My fragile ego is telling me not to publish this piece. Thats a very good indicator that in fact, I should.This post therefore comes with a **TRIGGER WARNING**IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT YOU’RE RACIST
OK hear me out. I don’t usually chime in on such highly charged topics but it feels important to share some reflections borne out of my personal experience, and offer a perspective on healing the situation we find ourselves at the centre of. I am a white woman. This is pretty obvious. I didn’t realise what privilege was or how racist I was until a few years ago.
A bit of background
I grew up in a predominantly white countryside area of the UK, where the only non white people were those that owned the Indian or Chinese restaurants. I’m not joking. This was the reality. There were maybe one or two black people that I can remember. My cousin by marriage was from the Seychelles which was extremely unusual. That’s the summary of the racial diversity in my little town.
We normalise what we grow up with. The world around us reflects images to us and we begin to construct our reality tunnel from there (and beyond but I’ll get to that in a minute). So I grew up a white girl in a mainly white town. It shaped my view of the world.
Despite the lack of diversity, I’ve always considered myself an open minded and non judgemental person. I’ve travelled the globe engaging different cultures and experiences. I was always curious about the nuance of different lands and the local people. How we are so similar and yet so different.
How we are, well, all human.
The beauty and beast of Brazil
However when I decided to move to Brazil in 2015 I saw a different picture. Divides between rich and poor. Judgement and jokes based on colour - even between races and black on black discrimination.
As a white politically dominated country, Brazil was a complete paradox, as over 50% of the population were people of colour and yet were not represented in the government system. In essence Brazil is a multi-racial country ruled by white people. And those in power want to keep it that way. Hence a poor education system, healthcare only for those who can afford it, high use of toxic pesticides and poor nutrition. Shanty towns and slums are the mainstay for the masses and are populated by people of colour. Meanwhile the posh neighbourhoods are full of those with lighter skin tones.
More often than not, these neighbourhoods sit side by side and the tension and unease is palpable. An undercurrent of fear and mistrust persists. If you want to see the gaping fractures, inequality and deep trauma that resides post slavery - Brazil holds up a distressing and ugly mirror. It was one of the last countries in the western world to abolish slavery in 1888 and in some sense very little has changed.
Whilst freedom has created some opportunity, it has simultaneously thrown the already fragmented population into the abyss. Rather than a convergence of values and solutions, there is a further divergence as the population increases and greater levels of inequality follow. The current system built on rotten foundations is not fit for purpose.
Exploring my own judgements
And yet ironically, in this chaotic and divided place, I found solace. A country and culture so different to my own imparted to me the opportunity to explore in greater depth the issue of race and my own internalised judgements that I was unaware of until that point.
You may not know this but whiteness is celebrated and coveted in Brazil. I had my fair share of attention about my looks and the colour of my skin (a white blonde woman). It didn’t take long before I realised that I was pretty much the warped stereotype of beauty that has been idolised by the nation. A predominantly coloured nation. The irony.
Whilst Brazilians are attracted to whiteness, the rest of the world is fixated on the typical stereotype of Brazilian beauty - big booty, sun kissed melanin skin, juicy lips and teeny tiny bikinis. What the world appreciates about Brazilian beauty, Brazil does not appreciate in itself. If anything, it is the opposite. It’s a confusing state of affairs. During my few years in this cultural melting pot I developed a much deeper awareness of my internalised prejudices and judgments.
Digging for the truth
It sounds strange to say and I’m embarrassed to share, but at some level I had a fear of black men, and yet an attraction at the same time. As much as I could without judgment, I delved deeper into this inquiry and it became apparent that this was deep conditioning playing out. Some part within me felt this was dangerous, not allowed, dirty, and shameful. There was also deep fear, repulsion and disgust active within me.
At the time I had no idea where this was coming from. I’d never experienced any negative interaction with a person of colour. [Sidenote: I’ve had lovers, friends and family that are people of colour]. It didn’t have any context. Yet the more I dug the more I found. Random thoughts would enter my head about racial stereotypes and I’d notice that they weren’t actually what I believed, although they were THERE. What was going on?
I believe that during this time I was digging into my ancestral trauma and conditioning. These ingrained thoughts or patterns were not the direct result of this lifetime. Perhaps it was responsible for some, but not all of this. No. I instinctively knew it was my heritage. All the people that had come to live before me.
The way I see it - being a white person - it is highly likely that someone in my family line was involved in these harmful cultural and systemic practices. And probably not just one generation, but many. Control, manipulation, violence and oppression of different races has been happening in various forms for millennia. If you think your ancestors weren’t involved at some point you are ignorantly mistaken. Regardless of skin tone, culture or race, your family line has been touched by our tumultuous history in some way.
And this in part, is why it’s not your fault that you’re racist. When seen from this perspective, there is an opening for understanding and change.
You, like me, were born into a system that was already active for hundreds if not thousands of years. And whether you like it or not, your DNA is a cocktail of all your ancestral heritage, condensed into one human form - YOU. Our bodies carry the past. Epigenetics says so.
Science says so.
Read this article to understand more: https://www.bbc.com/fu…/article/20190326-what-is-epigenetics
The science of our beliefs
In the same way that DNA carries genetic information, I believe it also carries the beliefs, traumas, conditioning of the previous generations. When I say it’s not your fault you’re racist, this is NOT intended to give you permission to do nothing about it. To the contrary, it’s a call to action. [There is ZERO justification for the mistreatment and abuse of other human beings.]
This is where the uncomfortable work begins, and perhaps why I haven’t openly spoken much on this topic. It’s uncomfortable, unknown and painful. It has however been the subject of my own personal reflection and inquiry and I hope that in sharing my experience it shines a light in the direction of hope and unity.
When we recognise that we have the opportunity to analyse and unpick some of our prejudices with curiosity and an open mind, versus shame and guilt, a new pathway opens up. This is the pathway of healing. Collective and individual healing are taking place, despite what things look like on the outside. Hundreds of years of emotion, trauma, bias, discrimination are rising to the surface. Whilst it might be easier to look away, my invitation is to begin to face it head on.
Time to be open and honest
Where you judge others you also judge yourself. Much of the internal criticism comes from a place of ignorance or arrogance. Switching to a place of open dialogue and genuine curiosity allows us to begin to touch on the places that scare us. Just because they scare us doesn’t mean we should shy away. Just because our judgments are there doesn’t mean we need to feel ashamed or bad.
What you press down on will eventually come out sideways. As is evident right now.
You may come to this work in your own time. The path will open when we are ready for the truth. These are just a few thoughts from my personal experience. I don’t have the answers for the larger problems we are facing. What I do know however, is that we can take responsibility for our own little piece of reality, and make it as clean and judgment free zone as possible. Both for ourselves, our families and society at large.
After all we are one race. The human race. With all our faults and foibles. We are real, raw and sometimes misguided. We make mistakes, we get it wrong. Courage is the ability to get up again even when you fail.
Keep coming to the edges of your discomfort and see what lies there. Only in doing so will you open your mind and heart and wider to the transformation that is necessary for the conscious evolution of humanity.
Breathe the change you wish to see in the world.