All week I have been wrangling with “what could I/we say that would do this moment in our history justice?” Like many of you, I suspect, I have been impacted by the death of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and the WAY too many other Black Americans that have died at the hands of our police. AND, this is all happening on the backdrop of a disproportionately large number of Black Americans who have died from COVID-19. The rate of Black Americans dying from this disease is 2.4 times that of White Americans. This is just the smallest glimpse of how Black America is suffering, well beyond what can be tolerated.
While I have not had an easy life, (see my story) I have been acutely aware of my enormous privilege, especially in this last week. I have felt it was important to speak up in some way, but how? Do I donate, shop black owned businesses, march, call my senator … the list goes on, but it all seemed trite at best. I have been asking, what do I do with my voice that would really matter. As this week has worn on, and I have spent several hours watching, reading, sharing, crying, talking with those in my circle of Goddesses and my various teachers, this is what I have seen …
Maybe our first job at this time is to witness, that is, to look and listen. This isn’t easy. It is jarring and painful to witness, but it is not passive. When we witness we see and hear things we don’t understand and don’t like. Our familiar and safe reality dissolves and that is scary. But we must acknowledge, it is not nearly as painful as the 400 years of trauma Black Americans have experienced.
When we are willing to witness, to really see and hear, there is a demand on our hearts to open to what is being expressed. As women, we are caregivers, mothers, daughters and sisters. We are the ones who FEEL it all. When we open our hearts, we open ourselves to the collective pain, the anger, the fear. We have all heard the cries (not just George’s) for mother. We are that mother.
This is not an easy job and it is not a passive job. It calls on us to seek out what there is to see and hear, NOT turn a blind eye. We may need to go out of our way to listen to Black Americans. We may need to mask up and go into the protests, or talk to the people who live amongst us but look different than us. We must ask the questions that open up the space for them to speak their experience for real change to happen. We can not change what we can not listen to.
As mothers, as Goddesses, as Warrior Women, maybe our best weapon is our collective hearts. Our willingness to see, hear and open our hearts… see and feel the pain and anguish. AND, we also see the love. We see the women who made a human wall between black protesters and those that would do them harm. The women who sat on the front porch armed with nothing more than a camera to run off criminals looking to use the moment for their own interests. Maybe, when we begin by looking and listening, we can find ourselves and our divinely given feminine power to start to heal the traumas. To nurture, to love and to fight for ALL of our human family. #blacklivesmatter
The Goddess Guides and I stand for healing gender, age and cultural relations bringing harmony to humanity. Violence and fear thrive in the absence of the divine. We reclaim the divine.
With deep love and respect,
~ Anne Peterson, Goddess Guide & Founder of the Goddess Getaway
Authors note: Point of clarification, when I refer to ‘we’, I do mean all of us. However, I am especially speaking to and for people like me … white women to whom much has been gifted (aka privilege).
Borrowed from Monique Mason… I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south, and today was the first time I spoke frankly about racism with a black man.
When Ernest, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in. As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate.
Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?
When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.
What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble?
The answers were illuminating.
Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year. He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another. Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances. They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs. These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way. Everytime he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.
Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore. He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark. He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark”.
Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him. He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth.
A truth that needs to be heard.
When I asked Ernest what ethnic terms he gets offended at, he said that the most offensive term people use is ‘boy’. Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC. He is not a ‘boy’, and the term ‘boy’ in the south implies inferiority in station and status. He came to Myrtle Beach and got a job at Hobart. The supervisor repeatedly used the term ‘boy’. Ernest complained. After several complaints Ernest was fired.
Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.
After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years. He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me. I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.
I asked Ernest what he thought of “black bike week” in Myrtle Beach, where thousands of black people come with bullet bikes and trash our town. He says it hurts black people in our city, and he disagrees with the NAACP coming in to sue businesses that close on black bike week. He hates working that week.
Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is. His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.
I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up. I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today. Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple. #listenandlift
Edit: I asked Ernest if I could take his picture and post our conversation on facebook. He thought it was a great idea. As he left my house an hour later, he looked me in the eye and said, “If you ever march, or have a meeting on this topic, or want to change things in Myrtle Beach, I’ll stand with you.”
What a great idea. Let’s begin standing together.
6th and Jefferson in Louisville. This is a line of women forming a barrier between Black protestors and the police. This is love. This is what you do with your privilege. #NoJusticeNoPeace #SayHerName #BreonnaTaylor – Photo credit: Tim Druck
From the Chicago Crusader.
Injustice and discrimination tend to be described in binary terms: good vs. evil, female vs. male, Black vs. White.
However, at one of the at least twenty anti-police violence demonstrations held across the country on Thursday, an act of alliance disrupted that line of thinking by showing White bodies on the line to protect Black lives. Read the full story here.
From Tsalani Lassiter
I am very grateful for the support I have received the past few days. Although I am a very private person I feel it is important to share some of my experiences as a black man outdoors, as a photographer, and living in a van.
The sad truth is I always feel a little scared and extra weight on my shoulders. . . Even when I am out photographing black and grizzly bears I am more afraid of being harassed or killed by people.
I have been pulled aside by both Rangers and “Photographer Patty’s” and asked to abide by rules no one else around me is following.
I have been pulled over by cops and asked how could I afford a Mercedes Sprinter van.
I was stopped by Rangers because a white lady reported I stole a cellphone and kidnapped someone.
With no one around and while carrying multiple tripods and 20lbs of camera equipment I was still forced to prove I was just a photographer.
While in a private community, visiting my dad in SF, I sat in my van overlooking the skyline. Suddenly we were surrounded by more than a dozen cops, many with guns drawn. I had to explain to each new officer arriving on scene why I was there. My drivers license clearly listing an address on the same street.
While eating lunch outside an apartment building and private tennis complex (where I worked) I was surrounded and accused of casing houses and using a nice van as cover.
In Lake Tahoe I was accused of shooting bears (with guns) and using the van to transport their dead bodies.
I have been asked what I am doing in an area and what I am concealing under my puffy jacket while hiking in the winter.
I have been the only photographer told to move because there were too many people photographing in an area even when I was first on the scene.
I have been the only photographer asked to move their vehicle and forced to park over 1/4 mile away.
These are some of the experiences I have had in the past 4 years. Fortunately they are small compared to what I faced growing up. However, while I am older and stronger, they still weigh heavily on me. They always affect my thoughts and decisions on where and when to travel, I never feel absolutely free.