Service to Unity

An article for white allies in the antiracist movements.

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During any social justice movement, changing our social fabric is often the overarching goal, with efforts to reform what is perpetuating suffering. However, the role of individuals in social movements is not all the same despite having the same goal. If you come from a social group which is not directly disenfranchised, it is imperative that you understand the added step of evaluating whether your actions are coming from an underlying intention of serving others (with the deeper understanding that ultimately serving others is serving yourself). With that being said, most assume that because they are “doing” things that appear to be serving the greater cause that they are; but, although innocent, this is simply not true, and this assumption is actually the root of all unconscious behavior.

Of course, no one wants to admit to self-serving actions, but if you were to sit and really look at every thought, behavior, and story you told yourself about reality, they would all revolve around a single thing, “How does this affect me? How does this alter my worldview? How does this add to, or interrupt my identity and sense of self?” What I propose is that if, as a white person, your true desire is to be of service to equality, to unity– you should, and will not be afraid to look at and admit the badness and selfishness innate in all of us, and to recognize it doesn’t make you intrinsically bad, it makes you human. If you wish to sustain your ally ship effectively, you need to be able to view yourself with a certain degree of objectivity or detachment in order for action to be sincere and come from truth. This will allow the service and change to be much more powerful than if you didn’t take the small individual out of it (your ego), and replace it with the larger force directing you towards oneness.

I question the effectiveness of posting photos as activism, as that often comes from wanting to not be called out by others or from fear of not being considered woke, informed, whatever the new best adjective to be is. Because that kind of voice and expression doesn’t come from shared intrinsic values, ones we ought to always live from and that will automatically shine through whether or not anyone is watching or liked your photo. It comes from insecurity and thus is a form of subconscious manipulation to get approval and acceptance from others. Of course, the actual action is not what makes this problematic, but the motive it is derived from. I doubt anyone would admit to acting from this place, but I still suspect that a majority of individuals do so unconsciously—feeling afraid of not being perceived as doing enough, showing up when it’s convenient and hoping people took note of their “contribution”. And this is not said to shame anyone, as this is often done innocently and with good intentions, but I bring this up to strengthen and reorient the true purpose of this movement—justice and equality for Black people in America.  

The collective shadow of racial inequality is big and deep, and it will not be easy to look at. If you have refused to acknowledge an injustice for a long time, effort is required to examine how you have played a role in perpetuating collective oppression of Black Americans. That is why this feeling of discomfort when recognizing privilege makes us want to DO so much, say so much, because we are trying to get rid of our own personal discomfort and pain. But rather than taking action in order to avoid seeing and acknowledging the parts of you that you perceive as “bad” and needing to be fixed, accept them and reintegrate them with compassion so that your action and narrative is not centered around “fixing” your ancestral shadow. Support those who are angry, provide the space for their rage to be heard and felt, but do not delude yourself in to thinking that self-hatred will somehow make it better- this will continue to perpetuate the ineffective ally-ship of whites in antiracist movements.

Some may be feeling like something inside them has been abruptly awoken, and so a reaction will automatically ensue, the goal is not to tame your reaction, but to understand it. Outrage may begin boiling in your blood– tears, shaking, gripping, all of it- what these times have shown me is what a true experience of pure fury is. But before you speak out from an outraged place, consider whether that is self-serving, a way for you (the individual) to express, or if it is of service to the greater cause. Is casting blame, is directing your rage and your anger outward a form of self-serving coping, or is it directive in a way that aligns with the changes you wish see for the future? Being stuck in perpetual fighting is what keeps us distracted from the ultimate goal, what halts the movement and what allows those who wish to keep the status quo to divert attention from the true mission- equality, unity and justice, and instead pit us against one another.

You are not complacent if you sign off of social media and refuse to scroll constantly. True action comes from being sincere in moments of suffering and ignorance and standing in your authentic power, which only comes from vulnerability. If you have already examined your own shadows and integrated them, there will no longer be self-protective programs in your subconscious keeping you locked in a pattern of acting from fear to preserve your own identity of goodness and perfection. That makes you the ultimate agent of change because you can act from a place of true service without fear of personal preservation standing in the way. I can assure you that making noise on social media is only as effective as the place it comes from, and the voices that need to be heard and amplified are not those who have yet to integrate this collective shadow and are acting to avoid the discomfort of our trans-generational immoralities.

Ultimately the pain and anger being felt at this injustice is not personal to you, and allowing yourself to break down and release it can make you available to hold space for those who have been traumatized by racial injustice and subjected to violence and police brutality their whole lives. It is a myth that you need to scream in order to be angry– but by all means do so, and then move beyond it. By feeling our pain, we are building capacity to experience these abrupt awakenings and still hold ourselves as anchors of unity.

Use your own guidance to know when enough is enough for you, do not continue to engage in conflict and performative activism because you feel obligated to a sense of martyrdom; life will continue to provide you opportunities to be of service, to display your values and live in your truth—be present in life for those opportunities and don’t allow shame to evoke a false sense of urgency to take over and make you feel like this all has to be done this very moment. Continuously buying into the narrative that one is better or more effective than the rest because they “never back down from a fight” originates from a belief that the only way to implement change is to convince everyone to agree with them, but can you see the narcissism inherent in such a strategy?

Passivity occurs when we act without reflecting on why we are acting. Without honest and sincere self-inquiry and times to reflect outside of all external influences, we will undoubtably be acting from our subconscious patterns- most of which have us wired to act in self-serving ways, for our own social survival. It is the least passive and least comfortable thing you can do, but it is the thing that will bolster this movement in the long run. Question yourself, see the “bad” parts of yourself that you have disowned and pretend don’t exist. Hint, badness exists in all of us, and if not looked at and integrated in a healthy way, it will live underneath the surface of our psyche as it silently guides our behavior.

Not until you remove judgement of the self, can you see the inherent goodness and wholeness in all human beings.” Kristen Kilgallen

Equality is only possible if we focus our efforts and attention on systems of oppression and our roles within them. Educating yourself will not be comfortable, but it is the cornerstone of investing in the disenfranchised. If you are oriented in service and implementing change for the long haul, you will not be afraid to rest, to not repost the same pictures on social media, to not put other people down and expose them for their past mistakes. Because you know in your service to others, you are serving the collective unity and the wellbeing of all will not result from stored pain. We are all being guided to respond in different ways for the highest benefit of all, and no way is better or worse, but we have to allow ourselves the space to hear that guidance. Your feelings are valid, and they need space to be felt, but don’t avoid feeling them because you think it’s selfish. Because ultimately, this movement needs you– we need you in your place of wholeness so as not to distract from the bigger picture. When you are stuck in your pain, you are vulnerable to losing sight of what we actually are working for.

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More Thrive Global on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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