For many of us striving to educate ourselves in social justice theories and branches of traumatology- especially those addressing and healing intergenerational trauma- Black History Month can exist as nothing other than the utmost call to action.
Something that grows increasingly apparent to me as a learner is this: we cannot continue to look at great injustices through our own narrow lenses; we must work widen the scopes of our lenses through doing our best to examine others’. I believe we may do this through practicing empathy and compassion, through active listening, and creating real conversation- discourse is often a core component of that.
When we acknowledge that something isn’t working, we can’t be complacent; and for those of us who wish to be agents of change in this world, we can’t allow ourselves to be complicit, either. I believe those of us who hold white privilege have a moral and social duty to insist better- of one another and of today’s society as a whole.
Here’s one big way I believe those of us with white privilege must start doing better RIGHT NOW: we must not call Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) problematic when they raise their voices and call out injustices they experience. We must not assume we understand. We simply cannot diminish lived experiences which we do not know and cannot ever. This is not to subscribe to a theory of moral isolationism, but rather something more akin to radical empathy.
I wish as a society we can work collectively to move towards a more trauma-aware language, one in which we never refer to the most marginalized people themselves as “problematic”, and we may be careful when we call any human being “toxic”. It is my most sincere hope that we will strive instead to honor and uphold the dignity of every human individual, especially those who experience more oppression than us so often simply because of the color of their skin; that we may instead work to address people’s behaviors, actions, and language while not hiding behind our own white fragility and discomfort.
I believe it’s important to recognize that many of us with white privilege won’t always be perfect allies, and we may falter greatly in our social responsibilities; that doesn’t mean we get to throw in the towel, give up, and walk away when we make mistakes (I know I have made plenty!). We were reared and continue to live among colonized communities that uphold and reinforce a white ideal, both explicitly and implicitly; we have all been deeply conditioned to reinforce this status quo. Let’s work on changing that.
If there’s one thing I can advocate most strongly for this Black History Month, it’s education. Truly, no matter where you are and where you come from, the color of your skin, your identity, or your ability, educate and re-educate yourself about how systemic oppression and trauma impact your life.
Learn about intergenerational trauma. Learn about social conditioning. Learn from people different from you in whatever capacity you can (the internet counts!). Check your privilege. Use your voice while still listening to those of others.
And learn to apologize, and to apologize meaningfully.
This is post is my small effort to try and do my part as an ally, advocate, and a student who is always trying to do better- but for some far wiser and more illuminating individuals to learn from, here are some great smaller instagram accounts to start with. The majority are run by people of color; some are also simply my absolute favorite trauma-informed accounts on instagram that always strive to include culturally informed, intergenerational trauma theory in their posts.
Some of these accounts I have followed for months, while others I have only uncovered within this past week; I so look forward to engaging with their content.
There are so very many more incredible individuals to learn from in this internet space, and there will inevitably be people to learn from in your life off social media. May we find them and may they fill us up with their teachings.
My husband found this lonely little plastic school chair all by itself underneath a tree while he was on a walk, recently. He had observed a certain strength about it, in its solitary state. It felt like it had a story, somehow. Most things that have been inside institutions do, after all; isn’t it funny how we can extend that logic even to the objects within them?
But I am not an object. I am a human being.
Far too often it has felt like I have had to clarify that fact for people around me. How I have great capacity to experience joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure- that I have an authority and a right to take up space in this world, too, as an equal to those who try and push me down- the people who have tried to make me feel less than. And who, at times, tricked me into believing that I was.
But I’m still here. I’m a survivor of this strange and miraculous world. And chances are, if you are reading this, so are you.
So perhaps that is why it felt so appropriate to sit upon that little chair, to be both distinct from it and in harmony with it; one object and one person, both still here, still existing- even if we’re both a little beaten up. This is me; I take up space and I refuse to apologize for it anymore. And it can be you, too.
I invite you, whomever you may be, to join me on the journey towards speaking freely and unapologetically in this world- recognizing our power and capacity as people to use our voices to help and not harm, to make a difference. What a miracle it is to be alive, one day at a time.
It is okay to be here.
Peace and Prosperity to All,