It does seem like my life has been a journey of things falling apart in order to be reorganized- in a way- that allows me to have insights I wouldn't have otherwise. Every time I think I'm awake....I am gifted with another realm where I have been sleeping or perhaps...napping....
"Be glad you're an alcoholic because you can now help, have compassion and empathy for another alcoholic like no one else on the planet"
In the broader realm (where I tend to live) her meaning expanded far beyond alcoholism for me. Which is her point, I don't have that ism, I have other isms...
If I wasn't essence oriented, or got all caught up in the one specific ism..... I would have completely missed her meaning..
How I could apply that concept to myself
"Be glad you're baby died in your arms Christina because you can help, have compassion and empathy for other women like no one else on the planet."
Things like that....
"Donovan dying was the most exquisite experience of my life"
My poor heart sensitive mother who feels so deeply...my words hurt her so much.
To her, my words felt like ice moving through the heat of the double dose of raw pain and grief she experienced. Watching her daughter crumble to the ground while also watching her grand baby take his last breath. She wasn't recovered from that.
I can not imagine her pain... but I could understand how pain and the process of her grief could lead to- the inability for her to be able to hear me in that moment.
As time marched on...she began to watch me move through my life. Slowly, as her grief began to heal a little more...she began to understand me more and more.
I respect my mother and her natural grieving process. I am only one of her 3 children and that was only one thing to grieve over as our mother.
My mother doesn't often see herself in me...but I am as much like her as I am like my father-In addition to... having all of pieces that belong to just --me being me.
She's deeply sensitive and very feminine. Her friends mean the world to her. She still cries when she thinks of all of the losses of those she has loved.
Including the life long friends and neighbors.
That's the risk in being an open hearted woman and loving people...love and loss are connected. She continues to love anyway....
Me "Oh no, what's wrong...you were crying!"
My mom, (trying to hide her heart)
"No I wasn't, I was cutting onions!" (no, she wasn't cutting onions..that's a good one mom!)
At some point through the years, I stopped my onion investigations....
Me "Now you know you can't get away with that. Little Pinocchio. What's wrong?"
I sometimes wish everyone got a red nose when they were in emotional pain because then.... maybe we would all be able to see the truth as it exists for other humans, potentially be little kinder and a lot less able to hide the pain we are truly in.
God love her, no matter how hard she tried she could not hide her tender heart, her deep sensitivity and I am very much like my mother.
The only difference is-it is impossible for me to hide. I'm wide out there..exposed...as if that's just what you do....
Something happens where: the mother teaches the daughter and the daughter also teaches her mother. This happens in equal parts. That's the beauty...
But it takes time to evolve and transition... to be able to see this truth so clearly...so vividly.
And this brings me to the topic of Race and White Fragility...
This too took a lot of time to evolve and transition.
What stands out for me through the transition of my family's very first interracial relationship...would be the depth of Sylvia's strength, grace and wisdom through the transition.
She loved my brother and she gave love, time, reverence and patience to those in my family who had a harder time with anything interracial.
What's ironic is, there came a point where Sylvia entering the house, room, dinner table or any event...it was like the sea was parting and the queen was entering the room.
Sylvia became the favorite and most beloved. Which of course created different struggles -which had zero to do with race- and everything to do with other necessary evolutionary process's when humans bring in other humans- into a family system as everyone readjusts....
I remember on their wedding day...I was in the room with Sylvia, her mother and my mother...I watched Sylvia's mom gift Sylvia with spiritual wisdom on what it means to be a man's wife and to love a man deeply and fully. I remember how Sylvia sparkled from the inside. She really loved my brother to her core. And my brother adores his wife. He's very protective, seriously proud and to this very day they laugh so much. Best friends and lovers. They just celebrated their 17th Wedding Anniversary. ((I think I have that number correct))
It's just very recently that I'm getting in touch and am confronted with the truth...
just because she is a beloved part of my family...
that doesn't mean I have access to, understood fully the level of systemic pain that exists within the black community.
After all, we are family. All the years that Sylvia has been a woman in my family that I have loved...
Not once have I ever paid attention or even heard the term: White Fragility.
Now, how is that possible?
"How can that be true, you are so fabulous!"
Talk about being ignorant...I mean really....
Perhaps I'm a little touched.......I don't know.. But Sylvia has never tried to enlighten me on the issues of race in any way, shape or form other than to say a few things that she deals with and how she handles those experiences.
She does like to let me know in fun ways "Now come on, you know your brother loves chocolate!" Which is funny and I love that she experiences herself as being delicious in this way!
