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Posted on May 2, 2018

IMPORTANT!

  1. This is a long read intended for “spiritual white women” as the primary audience. It describes the “long way to go” I and other white women have ahead of us if we are truly going to “get it” and be allies to women of color – especially for those of us who consider ourselves spiritual or are in positions of “spiritual leadership.” I know it’s a lot to ask to take up time out of your day to read something this lengthy when there is so much else going on; consider this: Women of color are spending countless unpaid hours of emotional labor, writing, sharing, and educating about this topic. This has been going on for decades, centuries. Surely we can carve out the time for an issue we know in our hearts is important to us?
  2. If you don’t already know: “WOC” means “women of color” and “BIPOC” means “black, indigenous, and people of color.”
  3. Many ideas I share in this piece are not ideas that I came up with, so I want to make sure it’s clear that I am not claiming to be the great philosopher behind these learnings. At the end of this piece, you will find links to the women who I have been learning from on their public and paid sites/programs. They are far more articulate than I but many are becoming utterly exhausted from trying to educate white women and have understandably chosen to reframe their work, emotional energy, and time around lifting up WOC. My reason for writing this piece is in the witnessing of that and in the knowing that many white women I know are likely not exposed to a diverse set of voices, unfortunately, so they may need to exposed to what I put forth in this pieces unless it comes from a white woman they already know. So I am attempting to pick up a baton on the conversation and urge us to keep learning in the hopes you will follow them and pay them to keep learning.
  4. Also: I have a long way to go. I know that.
  5. In this piece, I reference a recent spiritual summit that was going to take place as one of the central anchors of context – because this is the context in which I have woken up to my privilege. My intention is not to attack the women involved. It could have just as easily been me in their shoes. We need to blow this thing wide, wide open if we are going to make any progress. To me, this has all been a learning experience primarily within myself. I reference this summit with the highest good of all in my heart, and in the faith the women involved are also on a path of learning and change.
My Priestess Credo

I am a priestess. I have been training for 15+ years. And I have determined that this word “priestess” truly embodies for me how I am choosing to show up in the world, or at least challenge myself to show up in the world more and more each day. What does this mean?

  1. I choose love, and I choose to transmute my own wounds back into love, that I may “be” love in the world. This means diving into the depths of my own shadow. Over and over again.
  2. I choose compassion, and I choose to see the good in myself and in others through the eyes of empathy, forgiveness, and potentiality.
  3. I choose humility, and I steer clear of spiritual superiority, spiritual celebrity, and other forms of ego-driven patterns and behaviors.
  4. I am in service, and I choose to walk in service of the world for the highest good of all.
  5. I am committed to lifelong learning, choosing to stay in beginner’s mind with an open heart to new perspectives, traditions, and teachings.
  6. I facilitate healing and self-empowerment, using ancient wisdom, sacred tools, and spiritual technologies to help others heal themselves of the wounds that keep them apart from love and their highest selves.
  7. I witness and honor all people, using keen discernment which is heart-felt and in the highest good of all.
  8. I hold space for sisterhood, that we may all remember our power in union, and hold each other in love, respect and support.
  9. I treat my body as a temple, and commit myself first to the spiritual practices that keep my mind and body healthy that I may stay in alignment with all of the above. I prioritize self-care.

Sometimes I fail, but these are my guide posts. Sound reasonable enough?

These principles are utter bullshit if spouted and lived within the realm of oppression.

HEAR ME NOW: If you read that last sentence and your reaction was “Well, of course it’s bullshit if it’s in the realm of oppression. Good thing (you or I) are not oppressive!” – you really should consider reading on.

Oppression Is Not What I Thought It Was

Why am I suddenly so interested in social justice? You may know that I have recently “come out” as a priestess but what’s up with all this “social justice stuff”? Allow me to explain:

There was a spiritual summit that was scheduled to occur a couple months ago. The summit organizers ended up canceling the event when women of color and their allies voiced up on social media that the summit was oppressive in its lack of inclusion of seemingly any women of color in a 20+ person panel. Social media posts began to gain traction as more people of color and their allies began to express their outrage at both the summit organizers and those involved (panel interviewees) in the summit for their ignorance and oppression.

