We cannot change what we cannot see.
Posted on 07/19/21 by Rowe in Stories from The Well
“You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it. Unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” -Grace Lee Boggs
This spring I participated in The Embody Lab’s Embodied Social Justice certificate program. This three-month deep dive involved weekly classes with wise teachers from across many disciplines and was led by Dr. Sará King and Rev. angel Kyodo Williams. Throughout these classes and community connections, I saw a thread emerge: the social change we want to see in the world starts within, and that without any self-accountability, there is no accountability at all. Meaning, that we can not lead social justice movements while still embodying the values of which we are working to dismantle. These kinds of oppressive values that most social movements are working to change can be categorized as white supremacy culture or whiteness. (And, I'll pause here to distinguish that whiteness is a culture of values and practices that are perpetuated through the belief that it is what is normal or even what is needed to be successful in the world. But at its core perpetuates oppression.)
Over the past year organizations and communities have had a hyperfocus on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Sounds amazing, right? Yet what I have come to understand is that there just has been a whole lot of talk and performative allyship while still perpetuating harm to individuals and communities of color. We all want to believe that centuries of oppression can be healed with a nice statement, but what we truly know is that change is in the deep, messy, and relational work that's not Instagram-able.
“When under pressure we go to what we practice, and we are always practicing something.” -Rev. angel Kyodo williams
Emerging from this fruitful time of learning, there are a few guiding questions that are leading me forward. What values and/or white supremacist norms do I/we embody in our/your daily interactions and relationships? What practices shape these moments? How do those patterns of habituated response reinforce systems of oppression? And, how can we lean into the world with our humanity intact?
I am a weaver, and I found myself many times relating the ideas I was learning through the process of weaving. The basic process creates a pliable plane of fabric through the intersections of the warp (vertical thread, under the right amount of tension) and the weft (horizontal, active threads). Each time you weave, a pattern is created through the intersections of warp and weft, or as I started to think of it, the relationship of our daily structures (people, places, things) and values in our lives.
We can’t change what we can’t see, so I took this idea and created a weaving exercise to make one’s relationship to white supremacy culture norms visual. By activating one’s creativity I hope that this practice opens up a wider perspective through curiosity instead of shame. Once we can see the patterns that have emerged then we can begin to reimagine our lives and our role in making social change with new values that are inclusive, expansive, and beyond lines of power that we are conditioned to think of as normal.
I would love for you to give this weaving exercise a try or let me lead you through it in person or virtually. This exercise is great for individuals and can also be done on an organizational level. If you are interested, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.