Repenting White Supremacy

decolonizeBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann. Originally printed in On the Edge.

I am sorry. I am sorry for speaking too quickly. For saying the wrong thing. Or not saying anything. For speaking unaware out of my own white supremacy.

I am sorry for not learning the history. For the large blind spots I carry. For all the people and creatures hurt along my way.

I am sorry for moments my tongue or movements have unconsciously and unapologetically appropriated another’s culture, history, ritual, or language.

I am sorry for the massacre on a Pennsylvania mountaintop when my family took land and slaughtered a people.

My grief cries out from my bones and is carried in my blood. It is historically long and geographically wide. It walks with me everywhere I go. It is poured out in the work of my hands, the listening of my heart, the march of my feet, and my life’s commitment to justice.

I don’t know my own indigenous roots. And I refuse to be another white wanderer of my generation with no rootedness to place or relationship to my ancestors or connectedness to my body. So, in a circle of friends, I gather to reclaim my heritage stories and learn my own earth-based indigenous pagan traditions (so as not to accidentally steal yours).

I have fallen in love with this city, the place where my father was born. Yet I tread lightly on it knowing I still carry settler in my blood and in my privilege.

And even so, I love the colors on the oak across the street at dusk and the way the sunrise shines through the burnt out roof across the street. I love June nights when I trade bags of cherries for steaming hot tamales and the lemonade stand that always accompanies our Larkin’s farmers market on Wednesday afternoons. I love the sounds our chickens make when it’s time to lay the egg and the gentle hum of the bees on a sunny day. I love spending the whole summer in the trees holding baskets of abundance as we move from cherry to apricot to plum to peach to grapes to pear to apple. I love the clay filled sometimes lead infested dirt on this street and the memory of Baubee Creek that used to run through this neighborhood before it was pipelined below to make room for my home. I love this place that forces us to ask the questions about power, race, gentrification, property, police, ICE, and to grapple with the divide over safety and security.

And now with the flow of water and a mighty push, I bring into the world a third generation Detroiter. A white man.

One who grabs hold of my ears with sweet affection, who longs to walk these streets held back by neither rain nor polar vortex, who catches and cuddles the chickens before he is two, who knows to look under the raspberry leaves for the sweet fruit, and who shares freely his love as he blows kisses to each passing person.

I pray that he be a gift to this place, listening deeply, delighting in beauty, and walking with gentleness.

I pray that he can name and expose the powers around him laying down what privilege he can and naming the ones he can’t.

I pray that he loves the Beloved Community trusting his gut and leaning on community, believing in creativity and practicing imagination. I pray that he work for justice though the arc is long and that he learns a People’s History, a creaturely history, and his own history.

I pray that he too loves the stories- listening, honoring, and celebrating them and telling them again and again so they do not become ashes.


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