How I came across all of this was that a WOC on my FB friend list tagged me in a post linking to the summit, which I had apparently “liked” on Facebook – She asked those of us on her friends’ list who had “liked” the summit page to re-evaluate our support of the summit in light of the all-white or all white presenting panel. I then began to follow the social media activity very, very closely over a period of nearly a week until the summit was canceled (and after). Here is what I learned about myself and how my reality began to unravel and why I am “suddenly so interested” in social justice.

Self-Image and Image Preservation
  • Observation/What Happened: When I was tagged in the post, my initial reaction was “Ugh, she posted me in this … and if this shows up in my feed, people on my friends list are going to think I’ve done something racist. How can I make this go away?”
  • Underlying Encodings of Privilege/What It Says About Me/Us: “As a primary reaction above all else, I must ensure I protect my image as “not racist”. Even when compelling evidence is presented to me, I must first ensure all conversation and activity occurs with the context of me preserving my self-image and image of not being racist. Only from that place can I become engaged in the conversation.”
  • Blind Spots/What I Learned: This is a typical white reaction that BIPOC are used to seeing. It is widely known and understood in the BIPOC community that this is a most typical, unproductive, and hurtful blind spot.
Oppression
  • Observation/What Happened: After processing the fear of being seen as racist – and continuing to track the dialogue on the social media – I realized I needed to look beyond my own ego’s knee jerk reaction, so I started to look more deeply at what was being asked. So, I thought: “Wow, yes, this is truly a good point – this summit is not inclusive. But several of my mentors are on the panel of this summit, and I know them and adore them – and this just as easily could have been me — and I know they are good people. We are good people trying to good in the world. This was definitely an oversight but does that mean it was an action of oppression? Gee, I mean oppression sounds so …”
  • Underlying Encodings of Privilege/What It Says About Me/Us:
    • “The default state for myself and the white people I associate with is and should be goodness. Good intentions are enough, when we make mistakes around inclusion. We can and will do better, but we started at good to begin with.”
    • “Reserve the word oppression for history books – you know, bad stuff that happened leading up to the 1960’s revolution, and bad stuff the KKK does, and bad stuff that happens in the south by bad white people.”
  • Blind Spots/What I Learned
    • I’ve been conditioned to be so overly confident in the definition of “oppression” that it has literally not even been a possibility within my mental construct to question that I or most white people I know would be oppressive. Again, this white blind spot is widely known and seen in the BIPOC community.
    • Good intentions are no excuse for oppression. If inclusion is not happening naturally (instead of as tokenism) in my life, then it is by default oppressive, i.e. if I organize a collaborative endeavor and am drawing from my circle of acquaintances, friends, sisters, students, teachers, and mentors – and they are all or mostly white – I have created an oppressive environment, especially as a spiritual being or spiritual leader. The work is on me to broaden my circle of friends/teachers/mentors/students into a more diverse universe, from the authentic desire to want to connect with and learn from BIPOC.
    • Further, if I participate in or attend events/workshops/retreats/trainings/summits/collaborations that are not intentionally diverse, I am by default supporting oppression. There is no way to be a “passive supporter” or “passive ally”.
Violence
  • Observation/What Happened: I was starting to “get it” on what oppression really is. Then I saw someone use the word “violence”… that oppression is violence. I thought, “Oppression – yes, maybe I have inadvertently participated in that; violence – no. Let me just go look up violence on Google to prove myself right, here…”
  • Underlying Encodings of Privilege/What It Says About Me/Us:
    • “There is literally no way under any circumstances that I or any white person I respect has been or is violent toward people of color. Not possible.”
    • “Violence means hanging, burning, beating, punching, torturing, slapping, and otherwise inhumane treatment.”
  • Blind Spots/What I Learned:
    • Guess what!? Here’s one of the standard definitions of violence: “strength of emotion or an unpleasant or destructive natural force”.  And here’s where it all started to crumble for me… Lack of intentional diversity is oppressive; oppression is a destructive force; a destructive force is violent.
    • This crumbling of what I thought I knew is an aspect of “dismantling.” Dismantling certainly means other things on a social level, but on the personal level where the mental framework of “how things are” begins to crumble, it truly is a dismantling of encoded privilege.
