Hello, Decolonial baddies & liberation curious folks.
I think we can agree that the due to the last 4 years of a Trump presidency has emboldened and given racist Americans permission to fly their racist truck flags even higher. The increase in state-sanctioned murder of Black & Black Transgender lives, and blatant genocide of undocumented citizens left to die (even babies) in US concentration camps, while the supporters of this fascism tout the dictator’s slogan “Make America Great Again” with pride, is evidence enough that America has gone from cognitively dissonant, veiled racism, to let it all hang out racism.
2020 especially has had a way of dragging folks out the alt-right, proud boy, KKK closet.
When the world watched George Floyd’s last breath get choked out of his body underneath the knee of a white police officer while he cried for his mother, you couldn’t deny who saw this as inhumane racist murder vs. those who disregarded his life to stan for a thin blue line rooted in racist, state sanctioned murder.
At that time, things were really coming to a head in our country and the dividing line between the complicit and the compassionate, the racist and antifascist, became blazingly clear.
As the divide widened, you couldn’t help but notice what “friends”, co-workers, businesses, neighbors, politicians, and especially family members were on the other side of morality. Jarring for some, shocking for others, and cleansing or confusing to the rest. In America, colonialism conflated our differences in morality with freedom of opinion and speech and thus many of us were raised to bypass our morality for the hatred of others, later to learn that this perpetuates systemic racism. But as adults the constant barrage and commodification of Black death makes it hard to stay asleep to the truth.
State sanctioned violence is the American way, this land was stolen, our nation was founded on genocide, forged in slavery and its imperialist leaders climbed to the top of global leadership on a pile of marginalized bodies.
Throughout our lives we’ve had to reckon with racism, by nature of the environment we live in. Now in 2020 came a massive shift of breaking points for folks, sparking many to learn more and do better. It’s easy to err on the side of optical allyship in the digital age though.
We can post memes, share emotion fueled rants, read antiracism books and consume the content of antiracist social media influencers to our egos content… but what about the hard stuff? And what about that big divide in our nation, our communities, our families and ourselves?
I can tell you that like many other BIPOC, this year especially, I watched people’s responses and reactions to this particularly racist year to get a landscape of safety (which wasn’t there) and a gauge on who was complicit in the degradation and murders of people like me and those I love. Sure, I was looking at words, but I’ll tell you that they pale in comparison (pun intended) to people’s actions. I don’t know if there’s such thing as safety in this country for people like me, I don’t feel it, but I do feel safer when I’m in the presence of other anti-racist accomplices and co-conspirators. It’s a small relief, living in a world that wants to murder me, brutally, publicly, and then deny it ever even happened, while finding justifications for having done so and refusing any attempt at justice. And I’m a fairly privileged person. Though multi-marginalized, I still have light skin, am woman-assumed, married to a white man, I’m documented, I live in a predominately white neighborhood, I’m housed, english speaking, never been incarcerated (unless you count the psych hospital) etc… and there’s still bright red crosshairs on my back everywhere I go. And in case I forget, the Karen’s and Brad’s of the world make sure I know my place with every glare, stare and lack of respect for my humanity. And if that doesn’t draw the line in the sand, there’s always their patriotic flare to remind me the pride with which they reside on the graves of my indigenous relatives.
“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” “Nothing, Connie. I’m Indigenous and don’t conflate celebrating the genocide of my people with ‘just spending time with my family’.” *eye roll*
Everyone sharing my side of the divide, wants to be anti-racist, until it’s time to be anti-racist. What they don’t realize is that anti-racism is a verb, a responsibility and devotion that demands your allegiance oftentimes with cost and sacrifice.
Un-coincidentally, that’s where many people plateau in their anti-racist work, when they have to give up something, usually a privilege or proximity to whiteness.
That’s what lies beneath our well-intentioned compassion, unconditional love, bloodline allegiances, and patience for others. An unwillingness to give up our privileged power or proximity is at the heart of why we choose to uphold, rather than dismantle racism when it’s staring us in the face. As the great living Black ancestress Rachel Cargle says, “you are always either upholding or dismantling white supremacy.” Upholding is often more comfortable within our privileges than dismantling.
Somewhere along the line we’ve been indoctrinated to conflate equality with equity, and tolerance for acceptance, because equity and acceptance threaten the very structures of oppression that benefit from such teachings.
We’re socialized to give passes and permission slips to white supremacy. Even when it’s murdering others or destroying everything and everybody on the planet, including the planet, we live on. I know I’ve done it, and I suspect by the nature of the insidious beast of white supremacy that resides within my privileged identities, it’s likely I’ll do it again. Chances are you’ve done it, and will do it again too. Sometimes it’s a matter of safety, self-preservation, assimilation or part of our lifelong lessons about compassion, love and the shadow aspects of all the aforementioned.