In addition to this, I love her for just being love and loving me and not making our connection about teaching me about racial issues. I've appreciated that very much because in a very real way...that has allowed our love to grow. Yet, that also has allowed me to remain some what asleep....
It was just the other day.... a friend offered me some of her Japanese Pumpkin and I thought she was offering me a sip of some kind of new age organic drink.
In addition to this, I just discovered a few weeks ago the windows in my own apartment ((where I have been living these last 9 months)) actually do open at the top. There is a mid-way handle there...I have never even seen until I saw it....9 months in....
I could go on endlessly because these things happen to me daily. Some are fun little discoveries and others....not exactly thrilling.
In other words: When I don't pay attention to something, I really do not pay attention on any level and it could be right there, the whole time.
So here goes the
Very slowly...then...all at once again...as it relates to my awakening to things like my own white fragility...cause I wouldn't have believed it myself... In fact, I resented it...oh. so. much.....leave me the hell alone and just let me love people. THAT IS MY ANSWER....
But don't you think it's rather interesting that I leave my marriage and the first place I go is.... to florida to live with Dr Pekola Roberts...
An easy yes for me because I just loved her from our first conversation.
Slowly....and all at once....I'm in a deep interracial relationship....living and breathing together....and I'm learning as I go.... but won't be able to have a deeper understanding or reverence for the depth of the blessing that was for me until I look back...
Do you think me, a white woman- living with her in her own home triggered her maybe once or twice? You bet it (I) did.
But Dr Pekola Roberts is one extraordinary lady-even the most subtle, small or harmless trigger and she took the time to explain to me what that was about. She took the extra step to share with me what her truth was. I know a lot about this woman because she bestowed this gift on me. She would share her life stories with me. We spent hours talking truth at the level truth existed.
It was very important to her that we connect in deep layers of truth. Whatever it was, she wanted to talk about it. Being uncomfortable was not a big deal for her. Let's talk about it anyway. Feeling deeply, fully and whatever it is you feel in any given moment...that's the way she rolls...
I'd have to do an entire post on just her in order for people to understand or get or be able to feel this woman and all that she is....
It's only now, in retrospect that I can see...where my white fragility played a role in some moments and how she didn't say that, she just knew it and she just decided to educate and inform me and/or be real and or share what her experiences through life had been.
She and I were living together the evening of June 17, 2015....
During a prayer service, nine people were killed by a gunman, including the senior pastor, state senator Clementa C. Pinckney; a tenth victim survived. The morning after the attack, police arrested a suspect, later identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, in Shelby, North Carolina. Roof later confessed that he committed the shooting in hopes of igniting a race war.
As soon as we arrived- all we saw were these flags everywhere, 100% white people, trucks with big tires and a stream of what everyone would refer to as "Red-Necks"
My response "Let's just turn around...let's not go to this concert"
But Dr PK would not be stopped by anything. She said "No, we are going in and everything will be okay."
I felt her. I felt her head go up a little higher, her boldness and her dignity rise. She had to prepare herself spiritually. She walked through that crowd like a queen.
Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck! I thought to myself "Dear god...what can I remember about my martial arts? And...oh man...I don't know how this will go.....
All that happened was Dr PK attracted a crowd of Military families who thought she was the best thing since sliced bread. They kept coming back to be kind to her, gave her popcorn and we listened to the music and had an amazing time.....
None of that would have happened if I was leading. Nope....If I was allowed to lead..we would have left.
She moves, I move....
I arrive in Honolulu and my world expands again....
Very slowly...then all at once....
In comes David Freeman...
I was so darn clear, NO-I don't want to connect with anyone past the meditation we are getting together to do. Let's just mediate and be on our way.
I felt this way to my core. I felt this way prior to seeing David or even knowing anything about him. I just wanted to say within the meditation intention and that was it.
Then I met this man above and....very slowly yet all at once...I fell into him...Softly, with ease. There was an effortlessness about it, about him, about me, about our flow....That has never happened to me before....He felt like home to me..that sort of thing.
I knew absolutely nothing about him. There was no over intellectualized process, no getting to know you...it was just this organic goodness vibrating. There was a consciousness connection. The only thing that existed inside of me was a swirling within the additive quality humming between us. At some point, we forgot all about the meditation practice. We were just enjoying each other and our connection. It was really beautiful.
One of my neighbors approached me after David left.
In a Very accusatory rushed tone, I heard: "I saw you with THAT BLACK MAN!"
I felt very confused. I wasn't trying to be coy, I really was confused
"What? What black man?"
