There are many things occurring right now in the world and I am trying to catch my breath.
Last week I wrote and wrote trying to make sense of all that is happening, but my reflections were all over the place and I didn’t feel comfortable posting anything. I just needed to vent and figure out where I stood in light of events in Charlottesville and Barcelona (where I was vacationing one month ago!).
My thoughts have landed on the connection between “being a good person” while, at the same time, perpetuating racism – albeit consciously or unconsciously. Being bi-racial and phenotypically White, I pass for many ethnicities and nationalities. I recognize I have privilege in maneuvering in many circles.
It is this privilege I have been contemplating deeply this week especially in light of White Supremacy groups we just witnessed in Charlottesville, Virginia. Coming from a Mexican, Irish, and Italian background (a trifecta of Catholicism), I have also been thinking about how we, as Christians, Catholics or other Christ-centered denominational people, have distanced ourselves from White Supremacy. We, “good Christians,” could never be equated with those other violent people who take to the streets with their neo-Nazi slogans and vile pronouncements against Jews and other groups. We are not racist. We are good people.
Yet, how many of us (White people) choose “good schools” and “safe neighborhoods” where little to no people of color (e.g., Blacks, Latinos, Muslims…) can be seen?
How many of us go throughout our day only seeing and interacting with people who look like us?
How many of us choose spaces and places where we know implicitly or explicitly that we will be around people like us?
If we answer “yes” to these questions, then we are complicit in contributing to a system set up to privilege Whiteness.
Even within my own family I bore witness to White members of my family making derogatory remarks about my Mexican family. Most of these comments were in jest or said in “good fun.” But their impact was not lost on me, even at a young age. These jokes carried the implicit message that Mexicans were less than, inferior. These family members would be offended at being called out for their racist remarks and would deny being racist. Yet, it is important to understand that Whiteness and White Supremacy is systemically embedded within our institutions, traditions, and “American” values. I am not saying that most White people – like some of my family members – go around being overtly racist, but I am saying that many of us do not realize when we are engaging in and perpetuating “covert” racist behaviors.
Here is a helpful visual to understand what some of these behaviors are:
(Image is not mine, but at the moment I cannot find the citation)
Further, it is problematic to say that we are not racist because we are “good Christians.” The two are not mutually exclusive. As Dr. Robin DiAngelo (see video below), states, “we don’t live in the spiritual realm, we live in the physical realm … and this insistence that we are all one doesn’t allow us to engage” with the social reality that we live in a racialized society in which the White race is seen as superior. In other words, even though at a deeply spiritual level WE ALL ARE ONE, we do not live in a physical reality in which every person is treated as such.
We have to remember that our American history was built upon slavery, colonization, and violence in spite of our reverence for “freedom and equality” as espoused in the Declaration of Independence and our U.S. Constitution. Even if “all men are created equal” there was an implicit understanding of who these men were and who they were not. Fast-forward to 2017, it is obvious that these men were not meant to be women (particularly women of color), Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, indigenous “Americans,” Jews, LGBTQIA, people with dis/abilities and many other peoples.
Further, even though these other groups have contributed to our society and have made certain gains, their successes are still predicated on whether or not they have “made it” in White society, particularly a male-centric White society.
Attempting to live on a spiritual path, for me, does not mean being blind to the inequities all around me. It does not mean to be passive and silent. It does not mean to retreat into my room or my inner self and escape from physical reality. It means shedding everything. It is a full deconstruction and disassemblage of all that I know and all that I think I am. It makes me ask if we, as a population, can exist without our systems and socially constructed reality. It forces me to reckon with who I am, at a soul level, rather than the persona I know as “Cristina” and to come clean with my own privilege and navigation of it.
Being on a spiritual path also means I need to be awake and courageous. It means I should LOVE in radical and outrageous ways. It means I must extend myself in ways I never have before … to seek and reach out to MORE rather than less people. It means to get out of my comfort zone and speak up and out for justice and equity … in our schools, neighborhoods, and communities.
The main message is this: We can be good people and still perpetuate racism.
I no longer want to be part of a system in which hate and separation can exist.
Now is the time for me (and US) to get our hands dirty and do the work to change systems that no longer reflect who we are. We must strive to create a world in which we can become the divine, unified spark that is LOVE… unconditional, authentic, and deeply connected to our universal, gorgeous humanity.
Below I share an important video by Dr. DiAngelo. I implore you to watch it as you contemplate and reflect upon your understandings and positioning in relation to Whiteness and White Supremacy. We are reckoning with a reality of our own making. May we find the strength to be honest with ourselves and others in how we play our parts.
I appreciate your open heart and active listening. This message is challenging and uncomfortable, but it is time to reckon with our individual and collective constructions.
Always, with love,