Appropriation
  • Observation/What Happened: Additional conversation was raised about how white women appropriate tools and traditions from other cultures. In many cases, we lack our own culture and we are starved for culture, spiritual grounding, sisterhood, belonging … and we are very proud of ourselves for being spiritually “woke” – for being seekers who are interested in and committed to learning about global spiritual traditions.
  • Underlying Encodings of Privilege/What It Says About Me/Us: The underlying belief system here is one of entitlement and deservingness – “I am permitted to swoop in, colonize, take/cherry pick whatever I want from any culture … then do as I wish with it including selling. Who’s going to stop me?”
  • Blind Spots/What I Learned:
    • I have a long way to go, here, in terms of unpacking my entitlement. I have studied many different traditions and am sitting with what is right in terms of honoring/appreciation and stealing/appropriation. To me, the line can feel so fine that I don’t where to draw it, which means I have a lot more work to do.
    • Many of us are going to have to do some major soul-searching and listening here in particular because this conversation is undoubtedly going to shift how we see ourselves in the world, the businesses we have built, the relationships we have formed, and what we are willing to “give up” in order to stand in alignment with our integrity.
White Fragility/Centering
  • Observation/What Happened: It follows that after reading, listening and learning about all of the above … what I experienced next was “Oh.my.god. What have I been doing? What have I done?” I looked at my web site. I looked at a piece I’ve been writing. Training programs I’m in. I have been looking at my whole life. My friendships. My social media circle. My privilege has defined everything I have done, said, or suggested I stand for. I have become confused, sad and angry, and am still sitting with the shock, horror and guilt of it all. I have seen other white women like me posting heart-felt apologies on social media about their pain … videos and pictures of themselves in tears. I get it.
  • Underlying Encodings of Privilege/What It Says About Me/Us:
    • “My guilt and pain in my awakening to my privilege are the stars of the show.”
  • Blind Spots/What I Learned: We might be in shock and awe about how our privilege has played out or how we have been blindly oppressive or violent, but BIPOC are not. This is business as usual for them. We feel blind-sided by the realization that, holy crap, am I oppressive? And we become emotionally fragile. Of course, our process of emotionally processing this dismantling and awakening is a significant one and requires a lot of attention; however does that process need to be centralized in public forums dedicated to conversations on privilege and oppression? This re-directs the core conversation back to white feelings, white perspective, white emotional processing.
Perceived Aggression and Blind Micro-Aggressions
  • Observation/What Happened: In the spiritual community, when we feel “attacked” (usually as soon as the words “oppressive” or “racism” are used) by “aggressive” BIPOC, we tend to default to:
    • “As spiritual beings and in sisterhood, this conversation should be held in light and love and forgiveness.”
    • ‘“I don’t believe in color. I’m color blind. The more we talk about our separation, the more divisive we become. We need to focus on unity and healing.”
    • “I don’t believe in shaming, blaming or attacking. Shaming and blaming are for people who judge, and I don’t judge. Attacking is wrong, no matter what.”
    • “I don’t engage in anger and rage. Change can’t come from a place of rage. We have to operate from a place of love.”
    • “Trauma is trauma. As a white women, I have experienced more trauma than anyone I know. I choose to treat all trauma with the same love and attention.”
  • Underlying Encodings of Privilege/What It Says About Me/Us: “My spiritual wisdom trumps the actual, lived experiences of everyone else – for hundreds/thousands of years.”
  • Blind Spots/What I Learned: Oppressive aggression comes in the following forms:
    • White-Centering and Spiritual Bypassing: Forceful focusing on love, light, and color-blindness completely detracts from the reality that BIPOC have had to endure for centuries
    • Tone-policing: “I don’t appreciate the tone in which you are communicating your concerns.” (Result: redirection, deflection and white centering.) It is not our job to inform the oppressed/marginalized of what emotional tone they should use to express their opinions and feelings on oppression.
    • Concern-trolling: “I’m concerned that if {insert how I would rather see things play out, from my view, as a white person…}, then the following outcome will not occur.” (Result: silencing and white centering) It is not our job to condescendingly project manage how the oppressed/marginalized communicate with us, framed around our “concerns”.
Priestess Credo Revisited

