Trigger warning: this blog discusses racism
These blogs are my personal exploration of life at Woodspring, surrounded by many animal and nature teachers. Through that lens we explore life, death and everything in between.
Over the last 40 odd years, my focus has been on spiritual exploration, finding ways to care for and nourish others (across the animal kingdom mainly, including human animals), and an increasingly strong activist element.
The spiritual and the caring are themes that I didn't consciously choose but I have found that our true gifts are ones that we have to uncover. They are usually the ones we have been trying to push away for years having been told for some reason they are not the 'real' skills or they are not valuable in today's society. So I combine practicality (caring) with intuition (spirituality) and from there I birth my vision and creations into being.
Speaking of birth, there is now an 8 month old human in the brood! River arrived in late December 2018. Another little teacher in my life. I will be sharing her wisdom too over the months. Since she arrived, I laugh more, feel more and take less bullshit.
There is a shift in the tempo of these emails because, since I last wrote, not only have I changed but so too has the world. Now isn't the time to sit back and wait for the moment to make a difference. 'It ain't no time to sleep' as Tina Dico says.
There will be anecdotes and observations that make you laugh and warm your heart but these will come alongside truth speaking. And that can be uncomfortable. I am not here to make you feel comfortable or to be a balm for the difficult world we live in.
My wish is to be like a little letter in your proverbial pocket that inspires a new thread of thought to open up.Thoughts lead to words which lead to action. I can't do this by saying the same old thing and staying comfortable.
On the subject of pushing comfort zones, I recently completed a course called 'Me and White Supremacy' created by Layla F Saad. It's a 28 day course that asks you to look at the racism that exists within White people and in society.
Racism is structural and toxic. It is a shape shifter and can be mainly hidden. We accept it as the norm, and White as the norm and then we can't see it any more, or only in the most extreme cases.
It's likely that, unless you are directly affected by racism or you have done some serious personal work on this yourself recently, you may be thinking, 'it's much worse in America' or 'I don't see colour', or 'it's best not to bring it up as it makes it worse' or 'aren't things getting better now?' or 'I'm not racist'...
Bear with me - this is important.
We tend to believe that only 'bad ' people are racist and if we are trying to be 'good' people then we can't also be racist. This belief is so damaging because it keeps the structure in place that is undermining lives and equality.
The reality is that we live in a society that has benefited from racism and continues to do so every day. We are part of that society and when we scratch beneath the surface we find the murky truth - if we are White, many of the actions we take and the views we hold are racist and damaging Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) because, since birth, we have picked up subtle (and not so subtle) programming.
Don't take my word for it, explore with any of the teachers and leaders below and test it out yourself. Do Layla's 28 day course. If you do this with integrity and courage, I guarantee you will never look at this subject in the same way again.
Why am I suggesting you do this? Because this isn't some small phenomenon that is making things a bit tricky for a few people; this is why we treat refugees like lesser beings and can be manipulated to believe that they are the ones to blame for our economy; this is the reason we can allow fires to rage in the Amazon, burning down the homes of the Indigenous people who live there; this is the reason why you don't see so many BIPOC in positions of power relative to White people in the UK, this is the reason most BIPOC parents have no choice but to explain to their children that they are totally equal to the White kid sitting next to them, even though the world isn't reflecting that back to them; this is why a Black pregnant woman is five times more likely to die in childbirth in the UK than a White woman (*see below for source). I could go on.
The problem is, you can't see it until you begin that journey beneath the 'nice' surface. The damage we inflict is often unconscious. There is still so much I can't see in myself and it is likely that if I re-read this email in a year I will notice lots of blind spots. That's why the journey doesn't end, we need to keep unpicking the old and harmful programming.
I am not an expert. I have learned all I know from BIPOC and continue to learn through courses, books and online. I undertake this learning because it is essential to do this as a White person in today's society. We created the problem, we need to fix it. And we still hold the power (White Privilege). Our voices make a difference because we can hear, and direct others to, the voices of BIPOC, thus creating change. (Note - this is very different from speaking for BIPOC - that is White Supremacy and White Saviourism).
If we are all racist, what can we do?
Become anti-racist. That's the only way - it has to be tackled head on, every day, for us to change the programming within us and within our institutions and structures. This is a big topic and if you are new to it, it can bring up our shadow - you may feel angry, want to look away, want to keep things 'nice'.
Work through it. These gremlins will stop you from moving forward if you don't recognise them for what they are - mind tactics to keep you 'safe' from the uncomfortable feelings and realisations that may come and incite necessary change. That, to your ego, feels like death. It's not though, it's growth.
So we need to make sure we are having these conversations and taking action and studying, firstly with ourselves and then taking that out to our circles of influence, be that as a parent, a teacher, a group leader, a friend, a colleague, a boss... We all have realms of influence in our lives and we can use those to create an equal world.
Hit reply to let me know if this rings true for you.
And have a look at these pioneers in the field of racism to explore more:
Laya F Saad This link takes you to the page to pre-order her book based on the workbook of the same name. You can also explore her website from here.
Adrienne Maree Brown Books, podcasts, instagram, brilliance.
Where Change Started The next course I am starting in September is with L. Glenise Pike of Where Change Started. She also has lectures and resources available.
The Conscious Kid A great instagram account to help raise anti-racist children with more detail on the website.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Another good starting place to get to grips with why White people have avoided to subject of race for so long.
Reni Eddo-Lodge Author of Why I'm No Longer talking to White People About Race. A must read.
Dr Beverly Daniel Tatum This is her Tedx talk. A great 15 minutes to explore why we find it hard to talk about race.
*And more information here on the rate of morbidity for Black women in childbirth compared to their White counterparts.
Thanks so much for reading,