Converting Hidden Spiritual Racism into Sacred Activism: An Open Letter to Spiritual White Folks by Virginia Rosenberg, Asheville, NC (Intuitive Astrologer and Sacred Movement Arts)
July 10, 2016
There is a lurking problem happening within ‘spiritual’ thought and dialogue.
Many people who view themselves as healers, “starseeds,” or spiritual teachers, are doing something dangerous: spreading violence and aggression under the guise of love and light.
In the widespread conversation about race taking place right now, many feel they have good intentions. People are contributing without consciously intending malice. But racism is tricky. Racism is not a simple matter of “being racist” or “’not being racist.” It is a complex, endemic, historical issue that lives within our collective psyche. Sometimes it’s in the background of awareness. Sometimes it’s in the foreground.
But it is always there.
No one wants to own racism.
No one wants to identify with the aggressor.
And yet, abusive ideals pervade our conversations like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It seems to happen ‘accidentally.’ Unconsciously. Like a Freudian slip. Like a social cancer. It is time to address and correct these covert tendencies. If you care about healing disparity within yourself and in the world, read on.
It can be painful to own racism within ourselves. It can be challenging to our identity, our sense of inner stability, and it can break our hearts. It can bring us to our knees.
But we need to be willing to look.
Because it is more painful to continue forward in ignorance, allowing innocent people to die, or to live in constant fear for their survival. The more we try to distance or protect ourselves from the monster of racism, the deeper its hold becomes.
In times like these, our identity and our hearts need to be challenged and broken. Our foundations need to rumble and shake. For this is the path of breaking open. This is the way to true awakening. It is through direct, willing engagement that we heal into unity within ourselves and the world.
Let us look to our shadow, our greatest teacher. Let us look to what underlies the formation of this nation.
The United States of America was built upon slavery, and the structure of modern society still draws from those roots. Those roots have become parts of ourselves that subtly operate beneath the surface.
Let us move through our darkness, feel it, and learn from it in order to emerge on the other side:
Together. Whole. Intact. In solidarity. In true freedom.
For no one is free until we are all free.
Ways Spiritual Communities Are Participating in Violence, and How to Do Better:
“Remaining Unattached:” Choosing to Be Silent
When you choose to remain silent as a way of being “neutral” or “unattached,” you leave space for the problems to persist. This weakens you and your community, leaving us all on shaky ground.
If someone unjustly killed your family member, would you want people to be quiet about it or speak out against it?
Not talking about the issues at hand is a way of avoiding responsibility. When you avoid responsibility, you compromise your power and reinforce injustice.
How to Do Better:
Speak up. Use your voice. Decide where you stand.
Engage in dialogue. Write your local representatives. Make your position clear.
Discuss personal experiences with race. Talk about the current events. Listen to the perspectives others share. Be open to learning more about how racism operates.
“Sending Love and Light:” Distancing Yourself
Some people have the freedom and privilege to distance themselves from suffering. Others do not. Choosing to “send love and light” is too passive when direct loving action is needed. Removing yourself from conflict and hiding behind privilege is a tactic of self-preservation. This act of complacency perpetuates violence and needless death.
If your next-door neighbor was starving to death, and you were aware of it and had agency to make a difference in their fate, would you choose to avoid their house and “send love and light” from the comfort of your bedroom?”
When we have agency to make a difference, it is our responsibility to use it as effectively as possible. When you choose to remove yourself from the situation, you become an ally to violence.
How to Do Better:
Prayer is awesome. By all means send love, send light, and cultivate compassion. But do this in a real, effective way that makes a palpable difference in people’s lives. Pray out loud with others in your community.
Your actions are your prayer. “Pray for rain with a hoe in your hand.” Show up. Stand up for what you feel is right. Find out what people need and how you can help.
Explore your role. Identify your unique contributions and employ them.
“Keeping Your Vibration High:” Encouraging Numbness
Emphasizing “positive vibrations” versus “negative emotions” is another way of perpetuating oppression through distancing yourself.
Beware of giving advice that stems from fear. Telling others to “be the light” when they are experiencing intense emotional reactions is destabilizing and promotes falsehood and confusion. Manipulating the feelings of others is psychologically and emotionally damaging.
This type of advice robs us of personal inner sovereignty. It removes us from an authentic relationship with our inborn navigation system and prevents healing. It also renders us ineffective to deal with reality and contribute to healthy change.
How to Do Better:
Tell the truth. Encourage the expression of emotion, and embrace it. Be present with what arises, without attempting to control or change it.
