What we memorialize, what we erase

What we memorialize, and how, profoundly shapes our world.

You wouldn’t know there was a vet in my family history

My cousin Harv was serving in the U.S. Army when I was born in 1944. His obituary, at age 94, leaps from his birth in 1928 to his PhD in molecular biochemistry at the University of Chicago in 1952, the beginning of a distinguished lifelong career as a lab researcher. No war stories were told in my family. 

Years later, I recall how moved I was to hear one of my herbal medicine classmates talk about her family’s multi-generational military service. There was an honest, humble, touching pride that rang of actual patriotism, a word I had learned to shrink away from, and continue to shrink away from today, sadly feeling very little good can come from it.

During my elementary school years, we observed Decoration Day with lapel-sized American flag glued, I believe, onto toothpicks. For most of my adult life, the Memorial Day into which it morphed meant a day off from work marked by splashy full-sized sales adds.

Memorial Day, 2021 has a host of provocative resonances and stories. Surrogate cemetery visits follow a year of truncated funerals.

The Washington Post reported on Emily Domenech  who found herself virtually alone in Arlington Cemetery when she made her annual pilgrimage to her grandfather’s grave in the early raging days of Covid-19, Memorial Day 2020.

I’ve visited Arlington on what I’d also describe as a pilgrimage, to the memorial of President John F. Kennedy. I recall the overall effect of six-hundred and twenty-five lightly rolling acres, many of them in ordered rows numbering some 400,000 uniform tombstones, as a rolling ocean wave frozen in time.

Domenech’s planned half-hour visit grew to six hours as strangers responded to her Tweet gone viral: “Does anyone have buddies buried in Arlington who they would like visited today?” she asked. “Since only family members are allowed in, I would be honored to pay respects on your behalf …”

This year, her personal efforts have been amplified by the Travis Manion Foundation, a support organization for veterans and their families. #TheHonor Project arranged to place small American flags at 4,000 gravesites and invited family members to register online to have a volunteer visit a loved one’s grave.

As in civilian life, so in the military.

A portion of The  Arlington National Cemetery website is devoted to its Black history from the Civil War through Vietnam. Segregation. Denied promotion. Race-based pay scales. This is what marked the service of Black people in the U.S. armed services.

You wouldn’t know there was a Black Wall Street in Tulsa from the Standard American Education

As I write this, President Biden is traveling to Tulsa, Oklahoma to participate in a public ceremony that marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre on June 1.

If you are hearing about this event for the first time, it is because the rioters were white, and because the history most of us were taught was White-washed. “Facts” surrounding the spark that set off the fear and rage of white citizens are not well-established: there was a reported elevator encounter between a young Black man, Dick Rowland, and a young White woman, Sarah Page. Stories spread by word of mouth, the social media of its day, and, amplified by the local daily, the Tulsa Tribune, which ran as its front-page story “Nab Negro for Attacking Girl In Elevator.”

The Tribune ran an editorial in the same edition: “To Lynch Tonight.” Like other documents related to the events, that editorial is “now-lost,” having been torn out of the paper by the time the Works Progress Administration went to microfilm old issues in the 1930s. Professor of Afro American and African studies at the University of Michigan Scott Ellsworth details, among other erasures, that the Chief of Police sent his officers to every photograph studio in the city to “confiscate all the pictures taken of the carnage.” A cache of photos was later discovered, and used by a 1997 Commission on which Ellsworth served. The Commission concluded by recommending reparations for survivors and their descendants.  Dutton has recently published his investigative research in The Ground Breaking: An American City and Its Search for Justice.

Meanwhile, in my awareness, the absence of known burial grounds stands as a dark monolith against the pristine hills of Arlington.

Of course, the last days, perhaps months and years of the lives of servicemen and servicewomen buried in Arlington were hardly pristine. Glory accrued after death, after the gore of life.

Still, each one’s burial site is marked and treated with honor. 

The unidentified dead too are honored at Arlington by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which also observes its 100th anniversary this year. An honor guard has stood watch at the Tomb 24/7 since 1937. Their movements are choreographed in time and space by the number 21, enacting “the highest symbolic military honor that can be bestowed: the 21-gun salute.” 

