February 22, 2020

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woman in nest

I’m white.
Racism doesn’t affect me, does it?

I’m going to take a moment to write about a fairly new venture of mine, which I’ve been calling Whole Heart Whiteness. It has arisen in the context of the work I’ve been doing in Baltimore (and soon also in NYC) around healing interracial injury and pain. Most of that work, by invitation, has been with people of color. Now I am realizing how important it is for me to be taking this vital and life-giving work back to white-skinned people.

Whole Heart Whiteness—a version of Whole Heart Connection especially for white-skinned people—is an opportunity to learn body-based skills and practices that allow us to explore important conversations about racism in a healing and generative way.

One of the biggest challenges that white-skinned people usually face in engaging such a difficult and painful topic as racism is that we expect it to be painful. Often we brace ourselves—we get ready for the blow. No matter what your skin color, notice if there is any bracing in your body right now as you read this post. It’s not bad, it’s not wrong—don’t judge it, and especially don’t disconnect from it. Be compassionate with yourself, so that you can begin to settle into heart space.

One of the most important tasks facing us as we engage to end racism is that we need to take some time to create a healing context before we even get into difficult subjects—so that we can engage the situation with our most brilliant and healthy selves.

NASA Earth Rising Over Moon

It starts with making ourselves at home. What does it mean, what does it take, to make ourselves at home together, or even on the planet at all?

We all have different backgrounds, different stories of how we got here. Whether we are immigrants, whether we are refugees, whether we were taken on slave ships, whether we invaded or were invaded, we are a collection of people not feeling at home.

On a very intelligent website called White Awake, there is a linked article about Qallunology, the study of non-indigenous people—their characteristics, habits and cultural patterns. Check it out when you finish this post!

The word “qallunology” is from an Inuit word “qallunaaq” or plural “qallunaat.” A qallunaaq is anyone living non-indigenously. There are many predictable patterns in non-indigenous cultures. They have many predictable characteristics and qualities in common.

Human Diversity

The word “qallunaaq” is not a skin color thing, though loosely it means a white person. There are (a few) white-skinned people who are actually living indigenously and thus not considered to be qallunaat, and people of many colors who are not living indigenously, who are therefore considered qallunaat.

Why is this a useful word? In the same way that speaking explicitly about whiteness helps us realize that we are not generic—only some of us are white—just so, identifying that we are living non-indigenously as part of a non-indigenous culture allows a startling view of what else is possible: “Oh, I’ve been living non-indigenously!” This new awareness opens up a doorway to what we already know inside: “Oh, I could be living indigenously in my own life, in my own body.”

Slatted Wood Pathway

Would you like to take a few first steps together in that direction? It begins with making ourselves at home in our native country, which is our own body. Whole Heart Whiteness starts here, with the experience of home-coming inside of ourselves—and so does Whole Heart Connection for People of Color.

What I discovered while working with people of color to unlearn racism is that so many white people have no idea what they’re missing out on—like for example truly learning what it feels to be at home in ourselves, before even attempting to create home together.

This is one small example of the many different levels of body awareness that are facilitated in Whole Heart Whiteness work and Whole Heart Connection for People of Color. There is so much long-awaited healing that is waiting to be awakened in us. It is crucially and joyously important for us to start learning to make ourselves at home in our own bodies—in order to be competent to engage vitally important subjects like racism.

There are no less than four different WHC classes coming up in the next few months. One is an intro for everyone, and the others are caucused for people of color or white-skinned people healing interracial injury and pain. I am so passionate about the healing that is already coming out of this work; you’ll hear more about it from me in future posts.

Find the White Awake article on Qallunology here.

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