(ORIGINAL PUBLISH DATE: June 19th through my newsletter)
Nearly a week ago I arrived here in Los Angeles.
Presently, I’m sitting in a bronze metal chair at a round white table in my temporary Airbnb. There are small plastic “succulents” on a modern black tray. Garbanzo beans are boiling on the stove.
It’s still early and the morning is quiet.
It was not my intention to get here so soon. The plan was to stay in Joshua Tree a bit longer. But there were some issues at the hipster hotel where I was living.
A man and woman, with six or seven children from prior involvements, were also staying at the hotel in room #1 (I was in room #8).
They seemed friendly enough, but there was a lot of drinking/smoking/who-knows-what-else going on and I instinctually kept my distance. Although, it was fun to have the dusty, blond kids zooming around the dirt lot and splashing in the pool.
One time the littlest kid, about two years old wearing only a diaper, ripped through the open door of my room while I was doing a coaching call. I muted myself so the person on the other end wouldn’t hear the ruckus as some of the older kids came squealing in to try to fetch him.
The little boy did an army roll across my bed and scooted back outside. The bigger kids called out “sorry! Sorry” and ran off.
Then one day there was a domestic disturbance issue with the man.
The police took him away for several hours, enough time for the woman to clear out.
When the only other lodger at the hotel (who was staying in room #4) alerted the owners about what was going on a couple days later, the man from room #1 got confrontational. Late in the evening, I heard him pounding on the other lodger’s door telling him to come out, threatening him.
That night his girlfriend also returned (sadly).
At that point, it became very clear it was time for Ariel to peace out. So I took Scampy back to the beautiful property where I had been living over the winter, spent a few days there, then bolted to LA a week earlier than planned.
And here I am.
Being in LA feels right for many reasons. The biggest reason being that it feels really important to be close to humanity right now.
Although social distancing is very much in effect here, and nearly everyone is wearing face coverings, it feels right to be in the midst of many more humans.
As we continue to deal with COVID, and as the Black Lives Matter movement continues, I need to be able to feel it all. By feeling it, I can better sense what I am called to do with it.
Which brings me to the title of this note: the dance of silence and sound.
A striking aspect of this latest wave of activism around racism in this country is the silence that many white people have maintained is breaking.
I can only speak from my perspective – the perspective of a white woman seeing through the lens of my privilege… a lens that is largely blind to the fact that it even is a lens.
But what I’m seeing and hearing are white people who normally don’t “go there” choosing to go there.
Yes, there is certainly the knee-jerk I have to say something to prove I’m anti-racist type of messaging going on. But as my conversations with white friends continue, and as I listen to my favorite white podcasters share their processes, there’s something else going on too.
Permission to break the silence. Permission to say out loud I see this and I care.
Many times in the past when I’ve been in conversation with friends and colleagues who are people of color, I have wished that there could be a more open dialogue around race as a player in our lives, work, and processes of self-realization. But I have felt un-allowed to go there – or only allowed to vaguely allude to it.
My conditioning has given me the message that if I name it, it will grow more and potentially hurt people more. The false feeling is that muffling it will, in effect, muzzle the problem.
As I permit myself to be more vocal about what I truly deeply fundamentally believe in – equality, compassion, massive systemic change – I have felt an ancient queasiness arise.
Silence is a contract many of us white people were expected so sign before we even knew what we were signing. It was the unspoken oath of our birth…
In exchange for your silence, you will get the keys to the kingdom… just don’t look too far beyond the walls.
Breaking the silence can feel like this crazy creepy betrayal of our own ethnic heritage. What ungrateful child rebukes their own privilege? Well, Siddhattha did.
And as white people are now in this dance of silence and sound – of consciously ‘muting’ oneself, then shouting at a protest… of scolding one another for getting it ‘wrong’, then attempting to get it ‘right’ by broadcasting a relevant point they heard on a YouTube video… it’s awkward AF.
Because many of us white people are out of practice! No, not ‘out of practice’… because that implies that we once were in practice. We just aren’t used to this permission. This permission to speak from our humanity, even though it makes cracks in the society that was built ‘for’ us.
The taboos of speaking about race are rapidly shifting to taboos of not speaking about race, and many of us white folks don’t know how the hell to do it…yet.
And it seems that there’s this subverted silencing that some white people are doing to each other – by railing about how wrong each other are doing it.
I’m offering no clear solutions here. The main thing I keep thinking about is just that no problem was ever solved by NOT speaking about it.
So I think we should all keep trying to speak about this. And also regularly get quiet and listen/learn/listen/learn.
And I hope that with practice, the terror of calling out the monster that lives within – the one that silently infiltrates and runs “society” – will become more normal.
And by calling it out, by normalizing speaking about privilege and racism, we can change what part of each of us is doing the deciding, and therefore we can change what we decide to tear down or build together.
Within the dance of silence and sound seems to be the dance of denial and transformation.
It’s gonna take time and practice to let the humanity within consistently rise up and speak up.
But let’s stay on the floor.
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