This is a truth that is hard to admit, I have always believed that I am someone that is progressive and that I don’t have an ounce of prejudice in my body. I have identified my whole life as an anti-racist; the poster child of looking beyond prejudice and hate… But the more I look, the more I see that this prejudice is conditioned in me, against my will maybe, but it is still there. I have always said that part of my meditation practice has been to observe how our mind is conditioned and then dismantle these conditionings to break free from our reactions to emotions like fear, anger, etc.
But here I am, still noticing how thoughts and jugements come up, catching me off guard, during my day to day. I would be lying if I said that I have not caught myself feeling more tense passing a group of young people of colour in the street at night (especially if they fit the classic “gangster” or “thug” image that we are fed in the media) than if it was a bunch of white teenagers or checking my wallet in the subway if I enter a subway car with a group of so-called “thugs” already sitting there… I know that my reactions are wrong, that they are micro-agressions, and I understand why it is wrong and why I should not be doing it. So I ask myself, why am I falling into this pattern?
Like I said before, since as long as I can remember, I have always identified as the anti-racist. A little while ago I saw a photo of me speaking at an Anti-Racism Rally and noticing that everyone that was present was white, this image took me back and made me question exactly what was I trying to do with this form of activism? I truly believed that I was fighting white supremacy and to a certain extent I believe that I was, but I think that there definitely some form of white saviour going on… I was endorsing and validating the belief that it was up to me (the white man) to come and help the oppressed; thanks to my work the oppressed would be free from racism. The more I peel away the layers of my conditioning the more I realize that I am not here to saves all the minorities, that it is not my job to do this but my role is to be an ally.
So what does that mean? That means that I had to start by listening, for once it was not up to me to take the mic, I had to realize that I have been hogging the mic for too long. So I started listening and reading; during this time I let other people talk and I just listened. This is something that I am comfortable with since I started my Buddhist practice (learning to listen to our minds and our bodies to achieve a better understanding of our experience in the world), this is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done.
By doing this, listening, I was able to see how I live in a culture of white supremacy, I am constantly bombarded by images that can create racial bias, casual remarks (I constantly hear that people of colour are lazy because it is cultural, here in Quebec that is mostly directed to people of Haitian heritage), and ignored micro agressions (again, I hear a lot of “they” are a “certain way” because of their “culture” and they are normalized for a lot of people). I also work in the prison system which gives me daily examples of blatant racism, but I am also surrounded by subtle and not so obvious racial biases. I am noticing how my whiteness protects me, and with these realizations I am getting more uncomfortable and seeing as how I can be a better ally…
The first step, I admit that there is racial bias in me, as much as I hate to admit it, it is there. The difference is that now, when it does come up, I listen, I see where it is coming from and I work with it to hopefully dismantle it and work towards not reacting to it… This is another form of fear, hatred, anger; I am using my mindfulness practice to work with these difficult realities with kindness and compassion. I am doing the work, and I am working towards becoming the best ally I can be on any given day. This is my starting point, to admit that my mind is conditioned by a system that is deeply engrained in my society; I am slowly waking up. This is a difficult and uncomfortable process but I want to do the work because white supremacy hurts us all… So yes, I am still racist, but at least I am aware of it and I am working towards dismantling it.
Thank you for your time and reading…