Society’s focus on racism right now can’t help but also highlight all of the discrimination prevalent in our society:
Ableism (discrimination against people with disabilities)
Sexual orientation discrimination
Xenophobia (fear against people from foreign places)
They all perpetuate false ideals. Many assume that there is a neutral – i.e. heterosexual white English-speakers. Many ascribe superior and inferior values depending on where one might be on the spectrum.
Minimizing the breadth of possibilities to simple have and have nots does a disservice to everyone. It forces us all to live and see within boxes. We don’t get to stretch, explore, and embrace the possibilities inherent in life. Nature doesn’t live within tidy boxes. Her seeds and scents spread in the wind, while clouds drift overhead. Nuts, fruits, and leaves fall to the ground, ready for their next incarnation. Squirrels may gather the nuts, insects may feast on the fruit, and leaves build soil for the future, all in a divine intertwined dance. Her waters run from springs, through forests, down riverbeds, and meld into the sea only to return as rain and seep into the earth once again. Life cycles through beings and places with an organic elegance, and few hard lines.
Likewise life cycles through us with every breath, water keeps us hydrated, and food builds our tissues. To be frank, we all also use the loo...so we give back as well! There is no separateness from nature. We are nature. Similarly, there is no separateness from others. As humans we all cycle through the same emotions, and want to love and be loved. We breathe, eat, and sleep. No matter where you are, the basics of human experience are more alike than different.
As we all continue to unwrap the layers of oppression within and around us, we can look to the abundance of this amazing earth that continues to provide – air, water, sun, food and more, filling us with life through every sense. We often let the voices, gifts, and struggles of others pour through us just as easily.
By centering perspectives we’re not used to seeing we can get to know life beyond the boxes. There is no center-point on earth's surface, nor is there a neutral perspective. Leaning into different viewpoints, we step into the breadth and depth of the human experience. This may be as simple as following more BIPOC/LGBQTIA+ people on social media, reading one of their books, or getting to know them personally. By making it more and more common in our daily experience, we can relate to the humanness in others and forget about those arbitrary lines drawn in the sand. We can love more deeply and widely– both others and ourselves. We can get to know people beyond their name, and beyond a hashtag. While it’s important to #saytheirnames, it’s probably more important to get to know people who are alive and sharing their voice, gifts, and struggles with the world.
We may be shy about speaking about certain topics. Listening to others, in all their candid glory, can help us to open up and love vulnerable parts within ourselves, while admiring the speaker's boldness.
Anti-racism is not only about helping the marginalized groups. When we work to dismantle the structures of oppression we grant ourselves freedom too.
So I return to my original question. Where are you holding yourself back? Where are you putting yourself in a box? And what resources – perspectives, people, habits, info, etc., can help you break out?
This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Be gentle with yourself. Remember to eat, sleep, move, and reflect. Give yourself a solid foundation so you can be the change you wish to see in the world. And when times for action come up, you'll be ready to stand in your own glory.
photo credit: Alex Radelich via Unsplash.com - Los Angeles protest