Given these learnings, I’ve taken another look at my priestess credo. Here are the implications:

  1.  I choose love, and I choose to transmute my own wounds back into love, that I may “be” love in the world. This means diving into the depths of my own shadow. Over and over again. <<“My shadow work” needs to truly be my shadow work, including this massive shadow around unpacking and dismantling my internalized racism and colonizing mindset. Otherwise, it’s not really doing complete shadow work. And I cannot walk as love.>>
  1. I choose compassion, and I choose to see the good in myself and in others through the eyes of empathy, forgiveness, and potentiality. << I can and should continue to have compassion for myself while exploring and transmuting my own guilt/shame; I will not center my own emotional processing into the conversation around white privilege and oppression. / I will not turn a blind eye to oppressive behaviors in the name of being “spiritually compassionate.” >>
  1. I choose humility, and I steer clear of spiritual superiority, spiritual celebrity, and other forms of ego-driven patterns and behaviors. <<  If I am called out or in for my own missteps, I will own them. >>
  1. I am in service, and I choose to walk in service of the world for the highest good of all. <<These words cannot be empty. If I’m saying “all,” I need to mean “all” and make choices that reflect this.>>
  1. I am committed to lifelong learning, choosing to stay in beginner’s mind with an open heart to new perspectives, traditions, and teachings. <<I need to learn from a diverse set of teachers and mentors, and actively seek out (pay for) education on social justice and spiritual leadership from BIPOC.>>
  1. I facilitate healing and self-empowerment, using ancient wisdom, sacred tools, and spiritual technologies to help others heal themselves of the wounds that keep them apart from love and their highest selves. <<I will pay my respects to traditions that are not mine to “own,” without appropriation.>>
  1. I witness and honor all people, using keen discernment which is heart-felt and in the highest good of all. <<I must continue to discern when and how I should step in and up, without fear, in order to voice myself in aim toward ally’s hip with BIPOC.>>
  1. I hold space for sisterhood, that we may all remember our power in union, and hold each other in love, respect and support. <<I will actively seek out and create a diverse sisterhood (in person and online).>>
  1. I treat my body as a temple, and commit myself first to the spiritual practices that keep my mind and body healthy that I may stay in alignment with all of the above. I prioritize self-care.

You see, there is no way to separate spiritual leadership from social justice.

My Fierce Love Promise for Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression

I vow to:

  • Promote morality + spirituality; use my voice to speak up against spiritual superiority, spiritual bypassing, and new age oppression.
  • Pause, listen, learn from and develop authentic relationships with black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC); lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual community; and disabled people (herein referred to as “diverse people”)
  • Invest my time, energy, presence, and financial resources into and towards supporting diverse spaces and diverse people in my everyday life (shopping, socializing, entertainment)
  • Invest my time, energy, presence and financial resources into and towards supporting diverse leaders, speakers, authors and teachers for my personal and professional development
  • Facilitate and participate in groups, communities, projects and events that intentionally and organically include, feature, lift up, and are safe for diverse people to lead, share, and fully express
  • Own my learning process and invite being called out/in on any missteps with humility and receptivity (over self-image and/or public image preservation) in order to continue to evolve
  • Participate in ongoing education, self-reflection, and personal work to unpack and dismantle my internal racism, oppression, ableism, genderism and colonizing thinking and behavior
  • De-center myself, my feelings and my experiences particularly relative to conversations and relationships with BIPOC, LGBTQIAP and disabled people
  • Decolonize my ancestry: dig deeper into my own roots, unpack my longing for belonging, and walk the priestess path of compassion, personal evolution, and justice.
  • Receive permission from, honor, appreciate and compensate the people and cultures that I am learning from without appropriation. Learn in ways that are authentic to the teaching, as close to the source as possible.
  • Revise this list as I continue to learn and evolve
Resources

These are the amazing women of color I have started following / buying their books / looking into their writing and paid training. I hope you will join me!