A Harmful side of Not Giving a Fu*k: Ignoring Privilege
With the events of Charlottesville, VA, I would not be doing my job as an advocate for justice if I did not address the heartbreaking events of the past week. I was going to write this week on going back to school and tricks for parenting, but my heart is pulling me in a different direction. I want you to notice if a response came up in you that sounds something like: “Ugh- I’m sick of hearing about Charlottesville.” I just want you to notice if you can do that, if it feels like it doesn’t affect you, you might want to take a look at the privileges you have in this world:
If you follow this blog, you will know that one of my favorite mantras and the title of this series is “Care Deeply AND don’t give a fu*k.” I believe in this mantra; it invokes holding space for our passions, our relationships and attending to our impact on the world while at the same time, holding space and giving permission to “un-plugging” from toxic relationships, not trying to rescue or fix people, not taking things too personally and not equating our lovability or worth with what others think about us or judge us for. I want to make very clear however that choosing to not give a fuck about something because it doesn’t affect you personally is misguided. When we choose to unplug completely from our fellow humans, we inevitably unplug from ourselves. If we cannot sit with the discomfort of looking at the identities with which we walk that perhaps give us an edge in society, then we are cutting off from some part of our truth. If we are uncomfortable with difference, it behooves us to look at what that discomfort is about and explore it. Why? Because we are our best when we can give and receive love freely. When we choose to not care about others, especially because we perceive them as scary or different, we cut off from our empathy and the very thing that actually makes us thrive, which is connection. When we do not care about others, it is a reflection on ourselves.
Connection, compassion, kindness and love are the values that I believe elevate us. Above all things, all living beings are connected. Even from a secular perspective, we are all connected to one another through mirror neurons. Our actions directly impact those around us and vice versa. When you are happy, the mirror neurons in other people’s brains around you, mirror that. When you are angry or sad, other people subconsciously and consciously pick up on that and without even thinking, begins to set off the flight or fight response in their system. In short, YOU MATTER- from the small ways you treat someone in the grocery store to the ways in which you choose to interact with your partner or your children to the role you play in the larger global society. WE ARE CONNECTED. So when one group of people are being oppressed and those who passively benefit from that choose not to care or choose to disengage, we are all hurt. When we look at our pain honestly, we can move it through our system. When we can sit with the whole truth of what has happened to us in our human story, we can step into our power and take true ownership and accountability about how we want to move forward. The events in Charlottesville are, at least in part, a result of our nation not being entirely honest about our history. Words like “privilege,” “racism”- even “kindness” for goodness sake are politically charged now and we cannot seem to get passed our anger. If you have the right to not care about another group of people different from yourself and you still have resources, you have some kind of privilege in this world. That’s just the truth.
You don’t see statues of Hitler in Germany because they have been honest about their history and they do not want to glorify evil in the name of heritage or preserving history. If your family was torn apart, would you want a statue of those responsible as a tribute to what happened in history? It doesn’t mean you, as an individual, didn’t and don’t work hard for what you have, it doesn’t mean you have had an easy life. Nobody likes to be told they were born with a silver spoon or they don’t deserve the things they have. You may very well have had to work hard in your life as a white person, but you have never had to worry that the police were going to pull you over because of your skin color. You have also never had to worry about if the very perception of your name on a job application would put you at the bottom of the stack. If you are a family that has a mom and a dad (not two moms like my family), you don’t have to worry about your child’s teacher or doctor asking him where “daddy is today?” These are unearned privileges that people who have them didn’t earn and didn’t ask for, but they are still advantages for which those that benefit need to be accountable. Sometimes, we are part of a group that has privilege AND part of a group that doesn’t. We have to navigate that. There are many different forms of privilege, white privilege, Christian privilege, class privilege, education privilege, male privilege, straight privilege, cis-gendered privilege. People with privilege seem to think that the discussion of privilege discounts how hard they work in their personal lives, or that by talking about privilege, people are playing a “victim card” and not taking accountability for their lives. Or they think that they have never had experiences with these identities that didn’t seem to work in their disadvantage. However, these are personal experiences. The discussion of privilege is addressing the different collective experiences of people and I would ask that if you have an aversion to talking about privilege, greet that with compassion and curiosity and ask if that is really serving you. Do you feel threatened? Are you hearing that your life and experiences don’t matter? Could digging your heels in be missing something? Perhaps sitting with the discomfort and allowing the pain to have a voice would actually allow you to grieve and heal.
