How many people have had to endure discomfort when healing from a physical injury or illness? How many people have experience discomfort in their spiritual practice – perhaps watching the clock when mediating, or struggling with an unanswered prayer? I want to share with you how embracing discomfort around racism and white supremacy has been a necessary healing force in my life.
First, a little about me. I am an introvert who grew up in an alcoholic home. My father was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde drunk. I learned from my mom how not to rock the boat in order to “keep the peace.”
I also have a learning disability and I survived in school by being invisible – avoiding being called on so that my learning differences were not exposed to my fellow classmates. And for those who might be familiar with the enneagram – I am a six, which I describe as being a “fear baby”.
I want to share with you how this fear baby who doesn’t want to rock the boat or be seen has become an anti-racist activist who knows that being seen and rocking the boat is required to bring about the healing from this white supremacy culture; both personal healing and collective healing.
My healing started with the alcoholism within my family – I was angry – asking why was I born into this family dysfunction? I realized that if I wanted to heal it was my responsibility and choice – that if I did nothing I would continue the cycle of alcoholism with all its dysfunctions.
So, too with my journey towards wholeness of unlearning and undoing racism. I was angry for being born white in this dysfunctional and violent white supremacy society. Through attending the Challenging White Supremacy workshop my world got turned inside out and upside down. In that workshop I learned history that I was never taught. I listened to people of color’s experience and noticing how different they were from mine. I had what I call an earthquake experience where the world as I was taught (as I knew it) had crumbled to the ground and I didn’t know how I was going to move on from there.
I had had this earthquake experience before where my whole foundation – my childhood religion and my own spiritual beliefs were rocked and crumbled in the process of accepting my sexuality. So I knew I would survive and that even thriving was possible. I also knew I was not going to be comfortable and in fact being comfortable meant that I was avoiding.
I learned to move towards the discomfort – I began by speaking up within group situations when I witnessed unintentional racism that exists in progressive communities. People of color sometimes thanked me and often whites told me I was being violent or shaming in the way I delivered this disruption within the group. I was beginning to rock the boat and I was being seen.
I learned to trust my body when seeing racism occurring. My heart would pound (it still does)– I was really scared because I was being given a choice. What would I choose? Silence, which will always maintains the violence of this culture, or healing; my own healing and perhaps others also in the room? I knew that breaking the silence would make people uncomfortable (including me) and often defensive. But here again, the healing opportunity was my responsibility and choice – doing nothing would only continue the cycle of white supremacy with all its dysfunctions.
I have also learned to stay in the discomfort when People of Color are giving me feedback on my actions. My practices is to breath, to resist defensiveness and to listen deeply for the impact; framing the feedback as an act of love.
My call to be involved in nonviolent direct action is another space of discomfort. I moved into protest and vigils believing that I will be changed and hoping to be part of bringing others to change too.
Becoming an anti-racist person has healed my family scars of alcoholism. I have developed deep friendships with friends of color and move in amazingly hopeful spaces of resistance to the way things are in this country; my life is full.
Where can you live into your discomfort zone, as you walk this un-ending journey towards wholeness.
Lucile (Cile) Beatty has a Masters for Religious Leaders in Social Change from Starr King School for the ministry. She is the Automotive Department Chairperson at Contra Costa College and enjoys teaching. She is also involved with the Human Right Pen Pal program, part of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition working to end long term solidarity confinement in California.