In Tulsa, historians now estimate 100-300 dead, in contrast to 38 deaths “officially” confirmed. A mass grave was discovered in the city’s Oaklawn Cemetery last October, where archaeologists found a dozen coffins. “Full excavation and exhumation” of the site is to begin June 1, the same day as President Biden’s arrival. 

The 35 square blocks of homes, businesses, churches, schools, hospitals torched in the Tulsa Massacre is equivalent to 56 acres, approximately one of every 11 acres of Arlington Cemetery’s spread. 

Buck Colbert Franklin, a Black attorney, left these words among his ten-page hand-written eyewitness account:

“I could see planes circling in mid-air. They grew in number and hummed, darted and dipped low. I could hear something like hail falling upon the top of my office building. Down East Archer, I saw the old Mid-Way hotel on fire, burning from its top, and then another and another and another building began to burn from their top.” As he left his law office, he noted, “The side-walks were literally covered with burning turpentine balls. I knew all too well where they came from, and I knew all too well why every burning building first caught from the top,” he continues. “I paused and waited for an opportune time to escape. ‘Where oh where is our splendid fire department with its half dozen stations?’ I asked myself. ‘Is the city in conspiracy with the mob?’”

Acres of white tombstones.

Acres of torched lives.

100 years mark the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

100 years mark the Unknown Burial Sites of Tulsa.

I’m doing my best to hold these together in my consciousness at the same time.

Because we must, as we sit with the question, “Where do we go from here?” 

Oddly, I find Israeli rock singer Avi Bellieli’s lyrics capture the totality of my thoughts and feelings  

Where is everyone going all of a sudden…

Everything recedes and disappears

Only the words are afloat…

Where do we go from here?

Banner photo: Friends and Lovers – painting by Chris  Graebner, Hillsborough Gallery of Arts Hillsborough, NC.

On Black Bodies in A Groundhog Year

After ten months of privileged, demanding, yet hardly ruinous self-isolation, time is losing its grip on my White Body.

One day is so much like another that I have ordered the clock pictured above and made a prominent space for it directly across from my seat at the diningroom table. 

So engaging with Black History Month in this Groundhog Year has prompted me to reflect on a the hundreds of years that Black and Brown people have survived ownership and control of their bodies: bone-crunching, spirit-defying Groundhog Century after Century.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the son of parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the Civil War and himself died of tuberculosis at age 33. In his poem Forever he wrote:

I had not known before

    Forever was so long a word.

The slow stroke of the clock of time

    I had not heard.

Maryland Poet Laureate (1979-1985) Lucille Clifton shared some Kentucky history with Dunbar: she wrote that one of her women forbears had been the first Black woman to be “legally hanged” for manslaughter in the state. She invites us to join her in won’t you celebrate with me:

won’t you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

Whether or not you live in a place where we can sniff spring around the corner, this month is a time to reflect on and celebrate the survival of Lucille Clifton, and every other Black and Brown body. Each a whole human being, gifted and limited.

For those of us who are White, it’s on us to end the ever-repeating Groundhog history of controlling Black and Brown bodies, and shape a different world.

Our individual acts of repair may be small we think,             

creating barely a ripple. 

Together, we can make this historical time                                            a lasting, sea-change moment. 

No one else is coming along to do this work.

It’s on us.

Help bring back the world

Impeachment Redux: the House has impeached the sitting President a second time -

– a necessary and insufficient action to rectify events, the extent of which will not be even known to us for some time. So it is up to us to answer this question posed by Kansas-born poet William Stafford, a conscientious objector during World War II. Because whatever we have been doing and not doing up to now as humans has not been enough.

Read this not as how do we restore some imagined glory days, but as – how do we bring back life, vibrant life, love, and valor among and between human beings?  What virtues will we cultivate? How will we build character? What will we use as a compass?

Putting aside even these sometimes helpful constructs, how are we listening to the moment? As I write, our elected representatives in the House have been cramming their words, hopes, fears, wisdom and foolishness into 30-second increments in which they may hold forth, or yield to a colleague.

How are we holding this rhetoric, as this selected/elected group attempts to connect or cloud cause and effect, to draw a boundary between unquestionable incitement and damnable but not impeachable behavior? Will the Lost Cause of the American Civil War gain new life or immanent death now that its flag has been waved in the US Capitol?

