ADDRESSING PRIVILEGE AND ALLOWING ROOM FOR ANGER
Whenever a national or global tragedy happens, we can rely on a slew of responses, whether online and offline, sending hopeful messages of thoughts of prayers. The responses and proposed solutions from the spiritual community, specifically the white “healers” and “light-workers” of the world, is predictable after every global tragedy: Send love and light. The spiritual equivalence of thoughts and prayers.
Crying outrage over attacks on any groups of people is important, but I believe the solution to creating a world of true equality and acceptance lies within our willingness to uncover our own biases and prejudices against oppressed groups. White people, who have historically always held power and controlled the oppressed, must uncover how they have benefited from societal structures that keep the oppressed oppressed. History and culture has placed deeply rooted beliefs within all of us that allow for islamophobia, homophobia, and xenophobia, just to name a few. To believe that spiritual white women don’t have any racial biases and prejudices that need to be addressed is a deep part of privilege.
Anger is an incredibly useful emotion. Anger is not the equivalent of hate; it’s what’s needed to create social change.
I was born and raised in Belgium, a very openly and politically inclined anti-Muslim country. Asking myself where I held anti-Muslim feelings is complex and challenging. In Belgium, hatred against Muslims and Islam is not only widely accepted, it’s talked about in almost every part of the small country – within families, on TV, from politicians. Though I have radically different beliefs from some of my openly racist family members, I’d be lying if I said the years of anti-Muslim rhetoric in my home country, as well as the country I currently live in, haven’t impacted me in some way. I’ve only ever been told that Muslim women are oppressed and need to be saved, and I’ve only seen Muslims represented on TV or in movies as terrorists or people to be fearful of.
I’ve learned a lot about my privilege over the last couple of years, and addressing the roots of my racial beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, has made way for more understanding and compassion in my life. It’s allowed me to see that my own perspective is not always right, and I need to use my privilege to dismantle the structures that keep the privileged privileged. I believe the unpacking of our privileges to be the key component in creating a world with more love and light in it.
Privilege is what gives you the ability to pick and choose when and where to be blind. Privilege does not mean you are better than anyone else. It merely means you are floating in a pool of lull and haze that is blinding. And this thing of ‘Love and Light,’ and let us just focus only on what is good? Yeah, that? It is your privilege at its peak.
I’ve often heard women defend the “love and light” method by saying that hate cannot be fought with more hate. While I agree that the antidote to hate is love, the consistent messaging from the white spiritual community only gives their followers and readers the permission to further remove themselves from conflict. The perception and avoidance of anger within the spiritual community is harmful, and does nothing to help fight the injustices in the world. Anger is an incredibly useful emotion. Anger is not the equivalent of hate; it’s what’s needed to create social change.
One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.
Carl Gustav Jung
Being a proponent of love and light means actioning love and light, instead of just talking about it. It means constantly acknowledging internalized and conditioned hatred and beliefs towards any groups of people. It requires creating space to listen to the stories of the oppressed, no matter how deeply uncomfortable they make us feel. It means changing our relationship with anger, and recognizing that anger can be an incredible force. It requires any self-identified healer, spiritual teacher, or leader to promote and encourage uncovering deeply hurtful collective and individual shadow work as an effort to build a world of real equality. It requires us to excavate our societal wounds, and honor the time and attention it will take to heal them.
Action > Love & light, always.
photography by Unsplash