What is underneath the pain of this nation, in my mind- is unresolved trauma and grief. I can’t help but watching the images of the young, white men and I see pain in their eyes. I am NOT justifying their actions. Their actions are those of domestic terrorists; they are dangerous and they need to be held accountable. Their behavior is abhorrent in every way. The events of the white supremacist rallies make me feel nauseous, they make me want to run, they make me so mad, I have revenge fantasies and I want to retaliate, they make me want to turn off the TV and say “it’s not my problem, I’m powerless and I can’t do anything to fix it,” but underneath all that fear and anger, is heartbreak and pain. How could we treat each other this way? Many of these men and women do not want help or healing. I recognize that. We cannot force healing on anyone and if people are dangerous, they need to be removed from society. But ultimately, we are all just babies, big, tall babies walking around longing for connection and scrounging for freedom. We are desperate to be seen, longing to have the sadness and pain in our hearts have a voice so that we can grow. If I can sit with the discomfort, allow the pain to move through my system with compassion, I can show up in the world with kindness and strength to take accountability and responsibility to my community. I can focus on offering good clinical care to those that need it. I can advocate for education for all children. I can offer a listening ear to someone that I don’t agree with and not let my anger get in the way of connecting with them. I can speak up when I hear or see something that is perpetuating inequality and oppression. If we do not deal honestly with the pain, we will never crack our hearts open, which is needed to heal.
We have studies now on the trauma of our ancestors affecting generations to come. Trauma literally changes the phenome and the DNA structure. So many people in our nation have been exposed to violence. They have been taught to resolves problems with dominance, power and control. The history of white supremacy in this country is one that is embedded in violence and waged on the bodies of people of color and on women. We have to be able to own that and grieve that. What would happen if we all got a little more comfortable with discomfort? What would happen if we all just listened a little more to people that are different from ourselves? What would happen if we were to look at the truth, the whole truth, the good, the bad and the ugly, not only in our personal lives, but also in our families, communities and nation and grieve the pain? What would happen if we would heal from our past traumas?
If you choose to unplug completely from what is happening in the world, you have the privilege of ignoring it, but you are cutting off from your heart and ultimately harming yourself as well. If your basic needs of water, food, shelter, and SAFETY are met, not to mention access to education, books, resources, information, healthcare, housing, childcare or any other resources, than you have to know that other people in this country do not have access to those things. If we do not care about educating ALL children in this country, we will end up paying for it with increased prison populations and more people in poverty. Even if you believe education and healthcare are luxuries and not rights, your access to them and your ability to stay oblivious to other people’s experiences in the world is still a choice you get to make. People who do not have access to those resources do not have the luxury of not thinking about them or taking them for granted. When we are discussing privilege, we are not discounting personal accountability or personal responsibility. There is room for both. We can still hold ourselves accountable for our choices AND look at the context and history in which we those choices were made. My suggestion to not give a fuck from time to time should not be confused with not caring about our fellow humans. It is about letting those feelings of anger, fear and more deeply, heartbreak and sorrow, surface, be with the truth of them and then let them release. Then we naturally want to show up as compassionate advocates for lifting the whole human community up.
Do we occasionally need to turn off the news? Do we need to be careful about the images we are putting into our system and taking care of our mirror neurons in that way? Do we need to be mindful of how we are taking care of ourselves and keeping ourselves healthy? The answer to all of these is YES. Is it time to look at your own personal pain history? Is it time to look at our history as a nation? Is it time to focus on how we can help and lift each other up? Is it time to sit with the pain both personal and micro as well as communal, historical and macro and be honest about it? The answer to all of these questions is YES.
Here are some ideas for putting some of these ideas to action:
11) Talk to your children honestly about difference. If you are a white person, talk to them about what racism means. If you are cis-gendered or heterosexual, talk to your children about gay families and transgendered people. If you are uncomfortable, look for some children’s books. Get some help. Question what is making you uncomfortable and get some support around it.
22) Send monetary support to groups that fight for social justice. Write a letter voicing opposition to groups that support hatred against LGBTQ groups and groups of color.
33) Talk less, listen more. Read books and articles, watch documentaries and movies about, and more importantly, BY people who belong to groups that are different from yourself.
44) Work through your own trauma. When we look at our own pain, we naturally open up compassion for others. Find a therapist that specializes in trauma and honors and works with cultural differences.
55) Find your courage to speak up when someone says something racist, sexist, homophobic, or all around dehumanizing or shame-based.
66) Be kind. Be kind to everyone around you. Bring cookies to your neighbors. Bring dinner to a friend who is struggling. Write a thank you note to someone random. Leave gifts behind randomly for people in the community to find.
77) Get into nature if you can and support programs that help those who do not have the resources to get into nature. Being outside lowers our flight and fight response and helps rejuvenate our nervous system.
88) Practice compassion with yourself and with others. Build connection in whatever way you can.
Be well beautiful humans.