Meanwhile I feel like I am sweeping up broken glass.

I am punctured over and over again, bleeding bright red in spite of voting blue. I find little slivers everywhere, as I search for emerging kindnesses, bits of order, the right words, the right actions.  I am calmed by the rock pictured above, that fits comfortably if roughly in the palm of my hand.

In this rock, I have the gift of holding deep time in my hand

Last night I received this granite emissary of the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque from my good friend and geologist-writer Deb Green. Today I asked her to share its significance with our online practice group. She said the rock, as it sits on its flat side – as it does in the banner photo – is in both the shape and color of these mountains. You can see the salmon pink of orthoclase feldspar, the green of epidote, and shining specks of mica among the quartz and other minerals, colors true to “Sandia” (Spanish for “watermelon.”)

Deb had been sitting for meditation on a boulder. Tapping its edge as she rose, this chunk fell off in her hand, “because it was weathering in place.” She went on to describe how this really hard rock that had built a whole mountain range had, through countless freeze and thaw cycles, fractured and broken off so easily. 

The rock is some 1.3 – 1.4 billion years old. The “deep time” embodied in these rocks, she said, renders her insignificant in the scheme of things, and simultaneously frees her “to go for” what she is here for on this earth, at this moment.

A few minutes later another group member questioned, how do we get through to people who seem as solid as boulders impervious to change, who hold so tightly to a view of the world that is anathema to us?

Here’s what has come to me, some hours later.

We may not ever “get through” to them.

Maybe, just maybe, we can enter into relationship with some of them.

First, we restrain them.

This is what I devoutly pray will result from impeachment and whatever other additional legal means we have at hand to effectively restrain acts of domestic insanity and terrorism, including the fomenting of hatred in word or deed and the use of casual threat. This can work only as civilian and military policing, prosecutors, judges and jurors each come to their own deep moments of reckoning with Whiteness. This will take long, but not long enough to register as deep time.

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.”

When I hear a false equivalency used to justify or normalize the sitting President’s words and behaviors, I know to listen for the grains of truth that are there, especially the ones that ping “true” for me in my own thoughts and actions.

And then, we melt. Um, our enemies? Ourselves? A bit of each?

The word “MELT” came into my mind, all CAPS,  an oversized billboard. And, frankly, this act remains aspirational,  a level of holy human action and courage still beyond me. I just don’t have the heart, “le coeur” for it.

So I come back to William Stafford’s answer to his own question, and this has to do me for now:

What can a person do to help

bring back the world?

We have to watch it and then look at each other.

Together we hold it close and carefully

save it, like a bubble that can disappear

if we don’t watch out.

Please think about this as you go on. Breath on the world.

Hold out your hands to it. When mornings and evenings

roll along, watch how they open and close, how they

invite you to the long party that your life is.

A New Year’s Eve view of the world

On New Year’s Eve: a view of the world from the red house in the middle of the block

With 36 odd hours left in the year 2020, I am of a mind that way too many words have already been written about it. It’s still too hard, too close, too rich with learning and loss, gaslighting and distortions for me to try to sum it up. I need a longer arc of time to look back on it.

Looking ahead is equally perplexing. I’m making some plans, setting some intentions – and resolved that my plans not make me. Agility, even more than  resilience, is what I am looking to cultivate to meet the many unknowns. I am wary of another round of decision-making exhaustion of the sort that pervaded the early weeks and months of Life under Pandemic. I anticipate some version of returning to weighing the pros and cons of every outing or errand that needs to be run – once (if?) widespread vaccination and economic engines open life up in ways we can envision only through mask-fogged glasses and brains.

It’s been a no-brainer, and part of my privileged life, to pretty much confine myself to home and my walking neighborhood of perhaps six square blocks, since April.

I’ve encountered such wonders as a flock of yard flamingos, a colony of frogs in a variety of yoga poses, chalk drawings in the street, families out walking together with and without dogs, and a Sacred Datura plant anchoring the front corner of a neighbor’s yard.  I would have said that I live in a pretty much all-white neighborhood. Instead I have been pleasantly surprised to exchange greetings with many multiracial families.

My neighborhood has two styles of homes, all built in the late 1920’s. So far my husband and I are “aging in place.” It’s not just our home of 36 years. It’s the neighborhood that feels like home – the old trees – especially the sycamores –  the surviving drug store with soda fountain, a library, an old movie palace. 

