The Weight of Fighting for Racial Justice and What I Can Do as a White Person

A friend wrote to me with some questions around inequality and racism. She described a feeling of powerlessness and was unsure about what she, as a white woman, could do to make things better. One of the questions she asked really resonated with me and I decided to jot down some thoughts on paper. She asked: how do you hold the weight of this without being crushed by it?

I think it is important to realise that we do not manage this at all. We are crushed by it on a daily basis. We are so crushed by it,… it is a deep pain and a source of trauma for many people from the Global Majority (GM) I encounter, even though they might not all speak up about their experience of racism or see things the same way. Also, we personally at home are crushed by it and it often takes its toll on us as a multi-ethnic family. This is not an easy work and I am afraid it might never be. In fact, we’ve found that faith has become our main recourse. We go back to God. For me the image of the Black Madonna has been a helpful one. This mother holding her child, this constant gaze of unconditional love, away from the image of the white male God that so often is worshipped by the same people who keep telling me that what I am seeing, noticing and experiencing is not true. This mother holding her child, that’s where I find comfort…

I think we as white people need to be careful not to want to walk this journey too quickly and run to offering solutions. I love the age-old concept of equanimity, where we are choosing to sit with the discomfort without trying to explain it away or resolve it. It’s an invitation to imagine ourselves in the shoes of those experiencing the injustice. We need to keep feeling this discomfort, even if it is just a tiny proportion of what our GM sisters and brothers might be experiencing, to somehow start to understand a little bit of their experience… I have found the Welcoming Prayer a helpful tool to do this, where we Feel and sink into what we are experiencing this moment in our body, Welcome what we are experiencing as an opportunity to consent to the divine indwelling and only after this choose to Let Go (google Mary Mrozowski Welcoming Prayer).

It took me a long time to start speaking out publicly like I do now, and I know it is not the popular thing to do. But I realised in myself that I often prioritise white comfort over black pain and I just didn’t want to allow that to happen again (not that I am completely there yet, but it helps me when I wonder whether I need to share something to see whose needs I am prioritising in that moment). Also, I often notice biases and prejudice in myself, so in a way sharing things on public platforms like Facebook is all about me working on myself and how I respond and see things. Some of the responses I get are difficult and painful, but I try to see them as opportunities to learn more and speak out better. Also, I find it important to share in some of the burden GM people have to carry on a daily basis. They are expected to always be the ones doing the work, often at a high personal cost. Choosing to speak out on the issue, is my way of recognising that I don’t have to be the problem, I can be part of the solution. 

Three other things I think we can do are:

1. REFLECT ON YOUR RELATIONSHIPS AND NETWORKS
It is important to critically reflect on the make-up of our personal relationships and networks. If we can’t live out diversity, inclusion and belonging within our own personal lives, there is no point trying to change the world around us. There’s this helpful exercise called the Trusted Ten where you are asked to see how your most important relationships compare to you in terms of ethnicity, gender, age, education, etc. When it comes to building relationships with those different than you it is all about making the effort. Ben Lindsay in his book ‘Let’s talk about race’ describes it nicely. He says, ‘You might have to invite someone over for dinner again and again until the atmosphere becomes less awkward… White people may ask, “Why must I make all the effort?” The answer is easy: you’re the majority culture and you are part of the power structure, whether you know it or not.’

2. INVEST YOUR MONEY AND TIME
Another thing you can do is make a conscious decision to invest in recourses written or produced by GM people, which will both enlarge your own horizon and support their work. It is important to pay GM people for their work as they are often expected to continuously offer their insights and experiences without getting anything in return (you can do this for instance by supporting their patreon page – I support www.patreon.com/cscleve but there are many other excellent pages run by our GM sister and brothers – or paying fair fees for the sessions you invite them to run). It could also include giving of your time generously (this might be as simple as helping out with childcare or other practical jobs, quite a few of my GM friends do shift work and might not have the same support networks around as many white British families).

3. LISTEN AND DO YOUR RESEARCH
Listening is so important, especially to those of the Global Majority. I am talking about listening without always offering solutions or making swift assumptions. Sometimes this might also mean stepping away and honour the need for spaces for our GM brothers and sisters where they can be together. To find some healing and be honest about their circumstances with those who really understand. It is important to remember that even though we want to listen, we also need to be doing our own research wherever we can and not always expect those in the minority to educate us, come up with resources, ideas, etc. Google is our friend!

I know I could say many more things on the issue, but I hope this has given you some food for thought. Let’s keep the conversation going.

The Power of Listening

I just finished my first year at the Encounter Course at the London Centre of Spiritual Direction. This is a refection on one of the main lessons I am taking away from this year.

