Lately I have seen (and perhaps you have too) a lot of threads and posts online where a white person is called out on their ignorance or bias by someone else….and time and time again, I’ve witnessed that rather than accepting the reflection, the person fires back with “are you calling me racist? How dare you!” Or something of that nature. Some of this is happening even in consciousness circles, where the person’s shock and embarrassment at their own bias being revealed overwhelms them and they respond defensively, even if the person pointing out their bias did so without anger or blame.
This happened with my stepfather (a black man) and a white friend of his recently. He pointed out to her that a comment she made felt racially motivated and painful for him. She could not accept this reflection. She refused to see that her comments to him were coming from a deep, subconsciously ingrained racism. She argued that she was not in any way motivated by racism, that where she was coming from was an entirely different standpoint that had no racial bias, that he was missing the point! It was difficult and disappointing to hear about this interaction for me, because I know that the frustration for my stepfather was representative of a lifetime of similar impasses, and also I felt the missed opportunity for a much deeper healing that could have happened between them. She shut down the conversation, and the opportunity for there to be a healing moment between them went down the drain too.
As a healer I know to the core of my being, through direct experience, that the moment when someone points out that you are acting or speaking in a way that is not serving you or is even offensive to others, is a potentially transformational moment. These are moments in life when you get to unravel a bound-up energy block that you didn’t even know was there. However, it is also a moment that takes great humility, and an ability to witness yourself honestly. To be with yourself in those moments and to use them as opportunities to change, you have to find within you the courage to surrender your ego in service to the truth.
I’m sure all of you, who are sincere on your healing path, have had these moments where a friend, a lover, or a practitioner pointed out to a subconscious blind spot. Perhaps they did so with some anger or frustration; perhaps it was hard to hear. For me, the deepest relationships are the ones where both people are willing to work on the relationship even as the blind spots and defenses arise. It takes great patience, great love, and a willingness to hold on past the initial flare of anger. On an individual and on a collective level, we must uncover and transform our deeply ingrained patterns so that we aren’t governed by their subconscious force at every turn. Only then can we create the ground for fulfillment for ourselves and others. To get there, the deeply ingrained patterns have to show in all of their ugliness, just as they are in our society now.
I imagine that underneath her angry, defensive display my stepfather’s friend likely felt ashamed, singled out, or perhaps worried for her reputation as a “spiritual” person. Spiritual people aren’t supposed to have blind spots, right?! But really, she is not alone…all white people carry subconscious biases about race until we individually and collectively do the work to uncover them.
When you grow up in a society that was built on genocide, segregation, racial inequality and white supremacy, these things are woven into the fabric of your life experience, and therefore their imprints exist in your subconscious. This does not mean that once the subconscious patterns become conscious that you will agree with them, or that they are representative of you are. On the contrary, only when the patterns become seen in the light of consciousness can you have full reign to disagree, to make different choices, and activate your intention to do the inner and outer work to build a society that you are proud to be a part of.
The steps to healing racial inequality are many and long term, yet if each of us white folks can do the inner work of acknowledging our privilege, seeing the subtle and not subtle ways that racism exists in our communities, becoming more honest with ourselves about the ways that we have avoided dealing with it, and staying with it even when the conversations becoming triggering or painful, I trust that we can open a long-term, undefended conversation that will allow us to become fully available to create systemic change. It can be painful to see one’s blind spots, yet it is the path to healing. Rather than defensiveness we need openness and a willingness to see ourselves and our society clearly.
Related posts: https://ninahandwerk.com/the-grace-of-falling/