Oh – and the best – one neighbor who has for years taken his mellow guitar practice outside during all the warm seasons: a neighborhood playlist. And another who has been securing our recycling barrel in the bed of his pick-up every week since Covid-19 worker illness shut down Baltimore’s curbside recycling in September.

So I was shocked to realize, as I prepared to lead a workshop on unconscious bias for residents from my and adjoining neighborhoods, that the role of “neighbor” has become a pretty weak part of my identity. Yes, I just delivered my seasonally home-made gingerbread up and down my block. Still, it seems like I have largely “aged out” of being a neighbor since having school-age kids in the house. And since aging out of the snow-shoveling gang that used to assemble from up and down our block to dig out cars and make the street passable as we last did in January, 2016 (see banner photo!)

I got to thinking how every neighborhood has its Rules for Living and belonging.

Some of these rules may be explicit – as in covenants. Others implicit yet baked into a neighborhood’s culture. How formal? How friendly? How distant? How quiet? And all of these rules are shaped by racialized and gendered histories  f wealth, property, ownership, financing – and by our own perceptions and behaviors.

I thought about “neighborliness.”

What does it mean to “neighbor”? - making “neighbor” into a verb for the moment.

When and how do I offer help, a suggestion, an invitation?

When and how do I inquire, speak up, step forward, step back, “mind my own business”?

What behaviors tell me “I belong” – or that I am stretching or testing the limits of belonging?

How do I treat property boundaries? 

Are there activities or toys or amenities – tomato and squash vines, for example that I believe “belong” in back yards not in front yards?

How about the aesthetics of holiday decorations? displays of the American flag, which has been so effectively appropriated by a certain brand of patriot? the Rainbow flag? the Earth flag? – unquestionably “my” people. And signs. Campaign signs, Graduating- Class-from-Home 2020 class signs, #Blacklivesmatter signs?

And the real clincher: what do I do when I see someone who is “a stranger” to me? When can I trust that calling the police is 1) warranted and 2) won’t lead to a terrible outcome?

So I am leaving/entering the year sitting with these questions:

How will I “neighbor”  in my neighborhood?

How will I think globally and act locally?

 

And how will I “neighbor” in the wider world – Baltimore? America? the world?             How will I also think locally – as in you, and you, and you – are my neighbors                       as I act globally?

How about you?

P.S May we leave behind our shattered exceptionalistic illusions, including “We’re better than this.” 

And may we seize every opportunity to reshape our consciousness and our world.

_______________________________________

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Thanks to Portland diva-of-all-things-tech-and-alchemical Mary Ginger Williams, I am one of 15 “curated presenters.” Her Small & Mighty Summit features entrepreneurs who build transformational relationships with their clients and customers. Topics range from micro-habits to neuroscience, leadership to self- care. Check out my fellow-herbalist and MUIH-grad Katherine Hofmann ND’s talk on Small & Simple Strategies for Mighty Mental Health. Also Ellie Ballentine’s Magic  of Your Mindset – she has given me some very valuable coaching. 

Member of a group – colleagues, religious/spiritual buddies, readers, neighborhood or PTA who are wrestling with race and gender justice, questioning their own responsibility and capacity to nourish change, to be change?  GET IN TOUCH – and let’s talk about designing a two-hour session to meet your group’s needs (no cookie-cutter for this work!) Then I’ll send  on a full description you can share and discuss with your group. 

Some comments from workshop participants

“This is the work we need to do and what will shift things if we can do it.”

“This practice activates my heart.”

“Found the given exercises very useful and practical.”

“I came aware with clarity around where I am… and a plan for moving forward.”

“This program has opened the door to the possibility of healing 

my inner divisions, judgement, and shame.”

“…a container for deep, nuanced work.” 

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  • Begin to notice your habits of seeing and making meaning of events.
  • Nourish curiosity and  empathy.
  • Gain freedom to act from a place of inclusion, to be inclusionary.
  • Learn to trust discomfort as a friend and guide.
  • Loosen the grip of your Rules for Living – the rules that govern  how you  appear, how you behave, whether and how you belong. These rules are our internal equivalents of the laws, policies, procedures, and  organizational hierarchies that dispense and withhold access, incentives and opportunities  in our society. 

