Kellen and I are processing and reprocessing our roles as white people and white practitioners as the outside world continues to show us, in familiar and horrible ways, the tenacious-ness of white supremacy.
Somewhat regularly–even when there haven’t been recent reported incidents of police brutality or murder–I talk with Trayvon. I tell him what is going on, I tell him I miss his energy in this world. I imagine what would’ve happened in his life since we last visited, and, most importantly, I ask for guidance. I started talking with Trayvon while I was still teaching, right after his murder. He reminds me of many students I have loved, and this familiarity (that I imagine; it’s one-sided “familiarity”) helps me connect with whatever it is I need to understand in that moment.
Sometimes, Trayvon is carefree when I talk to him. He doesn’t have any guidance to share, in particular, and I leave our encounter feeling like he has probably been visiting his loved ones a lot and sharing joy, silliness, and comfort. This is when I remember most clearly that Trayvon Martin is so much more than a symbol; he is a soul. He has much, much more important work to accomplish than teaching this white person about injustice, violence, and love: he has to look after the souls in his own circle.
Sometimes he is pensive and angry. He knows why, but he is stuck in wondering WHY his killer has enjoyed such comfort, no system-based punishment* for taking his life. This is when I connect with Trayvon most thoroughly; our moods match, our frustration fuels each other’s. In these encounters, Trayvon seems lost, his wheels spinning, powerless. Experiencing him like this reminds me that I am alive, I have systemic power, I have to ACT to change how we live.
Sometimes, he is sullen: he won’t meet my gaze, or he won’t take out his earbuds; he has told me to fuck off, before. This is sort of my comfort zone: I remember Trayvon’s adolescence, and I love it. Adolescence is poetically the springtime of life. Realistically, it’s when there is so much growing, changing, shedding going on that there is actual physical pain and discomfort. With all that change, it’s impossible to feel confident about where one fits, what one believes, whether one is a bad-ass or a skittles fan. (Not that you’d need to pick one, but that ambiguity, again, is something it’s hard to know until you’re grown.)
Lately, I am having trouble connecting with Trayvon. I am ashamed. I don’t feel worthy; I don’t have anything to tell him except that people’s murders are still being blamed on them (there is nothing you do to “deserve” death, just as there is nothing we do to “deserve” life, or health, or ease), and that some value property above life.
Feeling ashamed and not reaching out to my own spiritual practice is one thing. When–as a white person, as a cis person, as a person who has never, ever been hassled or killed by the police, never once had a “neighbor” threaten to call or call authorities because they believe I don’t belong/I pose a threat/I need to be put in my place–I let my own overwhelm and my own shame keep me from speaking, it is irresponsible. It can even be deadly.
Kellen and I have been silent these two months. We have been chewing on what our new normal might become, and in our uncertainty, we have elected to hold our tongues rather than promise hypotheticals. On the topic of North Node Clinic’s return to in-person treatment, we remain uncertain.
On the topics of white supremacy, violence against black and brown bodies and minds, systemic neglect and violence aimed at Indigenous peoples, state-sanctioned violence, we remain furious and afraid. Our actions against these threats to humanity MUST include speaking. While we have voices, we must voice our dissent, because our silence, as white people IS compliance.
If you want to talk more about spiritual practices that investigate racism and white supremacy, please reach out. In the meantime, consider making space for one or more of these actions:
- Donate to a bond relief fund. This is not just because many protesters are waiting in jail; bond relief is an every-damn-day necessity because bail is a system wherein people with money meet a different set of standards when they are arrested than people without money.
- Donate anywhere you thought about donating. If you are on social media, it’s likely you’ve encountered opportunities to fund the work of folks on the ground in Minneapolis or Louisville OR ANYWHERE. If you thought about it but then didn’t, go on back and do it. We must use our resources to create the world we want to live in. Money is a resource. If you feel unsure whether the people you want to share resources with are doing “good” work, Kellen and I are happy to read through a web page or two or three with you to help you determine whether they meet your criteria.
- Speak up, show up.** Visibility is important, and especially so for white people. No one knows, unless I tell them, that I believe black lives matter as much as white lives. And, in case it’s not clear, no one knows you believe in the value of Black lives if you say all lives matter. That is the same as saying systemic violence against Black people isn’t a real problem.
I believe it needs saying, too, that Kellen and I are learning as we go; there are actions we could be taking that we aren’t, that we haven’t even thought of. No doubt, there is white supremacy in our daily lives that we disregard while we are occupied with rooting out some other embedded evil. As imperfect as our work is, there is only action and inaction. We choose action.
Thanks for reading to the end, today. We welcome your replies and promise to respond.
In solidarity with Black lives,
Ellice and Kellen
*Karma, however, is coming for George Zimmerman.
…in fact, it’s coming for us all…
**When engaging in conversation, your own safety matters, and violence aimed at you is violence, too. If you try to engage someone who turns violent, you can say, “I’m disappointed we can’t have a conversation. I had hoped to feel like you respected me even though we disagree.” And. get. away. While that work needs doing, if it’s not today, it’s not today, satan.