I don’t normally go on Facebook and scroll through my feed. Running a business that serves thousands of women, I usually just hop on, post what I need to post, and leave.
For some reason, this week I spent some time looking through my feed, and I was appalled and devastated over a series of five different threads on five different accounts that I came across after they had already happened.
In these threads, a black woman had shared a painful experience with racism, whether in the comments under a white woman’s post or in her own post. And several white women who identify as lightworkers and spiritual coaches had completely ignored and washed over their pain, gaslighting them with phrases like, why can’t we stop the negativity? We are all one!” Or gotten defensive and responded, what about the discrimination I experience from black women? (??!!!).
As I saw in many of the posts, when they were called out (with patience and firmness, but still love), some of the women who had been doing the spiritual bypassing, became defensive, and began to emotionally and verbally abuse the woman calling her out.
Some of the posts and threads were originally posted by white women, and I was shocked to see that the white owner of the thread, had not stepped in to stop the abuser in question or block her.
The thing that brought me such rage and pain was to see a black woman painstakingly put up with all of that, and spend hours of her time educating the woman who was abusing her (knowingly or unknowingly). I watched black women expend hours of emotional labor trying to get the white woman who was insulting her to see her own blind spots and lack of understanding about her privilege.
In some cases, the white woman in question saw the error of her ways and apologized. Still, I was left feeling so angry and devastated that a black sister had to do all that in the first place.
If you don’t understand why this made me feel so upset, I’ll explain it to you in a moment.
Let me be clear — this is nothing new. This has been going on forever. I’ve been witnessing it endlessly, speaking out against it for a long time, in a variety of ways. But seeing it happen SO many times in just a few days, prompted me to write about this yet again, from a different angle.
Before I begin, I want to let you know that I am not white. I am a “fair-skinned Latina.” So while in my experience I have been rarely viewed as white by white people (instead I get asked about “where I’m from,” “why don’t I have an accent,” and get told I’m “exotic,” or to “remember where I came from” if I get “too big for my britches”), I still have light skin. That means that I am afforded many of the same privileges in society as white women, and I do not experience even an iota of the discrimination that black women experience.
And unfortunately, that means that white women sometimes also listen to me less defensively. This is extremely uncomfortable for me to know that, because of the color of my skin, I carry that kind of privilege. It makes me squirm — everyone should afford the respect to their fellow human of listening to them without gaslighting them, regardless of the color of their skin. But light skin privilege exists, and as I have always felt since I was child — if I can use that privilege to make a difference, I will.
If you have been part of these threads online, felt yourself getting defensive at a black woman’s anger or pain, or found yourself avoiding the conversation altogether because you feel uncomfortable being a part of it; and if you identify as a spiritual being, a lightworker, a spiritual guide or coach… then this is for you.
If you find yourself wondering, why do we have to keep talking about this negative stuff still? This happened years ago. Shouldn’t we be over this by now? Why do people keep cluttering my feed up with all this negative stuff about police brutality, Black Lives Matter, and racism?, then this is for you.
If you’ve ever responded verbally or in your mind, yes, but I was poor growing up, so what about my pain and discrimination? when you read a black woman’s post sharing her painful experiences, or you’ve thought to yourself or written under said post, what about the discrimination white people experience when black people discriminate against them?, then this is for you.
First, I want you to imagine this.
Something horrible and traumatic has happened to you.
In fact, it’s something that has been passed down through generations in your family and ancestry. You’ve watched your family be affected by this. You, through no choice of your own, carry this pain and this trauma in your DNA.
Or someone has done something extremely hurtful to you. It has affected your life tremendously. You are hurt, in pain, and devastated over it.
You sit down with the person who hurt you, or any person, to tell them about your pain. You might be angry because of the pain. You might be sad. But you sit down and you speak about it. You either want to share this with them to be seen and heard, or you want them to know how they hurt you, so they can stop doing it, and you can resolve some of the pain you feel.
And as you start to speak, the person interrupts you and says to you…
This happened a long time ago. Shouldn’t you be over this by now?
But what about me? What about my pain?
