They Matter – Racism, Patriarchy, and Transphobia
I wrote a Heart Note today, and it moved me a lot further than I expected. The Heart Note said:
It doesn’t matter what you say.
It only matters what they hear.
P.S.: In business, if “they” aren’t getting it, you’re not speaking their language, or they’re not the right group for you, and therefore you’re talking to yourself. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it might behoove you to look at what you’re saying, or to whom you’re saying it.
P.P.S.: “They matter.” This is true for everyone who is in business. And, this Heart Note is especially, especially true for white men when we say…. well…. anything at all… to black people*, those who are transgender, and women.
*Four total instances of “people of color” were corrected to “black people” in this writing, as I learned today from @ihartericka via Twitter.
Then, after that, a flood from my heart came through… and I wrote what you see below:
Did you see my note the other day about letting people see you? Well, here goes. #leadbyexample
As I wrote this Heart Note for you, writing, editing, re-writing several times over, I found myself going deeper and deeper into my heart with it. I’m reticent to confess that I had to really, really think about writing “they matter.” It was only for a micro-second that I felt something inside me related to the phrase. But I noticed. Even the micro-second twitch in myself… I noticed something in me. And I felt some worry about how it would land with you. Why?
The first layer that initially came up naturally, was from my inner child self, which yearningly asked, “But… but… don’t I matter too?” To which I was quick to say, “Yes, of course you do… that’s not what we’re talking about though. We’re centering “them.”” All of this happened within the micro-second. It’s work I’ve done many, many times before, so this was a quick review. But then I realized how similar “they matter” is to “black lives matter,” and my heart sunk.
I’m a white male, and I’m burdened carrying racism in my being – from the conditioning being raised within a society which is mired from top to bottom with systemic racism and patriarchy and transphobia.
Fuck, I hate writing that.
I’m not in collapse… I’m simply surrendered to what’s true. I feel sorrow in my heart. And I want to do better. I do better when I apply the lesson in this Heart Note. I do even better when, I stop talking at all, and center those with brown skin, who are transgender, and women – and stepping aside, and listening. But first, I have to face what’s true.
I believe that, if you have white skin, as I do, we have racism in us. If you’re a cis-gender male, there’s a high likelihood that you carry some transphobia. And if you’re a cis-gender male, we are a part of, beneficiary of, and complicit in systemic patriarchy. The first step is to see it, name it, and face it within our own self.
(>>>my self talk in this moment<<< “FUCK… my fragility is showing. I feel some fear and nervousness in my body writing and posting this. My body vibe is, “this is not going to go well!!” And I don’t care. I’m not going to let that stop me. After all, imagine what it’s like being a black person, a woman, or a transgender black woman!!! They experience all of that every freakin’ time they leave their home! They LIVE with that every day. And I’m worried that I’m exposing myself by sitting in my own home writing a little blog post? FUCK! I know I’m not doing this all right. That’s okay. I’m lucky… If this doesn’t go well, I won’t up dead in the street, or sexually assaulted, or diminished as a person every day for the rest of my life. Am I willing to risk my fragile little ego? If I don’t say it; if I don’t take a step; if I wait till I’m ready to get it right – nothing gets done, fixed, changed. That will not work. Don’t delude yourself, Steve, you’re not doing anything brave or bold here… this is simply the right next step for you to take.”)
The Invitation & Inquiry
If you have white skin, especially if you identify as a cis-gender male, my invitation to you today is to sit and read this note (if it resonates, forward it to other white men you know), and notice what overt or subtle voices get activated in you. Just notice, listen, and face them bravely. Voices that want to push back, resist, be inclusive of all people, or just have any discomfort with any of this. Notice it, and see if you can face the truth of what’s there.
Oh, dear heart, yes… it’s there. Truthfully, if you were raised in modern society, you almost can’t help but have it in you. You aren’t doing anything wrong, it’s just what was indoctrinated in you before you could speak.
Face it and greet it, if you can. It’s within you. And, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t have to be harsh with yourself, beat this out of you, or get violent with what’s there. No, that’s not what you need. What’s needed is love. In this moment, as you face the truth of racism… just this little, first step… you need love.
Bring unrelenting love to the heart that was conditioned to believe that we’re separate from each other. Love the part of you who was taught that different also meant better, or worse, depending on what color skin you’re looking at. Love the you who didn’t even see how you were benefitting from how society as a whole was designed to serve you, where you are the standard, and you are the default. Love each piece of you which cracks and breaks and shatters when facing this topic because even the hint that you might have racism in you or that you benefit from patriarchy brings you to your feet, fully decked out in battle armor, ready to go on the defense. Bring kindness to the part of you who is fragile, and freaks out because the racism is being highlighted without also mentioning your good intentions. And love the heart inside you that wants to turn away from your discomfort, so very, very much.
Love all those parts of you.
Is Love the Real Solution?
Yes… I’m advocating more love, not less, all-ways™ 💜. Because that’s the only real solution. There is nothing else. And I believe that if we, as white men, can learn how to face our full and true selves with honesty, and also with love, then we will be better situated to to take the necessary actions which truly center black people, those who are transgender, and women – dismantling the systemic racism and patriarchy that we’ve created and benefited from.
These systems’ foundations were created with violence. To destroy it with violence begets more violence. If we destroy it with love, and kindness, which is much, much stronger and potent than violence, then we beget more love and kindness. And to be clear, Love doesn’t mean it’s not difficult, or messy, or that there isn’t discomfort, even hurt feelings. I believe it might actually be a bigger challenge to dismantle all of this with love and kindness vs. violence. And yet, I believe it’s worth it to do it this way, because if we’re not going to build something that’s actually different, and built on a foundation that brings life, instead of death. – why even do it at all? It starts with my heart, and yours.
Bring the love to your heart today. Notice how it melts the resistance away. Notice how different it feels when you bring such contentiousness to loving your self – even the parts that make you really uncomfortable. Having experienced this, maybe now, go back and see what happens when you read the Heart Note again.
And… maybe, just maybe, as you and I go forward in our day, things will be different. As I continue to experience, step by step, day by day, you’ll experience change deep inside you. If you change, maybe you can help others change, and as you help others change, you can look at how racism and patriarchy is baked into systems which you influence, and this is when we start to re-think and deconstruct and re-build something healthy. So goes the dismantling of these systems which are broken and hurtful. The only place to start is with you and your heart.
What will you face today? I’d love to hear about it (yes, from you too). How has this landed with you?
(I am certain I’ve written this imperfectly, and maybe even put my foot in my mouth. I am sure I’ve missed important things, neglected other important groups, and managed to get a few things wrong. If so, I apologize. I’m still learning. I don’t seek credit for trying, and I don’t desire any accolades for what I’ve shared here, or any effort I put forth towards the actions I take in my own neighborhood. All of this came up for me again today because I wrote this Heart Note to you. And it’s been quite a morning as a result. Lots of deep spiritual practice, grief, and sorrow. And love. And compassion. And, as I sit here, I know none of this matters if/as it rests only in my own perception… what matters is you… what did you hear? More importantly, what will happen once you’ve heard; what action will you take? I’d love to hear, if you’re willing to share.)
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