Cat Anderson, who recently became a SoulStream Partner, offers her story about her own contemplative response to the world. Thank you, Cat, for opening this window on your life and passion for justice and peace. And thank you, too, for offering the possibility for a healthier response to the injustices we see in our world.
This summer, a group of SoulStreamers took part in a trilogy of webinars on Racism presented by Dr. Tiffany Jana, who uses the pronouns “us and them”. They gave us their Queer, Black perspective of the immense wounding of Racism done to Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). Afterwards Jutta asked if I would consider writing about my experience as a white person of privilege who accompanies Blacks in Nigeria and Indigenous people in BC.
As a person of privilege, I have the ability to travel in and out of rural southeast Nigeria where for over a decade I have worked with marginalized poor caring for orphans and vulnerable children. More recently I have begun working with the Carrier Nation of Central BC. and help in providing crisis intervention to children whose lives continue to be devastated by generational trauma. As a white, third generation, middle-class Canadian, my privilege comes from the system of specialness that was created by Colonization. Colonization asserts control over other nations and peoples by occupying their land and creating systems that perpetuate exploitation and abuse. Colonialism specializes in whiteness and whether its intention is pride or pity, it causes separation. In order to assist with judging others, identifiers like language, culture and colour are used to differentiate. The physical difference of skin colour is such a quick identifier and just like for teams in a sporting event the most telltale sign of what side of you are on is the colour of your jersey. My white skin affords me both freedoms and opportunities that BIPOC do not have.
Nigerians and First Nations both suffer from generational trauma as a direct result of Colonialism. In Nigeria, my British ancestors were the perpetrators. They came in 1901 and before leaving in 1963 had created a system whereby on-going trauma continues in 2020. In Canada, the story is similar, but the Colonists never left. As a white person, I must acknowledge and own that even today, I benefit from this discriminatory system. I witness BIPOC being “otherized” by emotional, economic, social, and educational injustices that even neglect basic human securities that are afforded to me, let alone receiving opportunities for advancement. If I am consumed with grief and guilt it is easy for my ego to kick in and respond with unhealthy reactions like numbing (inaction ),or be defensive (white fragility) or to mobilize into fixing (so I feel better), all of which perpetuate the cycle of harm. So, what is the way through?
When guilt and grief appear (and they do), if I pause, and listen I can sense God’s invitation to self-compassion. Practising self-compassion over time has helped me to leverage my privilege and be supportive to others in healthier ways, because it is not about me. It is not about my feeling better, assuaging my anxiety or guilt by inaction, defensiveness or fixing. In kindness and love God holds me and from this place, I can be brave enough to offer what I have and to stand corrected when I get it wrong, without making it about me.
Most importantly I am learning to say to BIPOC, ‘I see you; I am here; I am listening and, if you decide it is time, I can commit to an action that you decide is right for you’. I have experienced this healthier response to open sacred space for holy work where I trust Love to reveal what is mine to be and do, and just as importantly, what is not.