I woke this morning in Ireland to news of the El Paso shooting: the latest act of white supremacist terror in the United States. My body was already aching (today’s a rest day after some seriously long walks), but the news ramped up the ache and lodged itself in my chest. I recognized the familiar heartache that comes with shootings and acts of violence, particularly against Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC)—in this case, against Latinx folks in Texas.
Along with intense aching, I felt the question deep in my body: “What are you going to do?”
Recognizing my distance as a form of complicity (I’m literally on vacation while receiving the news), I decided to stay with the question of how I might live out my commitment to justice—to social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice. One thing I knew for sure is that I wouldn’t be posting vacation photos today. Another is that I’d talk with folks around me about what’s happening—and why. A third is that I’d resist the quick news cycle and narratives that flatten the story, pushing against the normalization of white supremacist violence. And these three actions would be horribly incomplete, leaving open questions of when and how to do more.
After reading the news and engaging with friends’ posts, I fell back to sleep and into nightmares that combined themes from the past weeks here in Ireland. The dreams mixed conversations and interactions I’ve had with other white folks (from Ireland, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, and Australia) about matters such as:
- white nationalism and Brexit
- climate change and forced/blocked migration
- imagined national borders and actual border walls
- the history of colonization and Irish rebellions
- rage against the English monarchy and Trump’s presidency
- the role of international tribunals and U.S. Courts
- histories of policing and possibilities for restorative justice.
Processing in my sleep, I dreamed about a giant trench—like a moat surrounding a medieval castle—that blocked access to the U.S. capitol. Friends tried to jump over the trench, but fell to their deaths. I watched and cried and found myself more determined than ever to get over that trench and to knock down the seat of power.
When I woke, the dream had taken me into a planning meeting—a sort of resistance group camped out in a dark basement. This was the sort of dream that I replayed again and again and again. Friends and I kept trying different ways around and over the trench, still struggling with each attempt, but in the midst of trying (try-try again), I awoke.
Dreams help with processing, reveal insights, and provide important symbolism.
Though trenches and castles may not be the landscape in today’s United States context, they aren’t far off from representing the very real gap between the people and the ruling power that can incite violence, watch it play out, and allow it to continue without imagining it ever breaching their own walls.
Like castle walls, border walls are intended to separate—and at a time when climate crises demand humanizing actions to meet the needs of all people, non-human animals, and the earth.
In times like these, it’s important for those who have the privilege of turning away to turn instead toward action. Even in social media, there is work to do, so let me repeat here actions “For White Friends Using Social Media and Not Responding to Charlottesville.” In many ways, this moment feels similar: the violence lays me low, even as I’m still seeing vacation pics (and editing my own).
So, what is time-sensitive now—in the context of white supremacist terror?
* Signaling deep care for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
* Believing the experiences, insights, and knowledges of BIPOC.
* Recognizing the deep hurt of this moment.
* Doing the self-work involved in countering internalized white supremacy.
* Acknowledging white shame and the “ghost of whiteness” lingering over everyday interactions, including those in social media.
* Self-regulating by asking with each new post: “Who am I relating with? Who am I imagining this post will connect with? And who am I alienating?”
* Considering how everyday “stuff”—like food and vacations—is shaped by the ghost of whiteness.
* Taking action to learn more about allyship and what allies can do.
* Saying something to acknowledge that this really is happening, and it matters.
* Committing to racial justice. Again, and again.”
After a few weeks of walking in Ireland, I’m also thinking about pacing. Slow and steady steps—like small and sustained work—really matter. The commitment to justice is a commitment to strive for the long haul.
May we make time to grieve and rage—to hurt and holler.
May we notice and use embodied knowledge for responding to injustice.
May we keep up and increase the public outcry against white supremacist violence.
I anticipate more hard days ahead, if we’re to forge the moat and knock down the castle, but the fight is already here, the work is waiting to be done, and the alarm is sounding with full volume.
This post is written by Beth Godbee, Ph.D. for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “For White Friends Using Social Media and Not Responding to Charlottesville” and “Hurting and Hollering in the Wake of This Week’s Violence.”
To invest in ongoing self-work and deep-diving into conditioned ways of living, being, and intervening in the world, you might also consider the self-paced e-course, “40 Questions for 40 Walks: Toward Everyday Living for Justice.”
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