Fighting for Racial Justice Isn’t Supposed to Be Comfortable #BlackLivesMatter
This post has been really hard to write because I have wanted to get the words right.
It’s felt uncomfortable and painful, which is nothing compared to the pain that people of colour are feeling right now.
As of June 5, 2020, we are still in lockdown, there are riots and protests happening all over the world, everybody is yelling at each other on social media, and also it’s PRIDE month!
The world has suddenly, radically changed, and you don’t know what’s up or down anymore. We are all collectively feeling another trauma response of shock, freeze, fight, flight or fawn.
Is this a coincidence? I think not.
This is a long post so I ask that before you read the rest, you first do something to resource yourself.
Take a breath, go out for a walk, make a hot drink, and read this again when you are ready.
Ready now? Good.
I want to let you know that I have been following what’s been happening in the world, and I am not burying my head in the sand.
I have been struggling to find the words because I wanted to say something that isn’t just for show, but something that is genuine that shows real willingness to do better and what I am doing, while also being mindful of my capacities at the moment.
I will say this: you are not doing your job as a coach, healer, therapist, or practitioner if you are not willing to face your own prejudices, get uncomfortable, and expand your container.
As a white woman who grew up in London, I always prided myself on not being racist.
I had black and brown friends, I was fostered for 6 months by a black woman from Dominica, I couldn’t be racist, right?!
It wasn’t until a few years ago when I got more educated, when it dawned more and more on me that despite my “woke-ness”, I still had racial prejudice.
Everybody does, you cannot escape it. Racism exists on a scale rather than a binary of “racist” or “not racist”.
I never thought of myself as homophobic or transphobic until I got educated either.
Part of my training and work as a sex coach and sexologist is to continually examine my internal prejudices and biases around sex and sexuality. I was taught to stand up for sexual rights: LGBTQIA+ awareness and training, on minority stress, microaggressions, and unconscious prejudice, which I still proudly do.
Now I’m being called to go even deeper and examine my unconscious prejudices and biases around race, especially in the intersection with sexuality, and I invite you to do the same.
This is not easy or comfortable work, but it was never supposed to be.
One thing I have been shocked and saddened at in the spiritual/conscious/holistic/wellness world and the world of tantra has been the amount of spiritual bypassing and gaslighting.
It started with the Covid-19 outbreak where I saw conspiracy theories, bashing of scientists, denial of how viruses actually work, meditations and prayers against coronavirus, and pretty posts with cute lighting about, “not giving into fear”- meaning that they would continue on with their lives and not take necessary precautions to protect others because it was, “fear”.
And now I have seen it again with the anger over the murder of George Floyd, and the resulting protests and riots, and the anger on social media demanding change.
I have seen posts and comments by well-meaning but incredibly deluded teachers, leaders, and people on how this is all a bit of a fuss, how the murder of George Floyd was a psy-ops mission by the dark government to cause massive unrest, that we’re all One anyway, that this space isn’t a political space, that they support teachers and coaches who are BIPOC, and this is all love and light, so can’t we just come back to love?
This mistake I’m seeing rippling through all of the world of wellness, spirituality, tantra, and sexuality.
“We don’t need to address race here! It doesn’t matter! It’s about one-ness! I don’t see colour!”
(Also note that most of the people posting these posts and comments are white people, too)
This makes me feel sick and if this is you, please know this is in complete contrast to your teaching of healing, love and light.
As a sexologist I proudly state that #BlackLivesMatter
Racism is not new
If you have seen this too, take a moment and think, what have you honestly been thinking and feeling?
Your newsfeed has been flooded with sad and horrifying posts. You feel helpless, saddened, and/or angry. You feel ashamed, confused, and in shock.
You know that police brutality against people of colour is tragic- and while you’re sad, you’re not really surprised, because this is nothing new.
From Breonna Taylor, Jamar Clark, Philandro Castile, Trayvon Martin (killed by a civilian who was quickly acquitted), Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and many, many, many more.
Here in the UK, the situation isn’t much better. The 2011 riots started after the police shot and killed Mark Duggan (falsely claiming that he shot at them which was then found to be a lie). Now do you remember Sean Rigg, Sheku Bayoh, Mzee Mohammed, Leon Patterson, Cynthia Jarrett or Joy Gardner? All people of colour who have been killed by excessive force by the police.
Ask any person of colour in the UK when was the first time they experience racism, and I guarantee that they will reel off a whole list of both minor and major aggressions against them. From being regularly stopped by the police for no reason, to snide comments about their academic ability, to being called racist names, to receiving substandard care by the medical profession.
Racism is everywhere, and yet white people refuse to see it until it directly affects us.
This really is nothing new. You’ve known about this for years, and in the words of Will Smith (in the meme that has gone viral and I posted on my Instagram):
“Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.”
And yet, you still hold back.
You don’t believe you are racist, you have black friends, you try to treat everybody with love and respect.
However, it isn’t enough to just “not be racist”, you need to be anti-racist.
Now let me ask you some really uncomfortable questions:
- Did you think that this wasn’t your fight, too?