Some comments from course participants

“surprising revelations,” 

“visceral empathy”  

“a strong emotional foundation for listening to others” 

 “a knowing where to dig” 

 “a willingness to step up and be more ‘out loud’ with a formerly shy voice” 

 “tools to move past limiting assumptions.”

With Sara’s teaching, encouragement and guidance, I was able to discover early narratives that impact attitudes towards racial and gender bias.  These surprising revelations, along with new practices have given me new tools moving forward.                                                                                                                                                                                                          Susan, Acupuncturist

 

The Radical Inclusion course helped me process a lot of unspoken thoughts and feelings around race, especially that uncomfortable topic of white privilege. It’s a very organic process, not linear, and that allowed it to be exactly what I needed to open up my heart and mind to a new perspective on how I view myself and others. I now have a strong emotional foundation from which I can do the continuing work of listening to others, listening to myself, and questioning my assumptions about how things work. In a world that is constantly changing, this is a valuable tool for understanding how the world really works (not just how I think it works or want it to work), and that is very empowering to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sara Korn, Writer

 

This course helped me unpack and clarify long-hidden assumptions that I now realize were getting in my way.  I discovered personal insights that are already paying dividends…and I believe will continue to benefit me as I build on the course’s foundational, perspective-expanding structure.                                                                                                            Greg Conderacci, Good Ground Consulting LLC

 

Sara consistently created a space where moments of understanding could unfold. During one of the course’s many excellent exercises, I made a profound connection—it was about my own sense of belonging and the conditions of life for Black people in our country that could preclude a feeling of belonging…The connection is now visceral for me, as well as intellectual, and oh so powerful.                                                                                                                                           Deborah Green, Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Committee Chair

 

TGiving-2020: Gratitude, Grief, Real History

To give thanks.

A prayer. 

A practice.

A family celebration.

A bow of deep appreciation to  you,  faithful readers through the seasons.

For some, a Zoom Gathering on the 4th Thursday of 2020.

Now that we are somewhat assured that an orderly transition of political power will unfold between now and January, my personal capacity to give thanks has gotten a boost. 

It will get a bigger boost when I log in to Zoom later today to hear Monica’s Thanksgiving prayer before the meal. Monica and Beth and daughter Sari have been guests at our Passover Seder since Sari was a baby. Several years ago we began to say yes to their invitation to join their families and friends for Thanksgiving. I was ready to give up hosting our own. It was an easy transition.

Monica is a soul-ful pray-er, and invokes all manner of blessings received and blessings still needed.

She offers me the real dessert before the meal: a deeper meaning of the day. A day about which I was schooled in cringeworthy myths about Pilgrims and Indians sharing a meal.  She doesn’t pass over either the awful or the sublime. This year, instead of their post-meal ritual of sending home each guest with an individualized set of containers of left-overs, Beth and Monica and Sari made pre-Thanksgiving home deliveries on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Still, I grieve the loss of the “traditional” way we have come together, the breaking of bread together, the assembling of a meal that many hands and kitchens contributed to.

One more loss, one more season now belonging to the Before Times. And for me, one grief seems to tap into another, as if they all feed into one underground stream. 

Grief, love for what I have valued, loved, lost…they are a matched set, grief and love. 

I am not a gratitude practice person – if you are fortunate to find that your natural go-to, wonderful. I envy you! For me, letting in grief allows me to  find  my way to gratitude. It can take a while.

Who lives, who dies, who tells the story?

And this year I also feel a self-conscious pull to enlarge my personal sphere and include a deeper grief historically linked to this holiday. Thanksgiving, 2020 marks a National Day of Mourning, now in its 51st year. This event honors the death of Native Americans at the hands of early settlers and colonists, and shines a light on contemporary issues facing Native Americans. In October, the CDC reported that American Indian and Alaska Native people are 5.3 times more likely than white people to be hospitalized due to COVID-19, the largest disparity for any racial or ethnic group.

