Staying Present

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced
– James Baldwin

This past weekend, my news feed was filled with stories of Nathan Phillips and Nick Sandmann.

Reading the emerging stories, comments and petitions made me sick to my stomach.

Some people wanted the students expelled from their schools. Others started petitions against admission to secondary education. Others blamed The Black Hebrew Israelites. There were rumors of death threats. Someone even created a fake Twitter account of Sandmann’s mom with a particularly nasty racist sentiment. 

Everyone was pointing fingers.

I was angry, disgusted, sad, riveted and triggered.

So, I paused. I stood outside in the sunshine. I started a good book. I watched a silly Netflix show. I went on a walk. I drank a hot cup of tea. And, I breathed.

And then I watched the first video that had emerged. And, I stayed present with the feelings: rage, disgust, sadness and helplessness. I noticed my breath, and I stayed committed to the process. I noticed my own inner trigger warnings.

Suddenly, I was a child again. I was a 9-year-old being called the N-word for the first time. I was a 13-year-old getting her skirt hiked up so that her classmates could see if her butt was ‘big.’ I was a 14-year-old-girl again getting spit on by fellow track mates….I was a 25-year-old being followed by men in a truck with confederate flags. I was a 26-year-old being told by a family member that “…I play the race card.”

For those able to say even a resemblance of ‘let’s talk about this without emotions,’ is a privilege and a testament to ‘objectiveness.’

As I watched the video, I noticed my own rage and anger at not being able to clearly articulate the pain of racism. 

And, how the silencing of that pain amplifies new trauma.

A thought that has resonated with me is this: New voices are being muted while the old pattern of white innocence persists.

What resists persists. 

I stayed present and I listened to my body. I stayed present and I committed to the process. 

It occurs to me that amid all the clamor voices of Indigenous people are still being silenced and replaced by the voices of others. Celebrities have been given air time. Sandmann has been given airtime. Radio hosts have been given airtime.

Everybody cares.

And yet…the government continues to steal indigenous lands.

The film media still largely relies on stereotypes when portraying indigenous and first people.

Christopher Columbus is still a national hero entitled to a national holiday.

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (#MMIW) remain absent from the national media and conversation about race.

After watching the video, I committed to naming and noticing each of the feelings. And, to holding space for transformation – a practice I have learned from Dr. Amanda Kemp.

After holding space for transformation, I breathed. I prayed. I lit some incense. I cried. I must confess – I wasn’t ready to channel unconditional love and acceptance. But, I reminded myself of my own racial justice vision. I was determined to be kind and to do more.

How are you staying present?


So, I held space. And, let me tell you what I gained:

  1. A renewed determination towards intersectionality.
  2. HopeWait, what?! Hope? Sounds crazy, right? But yes, I am hopeful. 

    I am hopeful that we, as a nation, can lean into the ugly and gritty history of racism and do better and hold space for truths.

    I am hopeful that we can learn how to be interventionists, advocates and allies.

    I am hopeful seeing new white allies processing, some for the first time, race and race relations.

    I am hopeful seeing longtime white allies educating new white allies and interrupting white spaces.

    I am hopeful seeing black and brown allies beginning intersectional conversations.

    I am hopeful seeing new members of congress interrupting historic white spaces by vocalizing dissent and demanding visibility.

    I am hopeful because Nathan Phillips is entirely vocal and dissenting and his voice has become a roar
A few thoughts, practices and resources which have been helpful to me as I discern a sustainable way forward. 

1. Two things in opposition can be true. It can be true that this week’s past incident was a visual symptom of white supremacy and bigotry. It can also be true that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites were problematic. It is also critical and true to note that any version of ‘both sideism’ relies on a problematic framework and a limited, arguably intentionally ignorant, understanding of racism and dimensions of power. 

2. Reassess your educational resources and supports regarding proactive anti-racism education. Often times, white allied responses are reactionary and often limited in sustainable supports and resources regarding further training and long term solutions. Assess your racial/social justice vision. Invest in local anti-oppression training. Interrupt white spaces and educate one another. 

3. White allies – lean in. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Teach one another. As I reflect on how many white allies are condemning Nick Sandmann, I also can’t help but think that white allies should and could be leaning in. Educate him. Educate that one racist uncle. Ask hard questions and remain vigilant. Lean in. 

4. Presumed white innocence… Let’s say it again for the folks in the back…

5. Call Out/In Culture. I’ve been wrestling with this one…it is easy to ally shame. You know the “where were you when…Colombine, Charlottesville, Ferguson…” It’s easy to do that…to point the finger and point out everyone else’s inadequacies and hypocritical allyship. 

If you are struggling with call-out/in culture, or even if you don’t think you are…check out these rock star articles from The Body is Not an Apology and Everyday Feminism

  6 Signs Your Call Out Isn’t Actually About Accountability (note: ads on this page can include photos some viewers may see as risque…).


9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible by Kai Cheng Thom, 

Also, side note (and to borrow from For Harriet’s, Kimberly Foster), I will never be okay staying in a box that white supremacy says I need to live in or calling out black women whom choose not to. Call out culture can be toxic. And, it can also adhere to a certain set of prescribed patriarchal and white supremacist rules. Luckily, it doesn’t have to. 

Additional Resources 
             – 25 Books by Indigenous Authors You Should Be Reading by Kaitlin Curtice. Kaitlin Curtice is a Native American speaker, storyteller, poet and author. Check out her book “Glory Happening.” 

             – Doctrine of Discovery
Ours Is The Land: Check out this 17 minute video outlining the proposal to ban the Rosemont Mine. 

Oak Flat Spiritual Walk: Participate in this sacred spiritual walk hosted by the San Carlos Apache. Check out this video  about the religious,  human rights and creation care concerns. 

What has been your practice this past week? What resources and supports do you use to stay present and engaged? 

Peace & grace always.  

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