Last week, I watched a woman use her power as a white woman in a racist cultural structure to threaten a black man. She was irritated because he was calling her out about having her dog off-leash in a place in Central Park where dogs are supposed to be leashed.
He was birdwatching.
I watched a woman who looks like me use her whiteness as a weapon against a man who was birdwatching. She did it because she knew she could do it and she knew it was a weapon.
She knew she was endangering him.
Powerful, the weapon she used.
Powerful, the weapon because it has been used for the entire time this country has been in existence. Powerful, because it is the way this culture still exists and thrives.
Powerful, because the weapon she pulled out was the police. Powerful, because there is a good chance that the cop who would have arrived may have done to the birdwatcher what the cops have what has been done to so many people of color – women, trans, men, children, lgbtq. What the police officers did to Mr. Floyd – all four of them. Either be the one with the knee or be the one protecting the one with the knee.
Powerful, that one act of that one white woman to bring hundreds of years of violence onto one person of color because she was not getting her way.
Because you are here, you know what I do. I work with the power of dreaming to help people. Myself included. One of the ways that I believe dreams work with us is to break old stories that we carry inside of us about who we are and who we are not.
In all of my learning about dreams, my training, my own study, much of what I read and have read has a base assumption that these kinds of stories are easy to rise above or can be healed through trauma work. Once a dreamer does their “inner healing”, the dreamer can find their deepest, wildest, passionate self. And to manifest and live that life.
Most of the mainstream information about dreaming, and certainly what I learned from my teacher and the first places of study that I went to – Jung and some Freud – adhere to this kind of intellectualization.
It is powerful to act as if this process is simple – that the stories we carry inside of us can be overcome and that then we are free to live and manifest our lives to the fullest.
As if the structure of the world is made for that kind of possibility.
It is – for people who look like Jung, Freud, my teacher (a white man). For people who look like me. The cornerstones of the structure of western culture is built upon creating space for the dominant culture/race by oppressing and squeezing the life out of the “other.” Through direct violence and indirect violence.
I learned from “healer teachers” that if people could not overcome things in the world it was because they were still in their traumas, or that they did not want “the love”, or that they did not try hard enough.
It is the great lie of this culture. It is part of the violence, this kind of intellectualization.
It is violent because it turns the blame to the one being oppressed.
There are many places to read about the how of the building of this system in my country – rooted in slavery, grown through Jim Crow laws all the way to the use of mass incarceration to imprison and oppress people of color (I have some links at the end). Written by scholars of history (which I am not) and with great eloquence.
This system is also deeply embedded in many (most?) healing/psychological/spiritual traditions. This is a topic I am going to research and write more deeply about in the days to come.
But today, I am thinking about the power of the one white woman in the park. I have been thinking about her because I am a white woman, too, of Italian/Irish ancestory. And while my Italian grandparents suffered from prejudice and my Irish great-grandparents suffered from prejudice, there is no comparison to what people of color have experienced. They were still white.
I am thinking of that woman and the power she wielded.
I have been thinking of me and how I do not fully let myself wield the power that I, too, have. This is the way that the system keeps going – when people like me do not do all we can to fight. I have spent time educating myself – not enough. I have spent time talking with my kid about these issues. I have students I work with who I also work with around these issues.
But I am not deeply wielding the power I do have. Not feeling into the creative possibilities of how to work for the change I so deeply want.
I work with individuals toward personal freedom. I work with my dreamers to build discernment about their inner work and the reality of being in the outer world as it stands now.
And I feel – as I have been witness to the protests, witness to the brutality against protesters, witness to infiltrators of the protests to make the protests look out of control, witness the courage of those who are putting their lives and hearts and bodies in the fight for freedom – I feel and wonder how I can wield more deeply the power I do have.
Not against people who look different from me so that I can keep my world intact.
Instead, with people of all colors who believe in freedom. Instead, with people of all colors to protect people of color.
There are two pandemics in my country, in the world. One is a virus that attacks the lungs and body, depriving us of air, depriving us of breath. The other is much the same but is more deeply embedded in our bodies – how racism deprives all of us of breath, all of us of hope, all of us of air. This pandemic has been happening in this country ever since a European landed and stepped foot on this continent.
To fight one pandemic, I am staying at home as much as possible. I am wearing my mask when I shop. I am following all the guidelines of the CDC. I am working with dreamers and students with all that comes from being in this pandemic – from trauma triggers to working with financial and emotional challenges to finding inner strength and fortitude.
To fight the other pandemic, I have been doing some things – working with dreamers and students, raising consciousness, educating myself.
And realizing that I have a choice like that white woman in Central Park. A choice some of my fellow humans do not have because of the color of their skin.
And seeing how by not being as careful on a daily basis about the pandemic of racism as I am about the coronavirus pandemic, I am making a choice. I am standing with that woman in Central Park rather than against the system that gives her and me unwarranted power.
What I have learned and am still learning about change on the personal level through dreaming is that it not only takes time, but it takes attendance, intention, willingness. Willingness to see my blindspots, to call out the places where I am not aligned with all that I hold good/dear, to call out the places where my behaviours are destructive – either intentionally or unintentionally.
Willingness and also responsibility, too, to fully step into my own potency and power – both inner and outer – and to stand for, work for freedom.
It is the same for this kind of change that my country so urgently needs. To be part of the change that I so long for, the change that acknowledges the horror of our shared past and also brings about change so that we can all find what freedom is for each of us, I must attend to it daily. With intention. With love and fierceness. With humility. With regret that I have not done as much as I could have this so far.
With love and curiosity, too. Curiosity to discover the ways I can bring my power – both inner and how the culture gives me power (warranted or not) – to fight for freedom.
Resources – Non-Exhaustive
Help the Protesters – Go Here for Places to Donate:
Educate Yourself – Documentaries:
Educate Yourself – Things to Read: