Maori Grandmother Sharon Heta and Anishinabe Elder Shirley Williams, taken at the 2014 Trent Women’s Gathering themed: Celebrating Our Relationships with Water. | Image source: Zainab Amadahy
You already know how to survive white supremacy or you wouldn’t be reading this. But are you thriving? Below is a recipe that will help you transcend survival. You don’t have to wait for white supremacy to implode. Here are six ways can thrive now and keep on going.
Stop trying to change your abuser:
People don’t change unless they want to. Yet some folks invest way too much energy in analyzing their oppressor, figuring out how to approach them, reasoning with them, creating resources for them and on and on. When people are ready to change they find the resources and they change. The energy you spend trying to educate white supremacists when they prefer ignorance could be invested in your own healing, your family and your community. So just stop. Unless you’re feeling particularly called to the task, let enlightened white folks deal with supremacists. Rest assured there are better uses of your time.
Invest in your own healing:
Not because you’re the problem but because you’re the solution. You’re carrying centuries of inherited trauma and plenty of pain from your own life. When you heal all of that you will gain the clarity, resilience and creativity to help you deal with whatever challenges show up, including white supremacy. Take responsibility for your thoughts, words, actions and even feelings. Don’t make someone else responsible for triggering you. Don’t give up your power. If someone wants to hurt you and they know how, they’re going to do it all the time. Insults and derogatory words are all about shaming, disempowering and keeping you off balance. Don’t fall for it.
Triggers are there to show you what needs healing, where you need to build your spiritual muscles. Ideally you want to get to a place where you can hear or witness anything and remain clear. Yes, you can be appalled, afraid, and angry when the situation calls for it. But when you have resilience you’ll bounce back quickly. Don’t give up your clarity and wellness to anyone because of a word, attitude or gesture. Stand in your power. Honour your ancestors.
Live with integrity:
That means think, say and act in agreement with your beliefs and values. If you believe in peace, be peaceful. If you believe in justice be fair. If you believe in kindness be kind and compassionate. If you believe in love, be loving. Walk your talk. It sounds simple but we don’t always do it because we’re traumatized. That’s why healing is important. Once you have engaged with healing living with integrity becomes much easier. And if it’s difficult, fake it till you make it. You will entrain your heart and brain with new habits that will help you move from survival to thrival.
Use your relationships to learn, grow and be better:
As you know, we are part of a network of relationships. With other people, family, friends, communities and whole societies. We are in relationship with the past and the future. With colonialism, capitalism and white supremacy. You’re also in relationship with 4-leggeds, flyers, swimmers, plants, trees, the waters, the sun, the moon, and all of the beings of the cosmos. All those relationships give you tools to be and do better.
In colonial society we are taught to dominate our relationships. Whether it comes to romance, friendships or the environment, we’re socialized to impress, make our mark, be heard, stand out, compete, control and win at someone else’s expense. It’s no wonder our communities are fraught with lateral violence and even communities with a lot in common sometimes don’t get along.
But what if we approached each other and Our Relations with a sense of curiosity and open-heartedness rather than trying to impress and dominate? This is the way we learn about each other. This is the way we grow trust and learn how to co-create. This is how we all rise together.
Nurture your community and build relationships with other communities as a form of resistance:
Create the culture you want to live in. Make community the backbone of your resistance.
Community isn’t the only form of resistance but it’s the foundation of it. Think of a pyramid. The pinnacle at the top represents acts of resistance like land reclamations, blockades, protests and marches. These all have their place in decolonization. But beneath that pinnacle are rows and rows of bricks. The base of the pyramid can be ten times the size of the pinnacle. That base, your community, needs to be solid or the pinnacle falls to the ground. The base can survive without the pinnacle but the pinnacle cannot survive without the base. When you think of the most successful acts of resistance, you will probably realize how solidly communities, despite disagreements, tension and conflict, stood behind the action.
As for building relationships across communities, you can see how that threatens white supremacy by reviewing history. Look at the pass system that impeded First Nations peoples from meeting and visiting each other’s communities, even seeing family. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries there were laws across the Americas against Black and Indigenous folks doing business, marrying and even talking to each other. During the building of the railroad across Canada, First Nations communities were punished for giving sanctuary to abused Chinese railway workers. Clearly, when we support each other we make white supremacists nervous. But the real gem is that in building cooperative relationships we can help each other grow stronger and more resilient.
Tell your story:
Talk about yourself, your family, your community and your history. It’s possible a white supremacist will overhear and be inspired to change but that’s not the main reason to do it. The main reasons are to honour your ancestors, reclaim your culture, share forgotten and covered up histories, shed any shame you might be carrying, instill pride in the children, allow others to learn about you, and make it safe for folks to tell you about them so you can learn too. Share with humility, dignity and respect. Sharing creates trust and provides the basis for co-creating the decolonized, kinder, more peaceful world we’d all like to live in.
White supremacists may or may not change but you can live a life enriched with wellness, right relationship, community, and heaps of self-love. No one, certainly not a white supremacist, can block your spiritual development. And that is what makes life fulfilling and meaningful. Now go forth and thrive.