To me, David was just David. It wasn't that I don't see color, it was that I was still flying so very high from the quality of this beautiful connection I had just experienced. I was existing in a beauty bubble and the after glow....
Once I recovered from my confusion I did say
"You mean, you saw me with David. His name is David and he is a fucking GOD!"
Okay, I really couldn't help myself because this man was interfering in my beauty bubble... And I didn't like his accusatory tone or that he felt he had the right to even say anything about who I decide to bring into my world. I was not used to the "apartment complex" living...and I didn't understand why he even cared who I was with.
Here in Hawaii, that is not the normal way people speak to one another. Here, in the melting pot...there is so much love. So much acceptance. No one cares about these types of things, generally speaking. In this way, this human's approach really did confuse and surprise me.
David and I remain connected and expand our connection...
In terms of the topic of race, he and I don't really talk about that. What we talk about is our individual growth and other things that just feels most natural in our connection....it remains an organic evolution.
After David's departure (which was 7 months ago) he asks me to host his friend/business partner -as he too- was going to be floating through honolulu on his way to New Zealand. I am an instant yes. Any friend of David's was a friend of mine. Period.
*********As a Side Note:
At this point...I am completely aware in my "Yes" the chances where really good...... that I'm developing a reputation for being into "Black Men," and I am going to be the label. These are things a white gal knows....
I wouldn't say I'm into black men...what I would say is...I'm into men who are on the path of growth -who are incredible humans making a difference in their own lives and the lives of others.
Some of them just happen to be black..
But when people say to me "You are into black men."
I will say "Yes, yes I am." I see no point in pointing out...I've got all kinds of men walking in and out of my life right now. Asian, Hawaiian, Black, White, Hispanic....
I feel no need to share.....I just had this weird two week grieving process over a transient connection not all that long ago where I felt more than what the connection was and that man was 100% Irish...
There really is no need for me to go there. Think whatever the hell you want to think. I don't care and I am into these men because they are amazing.
Just before David's business partner arrived, I had another more traumatic incident with another neighbor, another white man trying to tell me: what I needed to do was tell David's business partner that he had to find another place to stay.
At first, I was blissful and kind about it. Explaining that I had no intention of do that. As this person persisted, I began to laugh. I just thought it was super funny that this person thought they had the right to tell me who I was allowed to invite into my own home. I really could not understand this thinking. I am so far removed from any man telling me what I can and can not do....This just isn't going to happen. I knew that. He did not.
But eventually, I was triggered. By triggered I mean -my strict mom tone came flying out. I will absolutely not dis-invite someone into my home for you or for any reason.
I did not tell this person they had leave my place, I didn't do anything other than to remain true to my own personal integrity.
This person got up, left and proceeded to tell anyone who would listen that I was a "black cock lover," and a bunch of other things...
Meanwhile, I didn't say a word to anyone about any of this. If people believed him or not, I really didn't care. I don't have time for that nonsense. period.
Now I don't know what that was really about for him. If that was about an attachment to me I was unaware of, if it was about something deeper or if it was about race. But it seemed to me, based on his running around telling everyone these things...there was a lot there for him. A few months down the road, after my silence regarding the entire incident....he came to me. He was brought into a space and depth of crying as he apologized for the entire thing. I forgave him instantly. A few days later, I heard some more from other people who told me what he was saying about me. I just shared that I was aware and all was forgiven
Oops...there is that middle-age woman thing again. Do not mess with a middle age woman who no longer cares what anyone thinks of her. It is just not wise. I'm just saying...you're wasting your time....We just don't have the tolerance for nonsense but we do have the capacity for forgiving when forgiveness is the opportunity.
Jamal enters my life and I could feel his IQ and his EQ. He's extremely like-able. Funny, articulate...and so much more. He's just this really cool person in so many ways. He is fantastic!!!
At some point in our connection: Jamal informs me that our conversations about race feed right into the white fragility model.
What Is THAT?
There is a thing called white fragility?
How did I not know this?
Again, here's a human who has been living inside of racism his entire life and he's taking the time to inform me. And I still don't know or understand...how that may be for him.
The articles he sends me about White Fragility: I could not relate to.
In fact: I'm like "who is this white woman yelling at all white people in her article?
Does she really think that this is the answer?
If humans have that white supremacy inside of them- in addition to being fragile...this will not do anything. This will not make any difference. I couldn't personally finish reading these articles.
Everything in me wanted to shut this topic down...and I did. It felt so disturbing, I really couldn't be in it..
My truth is, I don't care if you are black, white or purple...I do not like to be spoken down to. And I'm not so sure that is associated with me having some white woman superiority complex.
