Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, JFK took action against social inequity and they were murdered. If that happened to them, what would happen to me?!
I think back to the eighth grade when I learned about slavery in social studies. I went home and cried to my mother, “How could a person ever think they could own another person!?” She cried with me, “There are lost people in the world who believe they’re right. It’s important to know what you believe.”
I learned about the displacement and horrible history of American Indians and their treatment at the hands of people who again believed they were right. Again I had long, probing conversations with my mom. In my young mind, I couldn’t fathom how anyone could think it was okay to move people from the land where they were living and claim it for themselves — it didn’t make sense to me. I said, “I wish we could find a way to say ‘I’m sorry’. Wouldn’t it help to just talk like we do about things, so we can make things better?”
I wrote a song about it — or I should say I started a song — but it remains unfinished to this day some 40 years later. But I still remember the melody and the lyrics:
I wondered at age 12 why we were learning these historic facts but were not talking about what could have — what should have — happened. Why weren’t we being taught the value of learning from these mistakes and how to see possibilities instead of limitations? I remember feeling isolated and helpless.
This has come front and center for me this summer. In the midst of a global pandemic, I watched as one black man and woman after another was gunned down by the people we have empowered in our culture to protect all of us. Technology is unveiling what has been happening for decades — how living in this country is quite different for people of color.
A Transformative Realization
It took me a while to recognize the formative events and the effects they had on my life. I realized the extent to which I had been profoundly affected by the murders of the people I knew of who stood up and took action to end social injustice — Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., JFK. These people had modeled for me and the world powerful and peaceful ways to take a stand and be a part of addressing societal inequities. I LOVED and revered them. They spoke up and their reward was to be murdered. If that happened to them, what would happen to me?!
Not to mention the deep cultural bias of “above all else, do not offend,” the mantra of good girls in the midwest. Never be the one who brings up uncomfortable topics.
Bottom line is that I realized I had been following a path that included:
One source of strength throughout my life has been really meaningful conversations during which I could sift through ideas and beliefs as part of shaping who I would become. And I was blessed to have a family who loved to engage in rich, sometimes uncomfortable conversations. But now they are all gone. So how do I find that sense of “safety” to openly explore my beliefs and learn how I can recognize how my entitlement came at the expense of the freedom and prosperity of others and then help to guide others to do the same? How can I become the person that the world needs right now?
And then I realized that I am that person. My work up until now has prepared me for this. And as I “listen” more than speak, as I silently go within to explore this with my inner being, that will be the discovery I seek. I no longer need to discuss these ideas in the safety of my family. In some sense, those discussion were about my mind sorting things out. Now is the time to go deeper than conversation alone can take you. Now is the time to communicate directly with my soul.
As I also read books and become engaged with groups to discuss the extent to which my white privilege has formed my life, I weep with the understanding that what I couldn’t discover simply by talking to those closest to me, I can now explore with the world. Taking every bit of knowledge I gain and going within to explore any feelings, resistance or blocks.
It’s a dance. If you just do the “mental” work, you don’t get to the root of how this systemic inequality has formed us. You can become angry and shameful, even defensive. Going within is what makes it possible for you to integrate new information and perspective making the real change. Because real change happens when you change; not just change what you do, but change who you are.
The night before my sister made her transition we sang:
I want to be part of the world healing that is presenting itself in this moment. I think it is time for me to finish that song — if not literally then at least figuratively! And for me that means extending my hand to all others who are ready to step up and inviting them to join me in the work of our lifetime. It’s time to recognize the extent to which you feel safe only when you “moderate” or even silence your own voice.
My gift is finding the path of least resistance within to bring about peace, to unveil your purpose, and to allow you to step into your true power as a deliberate creator. Spiritual Breakthrough Coaching will provide you with the skills you need to find your own path forward. Together may we:
“Let everything I think, let everything I say, let everything I do,
be out of love.” — Sandra Powell (my mother)