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June 5, 2020

A Work in Progress: Being White, Racism & 100% Responsibility

I didn’t know what structural racism or white privilege was until a few years ago. 


Even as I type those words I notice a familiar shaming voice rising in my head. The voice says, “Really, how the hell have you kept your head in the sand so long? How can others trust you as a leader in consciousness and as a spiritual leader if you have been so blind?” As these thoughts arise I’m immediately reminded that one of the ways white people keep from facing and dealing with the issues of racism, privilege and supremacy is by “feeling bad,” especially guilt and shame. We keep ourselves at the center of the conversation by focusing on our bad feeling rather than really seeing black people and their situation and experience. 


Years ago I began to notice that most of the conferences I went to and spoke at on conscious leadership, consciousness and mindfulness were filled largely with white people. Black people and people of color were missing. I also noticed that almost everyone attending our (CLG) events was white. This bothered me. I started to wonder if consciousness/mindfulness in the US was largely the privilege of white affluent seekers? People whose life station allowed them to examine the more esoteric realms of personal fulfillment and creative expression. 


Then a few white friends Lola Wright and Lauren Henly (bio) who have personally and professionally been in the race conversation for years suggested I read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I both read and listened to the book and had the experience of being slapped in the face by reality. It was the experience of being undone, literally coming apart. DiAngelo presented facts that I could not deny or run away from. It became clear to me that I was complicit in structural racism and the constant beneficiary of white privilege. 


I began the repentance process. Repentance comes from the greek word metanoia. At its root it means “to think again.” I began and continue to think again about racism, privilege and the most troubling words to me, white supremacy. I, like many whites, had placed this label on a select group of ignorant southern confederate flag toting bigots. It has been quite a journey to change my thinking about how I am a white supremacist by many definitions. 


I am a work in progress. I am changing my thoughts, feeling my feelings and taking action. And one of the actions I’m taking is exploring and talking about how the 15 commitments of conscious leadership relate to this conversation. In my experience they do and understanding this creates the possibility of a very different conversation and set of actions. 


I realize and own that I bring the 15 commitments to the conversation as a privileged white male filled with unconscious biases. One of the gifts of conscious leadership is that it invites me and us to see our unconscious commitments and biases by claiming ownership for the results in our lives. We say all the time that this is a radical choice. It’s a choice to say to myself, “I’m committed to producing the results that are in my life.” No matter what I say about what I think I’m committed to, it’s the results that tell me the truth. 

Now when I say this I want to say immediately that this is work I do on me. This is not work I do on you or anyone else. It is not my place to identify your unconscious commitments and biases by telling you to look at your results. That is your work if you choose to do it. 


What this means to me, for example, is this. I am currently committed (as evidenced by the results and regardless of what I say) to co-creating a country where George Floyd, a black man, is suffocated by white policemen. How do I know? These are the results. If I choose I can take my 100% responsibility for creating this reality. From this place of choice I can ask myself how I have created this reality? What have I done and not done, said and not said, believed and not believed that has created this reality. What have I done consciously and what have I done unconsciously? This is my beginning act of radical responsibility. 


I can broaden my inquiry beyond George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the losses of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and all those that have died for being black in America. I can choose to end blame and criticism and claim responsibility (Commitment #1). 


I can also feel all my feelings all the way through to completion (Commitment #3). I can feel my rage, fear, broken heartedness, longing, apathy and creativity all the way, not blunting it through denial or repression or righteousness. 


I can also support others to feel their feelings. Much of what is happening in the current protests is that people are feeling their feelings both individually and collectively. Consciousness would invite us all to collectively mourn and grieve and part of grieving is anger. The 15 commitments would invite us to feel all of these feelings and, if we’re willing, to feel them from above the line. To feel a clear, clean white hot anger that says and, at times, screams STOP! Stop, this is not of service to the whole, to the collective and to countless individuals. To feel an anger that doesn’t require being righteous, critical, judgmental and blaming. That doesn’t need to be right by making others wrong. This below the line anger just further divides us and doesn’t lead to lasting transformation. And again, I’m talking about me, not you. This is my work to develop a conscious relationship to emotions around racism that produces lasting transformation. 


I can also practice candor (Commitment #4). I can ruthlessly separate fact from story and then challenge all of my stories (beliefs, judgments, opinions) and see how the opposite of every one of them could be as true as my current story. From this place of open hearted awareness and clarity around my ego identity’s compulsion to make up stories and need to prove it is right, I can have open conversations that lead to actions from presence and love. Also, I can become a powerful transformational listener who is willing and capable of listening to others from the head, the heart and the gut. Again, much of what is happening in our country today is coming from people being unwilling to listen, really listen to each other. 


In my experience everyone of the 15 commitments applies to race. Everyone of them. And my commitment is to keep doing my work, keep being the resolution for what I most want to see in the world (Commitment #15). It’s also my and our commitment to support anyone who is interested in practicing conscious leadership to apply these commitments to their life and to this current conversation and to create supportive environments where they can do this.


This is our work. 



**********


Engage


Read Conscious Activism


A step-by-step walk-through to apply and practice conscious leadership around the issue of race. Includes resources for self-education and social action.