I'm pretty damn sure that's mostly about my personal experiences with arrogant white men speaking down to me because I am "just a woman."
I'd bet money on my inability to tolerate certain tones has everything to do with that.
I've even had to back away from my more masculine oriented girlfriends because I do not like how they speak to me either. Everything from the business mother who told me (when my son was 1 week old) that I was holding all women back by wanting to be with my baby...and more...because...
Let's not forget:
All she has to say is this:
In the last 16 months, I have been deeply gifted, accepted, loved, valued, cherished by every single person of color that I have come into contact with.
And I can not say the same about my own race.
That is also the truth at the level it exists.. There are many truths to the systemic racial issues and how we develop our White Fragility and let's talk about the other stuff for a minute...Like what it means to be a white woman growing up in a divided culture....
In my neighborhood...the minute you spoke to a black boy/man-you get a reputation. You got shunned and shamed. Period, end of story.
Not just by your own race, but there were black young women who resented the white woman for "taking their good men."
Our schools were divided. We had white schools and we had black schools -all the way to the end of middle school. It wasn't until the end of middle school that the schools decided to integrate and diversify. This was a very big deal in both communities. There was so much fear.
In this regard, and at this time...the issue of race for us young people...was a two way street.
In high school, I could have ended up with a broken nose and some broken ribs if anyone ever suspected I liked Kevin. As a young person, the message was pretty loud. These women didn't carry guns but... they usually did have a nice sharp knife in their pocket and they were not afraid to let me know this or show their knives to me. It was the showing of knives that had my parents make the decision to transfer me to another school. Which meant I was thrown right back into the safety of a predominately white school to complete my education.
Kevin was a lovely young man.
He wrote me a beautiful poem, carried my books and wanted me to be his. He wanted me to wear his school ring, his school jacket and more. I kept saying no and I also kept minimizing his feelings too.
I said no because of the fear. In a moment alone with Kevin I sent him away. Not because I wanted him to go away, but because I was afraid. I was afraid of the impact that was all around. In the white community and in the black community. Both existed.
I have tried to find him through the years but there are so many humans with the name Kevin Stevens, I have had no luck. I just wanted the opportunity to tell him that I liked him too and that it was my fear that stopped me. For all I know the man has never thought of me beyond this experience....
but if there is one thing I have learned to do in my life...it is to go back into the places where and when I can and clean them up the best I can. If that's not possible, at least I know I have tried my best.
I don't know any police officer who would lead with hate.
Not personally anyway.
All that goes on -I see on the news...I haven't known anyone like that.
I know they exist, I know the truth is there, it's so so crystal clear. I just don't know any bad cops.
I do know plenty of great police officers and their wives who also never know if their husband will make it home that evening or not. And that is above and beyond racial tension. There could be a crazy domestic violence situation. Anything is possible there.
Recently, in my home town an officer was shot 7 times. This happened in the same neighborhood my little nephew lives.
Same process for me...I just go right to sad. There is no outrage. I just feel deeply sad.
I think of the human trauma, I think of the person's family. I think of how tragic it all is. I think about how much I hate guns. And this man did not go in with hate, racism or any of that. He went in with the intention of keeping people like my little nephew safe in the community.
Whites have not had to build the cognitive or affective skills or develop the stamina that would allow for constructive engagement across racial divides.
What is true for these police officers? I don't know...it seems like they would be taught skills that I have no clue about.
I wonder how this experience will have changed the police officer in my old neighborhood. Him and his fellow officers... in addition their families. There is being educated, trained and learning how to have stamina and then there is the human spirit, the human psyche. Two entirely different things, in my opinion.
Will this police officers' experience lead to constructive engagement across racial divides in the neighborhood my little nephew lives in?
I haven't a clue.
I also have no context, clue or experience on what it means to be in a moment where everything happens so fast and when you are in it, it's not that easy to combat basic survival instincts. I don't know anything. I'm telling you...I feel so powerless and clueless in this realm.
Here's what I now know....for myself:
Just because I like, know or have black people in my heart, home or in my friend network and my family...that doesn't mean I don't have White Fragility.
And just because I can't tolerate things like senseless murders-doesn't mean that I do have White Fragility.
I think I do....and I think I don't....I think there is a co-existence.
Whether it is a church full of god loving humans, a child being eaten by a reptile, an innocent black man being killed right in front of a woman and a baby in the back seat, 50 humans in a club, or a police officer being shot 7 times...
All of it makes me feel deeply sad and yes, fragile.