I had an ex who would do this to me all the time.
I’d sit down to tell them how their behavior had hurt me, and their first response to me was:
What about my pain? Or the time you did x to me, 6 months ago?
Why are we talking about this? I apologized! (when they hadn’t really).
It was frustrating as hell.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’ve had this happen to you many times, too.
And how did it feel?
Doesn’t it feel like the person just completely washed over your pain and made it about them?
Doesn’t it hurt?
Doesn’t it feel like you’re not being given the courtesy of being listened to?
Doesn’t it feel like the person does not care at all about your pain and only thinks about theirs?
Doesn’t it make you feel invalidated, unimportant…
And doesn’t it make the pain, frustration, and the anger even deeper?
If you’re human, you’ve had this experience at least once in your life, in any relationships you may have had.
Now imagine being black, carrying around centuries of slavery, abuse, and horrific trauma memory in your DNA. Imagine experiencing racism on a daily basis because of the color of your skin, no matter how much money you make, or what your “social status” is. Imagine feeling afraid for your safety 100x more per day. Experiencing thousands of little micro-aggressions from people in a month.
And then you finally muster up the energy to speak about your pain and you get bypassed and gaslit by the person listening to you. Or they try to make it about their pain. Or they tell you…
Stop it with the negativity! We are all one! Let’s be loving!
Wouldn’t that feel so enraging and upsetting?
Now, understand that you can’t actually imagine what the above is like if you are not black. We can try to begin to understand it by associating personal experiences we may have had with it. But as frustrating as imagining that scenario feels to you, now increase that frustration and pain by a million. You’ll still only be able to understand .00000001 percent of what that feels like.
Telling an abuse victim to “get over” their pain, or to “love and light” it away, is abuse.
It is abuse — just like telling a woman who has left her abusive husband to go back to him and get over it already.
It is abuse — just like telling a person who has cut ties with their narcissistic abuser family member to get over it, and reconnect with their family member because “it makes things easier for the rest of the family and it will smooth things over”.
When you respond to a black woman any variety of the above.
When you say that Kaepernick kneeling is just more division, why can’t we all come together?
When you say love and light to someone who is sharing their pain.
When you get defensive and start talking about your pain while interrupting a black sister sharing her own.
You may not know it, you may not feel that was your intention, and it may not be fun to hear this, but you are being abusive when you do the above.
You are dismissing her.
You are gaslighting her.
I’m sure that you have had your share of pain in life.
That is part of being human. All humans have experienced pain.
Most of us have gone through some really tough stuff. That is life.
But just like you know how shitty it feels when you’re trying to share your pain with someone and they interrupt you and start sharing about their pain…
that’s how it feels to the woman you’re doing it to on social media in response to her sharing her experience.
I was recently in a conversation with a friend of mine (who is not white, but rather, Latina). She grew up in and lives in a different country.
She told me she doesn’t really keep up much with what is happening in the US with racism, indigenous rights being violated, sexism, and more.
Not knowing what she was saying, in the middle of a convo we were having about indigenous people in another Latin American country, who were on the streets protesting and shutting down traffic, she did what I’m talking about above. She wasn’t trying to be mean, racist, or abusive… just like I’m sure you didn’t think that was your intention either when you said any of the above phrases to a black woman on her thread or comment.
She said, I don’t understand why in countries some people are still talking about this or racism… and protesting about it. I don’t understand this “Black Lives Matter” thing in the US. It happened a long time ago. I don’t understand why they can’t get over it. It’s causing a lot of disruption. And I feel like it’s just more separation. Why can’t we just get along?
So I explained to her what I just wrote above.
You know when you’re really upset about something wrong someone did, something that really hurt you? And then they keep not listening to you, telling you, “okay fine, but that happened in the past, so get over it, why are you still harping on about that?”, but they never ever actually took a moment to say to you, “I see what I did to you. I see that it hurt you, I hear you and I’m sorry. I’ll make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
Or maybe they didn’t do the thing that hurts to you, but they won’t listen to your hurt, acknowledge it, and instead, just keep telling you you’re being dramatic and to get over it?
