In the wake of George, how will you change?

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

June 2, 2020

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Categories: One a Day, Post a Day 2020

How is your heart today? There is a heaviness all around. Here in Portland, Oregon, we are on our fourth day of a curfew from 8 pm to 6 am. My social media feed is filled with all things George, Breonna, Trayvon, Ahmaud, and so many other names. Here, in the wake of George Floyd’s death: there is collective grief, mourning, and rage. And, there is confusion.

I found myself saying in conversation yesterday, “Every person of color I know has said something akin to this to me:

  • ‘White people do not listen to my story.
  • ‘White people minimize me when I tell my story.
  • ‘White people try to explain away my experience when I tell my story.’”

Taking this in and thinking of the many Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) folkx I know or have known… that’s too many people to say, “You are not listening to me.” Even one is too many, and I am talking about many more than one.

In the wake of George, reflect

I grew up poor and white. Understanding this idea of privilege has been layered with many things. I share this because I am on the journey with you. If you can’t understand how when you are white-passing you are a part of a certain amount of privilege, consider this: American Slavery lasted for 246 years, followed by “legal disenfranchisement” aka “Jim Crow Laws” for more than 89 years. The Civil Rights movement was during the 60s, culminating with the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 – acts that were surrounded by riots and revolts, and ultimately following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The total time: 401 years. The total time with “civil rights”: 52 years or 13% of the total time. And, this entire time there have been layers of violence and peaceful assembly. In the wake of George, honor the history that brought us here.

There is a concept of 7 Generations of Healing. I heard about it first in reference to a passage in the Book of Daniel. But, it is also an indigenous concept. The idea is that it takes 7 generations of healing before something can truly, fully heal. Consider that seven generations is about 140 years. The way this concept was first explained to me was that a sin must not repeat for 7 years in order for it to be forgiven. I use the example of alcoholism or addiction when I explain it. If a father is an alcoholic and thereby mistreats his family, you need 7 generations after him where alcoholism is not repeated. In the wake of George, acknowledge we are not done healing.

We have only had “Civil Rights” as an act since 1968. 52 years. Less than half of 7 generations AND the occurrence of racism is alive and well in our society, as we see with George, Breona, Trayvon, Ahmaud, and so many more. Healers explain we are in many systems: colonialism, adultism, racism. Our culture layers upon us various beliefs. We owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors to question those beliefs.

No one person is more valuable than another. We are all valuable and deserve respect, love, and kindness. And, my friends, my BIPOC friends have been telling me that white people do not truly embody that sentiment when they tell their stories. So, I have work to do. You have work to do. WE have work to do. In the wake of George, honor the work you have to do.

Confused at what racism can look like? Here’s a graphic.

Here are some things you can do.

  1. Consider an authentic land prayer before you do any type of gathering to acknowledge that we are all living on stolen land. This names colonialism so we can work to break free from it. 
  2. If someone has the courage to share their story with you, do not interrupt, do not “there there” them, just listen. People do not care what you know until they know that you care. You have to first seek to understand BEFORE you are understood. BIPOC folkx have been listening to white people explain things away for too long. It is our turn to step back and let other people step up. It is our turn to LISTEN. It is our turn to show up in SERVICE to our brothers and sisters.
  3. Get involved. If you think, for example, there is a “homeless problem” in your area, go to a shelter or food pantry and volunteer your time, your money, your other resources, or all of the above BEFORE condemning the problem. Do not judge those you are serving, rather show up to serve, and again, hear their story. Likewise with BIPOC folkx. Look to a BIPOC service in your area and call them and ask them how you can authentically show up to serve. 
  4. Get yourself educated. It is NOT the responsibility of BIPOC folkx to instruct us on our racism. Be gracious and open when they share their stories with us, but do not expect it. Expecting vulnerability from people who have been oppressed for centuries takes away power and continues to put them in a place beneath you. That is the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish. Read stories from people willing to share and take it all in.
  5. Interrupt oppression when you see it happening. Do not sit on the sidelines. If someone says a racist joke in front of you, consider saying, “Hey, my friend is BIPOC! I find that hurtful!” If someone starts to make an assumption based on race, interrupt it. Name it. Call it what it is. 
  6. Disrupt your own white fragility. That’s a thing. White people getting offended over being called racist. White people getting offended when they feel disenfranchised themselves and cannot see they sit in a place of privilege. Name it. Acknowledge it. See where you sit on that spectrum, and get the hell off. 
  7. Honor your own healing in this process. A coach I have worked with said, “We have a heart problem in our world.” When we rationalize away someone else’s pain because, “It’s complicated,” I wholly agree we have a heart problem. We owe it to our world, to our neighbors, to our families, and to ourselves to do our own work on this. Start with you. Show up with kindness to yourself and extend that kindness to everyone around you.

In the wake of George, where will you stand up? In the wake of George, what will you act on today? Together, we truly are better. Together we can accomplish so much more. And, we do it so much better when we realize we are together and not other.

I would be remiss to leave without offering essential oils on your journey. So, consider adding Rose, Geranium, Frankincense, and Arborvitae to your own dismantling work – so we can show up with love, truth, and divine grace. 

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