SAWABONA…I SEE YOU

February 15, 2012
Whatever is occurring in the present moment is what we need to deal with right now. Staying with our real experience of ourselves and our situation will teach us exactly what we need to know for growth. (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 346)

Her black eyes snapped at me across the table.  “No, you don’t have to think this way.  You’re White.” 

I thought that I understood “white privilege”.  I thought that I understood the friends that I have that are not white.  My awareness of the color of their skin and the ethnic identifiers molded into the flesh of their dear faces is no more or less important to me than their height and their weight and the sound of their laughter.  Because of our common desire to bring healing to the world through living and facilitating a restorative life-style, I think without thinking that we share the same corrective lens prescription in order to see the world with 20/20 vision.  

When I come to the table with these women, what is important to me is how our hearts and minds connect.  I don’t think about the differences in our heritage.  I don’t think about how these differences shape the meaning we attach to events, to language, to communication and decision making processes.  They are “just women”, as I am a woman.  They are my colleagues.  They are my mentors and my teachers and my friends.  I see them as wise.  I see their accomplishments.  I respect and admire their courage and their strength.  I have learned much from them.  I treasure their support.  I trust them.  I am known by them. 

She leaned across the table toward me, trying to make my white brain understand.  “You get to think this way.  You’re White.” 

Today I realize how very shallow is my knowledge of these dear women.  There are entire chapters of their stories that I do not even know exist; chapters that are outside my ability to ever fully understand or comprehend.  

Today I am made keenly aware that the differences in how we have been enculturated DO shape the meaning we attach to events, to language, to communication and decision making processes.  Today I am more cognizant to what respectful inclusivity requires; to the clear need to check and recheck our assumptions, our perceptions, our semantics.  Did I not know this?  Of course I knew this!  I teach this!  But today I am pressed to go much deeper.  Today I wonder about the lenses I wear as a white woman when I am with my friends who are not.

Someday, if my love is true, my heart faithful, they might allow me to sit with their pain and their grief.  If I am willing, they might be willing to release upon me their stuffed up, stifled and swallowed rage.  I would have to be as strong as the rocks upon which the waves break and crash, and as yielding as fertile soil.  I would have to embody all the thoughtless, insensitive, defensive, abusive and racist white people that my friends have encountered, and still remain the woman who sees the precious, brilliant jewel glowing inside their dark-skinned bodies. 

Today, I grieve.  Old wounds in the hearts of my friends are bleeding again because I have perpetuated living life and doing business according to the way of the white man.  On one level I didn’t know; it was not intentional.  But at a deeper level, I knew something was not okay about the decisions being made, decisions I participated in making.  And I did not stop.  I did not step forward to stop others.  I didn’t “have their backs”.
Today, I grieve.  I am connected to these women on a level that pays no mind to the dense energy that is our bodies.  Therefore, when one is hurting, we all hurt.  When we tear the fabric of the field of energy into which we are all woven, we tear apart our own soul. 
Today, I grieve.  I only hope these tears will heal my blindness. 
Next time I sit across the table from my friend, may I see her.  Fully.
Sawabona. “I see you.  I respect you. I value you. You are important to me”.
Shikoba.  “Therefore, I exist for you”.
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