“Race, is the child of racism, not the father.” TA-NEHISI COATES
Does the child not carry on the legacy of their father? – Pamela Gray Daniel
In “Healing Our History & Co-Creating a Culture of Oneness,” I talk about my belief that racism can not survive if we refuse to operate within the social construct of race. Our fidelity and participation in the colonial tradition of race keep us bound to all of its origins’ terms and conditions. Until we denounce and release race, we will live with racism.
There is no scientific basis for race. It is merely a label we have accepted that assigns social status. Social status is in direct conflict with social equality. When I talk about equality, folks often ask isn’t equity the goal, not equality. For me, equity isn’t the end goal; it is part of the solution. It doesn’t solve the disease of injustice, and it merely manages the symptoms. When studying the origins of race, you understand that “race” is the stratification of human beings based on their physical features for the sole purpose of creating power and dominance for a particular group of people. The construct of race assigned value of the importance of a being based- solely on physical attributes. Reducing a person’s worth and significance because of something so trivial as physical appearance is the foundation of “race. ” The product of this behavior in society results in racism. This mindset and the behavioral tradition carried out to its inevitable end is racism. When we adorn ourselves with the labels of our racial status, we are in silent agreement with the terms of social inequality.
Let’s explore this a bit further. What does it mean to be white? White is not a culture; white does not describe an individual’s ancestral customs, practices, beliefs, and values. It only tells us that we agree that this person is considered more valuable in society as defined by the “rules” of race-based on appearance alone. It tells us that sameness and dominance are valued more than appreciation of cultural diversity. My theory here can be demonstrated by understanding that some people who can now lay claim to the status of “white” are merely given a pass to do so. By pass, I mean that in appearance, they can pass for being of European descent or close enough to it that their “racial identity” will not be questioned. I’ve heard many stories of fair-skinned people of African descent moving away from their families to assume “white” lives and identities to have a better life and greater opportunities. I have had conversations with people who are willing to deny a rich culture to assimilate into “whiteness” simply because it means a more comfortable life for them. All of these examples confirm for me that the construct of race is the problem.
As an allyship coach, I work with people on many different levels of the awareness spectrum. I find that many of those who have been doing anti-racism work readily acknowledge their privilege with statements like, “As a white woman, I am aware that I have privilege that allows me to operate in society in ways others can not.”, “White people have more power in society.” When I hear statements like these, I hear an acknowledgment of societal injustice manifesting in privilege for certain groups of people based on race. Most importantly, I hear a notification of acceptance and ownership and willing participation in the systemic injustice. This acknowledgment of behaviors and mindsets aligns with social injustice and inequality; this awareness alone does not create social justice or equality.
For those of us who can not claim white identities and status, the construct of race hits us with a bit of a double whammy. We have never had the opportunity to name ourselves apart from our lack of “whiteness.” Not only have we been denied historically, but even now, we rob and do great harm by practicing the construct of race. When we accept “minority” status, we willingly accept labels that degrade our value. We are buying into the construct of race and participating in self-inflicted racism. Acknowledging and agreeing to “marginalized” identities does not encourage equality. I believe it reinforces the tradition of privilege and inequality. We create positive transformation by inspired language that affirms the outcome we desire. To be intentional practice, we must have the courage to speak to what we what to achieve, not our current reality. We must be careful to steer clear of terms that affirm inequality and injustice. One term I see causing great harm is BIPOC. BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. This acronym is not only an acknowledgment and owning of the race construct, but I have heard it used to measure the level of oppression and the order by which injustice and inequality hold importance. Again, this upholds the systemic divisive nature of racism and harms people who identify with this social identity.
We now face a challenge to go deeper into our work with a focus on equality. We have an attachment to racial identity and status that is causing us great harm and thwarting our social transformation efforts. Creating a society that accepts, acknowledges, and affirms differences as equally valuable in society is my ultimate end goal. However, we have an attachment to our privilege and/or the lack thereof. Attachment to privilege is living in full awareness of the danger that privilege causes yet uninspired and unmotivated to release that which brings great harm. We must acknowledge privilege as an addictive behavior that one must completely detach from, no longer under its influence. For example, a person who has struggled with alcohol addiction is continuously recovering from that disordered behavior. They can not heal while still using alcohol. They can not even sample alcohol because it is likely that the disordered behavior will take over. To heal, they must acknowledge the disordered behavior, reject and release it and take on a new “sober” identity.
In the same way, a new identity is necessary to remove dependency and attachment to privilege and race. Privilege should not be owned but willingly abdicated by those who have socially benefited from the inequities it has caused. Similarly, ownership of “marginalized identities” and “lack of social standing and power” must be shed to allow the individual to shed the lie that race tells. Doing this allows all people to step into their unique, and equal power. These actions level the playing field. This is the type of equity we need to embrace and integrate so that social equality can firmly take root.
If you read this article and you would like to explore what it would look like to release your privilege so that social equality can become a reality, please contact me and schedule a Free Discovery Call.
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