacrifice will undoubtedly expose what you have accomplished.
And if you have not, know there are grave personal costs to your refusal to live the answers. Your own humanity is at risk. Your constant spiral of indecision and inaction breeds disconnection from your own heart.
African American healer, writer, and trauma specialist, Resmaa Menakem says this embodied disconnection and inner tension is at the root of racial healing work.
“While we see anger and violence in the streets of our country,” he wrote in his book, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, “the real battlefield is inside our bodies. If we are to survive as a country, it is inside our bodies where this conflict will need to be resolved.” (P. Xvii — introduction)
So, I ask you to go inside. Feel the feelings that rise as you hear this call. If you are feeling anger or grief by what I have shared, then I celebrate. Part of breaking out of the spin cycle is to stop the numbness and self-imposed paralysis. White supremacy only flourishes under these conditions. Instead, feel your feelings and reconnect to your own heart. Welcome the broken heart. As poet Rumi wrote, “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.”
And with an open heart, and your strong resolve to stand in the answers, stand up and act in bold and unrelenting resistance against systemic racism.
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world” activist Angela Davis once said. “And you have to do it all the time.”
Melia LaCour is a columnist for the Emerald and the Executive Director and Founder of “Becoming Justice.” She identifies as mixed race, Black and her work is rooted in the belief that racial healing is a critical component of racial justice work. She is a native Seattleite with a passion for justice, writing and karaoke.
Featured image by Ronnie Estoque.