What is the work around race for me as a white person?
For me, it is the same as all of the therapeutic work. It is being brave enough to look within, to search myself FIRST. To look at the systems, large and small, and see if they align with my values. Are my actions or inactions in this area aligned with my values? These are the tough questions, and answering them means getting uncomfortable, being uncomfortable and being okay with that because it is not comfortable.
I am using a tool – I am working through “Me & White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World” by Layla Saad – @laylasaad. I am using a tool to help me work through the Johari Window of myself. As a therapist, a modern-day healer, I am out of integrity if I don’t stop and listen to myself, my programming, and explore ALL parts of myself, my culture and the systems in relationship to race and privilege.
Looking through the lens of the Johari window:
There are things that are OPEN about race – things that you and everyone else know. I know, living in Australia, that I can go into any hairdresser and they will be able to work with my hair. If I go into a library, I will be able to find MANY books written by people of my race.
There are HIDDEN things I know, that you don’t. I know when I was in Africa, I felt uncomfortable by the obvious status I had there, and I felt a subtle fear of me coming from many of the black Africans.
There are BLIND spots. Things others know and I don’t know.
And there is the UNKNOWN, the things that are unknown to everyone.
Right now, I am very active in ALL the four quadrants. Even in the OPEN quadrant I am looking through a minority lens and seeing the world completely differently.
Unlike many white people, I have been a minority for a time as I lived in rural Japan for 3 years from 21-24. The children I encountered would sometimes gently touch my skin when they thought I wasn’t looking to see if it felt different to theirs. For many people in the area I lived in they had never spoken to a white person. I know how it feels to not find food I want to eat, books I can read and clothes that fit me (I am twice the height of most Japanese women). I know what it feels like to stand out in a crowd, to have people stare at me. I know how it feels to be served last even though I was first. For the shop keeper to find it too hard to serve me in the same way as the other customers. I know what it feels like to be called ‘foreigner’ with a derogatory word.
I DON’T know how it feels to know I could be arrested at any moment and killed because of the colour of my skin. I DON’T know how it would feel to have grown up in that environment. I DON’T know so, so, so much. Even what I thought I knew is going up in smoke as I do the work with Layla.