How does that feel when someone does that to you?”
She paused for a moment. Eyes wide.
She said, It feels awful. Like they are not acknowledging what they did and don’t even have the courtesy to at least acknowledge it, which could create so much healing for me.”
Exactly. And that’s exactly why indigenous tribes are in the streets protesting, why Black Lives Matter exists, etc… because no one/the world/governments have ever sat down to say ‘I hear you. I’m sorry that happened to you. It was wrong what happened to you, and you have a right to feel how you feel.’
And even worse, even if they did say something, they never, actually, REALLY did anything about it. Remember Standing Rock, where I went last year? Their lands, that the white man “gave” to them as “reparations” (which were just the shitty lands the white man didn’t want after they stole the good parcels of land from them), are STILL being taken away from them! That’s why we were there.
Even though laws SAY black people are equal to white, if you look at poverty statistics, who is mostly in jail and ANY kind of social statistic, you will see that is not the case, and the system is geared to discriminate.
So not only did indigenous, black, and any and all groups of people who have long histories of being raped, pillaged, sold to slavery, had children slaughtered before their eyes, treated like sub-humans, for CENTURIES, now have to carry that pain and suffering in their DNA…
Then, to top it all off, society is still saying in subtle ways that it’s better to be white and a man.
Black and indigenous people are still being told to “get over it” on social media on their posts sharing their pain.
They are still being shouted at, racial slurs hurled at them for no reason whatsoever as they go through their daily lives.
They are still struggling to get paid the same as white men and women.
They are still being punished more harshly for the same crime as a white man or woman commits.
They are still fearing for their lives every time they get pulled over by a police officer.
They are still having cops come into their poor neighborhoods and plant drugs on them to frame them.
She continued to listen.
Imagine going through all that, for centuries, seeing how that pain has been carried on down through your ancestors, your parents, etc., and on top of all that, society is STILL taking away and violating your rights, and you’re still not afforded the same opportunities.
And no one, not once, took a moment to do real reparations.
To say, “I hear you. I’m sorry. I will change systems to make sure this never happens again.”
Wouldn’t you be in the streets, protesting, angry, if all of that was part of your history, and everyone kept telling you to ‘just get over it’? And you never have been given the chance to heal generations of trauma simply by at least having your pain acknowledged?”
She looked back at me with big eyes and said, wow, I never thought about it that way. Thanks for explaining it to me like that.
Try to think about that next time you tell someone to get over it or that they are causing separation by discussing the issues above.
Try to think about that the next time you start talking about your feelings and your pain on a black woman’s post, or suggest sharing her experiences. Unless she asks you to share that, listen instead.
Please, white or fair-skinned sisters, who identify as “spiritual” or “lightworkers — try to think about that the next time you say “but we are all one!” to a black sister’s pain.
That is your sister in front of you. Aren’t you all about spiritual sisterhood?
So many lightworkers love to talk about the concept of “we are all one.” But if you’re using that to spiritually bypass a black or indigenous sister’s pain, you’re getting it wrong.
When we say “we are all one” — what that actually means is that when your black sister is experiencing discrimination, and cannot be equal to you because of the color of her skin, and the way the system is setup to make sure you succeed 100x more than she does, you understand that, because she is one with you. It affects you, and the soul of all humanity, to be discriminated against and treated as sub-human.
If we are all one then we cannot be healed as a collective until racism and discrimination ends.
If we are all one then we cannot move past this wound until we’ve looked into the eyes of the marginalized and abused and say: I’m sorry. I hear you. I will use my privileges to help change this.
And then ACTUALLY back that up with action to make a world where we are all equal and treated with the same level of respect and compassion.
That is what “we are all one” actually means.
Please, please, please, if you are a white woman (or a light skinned woman like me), if you find yourself feeling defensive or wanting to say any of the phrases in response to a black woman’s pain, stop. Take a breath.
Go educate YOURSELF on white privilege. Don’t argue with and make a black woman educate and explain things to you — her time is just as valuable as yours. And she’s been dealing with a lifetime of having to explain and educate and is tired of having to do this.
