Entry 63: Fire, Power, Peace

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Fury. 

I rage about an injustice against me.  I am being misrepresented, by someone in power, and I can’t change it.  My body is clenched, hands into fists, quaking in my core. I feel whips of flames in my gut, my face, jaw and eyeballs.  I want to hit and punch, push and expel the rage from my body, and I want to inflict that onto the person.  

I want vengeance.  I want them to lose their status, to expose their flaws publicly, and mostly to demolish their smug self-confidence.  Because they don’t deserve it, they have not earned it.  I hate them with disdain and irritation and deep passion. I toss and turn as I think about them before sleep comes, and when I wake, they are the first thought in my mind.

These emotions worried me – they were wild emotions that I have rarely, if ever, felt.  My potential to harm someone scared me.  Could I do harm to someone?  Yes, I admitted that I could.  

Then I turned towards the emotions.  ‘Wow… this is rage’. 

I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to sleep, welcomed the rage in.  I observed where in my body it appeared and the sensations it brought.

It spoke to me like a bellowing fire alarm “Your boundary has been violated.  It is unjust.  Use your voice.”  

There it was. The flames of my rage subside and at its core emerged a simple knowing. I am worth fighting for.

I sleep.  Not for long.  

I wake up, and my first thought is how am I going to use my voice?  Cowering or removing myself is no longer an option – these would dishonor me by dismissing my experience.  Another option is to rage publicly, but that doesn’t feel right either. 

I speak to an ally, and use my voice to confide in her some details of the situation and my feelings of weakness.  “I feel vulnerable”, I said.  

She responds, “You are vulnerable”. 

And there, in those statements, I understood two dimensions of power.

External power is given through positions which confer control over others.  Power of decision making, allocation of resources, deciding rights and limits.  People get attached to this type of power and aspire to gain more power over more people.

Internal power draws from a deep well of strength within.  It can be accessed only when there is alignment of values, choices, words and actions.  The energy from internal power can course through one’s veins and sprout into every action of every day.  

In my situation, I am vulnerable because the person in power has the ability to tarnish my reputation and more.  But my feeling weak showed a disconnect from my internal sense of power. And this is something I can influence.  

I share my story again, and feel vulnerable, but, somehow, okay.  Perhaps no matter what I am feeling, if I am authentic, I will be in my power. 

While my internal power hasn’t yet changed the external power dynamics, it has allowed me moments of internal peace. 

I feel fire again in my belly, but it’s not raging… it’s smoldering hot coals, providing their dutiful protection of my boundaries and my values.  This is my power, not a power over others, but a power to be and live authentically as myself.

I will continue to share my story with people I trust, and will gauge over time, if or when to expose it more publicly.  I don’t know what will happen. I don’t know if my vision of vengeance will come true, and I am not expecting, or even hoping, for that.  

I only know that I want to be true to myself, to my full experience, and to live in pursuit of justice.  And as I aim to do that for/with others facing injustice, I will also do that for myself.

Entry 59: Dear Allies, What can you learn from #AmyCooper?

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Dear Allies,

What can you learn from #AmyCooper?

While watching the video of white #AmyCooper calling the police on Black #ChristianCooper, who did you relate to in the scenario?   Did you feel an urge to protect Amy or to find explanations for her emotions?   Pay attention to whatever it was you felt, because that is an opening for you to do the **internal** work of anti-racism.  That internal work is a **pre-requisite** to serving as an ally. 

Without doing self-examination, there is a chance you can do more harm to Black people.  All people in the dominant culture have done harm, whether you are aware of it or not.  The question is, are you open to learning about how to reduce the harm?  If yes, keep reading.  If you’re unable to right now, come back and finish reading at another time.

i believe Amy felt scared and threatened.  But why did she initially feel threatened and why did she become increasingly more distressed, when Christian did not move any closer to her throughout the time she was on the phone?  “There is a man, African American, he has a bike helmet.  He is recording me and threatening me and my dog….  [under more duress] I’m being threatened in the Ramble! Please send a cop immediately!”  

As a woman in a male dominated society, it is very possible that she may have had an experience where she, or someone she knew, was physically harmed by a man.  That could certainly trigger a threat response (fight, flight, freeze) in Amy.

But she also mentioned that the man threatening her was African American.  That piece of information was unnecessary and gives us a clue into her subconscious.  

i think somewhere in her subconscious, she has associations of Black men harming white women.  Those associations are planted throughout our TV shows and movies, news, and history books.  This is her #unconsciousbias playing out.  With that unconscious conditioning, her stress reaction is not surprising. 

So, what could help Amy bring the unconscious into consciousness?  Maybe she could read the history of #EmmettTill, a 14-year old Black boy who was accused of grabbing and menacing 21-year old Carolyn Bryant, a white grocery store worker in 1955.  Carolyn’s husband and brother-in-law kidnapped Emmett, then beat him and drowned him in a river.  When he was found, his face was unrecognizable.  An all-white jury found them not guilty.  Ten years later, the men publicly admitted they committed the murder.  Decades later, the woman admitted to exaggerating the claims. 

Amy’s unexamined bias turned itself into a weapon, as she played the role of a white damsel in distress.  White men also play a role in that narrative – to protect and avenge the honor of ‘their’ white women- just as Carolyn’s family did when justifying to themselves that they could murder a 14-year old child in 1955. 

Let’s play out the scenario with Amy and Christian: imagine the police show up.  Imagine they are white. Imagine they see a damsel in distress, and their own unexamined bias triggers them to action.  Amy’s #weaponizedwhiteness could have caused harm or death to a Black man who was birdwatching in broad daylight.  I am utterly grateful this showdown did not occur that day.   

I believe most of us don’t want to cause harm.  But it can happen, unless we are willing to make the unconscious conscious by learning the history, and reflecting on our reactions.  This can help override #unexaminedbias.

If you want more on #weaponizingwhiteness, watch Episode 1 of #WhenTheySeeUs, directed by #AvaDuvernay on #Netflix.  Reflect on how #LindaFairstein weaponizes her position of power in this true story (that also occurred in Central Park).

If you want a brave space to examine your unconscious, DM me.  I can help you become a #consciouswhiteally.

With fierce love,

Monica

#blacklivesmatter