I often find myself lying next to my two-year-old son as he rests in sleep – my angel. I drink him in during these moments. I stare at his darling face, touch his smooth skin, glance at his soft eyes, and am in awe of his tiny, upward curved mouth. I snuggle close and feel his breath on me as I settle into the warmth that radiates from his little body.
Recently while attending an anti-racism conference a woman said, “I appreciate you because you seem to wear your motherhood on your sleeve.” This comment has stuck with me. I don’t know another way to be.
Since giving birth to my son, the world feels fragile, less solid, less stable, less permanent. I feel a sense of urgency and a quiet fear for the society in which he is slated to grow and become.
Recent national events have left me feeling all the more tender, raw and emotional in regards to our shared world. I’ve had to call on the strong men and women in whose legacy I reside to be my anchor to the earth. In many quiet moments I have found myself bringing to mind the fiercely compassionate in my life–taking in their love. I’ve had to rediscover a sense of worthiness.
In her wise and breathtaking book, The Way of Tenderness, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel writes, “unworthiness, invisibility, loss of intimacy, isolation, neglected intuition, and a loss of voice – all life threatening symptoms of the disease of systemic oppression” (Public Library)
I am suffering from this disease. We are all suffering. Systemic oppression dehumanizes us all and infects those of us who are marginalized as well as those in positions of privilege and power. This illness is not difficult to see. Look around. Our brothers and sisters are angry, grief stricken, searching for voice and validation. Our neighbors are afraid, isolated and distrustful, buying into narratives of bias and hate.
If we are truly going to heal this insidious disease of oppression, we are going to need love. In Love as the Practice of Freedom bell hooks writes, “it is in choosing love and beginning with love that we are best positioned to transform society in ways that enhance the collective good.” But love alone will not heal our wounds and transform our systems. It will also take courage. To truly address the inequity and oppression that dehumanizes us all, we must cultivate courage – the courage to turn towards our painful historical and present realties; the courage to address the internalized beliefs and outward behaviors that are the result of this reality; the courage to confront injustice and inequity. We will need to be courageous enough to abandon the status quo, to claim our power or to relinquish our privileges. It will take bravery to transform the familiar and for some the very comfortable.
If our children are going to come to be in a world where the quality of their education and their sense of self worth is not dependent on the color of their skin, it will not work to simply build a bridge to the other shore. We are going to have to link arms and walk together, fully present, into the deep waters of power, privilege and oppression. We are going to have to meet there, in the depths and agree to hold tightly to each other as we cut through the currents of resentment, hate and animosity. We will need to pick each other up when we stumble (and we will stumble) on the hidden boulders below the surface. We are going to have to forgive, allow, and welcome each other at the center and together navigate to a new shore.
A dear friend said recently that she felt as though a sleeping dragon had been awakened inside of her, and this feeling was both scary and liberating.
It is time for each of us to awaken our sleeping dragons. To call upon our sources of care, compassion and strength and find a new way forward. Our collective liberation depends on us all. The time is now. Our angels need us.