Join groups on Facebook that educate you about this.
Be quiet and listen, even if you want to jump to defend yourself or talk about your pain. Don’t start talking about the “bigger picture,” or the “meta level” of all of this, while she’s sharing her painful experience or her anger. She has every right to be angry. Wouldn’t you be?
Listen. Listen. Listen. Learn. Learn. Learn.
And then, stand up for your black sister when you see her being spoken to that way online or in person. Educate other white people on privilege so that your black sister doesn’t need to step in and do more exhaustive emotional labor.
If we are really “lightworkers” and we carry that privilege of having white skin, that is what an actual lightworker would do.
If we want to talk spiritually, you know then that all of the world’s “shit” is coming up to the surface. All the racism and separation that has been hidden for years is rearing it’s ugly head. It hasn’t suddenly popped up after we had gotten rid of racism. Racism was always there, you just didn’t see it as clearly.
The advent of the Iphone (and being able to record police officers brutalizing black men & women over crimes that white people commit all the time with no consequence) is just making these issues more visible.
The increase of usage on social platforms where racists feel they can hide and post horrible things online, simply helps us see it more clearly.
You know if you consider yourself a light worker, that from the spiritual perspective, that this is all coming to a head more visibly than ever because our world needs to move into an expansion of consciousness if we are to survive. Lightworkers are the people who are on the planet to help this expansion of consciousness move forward.
True “lightworkers” know that their charge is to help clear up all the shit that comes to the surface, so that we, as a human collective, CAN come together and heal.
Not hide away and pretend none of this is happening. True lightworkers roll up their sleeves, get uncomfortable, step in the muck, and work tirelessly to make sure all their fellow humans are afforded the same compassion and kindness.
That means stepping in for your black sister and educating a white person who is abusing her if you benefit from white privilege. Don’t leave her alone while she’s being attacked or stay silent if you see this happening.
That means looking within (as we love to say in spiritual-speak) and seeing where you carry that in you. It means being willing to get uncomfortable and use that privilege for good.
It means listening. Validating. Holding space for a black sister’s pain and anger. It means witnessing her. Not spiritually bypassing or gaslighting her.
This world, it needs the healing of acknowledging the pain that so many people have carried for generations.
Don’t add to that pain by gaslighting someone who has every right to be angry.
And then work in your own small (or big) ways to change the system for your fellow human.
That’s how we heal.
That is how we “lightwork.”
PS: Here are some EXCELLENT resources if you carry white or light-skin privilege and want to educate yourself more.
Leesa Renee Hall is a black woman who took aside some of her valuable time to write this incredible guide to educate women (and men) with white privilege. It is excellent and I am working my way through the questions myself, because it’s always important to keep excavating all the ways in which we benefit from privileges in society.
More importantly, you can donate to her for her effort and time putting this excellent guide together, which she did not have to do.
I donated $100. At the bottom of the article you can quickly donate to her paypal link as a thank you if you use this resource.
In their own words:
“White Nonsense Roundup (WNR) was created by white people to address our inherently racist society and stand up against racism in our own families, work spaces, and communities. We believe it is our responsibility to call out white friends, relatives, contacts, speakers, and authors who are contributing to structural racism and harming our friends of color. We are a resource for anti-racist images, links, videos, artwork, essays, and voices. These can be used by anyone for a DIY white nonsense roundup, or by the WNR team to support people of color upon their request.
If you are a Person of Color (POC), you have enough on your plate! It’s not your job to educate white people about privilege, racism, and what’s really going on in the world. If a white person is filling your social media with white nonsense – anything from overt racism to well-intentioned problematic statements – tag us and a white person will come roundup our own. We welcome your involvement, resource suggestions, and will take your feedback seriously. We are also happy to boost the signal of voices of color.”
Thanks to Irene Antoniazzi for sharing this resource with me.
And finally, Google it yo.
Don’t ask a black person to explain it to you. Just use good ol’ Google and you’ll find thousands of resources to help you get more educated. (And if a black woman takes the time to actually explain it to you or educate you, don’t get defensive and start arguing with her about her premise–listen.)