That’s what this is, Shadow work. Shadow work, like anti-racism work is soul excavation and rarely pleasant.
I’m telling you all this not just because I love Shadow work or because anti-racism is “on brand” for me (gross). I’m sharing this with you because no one talks about the realities of “doing the work”, we just tell people to “do the work”, with little to no discussion of the risks and costs associated with doing said work. To me, that’s irresponsible and harmful. It leaves what to expect open to interpretation through our inherently biased lens, and doesn’t provide any community care to those willing to go beyond optics. You wouldn’t work with toxic chemicals without understanding the risks involved and the harm it could cause you, so it certainly doesn’t help motivate folks to do the right thing in the face of the insidious and destructive beast we know to be white supremacy if we don’t talk about the aftermath, harm reduction and how to hold fast to your integrity during vulnerable, traumatic moments.
So let’s talk about loss and sacrifice. A necessary component to “the work”.
This is just one instance, my experience, take it or leave it. We’d be here all day if I furnished every different example of this type of experience. My hope is that sharing this provides solidarity, catharsis, clarity or liberation to even just one person walking the walk of anti-racism.
Today, like everyday, I woke up Black and Indigenous. Within the first 40 minutes of my day, racism rears its nasty head.
Resting in my bed, mentally preparing for my day, and of course scrolling social media on my phone, I become aware that the man who I once called father for 7 of my early years (my younger sister’s biological father, my ex-stepdad), voted for Trump… again. My heart sank, my blood began to boil as I felt the magnitude of that very deliberate trespass on my humanity and the lives of so many others. Logically, it’s no big deal, he’s a white, upper-middle class cis-hetero man, of course he’s racist, Trump supporting trash… next! Emotionally, it’s more complicated than that.
It’s been decades long process of decolonizing my heart space. I don’t know if it’ll ever be “done”.
Without giving you a lengthy account of the good times and the abusive times I lived through over 7 years of having a “blended family”, I will instead ask you to at least logically understand the implications of lived experiences within my then-blended family’s race, power and privilege dynamics. My Black and Indigenous mother (raised dirt poor) was with my younger sister’s White, cis-hetero, father who came from a working upper-middle class family for about 7 years, I called him dad from the ages of 7 to 11. They were ages 17-24. There was emotional, physical and financial abuse, many racist microaggressions and large cultural differences between his very privileged typical American family and my family that has been very broken by racial disparities. But nevertheless, I grew attached to his family and they were my own for years.
Even when my mom got divorced and many abuses followed, I still held space in my heart for my relationship to my oppressors.
For many reasons, I grew up with very misinformed ideas about what love is and what it looks like. Thus resulting in repeating my familial patterns of mistaking domestic abuse for tough love in many relationships, almost resulting in the end of my life by the hands of an ex-husband at age 25. This is part of why I have a tendency to give people “the benefit of the doubt” when they don’t deserve it. Why I’ve accepted suffering as the exchange for having relationships of all kinds in my life.
This is one of the ways White Supremacist Colonialism has distorted our knowing of love. It says love is unconditional. (And maybe it was, pre-colonialism?)
I don’t know about you, but the longer I examine unconditional love in today’s reality, the more it looks a lot like spiritual bypassing. As nice as unconditional love sounds, is it truly possible under colonialism? as humans even?
Here’s what I know:
- antiracism is love
- decolonialism is love
- liberation from all oppressive structures is love
- all of the above are also acts of #radicalselflove
To be part of my life, a person must not be in conflict with or obstructive of my self-love, they must choose love when presented with the opportunity. And I’m not talking about “love and light” enwhitenment love, but decolonial love. Love untainted by willful ignorance and hatred.
Too many times in my life I have given people I loved passes because:
- “they grew up in a different era”
- “they don’t know any better” (culturally or educationally)
- “they say they’re not racist”
- “they related to BIPOC or are connected by marriage”
- “they’ve been kind to me”
- “they’re just immature”
- “they’ve got outdated beliefs but they’re a ‘good person'”
- “they don’t really mean what they said”
- “they’re just fiscally conservative”
- “they’re republican for tax reasons”
- “they have lots of POC friends”
- “they’re my family”
- “they’re the only family I have”
- “I have so many other good memories of them”
- “what else am I supposed to do?”
- “I don’t want to be negative”
- “I can love the person, but not their beliefs”
- “We should learn to love all people”
- “I can maintain a compartmentalized relationship with them (somehow separate from their racism?!)”
