Wednesday, May 16, 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.

7 comments:

Washington High School said...

Thank you Peggy for inviting white people to the ally table without politeness! There is much work to be done to dismantle white supremacy. Reconstructing egos (for example - helping white people feel more comfortable about the topic of race/white supremacy) is far less important than holding our humanity with integrity and authentically expressing outrage at systemic oppression. The way we express our care/humanity for each other is by allowing safe space for the impolite & often offensive discomfort of rage, pain, hurt and fear of people of color and white people. Depending on what phase we are in the healing process, these safe spaces can happen in caucus or in racially diverse groups.

The best we can do is bring ourselves to the table to do the work in community as allies or not. If you choose not to be at the table, don't ask those at the table to take time to make you feel better about your decision not to do this hard work. They are quite busy unearthing internalized oppression and dismantling white supremacy. Clearly there is a war (it's been going on for centuries) against people of color in this country & around the globe. As we engage and triage the wounds of ws/racism, and struggle to enact responses that don't add to the harm/inhumanity, we welcome allies to this process. Let's dispense with politeness and move toward authentic passionate expression that is congruent with the pain we are all in! If you can't do that, if your life demands attention to other priorities, then be blessed in that work and do what you need to do. Just know that when you bump into that people of color who is impassioned and intense about white supremacy/racism, it's not personal! Don't require that they do anything more than they are already doing to fight white supremacy/racism (i.e. recommend what YOU should do, books, blogs, workshops, etc. -- that you know you don't have time for or you'd be doing it already).

Just,polietly get out of the way, and be grateful for this journey we are all on toward a more just and humane world!

Yvette

peggy hong said...

y, love you for this! thanks for your impassioned wisdom. p

Unknown said...

Dear Peggy,

"The dignity of truth is lost with much protesting." -Ben Jonson.

The above quote came to mind when I read your intermittent declarations of serenity, laced throughout your angry accusations towards society. Perhaps you have inner, unresolved turmoil that leads you to project such upon the world around you? Please don't become so easily embittered by others, it is akin to swallowing poison in hopes that they may die--you only harm yourself and those who love and care for you. Do not dwell/meditate upon your perceived injustices, as you do more to perpetuate them than if you had not heeded them.

Sincerely,
Clint

peggy hong said...

hi clint, thanks for taking the time to comment.

"Perhaps you have inner, unresolved turmoil that leads you to project such upon the world around you?"

i most certainly do have inner unresolved turmoil about r/ws, as does every single conscious person of color i know. on one hand we want to be white and benefit from its privileges. on another hand we want to dismantle such an oppressive system. r/ws is a quantifiable reality that does not require me to project anything.

"Please don't become so easily embittered by others, it is akin to swallowing poison in hopes that they may die--you only harm yourself and those who love and care for you."

prison industrial complex, war on drugs, treatment of immigrants, failing schools, crushing poverty....these are the manifestations of r/ws. i cannot stop fighting against it. none of us can, if we have any hope of improving society.

"Do not dwell/meditate upon your perceived injustices, as you do more to perpetuate them than if you had not heeded them."

recognizing, naming, and calling out abuse does not perpetuate it. ignoring abuse does. please, if you do not believe that r/ws is a reality, observe the world more carefully. you could start here: http://www.timwise.org/

as for dwelling/meditating on injustice, i know better than to sap my precious energy in this way, even as i take time to respond to your comment.

now, i invite my white allies to give clint some feedback. as i repeatedly emphasize, white people need to dismantle r/ws. i have spoken my truth and now i let go.

love, peggy

Amelia P said...

I think it's so important for white people to talk about white privilege. Because due to white privilege it's much easier for us to talk about it than anyone else. During the ten years I was trafficked in prostitution in NYC it was impossible for me to ignore my white privilege -- my sisters of color had it ten times worse than I did, and I was living in a nightmare a war zone. I agree demanding politeness can become a form of oppression -- it can easily become a denial of violence and harm experienced. Love to all of you

Amelia P said...

Yes: Reconstructing egos (for example - helping white people feel more comfortable about the topic of race/white supremacy) is far less important than holding our humanity with integrity and authentically expressing outrage at systemic oppression.

Frankly, the impulse to want to be comfortable with something terrible is a big social problem. And if you are responsible for someone else's comfort, you end up in the position of a supplicant -- which reinforces the oppression you're resisting.

Denial of white privilege inflicts terrible wrongs. The only way to right these wrongs it to face the pain and harm it causes -- speak out about it.

peggy hong said...

amelia, thank you for your clarity and wisdom. you are an ally bc of the depth of your own inner work, required due to the oppression and abuse you have experienced. i hope others can be inspired to do this kind of deep inner work even if they have not experienced abuse.