My inventory of internalized racism continues. I admit I’d like to put it all aside and focus on something easier to contemplate such how well-meaning I have always been. As I used to hear in the South where I grew up, “She means well, bless her heart.” That ironic statement attempted to minimize any thoughtless and hurtful action or comment that was “unintentional.” I am a person who means well, right? But how helpful is meaning well if the results cause harm? How helpful is it really, if meaning well is all there is?
One of the most powerful of white privileges is the one that allows me to ignore racism. My recent ancestors weren’t enslaved in this very “land of the free.” My life and the lives of my family, friends and neighbors are not at daily risk from racist policies. My neighborhood is not patrolled by militarized racist cops. My sons and daughters are not locked in jails. My grandchildren aren’t forced to attend substandard schools or settle for lowered life expectancies. I can just put concerns about racism aside and focus on other very real problems that I find more comfortable, more in line with my white perspective. No one will notice. Most white people will understand and feel the same way. Only people of color can never forget, ignore, minimize or walk away from this issue. Their lives are too full of the lived experience of injustice and racism.
Mindful living requires awareness of my denial and ignorance. Mindful living requires me to wake up again and again to the realities of my fellow human beings and the suffering they experience. While ignorance of internalized racism is a fact of life for me, it remains my duty to acknowledge and eliminate internalized racism: thoughts, words and observable behaviors. The tolerance of racist behavior leads to real harm: damaging discrimination and the intensification of racial hatred.
While I may not know what to do to dismantle the systemic racism that has our country in a chokehold, I can make a commitment to becoming more mindful every day of the problem. I can seek out and listen to the expressions of my brothers and sisters of color about racism and allow their words to inform me and lift the veil of my ignorance. No matter how uncomfortable it often feels, this is truly the most important mindfulness exercise I can embrace now right now.