Mindset is Important to Becoming Less Racist ~ Karen Fleshman

Earlier this year, I posted White People: A New Year’s Challenge to End Racism, listing five actions we could take in 2015 to improve racial understanding. With the first quarter over, it’s a great opportunity to take stock of progress- if you resolved to become less racist in 2015, how is it going for you? Is it harder or easier than you thought?

For me, the hardest part of becoming less racist was recognizing that I needed to do the work. I am far from done on this journey, I will be walking for a long time. At the start, like many people, I considered myself a good person, and since good people are not racist, I was, ergo, not racist. By studying this topic extensively, having many conversations with friends and colleagues, and actively working against racism I came to understand that in order to become less racist I would need to lose the “good person/bad person” binary and quiet the toxic storm of guilt, shame, and fear that swirled in my brain each time I thought about myself in association with racism.

Pushback against considering ways we are racist is pervasive among white people and one of the biggest obstacles we face in becoming less racist. In an excellent article in Salon, White America’s Racial Illiteracy: Why Our National Conversation is Poisoned from the Start Dr. Robin Diangelo, author of What it Means to Be White, defines this pushback as “White Fragility”: the ways we push back to regain our racial position and equilibrium when challenged.

In order for me to confront my racism, I had to stop considering myself a “good person,” I had to recognize that within myself, as with all other people, was a continuum of propensities for good and bad. I am very fortunate to be born into circumstances that allowed the good in me to develop very strongly, but that doesn’t make me incapable of bad or immune from being a racist.

Equally important, I had to let go of my shame and guilt about my white privilege. For me, becoming less racist is rooted in my desire to deeply understand and connect with fellow human beings, to challenge institutions that reinforce racial inequality, and ultimately to make our society more just and equitable for everyone. It was important for me to not just discard my shame and guilt, I deeply felt guilty and shameful as I came to recognize how white privilege impacts every aspect of my life, continuously setting me up for success. But since shame and guilt prevent me from being present and actually being able to listen and learn, I had to let those feelings go in order to move forward on my journey. To the extent I can, I reallocate the energy I used to expend feeling guilty and shameful to listening, learning and countering racism by connecting people to opportunity.

Similarly I had to lose my fear of making a mistake, of offending someone, of not being liked. What I have come to understand is that contributing to ending racism is more important to me than offending someone who does not share my view that we white people have a massive problem that will take much concentrated effort to correct. Often I make mistakes with my teachers on this journey. I am grateful that they have the compassion to forgive me as they guide me along.

How is your journey? Was this post at all helpful to you?

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Update – Great News!!!

Minus The Box is changing its name!!!

Moving forward Minus The Box will be known as Live Your Life Inspired. This name change is reflective of our new direction and hope for the future.

Live Your Life Inspired is a place where you can discover inspirational and motivational content from around the world. This will continue to be a safe and supportive community for people who wish to learn, grow, evolve, and live a wholehearted lifestyle.

Our core will remain the same but at Live Your Life Inspired we look forward to renewed growth.

Welcome to Live Your Life Inspired!!

Magic Monday – Detroit

We are all aware of the struggles this once famous Motor City is now enduring. From loss of jobs, to corruption, to a general economic downturn, Detroit has had it rough. But this video showcases a growing movement that will lead to positive change for the city. Here, young women discuss their passion for the city and what drives the work that they do. Enjoy!

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/67615399″>A Girls Guide to Detroit</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/fourexitfour”>4exit4</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Thank you, Madiba by Carike Claassen

I was only six years old when Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa. I had no conception of politics. I only knew, at that time, the fear that reigned in South Africa. As we approached the transition to a democracy, uncertainty crept in. And even though I had no idea what the fear was about, it is strange how very clearly I recall, nineteen years later, all of a sudden not being allowed to play outside as late as I always had. The kitchen cupboards filled with canned food, the feeling that everything was set to flee at a moment’s notice.

Strange how easily we human beings do that, is it not? How easily we let fear overcome love and trust. How even a six year old with no idea of politics knows somehow that it is time to be afraid now.

I grew up, along with this fledgling democracy. And as I grew, I learned. For the first time, the context within which that fear had taken place became clear – I realized exactly what South Africans had been perpetrating against fellow South Africans for decades. And the more I learned, the more in awe I was of Nelson Mandela.

I was – and always will be – in awe of Madiba because he epitomized mankind’s greatest hope: That love really can conquer all. That the dark shadows of fear can be chased away by the light of love, hope can be sparked and flamed by sacrifice and courage, and ignorance must eventually give way to understanding.

I don’t want to cheapen Madiba’s legacy by pretending that we, as a nation, don’t still have a lot of work to do. Because as far as we have come, a lot remains to be done in order to achieve true freedom for all, prime amongst which is the reduction of poverty and inequality.

I do, however want to take a moment to reflect on an amazing person and his life story, and say, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you, Madiba. Thank you for the integrity, kindness and patience. Thank you for the tremendous personal sacrifice that you made in order to lead South Africa. And most importantly, thank you for that very powerful reminder that “love comes more naturally to the human heart.”