Three chairs Spiritual Directors International www.sdiworld.org

It has been such an exciting journey to discover how powerful listening really is. How listening in itself is just enough. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone. It is in the being listened to that people are changed.

It is something so simple, so straightforward; anyone can offer it, but yet so powerful and so life changing. Someone said, ‘being heard is so close to being loved that, for the average person, they are virtually indistinguishable’ (D. Augsberger).

I have learnt that this is not just about me becoming the most skilled listener with the best techniques at hand. No, it is not even really about me being good at listening, but about me trusting in the presence of God in the act of listening. And holding the other in that presence… Continue reading

One Step at a Time

movingSo we are moving.

Again!

This Summer, I am celebrating my 10th year in Britain. I first came to Durham and after that lived in Canterbury, London, Staplehurst and Gravesend. In a few weeks time, it is time to start packing and say our goodbyes again.

I don’t think it ever gets any easier. The future is full of uncertainties. I am struggling to deal with questions of those showing an interest in our move. Where are you going to be? How is it going to work with the children? Have you found any schools? Will you be able to keep your job? Can your parents still come and see you? Continue reading

When Someone Deeply Listens To You

encounter2I have started a new course in Spiritual Direction called Encounter at the London Centre for Spirituality. I am hoping to share a bit more about the content of this course in future posts. For now, I would like to focus on one of the first subjects we looked into on the course, which was ‘listening’.

In our small groups, everyone was asked to talk on a specific subject for five minutes without being interrupted. The rest of the group was asked to listen and reflect on their listening, noticing any distractions and specific feelings that came up while listening.

Continue reading

Thoughts on Brexit by EU-immigrant living in England

Artwork by Eugene Ankomah

Artwork by Eugene Ankomah

Dear Great Britain,

Has it been nearly a decade
since I swapped my beautiful country
for your lovely streets;
left behind opportunities back home
to be transformed by you?

I came to you to be stretched,
to widen my horizon,
to be changed by your people,
but it was never easy
to leave everything familiar behind.

Don’t think we found happiness
because of your wealth and greatness.
It was in the giving of ourselves,
investing in your people and society,
that we became better-off.

It was you who taught us
that when you let go
of what is comfortable,
you are changed in the process
and gain so much in return.

Oh dear Great Britain,
don’t you realise
that protecting what is yours;
keeping things to yourself
will not make you any richer?

It is in the awkwardness,
in the letting go,
in the opening up,
in the giving out,
that you will find your blessings.

Tonight I am walking your streets with a heavy heart;
I worry about my future,
but even more about yours.

As I prepare myself
to give up my comfort once more
I see you holding on tightly to what is yours
and fear you might be losing out
more than you could ever imagine…

EU-Immigrant

by Mirjam Ngoy-Verhage

For my Dutch readers, you can listen to an interview with me on Dutch Radio about Brexit the day after the referendum results came out (see the right of this page: ‘Midden-Nederlandse Ngoy vanuit Engeland over de brexit’).

What I Learnt From a 10-year-old

e83ed6e02290bcf1050986a43f5afd17PUTTING MY PRAYERS INTO ACTION

Every Monday evening I am involved in a youth club for ten to thirteen-year-olds. This week I had the privilege of being part of a new initiative called prayer shack. We handed out small pieces of paper for young people to write down their prayer requests.

I work for a Christian Youth Centre, but most young people that come through our doors wouldn’t call themselves Christian. This means prayer is not something they are used to; especially being prayed for is new to them. Continue reading

Four more sleeps before the open swim

Why I am JOINING A COMPETITIVE RACE

Yesterday I had one of my final training session at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London

Yesterday I had one of my final training session at the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London

This Saturday I am hoping to complete the biggest challenge of my bucket list so far: swimming a competitive race. I am going to swim the one-mile (1600 meter) Great Newham London Swim. But no, I am not in it to compete, completing it is my main goal!

I signed up for the swim a week after  my husband Lusa gave me a bucket list for my 30th birthday and my first training session was on 20th April. I managed to swim 60 laps (1500 meter) in about an hour. Continue reading

What’s in a name?

Finding Strength in our Pain

when-oceans-rise

This morning I am getting ready to go to a women’s conference, where I will be speaking on Isaiah 62:4 and how God gives us a new name.

“You will no longer be called Abandoned,
    and your land will no longer be called Deserted.
Instead, you will be called My Delight Is in Her,
    and your land, Married.
    Because the Lord delights in you,
    your land will be cared for once again.”

Continue reading

Trying To Find My Voice

Blog
On Presenting the Truth

I started blogging with so much enthusiasm, but a few weeks later I just wasn’t so sure what I wanted to write about. I had been following some other mum bloggers and was trying to fit my writing in this category. But very soon I got bored of trying to write reviews and share about the ordinary life of a mum.

Continue reading