I don't want to look at it, I don't want to see it. But it exists and is so brutal and it's existed for so long....so deeply embedded..this thing....
How the topic of White Fragility even came up:
First of all context is key:
Jamal is a leader in New York City as it relates to facilitating talks about Race. He's not only a black man living in his own skin... he is literally standing in the front of the room taking hit after empathetic hit.... and he's doing that with purpose. His purpose. This is extraordinary to me personally.
While he was here...as he was just being his most free self, he made comments like "White People"
This is how this whole white fragility thing started....his saying that...and my response...
Keep in mind....
My studio apartment is a very tight space. Turn your head to the left that's my kitchen. Turn to the right that's my office.
There is just me and there is just Jamal in this small space.
When he said "White People" there was no place for his words to travel except to my ears and it felt instinctive for me to feel that since I have not had to build the cognitive or affective skills or develop the stamina that would allow for constructive engagement across racial divides.
I was completely thrown off by this.
Between the smallness of my studio, the bigness of his words and how l was brought into myself as being very very white. Being the only white human in the room. I didn't feel guilty as much as I found myself with the following internal dialogue.
Oh no. He said white people. I happen to be a white person. What does this mean?
How will this impact our connection? Is he including me in that? And if he is ...how will this play out, come out or impact our connection. Will I be filtered into "Those White People" at some point in time. And if I am filtered into all that has ever happened in history and his history? What happens then? What do I do?
Originally it landed on me as a block to our connection. That's because I didn't understand I even had traces of white fragility. I found myself caught in a catch 22.
But here is what is so awesome about Jamal...he wants the conversations. He wants the truth at the level it exists -at any point in time for any person and where they are in their development.
He wants to blow the lid off and eradicate the divide- just as much as he wants white police officers to stop killing block people. He stands for freedom and he stands for connection.
I seem to irritate him consistently on the topic of race. But he keeps coming back for more irritations from me because he is deeply committed.
I really do trigger him but he never makes me feel like it is unsafe to be connected to him.
He triggers me too. He sure does. He triggers my white fragility because I really have not had to build the cognitive or affective skills or develop the stamina that would allow for constructive engagement across racial divides.
I keep using this paragraph because it resonates.
Succinct. Vivid. Powerful and totally true...
And this leads me all the way back to the beginning of this post where I'm talking about my mother:
"I can not imagine her pain... but I could understand how pain and the process of her grief could lead to- the inability for her to hear me in that moment."
I'm trying to apply this to myself here. To my inability to hear things like White Fragility... and I'm trying to give myself the same level of compassion and empathy I gave my mother on that day when she could not hear my truth. And in reverse, as my friend is in so much pain, to be able to be the space to just allow him to be where he is and to remember...I am just now learning....to build my cognitive skills and to develop stamina that would allow for constructive engagement. I don't know what that will look like or how that will evolve for me.
I just know that it's taken me months to get it and what I needed was the simplicity. Without the charge, without the pain, without the yelling, without the accusation, without another woman using tones that I could not hear....
Inside of the simplicity...I can work on this and I can do so with a deeper understanding.
I remember her sharing that she was at an event/demonstration about what would happen within a nuclear war. She was sharing how everything inside of her said "You do not belong here...You do not want to hear this...you can not handle this. Leave now"
But then she felt, heard and thought of Jesus. She felt he was telling her to "just listen. You don't have to do anything. I just want you to listen"
She went back into the room and she did just that. Without the dramatization of that being too much for her tender heart, without any trigger. She just showed up in the way she had felt Jesus would have wanted her to show up
I never forgot this lecture. I am not always able to do this. In fact, while it is one of my soul goals to be able to just listen...I haven't been able to do so. Yet lately something has been happening to me where I now know...as long as I fill myself up in the right ways. Meditation, goodness, walks, self-care and as long as I wait until I know I can read or see something without falling into the darker energies where I can be touching very closely...the doorway to apathy... as long as I just listen...It is a little softer some how and I'm a little less worried about me landing in the room where apathy lives (hopelessness)
I want to be this because I want to be able to hear my friends share their truth without making it about me or our connection when topics like race come up. I want to be able to listen in the way Jesus would.
So far, it's not really going so good..but I will keep trying.
Everything feels very suspiciously coincidental....I mean come on...Don't you think it's a little too weird that as the world is becoming deeply entrenched with being repeatedly hit with racial issues (which has always been there-it's just more visible now...) I'm having all of these experiences?
I think that's very suspiciously coincidental and while I don't know what it's all preparing me for. I don't even know how my awareness of my own white fragility will be of any value or use to anyone on the planet....I'm curious to find out though