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“As part of my commitment to get uncomfortable in the fight against racism, I want to start right here.”
These were the words I typed into our community Facebook group this week, knowing that what I was about to write would fail. That in opening this conversation I would inevitably make ignorant, inexcusable mistakes.
But I’m serious in this commitment: I really want to know how to become anti-racist. And, even though I know I’ll get it wrong, my feelings aren’t what’s important here. It’s time to get uncomfortable and open up this discussion – so that we can make our community a truly diverse one.
The power of community – and the conversation we’re missing
Our Facebook group contains almost seven thousand women. And as we train, connect and inspire sisters around the globe I’m endlessly inspired by what we can achieve when women come together. With the impact so many of our grassroots leaders are having in their communities, organisations and families.
But the elephant in our room is race. And white privilege.
We talk about change a lot here at One of many. But we hardly ever talk about race.
And it’s not hard to know why.
Because it’s damn uncomfortable.
We have a huge community of women from many walks of life and from many ethnic backgrounds.
We also have a strong commitment to solidarity.
And yet, for so many white women, our privilege is such a tender, painful and awkward topic to address that we hardly know where to begin. It’s far easier just to stay silent.
Meaning that those who are left to think, talk and take action when it comes to discrimination and oppression, are all too often the women are the victims of it.
While those of us who benefit from that inequality – not by choice, but by the societies in which we live – are the ones who have the luxury of choosing to switch off from it.
Because it’s “too much”.
Can you see how messed up that is?
Soft Power and the fight for justice
Here at One of many we’re guided by the 5 women’s PowerTypes. The archetypes who can help us embrace and learn from even the hardest challenges.
Mother who can listen and love unconditionally… seeking to understand.
Warrioress who can fight for injustice and harness her anger as a rallying cry.
Queen who can see the horizon beyond it all and will do what’s right even if it’s unpopular.
Lover who can take care of herself in the face of it all.
And Sorceress who can work with faith in Source, life, the universe… that knows we are all interconnected.
So what can we do?
With that in mind… and from that place of Soft Power I want to explore racism. And white privilege.
In the past I had thought myself an ally, but the more I hear in recent days the less I feel that I do enough. I have started. I have conversations. I take some action. We’re actively working to make our coaching team and our office staff more diverse, for instance.
But it’s not enough.
Personally, I am becoming vividly aware that I don’t do enough. I don’t do enough to stop racism and bigotry in my wider family. I don’t do enough in our community of caring women where we could really learn and change things. It’s really, really hard for me to admit that. It feels really horrible.
But it’s not about my feelings, as a white woman. And these are things I intend to change.
If you are a white woman: listen, and take action.
Many women have shared some excellent resources in the community over the past days. If you haven’t already, read the posts, absorb the discussions, and be ready to approach our collective unlearning with humility.
And remember this, as we move forward: We won’t get this right.
None of us is perfect. We all are capable of deep care, love and understanding. And all of us capable of grief, anger and fury.
Racism cannot end with conversation alone.
But it must start here…
If you have have experienced racism and racial oppression – you don’t owe us anything.
I am immensely grateful to every one of you who stepped in to express your anger, heartbreak and frustration in our conversations this week. For your patience in educating those of us who are just starting out on this journey. I learned a lot, and I know I’m not alone. We owe you our respect, our attention, and our apologies. And I am sorry for the inevitable harm we will cause as we learn to do better.
Please, take care of yourselves, stay resourced, and step away from discussions when you need to preserve your energy.
Ultimately, this isn’t about me. There are courageous leaders in the anti-racism movement who have been fighting this fight for decades.
The last thing that movement needs is a white woman like me putting herself at the centre.
So I want to end this article with the words of just one of the women who showed up as leaders in our own community this week.
“You can choose to lead either by your active work to dismantle the paradigm or your complicit upholding of it. I would love you to lead with courage and vulnerability and the very possibility that you might do it wrong, that people might call you out, that you may have to feel emotions and reactions that you don’t want to feel.
Do this and it will embolden other white women in positions of power to do the same and perhaps even white men. This is your time to lead with full awareness as a woman with power and privilege.
Lead inclusively, learn, grow and don’t expect black women and people of colour to take on the burden of teaching, increasing your awareness and educating you for free. We and our ancestors have done enough free emotional and physical labour.
We can truly walk together when you show through your actions that you are really committed to change, when you have demonstrated that we are safe and valued as equals in your presence. Beyond tokenism and platitudes. There has been enough of that already particularly in the field of personal development. “ –Monica Douglas
I encourage you to go over to the BeOne group and read through the conversation happening there in response to my post – paying particular attention to the voices of the women who responded so passionately from their own lived experience. Let their words inform and inspire your action.
We all have our spheres of influence. It’s time for all of us to do as much as we can.
More than a social media post; more than reading a book.
My deep hope is that by using the principles of Soft Power, we can create the change the world needs to build a world that’s truly equal for all of us.
How can you be part of that change today?