If we want a just world, we have to fight for it. We are not personally responsible for systemic racism, colonialism, the patriarchy, and oppression. No one person is responsible for this system. We are each responsible for understanding, grappling with the complexity, and taking action now. Seeing and speaking truth in community changes us. When we do, it changes the world.
Clean pain: I can face what is. I can let myself feel. I can broaden my circle of caring. I don’t have to shut this down. I can connect with other people and we can take action.
It is hard to maintain a sustained focus on systemic injustice. It’s more accessible to feel angry at the murder of George Floyd by a police officer. We saw it on video. We were outraged. We marched. There was a trial. The murderer went to jail. We don’t feel so powerless when we see the system change.
When we feel overwhelmed and powerless, our window of connection gets narrower. Some hunker down, close ranks, and protect people who are “like us”. We might harden our hearts. Some get angry and judgmental. “They” should just … and they could fix their life. In this narrow view, we don’t acknowledge the broader societal and historical systemic oppression as a context for our lives. We feel threatened and are in a fight/ flight/ freeze response.
It’s difficult to let it in. Life is hard enough. We don’t want to see our privilege, and we don’t want to acknowledge how the system we benefit from hurts others. When we feel helpless, we are less able to be with truth. It feels powerful to be angry about how we have been hurt by systemic injustice. It fuels activism and change. We also need to notice our inclination to turn away from looking into our privilege and to cultivate keeping our hearts open.
It’s not our personal failing or shame that we live in a culture that has systemic oppression. It is also true that we are both hurt and benefit from systemic injustice. When we’re not overwhelmed and feeling powerless, we’re more likely to tune into the agency we do have. We open our hearts to truth and connection. We vote. We donate time or money. We educate ourselves. We talk about it. We let ourselves feel. We take action together.
Last week in our Sunday community class we looked into race, class and our social location – where we fit in proximity to power. This week we’re continuing the inquiry and conversation. You are welcome to join us!