- Did you think that this is sad and shocking, but didn’t particularly feel called to take action?
If the answer is, “yes”, then you are contributing to the problem, because being silent is the same as being complicit.
I say this because I also thought this, and then felt ashamed that I have been thinking this for a long time.
Right now, I see deep shame and cognitive dissonance going on in my friends and colleagues who are spiritual/conscious and/or are coaches, therapists, or practitioners.
It’s a realization that you have been unconsciously and unintentionally harming and hurting people for a very long time.
It’s a heavy, sinking feeling. Especially when you lead from your heart and are empathic. It flies in the face of everything you stand for and all of your deeply held beliefs about yourself as somebody who does the right thing and is a loving person.
I saw this with therapists, coaches, medical, and caring professionals who refused to get extra training in working with LGBTQIA+ clients because they think they didn’t need it or it didn’t apply to them, now it is with race, too.
Here are some more really uncomfortable questions for you:
- Are you willing to be uncomfortable now to create change?
- Are you willing to go deep into your shadow?
- Are you willing to face your deeply held beliefs and biases?
I hope the answer is, “yes!” to all three.
Real healing isn’t suppoed to be comfortable
For you and for everyone.
Not comfortable, and also not completely overwhelming to the point where you go into freeze, shock, and burnout.
Real healing and transformation does not just happen for you, as an individual, it needs to happen on a global level too.
I deeply believe that transforming your relationship with your sexuality isn’t just about learning how to have a G-Spot orgasm, it’s working to dismantle all of the toxic beliefs that have been given to you from the culture and system you grew up in.
On what it is to be a woman, on pleasure, on our bodies, on attitudes towards nudity, on erotic expression, on sexual orientation, on what we think of as, “normal” and “healthy”.
It’s so that you will not pass on your wounding to the next generation and that you can be the light in your community.
It’s seeing that the world we live in is not sex friendly and how that harms everyone.
And then it’s going deeper and seeing that the deep shame that you have been feeling is a direct consequence of what has made other people suffer.
Feeling uncomfortable yet? Good, now let’s go even deeper and more uncomfortable:
These toxic messages about sexuality are directly influenced by the culture you grew up in, and racist assumptions.
(Read, Blackbirds and Bumblebees, The Epidemic Internalization of the Sexualized Black Female Image in America and Africa, by Joseph R. Gibson).
In many ways, the message that “We are all ONE”, is absolutely correct.
Everything that you are and what made you who you are today is directly related to everyone else on the planet.
Your beliefs, your assumptions, your pain, things that were done to you without your consent, how you grew up, the privileges you had that weren’t aware of, the insults you were given, the way you speak, your unconscious.
Racial justice and sexual rights
It’s June which is Pride Month.
Pre-2020, your social media feed would be full of rainbows and glitter and all the shops would be putting rainbows up and talking about Pride.
What many people conveniently forget, though, is that Pride came from the Stonewall Riots.
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Riviera were the ones credited with throwing the first bricks, and they were two trans women of color who had worked as sex workers.
We would not be at this level of tolerance and awareness (even though there is still a LONG way to go), without the activism of the LGBTQIA+ community, people of colour, and sex workers.
So let’s get back to talking about race, and power dynamics, prejudices, gender, sexual orientation, speaking the unspoken, and doing the work.
To create a safe space for healing, it’s not just saying platitudes, burning incense, smiling, and saying, “OM”.
It’s not enough to say, “I accept and love you just as you are”.
You do it by continuing to examine your own prejudices, speaking into power dynamics, speaking the unspoken, learning about the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, privilege, and power, and then doing the work.
You make it a safe space by being willing to be uncomfortable.
And you also commit to your own healing and doing this from a resourced and regulated state.
I am committing to continue to be uncomfortable, while also practising self care so that I do not burn out again and cannot help anyone, and I ask that you do the same.
To begin with, again, please take a breath. Take a slow look around the room, and feel your bum connected to the chair. Take a sip of water if you need, find something that comforts you, and then take a look at these resources.
Turn your shock, sadness, and anger into fuelling change and focusing on what you CAN do.
To start with, check out these resources:
And finally, in the name of putting money where your mouth is, I highly recommend supporting local black-owned businesses.
And supporting these causes:
Or buy this T-shirt: https://www.choosemorenow.com/product-page/love-revolution-organic-t-shirt
I continue to be part of and support the work of Sonder and Beam, a black owned and inclusive space for women to explore sexuality.
Keep doing the work
Since this has kicked off, one thing I am heartened at seeing is how many people and professionals I know are taking this as a wake-up call to examine their own racial bias, and have now joined the fight.
At the same time, anti-racism work isn’t just a social media trend. You need to keep the momentum going after this has died down and do it in a way that is do-able for you so you don’t burn out and then do nothing.
What can you commit to doing regularly? How can you continue to examine your own racial biases?
Let’s keep doing the work, and make the world a loving, sex-positive, and safe space for EVERYONE!
In love, solidarity, and cups of tea