The Black Lives Matter movement aims to put the resilience of the most traumatized at the forefront. In order for us all to thrive, Black lives must be valued systemically. This piece is intended for white people who would like help understanding why, in order for all lives to matter, Black lives must be centered and white people must become aware of the racist system we operate in (and, consciously or unconscously, we believe in and perpetuate). That awareness of the system, and of one's complicity in it, is a step toward envisioning and creating the world we thought we'd been living in all along (spoiler alert: we haven't).
Black children are expelled at five times the rate of white children; Black preschoolers are more likely to be suspended than whites; Black incarceration rates are nearly six times the rate of whites. And, like Patrisse Cullors of the Black Lives Matter movement says, "You can't policy your racism away." Structural inequality is based on racism, and racism leads to trauma, and trauma is dangerous to our health. Black lives must matter in policy, in community, in access, and in resources- in the structural development of this country. In order for all lives to matter and all people to have value, Black lives must matter, too. (As therapists like to say- it's not "either/or", it's "both/and.")
Here is a recording from On Being, a podcast hosted by Krista Tippett. If you can download the unedited version, I recommend that- there are passages from Dr. Ross that speak to trauma, including: Data that shows your longevity can be determined by your zip code.
Here are some takeaways:
"Black Lives Matter is a rehumanizing project. We’ve lived in a place that has literally allowed for us to believe and center only black death. We’ve forgotten how to imagine black life. Literally whole human beings have been rendered to die prematurely, rendered to be sick, and we’ve allowed for that. Our imagination has only allowed for us to understand black people as a dying people. We have to change that. That’s our collective imagination, someone imagined handcuffs, someone imagined guns, someone imagined a jail cell. Well, how do we imagine something different that actually centers black people, that sees them in the future. Let’s imagine something different." - Patrisse Cullors
If you are a white person, once you've become aware that there is injustice in the system, what can you do? Build community of other aware white folks and talk about ways of imagining life as something different than the injustice we see, beyond what we take for granted in front of us, and to enhance a vision for a more interconnected world. Try psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is about growing the capacity to imagine your life as something different, undo trauma that keeps us afraid, and grow the way we participate in and connect with community. Psychotherapy can help you unpack your terror and anxiety about racism, privilege, trauma, injustice, and the unconscious perpetuation of a system that values some lives above others. This society promotes and is set up to support these things, so some white people do benefit from this inequality. (I will address intersectionality in a later post.) It takes deep work to understand your own history, and repair yourself so that you can interrupt the system, and create your future choices into something different than your history.
Psychotherapy and community building and connection can help to create opportunities outside the system and status quo. These forms of healing can also help you recognize toxic patterns that really don't work for you anymore-- and give you a chance to make a real choice about how you want to be alive in the world. They can also help you really understand the power you have to change.
"In the last year and a half, from the black community in and of itself, as we say “black lives matter,” you see the light that comes inside of people to other communities that are like, I’m going to stand on the side of black lives. You see people literally transforming. And that’s a different type of work. And for me, that is a spiritual work. It’s a healing work and we don’t have it codified. There’s no science to it. Really, it’s — we are social creatures. Human to human, if you take a moment to be with somebody, to understand the pains they’re going through, you get to transform yourself." - Patrisse Cullors