Whatever challenges remain to be overcome in my own life, in South Africa, and by mankind in general – let us walk our long roads with full hearts, as you taught us.

With love.

Cause I’ve Been ‘Fraid of Changin’ by Ren Martinez

Someone told me that becoming is more human than being. Later, I understood that to be a philosophical point, debated in academic circles, but at the time I heard it as only words. I brushed them off like dust and continued down my road, only to have my feet falter and stop. Because it’s not often we’re confronted with truth and it’s more than foolish to let it pass by without a glance.

Becoming means transformation. It means evolution. To Become is to change, mutate, expand. What you once were is no longer as the process of what you will be is underway. We seem to know ourselves better, the tiny atoms that make up our bodies, the strings of carbon that knit together into bones and breath, when we don’t know ourselves at all. Only that we are midway in a journey that we can no longer stop. We know the calluses on our fingers and the doubts like pearls heavy around our necks. We know we can’t see the future of what is happening but we reach for it anyway.

Transition is our most basic state. Humans are not meant for stagnation; we become bored, restless with energy, nearly frenetic. We are at our best when we barely know ourselves at all, but are learning as each piece settles into place. And then, with a heavy sigh, everything is slotted together until we ARE. We are defined; we are known. Like the state of rest after an enzymatic change, the catalyst used up and leveling out into a measurable result.

But, we are not meant to remain here. Once we have the pieces in place, our atoms ache to scatter again, to form something new. We meet new obstacles/enemies/allies, and we shift into transition yet again, change resonating like a old song never forgotten. And I, despite the terror of the unknown, despite doubt and stress and worry, sing those words as boldly as ever.

Because, in the end, I only know who I am when I’m becoming myself.

No Regrets by Carike Claassen

I am an old lady trapped in a young woman’s body, and because of this, I like old music. In particular, I like French chansons and I especially like Edith Piaf.

Correction, I adore Edith Piaf. I’ve been to visit her grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and my standard answer to that staple question of entertainment reporters and awkward first dates everywhere (If you could have dinner with any celebrity, dead or alive, who would it be?), is Edith Piaf.

The most magnificent, heart-rending song she sang has got to be “Je ne Regrette Rien.” It’s a powerful, moving piece of music that you instinctively grasp, even if you don’t understand a word of French.
She did do an English version of the song though, and one stanza goes like this:
No, no regrets
No, I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

A beautiful sentiment, no? Also one that we continually find in popular culture quotes and self-help books today: There are no mistakes, only lessons. No regrets.

It’s an attitude to life that I am still very much trying to cultivate. I do have regrets, of course. Would I like to be able to look back at mistakes I’ve made and go: “You know what, looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing because I learned so much from that experience.” Sure. But I’m far from it, and to be honest, there’s a part of me that wonders whether approaching mistakes and regrets in this way is really useful at all.

Regrets are horrible to live with, but the prospect of living a life filled with them can also be a powerful incentive to change. And the sad truth is that people do reach the end of their lives and have regrets. Last year, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware published a list of “Top 5 regrets of the dying”, compiled from interviews she had with patients. The most common regrets of people who had reached the end of their lives were: Not being true to themselves, working too hard, not expressing their feelings, not staying in touch with friends, and not giving themselves permission to be happy.

Reading through this list can feel pretty depressing. But what I noticed is how many of these regrets are actually relatively easy to avoid: Call up that friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Take a day off work and spend it with your family.

Being true to yourself is much harder to do. I think that many of us hide our true selves, and have been for a while (it’s called growing up, isn’t it?). And naturally that is something to regret. But I’m looking at it this way: I can’t go back and change the things I already regret. I do know, however, which five things I want to avoid regretting at the end of my life. And that’s something I still have control over.

So here’s to regrets: Making peace with the old ones, and avoiding any new ones. I hope for everyone that, at the end, when someone asks us if we have any regrets, we can truly say, “Je ne regrette rien. I have no regrets.”

In Seven Days by K. Kenneth Edusei

In Seven Days

In seven days, my life will change,

Seven interesting moves, until it’s all rearranged,

Minutes are hours, a decade a day,

Ordinal infinity, reordered on the eighth day

Last week I lived in pain, tortuous was my place

My empathies with those whom must endure day eight

As I recount my exploits,

I’ve been strong, the one whom they obey,

Yet, I have been arranged as the weak, powerless over life’s sway,

I’ve stood at the peak, the of mountain cliffs

The frigid serenity has been one of my favorite gifts,

Once ordered to the slums, I understand their pain,

Chaos creates sorrow, yet the hidden genius a gem,

In seven days, I understand dichotomy; left and right,

Up and down, heaven and hell, black and white,

I understand space and movement, technical knowledge absurd,

However order has too high a learning curve,

I resign myself the ordered experience I’m randomly assigned,

Knowing in seven days, I am at the end and beginning of my time