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Radical Acting in Faith remarks on white reactivity from session 1 by Lucy Duncan


Sonya Renee Taylor inspired this course in some ways. She is the author of the The Body is not an Apology and she is a terrific trainer, follow her on IG, she posts regular videos that are strong, will challenge you.

She posted a video about what white people could do in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. She talked about white people putting our bodies in the literal way. She spoke about the white body as capital in the system. Folks objected, said they could get arrested, etc. and so she made this video in response.

Listen in an embodied way:

  • Notice what you are feeling - emotions & physical sensations
  • Identify the word/phrase/idea that triggered the feeling (any kind of feeling)
  • Why? Why does that word/phrase trigger that feeling?

Important to have a felt sense of consistent stretch, stay in your body, feel your responses. Journal, then we will return to these questions.

Received permission to use this video, Patreon. Really important as we do this work to hold ourselves accountable to PoC whose work we utilize and learn from. Offer to pay folks, but definitely do this work with consent. 

Sonja Renee Taylor’s video 4:52

Now that you have heard SRT's message, take a breath, take in this message.

In the chat or in your journal

  • What did you feel? Emotionally and physically?
  • What words/phrases triggered that feeling?
  • Why? Why does that word/phrase trigger that feeling?

As white folks we are socialized to react to messages like SRT’s with defensiveness and reactivity, to push away the deep truth she is telling.  In this way white people are kept from perceiving the lived reality of BIPOC. Our automatic reactions are socialized to shut down receiving information about BIPOC’s lived experience or the impact we have on folks. Important to own the inner Amy Cooper in each of us, we are socialized to take control in ways that are foundationally harmful to people of color. Pay attention to the Amy Cooper in ourselves/in yourself. When you hear feedback or the experience of racial control from a BIPOC, pay attention to your automatic responses, take time to move past your automatic responses that may very much be about taking charge or control or worse and ground yourself so your reaction can be from a place of support and integrity. (Take some time to breathe and take this in). 

We as White people are so insulated from lived day to day reality of people of color that we don’t know how to respond to receiving that hard information in effective, caring intentional and anti-racist ways. The only way to get better at that and thus less reactive, is to practice feeling that type of information and modifying our reactions - thus building up our muscles.That’s why I invited you to listen to this video, to share some race-based truth telling, so you could reflect on what that feels like while reframing those feelings from purely negative to potential growth.

The biggest challenge for me in doing the work of anti-racism has been leaning into the discomfort of the mistakes I've made so that I can change and grow. One small gauge I have is the sense of openness between me and someone I am striving to support. When that energy shuts down, try opening your heart again. When you feel awkward or tense, wait ot speak or act. White people are going to feel awkward in this work, but try to stay open and real.

When I feel disconnected, I have learned that taking the time to reconnect with myself, to ground, so that I can be receptive is the first work, then I can re-engage more thoughtfully, in more supportive ways. 

This is similar to the Quaker concept of the inward or inner light. We often think this is just a glowy thing inside of us, the divine spark, and it is that. But it's also like a beacon searching out the knots and stuck places in our souls and assisting us in facing ourselves so we can grow in integrity.

When Trayvon Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman, I went to protests, I even wrote some things, but I could not feel it for days. I had to ride my bike around and viscerally feel what it would feel like if my son, Simon, was murdered in such a way. Then it pierced me deeply and I wept, but as white folks we are socialized not to feel connected to BIPOC, our hearts are clogged with a sense of racial superiority which denies us our own birthright: to be and feel connected to each person. This disconnection disrupts and twists connections between white folks, too. We need to do this work of becoming human again, not perfect, never perfect, human and real.

Think about how to own up to your own internalized superiority, to notice it, to disrupt it.

Over the next weeks of this eCourse, you will likely experience some race-based reactivity. You may be corrected by another member of this group about something you have said or done, you may hear us talk about something problematic that you have done in the past, you may hear or read things that you don’t understand or agree with from those who are directly impacted by racial injustice in this country.

  • When that happens, remind yourself that growth is uncomfortable and everytime we experience our own reactions and work not to respond in reactive ways, we are building up our resilience.

  • We also have to acknowledge that this is long haul work. We will never get to a place where we are perfect at being allies and accomplices in this work.

  • What we can work towards is making sure that people know that we can hear when we have made a mistake and that people trust that we will learn from it and make different mistakes in the future.

  • With that in mind, we white folks need to build networks of support for each other in this work. That is one of many reasons why we caucus like we are doing now.

  • We need to create a community of care and spiritual growth together where we hold each other where we are at in our anti-racist development and love each other enough to be honest and kind to each other rather than “nice” and non-confrontational