Systemic Racism and Social Justice - My Plan
On this morning, the morning of my second version of this plan, I am inspired by the inaugural poet Amanda Gorman-- her use of a personal mantra that each day connects her to forces greater than her own body, and her call to embody the best of those forces in each day's actions.
There is always light, if we are brave enough to see it.
If we are brave enough to be it.
In my life and in my "doing" to acknowledge and chip away at the inequities of power, I hope to honor Ms. Gorman's poem. Simply celebrating the inaugural moment, her extraordinary craft and what she, as a "skinny Black girl" represents to our embattled country, falls short. So, as described below, I am committing to some work. I am committing to seeing the light, and I aspire to be it.
Growing up in suburban Portland, Oregon, and now in Vermont, I have lived in white communities serving white people. I have always known this, of course, but I am belatedly recalibrating. My 'race' and my family's foundational privilege have been exposed in the light of my closer read of US history and a deeper understanding of race as a diseased and contorted outgrowth money and power.
For example, Oregon is the only state that was admitted to the US with racial exclusion language. Until 1926, it was illegal to be black in Oregon, punishable by whipping. Oregon was designed as a white bastion, and it is easy to see how that foundation could, half a century later, sustain an environment that made it easier for my newly arriving family to succeed.
I personally have benefited from the racist roots of my 'Free World.' I walk a greased path that all but ensures success as long as I do what's expected; as long as I follow my heart; as long as I take good care. I enjoy the privilege of 'being myself' and knowing that others would give me the benefits of little doubt.
I acknowledge these facts and take responsibility for educating myself, listening to the local and national BIPOC community, and for taking reparative action. I commit to remaining open to criticism of my actions and to learn to more efficiently use my power to help evolve a racist system.
This racist system has, like any living thing, both roots and branches. It has root causes that feed, and it has branching effects that cycle back to deepen the roots. Systemic racism's power profoundly affects chronic health, and it's not a psychological problem. (Please see here for a wonderful resource for understanding trauma and chronic disease.
From a letter published by the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI) in the spring of 2020:
Structural racism creates current and intergenerational trauma for people of color. It also weighs heavily on the collective psyche of the nation. The frequent pattern of brutal physical attacks and general lack of regard for the well-being of black and brown citizens by those who are meant to serve and protect, creates persistent, significant trauma and poor health outcomes for adults and children of color all over the nation.
Professionally, I uncover and address various root causes and symptomatic effects for my clients in order to support health. After 15 years of exploration, I continually return, in client after client, to the psycho-physical effects of trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and chronic stress. All of these factors, though "in the mind," are truly enmeshed in the physical body. They boil like magma in the crevices of the body, driving heat and dysfunction to the surface in the form of damaged nervous and immune systems, weakened gastrointestinal linings and joints, brain fog, anxiety, and a reduced capacity to endure stress of daily life.
Therefore, as part of my professional mission, I will grant sliding scale access to my practice for clients with a history of institutionalized trauma due to race, sexuality, or gender. My hope is that I can help these clients heal the systems of their bodies that may be impacted by systemic discrimination. In addition, I will financially support programs that address the roots and branches of systemic racism and inequality. Currently, that list includes recurrent donations to RIP Medical Debt, Railyard Apothecary's Herbal Justice Fund, and Black Lives Matter of Greater Burlington, as well as monthly lending to black-owned US businesses through the Kiva.org platform, and monthly support of Black history and businesses via PushBlack.org.
With gratitude for all those who came before, I will encourage my children to find places where they can shine. I will seek pockets of light and taking steps to amplify them. My own spiritual practice and my work with clients are my most potent vehicles, and I commit to breaking this insularity to do the same socially and politically.
I commit to these acts in the spirit of my own personal mantra, brought forth not only by Amanda Gorman's Black experience, but by the entire human one.
As the moon shines on behalf of the sun, darkness brings forth light.