Black Lives Matter: My Own Story
Black Lives Matter ✊🏾
I have been in a renewed inquiry these last few weeks about my role in the Black Lives Matter movement. I straddle the lines:
I am white.
I am black.
I am a descendant of slaves.
I am a descendant of a slave owner.
I have been and am complicit in a racist system.
I have undoubtedly benefitted from the way I physically present to others.
I am an ally.
I am still learning to unpack my own privilege.
I will never experience the fear that my darker-skinned brothers and sisters face on a daily basis.
I am the recipient of intergenerational trauma due to the systemic inequity that plagued my ancestors.
I have been afforded opportunities my late ancestors were never given.
I am actively working to dismantle the system and learn new tools to be anti-racist.
I am many things.
I wrestle with the intersectionality of my own identities. As a descendent of slaves and also of slave owners, I straddle two histories. I am a biracial, white-passing 32 year old heterosexual woman. I am also a licensed marriage and family therapist. I have benefitted a lot from unearned privilege in this society. I ponder often about what life would be like if I looked more like my African-American father than my Caucasian mother. I will never know what it is like to walk through the world visibly black. I know that despite my family tree, I will never know the pain and discrimination that some of my black cousins experience walking in America. Despite a shared history with many of my black relatives, I will never know what it is like to exist in black skin. I will never fully understand their experience and I know I must look at how my whiteness impacts my vantage point and how I am complicit in a broken, discriminatory system, despite belonging to the same family tree.
I believe therapy is inescapably political. Therapy is a form of deep social justice work, vital in the service of uncovering and awakening to our internalized, entrenched societal and cultural messaging. Therapy is a method and tool for healthy expression of anger, rage, fear, and grief and can be a way to learn non-violent communication techniques to heal our relationships. Therapy is a place where we start to spot and realize the biases we hold and the ways in which we turn these jagged arrows toward those around us and even toward ourselves, in the examples of internalized racism, sexism, and homophobia. Therapy is a process of integrating diverse parts of ourselves, defining our values, and igniting the fire within to take vulnerable, courageous action.
Therapy can be a method of exploring allyship and political involvement, and it can be a powerful method of unlearning internalized messaging, and cultivating and clarifying a new set of values. It needs to be a place to explore embodied intersectionality and how the ethos of American individualism has led to mass disconnection and inequity. Therapy can also be a method of breaking down the myth of American meritocracy and building a deeper understanding of our personal family histories.
As a white-passing ally, I want to always explore the ways in which I can influence reform and societal change in the service of my black brothers and sisters. I am trying to better understand how to share my perspective and where to use my voice (and when to step back), and I know that unpacking my own array of biases and privileges is at the core of my work, as both a therapist and a participant in the Black Lives Matter movement.
I am proud to be black, to know the history that runs through me. I am proud to be biracial. Let’s not forget that interracial marriage became legal in 1967, only 53 years ago. It has always been a strange experience passing as white (and benefitting from white privilege) while holding my Black history and lineage so close to my heart. I have been in spaces where white people have made racist comments while in my presence assuming I would be unaffected, unaware their words would trigger a deep rage inside of me.
I feel deeply protective of my family, my history, my roots. These photos are of my ancestors and my family. They are a part of me and have always been a part of my internal experience as I’ve navigated life.
Black people come in different shades and skin tones.
Black people are brilliant, resilient, and beautiful.
Black people deserve to be heard, seen, and valued.
My father and me
My great great grandmother Kine, a daughter of a slave and slave-owner
My great grandmother Marie (on the right)
My great grandfather Sidney
Great grandfather Sidney Sr. with my grandfather Sidney Jr. and great-aunt Marie
My wonderful great-aunt Marie. A very prominent artist in the black community and an active participant in the civil rights movement.
My amazing cousins
My other great grandmother Lillian