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I didn’t know what structural racism or white privilege was until a few years ago. 

Even as I type those words I notice a familiar shaming voice rising in my head. The voice says, “Really? How the hell have you kept your head in the sand so long? How can others trust you as a leader in consciousness and as a spiritual leader if you have been so blind?” As these thoughts arise I’m immediately reminded that one of the ways white people keep from facing and dealing with the issues of racism, privilege and supremacy is by “feeling bad,” especially with guilt and shame. We keep ourselves at the center of the conversation by focusing on our bad feelings rather than really seeing black people and their situation and experience.  

Years ago I began to notice that most of the conferences I went to and spoke at on conscious leadership, consciousness and mindfulness were filled largely with white people. 

Black people and people of color were missing. 


I also noticed that almost everyone attending our (CLG) events was white. This bothered me. I started to wonder if consciousness/mindfulness in the US was largely the privilege of white affluent seekers? People whose life station allowed them to examine the more esoteric realms of personal fulfillment and creative expression? 


Then a couple of white friends—Lola Wright and Lauren Henley, who have personally and professionally been in the race conversation for years—suggested I read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. I both read and listened to the book and had the experience of being slapped in the face by reality. It was the experience of being undone, literally coming apart. DiAngelo presented facts that I could not deny or run away from. It became clear to me that I was complicit in structural racism and the constant beneficiary of white privilege. 


I began the repentance process. “Repentance” comes (via Latin) from the Greek word metanoia. At its root, it means “to think again.” I began and continue to think again about racism, privilege and the most troubling words to me, white supremacy. I, like many whites, had placed this label on a select group of ignorant, Southern, Confederate-flag-toting bigots. It has been quite a journey to change my thinking about how I am a white supremacist by many definitions. 

I am a work in progress. I am changing my thoughts, feeling my feelings and taking action.

One of the actions I’m taking is exploring and talking about how The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership relate to this conversation. In my experience they do; understanding this creates the possibility of a very different conversation and set of actions. 


I realize and own that I bring The 15 Commitments to the conversation as a privileged white male filled with unconscious biases. One of the gifts of conscious leadership is that it invites me and us to see our unconscious commitments and biases by claiming ownership for the results in our lives. This is a radical choice. It’s a choice to say to myself, “I’m committed to producing the results that are showing up in my life.” No matter what I say about what I think I’m committed to, it’s the results that tell me the truth.  


I want to be perfectly clear that I’m doing this work on myself. This is not work I do on you or anyone else. 


It is not my place to identify your unconscious commitments and biases by telling you to look at your results. That is your work if you choose to do it. 


What this means to me, for example, is this:

I am currently committed (as evidenced by the results and regardless of what I say) to co-creating a country where George Floyd, an unarmed black man, is suffocated by policemen. 


How do I know? These are the results. If I choose, I can take my 100% responsibility for creating this reality. From this place of choice, I can ask myself: How (not if) I have created this reality? What have I done and not done, said and not said, believed and not believed, that has created this reality? What have I done consciously and what have I done unconsciously? This is how I begin to take radical responsibility. 


I can broaden my inquiry beyond George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the losses of Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin and all those who have died for being black in America. I can choose to end blame and criticism and claim responsibility


I can also feel all my feelings all the way through to completion. I can feel my rage, fear, broken- heartedness, longing, apathy and creativity all the way, not blunting them through denial or repression or righteousness. 


I can also support others to feel their feelings. Much of what is happening in the current protests is that people are feeling their feelings, both individually and collectively. Consciousness would invite us all to collectively mourn and grieve. Part of grieving is feeling anger. The 15 Commitments would invite us to feel all of these feelings and, if we’re willing, to feel them from above the line


To feel a clear, clean, white-hot anger that says (and, at times, screams) “STOP! Stop, this is not of service to the whole, to the collective and to countless individuals.” 


To feel an anger that doesn’t require being righteous, critical, judgmental and blaming.  That doesn’t need to be right by making others wrong. This below the line anger just further divides us and doesn’t lead to lasting transformation. Again, I’m talking about me, not you. This is my work to develop a conscious relationship to emotions around racism that produces lasting transformation. 


I can also practice candor. I can ruthlessly separate fact from story and then challenge all of my stories (beliefs, judgments, opinions) and see how the opposite of every one of them could be as true as my current story


From this place of open-hearted awareness, I can have open, vulnerable conversations that lead to actions from presence and love. I can become a powerful transformational listener who is willing and capable of listening to others from the head, the heart and the gut. Much of what is happening in our country today is coming from people being unwilling to listen— really listen— to each other. 

In my experience, every one of the 15 Commitments applies to race, just as like they do to leadership, education, politics, parenting, relationship, and so on. They invite us to keep our attention on context in order to learn and grow from all the content in our lives. 


My overarching commitment is to keep doing my work and to keep addressing context. When it comes to racism—and all things—I am committed to being the resolution for what I most want to see in the world. It’s also my and our commitment to support others to practice conscious leadership  by applying The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership in their life, and in this current conversation. 


**********

Engage

Read our article: Conscious Activism

A step-by-step walk-through to apply and practice conscious leadership around the issue of race. Includes resources for self-education and social action.

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