Fired up? Ready.

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Remember “Fired up? Ready to go!” It came from a city council woman that Barack Obama met during his community organizing days. He introduced us to her and her chant during his 2008 campaign. He asked, “Fired up?” And, the crowd answered, “Ready to go!” I answered ready to go. I thought I was ready to go. But something strange happened on inauguration night, 2009. I not only went to sleep with a smile on my face, feeling warm and safe inside, I also went back to sleep for the next 8 years, or at least until Clinton vs. Trump. What was the need to be fired up anymore? I got what I wanted. I got my President. I had twinges of guilt. I felt I turned my back on him, but it wasn’t enough to get me going. I went back to my comfortable life and he and his cabinet did the rest.

Well, as I sit here on what is a dark day for many, Inauguration 2017 I am fired up. I am ready to go. On November 9th, I was changed. Something fundamental inside of me shifted when Hillary lost. I woke up. As some say, these are the times we were made for. In 2008, I wasn’t ready and that’s why I didn’t show up. In 2017, I am ready and this will make all the difference.

But, don’t get me wrong, I am not selling myself an unrealistic story about what I, one person can do, because I don’t honestly know yet what I can do. I also realize my venture into the world of showing up is new and unfamiliar. You see, I have been loyal to a long, stubborn pattern, which allows me to stay hidden. It’s a protective mechanism, I suppose. My dad says its because I am afraid of life because I don’t trust it.

I came here, into this world, afraid of life. I know I did. I don’t know why. I’ve fought this fear consciously and unconsciously all of my life and maybe over many lifetimes. My dreams speak to this pattern. In my dreams I hide from a coach who wants me to play dodge ball. Ironically, I run out of the gym, dodging dodge ball. I hide from the classrooms in my old high school building. I hide from the men who try and chase me (this could be a good thing). Anyway, my mechanism is to hide, to not be seen and it’s strong in me.

But I cannot allow this type of protection anymore. I must break through this pattern of hiding and not trusting life. The last time I trusted life enough to sell most of my belongings and move to California I almost lost my life and worse, that of my children. It’s been a long road back from that time in our lives. I did not want to dream again. I did not want to come out again and give life a chance. I let life have me for a while and it almost killed me as a result. Life was too unpredictable for me to feel safe.

But in 2016, a year full of death and loss for my family and I know so many others, for me, it was also a year of life. I chose life again. I chose to be better because I want to. And part of being better means to face one of the largest giants in my life: a pattern of hide-and-go seek where what I hide from and what I seek is the same, me     and     life.

I am in a place now where I no longer want or need to hide and therefore I no longer need to seek me or seek life. I am here. Life is here.  They have always been here. Now, I show up.

As Trump and his family eat at their luncheon today and dance at their parties tonight, and tomorrow when he and his administration do what they think is best, I will pay attention, but I won’t be brought down by any of their decisions. Instead of trying to change what is by projecting my ideas and values onto people who seem to care less, I intend to be a part of, and focus on, and highlight what I believe is what matters most now: the good work on the ground by people who are conscious and care and the difficult and necessary inner work that allows us to be our better selves. Both are needed now more than ever.

While those who hold false power spin their webs of deceit and greed out of ignorance we will mobilize and unify. Perhaps some will turn away from their webs and realize there is no security and joy in that. But either way, we are busy doing our work, the work for all human beings, all living beings and this beautiful round globe we all live on.

To you~ Fire & Ease,

The Soul Reporter

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The Denial of White Privilege

The first time I read the essay by Peggy McIntosh on white privilege in college I shook my head in agreement. Then, we discussed the essay in class. There were a few of my fellow white classmates agitated, if not enraged, by the notion that somehow they were privileged. One classmate told her story of the poverty she grew up in and had to fight for everything she had. Since reading this essay, the idea of white privilege has surfaced again. It’s even being used in some of the current political commentary. I notice the same agitation and downright denial from some white people that they are privileged.

Let’s be clear that in accepting or even just considering white privilege does not negate in any way what ever struggles any of us have faced. But let’s also be clear by not even considering the idea we are not listening to another person’s struggles and that’s a problem. Here are just a few of the areas in which Peggy McIntosh noticed where she is privileged just for being white:

  • *I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  • If I should move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing, in an area which I can afford and in which I want to live.
  • I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.
  • I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  • I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systematic racism for their own daily protection.*

There are 45 more of these conditions.

In order to accept or consider privilege means we must sacrifice beliefs and ideas we have about ourselves, society and the world. This idea of privilege, for those agitated by it, pushes against something they think is too precious to give up. What that is I cannot say for certain, but I do have a theory. Is it possible that for some people who reject the idea of their privilege— and let me just say that to defend you are not privileged is in fact a symptom of privilege—is it possible those people do not have room for anyone else to matter because they don’t feel they matter? It is possible some people feel so burdened and know how hard they’ve worked without any acknowledgment that they cannot stand to give space to someone else needing acknowledgment of their struggles?

Could they be saying in the face of privilege—why can’t they work hard? I have worked hard. I struggle and have worries why does theirs mean more than mine? Could they be crying and screaming deep down in their soul—I cannot give you space for your oppression because of the oppression I feel.

Deep down, and for some of us not so deep down, we all feel oppressed. We all feel as though we are struggling with no one to acknowledge our pain. Many of us don’t deal with our pain or feel our feelings. When we have all of this going on inside we may feel threatened if anyone dares suggest we are privileged in any way. However, the idea of white privilege at least as it is presented in the original essay has nothing to do with any of this. It has to do with as white people we don’t think about the color or our skin because as Chris Rock says, “If it’s white, it’s alright.” We weren’t brought here on slave ships. Our white ancestors chose to come here to make their lives better. As white people we have a sense of belonging and place that is given to us just because we are white. For me, that’s the point. For me, it takes nothing from the core of my being to accept I have privilege for being white and for me I’m willing to give it up. I would actually rather not have it because it kinda makes me sick. I am able to give space for another person’s experience even though I will never fully understand that experience. I knew when I had two children by a black man that there would be a part of their existence as black girls and women that I could never understand. That has been a difficult experience for me, but it is a truth I cannot deny and therefore accept and try to be as open as possible with what their experience is as black women.

My desire whenever I speak to someone who is resistant to white privilege is not that they accept it fully, but that they just consider it. When we consider anything we are being open to more than our own ideas we cling to because often those ideas we cling to the most are the very ideas that hold us back from our growth. My other desire is for people to make space and open to their own pain—to acknowledge the struggles they have faced and feel whatever feelings come from it, which is most often grief. Many of us need to grieve for the many losses and traumas that have happened to us. When we do not we not only abandon ourselves, but everyone around us. This is a time to come together, not to abandon each other.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

 

*The conditions listed come from the essay, White Privilege and Male Privilege by Peggy McIntosh listed in the Catherine Core Reader published by Saint Catherine University in 2014.