Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do I Hate You?

As I heal my own racial wounds and internalized racism, I seem to be attracting white people bringing up issues of race with me. It may be that they feel safer with me, a petite Asian woman/yoga teacher/poet, than, for instance, a pissed-off militant black man or woman. Or it may be I am the only person of color they know well enough to bring up risky topics, and besides, Asians are “honorary white people,” right?

Often these discussions become impassioned. After all, a beast like global white supremacy won’t budge without a little …. feeling.

All too often, as the conversation progresses, my white friend becomes uncomfortable. They claim I am shouting, that my anger is coming from nowhere, that I vibrate hatred, that I hate white people, and specifically, I hate them.

I know from anger. Not only are Koreans expressive, passionate people, but I’m a fire sign, pitta dosha, and as the baby of my family, the bearer of the emotional baggage. I was a rageful child and had temper tantrums well into my grade school years, driving my parents crazy.

As a teenager and young adult I learned to channel my vague sense of rage into art, dance, music, writing, activism, spirituality, and more. I learned that my anger was larger than my personal wounds and unmet needs, but also cultural and intergenerational. As an adult I began to understand my anger in the context of deep injustice in a capitalist, patriarchal white supremacy.

Despite my hours of meditation and yoga asana practice each week, it’s still all too easy to marinate in anger if I am not channeling that energy consciously into constructive projects. One foray into a racist, sexist mainstream media can set me off, or any number of other prompts.

As for hatred, probably like many of you, I like to think I bear hatred toward none. While I certainly have favorite folks to hang out with, and others I choose not to, I don’t feel enmity toward anyone. Even when I picture someone who has committed serious harm to me or others, I don’t feel hatred. I feel compassion for their suffering or lack of knowledge that has led them to harm others.

Do white friends and acquaintances wanting to talk about race prompt my rage and hatred? Certainly the injustice and oppression wrought by white supremacy should not be tolerated. Maybe the more constructive question is: why aren’t more white people equally outraged about the system of global white supremacy? Yes, even when I don’t hate the perpetrator of racism, there are times when I hate the racism that runs this nation and the world. Then my equanimity training kicks in and I realize that we attract what we resist, and fanning the flames of aversion only keeps me trapped.

So all of this comes up as I discuss race in impassioned conversations with white friends, when they stop and back off because I Am Shouting and Raging and I Hate Them.

I discussed this phenomenon with an older white friend. She attributed it to white people clinging to their privilege when they feel their status being threatened. “White people aren’t used to seeing people of color as their equals,” she admitted. So they may see an assertive, passionate person of color as aggressive, threatening, angry, and hateful, when maybe, I’m “just sayin’…..” Just speaking my truth clearly and directly, that’s all.

Dear White Friend,
Are you my ally? Do you really want to dismantle racism/white supremacy, or are you trying to convert me to your point of view, get me to salve your wounds, or flash your anti-racist resume to win points from a person of color?

What are you passionate about? What do you raise your voice over? Or were you brought up to keep strong feelings suppressed? Can you experience strong feelings or disagreement without hating? Haven’t you had an impassioned conversation with a teenage child or other family member that, even though voices may have been raised, was not hateful or rageful?

I do not hate you. What a waste of energy that would be. I hate the actions of white supremacy that oppress and exploit. Don’t you feel the same way, and if so, why aren’t you expressing it? After all, white people need to take responsibility for dismantling white supremacy.

For God’s sake, don’t be afraid of me. Walk side by side with me. Join me in the sacred battle of eliminating oppression and exploitation on every level. Confront your own anger so you don’t interpret every feeling I have as rage or hate. Do your own inner work so you are not threatened by strong feelings, and you feel your own feelings. Do your own research so you don’t expect me to educate you. Meet me halfway at least, so you’re not coming to me at the Racism 100 level when the rest of us are at the 700 level and ABD.

Most of all, stop taking stuff personally. What a God-awful distraction and waste of time.

Of course we’re pissed off: if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention. But nobody’s hating on anybody. We’re too busy for that. Let’s get to work.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

On Offending White People

Like many other persons of color, I was raised to protect white people. Unwitting participants in white supremacy, my parents were determined to uplift their children by making sure we got our fair share. My immigrant parents could see no future for us that did not include excelling within the economic, political, educational, cultural system already in place, that of global white supremacy. This meant we internalized a sense of inferiority, so that we stayed submissive, respectful, quiet, and never offensive.

Now that I have awakened to this habit of thought and behavior passed on through generations, I have the responsibility of dismantling it. I have to catch myself every time I am tempted to please and protect white people, recognizing that the system of white supremacy hurts absolutely everyone, including white people. Instead of stifling my truth and making myself sick, as I have done for most of my adult life, I am finally learning, at age 48, to live and speak my truth, and stop unconsciously complying with systems of oppression. This means that I may offend white people.

White supremacy hurts everyone. People of color experience this harm daily, through the media and through microaggressions, which may marginalize them, exoticize them, objectify them, and reinforce a sense of inferiority and shame. The problem is white people can stay immune to the harm of white supremacy. After all they are on top. White people can be unconscious of the pain of white supremacy until it is pointed out to them. That is, until they are hurt or offended by a person of color.

Would-be white allies, take note:
If I offend you, I am compelling you to experience the harm of white supremacy, which hurts both white people and people of color. If something I say hurts you, it’s because you are awakening to the pain that white supremacy causes, the pain that has always been there, like the water table under the earth’s surface. While people of color live with this pain, you have been largely protected.

I will not protect you from feeling the pain of white supremacy, for white people will never dismantle the system of white supremacy without feeling this pain. I will not even protect my own children from experiencing the pain of white supremacy. Unless we all awaken to the suffering and harm created by this system we will be silently compliant. White people comply by upholding or resigning themselves to the status quo. People of color comply by internalizing a sense of inferiority and shame that compels them to protect and please white people, and support the status quo.

I will not apologize for offending you. Instead, I welcome you to our club. You have been awakened to the pain of white supremacy. Now what will you do with this awakening?