I had the great honor this week to be on a university alumni call with people from around the world, many hundreds of people, to experience guest speaker Iyanla Vanzant—inspirational speaker, author, TV host, lawyer—regarding these times and being a black woman. I say "experience" because it was just that, and stirred me at my core. Iyanla and I shared a classroom together many years ago at the university, studying Spiritual Psychology, and she inspired me each time she stood to share her experience and wisdom and radiant smile. This alumni call was no exception.
I was so deeply moved by her perspective on systemic racism and what she calls “The Corona,” the great teacher for us at this time. She told her story of growing up experiencing racism, the subtle and blatant forms of it. She told stories of her ancestors and her own former hatred toward white people, and marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and standing with Malcolm X. Then she spoke of reluctantly walking into a religious tent filled with all white people and finding herself on the stage, in disbelief, declaring her hatred and wanting to be healed of that hatred. Can you imagine the courage? And she shared that she was healed that day as many came to her and, on their knees, asked for forgiveness for what had been done. She was healed of her hatred on that day. But she went on to tell us that we do not need to apologize, because the ancestral DNA that has driven this movement over time is in us, whether we chose it ourselves or not, and that we do not need to apologize for that which we came in with and may not choose ourselves, even though it lives in us. It is “Asymptomatic” like “the Corona.” We are carrying it though we do not know it. But we each do need to look it in the face and address all the ways we allow it. Now is the time.
She spoke of “the Corona” and how it is has cracked us open to a place where we can actually see systemic racism in a new light, and that it has somehow allowed for white people to stand with people of color around the world to demand change. She encouraged us to look into our own hearts and be with that ancestral racism that we ourselves never intended to use against people of color, and to find our truth and resolution with that, inside of ourselves. She says, don’t say you’re sorry, don’t turn away from the videos, don’t say that you don’t see color in humanity. See it, face it, just Be, and look at what is really living inside of you. She wants you to see that she is Black, and how that is not her color or race but her EXPERIENCE. And that is what needs to be reckoned with…our experience. Let’s face it, its deeper than we have gone before.
I have never personally felt I needed to “not see color” in another person, and love that there are cultural expressions that groups of people grow up with that make them different than me in the great Oneness. My friends-of-color are phenomenal human beings who I have admired ever since I met them. And they have always claimed their cultural right to be Black, or Asian, or Latino, or Jewish. But I grew up with racist parents, the ones who have convinced themselves that they are not racist, just seeing clearly what is best for everyone. I always felt sick to my stomach when one of them would make a remark cloaked in humor that outed their racism. Not only sick to my stomach, but trapped like a caged animal, wanting to run away from it every time. I always felt separate from that, and the friendships I made were those I knew my parents wouldn’t make, because they held on to too much of the ancestral racism. Now, listening to Iyanla share her story opened me to other layers of what I need to just Be with right now, a deeper story that weaves into the tapestry of healing…for me, for all of us. Not DO…BE.
I wish you coulda been there. It was profound. And I hope that everyone has the opportunity to hear the stories of those who have grown up with systemic racism, to drink those stories in and let them sink into the heart, to Peel back the Layers, and see what comes of that.
With deep respect, Melanie
Iyanla’s website: https://iyanla.com/
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org