I am the daughter of a black man and a white woman. I have brown skin. As a child I felt from an early age that I didn’t quite ‘fit in’. I was brought up by my white mother and the white side of my family. I attended a school where I was one of only two children of colour and lived in a predominately white middle-class town. I experienced various forms of racism over the years primarily from white people, but also from black. I felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. That feeling stayed with me for much of my life….until I started to dismantle the pain.
I embarked on some inner work at an initiation called ‘Women in Power‘. At the closing ceremony, an amazing woman called ALisa Starkweather gave the most inspirational talk about how women have an important role to play in dismantling white supremacy within our society. I heard her word for word and felt like my world was being turned upside down. Every word she spoke penetrated my mind, body and soul. Tears stung my eyes and something within me cracked open. Anger. I was so angry at all the years of racism I had experienced, from the subtle to the obvious. I was angry at how society had not catered for me as a girl of colour whilst I was growing up. I was angry at how many times I had experienced racism and that no one had stood up to protect me. I was angry at how deeply embedded racism was, and still is in our society. The anger stayed with me for weeks.
I called upon something I had been told whilst practicing Buddhism “turn poison into medicine”. I began to reflect on all the times I had experienced racism in my life. Old memories surfaced and many tears fell. I soothed and held my inner child who had suffered so much pain and hurt as a result of a society that had let her down. I told her she was safe now and safe to heal. This was a long process and in all honesty, is still work in progress.
As old memories healed I started to look at my journey as a yogini (female practitioner of yoga) and all of the women’s circles I had attended over the years. I had been the only woman of colour in nearly all of them. It didn’t matter where in the country the circles had been held, they had pretty much all been white centred. Healing retreats brought the same reflection. Where were the women of colour? Why were they not in these spaces? How had I really felt as the only woman of colour over and over again? I came to realise that although these spaces brought a lot of beauty and wisdom my way, they also brought the same feeling I had experienced growing up – I was the ‘other’ because of the colour of my skin. This in itself had created more trauma.
I reflected further and soon came to tap into some memories of deep healing retreats I had been on – again all white centred. I had experienced some intense trauma responses that hadn’t felt held by those in leadership. My body carried deep ancestral wounds.
I started to speak to other women of colour and hear their experiences. One by one they spoke many words that were familiar to me. They spoke about also feeling the ‘other’ and realising that the space was not safe for them. I heard that the women in leadership were not equipped for holding racial trauma. This too was my experience.
My curiosity grew as I began to embark on a deeper journey of self-education on the history of racism. I wanted to understand it and why it still shows up in our society today. Over and over I found that all the information pointed to one thing. White supremacy. I came to realise that we have been and continue to live in a white supremist society. White supremacy is an oppressive system that means white skinned people have superiority and power over people of colour. It has had consequences throughout history through enslavement, land theft, genocide, colonisation and racial discrimination through laws. It hasn’t gone away, just underground. White supremacy plays out in ways that could easily go unnoticed. Every single person on earth today was born into this oppressive system. White supremacy shows up every single day for people of colour.
Along my journey of exploration, I was introduced to a book titled ‘Me and White Supremacy’ by Layla Saad who is author, speaker and teacher on the topics of race, identity and social change. Her book offered me a 28-day journey of self-exploration to understand my own white privilege (for half of my heritage is white after all) and to further my healing of racism.
I feel that every single woman in leadership should read this book to self educate and explore their own unconscious bias around racism and become an anti-racist and an ally to women of colour. After all, how can we work with healing if we are not willing to look in the eyes of the oppressor?
I am currently on my third round of the 28-day journey. It continues to be shocking, healing, and a real eye opener.
I have made a commitment to myself to face this shadow in our society every single day for the rest of my life. Why? Because I feel it is my duty as a woman in leadership and a citizen of the earth to play my part in shifting this current paradigm towards love. I also have a daughter. I do this work for her too.
If you are a white woman reading this please know that there is no intention in this blog to trigger you, but I know it may happen. There is no intention to create separation. My intention is to create a yoga and healing space that is safe and inclusive for all women. This will include offering circles for women of colour to be fully heard in a safe space.
If you have women of colour in your life please take the time to listen to them, really listen. hear their stories, give them the time to feel heard. Become their ally. Do your own anti-racism work for the sake of generations to come.
In love and service,