- “I don’t want to lose them”
- “I’ll do all the other antiracism work, but this one”
- “Maybe they’ll come around one day, I’m still learning!”
While other times it was a matter of emotional or physical safety, as a BIPOC, it was better to say or do nothing in the moment. Regrettably, it was also often lack of self-love, self-respect and deep-seeded indoctrination of white supremacy, masquerading as unconditional love. How we relate to and what we chose to do with love is complicated, but love itself is quite pure and simple. It’s there, or it’s not.
Racism is not love. Like love; if it’s there, it’s there and if it’s not, it’s not.
Which is why today, after decades of wrestling with how to cope with family that hates people like me when it really boils down to it, I am all done. Voting for Trump the first time, I figured my father figure had been duped by his pandering to “fiscally conservative” folks, like so many other whites. He had to be, right? Nah. It seared through my heart the first time I found out he voted for Trump, and after 4 extremely traumatic years of Trump presidency, accelerated genocide & unapologetic fascist bigotry, it hurt that much worse the second time I found out he voted for him again.
The truth hurts. And it will also set you free if you use it to dismantle lies instead of coddling them.
Could you love someone or be in right relation with someone if they signed your death warrant for no good reason, let alone a politician selling them false financial security? I cannot in good conscience, spirit or love, allow anyone who’s voted for Trump for any reason to be in my life. I do not consent to being a component of perpetuating racism. I refuse to be consciously complicit when it is safe for me to choose otherwise. I foolishly thought perhaps he’d had enough of the trauma I’ve lived through the last 4 years too, but instead it’s time for my father figure and those aligned with his beliefs to be removed from my life. I cannot be in right relation with them or my fellow humans if I accept or condone their racism in any way. I refuse to do it any more. Why? Because I love myself. I love marginalized people. Because Black Lives Fucking Matter. Trans Lives Fucking Matter. My life matters.
What I’m doing, cutting them out of my life without warning, is absolutely what folks should do to the racist folks in their lives when it’s safe to do so. Make it devastating, lonely, awkward and un-fucking-desireable to be racist in so-called America. For the first time in its history.
Unconditional love, if it exists, seems to exist to make ourselves feel better about our complicity in oppression and genocide.
Unconditional love serves white exceptionalism, patriarchal abuse, ableism, classism and all the structures of oppression under colonialism. It does not serve the heart, it reinforces the Stockholm Syndrome we were socialized into and spoon fed. Unconditional love is spiritual abuse, elitism, virtue signaling, but most importantly it feeds the machine that is destroying lives and the very planet we live on. I don’t know about you, but it’s not worth it to me.
We aggrandize revolution to the larger, “heroic” acts of liberation, but if you look around you’ll notice that no one person, no one lifetime can undo the oppressive systems that are hundreds of years in the making. Creating change, because white supremacy is so insidious, is a lot like weeding a garden. Every single weed must be pulled, the roots removed and the seeds stopped from spreading, in order for a garden bed to become weed free, weeds are invasive AF. So I cannot look the other way because of my personal attachment to someone when I see racism, I must remove them, roots and all from my garden bed that is my life. Not when it’s convenient, but every time. And if we all did our part to tend our “gardens”, it’d be a whole lot easier for our crops to thrive and manage weeds when they do pop up!
What they don’t tell you, is that you will lose people…lots, if you’re doing it right.
I have faced many painful losses in my life due to racism. I will lose many more relationships with people, professional and personal as I continue on. You will lose many things in this decolonial work, it is not for the corrupt/frail of heart, but I promise you that your sensitivity is your strength, and your love and dedication to our liberation is your legacy. While loss is hard and I can’t promise it will get any easier, grief is good medicine and we owe it to ancestors of past, future and present, ourselves to do better and break the cycle. Not by being perfect, but by being dedicated to love and devoted to our liberation, removing every spoke we can in this racist killing machine.
Yes. It feels lonely and isolating to be a multi-marginalized person, fighting against my oppression and losing people I love because of it. And yes, I would be more financially prosperous if I “separated politics” from what I do (which is not actually possible, by the way). So what. The people that are able to stick around as I grow are people who are truly capable of loving me, what I do and how I do it. I don’t have to betray myself or my people to be in relation with them.
Conditional love. The condition for my love, is love itself. Racism =/= love, no matter how you spin it. Love is a place where racism & it’s complicity doesn’t exist, but anti-racism does in their place. With love, restorative justice is possible, healing & liberation is inevitable.
Please know that while the path is arduous and can feel harrowing and lonely at times, the reward is worth the risk, and there are comrades living in solidarity with our liberation. We out here, being our ancestors wildest dreams. Community care is how we will survive this, comrade.