Make Good Trouble!!
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and non-violence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”
John Lewis 1940 - 2020. Civil Rights Leader - a colleague of Martin Luther King.
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti- racist”
Angela Davis - Civil Rights Campaigner.
These quotes come from the Amnesty International newsletter I subscribe to.
I felt inspired by them to think about and write something on the theme of “Co-Counselling International and becoming an Anti-Racist.“
I choose to make the assumption that the health and wellbeing of our societies is being compromised by systemic racism. There is an abundance of evidence that this is true in all aspects of our shared lives - health, education, accommodation, security and employment. The consequences affect us all and we can see it on our streets and in our homes.
My understanding has always been that we agree not to bring politics and religion into CCI but I believe that the issues of systemic racism that blight our humanity is beyond this ‘norm’. This is something that affects my everyday emotional health and wellbeing and that of my fellow human beings, therefore I feel that it is appropriate to make “good trouble”.
I hope that you can share and explore these ideas with me even if it’s a bit uncomfortable or I’m stating the obvious to you.
I believe we can choose to engage with these issues using Co-Counselling as a tool for reflective practice, re-evaluation and taking action.
I am choosing to start with my own ‘unconscious bias’ and explore the feelings and beliefs that might lead to my own unconscious racist behaviour.
“Until you dig a hole and plant a tree, you water it, and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing.”
Kenyan political and environmental activist.
Have I the courage to look inwardly and explore my own ‘hidden’ racism and white privilege?
“Me and White Supremacy - How to recognise your own Priviledge, Combat racism and Change the World”
Layla F Saad - Writer, speaker and podcast host on the topics of race, identity, leadership, personal transformation and social change.
Someone suggested that I begin with reading this book. I gulped and bought it!
I’m finding it tough going.
I’ve started doing the exercises in the book that she calls “The Work”.
Already I’m realising how WHITE I am.
I’ve been practicing CoCo for many years and I thought I’d turned over most of my stones and explored a lot of the hidden bits of myself that lead me to have patterns of behaviour that aren’t always useful - for me or others. I’ve made changes, taken responsibility for myself and learnt to listen and support others to make their own choices. I’ve learnt to value myself and others and use encouragement to promote healthy change.
But I’ve never explored my own white priviledge! I’ve never looked at the assumptions I make about how the world works because I’m white!
What must that feel like when I’m listening to someone who isn’t white and doesn’t have the priviledge of those assumptions because that’s not their experience of how the world works?
My guess is it probably feels confusing and disturbing. I’m listening to them with my white ears!
Am I being unconsciously racist? I need to find out from someone who is of a different race to me. I need to really listen to their experience - even if it feels uncomfortable.
Have I the courage to honestly admit to my racism?
Whilst thinking about this I’m beginning to realise that I have a lot of work to do, because it doesn’t match my intention to create and support peer communities and networks with more diverse groups of people.
How will that work if I’m not listening to them with genuinely peer ears!
My self observation is that when I’m not willing to identify how my own beliefs and behaviours fall short of real inclusive respect for all human beings, I’m deluding myself.
If at any moment someone’s racial difference from me re-stimulates me to make an assumption or a judgment about them, it is unwise for me to move forward in partnership with them.
I’m seeing them from my white priviledge not from my human heart.
If I expect others to achieve standards of respect, equality and justice is it fair for me to expect the system to change if I’m unwilling to change?
I know from experience that I can change my ways of thinking, feeling and behaving using CoCo as my toolbox. So maybe for me to earn my identity as an “anti-racist” I need to roll my sleeves up and focus my future sessions on learning where my resistant white patterns are?
I need to do the The Work.
If I want the World to change I must change.
“If you are a person who believes in love, justice, integrity, and equality for all people, then you know that this work is nonnegotiable. If you are a person who wants to become a good ancestor, then you know that this work is some of the most important work that you will be called upon to do in your lifetime.
Here’s to doing what is right and not what is easy”
Layla F Saad
“The answer to these questions, and the shape of the world children born now will inhabit, will be determined not just by politicians and billionaires, but by millions of supposedly ordinary people like you and me who choose whether or not to engage with difficult issues, to try and grasp history, to find their place in it , and choose whether to act or do nothing, when faced with the mundane mammoth conflicts of everyday life.”
Akala “ Natives - Race and Class in the ruins of the Empire”