The dynamic of celebration by one tribe signifying a day of disaster for another is not unfamiliar to me as a Jew. Israel’s Independence Day is celebrated on May 15: celebrating a safe home for Jews following the Holocaust. Naqba, literally meaning “catastrophe,” is observed to commemorate hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians who fled or were displaced from their homes. I am not making a political statement here or declaring any sense that I understand the historical complexities and realities. I simply wish to acknowledge that there are two sets of lived experiences here, along with some truths and some mythologies, leaving a trail of  unresolved, blood-stained conflict.

The land my house is built on, and where we have lived for 36 years, was home to the Piscataway-Conoy as far back as 800 BCE.

I do not know much of their history or way of life – when I do, I may be ready to write my own “land acknowledgement” – a statement crafted differently by Native Peoples and White people to recognize the original stewards of the lands on which we now live. Naming what is true is the first step in healing. 

I am finding it more and more common on Zoom meetings among activists and seekers to invite participants to introduce themselves not only with their names and preferred pronouns, but also with a land acknowledgement of the place they are calling in from. It feels awkward and somewhat empty, a label on an empty box. But empty because I myself am empty of truthful historical information, lived historical human experiences, and an embodied appreciation to tribal knowledge and governance.

An invitation … to remember the land we live on is in our care, that we may rent or have a deed of ownership, but we are merely the current caretaker: you can enter your zip code at this website to learn the names of the tribal land on which you live.

Then see what you can find about their history – their way of life and governance.

A first small step towards yet one more conciliation that the waning months of 2020 summon us to make.

May our gratitudes help us rise to the occasion.

May we respect one another and do what we can
to keep one another safe, well, and nourished.

Happy Thanksgiving.

THE TIME IS NOW

Engage, recommit, repair, or take your first tentative steps to re-imagine and shape a world where equity is valued and embodied: Radical Inclusion Practice

Constitution Day: The Syntax of Whiteness

Today is Constitution Day, and a good day to consider the Syntax of our Whiteness as a nation

I learned to speak my native English “correctly” as a toddler, and was fluid in its syntax – its rules for sentence structure, long before I diagrammed a sentence or answered an essay question on an exam. 

It was decades later that I encountered a deeper meaning in Carlos Castaneda’s poem, where he described the syntax of our “mother tongue” –
“a syntax which demands beginnings, like birth,
and developments, like maturation,
and ends, like death, as statements of facts.”

From “The Active Side of Infinity” Copyright 1998 by Laugan Productions

I am only now beginning to see how fundamental this linear, developmental, progress-oriented, fact-pinning, individualistic syntax is to the Whiteness that makes life in America so dangerous for Black people, and so Unquestionably Normal for White people.

 I learned to answer to Miss ____ or Mrs____ , and to call Black people by their first names.

 I learned that White people lived in Good Neighborhoods, or sometimes Working Class Neighborhoods. And that Good Neighborhoods had the Best Schools.

I learned it was impolite to ask why Black people lived in shambled neighborhoods that I saw as the Rapid Transit passed out of the suburbs and closer to the smoky industrial heart of Cleveland.

I learned that teachers were white, rabbis and priests and nuns were White, ballet dancers were white, and janitors and jazz musicians and basketball players and baby nurses and maids were Black.

I learned there were not-nice English words and Yiddish words used  for Black people, and Good White Adults used them. 

We White people are fish in water.

Just as the syntax of a language disappears into a flow of words that follows the rules of that language, so do the Rules of Whiteness disappear – for White people, into the Normal Flow of Daily Life.

We White people are fish in water: ask us to describe what we swim in, and we are mute. Sometimes we are mute with lack of understanding. Sometimes  with guilt and shame.

Meanwhile, Black people – in order to survive and – even against great odds, thrive – have long been keen observers, cataloguers, scholars and accomplished actors in White Syntax. 

I call this condition that we all live in being racialized.

It is a syntax that teaches all of us that the grammar of being human in the United states is based on skin color. 

This syntax has assigned to the White-skinned the power to own Black bodies, and at various times in our history to control their bodies – their freedom of movement, living space, family integrity, sexual autonomy, and livelihood by means of the lash, the noose, a knee on the neck, sundown laws, poll taxes, voter literacy tests, penal codes, and redlining, among others.

We may be woke, we may be deeply asleep

We may be kind, we may be mean.

We may be committed activists or mystified by what all the fuss is about..

We may have material wealth and possessions or little, or be thoroughly dispossessed of home and livelihood.

