Myself, and All of Us

Recently I’ve been involved in several conversations in which a tension was revealed between the needs and journey of an individual antiracist activist, and the vast needs of the movement.  (I will note that I am white, and these conversations were with other white folx.  So in this writing, I am speaking to my white community.)

Let me first say that this tension is often framed as an either-or decision, with judgement (meaning one way is the right way, and the other way makes me a bad person).  Either-or thinking is a trait of white supremacy culture (Jones and Okun).  So let’s see if we can look at this through a lens of both-and.  Doing so helps resist and dismantle the culture that harms all of us.

I’ve found that when safe space is created (usually meaning time plus the absence of judgement), most of us are able to begin to recognize that we are really tired, or scared, or feeling ‘not enough’, or feeling that we need to be the ‘perfect’ antiracist, or guilty, or shamed or more.

What if .. our ability to be an effective activist is directly tied to our individual abilities to address these things that we bump into in ourselves, as we learn about the antiracist journey.  What if, when we bump into them, we take the time to examine them, care for them, and get ally support for them.  So we become stronger and more effective.

What if .. I could see myself as an asset for justice that needs to be trained, rested, fed, hydrated, energized and equipped with skills and knowledge in order to best support the Community.  Would it be worth the time and effort to pursue that?

What if .. we all become able to balance the health and well-being of ourselves with the needs of the Community.  Both-And.

What if .. our choice isn’t to either be ‘selfish’ and individualistic (my needs are all that matters) or give up what I need (put my health at risk) for the common good.

It’s tricky to ponder these things, and new to many of us.  The learning is messy.  And frequently uncomfortable.  And it often takes some slowing down in order to see and reflect on the multiple factors.  Doing so can be contrary to our socialized notion of ‘progress’.

Consider that maybe this isn’t a movement only to free People of Color, in which we are helping them.  But perhaps their pain is a symptom revealing how diseased our culture is as a whole.

Would you consider that this is a movement that seeks to heal all of us?  Not noticing and attending to my own needs is a tool to secure a diseased culture in place.  Racism and oppression of any kind (including of the earth) harms all of us.

You are invited to join the conversation.

May all being be safe.
Carolyn Heineman

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