Honor anger. Anger is clarifying. Anger fuels necessary action. Anger burns like the fires of illumination. Honor sadness. Sadness is cleansing. Sadness cultivates empathy. Sadness heals our hearts and brings us together.
Trust the intelligence of human emotion. Emotions contain valuable information. We need to feel it to heal it. Hold yourself and others, and be with exactly what is. This is keeping your vibration high. This is developing compassion and strength. Expressing true feelings and standing up for justice is spreading light and positivity.
“Emphasizing the Spiritual Perspective:” Negating Reality
This is also known as escapism, denial, or succumbing to fantasy.
We are human beings. That we are spiritual beings does not trump our humanity. We access the spiritual through deepening into our humanity.
Referring to current events as a mere “trigger” displays your distance from centuries of discrimination. Discussing events as “an illusion of the material world” keeps you in an unhealthy illusion that you don’t need to be an agent of change. Retreating to your safe personal cave of “inner peace” can too easily be used as a method of hiding.
How to Do Better:
Deal with WHAT IS. Be PRESENT with REALITY. Visualizing world peace is great. What’s even better taking concrete steps toward building that vision in real time. Seeing the bigger picture and emphasizing faith can be helpful, soothing, and inspiring. Share that if it feels true, but don’t let it eclipse alternate lived realities.
Respect humanity. Yours, and everyone’s. Witness the very real, personal effects of racism and disparity. Put yourself in another person’s shoes. Name the victims of violence and reach out to those who are feeling the impact.
Accept mistakes, imperfections, fallibilities, and vulnerabilities of yourself and others. This will help you take ownership over how disparity exist in your life and motivate change.
“Privileged Preaching:” Wielding Entitlement as The Way
Privileged people are building lifestyles on espousing “Law of Attraction“ type spiritual beliefs, and sharing them with dogmatic insistence. There is an aggressive, holier-than-thou approach that prevails in this behavior.
“We create our own reality.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “What you put out is what you attract.” These are isolating, damaging, victim-blaming thoughts to distribute to people who have endured trauma or suffering as a result of societal madness and centuries-old oppression.
These types of beliefs are homogenizing: they assume a shared life experience background of privilege. Having privilege is emphasized as the norm. Espousing these beliefs reinforces hegemony: keeping those with privilege in a state of dominance over others. This thinking promotes attitudes of entitlement and assumes that having privilege is the “correct” way to be.
How to Do Better:
Humble yourself. Realize there are many things you do not know, and many experiences you may never endure. Accept that your perspective is limited. Get informed. Get off your soapbox. Listen to others. Meet people where they are at.
Recognize that it is easy to espouse spiritual perspectives when you are well-fed and watered, educated, live in a beautiful environment, your life conditions are generally peaceful and secure, and your friends and family for the most part die normal deaths (as in they aren’t systematically deprived resources or senselessly murdered). Countless people on Earth have a much different background than yours. Avoid making assumptions about others or telling others what to believe.
Acknowledge that things going on in our world don’t make sense, and you don’t need to try and make sense of it. Never blame a victim for their suffering.
“Recreating ‘Tribe’:” Barring Diversity from Your Comfort Zone
Many spiritual people are coming together to practice and study wellness through things like yoga, herbalism, and meditation. Coming together to heal with others is a wonderful thing. But there tends to be homogeny within many of these communities: a shared level of privilege, background, and system of belief.
An exclusive culture can develop from these gatherings, and healing power can be limited by this.
Where is the diversity? Who is being invited to share in loving, healing environments? How are people from different backgrounds and belief systems being received?
How to Do Better:
Expand your comfort zone. Build trust and practice healing within wider communities beyond your familiar groups.
Create ease and intentional invitations for people from different backgrounds to participate if they desire. Branch out and explore the social sphere in alternate environments. Learn from teachers of various backgrounds.
Create space for healing communities, communities of color and alternative gender, activist communities, and diverse age-ranges to come together and share stories, perspectives, and needs. Look for ways to bridge experience, knowledge, and skills to support one another in wholeness.
The events that took place in the public sphere this past week are not uncommon. This has been the honest lived reality for people of color in the USA for centuries. Spiritual white people often demonstrate interest in love, peace, and healing.
Here is an opportunity to practice what you preach.
Black lives are valuable, beautiful, and absolutely necessary. No more killing. No more discrimination.
No more unconscious racism. No more calculated avoidance.
Open your eyes, ears, and heart. Give your presence. Give your time to these important matters. Give your love.
Demonstrate compassion. Make strides toward building peace. Reach beyond the bubble of spiritual separation and enter the world.
Let’s create REAL healing, beyond boundaries and across communities.
United, we rise.