We may have colonial or immigrant or mixed-raced ancestors who came here earlier or later, owned slaves or didn’t, profited from slavery or didn’t, redlined or didn’t, white-flighted to the suburbs or didn’t.

We may live in misery or contentment.

We are all racialized.

We may be male or female-identified, non-binary, lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender or queer. 

We are all gendered.

We are all racialized.

The coarse and urgent tone of public discourse, the blogosphere, the social media memes may knock us awake, knock  us into reactivity,   knock us about, and use us up in fruitless and unpleasant arguments.

But they enlist the coarser parts of us and and keep us cut off from our full humanity – and therein lies the heart of the problem.

To cut off a Black person’s humanity by controlling their movement, their habitation, and their livelihood is to cut off our own. 

To cut off a Black person’s humanity by seeing them only as Black and not as  the unique, precious human individual they are, is to cut off our own claim to our individuality and to take on a Faceless and cruel Whiteness.

To restore full humanity to Black people is to restore our own.

We are urgently tasked to come clean, get real about our history, reckon with our moral failings, and the psychological trauma and material consequences of twenty generations of this American life governed by White Syntax.

If you are committed to racial and gender equity, and wondering how you can come out of the trance of your unconscious biases, and discern the course of action that is yours to take, get in touch for a free 30-minute Radical Inclusion consult.

Uncover & harness your unconscious biases

Are you committed to racial justice?

Do you wrestle with being part of the problem that you want to solve?

Are you ready to look within and work with your own stories and lived experiences?

JOIN ME FOR THIS 4-WEEK RADICAL INCLUSION IMMERSION
BEGINNING TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15

BEGIN to perceive and unlearn the stories that you were taught as a child.

MAP the rules, values, and roles of appearance and behavior embedded in those stories, and consider their effects on yourself and on others.

LEARN to enlist your own discomfort and fear around race as guides and allies.

TRUST yourself to figure out what is the next unique, right-sized, and right action  for you to take, aligned with your deeply held values.

FREE YOURSELF to serve in ways you cannot now envision.

MEET WEEKLY ON ZOOM, 6:30-8:30 PM ET

SEPT. 15, 22, 29, OCT. 6

CLASS SIZE LIMITED TO 8 SUPPORTS TRANSFORMATIONAL LEARNING WITH OTHERS COMMITTED TO PRACTICE WITH HONESTY AND KINDNESS

COMMITMENTS IN THIS BETA COURSE:

ATTEND AND PARTICIPATE  in class.

SHARE AND SUPPORT your class-mates at least 2x/week in a private Facebook group.

PRACTICE meditation taught in class at least two times a week in between classes.

OFFER FEEDBACK  to Sara via email at any time during the course to support improving the learning experience for yourself and classmates

BENEFIT from  a one-on-one with Sara after the 4th class for personal integration support and to offer detailed feedback

COURSE FEE $197

Full money-back guarantee if you are unsatisfied after you have met all the commitments above.

Contact me to reserve your place by Sept. 8

Sara Eisenberg is a healer, herbalist, activist and elder. A life-long learner, Sara has developed Radical Inclusion Practice through her own 5-year personal wrestle with racism and patriarchy. She is indebted to the many participants in her FREE on-line practice spaces – BEND THE ARC,  for 18 months following the 2016 election, and COME AS YOU ARE, which has met every Wednesday during the Pandemic and current racial reckoning. Sara is the founder of alifeofpractice.com, her online home where she integrates her work in Nondual Kabbalistic Healing, Herbal Medicine and Radical Inclusion Practice.

SOME COMMENTS FROM PARTICIPANTS IN SUMMER WORKSHOPS ON RADICAL INCLUSION

“This is the work we need to do and what will shift things if we can do it.”

“This practice activates my heart.”

“Found the given exercises very useful and practical.”

“I came aware with clarity around where I am… and a plan for moving forward.”

“This program has opened the door to the possibility of healing my inner divisions, judgement, and shame.”

“Sara quickly created and held a sacred space for us that allowed me to get to the heart of the matter.”

“…a container for deep, nuanced work.”

