I have spent the last year and a half entrenched in conversations about the #metoo movement. I wrote a book, have been interviewed on over 30 programs and have been a part of several summits on the subject. My involvement has mostly been in providing healing and understanding to those who have #metoo experiences, and to help people who have not, to know how to interact and provide that healing space as well. While most of the focus has been on women who have had these experiences, men have not yet had their opportunity to share, my work, in short, has been in teaching men who are interested, how to have better relationships with women, by understanding how life occurs for them, and vice-a-versa.
Prior to the eruption of the #metoo movement online, I was deep into anti-racism work; so much so, that I had written a screenplay on the subject that is still making the rounds in Hollywood, and was writing a book to help white folks like me understand the black experience in America. For me, there is no difference in the conversation of what is needed to heal and move past sexism, racism and homophobia. What I have been seeing, however, is that many miss the correlations.
Several times over the past few months, I have been perplexed by women applauding my efforts in working with men, who then pushed back when told that something they said, did or wore was offensive to People of Color. Common responses have included: “I don’t see color,” “I didn’t mean it like that so don’t take it like that,” and any mention of the “R”-word being met with an adamant, “I am not racist!” Our culture is debate-culture. Most of us have not learned to communicate effectively, where “listening” is part of the equation. We listen to respond, to protect ourselves and to win our points. This is what is holding us back from real healing.
I know because I have seen it and experienced that when someone has major traumas and upset, the only way to effectively heal, is to first acknowledge their experience. There is a phenomenon called “spiritual bypassing” that is almost always justified by those who don’t fully get The Law of Attraction. They say that “if you keep talking about it, it will never go away.” This “spiritual” version of “get over it,” does not work. It is similar to saying to a severely depressed person: “Just be happy,” or to a seriously ill person: “Just be healthy.” There are systems and “laws” that are in action whether we talk about them or not. Actually, this is part of The Law of Attraction as well; the teachers of this work say that it is happening whether we talk about it, believe in it or not. It is much like the Law of Gravity: if I walk out of my second-story window, I am going to fall whether or not I have any belief in gravity.
As I have been having these conversations online, this past week has been focused on the racist context of blackface and the phrase “I don’t see color.” I have become really interested in those who adamantly declare that they don’t see color and who believe their intention supersedes how someone else takes it. Do they really believe this? How can they believe this? And, most importantly, why do they insist on asserting their right to say and do something when they are being told it is hurtful? I have had several conversations recently with a brilliant College Professor who gets this. She reminded me that being labeled a racist in America is one of the worst things that can happen in regards to one’s character, and that the idea of what racism is, involves hoods and lynchings and horrible, horrible acts.
While this is a visual and historical representation, what most don’t get is that racism is a system. It is a collaboration of laws and beliefs, the ways we interact with each other and see each other, the way People of Color experience being seen, an erasing of People of Color and a hierarchy that is in place. So, in desperately not wanting to be associated with “the white hoods” and what that all means, white folks would rather disregard all of the other ways racism shows up, so as not to be lumped in with the Klan. Keeping these things in our blind spots and not having to deal with them, because of what it would mean about us, is much safer. (Please take a deep breath if this triggers you).
If you, like me, had to just take a breath, that is ok. This is big stuff to work through. The good news is, that if you are open to seeing what is in your blind spot, it gets easier. At this point, I can’t honestly say that you are not being called a racist by someone if you assert that you don’t see color or that you see no problem in wearing blackface. But what I can say, is that if you become interested in how People of Color have been experiencing life in the United States, you will be less likely to believe and assert these positions, thus, being less likely to support the system of racism that exists.
We are unpacking where we may have done racist things, so now what? The universe hates a void, so if you make room by being willing to see your blind spots and being open to understanding where you might be being used by the system, what can you fill that void with? This is the best place to be, in my opinion, because you get to choose from a place of awareness and empowerment. The best use of my energy in these conversations has always been from removing the resistance. I get and accept that I am seen as a threat because I am white and male, and I am ok with that. From this place of being ok, when someone expresses their hurt, anger and frustration, I can sincerely reply, “Yes, I hear you and I am sorry,” or “Yes, I hear you, that is horrible and I will never do or say that again.”
What happens then, is usually a sigh of relief from that person, and a “thank you.” No argument, no resistance, no continued hurtful exchange…but a conversation that moves forward. This is something the “bypassers” don’t seem to get: We talk about things repeatedly because we do not feel heard or understood. Once that place is reached, we can get into creating from the realm of what is possible. From this space, we are actually co-creating a new possible future. This is what fills the void, this is the real “love and light,” and this is how we transform these experiences.
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