A Letter of Reflection

Blog | June 9, 2020

It’s been a devastating two weeks in the US, particularly after months of pervasive fear and disorientation.

The reaction in the streets of the cities across the nation feels like an uprising against the pain that has been here for centuries; the pain of social dynamics that have been implicitly condoned by the collective and reinforced by the silence and complicitness of the individual.

This moment in time demands that we bear witness to what has always been. We have evidence of such violent racism on camera and shared pervasively that we cannot look away. It is painful and deeply upsetting.

We are in a moment of time where there is an opportunity for a deep shift in the fabric of our nation, of our culture, of our institutions.

We are in a moment in time where dynamics that serve white people and undermine and repress others can no longer be ignored. It is time. It is time to not only acknowledge what has always been but to also take action.

How do we take action to disrupt such upsetting and deeply hurtful patterns embedded into the fabric of our culture, our infrastructure, our lives? Embedded in such insidious ways, that can be both visibly and invisibly violent. How can we take action to disrupt such deep and hurtful karma?

My journey in studying my own whiteness and privilege started about 1 year ago when the Buddhist community of which I am a part launched a Beyond Fear of Differences group. The community held a panel of individuals that included white people and persons of color in our Buddhist community. The panelists spoke of their experience of what it was like to be in community together, where they feel held and supported, and where they did not. The community wanted to truly create a safe space where all felt welcome and this was the first step.

These were the voices of people whom I spent meditation retreats with, sat next to at lunch after Sunday service, and felt connected to. Hearing the experiences of the people of color, the implicit racism, the parts of the institution that made them feel “other” was profoundly difficult and very helpful.

This was a Buddhist community that I had been a part of since I was 13 years old. This was a place where I felt deeply connected to the community and my Buddhist teacher. This was a place I thought was safe and welcoming for anyone in the world. Hearing from those on the panel helped me see through assumptions I made about what was welcoming, the assumptions I made about what was ok, the things I took for granted as safety. In this place that felt full of such love and support, if people could feel unwelcome, uncomfortable, and discriminated against, what must the rest of the world be like? It was the first time I started to have an awareness of my privilege in a much deeper, much more subtle way.

The process of bearing witness with clear and open eyes and the process of studying my own belief systems, conscious and unconscious, has been humbling and sometimes humiliating. It has also been enlightening and liberating. I feel empowered to be able to do something of impact by examining my own whiteness, my own privilege, my benefiting from my privilege, my implicit and explicit assumptions of others who do not look like me. I have found the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo extremely helpful in studying my own biases and privilege. My inner work has just begun here and what is happening in our nation only highlights how important it is for me to continue to look at myself.

I invite those of us born white to examine ourselves and our inner world. I invite us to be curious and listen to what is going on around us with open ears, open eyes, and an open heart.

May what is happening in the streets across the nation be of service to us all. May it be the beginning of an undoing. May it start to unravel dynamics that have repressed and caused harm for centuries.

May we help each other disrupt old patterns, heal deep wounds, and forge a path of a deeper level of compassion for one another.

Rachel Rider
Executive Coach, Leadership Consultant