READ MORE…from A Life of Practice:

Racism: changing this river’s course

White? Get acquainted with visceral awareness

Freedom is an act: John Lewis

It is nine months since we lost Elijah Cummings, and now John Lewis.
I have a fantasy that these gentle yet fierce lions of the Civil Rights Movement are having a fine re-union, and, putting aside their well-earned rest, they are together doing what they are able to do now to help us bend the arc towards justice from where they are.

Continue reading

Racism: changing this river’s course

Forces whose timing and movement we cannot fathom and must act on

Across the globe, a virus we cannot see exerts its gravitational pull towards safety, protection, distancing, isolation. We do not all have the same choice to hunker down.

An equally potent force pulls newly mobilizing white people alongside seasoned activists – to rise and move together with our neighbors – and “strangers” of color. 

(I am painfully aware I might well be marching alongside the same black man who I crossed the street to avoid on a city street at night six months ago.)

Often masked, sometimes social distancing, protesters flow like a river down streets emptied of automobile traffic by Covid-19 even before protests began: to grieve, rage, chant, home-school our children in the streets, make vivid the pain and we-are-doneness in a cultural body that perhaps is on its way to becoming one sensing, healing and awakening body after all. 

Young people lead once again, as they have on environmental justice. Often black youth in the foreground: kids likely to die of racism before Covid-19 threatened them. White children as young as preschool are getting newly inoculated with a race-appropriate version of “the talk” – a talk that has a moral compass.

We may be in a position to watch these events live-streamed…from within our home offices / home schools / home kitchens

or we may be in a position to march….

or to honk our car horns in support…

or, as my sister living in a high-rise for seniors in Berkeley…to light a candle on her 2nd floor balcony that may not actually be visible to anyone.

What is it that is happening on the sidewalks, in the streets?

Sidewalks and streets that have belonged to white people since the early days in America’s history?

How is it that our grief walks the streets, hundreds, thousands together, when we have not been able to gather to sit with our dying family members, bury our dead, witness wedding vows, eat, study?

How is it that strangers have emerged from siloed neighborhoods, the red-lined and the privileged, to walk together?

Washington Post reporter Marissa J. Lang writes

“They didn’t have a plan at first. Five friends determined to join protests over the police killing of George Floyd arrived in downtown Washington on Saturday with one goal: Get to the White House.

As they walked south toward the bright white pillars in the distance, the group began to call out to passersby — people out for walks or jogs, some curiously eyeing the young people brandishing signs and face masks, marching with their fists held high.

“Walk with us,” called Jasmine Grobes, 27. “Come on! Walk with us.”

By the time they reached the metal barricades around Lafayette Square, that group of five had swelled to nearly 50 times that number. “

If you want to move a river, dig a channel…the river will flow into it.

There is movement, a change in choreography: police and protesters reach out to one another in small moments even as tear gas and rubber bullets fly elsewhere. The channel that protesters, and sometimes police officers, are digging reclaims public spaces.

There are stunning and tantalizing examples of a different kind of listening and bridging that is taking place. 

There are messages everywhere: on signs, on fences – most notably on the security fence surrounding the White House.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish.”

“When do I go from cute to dangerous?”

“Racism makes our patients sick.”

“We all bleed the same color.”

“Racism is the pandemic.”

“Why do you hate me?”

“Am I next?”

“Enough.”

We don’t know if we are in Langston Hughes’ Final Curve, as much as we may long for it

When you turn the corner

And you run into yourself

Then you know that you have turned

All the corners that are left.

We cannot foresee the outcome of this moment of letting go and coming in.

This is a mass of “unorganized” humanity beginning to sense itself – what one theory of change says is the key to transforming consciousness. 

In this view we observe, observe, observe. We go to the place of greatest potential to listen with our minds and our hearts wide open.

The place of most potential is our own being - and so we practice

With modest, not grand gestures, we begin to lay a foundation for racial repair and reconciliation.

We recommit to practice, to owning and freeing ourselves from our personal and cultural history.

We wrestle with responsibility, shame, and forgiveness of self and other, one second at a time.

We walk together, dismantle the shared racial structures together.

We make changes of the heart and let them guide changes in the law.

 

This is how we dig the channel to move the river of racism.

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Banner photo by John Salvino

To explore your own stories about race is hard to do alone. If you are ready to let your mind and heart break open into a larger story, let’s talk about how the practices of Radical Inclusion can support you.