I read the autobiography of Frederick Douglass Jr. when I was in fourth grade. The part of the story that struck me the hardest was the description of little Frederick being sold up north to Maryland, to be a happy little white family’s very own first slave.
When Frederick first arrived, he joined a warm and loving family, filled with laughter and natural flow of kindness. Within a year, however, the family became cold and bitter. There was no more singing and easy affection, and there was severity where once there was kindness. The continuous strain of having to be “superior,” and needing to suppress their natural generosity and loving impulses towards a fellow human being—a child, in fact—meant that they had to shut their hearts in order not to feel the pain of what they were doing. They had to become unfeeling, in order to be able to bear what they could not face: that their treatment of this young Black person was cruel and inhumane.
Family life went from bad to worse for that little white family. Unfortunately, it is doubtful that anything improved after Frederick left. Once hearts have shut down due to unkindness to another being, it takes a lot of love and courage to re-open and face what we have done.
A couple of months ago, we talked about moral injury, the pain we feel when we know that we’ve done harm—or failed to prevent harm. It’s a natural response—what kind of person would you be, if you didn’t have painful and conflicted feelings when you did something that you felt was wrong or harmful, even if it seemed “necessary” at the time?
The happy little white family that became unhappy and cold-hearted after acquiring a slave had made a huge and painful mistake. They did something that everyone else around them was doing, and therefore to question it would have meant questioning not just “society” but family, neighbors and friends.
What if the members of this family had practices that supported them in finding their Inner Compass, and in entering healing space together—so that they could honestly grieve their mistake, and turn their lives and their hearts towards love and health?
Would you like to learn practices that will help you to heal our nation’s painful and terrible mistakes? Would you like it if these practices left you feeling full of love, and able to heal the deepest places in your heart?
Come join an upcoming Whole Heart Whiteness workshop, a loving journey to heal our culture. Whole Heart Connection for BIPOC workshops are also available for BIPOC only. Do you want to join the discussion? Find the Perennial Medicine listserv here.